Monday, October 1, 2012

A Name and a Blessing (updated)

Henry was blessed yesterday. He received a beautiful, heartfelt blessing, pronounced by his father and the love of my life, surrounded by good men who hold the priesthood. We did it at my brother-in-law’s house so it was very comfortable, I prepared most of the food and it tasted good, and my mom and most of Nathaniel’s family was able to come. So by most standards it was a lovely Mormon ritual.

But for me it was just awful. I fought back tears much of the time, and they wouldn’t have been tears of joy.

Once I was watching an episode of a TV show that centered on a baby’s christening. I admit I am pretty ignorant of the practices of other religions, so when the mother held the baby as the baby was sprinkled with water, I was intrigued. I loved the image of the mother and father standing together with their baby.

I admit, I wanted to have that experience. If I couldn’t bless Henry, I wanted to hold him while he was being blessed. I wanted to be more than an afterthought in special ritual. I wanted a bigger part in communing with God and showering blessings upon this special new being.

Because Henry and I – we have a connection. Many of my feelings about this are too personal to share here, but suffice it to say that he is a little miracle. Yes, this is true for all babies, but that doesn’t make it any less profound. He transformed me. He somehow changed everything for the better.

And I know him. I know that after I bathe him the little hair that he has gets fuzzy like a peach. I know about that one eyelash he has that is twice as long as the others. I know when he just needs to be held. I know he loves me and my touch. Of course I know him, because he is my child. I wake up at all hours to nurse him. I deal with his spit-up and his diapers. I comfort him when he is upset. Like all mothers do.

And once, my church was a church that encouraged women to bless their children. It encouraged women to give other women blessings in preparation for childbirth. It recognized “the privilege of a mother to have faith and to administer to her child.”

So Nathaniel asked the bishop if I could just hold Henry while he was being blessed.

No, he said. I couldn’t. Melchizedek priesthood holders only.

So I sat to the side. This bishop who had never seen Henry before, and who said I could not hold my baby while he was blessed, was among the men who stood in the circle. I fought back tears the entire time.

I wish I could write a happy blog post about Henry’s baby blessing, one with lots of happy pictures and stories of happy people. But I can’t. I’m sorry, I just can’t.

I wanted to hold my son while he was being blessed and I couldn't. And it breaks my heart.

UPDATE: I put this in the comments, but I think I should also put it here: The bishop in question, although I don't know him, is by all accounts a very good man. He is well-liked and with good reason. However, the church handbook of instructions does not specifically forbid a mother holding her child while the child receives a baby blessing. I wish the instruction was given a broad interpretation of inclusion rather than a narrow interpretation of exclusion.


Racher October 1, 2012 at 3:20 PM  

You expressed this so beautifully. I'm so sorry it was a painful day. I saw your post on FMH and assumed you blessed him during sacrament meeting, I'm surprised the bishop micromanaged this to the extent he did when it wasn't even during church! You'd think that would allow you more freedom. I'm so sorry it was hurtful, and you're right that your relationship with Henry was completely discounted. We haven't blessed my son (he is almost 16 months!) because whenever we think about it we feel frustrated. My husband doesn't want a bishopric member present at all because it makes him feel too controlled, (plus we do want women standing in the circle) but when we think of doing it off the record it's hard to see why we should do it at all. I'm sorry you were so hurt, I love that you are adoring your miracle baby :).

CTW October 1, 2012 at 5:28 PM  

this is really beautiful. I hope you send a copy to your bishop. I think the church needs to explain this policy.

Tess October 1, 2012 at 8:15 PM  

Though I haven't thought specifically about this instance, I have been pondering lately about the priesthood and why men have it vs women, etc.

I have held my daughter the few times she has needed a blessing from her father because she was sick and I was curious what the difference was for the official name and blessing that would change that. D&C 20:70 says: "Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name."

This makes me think that the name given on the record of the church, while not an official ordinance, is a function of the church. Hence the need for a member of the bishopric to be present (they do not have to stand in the circle, but they do need to be present).

As far as within the framework of your family, you can hold him. For the framework of the church, the elders hold him.

I feel like the argument that women used to stand in negates the whole idea of continued revelation. The early saints also practiced polygamy. We follow the current prophet whom God has called.

During our primary program last week, a girl got up and talked about how thankful she was that her dad gives her a blessing before she starts school and when she's sick, and she was looking forward to him baptizing her next year. Since I was on the stand with my class, I was looking at her dad as she said this and his face was so tender and full of love towards his daughter. I had the distinct impression that this is a way for dads to bond with their kids. Generally speaking, moms are much more available and seem to have more opportunities to bond and this special relationship is one way that a father can take a more active role in his child's life.

I have one more thing to say about questions about church doctrine or practice that harks back to Nephi and Laman and Lemuel. When Lehi told his sons about his vision, Nephi prayed about it and got confirmation that it was right. L & L did not, they complained and didn't turn to the Lord. They all had the same problem in the beginning and they all ended up in drastically different places. I hope your unease about this can be settled through prayer. This is a great opportunity to study it out in your mind and heart with the scriptures and modern day revelation and strengthen your line of personal revelation.

rah,  October 1, 2012 at 8:46 PM  

My studied, prayerful consideration of this specific issue is that she has every right to upset and there is no godly reason why she shouldn't be able to hold her child during the blessing, that the early saints were more right than we currently are in expanding the role of women in administering and blessing and it is only because we have come to adhere to sexist cultural baggage that we have limited to scope of women in this regard. Then again my prayerful inspiration and conclusion in probably different than yours so where does that leave us?

Point is that there may be little comfort to be gained in this type of exclusion. I would hope that prayer might lead to godly solace for facing stupid injustice perpetrated on her and many other mothers.

Tess October 2, 2012 at 4:43 AM  

I definitely do not in any way want to discount your feelings or your being saddened. Your feelings absolutely have merit and I genuinely hope that you may be comforted.

Dorothy October 2, 2012 at 6:28 AM  

I think I should add that the bishop in question, although I don't know him, is by all accounts a very good man. He is well-liked and with good reason. However, the church handbook of instructions does not specifically forbid a mother holding her child while the child receives a baby blessing. I wish it was given a broad interpretation of inclusion rather than a narrow interpretation of exclusion.

camjackieward October 2, 2012 at 11:33 AM  

Dorothy, I thought it was a beautiful blessing and Henry is such a sweet little baby, and you handled yourself very well, I had no idea Nathaniel had even asked if you could participate. I imagine if the bishop had actually been your bishop, it may have been handled differently, I don't know. I do know that you shouldn't hold it against him. He is doing his calling to the best of his ability and handling things the way he knows how. Not to say it is right or wrong.
I read the petition you posted on Facebook, and while I don't agree with all of it, some of it did ring true. I think there is a reason that women don't have the priesthood at this time on the earth. I can't imagine Heaven without women holding the priesthood. If we don't, we would be sitting around birthing spirits while the priesthood creates worlds, and that isn't Heaven to me.
An institute teacher I had ages ago, Jack R. Christianson talked often about the role of men and women and priesthood and motherhood. You can't achieve Saviorhood without both, and you also can't achieve Saviorhood without a man and a woman. Here is a link to his website that talks about it:

Michelle Glauser October 2, 2012 at 1:10 PM  

I'm so sorry. I never think of things to say back when I hear stuff like that until later. Now I'm thinking, "If this ever happens to me, I'm going to come back with, 'I do hold the MP! I received it in the temple!'" If someone says something about men, I'll point out that there is nothing about gender in the handbook.

I hope you have some positive experiences in the upcoming months to deaden the pain of this experience.

Dorothy October 2, 2012 at 1:51 PM  

Are you Cameron or Jackie? Either way, thanks for your comment. Suffice it to say here that I am not advocating female ordination. Many women have held their babies for baby blessings, and it stings that I couldn't hold my baby for his. That's all.

Brooke October 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM  

I am so sorry. The things you said about your connection with Henry were absolutely beautiful. My baby still feels a little like a stranger but we're getting to know each other the way you and Henry know each other and it's exciting. What a shame your bishop didn't understand how much this truly meant to you. Thank you so much for the links and for this post.

Annie and Berkeley October 14, 2012 at 8:48 PM  

Dorothy, I could tell that something was burdening you the whole evening. I'm sorry that I didn't ask you what was going on or see how you were doing. I don;t know if you would have even wanted to talk at the time. You did carry yourself very well and its true that the blessing was sweet and wonderfully given. Nathaniel is a great daddy. AND you are a great mom. It's totally obvious that you and Henry have a sweet connection. He has such a soft, sweet, adorable little spirit about him. I'm really glad you write this post. It is refreshing to hear women be honest and not sit back quietly all the time.