“A Moment to Mother,” Ensign, June 1996, 54–55
The words so painstakingly hand stitched on the old needlepoint wall hanging had prodded my efforts more than once. But after 13 years of marriage, we remained childless, and my hope had faded along with the words on the wall: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).
My efforts to seek, ask, and knock were all left unanswered. I was emotionally drained from the roller coaster ride of hope and despair. For my own mental health and the sake of our marriage, I decided to end my quest with one final, latest-technology procedure. I hung my hopes on the second half of the framed scripture. “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? … If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt.: 9, 11.)
The procedure exacted a heavy price physically and emotionally, but I felt peaceful. I had asked for the good gift.
Two weeks later, the long-awaited news came. “Congratulations,” the nurse said. “The results of your pregnancy test are positive.”
I hardly dared breathe. I dusted off long-shelved dreams and began making plans. A month later, however, my dreams became a nightmare as my body rejected the new life. I pleaded with Heavenly Father. I promised whatever I thought he might require if only he would stop this loss. I felt like a child on Christmas morning opening a gift to find what I had wished for only to realize it was not mine.
It’s not fair! I thought. What more must I do? But there was only silence.
In time my body returned to normal, but my heart felt wooden, lacking emotion. I took a walk in the spring weather one day, hoping it might rekindle my spirit, but even the beauty around me failed to awaken my emotions. It was still winter in my soul.
I was headed home when my attention was drawn to a movement in the grass. Two inches of bald grayness writhed quietly at my feet. “What are you?” I asked, gently picking it up. It nuzzled my fingers, seeking nourishment. I walked home as fast as I could without jostling the newborn creature.
Grabbing a doll-sized bottle and a can of newborn animal formula left over from some orphaned kittens, I was soon ready for the first feeding. I put a bead of warm milk on its mouth. Nothing happened. Then a twitch, and the milk disappeared. I repeated the process several times before laying the tiny animal in a box with a heating pad and an old towel. “This is crazy,” I said to myself, as I set the alarm for a 2:30 A.M. feeding. I awoke before the alarm went off.
My new friend soon learned to suck directly from the bottle. Miniature whiskers sprouted and two tiny front teeth appeared. Long-sealed eyelids opened to reveal round black eyes. Bald, gray skin disappeared under soft brown hair. My suspicions were confirmed when ears that had lain inconspicuous and flat popped up pointed and translucent. It was a rabbit. I guessed it to be a boy and named him Alex.
Near the end of the second week, I prepared the milk as usual and placed the nipple on his tiny mouth. Nothing happened. I tried again. “Alex, please eat,” I pleaded. Still, nothing. By the evening of the second day, he lay quietly in my hand too weak to move.
The next morning I awakened early, determined to succeed. Approaching the box, I strained to hear the characteristic scratching. There was nothing but quiet. Alex lay motionless on his side—his round, dark eyes open.
Like a nightmare revisited, the harsh realization that I would not, could not, be a mother, even to a newborn rabbit, crashed around me. I sank to my knees. Great sobs from deep inside erupted in a flood of tears.
“Don’t leave me, please don’t die,” I said, stroking his tiny head. I stayed on my knees pleading for some relief. “Dear Heavenly Father, in my mind I know you love me, but in my heart I feel abandoned.” I slumped to the floor, defeated.
Gradually, a feeling of peace and a sense of love gently washed over me. Then another emotion, unrecognized at first, slowly penetrated my consciousness. It was a deep feeling of sympathy. While my challenge was not taken away, I knew that Heavenly Father was aware of my struggles. I was not alone, and that was enough.
Many people suffer. They, too, may pray for that good gift—a “miracle” that will make everything right. Occasionally blessings come that seem to defy natural laws. Usually, however, blessings that come our way are less spectacular. Rarely do these blessings solve our problems for us. Rather, they help remind us that Heavenly Father is on our side and that he does love us. They may be as simple as comforting words, the beauty of a spring day, or even the life of a newborn rabbit.
Alex’s tiny life was a microcosm of mothering to a soul starved for that experience. He was, even in dying, that good gift.