Nearly seven months ago, our darling daughter was born. Her birth was monumental for us; after miscarrying six babies in three years, we were elated to carry this baby girl full term. She was born at home at 43 1/2 weeks into the loving arms of her father and my midwife. The birth itself was uneventful. Six hours of silent labor and three strong pushes brought this little eight-pound, 21-inch-long bundle into our earthly existence. With emotions high and hormones flowing I struggled for three weeks to nurse her effectively. I was determined to nurse. My doula came over to help with her latch, my midwife came to check and see how she was doing, her assistant from Kenya comforted me as I held back sobs of excruciating nipple pain when Katia would latch on for her feeding, we had a lactation consultant come and do weighed feedings. It was such an ordeal. Katia would need to be undressed down to her naked newborn body, and placed in a sling/scale. We would record her weight. Then I would proceed to feed her until she was content- which was next to never. She would scream and scream and scream. I knew she was still hungry. Then we would weigh her again and record that data, checking to see how many ounces she was taking in while breastfeeding. Not many, it turns out. But it wasn’t a production issue. It was a suction and latch issue. After five people had checked her, we finally felt we had an answer- she had an upper lip tie and a submucosal tongue tie that virtually sealed the majority of her tongue to the floor of her mouth. We made the trek to Albany, New York from Michigan to have a specialist correct her ties with a laser rather than have to endure putting her under general anesthesia at this tiny age and risk her not coming out of is. There was no way I was going to lose this baby after the others. Recovery from this relatively simple procedure was tough; there were stretches and therapy and pain management along with her relearning how to nurse effectively. It was arduous, but we made it through relatively unscathed. This was not the first time I felt prompted to give her a blessing. But I didn’t. Instead, we moved forward with our plan to help her recover from that whirlwind trip.
Prior to us heading on our last-minute trip to Albany, our bishop thoughtfully suggested my husband give her her name and a blessing just in case something went wrong with the procedure. We went home that night and within the private and scared walls of our bedroom she was blessed and named for the records of the Church. With little fanfare our small family of four stood around her hoping for some turn around. It wasn’t that the blessing given was bad. It was comforting and encouraging, but I still felt an emptiness. Let me be very clear, this has nothing to do with my husband or the Priesthood he holds. It simply felt like a timing issue. And would later prove to be that and much more.
By this point, I had felt multiple times like I needed to give her a blessing, beginning with the day she was born. But I was nervous. What if I did it wrong? What if I angered the Lord? What if it would harm my standing in the Church? What if it wasn’t right? I was unbelievably scared. So scared, that I felt frozen and couldn’t do anything to move forward and actually lay my hands on her head and give her a blessing.
We continued to go into her health care provider’s office for weight checks, sometimes as many as three times a week. I was still nursing, but she was also receiving some supplemental formula we made from nourishing ingredients that she tolerated well. But her symptoms hadn’t gone away. She would spit up almost all the time, scream until she was placed back to the breast to help ease her acid reflux, her stools were frothy and foamy or slimy and mucus filled. Our nights were sleepless; most nights I would get 1-2 hours of sleep because she was still nursing so frequently. Additional bottles of formula weren’t helping. She wasn’t gaining weight and had dropped at or below the third percentile. I could see the writing on the wall; my baby was not thriving. We went in once again to her health care provider and were told that she needed to see a pediatric specialist. Once there, they ran a multitude of tests and diagnosed her officially as “failure to thrive.” They thought maybe she had cystic fibrosis, or possibly an endocrine issue, but those test results came back as normal. They did blood draws that were so upsetting to her that my husband passed out while sitting in a chair trying to recover from holding her down while they filled vial after vial with the contents that would determine what was wrong with our child- sending them off to the in-house lab and the Mayo Clinic. Still, quietly the Spirit told me to take her in my arms and bless her. And yet, I didn’t.
Later we were given more results: She was unofficially diagnosed as having celiac disease. She had the markers present in her bloodstream, but it couldn’t be officially diagnosed as celiac disease until she had ingested wheat herself for at least 6 months and then an intestinal biopsy was done in four different places. But they told us that this is what was, and this is all it could be based on what they were seeing. I collapsed into a pile of tears on our couch and relief flooded my body when we got the news. I could handle this.
Because I was nursing, I stopped eating any and all gluten-containing foods. Our house became a celiac-friendly home, and I was meticulous about not cross-contaminating when we were out at other places. We decided that it was best, given what she had been through, to not give her grains for the first year. This meant we would also not be doing the biopsy at age one. We felt it was right and our health care providers agreed. We just needed to let her grow, they said. We couldn’t risk directly giving her gluten containing foods right now. Still, I felt she needed a blessing from her mother. But I remained silent.
Things looked up, but they didn’t really turn around. I was so careful, but it wasn’t enough. She was still struggling. Still not gaining enough weight. Still up most nights. Our little miracle baby was struggling. And we felt like we had exhausted all of our options. The weight checks, while necessary, were dreaded. Questions would consume me: Did she gain this week? Is her brain developing? Is her gut flora able to grow in this environment? What more can we do? Do we need to do more allergy testing? We have done everything we could, haven’t we?
No. I hadn’t. I wrested with a final prompting to give her a blessing for three more days before I approached my husband about it. He was supportive and encouraged me to follow my intuition. And finally, I felt peace when I made the decision to move forward with it.
It was done simply and quietly. First, I consecrated some olive oil. I felt embarrassed that I was doing it wrong, as my husband who has done it multiple times stood by watching and holding our baby in one arm and the hand of our six year old with his other hand. Another woman I am close to, came over a few minutes later to stand in and assist in the blessing. She was a silent supporter, but a tremendous strength nonetheless. We set a white stool in the middle of our living room where my husband would sit holding our daughter. We anointed her head with the consecrated oil and sealed the anointing. Then, I pronounced a blessing on her as directed by the Holy Ghost after invoking the name of Jesus Christ and His authority. There were words of comfort, promises of wholeness and healing, encouragement from our Heavenly Mother and Father, and a peace settled in which surpasses all understanding as the words flowed from my lips into my daughter’s ears. Upon closing, our eyes were filled with tears as we embraced one another and breathed in the sacredness of what had just transpired. I was sure that our daughter was made whole. I knew it to the very core my being, just as one knows the familiar sound of their own name. It was right. It was so very right. I couldn’t believe I had waited this long to listen to what I had been feeling.
A couple of days went by and her diaper contents began to change. Her fitful crying soon began to stop. We were getting more sleep- not perfect yet, but significantly better. Her color came back into her cheeks. She was cheerful and smiling. When we went in for a weight check three days after her blessing, the scale said she had gained a pound in less than a week. An entire pound. She had been barely gaining two ounces a week. We celebrated that night at dinner as a family, hoping it wasn’t a fluke. Turns out it wasn’t. The trend has continued. She is continuing to grow steadily. At this point, we felt it was time to reintroduce gluten containing grains back into my diet. She still breastfeeds, so this was going to be quite the experiment for us. It was remarkably anticlimactic. Nothing. No issues. No problems. No fits. Nothing. I dropped to my knees in gratitude to my Heavenly family. Not because I could have wheat bread again, but because she was still growing and thriving even when I was eating it.
Just this week we went back for her well child check up. The news that was delivered brought tears to my eyes. We are done having to come in for weekly weigh ins. She is in the twentieth percentile for her weight now. That is a huge change in a few months. She is no longer labeled as failure to thrive. She is thriving. And, her celiac disease markers are completely gone. It is as if they were never there. As controversial as this may seem, it is miraculous to me, my husband, and our family. People have asked, “how can this be?” I used to answer, “she received a blessing, and healing was correct for her life journey.” Everyone would assume the blessing was from my husband. But I knew. Katia knew. The Lord knew. Without any pride, I knew that it was my own hands that had delivered that blessing, that it was through the words I had spoken that she was blessed.
I’m no longer hiding our miracle. Christ taught in John 14:12, that if we believe in Him, we shall do greater miracles than those He preformed. I believe that and hold to that promise. Following Him is my truest and deepest desire. The next time I feel impressed to offer a blessing, or if I am called upon to do so, I will not hesitate to follow Christ.
Honoring our past,
Envisioning our future.
Rachel Wachs, the author of this post, is on the Social Media Committee of Ordain Women.