I will be giving birth to my second child in a matter of days. Along with the overwhelming joy I feel at having another little person to love and, of course, finally not being pregnant, I have to admit that I feel some ambivalence about the birth of this child.
Early in my pregnancy, I instinctively knew that the life inside me would be a daughter. I knew that this little girl was to be named after my grandmother, a woman I have had a unique connection to and whose presence I often feel watching and guiding me. I feel that powerful and complex connection with this daughter as well. Perhaps it is for this reason that I fear for her in ways that I do not for my son.
I fear bringing my daughter into a world where women are oppressed, abused and neglected. Where women are most of the poor, most of the uneducated and most of the rejected of the world. I fear a world where one in three women will be raped. A world that will pay her less due to her gender. I fear the world that would mutilate little girls in the name of tradition and family honor. I fear the world that cares more about my daughter’s appearance than her intelligence or the quality of her character. I know, however, that I can protect, or at least prepare her for most of these injustices. What I fear the most are the ideas and culture I choose for her.
There are many reasons why I choose to stay in a religion I often find painful and damaging to my soul. Foremost among those reasons is the desire to be eternally bound to the husband and children I love more than life itself. I am comfortable with the choice I have made. I choose my choice as the saying goes. But I cannot be blind to the repercussions of this choice on my daughter.
By choosing to stay, I am knowingly exposing my daughter to a church that proclaims equality but does nothing to demonstrate it in its structure. Because of my choice, my daughter may come to know the pain of discovering that despite all the declarations of equality, the rhetoric and a good part of the theology does not support the notion that women are full participants in a spiritual life. By staying, I am left with the very real possibility of having to answer questions I have no answers for myself.
How do I explain to my daughter that at the age of twelve her brother will receive the power of God but a year and half later, all she will get is another year older? How do I let my daughter know that her brother and his friends have no control over their thoughts so she must cover her body so as not to inspire lust in the other gender? How do I explain polygamay to her? What can I tell her about D&C 132 or the endowment ceremony…that they don’t really mean what they say? How do I let her know that she has a Mother in Heaven who loves her just as much as her Father in Heaven but that She doesn’t want to talk to my daughter? How do I inform my precious girl that despite his healing women and declaring his mission and resurrection to a woman, it appears Jesus only wants her for half a disciple?
I pray and hope that I never have to explain these things to her, that somehow she will be born with the peace and understanding that I have never been able to find. Because I choose to stay, I will take her to church every week. I will teach her how to be reverent and how to feel the spirit. I will teach her that Jesus loves her. I will tell her about the temple and that eternal families are a blessing. My daughter will be taught that her body is sacred and a gift from her loving earthly and heavenly parents. I will teach her what it means to participate in a community of Christ and that it can make her a better person. I will teach my daughter these things because these are the good things I have learned. I am so happy that my husband and I can provide this little girl with a loving home that will teach her all the best that our faith has to offer. We will teach her the good and leave the rest for her own spiritual journey.
I only hope that I have not sacrificed my daughter on the altar of my choice.
Author’s Note: I am aware that many, if not most do not struggle with what I struggle with. I respect this and am happy for those people. Please know that my concerns are genuine and come from a faithful place. I am just a mother who is trying to do the best for her children. I ask you to respect this. Thank you.