This story is part of our End of the Childbearing Years series, exploring the experiences, decisions, and feelings of Mormon women around this pivotal transition. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.

By Shannon Milliman

I am refining myself; someday I will be a goddess. I want to be defined by my desire to progress and reach creative exaltation. My human creations, in partnership with my musician-stay-at-home-husband-father-sex-machine include five children whose names I believe you should know because they illuminate an inkling of who we believe they are becoming.

Sunny Carolina and Moses Jude. They used to get along. Now they don’t. Adrianna Cosette wishes I were not such a free spirit hippy and that I would hold Rainbow Ophelia and 9 Phineas Coltrane’s hands when we are walking in our somewhat sketchy Portland, Oregon neighborhoodbut fortunately, her nurturing instincts surmount mine and she holds their hands for me. Rainbow and Phineas are studying Judo. I see a light of confidence generate in naturally timid Rainbow as she acquires abilities to roll and pin others significantly greater in size. I feel swelling joy to see her find a seed of strength rooting her fairy frame.  

Music: dissonant, cacophonous, pure and sweet is oft heard within our home. Moses plays the drums and trumpet. Sunny, a few chords on the guitar and sings in the bathroom “My Chemical Romance”, which I wish she wouldn’t listen to. Adrianna and Rainbow, flute and recorder. Phineas the organand my sweetheart, everything, every instrument. He has always left instruments out, available for them to experiment with when they were ready, never pushy. So polar, my opposite.

We have another child. He was born first, stillborn but I don’t want to tell you his name right now because I don’t want you to know my sacred sorrow that reminds me that we named him differently than the others. Their names are artistic, creative. He was named after my father, whom I love so very much though I have never had the courage to tell him so. Our son was born but he was not and even in the records of the church we have no guarantee he is ours. A prophet quote hints, a scripture infers. My gospel view prior was black and white, right and wrong, justice and mercy.

But this is supposed to be about how I knew my family was complete. I know that my Father trusts me and charged me with intelligence to make choices that would help bring forth the kingdom. I know he told me distinctly to have the first, the one we lost and I don’t know why. I know that Phineas, our last, was a surprise. I did not want him. I was working from home and had no bandwidth for raising another soul. The kids in between we chose on our timeline. But when Phineas was born I fell in love with him fully and completely, like I had never before. I had to learn to love each of the others. God blessed me with a measure of affirmation and protection and hope for my baby.

In this phase I work full time as a learning and development professional, and my husband provides a majority of nurture at home for them. Together we take each day at a time. But I have a drive to create artistic, theatrical and written expressions of my sacrament of motherhood, womanhood, wifehood, divahood. I have created what I thought would be my magnum opusa one woman playand having performed it heaven’s horizons have opened for me and I see this is just the beginning. I know that God trusts me. If I say “I am done,” and my choice is to shift my creations and continue to fortify and raise my existing family, it is enough.

Anna Caitlin Photography