Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Tragedy All Around

Yesterday, I posted the following picture as a status update on Facebook, in solidarity with all those marching in D.C. for the annual March for Life, and in memory of those who never will.

I'm pro-life; that's no secret.  Anyone who reads my blog knows that.  Peter and I served several years as the chairs of our Parish's Respect Life Committee, and we've worked with local maternity homes and pregnancy crisis centers; we fundraise, we give, we support, and in this most recent years, we've come close and face-to-face with mothers who've aborted and who are considering abortion.

Prior to meeting these mothers, my thoughts, both as an infertile and as a mother who had lost children, weren't exactly nice.  I was probably like most pro-lifers, I suppose: the baby is the most important part of the equation, they are already here (not some thought about idea) and they need a voice, do whatever you can to convince the mother to carry to term, etc.  (And I'm not being flippant, but I'm sure you know where I'm going with this).  I was angry that someone would kill their child.  I didnt care why.  I was just pissed off.  Especially since my babies had died... because I couldnt just look at a man and get pregnant.  It wasn't fair.  And, I reasoned (although I'm pretty damn ashamed to admit it) that, if the Universe had some dead-child quota to fill, then why not one of those mothers who didnt want her baby in the first place.... Why take my perfect, innocent, wanted and loved babies?

Like I said, it's a shameful thought.  I'm ashamed.  But I'm being honest.  And that thought was there.

The last year especially, though, brought some deep rooted changes.  Instead of just saying "Dont kill your baby", we put our family where our mouth is and offered another option: adoption.   I'm adopted.  I'm a child of attempted abortion, and I'm a child of rape.  It's a place that hits home.  As an assault survivor, hearing the stories of women who've been victimized and become pregnant as a result also has left a mark on me.  But something that has left an even deeper impression on me is that so many mothers who are given real choices- choices that are more than simply killing the baby growing inside of them- make different choices. 

We as a society are failing them, these mothers (and fathers) who feel like their only choice is death.  And not just the death of their baby, but also the death of something inside of them: something deeply personal and unique because they've made a choice they cant change and one that, in so many ways, they were coerced into making.  So many women, overcome by the fear of what might be... Without support...  Without income or housing or education...  They find themselves pregnant (through one way or another) and abortion seems like the logical, easy choice to some, and to others, feels like the only way out.

I've talked to moms, seen them face to face... Heard them express every sort of "get this thing out of me" type of comment... I've seen them continue pregnancies, knowing that there is another family there to support them and raise their child if they can't do it when the time comes... Having that trust and continuing a pregnancy that they initially wanted to end...  Seeing their baby born and deciding to parent.  Knowing that, no matter their choice, they would be changed forever and, seeing in their newborn's face, the reality that, no matter what, it was worth it all for this little person.

And it doesnt stop there.  A huge criticism of the pro-life movement (and one that I've seen played out over and over again) is that people only care about the baby, not the mother (or father).  Save the baby and then who cares!  But there are so many crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes that do so much more, ranging from providing baby products, arranging housing, and garnering financial assistance for families struggling to get back on their feer to getting parents enrolled in classes to complete high school, garner college credits, or better their parenting.  Their are rehab programs for parents who need it, and volunteers to assist parents in filling out government assistance paperwork, should they need it.

It's not easier than an abortion, but somehow I think the life-altering emotional side effects might not be nearly as bad. 

I've met women, too, who say that they dont regret their abortions.  Who am I to argue?  There are plenty of decisions I've made that I dont regret; I guess the only person who has the right to tell me if I should is the Great Spirit.  Since I believe all sins are equal, I think that the smallest to the greatest are all things we are held accountable for.

But I've also talked with women who deeply regret their abortions.  Who wish, over and over again, that they could change that "choice"... That they could have had real, concrete choices placed before them that didnt involve the taking of another's life.

I cant speak for all the CPCs out there: I dont know what they are doing.  I hope that they are treating parents with dignity and offering them a variety of options with the emphasis being on supporting them in their roles as parents (because they are, already, parents, regardless of whether or not they abort).  I hope that they arent using scare techniques to try and convince them to not-abort at all costs.  I hope that, instead, they are finding out the reasons why they feel that choice is the only one they have.  More often than not, in my experience, issues are financial or mothers are being pressured (either by their own parents or their partners).  No choice should be a result of coercion.  And, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a choice so grave shouldnt be based on finances... Not when there are ways to keep families together.

And adoption?  It's a two edged sword.  I believe it should be there, that option.  But, at the same time, from personal experience, it's a hard place to be.  Because the goal is unification (similar to foster parenting).  You have to want the mother/parents to choose to parent at the end of the day.  At the same time, you have to fall in love with that child and give them everything you would give a child you were carrying: your devotion, your love, your prayers and thoughts.  You have to prepare for them to come home and be okay when they dont.  I can understand while fellow infertiles and orphaned parents think Peter and I are crazy... It hurts.  It's a lot of pain.  There are a lot of tears.  Three times, we've been in this spot... This place of loving the parents and the babies... Praying for them, offering them support in whatever ways we can, encouraging them.  And accepting- with joy- their choice to parent their babies.  Congratulating them, promising them that the Center we work with will be there to help them along the way (because it works with parents and their babies every single day to make sure that a life-affirming choice is a positive one).  And then, we work on our own broken hearts.  Because, no matter how happy you are for that family, you are also sad for your own.  It's different than our losses because we know these babies are okay (and we get updates, which is nice and it is so good to hear that things are going well).  But, as you know from reading previous posts, there's sorrow.  And emotionally, it takes a toll.  I mentioned recently that we'd been contacted about another adoption via the Center and, after counseling and assistance, the parents have decided, prebirth, to keep their family together and parent.  It's a great choice and one we are happy about, but the state of flux does do a number to your inner peace, and so we are taking a break from the active role of possible adoptive family.  There are others available, so it isnt as though this option is gone for parents, but for now, our role is to pray and support in other ways... And to focus on Bobby and Maya and each other for a bit.

I started this post because, as I think about the March for Life in DC and abortion in this country, to me it is more than the statistic that over 54 million babies have died since abortion became legal in this country.  It's more than the tag line that Planned Parenthood kills more people of color than groups like the KKK.  It's not just a sound bite.  Because something I think we all can agree upon is that abortion has consequences- not just to the baby- but to the parents.  Some of those consequences may be positive, but no one can deny that some of them are awful.  How can we look ourselves in the mirror each day and not feel for the parents who have been faced with such a tragic "choice"?  How can we not want to reach out to all of them, with healing arms, and say that we will help them?  With all of our goverment programs and private poverty-fighting organizations, how can we tell a mother that to save herself from the financial burden, she must kill her child?  With all of the educational options, how can we tell parents that, in order to further their education, they must cause their child to cease to exist?  Assaults, incest, marital rape: how is it that in our "advanced" society we are still blind to the fact that over 200,000 assaults happen a year, with almost half of those happening to children under the age of 18 (and 80% to those under the age of 30)?  That 1 out of every 6 women (and 1 out of every 33 men) in this country is a survivor of assault?  (an those numbers are way lower than they were 20 years ago)  An estimated 3,000 pregnancies occur yearly from assault; when we view that in light of the well over a million abortions that take place each year, well... It's thought provoking to say the least.

We are a developed country.  We have countless programs of social service at the government level, and a variety of charitable organizations that are in place to help the disadvantaged and those in need.  And yet... the option we are left with is death?  I just cant see it...

And honestly, I dont want to.

It's hard to talk to women who grieve babies they had a hand in killing.  I get that.  For an orphaned mother, it's painful when we think that we didnt have such a "choice", that our baby's death was inflicted upon us.  I've had moms who I talk to in support type settings ask point blank if mothers who aborted are going to participate in support groups or in Face2Face meetings... because they are outraged that such women should have the right to grieve.  They did it to themselves, after all! 

A mother's grief...  It's still a mother's grief.  Perhaps, in some ways, if we have to judge whose grief is greater, the abortive mother's grief is deeper...  Because, as is pointed out, they had the choice- and they chose their baby's death.  If she's grieving that loss- for whatever reason- she still needs to grieve it, just as we grieve ours. 

Reflecting on abortion, I'm sickened by the loss of life: the babies, the mothers who die during the procedure, as well as the fathers who are never told of their children and are refused the chance to parent them, the grandparents who will never hold their grandchild, the mothers who will never mother.  It breaks my heart that the only choice people are being given isnt really a choice; it's a travesty.  Are we asking why?  Are we offering all the choices available?

Mother Theresa made more than a few references to abortion in her work, but the three most awe-inspiring, for me at least, are the following.  "It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."  "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what it wants." "If we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another."  Smart woman... I think.  I'm amazed by how we can be pro-animal rights, anti-war, anti-death penalty, and pro-abortion.  Anti-the rich and powerful who are using their money to get whatever they want (no matter the cost), but pro-it's okay to abort because kids are expensive.  (and they are- no doubt.)

"...a child must die so that you may live as you wish..."  That one really sticks out...  If I am you and you are me and we are all one on some deeper, cosmic level... How then can I let you suffer?  How can I let so much hurt be in the world so that I can have what I want?  How can the choice you are left with be one of death so that I can live in a way that is pleasing to me?  Why cant we all live?  Why cant we all love?  

A lot of thoughts today, I suppose... That's what happens when I have too much time to think.

A note about commenting: I dont mind thoughts different from my own, be they pro-life or pro-choice, but intolerance and nastiness wont be tolerated.  If you are disrespectful, your comment wont be published.  And that goes for both sides of the fence.  Respectful disagreement=okay; offensive meanness=not okay


Ms. J said...

This is the most powerful, seasoned, thoughtful commentary on this topic I have ever read.


I am speechless

Thank you for pouring it out.

sunflowerchilde said...

I used to be very pro-choice, but have gradually moved towards pro-life, particularly since experiencing infertility and finally having children of my own. One of the things that made me realize how far I'd come was when I had a discussion with my husband about what we'd do if we did IVF and ended up with three, four, or more embryos that stuck. I realized that the choice of selective reduction would be before me, and that I could never go through with it.

Thank you for this post, it is beautiful and moving and does a great job of showing the great grey area out there between the extremist positions.

Jess said...

Very well said! I used to be very negative towards those in the position to choose abortion and have since come to realize that they too are in pain and often feel so helpless. I have great respect for the work that you do helping these mothers see their options and make better choices.

I am going to add a link to this post on my blog if you don't mind. (If you don't want me to please let me know!!)

Michele said...

Feel free, Jess!

Leah said...

Beautiful post!

I don't agree with you on every point, but your ability to lay it all out there is wonderful.

I will say this. I hate when people use the term pro abortion. What is pro abortion? I certainly don't want people to abort their children. I also tend to take a pro choice stance on it though, although now that I am a mother, I am leaning more towards pro life. But at the same time, I never believe (like a certain presidential candidate) that abortions should be illegal no matter what. . . race, incest, health of the mother, etc.

It is such a huge topic. One that I don't think we'll all ever agree on. But I love your passion for this topic, and I love that you are putting your money where your mouth is. Good for you. :)

Jenni said...

I basically like all the stuff you just said.
I don't know if I can make any intelligent comments because you pretty much just said it all.
I believe strongly in life...and yet I also have some inkling of how hard that decision must be in certain situations. I am hoping that I can be someone who helps and supports those girls who need it, so that they feel like they DO have a choice. As an adoptive mother myself, I intend to provide my childbirth classes and doula services free to any mother who is giving her baby for adoption. I hope to be able to do the same for women who are survivors of rape or other abuse as well. I know it's a drop in the bucket, but it's something I think I can do, and it feels good to DO SOMETHING rather than just talk and talk and say "oh what a shame..."

Holly said...

You wrote a really good post. It is true that abortion is a tragedy for everyone involved.