I'm one of those women who have relatively easy, uncomplicated pregnancies. My worst complaints are the ones I am too embarrassed to admit in public and only mention in the vaguest of terms to my husband or doctor, and then only when under duress.
Uncomplicated, except for the one which involved a middle of the night ambulance ride and an emergency surgery in the wee hours of the morning to save my life. My life was saved, but my baby was already gone.
I learned there was no heart beat six days before Thanksgiving, six days before the "magic" week where it is suddenly safe to announce the pregnancy to the world. I had been dreaming of the various cute ways of making my pregnancy known during the family get-togethers at Thanksgiving. Instead, I spent the holidays trying to hide my tears while lying on the couch: too tired, weak, and in pain to participate in any but the barest of family activities.
I remember being surprised by the depth of anger I felt then towards the abortion industry. The lies perpetrated. The disregard not only for the life which has yet to take its first breath, but for the woman who cannot know what the act will take from her until it is too late.
As much as I felt like the weeks of discomfort and inconvenience were in vain, as much as I felt robbed of the rewards of "putting up with" pregnancy, I pitied the women I knew who had miscarried earlier in the first trimester. Suddenly, each of the thirteen weeks during which my body made room for life other than mine seemed holy, sacred, privileged.
I'm not the only one to find renewed passion against the abortion industry in the wake of a miscarriage. I had the opportunity to read one person's account of her miscarriage and the initiation of a pro-life non-profit out of her grief. A friend reading the account couldn't make sense of the first leading to the second. I couldn't articulate the logic behind it, but oh, I could understand it.
Not too long ago I sat by the hospital bed of another mother who did not take the child of her womb home with her. This baby lives, though, given over for adoption. The baby I now carry has a similar due date to the one this teen mother birthed, and I cannot help but wonder what hardships of pregnancies we may have shared in addition to the greater health concerns she faced which prompted an early delivery.
Her protection of this small life seems monumental to me. I don't mean to paint her as an angel; mental illness, trouble with the law, and abusive relationships make her life too gritty to canonize her and set her as an example. Or perhaps she is an example—an example of the kind of woman with the most to gain or lose in this debate that, by its very nature, is so riddled with emotion and passion. Even with a supportive extended family and an involved adoptive family, seeing this baby to term and placed in his new home has been costly and complicated. The state paid for her maternity care, but both families will tell you the medical costs are only a small portion of what they've borne financially and otherwise.
Though both families willingly chose this responsibility, a woman several steps removed from the situation confided in me that she had hoped for a much harder delivery for this mother... then maybe she would have been motivated to "get herself fixed" so she wouldn't be in this predicament again.
Few would be so bold to state this opinion so plainly, but I feel as if I have heard it echoing in the pro-choice/pro-life debate frequently... from both sides. Is it her predicament we are worried about or ours? Caring for a baby from conception to birth and beyond is hard, but far harder than the physical toll on the mother's body is lack of sufficient emotional and practical support.
Like I said, our predicament.
Not quite a decade ago I wrestled with this broader context of pro-life action on a different, but still personal, level. I was sought out to provide encouragement and friendship to a teen mother who had chosen to keep her baby after an unplanned pregnancy. I was only a few years older than she and had no parenting experience of my own. During the months of Sonic stops and sitting on the couch at her parents' house watching telenovelas, I repeatedly asked myself, "What does she need? And can I give it to her?"
The intervening years have given me a wealth of life experiences and three unplanned pregnancies of my own, but still, a few weeks ago at the hospital bed of this other teen mother who chose life, I ask the same questions. What does she need? And can I give it to her?
She is asking questions, too. Do you like him? Do you like the baby? As if unplanned might just mean unwanted.
And that’s the great lie, isn’t it? That an unplanned pregnancy makes for an unwanted baby. May it never be.
This Mothers’ Day I am thankful for each of my unplanned babies: the one I am parenting, the one I will not meet this side of heaven, and the one who looks to be arriving fashionably late.