Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Planned and the Unplanned

I am staring at the sweetest little thing I know.  My darling baby boy, who will be five months old tomorrow.  These are precious days.  I am thankful for all the milestones he hits, like rolling over and laughing, but it is bittersweet because it means he is growing up oh so quickly.

Perhaps it is this little guy, his life, that is waking me up to the issues going on right now with Planned Parenthood.  See, I have always been pro-life.  I was raised that way.  I never doubted it was wrong to kill a baby in the womb.  I never doubted that, even as a "blob of tissue", it was alive.  And that it was created by God.  I have not always been a devout follower of God. Far from it.  But I always believed in letting life live.

I remember in my younger years, wrestling with so-called Christian views of what it means to be a woman.  It seemed so gross, so derogatory, things like submission and women not allowed to lead in the Church.  And it seemed like the world was so hostile to women, with its wage inequality, and images of beauty which produced vicious results in young girls and women.  Young and immature, not really knowing the extent of the term, I considered myself a feminist.  My freshman year of high school, in English class, this issue of abortion came up and I stood up for life.  A female classmate was appalled.  "Stephanie, I thought your were a feminist!" (oh, doesn't that sound silly now, between fourteen-year-old girls?).  My response," I am.  But abortion is murder."  I wasn't afraid to speak the truth back then.

And I'm a little ashamed that I haven't been speaking the truth, out loud, for anyone to hear, as an adult.

Yes, of course, I am still pro-life.  But I have let fear of man hold me back. I've let this become a complicated issue, when essentially, it isn't.  And I have silenced myself.  While many issues swirl around abortion, things like reproductive health and access to birth control and life of the mother, etc, the bottom line is that abortion is murder. It is destroying life that is made in the image of God.

I watch my young son smile at us. He follows us with his eyes. He thrives on our affection and attention. He laughs at us.  He longs to be held.  He knows instinctively how to suck to get nourishment, even fresh from the womb.  He has an emerging personality (extrovert, we think).  He is just so very precious to us and it is breaking my heart to think of the millions, yes millions, of children that have not been given the chance to live.

And let me be honest.  I have had an unexpected, and even unwanted, pregnancy.  The summer we were preparing to move, I was surprised by feelings of morning sickness and the smell of everything curdling my stomach.  A very familiar feeling.  I bought a Dollar Tree pregnancy test which confirmed my worst fear- yes, fear.  I had been married for 11 years, had three children, thought our family was complete, and was devastated to see two pink lines appear on that test stick.

I did not want any more children.

I didn't know how on earth I was going to handle having a new baby without the support of my friends and family in Lincoln.  We were moving to a new town, Josh was starting a new job, we hadn't sold our house yet.  This was terrible,  horrible timing.  I cried my eyes out when I told Josh I was pregnant. I felt numb when he prayed for our unborn baby that night.  I had absolutely no happy, joyful feelings about having another child.

So I understand, maybe just a little, about how it feels to be confronted with an unexpected pregnancy.  I understand how it feels to wish it wasn't so, to feel stuck with a circumstance I couldn't change.

Only, there is that option, that choice to change the circumstance of an unwanted pregnancy.  It is all too easy to find a local Planned Parenthood, or another women's clinic, and take care of this problem.

To be sure, having a baby is HUGE.  Pregnancy is not always glorious.  Infants are not always calm and easy going.  Neither are toddlers, tweens, or teenagers.  Children are not cheap to raise.  They change our plans, interrupt our nights, they  require massive change on the part of the mother (and involved father).  It is no light thing to carry life and then raise it.  And it's not just irresponsible women who find themselves pregnant without planning it.

But what I knew, is that my child was alive. I couldn't feel him or her yet. I hadn't seen an ultrasound picture. But I knew it was life.  And that while this life was interrupting my life, I would, eventually, love this child.

I realize not every woman who finds herself pregnant unexpectedly seems "qualified" to raise a child.  We have an overflowing foster care system because so many men and women are not able or unselfish enough to raise a child in a healthy, safe way.  I realize the teenage pregnancy rates are high and that high school and even college will be interrupted if they have a baby, even if they don't keep it.  I am not ignorant to how difficult it is to carry a life and raise it!  But none of that means it is okay to destroy a life.

Today, I reject what is commonly referred to as the feminist movement, because, honestly, it has served women so ill.  I reject the idea that  Christianity has a subservient view of women.  Perhaps religion does, but Jesus Christ does not.  Over and over again in the gospels, I read how Jesus set women free.  Women who were being used by men.  Women who were prostitutes, illegitimate, in poverty and medical distress.  He set them free!  He memorialized some of them! And this is where modern day feminism has it so wrong.

Abortion doesn't set a woman free.  It sounds so good, the ability to get rid of an unexpected pregnancy and all the complications it will bring. But it's a lie.  It's a sorrow women carry, sometimes their whole lives, because they know, yes they know, that this is life.

I have always been so confused about this.  If a woman wants her baby, it is fully alive from the very start. If she doesn't, it is merely tissue, a blob that can be disposed of.  Surely, if Planned Parenthood is selling body parts, doesn't that imply that there is a body, and if a body, a person?  And as a woman who believes we are created beings, not objects of random chance, I also believe that our bodies have souls.  And to kill a body is to kill a soul.

I know there are gazillions of arguments surrounding abortion.  I know it doesn't seem as easy as making it illegal, and I would agree with that.  Making abortion illegal would not end the practice.  It wouldn't change the hearts and minds or the behavior of anyone.  It wouldn't keep a woman from an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.  It wouldn't solve all her problems.

But I also know that abortion only causes greater problems and does absolutely nothing to truly set a woman at liberty.  Abortion, itself, is a grave injustice toward women.  That there is nothing better to offer a woman who is pregnant and doesn't want to be than an abortion is a disgrace.

The truth is, there are other options.

Back to my story.

It didn't end well.

I carried my unexpected baby for twelve weeks and then had a miscarriage.  I had a miscarriage many years before that, yet very early on, but this one was so much worse.  Even though I had not fully embraced the idea of having another baby, even though I wasn't emotionally attached to that baby, losing it was a devastating process. It may sound crude, but it felt like I was delivering my baby in a toilet.  It was so, so wrong.  And yet, it was "spontaneous", as the doctors describe miscarriage.

I can only imagine how much more wrong it is to deliver your child at twelve weeks on purpose.  Planned.  Sold a lie that it will lead to freedom.

If we want to talk women's liberation, then abortion as the first prescription for pregnancy needs to end.  The alternatives may not be easy, but they will protect babies AND women far better. I don't have all the answers.

Yes, crisis pregnancy centers.

Yes, birth control.

Yes, caring for women in marginalized areas.

Yes, sex education.

Yes, it's going to take money.  Tax money, private money.

Yes, Church, wake up and reach out and dig in your pockets and adopt and foster and love like crazy.

Yes, support life after birth as well (education, food programs, child care, etc.).

My story of babies and pregnancy doesn't end with that miscarriage four years ago.  As I said, today I have a five-month-old baby boy who is an absolute delight to our family.  He has taken over our life.  He wants to be held at inconvenient moments, he wants to nurse all the live long day.  But he just loves to smile at us, and be loved by us. He brightens our home in the most incredible ways.  My children are experiencing the gift of life through this child.  They felt him moving in my womb. They saw his pictures while he was still in the secret place.  Their young hearts and minds knew this thing inside of me was fully alive. And they were fascinated.

How heart breaking to me that the fascination of bringing life into the world, one of the very things that  make us as women so very feminine, is so long gone in our culture. While surely women are made for more than bearing children, we were never, ever made for abortion.