What a Woman in Crisis Really Needs

Amidst the debates swirling around about defunding Planned Parenthood, some oft-repeated catch phrases are being tossed around like word grenades. One of these are “women in crisis.” I’m sick and tired of hearing about “women in crisis” and how they need access to emergency contraception and abortions. That is a huge, steaming pile of lies, propagated by people who like to murder babies. Women in crisis do not need access to abortions. What they need is love, support, a safe place to live, and people (even strangers!) who will tell them the truth: that they are more than capable of being a mother. That they can do this. That their crisis, no matter how terrible, will be healed in the long, sometimes painful, always joyful process of becoming a mother.

Think this makes me heartless, speaking from my comfortable suburban home, having never known trials in my cushy little life?

Think again.

When I got that positive pregnancy test, the one that changed my life, I was addicted to crystal meth.

And do you know what the people around me did? They didn’t take the secular line and say, “this baby’s life would be horrible. You’re unfit to be a mother. Better for it to not be born at all.”

But neither did they take the typical pro-life line in that situation and say, “you are clearly unfit to be a mother, but all you have to do is carry the baby to term and give a stable couple a wonderful gift.”

The Ogre said, “you’re a mother now, and I’m a father, and together we’ll raise our child.”

My parents said, “marry that man, and raise that baby. You’ve made the choices, you have to live with them.”

My friends said, “you screwed up, big time. But we love you. We’ll throw you a baby shower, buy you maternity clothes, and babysit while you finish your semester.”

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, being a newly-pregnant drug addict. But it gave me something to live for. Someone to live for.

Many times, women who are addicted to drugs manage to clean themselves up during the pregnancy only to fall back into old habits after the baby is born. This is why conventional wisdom states that a drug addict can’t raise a child, even if she manages to carry the baby safely, healthily to term.

In some women, this is doubtless true. But think of the message we’re sending those women.

You can’t do this. You are too weak to resist. You’re not a mother, you’re unfit to be a mother, we know you won’t make sacrifices for your child. Better for the child to not live at all than to be abandoned by a drug-addled mother. After all, what kind of life will she have. The daughter of an addict. 

We in the pro-life community need to remember that we stand for life…all life. Just as much as that baby needs to be born, the mother needs her child to be born. Becoming a mother is a powerful thing, and I can tell you from experience that a child can bring new-found strength to a woman in a terrible place.

I vividly remember one day, three months after Sienna was born. I managed to get us both dressed and we went for a walk. I walked around our apartment complex, unconsciously making my way to a friend’s apartment with drug connections. Before I had really decided to do so, I was knocking at his door. No one was there. I sat on a bench across from his apartment and waited. I waited for an hour, my  mind racing all that time. I couldn’t get over the one, obvious hurtle. If I were to use drugs again, I couldn’t breastfeed the baby. But what excuse could I give for not feeding her? What excuse would I have for using formula? And what if the Ogre figured it out? What if he told my parents? Would the drugs really enter the breastmilk? Would it affect her too much? Couldn’t I just smoke a little bit, and then see if she acted funny?

In the midst of this frantic train of thought, I happened to look down at my daughter. She was sleeping, her soft pink mouth open, her little hand curled up against one fat, rosy cheek.

She was absolutely beautiful, and absolutely perfect. I knew the hell of drug use, and in that instant I knew that I could not do that to my daughter. I couldn’t let that horror into her tiny, flawless body.

She opened her eyes, yawned, and smiled at me. It was a rare thing for her to smile at me. I was an absent mother, a source of food. We had almost no relationship at all. But at that moment, for the first time, I loved her. I picked her up and held her closely, shaky and nearly weeping from the adrenaline that had been coursing through me. Just as my friend’s car pulled up I held Sienna in one arm, turned the stroller around and went home.

From that moment on my half-formed plans to use drugs again began to dissipate. It took years before they were gone completely, and even still, on bad days, the thought sometimes pops into my head, unbidden and quickly chased out.

But my daughter saved my life. She saved me from that terrible crisis. The people around me didn’t say, “You can’t be a mother. You can’t parent. You’re addicted to crystal meth, there’s no hope for you.” They said, “You are a mother now. This is your child. You can, and will, raise her.” And I did.  I am.

That is what women in crisis really need. They need to be told that this is what they were made for, that motherhood is in their blood, in their very being, and that they can do it. Just as their babies deserve a chance to live, so do they deserve a chance to be a mother.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10226221709279544399 Herb of Grace

    Such a beautiful post. Thank you for your gut-wrenching honesty.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    What a wonderful post. Thank you, Calah.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03305104583222425124 Betty Beguiles

    You are an amazing woman, Calah. Thank you for sharing this with such grace and courage. Love you, sweetie!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10685715493085741426 MJDMom

    This is so powerful, I have been thinking about it all day. Have your own experiences shaped your views on parenting- how strict or not strict, how to treat teens etc? I only have littles, but I spend many an anxious night thinking about the tough road ahead for my kids. Just curious of your thoughts. Your words are a powerful witness for good. G

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    Wonderful post. I absolutely agree that the expectations we set for people can be the very things that keep them on the path they need. I have often said that sex ed that is not abstinence-based only tells the kids that they are not capable of being abstinent. It gives them a way to not be abstinent. And we ought to work hard to provide a path to abstinence and set the expectation that sex is for marriage instead of give kids the way out and say, "Well, we know you can't be abstinent so here's a condom…"You are such a strong witness. Thank you for writing this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    Thank you all for your support. I am deeply, deeply appreciative of each comment. KT-I am toying with the idea of doing a series of posts about these aspects of my life. I'd like to come at them from a variety of different angles, but obviously this is a difficult subject to write about (it's taken me half a year to even mention it). I will keep that idea in mind, though. MJDMom-My experiences have absolutely shaped my views on parenting, in that I am completely terrified. I think I know more than a lot of moms about what is out there, but I have no idea how to combat it. I think we try to strive for very strict on some things (obedience, courtesy) and not so strict on others. As far as teens go, I don't know that I'll be any stricter than my parents were, because they were pretty strict. I do think I'll have a better idea of what to look for and will intervene early if I see any sort of warning signs with my kids. Perhaps the greatest thing I'm coming around to is homeschooling…no matter how small, Catholic or Christian the school is, the culture of death finds it's way inside. I think keeping my kids closer is the best answer, but that may change. My biggest worry, honestly, is that I will overreact and be too clingy in my awareness of the dangers out there and my fear for my children, and in doing so will drive them away. I do know, from looking at the path my life took, that the unceasing prayer of my parents had a huge impact. I do not believe that I would have come away from what is arguably the most addictive drug in the world if it wasn't for their constant prayer, love and support. I also has a great boyfriend (now husband) and wonderful friends. It seems clear to me that God surrounded me with exactly what and who I needed, and that, I think, will be my most fervent prayer for my children…that God never lets them slip totally from His grasp, no matter how they might struggle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10685715493085741426 MJDMom

    Thanks for your insight…I attended UD as well and I really feel that having a peer group who knew what was right (though we didn't always do it) is huge! Tipsy people would stop drunk people from going home together and tuck them in rather than wish them well and laugh at them on the way home on the 'walk of shame'. Ultimately, we have to entrust our children to God and obviously we know where He wants them- to be saints in Heaven!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10161683096247890834 Foxfier

    *salute*

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00662784804825998751 Christine

    Amazing post – I am definitely going to share this with others. Thank you for your honesty!

  • https://openid.aol.com/opaque/e893a58e-6459-11e0-87d7-000bcdcb8a73 e893a58e-6459-11e0-87d7-000bcdcb8a73

    I couldn't let that horror into her tiny, flawless body.======As literal as this is with drugs, in a way, all sin is like this for a parent. Because whenever we mess up, it hurts them to some degree. Rob