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/08275574075771328329 Kate Wicker

    I unfortunately don't have time to sift through all of the comments, but I want to echo what some other folks are saying: Thank you for this beautifully honest post. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for trust, your love, and sharing the beauty that is you.

  • Anonymous

    Calah, thank you for sharing a very inspiring story.As for "choice", well, I commend the rest of you for being far more patient and even-tempered than I would have been in my responses. I have met far too many morally bankrupt and confused people like "choice" in my life – women who weep for baby seals and chickens but coldly shrug off the murder of their own species. These same people flatter themselves that they are "compassionate."

  • http://www.manlymen.org Tony

    Do I want to have a child right now? No. Do I want to have children in the future? Probably. I am a woman living in a time where, fortunately, I have the means and the right to make the decision to become a mother when I am ready and able to.I guess this sums up the prevalent attitude of our time, doesn't it.Oh, and Calah, grat post!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01347616073655350336 Manda

    Calah, Thank you! We need more women to share their stories like this in order to give more women courage to share their lives and open up their hearts. I was 19 when I got pregnant. I did not love the father but I tried to make it work—he was older and I was very very immature. I was one of the lucky ones, with a support system, like you. I moved back in with my parents and got a job. I saved for a car. Next, I moved out. I went back to school. I met a wonderful man who loved me from the beginning even when I still couldn't extend myself too much to anyone (other than my baby girl). I look back on my lifestyle when I found myself pregnant and I thank God for saving me from the pit of shallow, empty lifelessness. We are so lucky God loves us enough to send us an innocent life in order to open our eyes.

  • Anonymous

    I was a college student when I discovered I was pregnant. At the time, I looked down on young mothers and didn't want to be married. My boyfriend never hesitated for a moment. He wanted to marry me and raise our child. I decided I couldn't do it-that I would give the baby up for adoption. I called Catholic Services. A woman there urged me to tell my parents that I was pregnant. My mother was not happy with me, but she would not hear of me giving the baby up. I'll never forget her words: "You are going to get married, raise your child and make your marriage work."That is exactly what I did. I have been married for 31 1/2 years to my wonderful, wonderful husband. My daughter is 31 years old, married with 3 three children of her own. My husband and I have 3 other children.It was not easy. We struggled to finish school and have had many struggles over the years. But I have always thought that God sent that baby to stop me in my tracks. I was on a destructive path. What a beautiful gift. I am a blessed woman, very happily married to a man I love and who loves me. I had the joy and privilege of raising my daughter and my other children, and now I have the joy of seeing my daughter excelling as a wife and mother. When I found out that I was pregnant, it did feel like a crisis. But once the baby was born I loved her with all my heart. The baby was not a crisis. She was, and is, a blessing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    wow. thanks for sharing this

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16376858784972563684 Archaeology cat

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02220512226096382610 SherryTex

    Breathtaking. Beautiful. What a wonderously brave woman you are.

  • Jake

    I think this was a great story and was inspiring and everything, but I'm trying to think about this practically. It's well known that many drugs, including alcohol, nicotine, meth, benzodiazepines, and many others are harmful to the baby and can cause birth defects and low birth weight, as well as future problems in adulthood. What if someone got pregnant, but didn't know until 6 weeks later, during which they had gotten very drunk several times at least? They know there's a distinct chance of severe defects and a high likelihood of premature birth and low birthweight, so what should they do? Have a baby that may be partially retarded and have to care for a baby that may not even experience life nearly normally? And have the undue amount of stress, mentally and monetarily, in caring for a handicapped child that may not even be able to be grateful or even benefit from it? This is a serious question and I appreciate serious, non-condescending answers. Thanks for your article and input.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01347616073655350336 Manda

    WOW, Anonymous! Thanks for sharing! My life-saving blessing is 9 :)