Today is day four of the bishops’ call to prayer, penance, and pilgrimage to end abortion. My fellow Patheos blogger, the Crescat, wrote a haunting post this weekend that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Mostly I keep thinking, “that could have been me. That could have been my baby, my Sienna, dismembered in that canister. If things had been different, it would have been.”
This morning it occurred to me that no, in fact, it couldn’t have been my Sienna. Unlike most unwed, pregnant drug addicts at the turn of the millenium, I didn’t have a choice. I have a lot of issues with the Protestant culture in the Bible belt, but I will forever be grateful that on this issue of life, it is rock solid. A baby is a baby. No killing it allowed. My parents were absolutely clear on that. I have never, for one instant of my life, doubted that a fetus is a human life. When I got that positive pregnancy test, I didn’t wonder how early it was, how many times the cells had divided, if its heartbeat could be detected or not. I just thought, “shit. A baby.”
It was fortunate that the Ogre had similar views on life, or things might have been different. But his family is devoutly Catholic, and though neither of us had been practicing our faiths, the basic principles were there. The issue of abortion didn’t come up, save one time. An acquaintance, when he heard the news, looked at me doubtfully and said, “you’re so young. I think it would be better if you didn’t have the baby.”
It took me a few seconds to understand that what he meant by that was “have an abortion.” The phrasing was odd, and abortion truly was that foreign of a concept to me. There were times, during that pregnancy, when I wished it wasn’t such a foreign concept. There have been dark times in pregnancies since when I wished the same thing.
I write alot about my struggles with motherhood. Perhaps I write too much about them. Maybe some of you reading this are thinking, “but you’re miserable as a mother. Motherhood hasn’t brought you anything but despair.”
It’s true that motherhood is difficult. It’s always difficult to burn our own desires on the altar of serving others. It’s difficult for a million different reasons, and a good part of the difficulty is that it is at once the hardest and most mind-numbingly boring job in the world. It’s hard to recognize that those two things are true without blaming myself and thinking, “if only I were a better mother, I would love this job.”
What isn’t hard is imagining what might have been. If I hadn’t had Sienna, there are no plethora of paths my life could have taken. There are no alternate universes where I had an abortion and went on to be a successful writer, lawyer, or college professor. Before my daughter was born, I loved drugs more than anything in the world. And she is the only thing that could have changed that.
There have been dark times in pregnancies when the idea of abortion seemed appealing. But I have never looked back and wished I could have had that choice. For me, that choice was as distant and unreachable as it must have been to many women before Roe v. Wade. And for that, I am grateful. Ironically, not having a choice bought me freedom, in the end. Freedom from addiction. Freedom from selfishness. Freedom from a life that at times seemed meaningless and bleak. I will take this life with all its hardships and struggles not in spite of my babies, but because of them. They are what make it worth living.
Kat had the choice I didn’t. She made it, and it haunts her. It torments her. All over our country, mothers and fathers are living in torment after making this choice that was supposed to bring them freedom. But it didn’t bring freedom. It doesn’t. It condemns you to a life of always wondering and regretting. Instead of allowing life to come into the world, letting it change and shape you into someone new, learning to love a baby, delight in a toddler, and find joy in watching a child navigate the world, you are left alone, knowing the child who should have been will never be. That isn’t freedom. It’s a prison.
I want that choice taken away. Not just legally, so that women are “forced into back allies.” I want it erased from human consciousness. I want there to never again be a moment when a pregnant woman hears, “you do have a choice not to have the baby.” I want the canisters full of baby limbs and torsos and heads to disappear from our country forever. I want the same people who dedicate their lives to giving women a “choice” instead dedicate their lives to helping expectant mothers and fathers, arranging adoptions, and safeguarding the lives of American infants. I want men and women to no longer be frightened and manipulated into choosing death but once again free to rejoice in life. No matter how difficult it is, it is always worth it.