There's a war between guilt and grace . . . and they're fighting for a sacred space . . . and I'm living proof grace wins every time. ~ Matthew West
So she had been crying when she said, "Mom, I think it's time to share your story." . . . It's understandable that her emotions would be raw. She's had a particularly difficult time lately. In the midst of the full and busy process of raising a six year old daughter and a two year old son to the extreme, she and my son-in-law recently lost a baby in the early stages of pregnancy. The very next day, a raccoon ravaged the rabbit hutch in their backyard, killing all but one of their four baby bunnies. As a family, their celebration of life turned to mourning in the blink of an eye. It's painful to imagine the fallout of such broken-heartedness playing out, especially in my Brittany, who has chased life so fiercely since before she was born.
And this was what was breaking her heart on that particular day . . . in the midst of chasing life . . . between writing (www.littlemountainmomma.com) and running and growing a family, between 1st grade drop offs and harvesting her garden to share, between caring for the elderly and adoring her spirited little boy, who was conceived on the emotional waves of her first miscarriage . . . that she discovered a tragic and misguided contingency of people celebrating under the hashtag title Shout your Abortion. And it was here that she challenged me, holding my feet to the fire of my own convictions . . . I think it's time to share your story. She called it my Life Story, and she's more than an inspiration for it.
In 1985 I was eighteen years old, about to graduate from high school . . . and pregnant. It's an understatement to say that it didn't exactly fit into my life plan. At the time, I was living on my grandmother's couch. I had left my mother's house a year before, determined to finally escape the poverty and abuse derived from mental illness that I had grown up in, and had since then bounced between my father's ever changing dive apartments and the homes of friends who lived closer to my high school. Lest I paint a picture of hopelessness, I was also smart, ambitious, and determined to break my current family cycle of chaotic instability. I had worked hard to buy myself a car at sixteen, made sure I got to school every day, and in spite of a lack of interest or cooperation on the part of either of my parents, was set on studying journalism in college. The only thing I choose to see myself a victim of today is the perceived invincibility syndrome of the very young and idealistic. I made "one bad decision" and decided to get my head on straight, only to discover it was too late.
I was six weeks pregnant and sitting in a doctor's office as "every girl and every woman" who had ever experienced an unexpected pregnancy. . . I was every girl who had ever felt the shock of disbelief because "this doesn't happen to "good girls", every girl who would cut off her hair just to be able to go back and undo one moment of indiscretion or poor decision making, every girl who had ever felt frightened and ashamed and had the fleeting thought somewhere deep in her seared, dulled conscience that "no one ever has to know." I was every woman who had ever questioned her ability to care for a baby, let alone herself, had ever told herself "this is all about me", who had ever sought to take her life back after feeling used and rejected, disrespected and violated, every woman who thinks "I can make this right . . . later . . . when I'm really ready." I was every woman, every girl on life's spectrum between hopelessly desperate and it's my damned decision because it's my body and it's damned inconvenient right now.
I wish I could say that I never had a single doubt. I wish I could say that never for one single second would I have ever even considered terminating that pregnancy. But there was just about 24 hours between complete denial that I could even BE pregnant and complete acceptance that I was about to become a mother, and honestly, those were the most critical 24 hours of my entire life because there WAS a choice, one offered to me by the world, and I would be lying if I said that the solution that the world offered never crossed my mind. I can say in all truth that I never once uttered the word abortion, but what I did say, in complete desperation and disbelief to the doctor who delivered the news and was droning on insensitively about the blessing of babies and due dates and changes that would soon take place within my body was: I can't have a baby. I don't even live anywhere. He got very quiet, and his friendly demeanor was replaced by disapproval and an unmistakable look of judgment in his eyes. He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a referral for an abortion clinic. He shoved the papers at me and said, "I don't agree with your decision, but I'm obligated to give you this. He left without saying another word, and I'll never forget the feeling of such humiliation and shame put upon me by another human being. Before the day was over, another reaction I received from someone else whose words might have made all the difference was, "If this is your decision, you're on your own." At that point, I hadn't even made a decision, and I did, indeed, feel desperately alone. And here's the irony . . . the very people who protested the most . . . the very people whose intention was to freeze me with judgement and disapproval were the very ones that may have driven me straight to the abortion clinic in isolation.
Fortunately, and by the grace of God, I will always be convinced, the words I desperately needed to hear came from a seemingly chance encounter from a most unlikely source: Whatever you decide to do, we will love and support you . . . but remember that this baby is not here by chance. God put it here, and it's really not anyone else's decision at this point. You CAN do this. We'll help you. It was important that I believed every single word, and I did. They nailed it. There were other important words. When in despair, I asked my (then) future husband what we were going to do, and his simple response was, "We're going to have a baby" . . . his mother, my future mother in law, who professed to be a Christian, backed it up when I looked into her eyes for the the first time knowing that she knew and she said, "Honey, we love you" without a trace of judgment, and gathered me in a hug. I believed her.
In August of 1985, I married my baby's father. In December, my beautiful baby girl was born. She had the striking blue eyes of her grandmother and a fascinating amount of energy. She got right down to the business of life, and she (along with her sister) kept me happily busy being a momma. It took me thirteen years from that point to get an undergraduate degree, and several more to get a masters . . . in education - NOT journalism - because teaching was more conducive to raising a family. It's not disloyal for me to say that my life didn't turn out like I'd planned and I'm not disappointed that I didn't put myself first. When I look at my lovely, healthy daughters (who were NOT raised in abject chaos and extreme dysfunction and are BOTH college graduates), when I see my Brittany Leigh, raising her babies and honoring life so completely, I am home and whole and free from any regrets.
I know everybody's story is different. There are beautiful adoption stories and beautiful single mom stories. There are stories of parents' resolve to work together -- to create families and to put them first. . . stories of grandparents stepping in and family and friends stepping up. . . community and churches coming together to provide support . . . And there are some commonalities in the success stories . . .
Words of affirmation. Love. Faith. Family. Community. Grace. Compassion.
BEFORE the abortion clinics.
At the risk of oversimplifying things, would we even be having this abortion debate if these things took precedent over judgement and disapproval and washing our hands of any human compassion or responsibility? And would we still feel compelled to lie about our decisions? Yes, I said it. Because in the Shout Your Abortion movement, I don't believe a word of it. There is no amount of argument to convince me that anyone - ANYONE - is truly happy and proud to have made the decision to abort their child. If I had made a different decision, there is not the slightest bit of doubt in my mind that I would have had another decision to make. . . I could either let that choice destroy me, leave me a shell of a person . . . Or I would have to push it back into the deep recesses of my mind . . . not think about it, compartmentalize it so that I could go on living. And then I could say that it didn't affect me. And I might really think that . . . but I would be lying to myself . . . because if I allowed myself to think about it . . . REALLY think about what I had done without calling it something other than what it really was, it would destroy me.
I had known girls, friends and acquaintances from high school who had become pregnant. Some of them had had their babies. Some of them had abortions. I never gave either much thought beyond disdain derived from what would be a perfectly orchestrated life. I would never have made that mistake. But when I did, there were words that I needed to hear. And I eventually did hear those potentially life saving words. You . . . we . . .can make this work . . . I'll be there for you . . . Let's figure this out . . . It's going to be alright . . . Tragically, not everybody does.
I have friends today that have confided in me in quiet, introspective moments, that they have at one time or another made that choice. Their reasons, as previously stated, range from simple inconvenience and bad timing to hopeless desperation. These are not monsters. These are beautiful women with beautiful hearts and beautiful children that I am proud to call my friends. I don't judge them. Until we live in a world that offers fewer "choices" and greater compassion and conviction for love and family and human life, we, as decent human beings, as Christians, are called to love and support one another.
Shout Your Abortion is a lie borne of a society of dysfunction, discord, and disbelief. It breaks my daughter's heart, and it breaks mine, because she is a Life Story that cannot be ignored or disregarded as a choice . . . she is my child, and my Life Story.