When I was in seventh grade I was attending a very small, private Christian school. Prior to that school year, I had been deeply immersed in the small town New Mexico, low income school district. If you’ve never been exposed to that life then allow me to share just one memory (of hundreds) that I have which perfectly depicts the reality:
When I was in the sixth grade, in 1987, one early November day I was sitting in study hall (which met in the library) and there were two eighth graders as the table behind me. Because I was not the slightest bit interested in the Titanic book I was reading, I sat mesmerized by their conversation. The two girls were deep in talk, trying to calculate exactly how they could each utilize their welfare money for one of them to buy a Teddy Ruxpin for her child, and the other to buy Teddy’s friend, for hers. This made absolute sense to them because their children were together all of the time so they’d both benefit, and their babies would have the best Christmas.
Eighth Grade… I too have had to worry and plot, calculate and make miracles happen to insure their were beloved gifts under the Christmas tree, but I was a grown adult. These are not problems babies should have. There was no real scandal when young girls became mothers, which was far more common than not. So, when I went from that normal, to my new small town Idaho, I didn’t exactly grasp the very conservative nature of country Christian school. While the kids chatted about this amazing movie called Princess Bride, I was kind of like “Oh, I’ve never seen that but which Nightmare on Elm Street did you like best, because I loved when the humor got better in the Third.”
Prior to that Idaho semester, a special presentation at school had come in the forms of guest speakers, veterans, assemblies and spotlights for D.A.R.E. When everyone at my new school was so excited about no (technical) school, one afternoon, because a speaker was coming- I naively expected a smaller version of the same.
The images the woman brought, of aborted babies having been vacuumed from their mommy’s tummies wasn’t what I imagined. While I was very familiar with teenage pregnancy, I had never heard the word Abortion. The offensive images were just the tip of the grotesque presentation that our school of K-12th graders sat through. If the goal had been to shock, they had achieved success. As the presentation came to a close, the woman passed out little plastic babies to everyone. The babies were so tiny, they fit in the palm of the youngest of student’s hand. Accompanying each little plastic baby was a pamphlet depicting a baby talking to Jesus about what his life would be like when he was born. He asked will my eyes be blue like my mommy’s or brown like my dad’s? He talked about loving the sound of his mommy’s voice and not being able to be in her arms and smell her close. The baby asked why his mommy cried so often. did she not love him? The baby then, towards the end of the pamphlet, talks about the terrifying tube trying to get him, and how it hurts… and then he’s dead.
When (well meaning) people protest abortion, they often have this same imagery on their signs. Obviously these depictions came from somewhere real. (not the dumb pamphlet, which is just evil) In the name of “saving the lives of innocent babies”, we are inundated the senses of our own babies with horrors they should not be imagining.
That mortified twelve year old girl grew up to be a woman who endured seven horrible and bloody miscarriages before having a brief waltz with uterine cancer resulting in a total hysterectomy twelve years later. Every single pregnancy had a voice narrating, in my head, of my little (desperately wanted and already so loved) baby talking to Jesus. Every horrifying miscarriage had that narration describing the pain that sweet baby felt. In this scenario, who became the failure? Who became the one to blame? Me. Me. My first miscarriage, at 11 weeks, had me attempting to “catch” the fetus with a ladle and digging through large clots with the nurse so we could know that the fourteen day nightmare was nearly over. When I’d showed up, at 17 and terrified, in the emergency room, two weeks earlier, the doctor had told me that I was having a “spontaneous abortion”. I kept trying to explain that I did not WANT an abortion, I wanted my baby. With every ultra sound (detecting no heartbeat) I had that baby’s voice telling me that “they” were trying to kill my baby.
As if being seventeen and unexpectedly pregnant wasn’t scary enough, the glaring truth was that I was far more educated about the wickedness of abortion and what aborted babies looked like, than anything else…
My second miscarriage had me 9 weeks along, and this time, as a whoosh rushed from my scalp to my toes, I rushed to the bathroom to find what would be my little baby, sitting in my underwear. I learned this was my baby, because I took it in a yogurt cup, to my doctor. It didn’t look anything like that little plastic baby I’d held so tightly in my hand, all of those years before.
As a woman, do I want anyone having an abortion? NO. I obviously want no women to end up in situations where they even have to weigh the options. Do you know what else I want? No need for foster care because only loving, healthy and responsible people have children. I want realistic and attainable adoption, so that those of us who can’t have a child can adopt babies when their birth parents just aren’t ready. I am just me though, a 43 year old, barren woman, who does NOT live in a world free of drug addicted babies, sexually abused children and an overwhelmed system filled with abandoned kids…
I doubt there is a little girl out there, dreaming about her future, and so excited for the day she has her first abortion… It just isn’t like that. It is a hard, overwhelming and terrifying place that many women have stood in, and will continue to stand in. To the woman who wants to show up, in protest, outside of the clinic: ok… You say you’re there in love? Great. so Love her. Listen to her. Truly LISTEN. If she’s willing, HELP her. Truly throw as much passion into loving this girl, if she allows it, as you have in protesting her right to choose. And… Should you love her and she chooses differently than you want her to- the answer is the same: Love her.
Hurling shame at hurting people has NEVER led to a victory. This instills further trauma.
In America, our system is overwhelmed with over 443,000 hurting foster children. So many of these kids are children of trauma, which will greatly affect the entirety of their lives. If you feel so passionate about life and children, love the women in the impossible and broken spaces, and actively pursue ways to help these children. If we look around, it is so easy to see all of the hate and judgement that push people into lonely and dark spaces of shame. What if, as cliche as it may seem, we change the narrative and simply live a Pro-LOVE movement?
On the Collective Podcast this week, we’re talking about abortion. We are talking about the difficult choices, what courage looks like, and how (though we may being coming from a place of love) we sometimes make things worse when we shame women into horrible spaces. We all have our stories, and every single one of us has things we bury deep inside. More than likely you know and love someone who has had an abortion…