July, 2012. In just under a week, we’ll be celebrating a birthday in our family. Twenty-six isn’t such a milestone year (not the ‘quarter-life crisis’ that last year’s birthday could have brought), but still, I am a bit misty-eyed over the lightning-speed passage of time. Where do the years go? Life-change seems instantaneous…
The other day, I happened upon one of those pithy ‘sayings’ that spark controversy. Election year shenanigans, emotional hot topics – let’s have an argument on SOCIAL MEDIA! Such a bad idea. Still, the idea got me going a bit. The premise concerns ‘choice’ for women, and that somehow, a ‘pro-choice’ position in no way equals a ‘pro-abortion’ position. The idea made me say ‘hmmmm’ for a protracted moment. And in the days and hours since, I keep remembering my own encounters with the ‘choice’ dilemma. It happens every July.
June, 1985. Twenty-seven years ago. I had just signed a contract to begin my first teaching job — $12,000/year to teach high school English. At the time, I was too foolish to realize that I was teaching high school boys and girls, not simply teaching subject matter, but that story can wait for another time. Twenty-seven years ago, riding the wave of exhilaration also known as ‘I-got-my-first-real-job,’ I took an unexpected nosedive: I was pregnant. “gee, how did THAT happen?” The timing couldn’t have been much worse. Elation was in short supply – our ‘plans’ hadn’t included such poor timing. As an aside – think about my situation: Married (happily). Employed (mercifully). Healthy. Able. Pregnant. Dismayed. A classic case (looking back on it) of ‘first world problems.’
I kept looking at the calendar. My due date, March 11, meant that I wouldn’t even be able to fulfill my entire contracted year! I fretted and worried right through a family celebration over the July 4th holiday (INDEPENDENCE DAY — HA!!!!!!!!!!), but when Jeff finally suggested that we could consider NOT having the baby, my self-pity evaporated. Just like that, Reality, with a Dickensian capital R to indicate its significance, arrived. While perhaps inconveniently timed, I was pregnant. We were going to have a baby.
I shuddered at the thought of asking someone to terminate my inconvenience. Up ‘til that moment I had been a fence-sitter on the abortion issue. In any discussion of abortion rights, I had consistently reasoned that, though I wouldn’t have one myself, I certainly had no right to tell someone else she shouldn’t make that choice. Ah, liberation. When Jeff suggested abortion as an option, I fell off my fence. The landing was easier than I would have thought. But there were hard times ahead.
Crisis moments define us. After the Independence Day holiday (irony of ironies), we adjusted our plans: Women teachers have babies all the time. I’ll make it almost to the end of the year. We’ll figure it out. It will be fine!! ‘WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!’ kept ringing in my head, and I was a jumbled mess of hormonal and emotional turmoil with low-maintenance nausea ‘on the side.’ ‘What the heck am I doing? and ‘I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl’ and ‘AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!’ collided in my head. As July was winding down and the start of a school year loomed too close for comfort (remember, I was going to be teaching high schoolers!), I sat in the University of Illinois library working on a concluding assignment for a licensure class I was bound to take. I thought my discomfort, increasing as the day went along, stemmed simply from a too-long day in a hard chair. What I tried hard to ignore – a dull, persistent cramping – nagged dreadfully. My body this time, not my heart, had started to reject that baby. By the next sunrise, I was no longer pregnant.
I hold Reason and Logic in high regard (more Dickens imitation), but fail regularly to employ them. My emotions, on the other hand, are finely tuned and frequently played. Attempting to appeal to my reason and assuage my emotional suffering, my doctor, my husband, my family, my friends offered these: statistics regarding early miscarriages; assurances that my uterus was just fine – that my ovaries were in good working order – that we could try again in just three months; sympathy and shared tears; promises of a future family and encouragement to look ahead. All well-intentioned. All failing utterly. I was swamped in guilt and sorrow. Reason argued that my initial response to an unexpected pregnancy had nothing whatever to do with losing that baby. My heart had no ears to hear.
In November, 1985, I again discovered I was pregnant. Late April, 1986 we learned that two babies were causing all of that ruckus in my ever-expanding mid-section. Twenty-six years ago: July, 22, 1986. Lucas Myron and Matthew David breathed their first breaths. The birthday we’ll be celebrating soon. With much rejoicing.
The doctor was right of course. My uterus was fine – ovaries in good working order – we tried again, and found ourselves getting a two-for-one deal! Twins. October 7, 1989. Peter Jacob joined his twin brothers. By choice. By grace. By plans both ours and the Lord’s, Who, it turns out, is the Creator of all life, regardless of what we might choose to believe or do about it.
We all make choices. As Americans we have self-proclaimed Constitutionally up-held ‘rights’ too – one of them, the right to privacy, includes apparently, the right to ‘choose.’ Of course, some of our choices might break established laws, and others might break promises; still others might break up families or businesses, and some choices merely break hearts. We live with the choices we make. Sometimes the choices we make prevent others from living at all. And that ‘right to choose’ is a costly right indeed.
Being ‘pro-choice’ doesn’t mean being ‘pro-abortion’??? Being ‘pro-life’ means being ‘anti-choice’? Semantics, really. And so the argument rages on. Those who promote the ‘right to life’ sometimes lose all sense of Reality and, in their defense of the unborn forget the rights of the already living – taking shots at abortion providers, destroying property, spewing hatred and proclaiming judgments on the streets. Those who promote the ‘right to choose’ and who deny protection to the most defenseless (the unborn) often spew their own hatred, and meanwhile, US abortions (touted as desirable only when ‘safe, legal and rare’) tally at over 50 million between 1973 and 2008 (Guttmacher Institute).
I don’t expect that a blog, a news report, statistics, a vitriolic argument on Facebook or Pinterest (yes, I did find one even there), or ‘Tweets’will likely change the abortion stance you currently have. There are countless ‘reasons’ (head arguments emotionally presented) to keep abortion ‘safe, legal and rare’ (1.2 million projected for 2012 in the US hardly seems rare, but never mind that). The heart is the agent of change in this matter. It always is. And only the Lord changes those. One crisis moment at a time.
My crisis, an early miscarriage, crystallized my own abortion stance. My ‘inconveniently timed’ first pregnancy ended on its own, but I still bear the responsibility for my initial response. I didn’t want that baby. Every July, I celebrate my twins’ precious lives and mourn the life that was lost. Choice? Oh, yes. We have that. But because we can choose, does that mean that we should?