On Friday, a friend shared a video that was posted on The Blaze website about a mother and her reaction to her prematurely-born son, and their journey of life. He was born 3 1/2 months early and weighed barely a pound. When she held him for the first time, she wept. I am sure it was with joy, but also with sorrow/trepidation at the journey that lay before them. The video was put together by her husband, for her birthday, and it detailed their journey through the NICU, the day they brought their son home, and it continued up through his first birthday. And I have to admit, I wept. No, I cried. I really, really cried. Watching that little heart beat right through the skin of his chest just unraveled me. I have not had the best success when it comes to bearing children. My husband and I have suffered through 7 miscarriages in our marriage and it is hard for most people to even understand what that means. Many of our family and friends don’t even know I’ve had that many losses. It got to the point of just keeping quiet when my mother said to me once, “Why do you keep having babies? You have a son; just be happy with that.” She did not understand my desire to birth lots of kids. My parents are both only children. And my parents came here from New Zealand. Think about that for a moment. I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. My dad’s parents eventually moved to the USA to be near him and their grandchildren. My parents had me and my brother and opted to not have any more children. My dad always joked and said, “We had one of each; any more would have been repeats.” Our holiday dinners consisted of six people. My parents, grandparents, and my brother and me. Pretty quiet, tame, and boringly British. I longed for the chaos of a large family. We had good family friends who were Greek. Now there was a fun family!! They only had two daughters themselves, but man oh man, where there ever cousins, aunts, uncles, 2nd and 3rd cousins, etc. I loved holidays at their house. I learned to roll grape leaves and make Wedding Cookies as a young girl. I loved being in the kitchen with all the ladies, the noise, and the wonderful foods cooking. My quiet, staid, British heritage always seems dry and boring to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love British food; I was raised on it, and I love being British and am proud of my heritage, but I always longed to be a part of a large family.
When I met my husband, he rocked my world. To start with, he was pretty cute! And a man of deep faith, and it was like a moth to the flame! I was immediately drawn to his faith life; I wanted that for myself. And then he had 3 siblings, his dad was the oldest of 10 kids, his mom the eldest of 3 kids, and they were Volga River Russians! On both sides! How exotic! My first holiday with them, I was freaked out. There were going to be 17 people at the dinner table and I was a nervous wreck. How would I remember all their names? Which kids went with which set of parents? My future husband thought to calm me by saying, “Don’t worry! This is my mom’s side; there aren’t very many of them!!” Ha-Ha-Ha! It was one of the most fun Christmases ever. I learned about snow and I taught them to love snow all over again. My father-in-law was tickled by the fact that I noticed how the snow sounded under my feet – crunch crunch crunch! He never forgot that. I met several of my father-in-law’s siblings and while we stopped alongside the road to chat with an aunt, I saw my first snowflake, too. I always thought when we cut them out of paper at school it was all make-believe. I didn’t know snow flakes really looked like that (California girl!!).
My husband and I married on December 29th, almost 29 years ago. I loved winter and wanted a Christmas or New Year’s Wedding and got as close as I could. We had no snow on our wedding day, but it snowed the day after and kept snowing for about a week. We were married in Colorado with all his myriad family in attendance. People asked me if I was nervous to walk down the aisle and I truly wasn’t, as I only knew about 20 people there! Hardly anyone from my side because there were just the six of us, and my grandparents were too old to travel, which cut down considerably my side. My parents had divorced and remarried by this time, and my brother brought his fiancee, so I did have 6 family members there. My in-laws were so nice; they reminded me that St. Thomas More was set up as a sort of round church with no center aisle, so it wouldn’t look lop-sided and they would have the ushers just seat people in the center area. I could save face! Ha-Ha! It was an incredible, candle-lit wedding and from the moment we said “I do” my husband and I were open to the possibility of life. We wanted children as soon as God would give them to us. I conceived almost right away. Our oldest son was baptized on our 1-year anniversary and each of our children has since been baptized on that same date (makes it very easy to remember!!). Our oldest was born 5-weeks prematurely, and I should have guessed pregnancy would not be easy for me. I lost 4 more babies before conceiving our second son, who was born 4 years after our oldest. After his birth, I suffered three more miscarriages and God just stopped allowing me to conceive at all. We adopted our youngest son 15 years ago this month. In about 15 days, actually! What a blessing he has been to our family.
While watching that video, I was brought back, once again, to the fragility of human life. I commented to my friend that maybe if science would have been more advanced all those years ago, I would have 7 more children in my life. But then again, perhaps my “quiver” would have been full much sooner, and the joy of my youngest son would not have happened. God knows the reason; He opens the womb and He closes the womb. I thank God for the gift of my sons, and for all the babies I did not get to hold and love. I think that loving through death made me stronger. It made me more sensitive to the gift of life. I met a very dear friend many, many years ago. It was a casual meeting. She was pregnant at the time. We struck up some wonderful conversations, but it was nothing too serious or deep. Then she lost her baby. I thought to call her and offer my comfort, as I knew deeply and personally her pain. Our friendship grew from that day into something I will always treasure. Our children became friends and my husband and I are the godparents to the beautiful daughter she welcomed the very next year, after her loss. Death bonded us together in ways no one understands. And it also made us fiercely protective of these fragile lives of the unborn.
I know some people are fiercely protective of the right to choose. I get that. But for me, I feel that it is a mis-construed ideology that has caused that fierceness to develop in our culture. When we choose to engage in behavior that can produce a life, we need to take responsibility at the point we are choosing that behavior. It is like saying that spoons make us fat; guns kill people; cars kill people…we don’t get rid of the spoon, we stop eating so much. It is called self-control. We don’t kill the product of our choice of behavior, we welcome that child and we change our behavior. There are so many who cannot have children; we bear those children conceived in “error” and we allow them to be adopted. I have personal experience with adoption and it is an incredible blessing. The right to kill another human being is wrong. Pope John Paul II said that in a “just society” we have the right to execute people. But our society is so far from just. There are loop-holes, exceptions, corruption…our world is in a mess. God is the ultimate judge, not me. Incarceration is a completely different topic from this post, so I will not delve into it here. I am lamenting, rather, the right to choose to kill a child. An innocent life. It is not the mother’s body…it is a baby in there. It is not an organ, or her tissue. The heart is struggling to beat, the little hands and feet are working their magic. Random tissue doesn’t have brain waves. It is a child. And I believe that even if we cannot afford a child, or have the life-long desire to commit to another human being (parenting is for life…it’s one of the little things people don’t tell you when you become a parent. You just cannot turn it off even when they are parents, themselves!!) we can allow that child to have life, outside of our life, by allowing them to be adopted. It is the loving, best option. Be chaste to your state in life.
And as I watched the video that morning, watching that little boy grow and smile, and the adoration on the face of that mother, my heart just swelled with love for my sons and for the babies I longed to hold but whose souls I know are safe in God’s care. In this season when we celebrate the Birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, I offer a prayer for all our unborn babies, to come safely into this world.
This is the Christmas Kontakion, or the Kontakion of the Preparation, we sing in Church from now until Christmas Day. I offer this as a prayer, through the story of Mary preparing to give birth to God the Son, for all our sons and daughters, and those still to come:
“Today the Virgin is on her way to the cave where she will give birth to the Eternal Word of God in an ineffable manner. Rejoice, therefore, O universe, when you hear this news, and glorify with the angels and the shepherds Him who shall appear as a newborn Babe, being God from all eternity.”