Dawn Eden posted a link to a good quote from an article in Christianity Today by Amy Laura Hall about how Christians need to start supporting mothers if we want to consider ourselves truly “pro-life” – all mothers, not just the ones who are coming into motherhood the way we would describe as optimal.
Dawn’s link got me thinking about an experience I had at the hospital about four years ago. My then-very pregnant wife and I were touring the birthing wing at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, preparatory to the delivery of Stephanie. The nice young lady giving us the tour took us around to the various rooms, showing us the various waiting and delivery rooms, getting us familiar with the hospital procedure, and letting us see how well-equipped their acute care facilities were for babies and moms who had difficulties. It was all very reassuring.
We were in a tour group of sorts, composed of all the women who were expecting to give birth in the next couple of months, along with their husbands and/or boyfriends. Except for one young woman, perhaps eighteen, who was all alone. All. Alone.
She was wearing a t-shirt from some atrociously untalented local band or another. She had piercings in every visible portion of her anatomy. I don’t know if her regalia was specifically Goth, but close enough for middle class bourgeouisie. Her hair was…I don’t even remember what her hair was, but it was a mess, OK? She was every parent’s nightmare child, complete with the swelling belly and ringless finger that informed us all that Steve the Drummer or whichever genetic champion she had chosen as a mate was not in the picture.
As we went around the stations, husbands supporting wives up tricky inclines and boyfriends holding doors for the parade of pregnant women, this girl tagged along, alone. She was paying attention to the tour but I wasn’t – I was pretty much preoccupied with my own internal litany of judgment. Didn’t she know what happened after sex? Was she unaware of the unmarried American male’s sterling track record of supporting his children? Didn’t, for God’s sake, she have any sense? Compare and contrast – look at all these smart women, with the husbands they’ve found for themselves. Look at me, at the good choices I’ve made! Gentle reader, if smug self-righteousness were dollar bills, I would have been eating at a fancy restaurant that night.
We were almost done with the tour when it happened. I do believe in God and I do believe in miracles – ask me about the flying car one of these days – but I am not one of those Christians who pipes up with “and then Jesus told me to just march right over there with a casserole!” He tends to speak to me in the still quiet hours of the night, with feelings, not with words.
Not this time. This time it was like a voice in my head. Was it God? Was it my own guilty conscience? I don’t know. Call it the Voice, because that’s what it was – a Voice, capital V, in my head. And the Voice didn’t seem interested in the bad choices of the t-shirt piercing Goth girl. The Voice had questions for ME.
“Where is she?”
(Abruptly, just like that.)
WTF? What do you mean?
“WHERE is this girl? WHERE is she standing?”
Uh…the hospital. The maternity ward.
“And WHAT is she doing here?”
Taking the tour…so she can see where her baby will be born, I guess.
“Where her WHAT will do WHAT?”
Where she’s going to have her baby! Jeez, Voice.
“So this girl who obviously has NO support and NO help has made the CHOICE to keep her child – to bring it into this world alive, on her own. Is that easy for her?”
What? Oh, Christ, no. That’s got to be a miserably hard prospect. Lost educational opportunties, a guarantee of a low standard of living, years of being tied to a helpless child.
“Could you do it, if you were her?”
Uh…I like to think that I would. Of course, when I was eighteen…good Lord. No, probably I would have caved to whatever idiot plan my peers told me to do. Abortion, most likely.
“Then who are YOU to judge HER? You have both made the same correct choice. For you, there was no cost. For her, the cost is EVERYTHING. And you stand in JUDGMENT? Of her CLOTHES? Of her HAIR? Of her SENSE?”
The Voice didn’t say anything after that. It didn’t need to. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more thoroughly chastened. I cried a little bit, but nobody saw because I was trailing the group at this point while my wife peered at the incubators and the wee little bassinets. I trailed along, Asshole of the Year.
Whatever else that girl had done wrong, she had scored a 100 percent on the Big Exam. She was making the right choice, and doing so in the face of asshole judgments from assholes like me. As Christians, we have to recognize the kind of moral clarity that trumps sensibilities and preferences. As people who welcome life, we have to accept that it isn’t always going to come in prettily-wrapped packages with a wedding ring on the bow and a prepaid Harvard scholarship lining the box. Life is going to be messy and ugly, and babies are going to be conceived by people who ought not to have done it – but having done it, we cannot let our judgment and our righteousness stand in the way of doing the right things.
If you are also pro-life, I encourage you to find yourself in this story. Not only so I won’t feel like such a unique specimen of Jerkus Homosapiensis – so that we can all start putting aside the things that are not crucial and start living up to the promise implicit in our philosophy.
If we want to be pro-life, we have to mean it.