The Unwanted Child: On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

 
MG286_EveryChildAWantedChild

All children are wanted, even if only by themselves.

Betty was 18 and infatuated with a young lad in town, and the young lad returned her affection gladly.*  She was pretty and intelligent, and just the right mix of demure and friendly. The lad’s parents, however, did not approve the connection, hoping to encourage their boy to put off marriage until a better and more socially acceptable match could be arranged. You see, this lad was soon to leave their parochial farming town for the University, where he was to study medicine. There was no sense letting him marry this daughter of farmers.

The lad knew, of course, that his romance with Betty would be fleeting at best, yet he plied her with sweet words until, just a few nights before he would take his train, she gave up her virtue for a few passionate hours. Then he was gone. Within a few weeks, Betty’s parents grew concerned over what seemed to be her persistent illness. The malady could not be explained by a mere broken heart, and a doctor confirmed the parents’ suspicions. Betty’s family did not want a scandal, and a distant aunt and uncle agreed to help. Thus Betty journeyed across the state so that she might “recover” (as her parents asserted) from a malady brought on by the change of seasons.

In due time, in her uncle’s farmhouse, Betty delivered Ida. Betty nursed her infant daughter for a time, but though her scandal had not fallen on her parents, it had followed her to this other lonely farming town. An unwed mother in reclusion with relatives was no likely prospect for a bride, so Betty left Ida to be raised by her aunt and uncle and moved far off to start her life anew.

Betty did occasionally return to visit her daughter, but she eventually married and had other children. Though Ida was a sweet girl, she would have been a burden in her mother’s home and a reminder to Betty’s husband of his wife’s prior indiscretion. In short, Betty did not want Ida.

Ida wanted a family. Her aunt and uncle had raised her well. Ida was a credit to the farm and beloved by her cousins as if she were a sister. Yet her heart had been broken by her mother’s absence, and she vowed that should she ever marry, she would love all of her children fiercely. In time, Ida married the son of a nearby family, and she fulfilled her vow to each of her seven sons and daughters, to her grandchildren, and to those great-grandchildren she lived to see. She never forgot a birthday, even when she had to remember some thirty grandchildren’s. At her funeral, she was surrounded by family, including my grandfather.

Except, you see, it turns out that he was not really my grandfather at all, at least not by blood. Peter did not marry wisely, and he returned from WWII a changed man. His wife probably never forgave him for that. Full of her own inner demons of jealousy, anger, and lust, my grandmother cheated on him frequently, carrying on affairs ill disguised even from her children. In time, one of those affairs bore fruit.

I’ll never know if my grandfather knew the child was not his. Likely he did. My grandmother certainly knew, and as the child grew she was a frequent reminder of her mother’s faithlessness. She looked nothing like her father, much less her siblings, a fact much noticed by the other children in school. And so my grandmother punished her child, sometimes with a hairbrush, sometimes with a belt, and often with unwarranted scoldings and cursing. My grandfather, however, loved her dearly, and so did her sisters. They protected each other as they could. They bonded as only those who survive maelstroms together can bond, and so my mother, unwanted by her own mother, was yet loved.

It is safe to say that I owe my life twice over to unwanted pregnancies.

In the late 1800s, abortion was exceedingly rare; it was murder under the law, and murder under the Christian faith. A family might exile a wayward daughter, even disinherit her entirely and cast her out, but the child would still come to term and have a shot at life. Betty’s parents rid themselves of a family shame, but their granddaughter, unwanted by them, was allowed to live. Her life has, in turn, touched hundred of other lives, for her progeny have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, soldiers, ministers, farmers, engineers, cops, and more besides. Could we gather the extended family together today, we could fill an entire venue. Ida was not wanted when she was born. Yet she was born, and lived, and gave birth to the man who would be the real father to my mother.

In the 1950s, abortion was still almost as rare as it had been a half-century before. Marriage always works as camouflage for the products of affairs, yet had the option been available, knowing who my grandmother was, I am not certain that she would not have sought out a quiet abortion, hoping to hide her affair — and knowing that my mother would be a living reminder for years afterwards might have sealed it. In fact, when in her drink some years later, she ranted as much. Grandma certainly did not want her daughter.

In the back and forth of debating abortion, we often forget the child and what future that child is denied. When a scared teen mother, pregnant and hoping to hide it from her parents, considers abortion — an act that will “make it all go away” — does she consider the possibilities of the life she carries within? Likely not, as that is too far in the future to see yet. But even if she knows she cannot parent this child, the child should at least have a chance at life somewhere.

Children are messy and life altering because they are life itself. A mother may not want a child, or at least not right away. But that child is alive, and is wanted, if only by itself, and by the others yet unknown who will love him or her.

Every family tree has missing branches and dead ends where our knowledge stops or is deliberately blacked out for reasons of pride or shame. Those who knew the turns of the missing branches held back their knowledge from their descendants. So it is with my own family tree. On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, remember that likely it is with yours too.

*Names have been changed.

There are 59 comments.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    What a stunning post, Skipsul. This may be the best thing you’ve ever written on Ricochet. Main Post, at once.

    • #1
  2. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    My great grandfather’s father skipped town as soon as he heard about the baby.  My great-great grandmother took off after him shortly after giving birth, leaving the baby to be raised by her parents.

    I’m with Skip… with easy access to abortion back then, I wouldn’t exist.

    • #2
  3. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Yes, good post Skippy!

    • #3
  4. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Great post of your heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing.

    • #4
  5. FeliciaB Inactive
    FeliciaB
    @FeliciaB

    Love!

    • #5
  6. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Thank you for this, Skip.

    • #6
  7. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    This is beautiful-brought tears to my eyes, thank you.

    • #7
  8. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    FeliciaB:Love!

    A real live Felicia sighting!

    • #8
  9. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Agree with Gary skip. Main feed. What a gift to us all. Would you be okay with my posting this on our local pro-life facebook page? This should go viral.

    • #9
  10. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Mike Rapkoch:Agree with Gary skip. Main feed. What a gift to us all. Would you be okay with my posting this on our local pro-life facebook page? This should go viral.

    Sure, I’m flattered.

    • #10
  11. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I am the product of an unwanted baby, born in Quachita Co. AR 1913 as Raymond Johnson. His mother’s name was Nellie Johnson. I have not found her in my gen researches. She gave up her baby for adoption when he was about 6 weeks old to a Coker family in Pike Co. AR. I wished she had kept him, he was a beautiful baby.

    • #11
  12. 1967mustangman Inactive
    1967mustangman
    @1967mustangman

    Main feed.

    • #12
  13. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    A very moving story. Thank you.

    • #13
  14. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    Thanks for the beautiful story, Skip.  I’m sure we all have stories like this in our families, remembered or forgotten.  It is tragic how many lives have been lost this way.

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Thank you Skip.

    God bless those who march today.

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    My mother’s parents were in their forties when she came along. Her nearest sibling was five years older and her eldest sibling twenty-one years older. Her mother made it fairly plain that she was an accident.

    Occasionally when she was young, Mother would say something on the order of, “The way you treat me, I must be adopted.”

    My grandmother’s rejoinders included, “What forty-one-year-old woman in her right mind would adopt a baby?” and “If I had adopted you, you would have been wanted.”

    So, yeah, I don’t know that my grandmother would have aborted a baby, but I am glad Mother was born when it was a very risky option.

    • #16
  17. Liz Inactive
    Liz
    @Liz

    Thanks for reminding us of these truths, Skip. In the midst of the rage and hysteria, it is vital to recall the fundamentals for which we stand.

    • #17
  18. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Oh, my. Wow. Thank you.

    • #18
  19. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    We tag each new generation with different names. Gen X’ers and Millennials for example. I call all those generations that followed the Roe vs. Wade decision survivors.

    Thanks for this beautiful essay Skip.

    • #19
  20. Rapporteur Coolidge
    Rapporteur
    @Rapporteur

    Beautiful, Skip. Thank you for posting it.

    • #20
  21. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Kay of MT:I am the product of an unwanted baby, born in Quachita Co. AR 1913 as Raymond Johnson. His mother’s name was Nellie Johnson. I have not found her in my gen researches. She gave up her baby for adoption when he was about 6 weeks old to a Coker family in Pike Co. AR. I wished she had kept him, he was a beautiful baby.

    She did keep him…she kept him alive, she kept him in her heart. She did not give him up, she made a loving choice. And a childless couple received the greatest gift from a corageous woman. And not a day passed where the two mothers did not think of one another and say a prayer of thanksgiving.

    • #21
  22. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    9thDistrictNeighbor: She did keep him…she kept him alive, she kept him in her heart. She did not give him up, she made a loving choice. And a childless couple received the greatest gift from a courageous woman. And not a day passed where the two mothers did not think of one another and say a prayer of thanksgiving.

    What is beyond what I bolded is projection. It may have been so, but we have no proof that either the birth mother or adoptive parents thought as you are thinking.

    • #22
  23. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    skipsul: It is safe to say that I owe my life twice over to unwanted pregnancies.

    True.  It is also true that you owe your life twice over to violations of the Commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Pretty good evidence that the sins of the mothers are not visited on their children.

    I appreciate your story, and I respect your emotions about your family history.  But as a political argument, it doesn’t hit me hard.  Pretty much anyone can find a “what if” in their family history that would have changed, or eliminated, their life.  What if it had rained on the day my Mom met my Dad, and Mom decided to stay home?  That’s not much of a basis to make public policy.

    Each of us is a bit of a miracle if you think about all the circumstances that had to come together for us to be born.  In my opinion, the best response to that miracle is simple gratitude.  Gratitude, and then full stop.  No other lessons to be drawn there.

    • #23
  24. Patrickb63 Coolidge
    Patrickb63
    @Patrickb63

    Larry, simply put you are wrong. There are wonderful lessons to be learned. When we make a mistake, there is no reason to compound it by making a bigger mistake. Legalizing murder of the unborn will result in more killings of the unborn. People who have been unwanted may become the most loving and loved person in your life. Unforeseen consequences, or rather our inability to fully see the consequences of the laws we make, is excellent basis
    for public policy. Those are just a few of the lessons to be learned here.

    • #24
  25. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Larry3435: What if it had rained on the day my Mom met my Dad, and Mom decided to stay home? That’s not much of a basis to make public policy.

    There are “what ifs” attributable to circumstance – accidents, coincidence, outside forces such as war, etc. – but the “what ifs” I address here are the consequences of major personal moral decisions and failings.  Of course we can endlessly game the “what if my parents did X instead of Y, and so never met,” but this runs far deeper.  This is looking at what would have happened if ancestors had not only never met, but never been allowed to exist in the first place.

    • #25
  26. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Arahant: My grandmother’s rejoinders included, “What forty-one-year-old woman in her right mind would adopt a baby?” and “If I had adopted you, you would have been wanted.”

    This woman adoped our son at age 42; and no, I don’t know what every adoptive parent thinks and I certainly don’t know what every birthmother thinks. But I pray every day, especially the difficult ones.

    • #26
  27. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    skipsul    Children are messy and life altering because they are life itself.

    Skipsul, May I share this with some friends and family via email?

    I often say to those I know “Freedom is messy, Life is messy — no excuse to not go forth.”  Now I will add “Life is messy and Bringing forth like is messy — no excuse to not go forth.”

    Thank you.

    • #27
  28. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    This was an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing

    • #28
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    9thDistrictNeighbor:

    Arahant: My grandmother’s rejoinders included, “What forty-one-year-old woman in her right mind would adopt a baby?” and “If I had adopted you, you would have been wanted.”

    This woman adoped our son at age 42; and no, I don’t know what every adoptive parent thinks and I certainly don’t know what every birthmother thinks. But I pray every day, especially the difficult ones.

    Well, she certainly wasn’t Big Mama. But, I am glad you are one of the ones who are like that. And it’s better to be projecting positive things than negative on other people who have been in your situation. It definitely says more about you than them.

    • #29
  30. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    TempTime:

    skipsul Children are messy and life altering because they are life itself.

    Skipsul, May I share this with some friends and family via email?

    I often say to those I know “Freedom is messy, Life is messy — no excuse to not go forth.” Now I will add “Life is messy and Bringing forth like is messy — no excuse to not go forth.”

    Thank you.

    Yes, feel free!

    • #30

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