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.

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  1. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    skipsul: Yes, feel free!

    I forgot to ask,  …

    Edited:   to remove a comment posted to the wrong conversation.  And in case anyone is wondering — Yes, my brain does engage on occasion, just experiencing a little brain fog this morning.

    • #31
  2. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    TempTime:

    skipsul: Yes, feel free!

    I forgot to ask, shall I use your avatar or real name (which I just found), and perhaps include the link to the link given in your bio on Ricochet. You know, the one related to “teaching”? Thanks.

    I’ve pm’d you on the details.

    • #32
  3. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Well done. Thanks.

    I read a quote this morning by Rev Fulton Sheen in which he spoke of spiritually adopting an unborn child through prayer. That strikes me as a fantastic idea.

    • #33
  4. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    9thDistrictNeighbor: 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

    Not so sure about that, My grandfather was involved in this, as he picked up the baby from the agency in Little Rock a few days after he was relinquished, and kept him somewhere. He was 9 months old when grandmother first saw him. My grandparents did not legally adopt him until he was 27 years old. Grandmother was bitter and told me she had never accept him as part of her family. I have a lot of photos of him as a child, and he is not smiling in a single one of them. Very solemn and sad little boy.

    • #34
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    skipsul: Peter did not marry wisely, and he returned from WWII a changed man. His wife probably never forgave him for that.

    His wife was Ida, right? Just checking – I wasn’t clear on that.

    • #35
  6. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    No, Ida was his mother. Should have clarified.

    • #36
  7. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    My paternal grandfather, whom I never knew,  was, according to my father, a “foundling,” and we have never been able to find out anything about his antecedents or circumstances.  My small story and your greater one, Skip, and the stories of others here just among these few commenters, make me wonder whether such stories are not almost universal, and whether we must not all be grateful to those who chose life, and perhaps more, to those who have upheld the duty to choose life. Thank you for adding flesh and blood to the statistics.

    • #37
  8. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Larry3435: Commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.

    This commandment is very misunderstood. Adultery in the Torah is when a committed man or woman have sex outside their commitment of betrothal or their marriage. An unmarried man or woman having sex was frowned upon by the community but not breaking a commandment.

    • #38
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    skipsul: In the late 1800s, abortion was exceedingly rare; it was murder under the law, and murder under the Christian faith.

    Here, incidentally, is a history of American abortion law during the nineteenth century.

    Early in that century, “Abortion after quickening was treated as a common law misdemeanor; abortion before quickening was not considered a crime in the vast majority of states.” The first statute against abortion was enacted in 1821, applying to quickened fetuses only, and statutes against abortion tended to get stricter over time.

    Most states eventually decided to treat destruction of a quickened fetus as manslaughter, while only a few states treated the destruction of any fetus as manslaughter. In time, though, the distinction between quickened and unquickened tended to disappear, and all abortions got treated the same. In some states the woman, not the professional who aided her, was expressly treated as the guilty party, but this was largely symbolic. And usually an exception was made for trying to save the mother’s life.

    Stricter abortion laws were actively promoted by the medical profession, which at the time was still struggling to earn the prestige it enjoys today. Doctors opposed abortion in order to make medicine more respectable – getting a reputation for providing abortions is probably never a good way to earn people’s trust and respect.

    • #39
  10. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Kay of MT: Grandmother was bitter and told me she had never accept him as part of her family. I have a lot of photos of him as a child, and he is not smiling in a single one of them. Very solemn and sad little boy.

    There aren’t any smiling photos of my husband as a child. He was not adopted; he grew up with two very intense people as parents. Your grandmother’s bitterness is not the child’s fault, though it affected him greatly.

    My maternal grandfather was, as an infant, left out on the front porch in a snowstorm because his step-father didn’t want another man’s child around. That other man had died in a coal mining accident, the mother remarried. The baby was rescued from the porch by his maternal grandmother, who never spoke to her daughter again.  Sometimes we make choices in life that work out well and sometimes we don’t. Like Skipsul, I wouldn’t be here if that baby had died on that porch. I can look in the mirror and see his straight, thick eyebrows–as my mom used to say, “like John L. Lewis” (whom Grandpa despised).

    • #40
  11. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Larry3435: What if it had rained on the day my Mom met my Dad, and Mom decided to stay home?

    For that matter what if our Dads crossed their legs one more time before conceiving? We wouldn’t be here either…

    Which doesn’t detract from an awesome story!

    • #41
  12. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    skipsul: But that child is alive, and is wanted, if only by itself, and by the others yet unknown who will love him or her.

    It’s all brilliant Skip, but this bit especially so.

    • #42
  13. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Mike H:

    Larry3435: What if it had rained on the day my Mom met my Dad, and Mom decided to stay home?

    For that matter what if our Dads crossed their legs one more time before conceiving? We wouldn’t be here either…

    Which doesn’t detract from an awesome story!

    The story is great, but the moral of the story is not the one Skip draws.  At least not to me.  You could as easily say that the moral of the story is that adultery is just fine, because without it Skip wouldn’t be here.  That was my point.

    • #43
  14. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Kay of MT:

    Larry3435: Commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.

    This commandment is very misunderstood. Adultery in the Torah is when a committed man or woman have sex outside their commitment of betrothal or their marriage. An unmarried man or woman having sex was frowned upon by the community but not breaking a commandment.

    Okay, once over then.  But there are plenty of people who think sex outside of marriage is sinful, whether or not the rule against such behavior is found in the Ten Commandments.

    • #44
  15. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    9thDistrictNeighbor: My maternal grandfather was, as an infant, left out on the front porch in a snowstorm because his step-father didn’t want another man’s child around. That other man had died in a coal mining accident, the mother remarried. The baby was rescued from the porch by his maternal grandmother, who never spoke to her daughter again. Sometimes we make choices in life that work out well and sometimes we don’t. Like Skipsul, I wouldn’t be here if that baby had died on that porch. I can look in the mirror and see his straight, thick eyebrows–as my mom used to say, “like John L. Lewis” (whom Grandpa despised).

    If only it were possible, I would give your great grandmother a great big hug and a thank you!

    • #45
  16. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Larry3435: Okay, once over then. But there are plenty of people who think sex outside of marriage is sinful, whether or not the rule against such behavior is found in the Ten Commandments.

    That sex is a sin is a rule that various cultures have set mostly by Christianity, and because a virgin girl was of greater value and still is because she is considered property by most cultures. Genesis 1:27-28 And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them. And G-d blessed them; and G-d said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, …  Nary a word about sex being a sin, nor about having to be married first. Nary a word about sex being the fall of mankind, and having to be saved from, or because of sex. That sex is a “sin” is a man made rule. The Adam and Eve story is just that, a story.

    • #46
  17. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Kay of MT:That sex is a sin is a rule that various cultures have set mostly by Christianity, and because a virgin girl was of greater value and still is because she is considered property by most cultures. Genesis 1:27-28 And G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created He him; male and female created He them. And G-d blessed them; and G-d said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, … Nary a word about sex being a sin, nor about having to be married first. Nary a word about sex being the fall of mankind, and having to be saved from, or because of sex. That sex is a “sin” is a man made rule. The Adam and Eve story is just that, a story.

    I’m on board with all of that Kay.  I think pre-marital sex is peachy keen, and does no harm to a subsequent marriage.  But as you know, many people disagree, and disagree on religious grounds.

    Anyway, that doesn’t affect my point.  I’m saying that without pre-marital sex, a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, pre-marital sex.

    • #47
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Larry3435: Anyway, that doesn’t affect my point. I’m saying that without pre-marital sex, a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, pre-marital sex.

    ^ This is true.

    • #48
  19. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Larry3435: nyway, that doesn’t affect my point. I’m saying that without pre-marital sex, a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, pre-marital sex.

    I don’t think promiscuity is a good thing, it doesn’t enhance your life, but isn’t a sin for which people should burn in hell. I was just clarifying the definition of “adultery”

    • #49
  20. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Larry3435: Anyway, that doesn’t affect my point. I’m saying that without pre-marital sex, a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, pre-marital sex.

    ^ This is true.

    Who is encouraging lots of unprotected, premarital sex?

    As my mother would say, “it’s an ill wind that blows no good.”

    It’s not that sh** happens, it’s how you deal with it.

    I mentioned this as a comment in another post, that while there is much work to be done on abortion, there is also reason for real celebration in the reduction of abortions and attitudes about abortion. BUT we have to recognize that some of those illegitimate children we all wring our hands over now might well have not been born a generation ago.

    • #50
  21. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Larry3435:

    Mike H:

    Larry3435: What if it had rained on the day my Mom met my Dad, and Mom decided to stay home?

    For that matter what if our Dads crossed their legs one more time before conceiving? We wouldn’t be here either…

    Which doesn’t detract from an awesome story!

    The story is great, but the moral of the story is not the one Skip draws. At least not to me. You could as easily say that the moral of the story is that adultery is just fine, because without it Skip wouldn’t be here. That was my point.

    Many things contribute to the possibility of life, including food and shelter, but I do not see how they are relevant factors to this discussion.  I don’t know whether there is a simple moral to Skip’s stories  beyond the old “Where there is life there is hope,” and one might add, “hope of redemption.”  I find that to be enough.

    • #51
  22. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Annefy:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Larry3435: Anyway, that doesn’t affect my point. I’m saying that without pre-marital sex, a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, pre-marital sex.

    ^ This is true.

    Who is encouraging lots of unprotected, premarital sex?

    Not saying anyone here is. Just pointing out the part of Larry’s comment that I thought was true.

    • #52
  23. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Annefy:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Larry3435: Anyway, that doesn’t affect my point. I’m saying that without pre-marital sex, a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, pre-marital sex.

    ^ This is true.

    Who is encouraging lots of unprotected, premarital sex?

    Not saying anyone here is. Just pointing out the part of Larry’s comment that I thought was true.

    That’s like me telling the story of someone I know who is the product of rape, and celebrating the life she has had.

    And someone responding: ” … a lot of people wouldn’t have been born; but that fact is not a good enough reason to encourage lots of unprotected, premarital sex   rape.”

    It’s irrelevant and off topic.

    • #53
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    It’s also a downer to point out that not every child wants himself. Such a downer, in fact, that even mentioning it is kinda tasteless. But I suspect whether one would find it irrelevant or not is a matter of perspective.

    • #54
  25. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: It’s also a downer to point out that not every child wants himself. Such a downer, in fact, that even mentioning it is kinda tasteless. But I suspect whether one would find it irrelevant or not is a matter of perspective.

    The will to live is incredibly strong in infants and young children.  Whether an older child, or adult, later in life decides that their life has not been worth living is a separate issue.  It is, moreover, their own decision at that point.  It is far different if they never get to make that decision in the first place.

    • #55
  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Yes, Skip, it’s almost always a separate issue, and deciding for yourself is very different from having the decision made for you. There are some cases, though, where the issue is not so separate – surely a tiny minority of cases, not really worth bothering about in a greater moral framework – and, irrelevant as those cases may be to “normal” people, I admit I feel for them.

    • #56
  27. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:Yes, Skip, it’s almost always a separate issue, and deciding for yourself is very different from having the decision made for you. There are some cases, though, where the issue is not so separate – surely a tiny minority of cases, not really worth bothering about in a greater moral framework – and, irrelevant as those cases may be to “normal” people, I admit I feel for them.

    I remember a talk show a gazillion years ago (Phil Donahue?) where a woman, who discovered her mother was artificially inseminated with the sperm of her Irish Catholic doctor (dude ended up with dozens of kids).

    She was bitter, to the point where Phil said: well, would you have rather not been born?

    She replied yes. I still remember the gasps from the in-studio audience.

    • #57
  28. JLocked Inactive
    JLocked
    @CrazyHorse

    Holy crap Skip, you are a gifted writer. And like a Master Swordsman, you only unsheath your blade when you mean it. I’m not stupid enough to cross you on this subject.

    • #58
  29. nandapanjandrum Member
    nandapanjandrum
    @

    A true gift, Skip…Thank you!

    • #59
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