Pro-Life, But Not Proud of It

 

shutterstock_123368323I’m 100 percent pro-life: No exceptions for rape or incest, and opposed to all the research and fertility treatments that involve creating zygotes to be left in freezers or destroyed for testing. But I have to admit, I am ashamed to call myself pro-life.

Part of that shame stems from why I am pro-life. I grew up in a family that was both pro-life and adamantly devoted to the bourgeoise American Dream. Children were a gift from God, to be sure, but they were also a gift that should only be accepted when the circumstances were right; i.e., after one had a college degree, a remunerative career, and was married to productive man after buying a nice house in the suburbs. Having children before that point was to throw away one’s life, and a woman staying at home to raise children was a waste of her education. The night we announced our engagement, I overheard my mother flatly say, “Maybe after she pops out a couple kids she’ll realize college is more important.” Having unplanned children was, I understood, a mark of failure to control passions and failure to control fertility.

Moreover, I grew up on a hobby farm. We may not have raised animals for meat, but we lost enough of them that I understood why euthanasia is considered humane: better a quick death by injection than for a cat to suffer through internal bleeding from a car collision, or see the ducks and chickens attacked by coyotes, or a thirty-year-old horse die of dehydration because she couldn’t get up on her arthitic legs. I learned the hard way that sometimes the kindest thing one can do is to let death come quickly and cleanly, as Mother Nature doesn’t let animals die peacefully in their sleep.

With these kind of premises, the pro-life stance I grew up with seemed unfair. If children really did forestall any further education or career potential, maybe it was better to abort a child now so as to build a better life for future children. And maybe it was better to let a fetus die cleanly than to be trapped for nine months with the kind of terrible, thoughtless woman who managed to get unwantedly pregnant in the first place. An abortion was a horrible thing, to be sure, but maybe it was the least bad option.

Things changed. First, my bourgeoise expectations crumbled around me. My husband lost his job as a computer programmer and couldn’t find better paying work than washing dishes. I graduated from law school into a major restructuring of the legal industry and ended up selling shoes to try to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the ends didn’t meet in the middle, and we lost our house in foreclosure. By our tenth anniversary, everything I thought my adult life would be was gone

I began looking enviously at the Facebook pages of high school friends. They’d married their high school sweethearts and stayed in our small town, but they’d had children. For years, I had privately looked down my nose at them, imagining the upper-middle-class life I’d soon have that they’d envy; less than a decade later, I was envious of their children and their husbands who made enough for them to stay home in their modest houses. Children had gone from a curse on the imprudent to a luxury beyond on our means to afford.

My husband and I started working toward being able to afford children, and life improved enough that we felt ready to start trying. So we tried, and tried, and tried. After two years of trying every friendly tip — yes, I even tried dramatically giving up to get pregnant ironically — we brought in the doctors. The verdict was we’d never have children naturally due to a birth defect.

The second change was that, as I was going through this, I changed denominations into a sect of Christianity that takes the pro-life message seriously and became aquainted with pro-lifers who took their call to defend the unborn more seriously than what I’d been used to. Through their influence, I began to learn what abortion really entailed. Far from the clean, humane, and sanitary process I had imagined, I learned how the fetus is ripped apart limb from limb or mashed to a pulp by a vacuum. This wasn’t a humane death: This was a gruesome, torturous execution. If someone killed a puppy in this way, the howls of the internet mob would never stop. Surely, a human fetus deserves at least as much concern.

The third fact came when I decided to look into adoption. I’d had second-hand experiences that didn’t give me good feelings about the system. An aunt and uncle were (and are) foster parents, and it took three years of legal wrangling to finalize my cousin’s adoption because the case worker would rather have seen an unwanted black child with her drug-addicted single mother than with married white social workers. Additionally, a couple we know had been fostering two girls for a year and lost them when the “father” gave one girl a well-earned spanking. It appeared that whatever money one saved by trying to adopt through the public system would be spent either on legal bills to keep a child one had come to think of as one’s own, or would be paid in heartbreak, as a foster parent is less a parent than a landlord for very picky tenants who can move out at a moment’s notice.

If anything, the private systems were more depressing. Domestic adoption fees range from $12,000 to $22,000, plus the ability to pay for any of the mother’s remaining medical bills. International adoption is expensive enough to constitute a status symbol. (Seriously, how many children would there be if every parent had to pay $40,000 to bring them home from the hospital?) For comparison, the average abortion costs $400.

I thought about how my child-free life had not brought me the material success and contentment it was supposed to bring. I thought about how unlikely it would ever be that I could afford to adopt. I thought about how adoption was so expensive, in part, because there were so many parents who wanted to adopt and so few children who were both unwanted and survived to term. I thought about how those children who could have been mine were brutally killed because other women — women lucky enough to conceive — decided they couldn’t be bothered. I envied them, and I hated them.

In the end, I’m ashamed that what convinced me to become adamantly pro-life was not a new-found respect for the worth of all life, or a utilitarian analysis that the potential for each person to help make the world a better place outweighed the significant inconvenience to parents, or even a humble submission to the teachings of the church I joined. No, what finally pushed me over the edge into a 100 percent, no-exceptions, pro-life stance was the deep visceral hatred I felt for the women who’d been given what I so deeply craved who would rather destroy that gift — kill that child — rather than be inconvenienced long enough to regift it to me and my sisters in barrenhood whose arms ache for a child.

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  1. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    Amy, I am so sorry for everything you have gone through and are going through. You are being way too hard on yourself.

    • #1
  2. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Judithann Campbell:Amy, I am so sorry for everything you have gone through and are going through. You are being way too hard on yourself.

    It’s not unusual for Amy to be angry at herself for noting the beam in the eye of another when there’s a concerning possibility of a mote in her own.

    • #2
  3. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Out of curiosity, what does momma say now about kids?

    • #3
  4. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    James Of England:

    Judithann Campbell:

    It’s not unusual for Amy to be angry at herself for noting the beam in the eye of another when there’s a concerning possibility of a mote in her own.

    Well put.

    I sympathize, though, because I have a variant of the same anger at the marriage/divorce/whatever wars.  I’ll not detail again the disaster that was me from about 16 to 24, but suffice to say that it takes a great deal of effort not to consider my PhD to be a poor substitute for what I actually wanted (ok, small detailing – I try really hard not to think about the reason I got the PhD, because she said she preferred the stability of a professor’s life to the unpredictability of a city manager’s).

    So people who think of weddings as some type of capstone consumption good indication of their success in life rather than the start of something new really tick me off.  And the ones who cast aside their consumption marriages the moment a new model is available would put me through the roof.  And I just try not to think about the enablers of that culture, because when I do, I really want to burn the Republic to the ground and sell the ashes to the Caliphate.

    I do, however, lack the guilt over this that Amy has, probably because most of the time I keep it in check, and also my personal vindictiveness.

    • #4
  5. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Wow, that’s a powerful, gut-wrenching post.  Thanks for your brutal honesty!

    • #5
  6. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Amy Schley: I overheard my mother flatly say, “Maybe after she pops out a couple kids she’ll realize college is more important.”

    First of all it would be rather unnerving to hear one’s own mother devalue children this way.  Is that really what you think of me, mom?

    Second I think this comment wildly over values what passes for a college “education” in many universities these days.

    • #6
  7. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Judithann Campbell:Amy, I am so sorry for everything you have gone through and are going through. You are being way too hard on yourself.

    Indeed Amy, way, way to hard on yourself. Adoption isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My father was adopted by a couple in 1913 and in 1960 she told me she was never able to accept him as her own. My sister wanted a child so badly she adopted a child considered “special” when she was 7 years old. The child was so badly damaged psychologically that after 14 years of therapy, she committed suicide. My sister never married, never had children of her own, and was rejected by a child she had given her heart to. For every one successful, happy adoption there will be many unhappy ones, and mostly because the child feels he/she was rejected by their birth mother.  When I was 7 I was dumped into an orphanage, and they didn’t even bother giving me up for maybe someone else to love. It’s a heartbreaking situation from both sides Amy, don’t beat yourself up over it. Lavish your love on your husband, something I never could do. If you have any nieces or nephews, or friends with children, be the best Auntie in the world for them.

    • #7
  8. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    Amy, you are absolutely right that the prevalent values in our society are way off base.  What is most valuable is devalued and what is not necessarily valuable is put forward as necessary.  It’s not exactly the fault of people who bought into the lies and taught them to you–they were taken in as well and were just luckier.  Keep your ear to the ground on adoption.  Put out the word among family and friends that you want a child.  Private adoptions can be a way different matter.  In the meantime, do you have any nieces and nephews?  Become part of their lives.  Kids love adult attention and there’s a lot of joy in being important in a child’s life, whether or not you are the parent.  And parents greatly appreciate help from others because they have an overwhelming job.  In the meantime, you are too hard on yourself, and you have my great admiration, for your strong pro-life beliefs, your brutal honesty, your writing skills and your strength in the difficult circumstances you’ve had to endure.

    • #8
  9. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Amy, have you heard of Dr. Ray Guarendi?  He’s a host of several programs on EWTN, and also the father of ten adopted children who wrote a book called Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It.  You might want to check it out for a more positive, encouraging perspective on adoption options.

    • #9
  10. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Kay of MT:

    When I was 7 I was dumped into an orphanage, and they didn’t even bother giving me up for maybe someone else to love.

    Jeez. I’m gonna start drinking.

    • #10
  11. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Amy, I don’t know why God has asked this of you and your husband. Thank you for sharing this pain with us.

    How I wish there was more than prayer and listening I could do for you.

    • #11
  12. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Amy Schley:In the end, I’m ashamed that what convinced me to become adamantly pro-life was not a new-found respect for the worth of all life, or a utilitarian analysis that the potential for each person to help make the world a better place outweighed the not insignificant inconvenience to parents, or even a humble submission to the teachings of the church I joined.

    Amy, I would argue (which is a dumb thing for me to even attempt with a lawyer) that you’re discounting the cumulative effect of each of these experiences moving you in the direction of 100% pro-life.

    Your move across the trajectory of pro-life belief or support is a story of influences and experience, clarifying of values and interjected with gut-wrenching disappointment.  None of this, even the visceral hatred you refer to, invalidates…no, that’s not the right word…

    Let me try this tact…a decision driven by deep, abiding emotions, while probably not valued in the legal world, is not the horror of irrationality we sometimes perceive it as.  And the errors that result from decisions devoid of emotion are often as bad as those resulting from decisions driven by emotion.

    • #12
  13. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I can’t even begin to imagine the depth of pain and craving that drive your desire to have a child.  At the risk of seeming insensitive I can testify that having the child doesn’t always satisfy the craving in the ways expected.

    Do I know this because I struggled with having children?  No, I know this because I was the first-born…the one that came out of the blue, after decades of my mother being told she would never have kids…”God’s gift”  and the “miracle baby” as I was so often referred to…

    Unfortunately, my mother saw my birth as a gift she did not deserve, and her life is, at 83 years of age, still ruled by “earning” the two daughters she was given and the failed expectations that did not materialize.  Over time, those years of pain have changed, and the craving shifted to her expectations of what her life with children would be.  I see her craving underneath the constant struggle with why God let my dad and sister die before her; why I’m not sentimental, why I didn’t raise my kids exactly the way she did…why she doesn’t have the life she so desperately wanted.

    So, did my birth satisfy her craving? Yes, but only for awhile

    My hopes and prayers to you and your husband and I desperately hope that what I said is not insensitive or hurtful.

    • #13
  14. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Very, very moving. Thank you.

    • #14
  15. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Amy Schley:The second change was that as I was going through this, I changed denominations into a sect of Christianity that takes the pro-life message seriously and became aquainted with pro-lifers who took their call to defend the unborn more seriously. Through their influence, I began to learn what abortion really entailed. Far from the clean, humane, and sanitary process I had imagined, I learned how the fetus is ripped apart limb from limb or mashed to a pulp by a vacuum. This wasn’t a humane death; this was a grusome torturous execution. If someone killed a puppy in this way, the howls of the internet mob would never stop. Surely a human fetus deserves at least as much concern.

    Not just an internet mob: You’d probably get a real one, too.

    This is one of the things that came out of the Planned Parenthood sting that deserved a lot more attention and showcased just how awful PP is. When the Center for Medical Progress folks requested the abortionists change their procedure to give them more intact body parts, they considered just about every angle and concern except that of the fetus.

    Can you simply imagine the reaction if a veterinarian had been caught doing the equivalent?

    • #15
  16. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Amy Schley: …me and my sisters in barrenhood whose arms ache for a child.

    No one understands this unless they have been there themselves. No one.

    • #16
  17. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Douglas:Out of curiosity, what does momma say now about kids?

    Mom is now supportive of attempts to get grandchildren. I have one sister* who is marrying a man with three children of his own and a vasectomy from his previous marriage, so it is entirely possible that she will never have grandkids of her own line.

    *Why are there only two of us? Mom’s words: “Houses have three bedrooms, cars have four doors, and we didn’t want to be outnumbered.” I was planned, my sister was an accident, and Dad was fixed shortly thereafter to ensure there would be no more accidents.

    Kay of MT: If you have any nieces or nephews, or friends with children, be the best Auntie in the world for them.

    Merina Smith: In the meantime, do you have any nieces and nephews? Become part of their lives.

    As mentioned, I’ll have three step nieces and nephews in a month. My husband’s father remarried and one of my step-siblings-in-law has a child, but mostly I get to be the honorary aunt in my circle of very fertile friends. In fact, it was learning that one of them is now pregnant with her third that brought a lot of these feelings back up.

    • #17
  18. OldDan Inactive
    OldDan
    @OldDanRhody

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad:Amy, I don’t know why God has asked this of you and your husband. Thank you for sharing this pain with us.

    How I wish there was more than prayer and listening I could do for you.

    Echo Mama Toad – This is heartbreaking, Amy.  I grieve with you.

    • #18
  19. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    Amy, when I saw you at the meetup in Kansas City, I thought you were a wonderful person.  I agree with all the comments about you being too hard on yourself.  You are quite a lady.

    • #19
  20. St. Salieri Member
    St. Salieri
    @

    Amy, don’t sour on adoption, there has been a lot of myth making both ways with it; but I can tell you, a Mother whose parents told her abort this child or give it up, gave it up, and that child found a loving family he wouldn’t trade for the world.

    I thank God, my biological mother sent me into the arms of the loving family she did, I couldn’t be more blessed.

    My Mother always said that if she was unable to adopt, she would be the best Aunt, mentor, friend she could.  God has certainly used your pain today in this honest account, and I and others are grateful.

    • #20
  21. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Anthony Quinn once said that he admired Brando’s enormous talent, but that he didn’t envy the pain that produced it.

    It strikes me that after all the … callousness? … you lived through, your humanity is as strong as anyone’s.  You always have a keen insight, which I enjoy reading. I don’t envy the pain.

    • #21
  22. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    You have nothing to be ashamed of and I absolutely endorse Mr. Stanko’s #5 and iWe #14.

    • #22
  23. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    Kay of MT:

    For every one successful, happy adoption there will be many unhappy ones, and mostly because the child feels he/she was rejected by their birth mother.

    This is completely anecdotal, but I know more adoptions that have gone very badly than have gone well. I’ve known more than one parent who lavished their love on an adopted child that for whatever reason turned to substance abuse and crime. That’s not to say that this isn’t a risk with natural born children, but the odds are stacked against you more with an adopted child. In fact, I dated a guy for a little less than a year who was adopted from Korea- he had significant emotional distress over being adopted, and had a deep sense of having been abandoned by his mother. He told me that while he loved his adopted parents, he never really saw them as parents. That’s just one example.

    But I also know of successful adoptions, so I guess each person has to determine that risk for themselves. If I found out I was not able to have children, I would just love my fur babies and nieces and nephews. But I also don’t have a deep abiding need to have children- though I do want them, I wouldn’t be devastated if I found out I couldn’t have them.

    • #23
  24. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Douglas:

    Kay of MT:

    When I was 7 I was dumped into an orphanage, and they didn’t even bother giving me up for maybe someone else to love.

    Jeez. I’m gonna start drinking.

    You don’t want to do that. Makes life even more miserable. I survived the abandonment, but it did leave it’s mark. I have a very hard time trusting people. I was a sucker for soft romantic words, so my choices of husbands left something to be desired. Because of my lack of trust, I pushed away good men that weren’t as glib, afraid of being hurt again.

    I also wanted a large family. I managed to bring 2 babies to term from 6 pregnancies. As another one of our members can attest, continual miscarriages leaves it mark as well, especially when you want them. If it wasn’t for modern medicine I would have died with my 2nd pregnancy, I had lost the first.

    I don’t blame it on G-d either, accidents of nature happen all the time. G-d doesn’t play games, “Oh let me see, I’ll let this one have a child and not that one; I’ll save this one from a tornado but let the next house over be destroyed and the people die; I’ll let this one die in an auto accident but not that one.” I have a hard time believing our G-d is  vindictive.

    • #24
  25. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    BrentB67:You have nothing to be ashamed of and I absolutely endorse Mr. Stanko’s #5 and iWe #14.

    Well, I do have another half of regarding the pro-life movement and pregnancy centers that is likely to be much more controversial, but I figured 1200 words was about the limit of most people’s attention spans for a post.

    • #25
  26. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Amy Schley: a vasectomy

    I have read that vasectomies can be reversed.

    • #26
  27. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Kay of MT:

    Amy Schley: a vasectomy

    I have read that vasectomies can be reversed.

    They can also be routed around, as it were. But that’s their decision.

    Well, and mine too, as the birth defect that is keeping us barren was Mother Nature giving my husband a vasectomy for free.

    • #27
  28. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    When I met the woman who would become my wife, we figured out that we were meant for one another so we talked about three things.  One: Having children.  We both wanted them; no contraception ever.  Two: It seemed to me that if our kids needed someone, and kids always need someone, then someone should be there for them.  When my wife-to-be asked me if I wanted her to work, the answer was no.  A bit of background: My mother died when I was a boy with a younger brother and an even younger sister.  We needed someone but my dad had to work if we were to eat and live in a building so.. there was no one home when we needed someone home.  Three: we’d raise our kids as Catholics and my wife-to-be, being one of those anti-Catholic evangelicals would have to change to help me raise our children in the faith, so she did. We were both rowing the boat in the same direction.

    We’ve had success and failure but my wife is with me and our kids always had mom when their lives successes and failures came visiting.  Mom celebrated with them and mom helped them bear up.  The heart of our family was there for our children so our children weren’t deprived of the person they loved the best.

    I hope this for everyone.  May it come their way.

    • #28
  29. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    Not all “system” adoptions are terrible. Although I’ve heard horror stories about social workers (LA County vs. Kern County in our case), our experience was wonderful adopting out of foster care, although I’ll agree with the person who stated that foster parents have practically no rights. Our social workers were great and were chiefly motivated by a desire to get children into permanent homes.

    • #29
  30. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Amy Schley:

    Kay of MT:

    Amy Schley: a vasectomy

    I have read that vasectomies can be reversed.

    They can also be routed around, as it were. But that’s their decision.

    Well, and mine too, as the birth defect that is keeping us barren was Mother Nature giving my husband a vasectomy for free.

    Donated sperm from a male relative of your husband?

    • #30

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