Then I had children.
Now as a mother of two I know first-hand the challenges of raising children. Even if you get the ideal baby with ample support and perfect circumstances, caring for an infant is a lot of work. Raising a toddler, with their exploding verbal skills and need for boundaries, is more complicated. Don’t even get me started on the challenges of a preschooler. You cannot force that level of responsibility on someone who does not want it. Not to mention it doesn’t benefit the unborn child to be brought into a world where they believe they were unwanted.
So what’s a woman to do if she unexpectedly finds herself pregnant and not ready to handle a baby? My pre-child self would have answered that adoption was the only option.
I went to Catholic school, where we wore uniforms and had nuns for teachers (though they dropped the rulers before they hit you unlike in my father’s day). I dare to say it was progressive for a Catholic school, which meant if you found yourself “in the family way,” you were sent off to some magical farm, where you stayed from the moment you started showing until after the baby was born. The infant would then be handed to more capable owners. You were allowed to return the next year (that’s what made it progressive), but the pregnancy would never, ever, EVER be spoken of. Everyone went about their day knowing that even if you were a little loose, at least you weren’t a baby killer. See the pregnancy through term and then give it up for adoption — that was what a woman with an unwanted pregnancy must do. I bought it hook, line and sinker.
Then I got pregnant.
I had terrible pregnancies. I was sick — unable to function sick — for nearly four months with my first. My second pregnancy was worse. I was hospitalized for much of the first trimester, on complete bed rest when I wasn’t hooked up to an IV, and dropped to 92 pounds after suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum. After I cleared my first trimesters, I had relatively uncomplicated journeys to full term, but even “easy” isn’t fun. Being pregnant means you are carrying an extra 40 pounds of weight, fighting back heartburn, and fondly remembering a time when you could actually sleep. This lasts for 40 weeks, the better part of a 52-week year. To ask someone to endure pregnancy because of an accident or a mistake, even a momentary lapse of judgment, is a tremendous request of sacrifice. I can’t imagine taking on pregnancy if I didn’t long for the result of having and raising the child.
If I no longer believe the consequences fit the act, I no longer have any answers to why you shouldn’t have an abortion. I still shudder at the idea, of course. Pregnancy is a miracle. Each life is precious. I still believe these ideas I was taught in school. I would love for more healthy babies to enter the world and fill the empty arms of couples who cannot have children of their own, or whom want to add to their family through adoption. I wish all pregnancies were the beautiful product of a stable couple who, together, want and feel prepared for a child. I love to envision a world where our teenagers are informed and mature enough to make responsible choices before engaging in sexual activity.
Reality, however, has shown me the task of growing and raising a child is an enormous one that cannot be taken lightly. Until those hopes and dreams look more like what happens in the real world, I can’t look you in the eye and tell you to carry on with these life-transforming events for any other reason than what is in your heart. It must be your choice.