|My son, Baby "Chip"|
In April of this year, at 24 weeks gestation, the doctors discovered that Baby Chip's umbilical cord had absent bloodflow. Without blood, babies die. The only solution is an emergency c-section and NICU. One problem, at only 16 ounces, babies often die in NICU.
The doctors suggested taking Baby Chip out that week and gave him a 1 to 5 chance of survival after months of NICU and probably severe delays from prematurity. Or I could choose to keep Baby Chip inside and he very well might die from lack of blood. I chose to keep Baby Chip inside.
The waiting was torture. I remember counting kicks, counting movements, and wondering every hour between my often thrice weekly appointments if my son still lived.
I now have a beautiful four-month-old baby with no delays, so I'm thrilled with my decision. It could have turned out very differently though. Either way, as Baby Chip's mother and a mentally competent person, keeping Baby Chip inside me was my decision to make, not some government board's.
From 20 weeks to about 27 weeks gestation as doctors ran tests and tried to discover what was wrong with Baby Chip, they often threw out the term "incompatible with life." The point of the tests was to discover if Baby Chip had some sort of genetic abnormality which would make it impossible for him to survive outside the womb. Praise God, the tests showed he didn't have anything like that. The doctors warned me though, that should they discover that Baby Chip was incompatible with life, I'd have to make a choice. Did I want to eke out every hour I could with Baby Chip, or would I let him pass sooner rather than later?
I had a truly horrid pregnancy, nausea the whole time etc. to the point that I was unable to be present for my 4-year-old or husband the way I should have been. If the doctors told me that Baby Chip was incompatible with life, I may have chosen to induce labor early and let him take his first and last breath at 26 or 27 weeks rather than 40 weeks. Parents of minor children who are critically injured by a car accident, brain dead, and only able to function on life support choose what hour they remove the life support. Don't mothers have the right to choose what hour to remove the life support of a placenta for their dying baby? Under many proposed pro-life laws, they don't have that right.
Pro-lifers like to think that every abortion is a 40-something-married mom with a healthy baby and an SUV. They like to think that a stroke of a pen will turn a would be baby's death into a Walton family. Pro-lifers would like to believe every situation is like that, because then the choice would be easy.
On the other hand, pro-choicers talk like every single abortion happens because the mother's about to lose her life from a baby who's dying anyway. They'd like to believe that, because, if so, the choice would be easy.
No matter what our political orientation, we make up little lies to eliminate the hard decisions. One pro-choice lie I've heard is that babies don't feel pain. Give me a break. I suffered every day knowing my baby was getting starved in-utero from lack of nutrient-rich bloodflow. I knew he was hungry and suffering and there was nothing I could do about it. It would have been easier for me to believe Baby Chip didn't feel pain, but that wasn't true.
|My son in-utero|
A pro-life lie I've heard is that doctors are often, even usually wrong. All the tests will say your baby is "incompatible with life", but actually he'll be born perfectly healthy. An amniocentesis is as accurate as a blood draw, genetically speaking. After the amnio, blood DNA test, and 50 gajillion ultrasounds, doctors knew more about my unborn son, than they did about me after thirty years of doctor visits. It would be easier to believe that all children are born healthy because doctors don't know what they're talking about, but it's not true.
Another pro-choice lie I've heard is that unborn children aren't really babies. Come on. We've all seen sonograms. Even the pregnant 14-year-olds I counseled who ultimately chose abortion still told me in each therapy session that their first trimester pregnancy was a baby. You're as smart as a 14-year-old. Admit it's a baby. It would be easier to believe that the baby who is complicating a woman's life, perhaps even putting her life in danger, is just a fetus, but it's not true.
A pro-life lie I've heard is that only life or death matters, not suffering. Let's disregard maternal suffering. You're in a domestically violent relationship and getting hospitalized for abuse?--so what, you're not dead. We don't need to change the laws. Those parental rights we fought for mean a child is getting educationally neglected and yet no social worker shows up? Not my problem. No one's dead. We don't have to make hard decisions to stop this suffering. That's a lie. Even when it doesn't result in death, suffering matters.
For example, hawkish types often post the death toll of the Iraq war. It's a smallish number compared to a lot of wars. See, the cost of war was small, they say. What about all those missing limbs from IEDs though? Four years ago, I met a man missing both arms and legs from the war. What about those with PTSD? What about those kids who didn't get to see Daddy or Mommy for months and years at a time? What about those marriages which broke because of the war? It would be easier to believe that the cost of war is small, but it isn't. I know war comes at a cost, you see, because I'm a military spouse.
|my soldier on our wedding day|
One of the biggest lies I've heard from both the pro-life and pro-choice camp is that life matters because it is innocent. This is why some liberal groups focus so hard on saving the endangered random bird while disregarding troubled teens in foster care. This is why some conservative groups focus so hard on passing laws to save an unborn child while turning their backs on laws which could save the mother whose life is at risk from domestic violence.
As a mental health counselor, I've worked in jails, sex offender programs, substance abuse recovery, and mental health facilities. In my work, I've rubbed shoulders with some of the least innocent in our society.
Often times, I'm the one who gets the client who is thinking of suicide and I'm tasked with the job of convincing him or her to choose to keep on living because their life matters. How do I convince this man or woman sitting in front of me that they matter? I'm not presented with a lot of material to work with.
I can't tell him, "oh, look at all the career rungs you've climbed, that makes you matter." For the last thirty years, he's been living on the streets holding up a cardboard sign.
I can't tell her, "but think of all the loved ones who will miss you if you die, that makes you matter." She grew up in foster care, her friends are drug dealers, her last three boyfriends beat her up, and the man she sees most often is the pervert next door who pays her for sex.
So I look into their eyes and I tell them, "you matter because you are you." I mean every word I say. Life doesn't matter because it is innocent. Life matters because it is human and, I believe, made in the very image of an all-powerful God. It would be easier to believe that those who have made bad choices no longer matter so we can just focus on saving the babies and the animals, but it isn't true.
Even when we see evidence that our little lies are wrong, we cling to them, because they make life easier. Without our lies, life is gruesomely difficult. I wish there were easy answers to the brokenness in this world. I wish I could pass a piece of legislation that would prevent all men, women, and children everywhere from ever experiencing death, pain, or suffering. Newsflash pro-lifers and pro-choicers: no government can do that.
Suffering, death, and disease will haunt us at every turn in this world. If we're to create a culture of life, we have to first acknowledge that we will often be put into situations where we can't save everybody. We have to accept that and we have to work from that premise to save as many as we can.
What about people who just genuinely hate other human beings and don't value any life at all, you ask? Those people exist and they are horrid human beings. If you're reading this post though, I don't think you're one of those. I think no matter what side of the aisle you come from, all the pain and suffering in this world hurt you as much as they hurt me.
If you and I can drop the political labels for a moment, I think we can try to work together for solutions that truly minimize suffering, death, and disease for all people, guilty or innocent, man or woman, unborn or born.