By Dave Andrusko
Recently I had a conversation with a woman I hadn’t seen for a long time and, out of the blue, she told me she was expecting. Like an increasing number of women these days, she was having her first child later in life. I don’t know whether she was seeing this news as a blessing or a burden, although I’m guessing the former.
Every time this happens, and it happens with surprising frequency, I think of some of the many posts I’ve written about women who become pregnant later–in some cases, much later–-in life. Who would have thought that even the late pro-life champion, Jean Garton, very much resented becoming pregnant at a time when she and her husband (and their three children) were strapped for money.
But this was prior to Roe v. Wade and Jean (who was then 40) could not find a doctor to “terminate” her pregnancy. In her essay in Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly, Jean went on to explain how she joined an activist group “seeking to promote abortion-on-demand.”
I spent six months studying the abortion issue from numerous perspectives in an attempt to find confirmation that abortion, as its advocates claimed, helps women, doesn’t take a human life, and is a choice God allows us to make. I came out the other end of that exhaustive research with a changed heart and mind and with a commitment to be a voice in defense of the unseen, unheard, unborn child.
There are many other deeply personal reflections about which we’ve written. I particularly recall one, “I’m What? Accidentally pregnant at 42, I faced the hardest decision of my life,” that appeared at parenting.com
The title struck home for two reasons. My own mom, rest her soul, delivered my youngest brother when she was 40. My dad, an over-the-road truck driver, was gone and I drove mom to the hospital. To this day the experience remains as vivid as if it happened yesterday: while she was delivering James, I was working on a paper for an English composition class my freshman year in college!
The other reason is that in addition to Jean, there are two of the most pro-life women I know who have told me how conflicted (to put it politely) they were, torn (to be more candid) when they found out they were pregnant at 39 and 41 years old, respectively.
As I often tell my “pro-choice” friends who insist pro-lifers live in some parallel universe free of struggles and difficulties, we are just human beings, too. It’s what you do with those struggles and difficulties that counts.
All pro-lifers know from first-hand experience there are many, many instances where a pregnancy seems terribly ill-timed. We know the fear that a woman experiences, including the apprehension that she couldn’t be a “good mother” at that stage of her life. (Dads can—and do—feel exactly the same sense of inadequacy.) That is a perfectly understandably reaction.
The story written by “Nancy” does a wonderful job conveying the emotional ups and downs. She and her husband had adopted two children after their attempts to have their own biological children fail, and then, wham!
And even though 42 years old, she tells us her first response was denial summarized in four words.
“This cannot be happening.”
You look for clues in the narrative to figure out why Nancy reaches the decision she does. It’s off to an ominous start—the understandable worries about her age, her bouts of morning sickness, her sense that she’s never really been into little babies, that all this is simply too much!
Nancy describes herself as a religious person who
”believes that God has a plan, and it usually works out if we just ride with it. In rare moments I can imagine this will all be okay, that I’ll be able to handle three children and even like it. But most of the time I want to scream, What kind of sick joke is God playing on me? I’m a weary mother of two with a high-pressure job and a house that’s falling apart! I can’t raise another child.”
She wakes her husband up at three in the morning to discuss abortion.
“We talk for two hours, and the next morning we both feel relieved. Abortion, as awful as it is, feels like the right thing to do. Neither of us wants another child or feels equipped to deal with one, let alone what would be our first infant. More important, we both feel we have our family — these two girls are our babies, and we will never love anyone more. A biological child feels like an intrusion, a strange add-on to a beautiful family. The window of opportunity for more children is gone. We’re done.”
But she decides she has to know what she is getting herself into. “If I’m going to have an abortion, I have to learn something from the experience. I can’t just look at this pregnancy as a mistake”– a very revealing remark.
Nancy tells friends who she believes will support her decision [!] and finds that a surprising number have had abortions. While they do not say “don’t,” they are not cheerleaders on behalf of abortion, either.
What strikes you is how true to life this is—how so much of what Nancy feels reflects how good (or bad) she feels that particular day. After she has wrestles with going in for a “termination consultation,” she says
“I’m only 75 percent sure about my decision. The other 25 percent is terrified that I’ll never forgive myself for giving the baby up, that I’ll always wonder what it would have been like. I pray for some kind of resolution. I just want a sign. We need to move on.”
Don’t know if it qualifies as a “sign,” but as she walks her oldest daughter to kindergarten she realizes she feels better even though the nausea remains strong in the morning. “I think about another child and feel that the possibility might be there,” she writes. “After I drop her off, I end up walking all the way to work — a good 40 minutes — just to prolong the good vibe.”
The pivot in many ways may be that because of the conflicting emotions, she has put off her “termination consultation.” And the baby that four weeks before “looked like a grain of rice,” now (she is shocked to see) “has arms and a head.”
Nancy tells us, “I walk out into the sunshine and realize I’m having another child.”
The conclusion will tear you up, at least it did me.
“A week later I’m sorting through summer clothes and packing some up for charity. Roma keeps taking things out of the giveaway bag, and I get annoyed. ‘But Mom,’ she says, ‘We need to save these for the baby.’ John and I haven’t said a word to her, but she already knows.
“Everything is going to be okay. More than okay. Blessed? I think so.”