January 24, 2005

Life Means So Much

As has been noticed by any reader of regularity, the relationship between my mother and I while growing up was strained to say the least.

Once in the midst of one of our fights, I asked why she didn't just abort me. She paused. "I could've. All my friends were doing it. But, it was 1970 and it was illegal and I didn't want to break the law."

For the sake of the law, I am here today, living and breathing. For the sake of the law, four beautiful souls have breathed the sweet mountain air, bodysurfed in the amniotic warmth of the Pacific, ridden a bike, watched fireworks while cuddled-up and slapping mosquitoes, comforted one another's tears, eaten a roasted marshmallow, giggled together at night, and known that they were truly loved.

Thank God in Heaven for a law that once protected me when I could not protect myself.

The highest percentage of women seeking and getting abortions aren't poor women. They are middle to upper-middle class, white women ages 18-24. It is the "conundrum" of choosing between an education and a child; between telling parents that that the extra-curricular activities of college have required a bit more responsibility than anticipated and telling parents.....nothing. Sometimes parents, in their own anticipated shame, encourage an abortion. It just doesn't look like we did a good job parenting if they come home knocked-up or having knocked-up.

This girl has been there and done that. I was pregnant with E my junior year in college. I ignored my two missed periods all the while knowing. When I finally went in to the drug store to buy a test, I turned my opal ring around to look like a wedding band. I was embarrassed to be purchasing something that was for a married woman and I obviously wasn't.

I took the test- twice. Both times it was positive with not "a faint color," but the very distinct color indicating hCG present in my body. I was instantly afraid. I was instantly embarrassed. I was instantly panicked. I could hardly sleep. R was on the east coast getting ready to get on a plane to the Middle East.

After a very fretful night, I got up and went to work. On my break, I called the student clinic and made an appointment. After a quick exam, the over-the-counter test was confirmed. The female doctor left the room for a few minutes to allow me to dress. She returned with a very serious look on her face, as well she should. This was a serious predicament.

She began by asking me what I had thought about. Nothing. I had thought of nothing for the past 12 hours. Well, I mean I had a million thoughts flying through my head, but none of them slow enough for me to recognize. When I took a minute to allow the first two things to pull over long enough for me to assign them some meaning, I realized I was paralyzed with shame in telling my parents, and paralyzed with fear in telling R. Let me insert here, that the parents of whom I was fearful of disappointing were the ones who had taken me into their home at 15 and made me a part of their family; they had invested and sacrificed for me and in me; the thought of somehow making them feel it was all a waste of time made my heart wrench. I knew not to tell my own mother a darn thing until I had found the solution. I knew she would immediately project her own circumstances from so long ago onto me and pressure me to have an abortion; after all, it was perfectly legal now.

Dr. X could see the pain in my heart and hear the concern in my voice. She reminded me that I didn't know if R would accept any responsibility; that he was on his way to war and what if I married him in haste and then he died and I was left alone to raise a child by myself? She advised me of a place, a "warm and understanding" place, where I would receive help and counseling. And an abortion at a discounted rate. She gave me the recommend to take along. I remember somehow nodding to all of it, not really being conciliatory, but just moving my fuzzy and numb and pounding head.

My body was exhausted when I returned home late that night after working a 10 hour day. I promised myself a short nap and then much contemplation and problem-solving when I awakened. I slept for 14 hours straight in my catering uniform. Luckily, I had the next few days off. I drove home and told my parents. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but the shame only lasted the three minutes it took for me to get it out, and for them to walk over and hug me.

After arriving home, I called long-distance information seeking the number for the camp in which R was stationed. I reached a nasal-toned operator who put me through to his unit. I asked for him but was told that he was "in the field" and I was assured he would receive the message to return my phone call. Meanwhile, in the field, R confesses to his best friend and fellow Marine, that he thinks I might be pregnant, and asks his advice. "M" told him that if I was, then he, R, had a responsibility to care for a life that he had helped create.

When finally got to talk, we talked for days. This wasn't some one-night-stand (in which case I would strongly urge a woman to consider adoption). We had known one another for a little over two years. This was a child from the very beginning. There was never a question of what was growing in me, only of how to provide the best for this person whose very life depended on what decision we made. My heart lept when he asked me how fast I could get to him. I began to weep and told him within the next two days, I was sure. After I put the receiver down, my body shook from relief and excitement. The rest is in the pages of this blog- that is, our life together with not only E (born seven months later, a very healthy eight pounds and four ounces) who, 13 years later, is a very healthy 100 pounds dripping wet, but with all of the children formed in the heart of God and forged through the love of R and me. She is as beautiful as the day she was born. At least once a day, I look into her eyes and see the same baby who peeked at me through the bright light of a delivery room all those years ago. The expression is still there: What a wonderful world! She is caring, intelligent, considerate, and has so very much to contribute to this life. She has challenged me to greater heights than I ever anticipated myself able to surmount.

A few years ago, after some consistent questions of the nature of her conception, I put the other children to bed and invited her to stay up a little later with me. I told her how she was a surprise. I told her how scared I was. I told her how I never thought her less than a human being with a soul and completely dependent on me for life. I told her how we both loved her so very much and wouldn't change anything about how she came to be; how we longed for and anticipated seeing her face, holding her in our arms. I so wanted her to realize that she was wanted, desired, and loved. Planned, no. But as life so often reveals, the best things never are planned by us anyway.

So, for the sake of the law, I am alive. And so is my lovely E.

Posted by Rae at January 24, 2005 08:48 PM

Wow. I couldn't ask for a more eloquent comment on the impact of Roe-vs.-Wade.

Posted by: Cindy Swanson at January 25, 2005 04:27 AM

from a lifelong pro-choicer-

that was a very sweet, thoughtful, and touching post.

Posted by: Jo at January 25, 2005 03:43 PM

...a very open , heartfelt expression. Thanks for sharing, I'm glad you and E are here :)

Posted by: anita at January 25, 2005 07:32 PM

Thank you for sharing that slice of your personal history with us. I am so glad to hear that not only did you and R fully and graciously accept E into your lives, but so did your parents.

One of my closest friends became pregnant at age 16, by her 17th birthday she was in the thick of diapers and burp cloths. It radically changed her life, and her son is now almost 16 years old. He is such a wonderful boy, indeed a blessing. The most remarkable aspect of her story was that her parents, being very strict fundamentalist christian people, stretched their arms around her and gave her the most supporting environment to raise that child. God's grace always exceeds our expectations. It is fabulous.

Posted by: Joyella at January 25, 2005 09:03 PM

Rae, that is beautiful, thanks so much for sharing, that story really touched me. I was very nearly aborted in 1970, so this really hits home.

God bless you and R and your children!

Posted by: Feeble Knees at January 26, 2005 08:00 AM

That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read; thank you for sharing something so close to your heart.

Part of me never wanted to find my birth mother because of the words given you by your mother: "I didn't want to break the law".

May God Bless you and your wonderful family.

Posted by: pam at January 26, 2005 01:56 PM

Thank you all for your encouraging words.

Pam, I think whether she would say it or not, she still had a choice. Many women still chose abortion though it was illegal. Although my mother's words stung me, I have had to focus on the fact that she ultimately did not abort me, and that has to say something.

Posted by: Rae at January 28, 2005 10:57 AM

Your writing and your self-expression is so beautiful, Rae. But it could never be so without a heart to match. I admire so much how you take the time to see--to really see--the beautiful things in life. Thank you for your example. Would that I had more time; I'd probably be addicted to your blog.

Posted by: H. at January 28, 2005 06:44 PM

DON'T DO THAT. You need to put some kind of a warning in the prelude saying something like, "Super, don't read this until you get home." So I'm not sitting here with tears rolling down my face when I'm supposed to be this big macho boss guy.
What an awesome testimony for life!
I have two similar stories for you one with a similar ending and one with the opposite. You must let me tell you sometime.

Posted by: Superhero at February 2, 2005 01:25 PM

Hey, Supe! Glad to see you around again.

Awww, thanks, I think?

Posted by: Rae at February 4, 2005 11:35 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?