Abortion, Death, And A Call To Love

“Paula” was raised in a conservative church. When she wound up pregnant out of wedlock, fear of judgment from the church drove her to a dark secret place where her baby was killed and discarded as medical waste. Paula is a Christian and can share the love of God with everyone else, but struggles to forgive herself.

“Betty” was raised in a prestigious home, so becoming pregnant as a teenager was a “stain” on the family’s image. Her parents forced her to have an abortion. Betty is now a Christian and can share the love of God with everyone else, but struggles to forgive herself.

“Carly” became pregnant after being raped by a trusted family member. Her parents forced her to have an abortion. They were leaders in their faith community and regardless of how the pregnancy came to be, a pregnant teenager would not reflect well on their image. After turning to substance abuse and years of shame, Carly is now clean, makes a daily choice to forgive herself, and works to help others heal from trauma.

“Barbara” was surprised to find out she was pregnant. Although she was married, they hadn’t necessarily planned on having more children. She’d had several miscarriages early on, a stillbirth, and a preemie. When she went to the doctor for her first prenatal appointment he said, “You don’t have to go through with this you know.” She refused to see that doctor again and delivered another preemie, who today is a thriving beautiful child.

“Joy” had a miscarriage at six weeks pregnant. She grieved her baby’s death as deeply as I’ve ever seen anyone grieve their child. Her doctor said miscarriages happen all the time and made her feel like her grief wasn’t vaild. Her family and friends struggled to relate to the depth of her loss.

“Tara” called me when she had her first miscarriage, unable to flush the obvious baby who was unrecognized by the medical community as a “life” so therefore didn’t have the right to ritual and burial. Together we were able to secure a proper resting place for the baby she loved deeply. She had several more miscarriages to follow before going on to have surviving children. With each loss, the pain and bitterness and anger grew because so few people recognized her losses as real babies.

“Tammy” was told her baby had a lethal diagnosis and would never survive outside of the womb. Even while desparately wanting her baby, she chose to terminate. She carries her baby’s memory and the “what ifs” with her every day.

“Sue’s” baby was terminally diagnosed during pregnancy, but she chose to continue to carry. While her child has special needs and life hasn’t been easy for them, this beautiful soul is now a young adult and has taught all of us much more about the meaing of life than any formal education ever could.

And during a stillbirth I attended, I tapped out the following message on my phone to ask a few friends for prayer.

“It is sacred and peaceful in this space now. After the initial shock of the silent ultrasound machine, the doctors saying there’s no heartbeat, and as compassionately and matter-of-factly as possible, plans made to induce labor at just less than 5 months pregnant.

We’ve sat through hours of intake process at the hospital, nurses coming and going, the IV specialist searching for a suitable vein. There was even another ultrasound just to be sure…

No silence screams louder than a quiet monitor from that big machine that confirms for us hope and life or stillness and death.

Now, now we are waiting for the doctor to induce her, but in this space, husband and wife have both moved beyond exhaustion and surrendered to some moments of sleep. My heart breaks, hurts so deeply for their pain, for the unanswered questions, for the ways they feel abandoned by God.

Lines from a favorite song keep replaying in my mind. “One day soon we’ll see his face. And every tear he’ll wipe away. No more pain and suffering. Oh praise him for the mercy tree. Death has died, love has won. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Jesus Christ has overcome. He has risen from the dead.”

But here, there are tears. Lots of tears. Suffering beyond the ability to articulate. Words seem wasted trying to describe the intensity of the pain. There is fear. Fear of physical pain and knowing that after the physical pain is the most intense heart pain. To know this physical pain when there is hope for new life makes everything bearable. To know this physical pain will just bring you closer to the reality of death, for that, there are no words.

There is anger. Anger that this dream would “dangle in front of them” just to be jerked away. Anger for bodies that seem to fail us. Anger that a God who is good and for whom nothing is impossible still allowed death to call once more.

These emotions are normal. They are a part of the questions and grief. Yet God is still good. He is the bestower of peace and comfort in the midst of our hardest hard. He is the kind and gentle Shepherd, loving in spite of questions, fear, anger, and pain. 

The hardest pain is yet to come. The pain of delivery and the anguish of a quiet birthing room. The physical pain of empty arms that hang heavy by your side when every part of your body is reminding you that your arms should be cradling hope, new life, joy.

We need your prayers. We need your petitions that God would be our very present help in this time of trouble. May the presence of Jesus, the risen Christ, be with us in this time. While for us, death still holds a sting, may we cling to the hope of the Mercy Tree where death has died and LOVE has won. May we hold with a steadfast hope, the promise that our present suffering cannot be compared to the eternal glory that awaits us. Amen.”

These are all women I know personally. Theirs and many other personal stories I could share about abortion, pregnancy loss, family and community reactions, society’s view of the unborn and the challenges that creates for those grieving pregnancy and early infant loss.

Our own firstborn daughter was a dwarf, a “little person.” During our appointments with the prenatal specialists they offered to “terminate” the pregnancy even though there was no indication that her diagnosis was lethal and there was never any concern that hers or my life was in danger. My husband and I could not even entertain the thought of intentionally ending the life of our baby that had such a vibrant personailty in my womb. She died nearly seventeen hours after birth, but I wouldn’t trade those precious hours for anything. Ever.

Years earlier though, I was in a toxic relationship and thought I was pregnant. (Turned out I wasn’t.) While I had always wanted children, I was ashamed, horrified, and surprised at how quickly the thought of abortion entered my mind out of fear for myself, the baby, and judgement from family and church. I didn’t have to wrestle further, because I wasn’t pregnant, but it humbled me to think of the women who truly face that situation.

With New York’s newest laws passed and a bill introduced and tabled in my own state regarding third trimester abortion, these conversations have become front and center on social media, in our homes, Bible studies, and especially among our child-loss support group.

There is no question internally where I stand on the issue of sanctity of life for the unborn, but my heart simultaneously hurts for those who already live in judgement and regret. While there might certainly be those who’ve chosen abortion without carrying their judgment, I don’t personally know one single woman whose post-abortive regret and sorrow hasn’t consumed her in one way or another. As the church, we must provide space for these women, and men, to grieve, to talk, to call on the grace of our Savior whose kindness leads us to repentance and healing. (Romans 2:4)

As righteous indignation rises up in me regarding these bills, I have been repeatedly challenged by the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13.

As radical as it sounds, I keep thinking, “If I post my oppositon to this legistalture with memes and Scripture, but have not love, I am nothing. If I protest at the local, state, and national level, but have not love, I am nothing. Even if I gave my own body for the sake of the unborn for which I profoundly and fundamentally believe are sacred and worthy of that level of my commitment, but have not love, I have gained nothing.”

Love doesn’t mean inaction. Love doesn’t mean silence. Love doesn’t mean not standing up for the most vulnerable among us. But Love does call us to operate in a spirit of love. 

Colossians 4:2-6 says to pray steadfastly, that God may open the door for us to declare the mysteries of Christ, to walk in wisdom toward those who do not believe. That our speech be gracious so that we might know how to answer everyone. (Paraphrased.)

It is from this perspective that I prayerfully measure my words toward all. What if I could sit with those who propose and support these bills I oppose? Would they hear me as a individual, or chalk me up as one more obscure number to defeat? What approach might help them listen? I will call. I will advocate. But I will also offer the invitation for conversation, praying that God might open a door for me to share the mysteries (and love) of Christ. Because only when hearts are opened to the Truth, can lasting change occur.

Lovingly signed, a mother of four including one in heaven and one by adoption.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals. 

 

 

 

 

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Confessing my insufficiency and resting in Him

How do you do it all, people often ask. How do you balance everything?

I like to be busy, I usually respond, and I have a helpful husband.

But now, I am forced to sit on the sidelines as I wait for my voice to heal. This affects home-life, our non-profit, and my church work. Phone calls are left unmade, conversations are limited, quiet, and careful, contributions to group meetings and  church studies are weighed thoughtfully and shared only occasionally.

I’m becoming impatient. It has been seven months since this situation first presented itself, nearly two since the doctor ordered silence. The root of the underlying drive to do is emerging from the quiet. 

I self-diagnosed  an “insufficient identity.” 

Insufficient means, not enough; inadequate.

I have wrestled with an insufficient identity various times throughout my life.

As a child, I was certain if I had only done more, been more, tried harder, my family would not have been broken. No one ever spoke those words to me, it was a self-imposed notion that made me feel I had some responsibility in the matter and didn’t measure up. I struggled to handle some of the physical work expected of me and loathed when my siblings made it look easy. I was disinterested, and frankly quite terrible, at most of the recreational games we played, and math was an other-worldly language I was incapable of grasping.

Regina 1 Regina 12

 

Never mind that I was a great cook, an engaging writer, and had a gift for memorization at an early age. I was focused on what I wasn’t and how I didn’t measure up to my siblings and peers. I had an insufficient identity.

 

The older I got, the more I overcompensated for the insufficient syndrome that plagued me. My façade became the girl who could do anything. I thrived on doing. I hated the thought of letting people down, of revealing my insufficiency. I cooked here, baked there, volunteered many places, and often as a young single adult I held two or three jobs at one time, because I didn’t want my insufficiency to show.

And still. I was. Insufficient. By human standards I was unbearably so and I knew it more than anyone. 

But then I began to grasp my identity as a child of God. I wasn’t loved based on what I could or couldn’t do, how well I did or didn’t follow the rules. I was loved because I was created in God’s image. Loved because the God of the universe created me for a unique and specific purpose. Loved because of amazing grace. 

It didn’t matter if I was insufficient to myself or others, HE became my sufficiency. There were no games and no façade in this new-found relationship. Just broken messed-up me finding unconditional love and acceptance in a merciful and gracious God. A God who knew my insufficiency full-well and was crazy about me in spite of it.

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I spent years building my new identity in Christ. I reveled in his goodness and rested in his sufficiency. When my old identity tried to reemerge, I told that voice where to go and how to get there.

 

In the meantime, I continued doing. I continued my much-ness and busy-ness. Only this time, not because it was my identity, but because I can’t help but care for others from whatever platforms I am given. I absolutely love and believe in the ways I have been called to serve.

It is not that (I) think (I am) qualified to do anything on (my) own. (My) qualification (my sufficiency) comes from God. 2 Corinthians 2:5 (Parenthesis mine)

 

rest in god Now here I am, forced to be “not doing,” and the insufficient identity is trying to tell me I’m letting people down; letting my family down, letting my non-profit down, letting my church down.

Resting doesn’t mean not serving. 

 

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I believe this quiet time is supposed to be a respite for my soul, a realignment of my faith, meant for good and not evil. But once again this insufficient identity is weighing on me and once again I am acknowledging my insufficiency so I can rest completely and confidently in His. 

If you have ever struggled with an insufficient identity, if you are struggling with it now, I invite you to rest with me in the sufficiency of God, knowing that HE is more than enough. Let’s find our identity and completeness in HIM.

Souls are restless quote

 

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Amen and Amen.

 


My Pledge

This is my life-creed. It is original to me and therefore copyrighted to me, but feel free to use and post if you feel the reminders here would be helpful in your home or place of work.

“THIS IS MY PLEDGE”

I pledge to care for those around me as though they are my brother, my sister, my father, or mother, for indeed, they are that to someone. If perhaps, they are walking this journey alone, I pledge to demonstrate compassion and kindness with the reality that I might be the encouragement that makes their life worth living.

Continue reading “My Pledge”