Our family rescued a hummingbird and we were all in awe of its tiny perfection as I held it in my hand. It’s emerald feathers shimmered and it’s little body pulsated with energy. I felt like I was holding a miracle. When I opened my hands for it to leave, it sat there for a few weighty seconds, just long enough for me to feel touched by heaven, and then it left. Those brief moments linger with me still and have added joy to my existence. I feel that way because hummingbirds are almost ethereal. They are nearly intangible with their smallness and incredible speed; we rarely get to feast our eyes on their details because they’re there and then they’re gone. And so I pondered those miracles that pass unseen through our lives.
A few months ago we found out that our eighth child is coming. Initially, there were waves of less than idyllic emotions. I immediately thought of all the aspects of pregnancy that I strongly dislike; after that the worry set in- how will I juggle the different ages? What about the growing financial demands and a paycheck that is staying the same? Will the other children feel neglected? And finally, what will other people think (or say)?
I tried to ride these waves with thoughts of the incredible love and joy I know will my fill my heart the minute I hold that new person or the fact that no life is an accident and that God has a plan for this one. It wasn’t until our first ultrasound when all those thoughts transferred from my head to heart:
As soon I saw that little individual so contentedly squirming and dancing in its first cradle and saw the strong heartbeat all regrets vanished: the ones about finally having my body back and now letting it go again; the ones about my mood swings finally leveling off only to begin again; the ones about our small house getting smaller or our mobility being restricted by a fatigued mama and a newborn’s schedule. The regrets vanished but I have a lingering personal connection with the ongoing debate about the value of human life inside the womb.
In the midst of the clenched fists and gritted teeth, the posters splattered with ovary and uterine slogans waving in the air, the vitriol and bitterness in the voices shouting at one another, the miracle of the pre-born child has become ordinary. Ask any woman struggling with infertility or any IVF doctor who attempts to initiate life and they will tell you that a human embryo is no small miracle. There is intense focus on the wrongs in our society that become magnified at the thought of another person being added to it, and while valid points are being made, the quick conclusion seems to be: “destroy the baby,” “get rid of the baby,” “reduce the number of babies.” What would happen if we started saying, “The baby stays so we had better come up with some solutions.”
You see, some would say I don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to being outraged by the overturn of Roe versus Wade. I am not a single mom or a minority; I have a secure home life that enables me to stay at home with my children; I love my family and have no life-threatening effects from pregnancy. I’m “just a mom” from society’s standpoint who has the luxury to want each of my babies before they are born. But the initial panic I felt when I saw those two pink lines and the waves of desperation I felt in the weeks that followed opened a window for me into the emotions behind the testimonies I read of women needing options. Those points might be true to some extent except for one thing: is my unborn baby any more alive than a desperate single minority woman’s baby simply because I have the means to care for it?
The other day I had to call Customer Service about something. The lady and I chatted about summer and Christmas and knitting while she looked into my concern. Our visiting was enough to cause her to have genuine regret that she couldn’t help me. Hearing that in her voice reminded me that there was a human on the other side. It got me to thinking about the tension in our nation right now; there are many complicated layers to the conflict in our land but one of the main ones is about a woman’s choice. It can appear complicated with all the nuances surrounding the pivotal choice she is having to make. But perhaps some of the complications would fade to the background if what was in the forefront of her mind was remembering the human on the other side: that tiny human wriggling and squirming in its first cradle. And maybe we would respond with more compassion to that conflicted new mama if we remembered the human on the other side: a frightened, overwhelmed and desperate mama who thinks she is all alone.