I threw out the positive pregnancy test.
That’s right… the once-15 year-old pro-life teen who rebelliously started a pro-life group at her high school, the young mother who met with top pro-life leaders and gave public speeches on the seriousness of the life of preborn children, the mother with 10 living children who truly does love her “job”, the mother who stood in front of Planned Parenthood’s for years praying for the women entering their facilities, that mother who helped at crisis pregnancy centers and missions, and that woman who loved the quote from Mother Teresa that says, “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.”
I was that woman.
But on this day of discovering pregnancy for the 14th time, knowing I should never get pregnant again given my health and heart condition, knowing I had done everything possible to avoid being pregnant, I was not that woman, but a frightened girl in a bathroom saying “I can’t do this.” I was a teenager in school who had “made a mistake.” I was a poor mother already struggling to make the slightest end meet with ten children at home, the eldest being 17 at the time. I was in a marriage that was being tested by fire, job loss after non-sensical job loss, and the feeling of affection was in the distant past and waiting for a seemingly “elusive healing.”
I was that woman who was told by pro-life people like myself, “YAY!! Good for you! Yay for openness to life! Yay for life! Baby feet!” All the while, within me I thought, am I the only one trying to live my faith with determination and openness to all God’s blessings who gets some major faith-crushing doubts? It all sounds amazing in theory, but what if in reality I am so overwhelmed, and have severe anemia and hyperemesis gravidarum (intense “morning sickness” and inability to eat)… add to that poverty in paying each bill, add to that extreme tension in marriage causing both of us to feel alone in the struggle, add to that a crisis of faith which said, “this must be some kind of cruel joke.” All the while I thought to myself, “am I just a statistic?” Do you really want me to have another one? Will this baby even make it? Will I?
Do you want me to die, God?
These are questions that would make anyone at a pro-life conference squirm. I’ve been to meeting after meeting throughout my life. But this was real, and I was not a poster mother with a huge brood of poster children and a poster marriage where I received all the love and support I could get, all of us smiling on some beach with an inspirational quote above our heads.
There was nothing poster about this except the possibility that our situation was so ridiculous, that it could almost be humorous, so long as you were ok with total contradiction and a great deal of chaos with a strong potential of actual death.
Maybe this would all just… go away.
I had joyfully overcome fear with my last two babies, allowing me to have good labors and good births where I could experience joy…. But the fear I had once conquered came flooding back. This was an all-consuming, terrifying fear. While I had always said “I will gladly die for my babies, for anyone’s babies… “ this time I had a forbodong feeling that I would be asked to go that far. Something deep in my gut whispered “death”…. I didn’t want to lose any more babies, and it turns out, I wanted a break in my sufferings before trying to give my life for another one…
So I threw out my positive pregnancy test, continued my anemia treatments and transfusions, and buried all of these thoughts deep into my heart. I pushed “pause” on “Good Balanced Christian” and let the anxiety begin to play it’s anthem.
YOU CAN’T DO THIS, YOU FRAUD.
It was playing in the background, gradually getting louder and louder, while I tried to drown it out with smiles and laughter and FORCING myself to say “YES I CAN!” My mouth would hurt trying to form those words. The energy all of this took, mentally and physically in my fragile state, made it so that I could barely get out of bed anymore. Everything took so much effort that I saved a week’s worth of energy just to try to go to church on Sunday, and then I would come home and collapse again.
I could hardly eat, I could hardly drink, I could barely move, and I became extremely introverted for the first time in my life. I couldn’t share like I used to, and being with people used up my energy…. many will relate to this as normal and delightful even. But for me, it was life-altering, as I am very extroverted and always have been.
But the conflict between life and death, joy and despair, gratitude and anxiety, peacefulness and downright anger was waging such a war within me that it had an almost sacredness to it; so sacred, that I could not even share my thoughts with God or myself, let alone those around me. I simply did not want to talk, or think about it.
And while I know so many people who long to have a child, who long to be married, who long to be pregnant, here I was also feeling guilty that I wasn’t savoring every moment. Frankly, I wasn’t savoring ANY moment. I was surviving.
And I was dreading. Dreading the future, dreading the knowledge that this time, I wasn’t such a strong woman after all. This time, I would die.
(… to be continued…)