How pro-life are you really?
I came face to face with this question last summer in a rather unexpected way. We had just moved an hour away from my family and I was somewhat reeling from the transition. Previously, we had been spoiled by the almost constant help and support from family and friends. In fact, I had only ever paid for a babysitter once before our move. Now here we were in a new home, a new community, and my husband was starting a new job. Meanwhile, I was at home every day with a two and a half-year-old and a one-year-old working hard to unpack boxes and get acclimated. And then, wouldn’t you know, my period was several days late causing us to wonder if baby number three was planning on making an entrance.
Faced with the prospect of a third child, I’m ashamed to say that I was flooded with one overwhelming feeling: embarrassed. Almost immediately I began to imagine people’s reactions to us having another baby so soon after our second. I could hear the rude comments already: “Don’t you know how that happens yet?” “Wow, you people have no self-control!” or the sarcastic “You guys are using NFP, right?” As these conversations played out in my head I began to almost feel I had done something wrong.
Later, while sharing my feelings with my husband I was shocked to learn that he had been struggling with similar emotions. Suddenly I was struck by how wrong it all was. How sad that instead of rejoicing in the possible gift of a child, we were too busy worrying about others’ reactions. And although it ended up being a “false alarm” the whole experience left me thinking.
During our marriage preparation, one of the phrases I remember hearing often from our mentor couple was, “We’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid.” As conservatives and Christians, we like to think of ourselves as something apart from the secularism and materialism that has consumed modern society. But the truth is, we’ve all been surrounded by its ideologies our entire lives; they’ve infiltrated our ideas and perceptions like parasitic growths. As a child of the late 1980’s, abortion has been legal my entire life while methods of contraception have become widely accepted and practiced. Meanwhile, families have become increasingly smaller and more fractured. According to Pew Research Center, for example, 48% of Americans now view two children as the ideal number to have.
And while there is nothing wrong with parents having smaller families, it seems (at least in my own experience) that larger families have become increasingly tabooed. With just two children, I can’t go into the grocery store without being told something like, “Well, you’ve got your hands full.” Last Thanksgiving my family traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to spend the holiday with my younger sister. There while walking around the Gaylord Opryland Resort a complete stranger came up to us and told my husband to “stay away from me” because we shouldn’t have any more children. And this is what I hear regularly with only two children. Heaven forbid, I have three or four, and let’s not even talk about those crazies who have 5+ children.
Somewhere along the way, our views toward children shifted. Yes, I know that times are hard. It’s expensive and being a parent is hard. REALLY hard. You don’t have to justify to me if you feel like you are only able/called to have a small family. But why does everyone seem to feel the need to hate on those who have opened their hearts to life? To those who have willingly chosen to sacrifice in favor of another child? Why does it bother others so much to see large families?
In my opinion, it all comes back to that idiom “We’ve all drunk the Kool-aid.” And I am no exception. Though goodness knows I’ve been on the receiving end of these negative comments plenty of times, I can’t remember a time when I went up to a mother or father and thanked them for their witness to life. How often have I affirmed parents in their vocation?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single parent or the parent of twelve. In today’s day and age, every single child is a miracle. A miracle because of God’s incredible gift of life; a miracle because of a mother’s ‘yes’ when she could have said ‘no.’ Being pro-life doesn’t just mean praying in front of a clinic or looking at a candidate’s voting policy. It’s meant to be a way of life and what better way to start that than by celebrating each new child and supporting parents in their all-important role. Let’s be counter-cultural, starting with that lady who has all the kids in the grocery store. Believe me, she needs it!