Motherhood and abortion

Some headlines, over and beyond Mother’s Day weekend.

New York Post editor William McGurn captured a lot here.

Mother’s Day is a good day in our house, partly because of the general bonhomie that links us with the many moms in our lives. There’s my wife, the mother of my children. There’s also her mother and my mother, both still with us and adored by their grandchildren.

And in the special recesses of our hearts, there are three more. These are the women who brought our daughters into the world — three women in China whom we have never met and whose names we don’t even know but to whom we owe our family.

Think of that, and let it sink in that three women in China gave life to three baby girls and then, because of their circumstances, gave those baby girls over for another family to raise and provide a good life, for each one of them.

This past summer my eldest traveled to China on her own to volunteer at an orphanage, where she learned a lesson that became her college essay. She had always wondered how a woman could give up her baby, she wrote. Then, at the orphanage, she became attached to one little fellow after just a few weeks, and gained a new appreciation for how difficult a decision it must have been — and the great selflessness that goes with it. And how lucky she was to have such a woman carry her to term, especially in a nation where she could easily have been aborted.

Another full stop. Contemplate just that thought.

Now, when moms and dads have families the traditional way, biology is a powerful partner: The child is of both of you, meant for you, a part of you and yet apart from you in a wondrous way. For an adoptive mom, love must fill in what biology has left open…

Our daughters come from very different places. The eldest comes from Yangzhou, where Marco Polo claimed to have served as governor under Kublai Khan in a city not unlike San Francisco.

The middle one comes from Nanchang, birthplace of the People’s Liberation Army, closer to a West Virginia.

The youngest comes from Chairman Mao’s home province, Hunan, where girls are known as “chili peppers” after the dominant ingredient in the spicy local cuisine.

Out of this patchwork of Chinese geography, with no DNA or blood to bind us, their mother formed a family. And when these girls sit on the edge of our bed Sunday morning and watch their mom enjoy the cup of coffee they’ve made for her, on their faces you would see the certainty this good woman gave them: I am loved.

What a testimony.

And then there was another one, quite the opposite, quite jarring. The recorded account of a young woman, plastered all over social media, who had her abortion experience videotaped (strategically) in a sort of defiant effort to show how that ‘choice’ can be a happy one. As if it’s really just a woman removing something from her body that got in the way of her plans and pursuits, an inconvenience she could easily remove. Some people were understandably repulsed by this show.

But my friend Elizabeth Scalia saw something more. She looked deeper, or longer, or thought harder about what the video really revealed. And she urges her readers ‘don’t become distracted by what this young woman is saying with her mouth, or you’ll miss all she’s revealing in her face.’

A month after the abortion — with the dramatic change in hairstyle that so many women effect when emotions are high and they need to feel in control of something — watch Emily, then. The light is gone from her eyes. The seeming disconnect between pc-fed head and instinctive heart is laid out in breathtaking and stark incongruity, even down to the shadows, the blue note, the lack of energy. Devastating. Cognizant of it or not, she is a mother in grief…

Frankly, if I were a young woman watching this and pondering abortion, one glance at those haunted eyes, that beautiful, woebegone countenance and benumbed, vacant tone, and I would be running to my nearest Birthright, or to the Good Counsel network, or to the Sisters of Life, whose founder, the mighty John Cardinal O’ Connor of the Archdiocese of New York, once pledged to help any needy pregnant woman seeking assistance instead of abortion, and whose successor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has maintained that position.

My heart breaks for this young woman and her baby who are so clearly victims of a pervasive rhetoric full of untruths and the banality of real evil. She needs our prayers and our whole-hearted spiritual assistance. Evidenced before us is a mind seduced and under the power of nefarious propaganda that has told her to serve her own desires unto death — one that has encouraged her to soul-shredding idolatry while its promulgators serve only death and political campaign coffers. It is a mind owned by insipid platitudes, now at war with a heart that says, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, my baby, my heart, myself.”

What this young woman now knows — what resonates so clearly in her assertion that if her house were afire, she would grab the sonogram of her extinguished baby, and run — is that when she consented to kill her baby, she killed a very real piece of herself.

Even after a woman delivers a baby, or miscarries, or aborts, there remains within her, for the rest of her life, microscopic bits of her child — of each child she has ever conceived. Look up microchimerism and you will understand there is no such thing as “getting rid” of one’s baby, only of stopping it’s life and disposing of it, while carrying it within one’s very blood and sinew, forever.

Go to Elizabeth’s post for all the links in that text to places of help and healing, protection and caring, a few of which I provided here because they’re so critical for women in crisis.

She continues her appeal to understand what really goes on in an abortion, referring to ‘Emily’s good abortion’ video.

A body is made of living tissue and living tissue has memory. Pretty it up on video however you like, the insertion of a vacuum into a woman’s body and the perpetration a violent, limb-shredding execution within the deep recesses of her womb cannot help but reverberate like dark energy, throughout the woman’s body, mind and soul. You want to grab a sonogram of the baby you killed because the living part of that baby, still residing within you, is calling out for more of you, all of you.

And then there’s the consideration of women after the abortion. No longer the ‘women and babies’ outreach efforts because the babies are gone. But the women need help and relief. And look who’s there to help them. Women who were there, working in an abortion clinic or being ‘clients’ or ‘patients’ of one.

There has been an explosion recently of women sharing their personal abortion experiences as part of a new self-described “pro-VOICE” movement. The stated goal of this campaign is to shift the focus from debating the legality of abortion or discussing whether abortion is right or wrong, to sharing stories from individuals who offer an intimate look at life after abortion. One example is an article that was recently put out by Upworthy. In an attempt to paint abortion as a positive experience, the woman in the article said that she was “surprised” by several things that have happened after her abortion. There are many women who now suffer because of their abortion and we felt like our voices needed to be heard as well.

Here are those five voices.

Read them. Hear their voices. They want to be heard. They are mothers, after all. And they have something to say about the truth and consequences of that human relationship.

Motherhood

There may be a force on earth as powerful as the love of a mother. But I doubt it.

You may say it’s the force of love itself, and I’ll give you no quarrel with the power of love. But there’s something universal, timeless, transcendental and inscrutable about Mother love that cranks it up to a high notch.

Scientists do research on the value of a loving, nurting mother and filmmakers do movies about the indomitable power of that love. But the day to day reality of it is beyond reach and grasp.

She’ll do anything for you. The greater your need the more she will try to move the heavens and the earth to answer or eliminate it. If you have an ailment or illness or any sort of pain, she will beg God to give it to her instead, to let her take it from you, but because that’s not how God works she will suffer with you and with an exquisite pain that pierces the heart and tries the soul like iron in the fire.

She may be silent and she may be profusely wordy but she searches for her own way to express what you need to hear. Or what she struggles to understand as your need to hear and her best expression to say, and it’s never right, or good, or good enough.

My friend and radio show guest Dr. Meg Meeker taps into this better than anyone, professionally and personally and poignantly. So this year she presents a Mother’s Day Challenge.

First, write down all of the things that you feel that you should be. You know, like: nicer, more patient, more assertive, less assertive, etc. We all have our own lists. Then, write down all of the things that you should do. Cook better meals, make more money, clean your house more frequently, spend more “quality time” with your kids. Having trouble coming up with your lists? You’re not being honest. Think about the “other woman” who lives in your heads and talks to you every day. You remember her- she’s the version of the mother that you should be. The perfect you, as a mom. Put her down on paper. Really let it out. Write down what she tells you that you should be doing, where you should be going, how much exercise you should be getting (mine’s telling me I should go to the gym as soon as I’m done) and how your kids would be behaving if you were more like her. Now you’re getting it. Spend some time thinking about her. What does she look like, what does she sound like? She speaks so much more nicely than you do- because she never raises her voice.

After you have done this exercise, carefully read over what you have written. I know, your kids should be in a higher reading group. Your daughter would be dancing four times per week if you had the money. Maybe you need a better job to pay for those lessons. That’s what she would do. Read the list over and over and add to it over the next couple of days.

Now- here comes the good part. Drag your pen to the bottom of the page and start scratching things off of the list. Tell her to shrink. You don’t need her in your head. She’s fictitious. She never will exist because she doesn’t need to. Here’s the best news of all: your kids don’t like her and they don’t want her as their Mom. They want you.

Replace the lists you have made with reality, Your kids want you. They want to be with you, laugh with you and do errands with you. They don’t need to be in a higher reading group, dance more, have a nicer bedroom or a cleaner house. And- they don’t really care that much about your cooking. They don’t care whether you buy brownies at the store, make them from a box or even make them from scratch. Those are YOUR issues. They just want to eat the brownie with you.

This Mother’s Day, I want to eat brownies and cookies, have tea or coffee or a toast, with my mother in gratitude for who she is. And with my sons for who they are. What inexpressible gifts.

The Second Vatican Council fathers understood this.

Wives, mothers of families, the first educators of the human race in the intimacy of the family circle, pass on to your sons and your daughters the traditions of your fathers at the same time that you prepare them for an unsearchable future. Always remember that by her children a mother belongs to that future which perhaps she will not see.

But for which she will be watchful and forever grateful.

How to honor Mom

It’s always a quandry to figure out what to get your mother for Mother’s Day that truly, uniquely, spectacularly or even adequately shows her how much you love her and really, really appreciate all she does for you and all she’s even been for you and the fact that she’s your Mom.

But companies promoting jewelry, flowers, chocolate and a host of other products oversell the occasion, and we overthink it. Dr. Meg Meeker does the best job of anyone I know explaining the profound blessings and bonds of love and family. And here’s some simple advice for what to give Mom any day of the year:

She needs more of you. How exactly do you give her that? It’s simple. She needs you for one whole day to listen to her. Ask kind questions like, “How are you doing with work and the kids?“ Or, “I know that we think so differently. I can’t understand what you need a lot of the time, so what can I do for you?” Pay attention to the expression on her face. Her mouth will drop—not because you’re a buffoon and never think about her needs. But you could be a bit shy on the verbal end of expressing your feelings.

But don’t just ask her how she is. That’s easy. Here’s the tougher part: Pay attention when she talks. Look her in the eye. Don’t interrupt her (duct tape comes in many different colors). Even if you’re bored, fake it. We don’t care; we just want to be heard. There’s something incredibly freeing and mood-altering when we mothers talk and the ones we love the most listen. It makes us feel loved. And when we feel loved—guess what? Everyone else will too. Because we like to give back.

True. Actually, we love to give first. And when we receive something so simple as the presence or attention of our loved ones, we practially do handsprings for joy, and give back many times over. And yet, as Meg told me and listeners of my show heading into Mother’s Day weekend, we never feel like we’ve done a good enough job of giving or loving or guiding or helping. So we’re always anxious about what we did wrong or need to do more of or try to change, and we really just need to settle down. Get the priorities of God, family and work in order, and the rest will be okay.

So here goes…

I thank God for every grace and blessing. Among those, my faith, family and work. I’m thankful for my Mom who loves and serves and gives so generously, she anchors our family and models ideal womanhood for her daughters and everyone who knows her. I’m thankful for my own motherhood and my family and the sons who put up with my ‘over-protectedness’ because I only and always tried (too hard) to do what was best for them, even when it wasn’t. I’m thankful for my mother’s grace and my sons’ characters and the beautiful relationship I have with them all (and the dads who complete the family).

And I’m thankful for work in a profession that allows me to say all of this publicly. The gift of presence. It’s priceless.

Mother’s Day gems

With Mother’s Day approaching, I’ve been hearing a lot of commercials on TV and radio saying things like “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like diamonds,” or “Show her that you love her with a gift from (fill in the blank) Jewelers.” Or even “Tell her that you love her with a beautiful bouquet of (our) Flowers (or chocolates…or both).” How about this: Tell your Mother that you love her. Give her the gift of your appreciation for all she’s done for you, starting with giving you life. Let her know you love her for who she is.

Nothing says “I love you” like a sincere heart, filled with gratitude, and the gift of time, presence and self.

Which dovetails somehow into something that’s come up in my inbox a couple of times now, notices of a Mother’s Day Outreach to help women wounded by abortion, and help prevent others from suffering the loss of their child through lack of resources or awareness or compassionate care. Here’s what the message says:

Mother’s Day is coming up. Many mothers are at risk or already hurt by unwanted or coerced abortions, pregnancy-related violence, homicide (#1 killer of pregnant women) and post-abortion harm, heartbreak or maternal deaths in their family…

Join participants across the nation in this life-saving, tide-turning outreach. Extend compassion, hope, healing and educate, too, with research-based evidence of abortion’s harm and risk to both the unborn and mothers.

And here’s the essence of the outreach, “simple ways to share a new message, and new hope.” Another way to say ‘I love you.’

And early preparation for Father’s Day…