Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Open Letter To My Fellow Pro-Lifers On The Eve of the Anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade

I started this blog in part to be a witness to the fact that it is possible to be diagnosed and treated for cancer during pregnancy and have a successful outcome for both mother and child.  I am pro life, and any information that I believe would save a woman and child from abortion I view as vitally important and I feel a moral obligation to share it wherever and whenever I can.

BUT

Please, fellow pro lifers, do not use my story as a stick to beat people with in an argument.  Do not use my story as a rhetorical device to win a round of anecdotal gotcha.  Fellow pro lifers, tomorrow when you feel especially inspired to speak out in defense of life I'd like to suggest one thing:

 

Tomorrow is an emotional day.  It is hard not to feel compelled to shout from the rooftops the injustice that has been done and continues to be done in this country everyday, but I'm going to ask as a woman who has faced a crisis pregnancy that when you want to post something on facebook or jump in a combox tomorrow, stop.  Just stop, take a breath, and pray on it.  If you are not a believer meditate on it.  Think about what a woman who is considering abortion must be facing and say to yourself: There but for the grace of God, go I.  Then stop, take a breath, and pray, and meditate on it and say to yourself again: There but for the grace of God, go I. There are many times that I am sure I have the most brilliant point to add to a conversation that will enlighten all who hear it and if I pause to pray about it first that Holy Spirit puts a muzzle on me.  We always like to think when we're spouting off that it's Him at work, but when was the last time you asked Him before you spoke to see if you should speak at all?  It's not likely that you will have anything new to add to the discussion tomorrow.  I'd like to submit that what you say could possibly even do more harm than good.

I found out I was pregnant and soon to be diagnosed with cancer right before the anniversary of Roe vs Wade last year.  I went through the events of my diagnosis during 40 days for life.  One day during this time a facebook friend posted something about "If you are facing a crisis pregnancy have courage!".  In that moment my blood boiled.  Courage!  How dare she!  She has NO IDEA about courage! I just sat there and fumed and then I remembered...she does have an idea about courage, because she had her oldest child when she was just 17 years old and raised him as a single mother for years before she met her husband.  She is kind, compassionate, and walks the walk when it comes to providing true support for women facing crisis pregnancies.  I agreed with what she was saying, but I couldn't stand to hear it.  I am pro life, but suddenly many messages that used to sound totally compassionate and reasonable to me, messages I have spoken and typed myself with nothing but love in my heart, sounded insensitive and sometimes hurtful.

I received many kind, loving emails offering prayers to St. Gianna Molla on my behalf and encouraging me to do the same...but all I could think was...you guys...she's...DEAD.  It felt a bit like people were romanticizing what was for me REALITY.  These are dear, compassionate people, they were not romanticizing my situation, but I was truly having to contemplate and research and rehearse telling my 5 small children that their mother was dying, because at that time I didn't know, and that's not something you want to screw up.

If you are a mother, I want you to close your eyes right now and imagine gathering your children around you and telling them that you are going to die.  That you are going to leave them.  I want you to see their faces and the disbelief and fear and anguish that washes over them BECAUSE OF YOU.  Then I want you to imagine how it would sound to you to have someone who did not have to contemplate that possibility in a very real way telling you to have courage.  How would you receive that message?  Would it sound compassionate to you?  Imagine now that you aren't pro life.  Now how does that sound?  Fellow pro lifers, the people you are trying to reach are suffering through fear and anguish I pray you never face.  Your editorializing will not change their minds.  Your mercy might.  Please, remember, There but for the grace of God go I.  If you want to say something, stop, pray, There but for the grace of God, go I. 

In the minute or so after my second pregnancy test came up positive I considered having an abortion.  In that moment I considered having an abortion because the idea of telling my husband that I was pregnant when he was already reeling from the news that I likely had cancer was absolutely more than I could bear.  I considered having an abortion because I had 5 small children at home and I didn't know what my pregnancy would mean for my treatment and I didn't want to face the possibility of leaving them.  I considered having an abortion because there are people in our lives that I knew would take the news that I had cancer better than the news that I was pregnant again, even if it had been without the cancer.  I knew in that moment that only I knew truth of my situation and that if I wanted to keep it that way I could.  I could have easily made it just go away.  What I experienced that night, sitting in the stall of a grocery store bathroom, was anguish to an extreme that I believe I now understand viscerally what our Lord experienced in the Garden at Gethsemane when "He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood on the ground." (Luke 22:44)

I am a white, privileged woman living in the United States of America in the 21st century with a husband who is a good provider and who is deeply compassionate and committed to our family.  I have family and friends that I knew would support me every step of the way without fail.  If I was so scared facing my crisis pregnancy that I considered an abortion despite at lifetime of being fervently pro life, please reflect on the terror of a woman who is a member of any number of minorities, who is poor, who does not have anyone to support her materially or emotionally.

There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

Tomorrow, if you absolutely must do something, send money to Feminists for Life , or Abby Johnson's organization And Then There Were None, or to your local Pregnancy Center.

Tomorrow, if you are a believer, pray.  If you think that's not enough then that is absolutely where you should start.  What do you think your hastily chosen words can accomplish that God cannot?

Tomorrow, if you must say something, PLEASE REMEMBER, there but for the grace of God, go I.  Choose your words with the utmost of care and imagine what you would need most desperately if you were facing a crisis pregnancy.

41 comments:

  1. This is profound. Thank you for saying it.

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  2. You are wise and Spirit led woman! Best blog I have read on the subject.

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    1. Thanks Anon! I try to be led by the Spirit, but as I said in the post...sometimes I need to do better about putting on my listening ears. Thank you again for your kind comment!

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  3. This is such a great reminder for any words we speak or write but especially for this topic. Cover everything in prayer. Thank you.

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    1. xoxo Mary! Lifting you and your family in prayer all week!

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  4. Oh wow, I love this post and thank you for writing it.

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    1. You're welcome, and thank you for your comment, it means a lot!

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  5. Nella, I'm here via Heather and wow. Just wow. Thank you for writing this. A year ago I might have written something terribly offensive on my Facebook wall (I don't know if I dare look back) but by the grace of God, my heart is gentler now. I do, all the time ask the. Holy Spirit to give me the words if I should speak them, or to shut me up if I don't. Most of the time He shuts me up, and I am much, much better for it.

    God bless you in your recovery.

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  6. Thanks for your honesty (and courage) in sharing this part of your story, Nella.

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    1. Thank you Julie! I hope this comment finds you feeling well...xoxo

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  7. This is such a beautiful perspective. I pray for an end to abortion, not because I want them to be illegal, but because I want to live in a world where women do not find them necessary. Call me idealistic, but that's where I come from. I have no right to judge the decisions of others when I have never walked in their shoes. Bless you and your family!

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    1. Rabia Yes! No woman should ever have to feel so trapped, that's what we must fight to end...that is not too idealistic. Thank you!

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  8. I wish to God there was someone there to tell me to have courage before I went through with an abortion.

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    1. Oh Katherine God bless you and thank you for commenting! I wish someone had been there for you too and I wish I could hug you right now. I will pray for your healing. So much love to you!

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  9. This is beautiful, Nella... your words grip the soul.

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    1. Thank you! I really loved your post today, the sister mothers, so beautiful!

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  10. What a powerful witness! Thank you for sharing your story.

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  11. Thank you. Thank you so much for this.

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  12. One of my pregnancies brought me around to this way of thinking.
    My baby was diagnosed via ultrasound as "incompatible with life" and we were encouraged, in so many words, to "terminate".
    I looked at the militant pro-lifers with confusion then.
    They don't help. Their words just further alienate.
    And as a teen I'm afraid I was leaning towards their way.
    Sadder but wiser right?

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    1. Elizabeth, my heart aches for you! God bless you and thank you for sharing your experience. God bless you and big hugs and prayers from me.

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  13. Thank you so much for this! I think this helps me understand why I'm so hesitant to say anything, so hesitant to "share" anything on this subject… particularly in a public forum, when you don't know who will see it. I feel guilt for not clicking "like" when others share pro-life images, articles, etc. But, if I do respond, I feel equally uncomfortable. I DO know that there but for the Grace of God go I… I unexpectedly became pregnant during a very difficult period of my life. Our financial world had fallen apart, my husband was extremely depressed and I was hanging on by a thread. Though I had very supportive friends and family, I wasn't sure how much further I could stretch their generosity. I desperately feared that a pregnancy (not necessarily, a child) would be the last straw in destroying my life and our family. I get very sick and very depressed for the first trimester and we could not afford the time nor the expense to deal with this when there were other little ones who needed to be cared for and I would be incapable of caring for them for several months. I remember wishing that I wasn't pro-life. I remember holding out hope that I would have a miscarriage. I was in a very dark place… and I often feel immense guilt for my feelings during this time. Blessings to you, I will hold your continued recovery in prayer.

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  14. Thank you for sharing Anon. I know telling a Mom not to feel guilty is like telling her not to breathe, but oh my dear! You cannot let those feelings at that time get you down...who WOULDN'T feel that way. God bless you and big hugs to you. I hope things have improved for you!

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  15. What a terrible catch-22 many women face when they have a "crises" pregnancy - no matter what puts them in that impossible situation. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

    Though I am pro-life, and always have been, when I was fallen away and sexually active outside marriage, I would sometimes think, "what if I got pregnant?" And fear would overwhelm my heart, because I knew that I would have to face untold difficulties. And I would have to face them alone, no matter who was supportive of me. And I knew if that should happen, someone would offer me the "easy" out of abortion; whether it was the guy, or a girlfriend, or the friendly OB/GYN: someone would tell me the path through that door led to freedom. But I knew in my heart it didn't. And I realized the moment of a positive pregnancy test is faced alone, no matter who else is standing there. You are alone in your heart as you decide.

    And so for me, when I have participated in the pro-life vigils at the clinics, I only stand silently and pray the rosary. Because all I can think of is that I wish Our Lady to be with every woman going in, every woman who is inside, every woman who is coming out, because they need someone (Someone) to be with them in this most terrifying moment. A decisive moment. A moment of destiny.

    I knew a woman, a co-worker, who tried to put on a casual air about having an abortion, but as I looked at her I sensed she was so very alone. The guy she lived with was happy about it. But who could she tell what she really felt, how she really felt about it? She had a wild, yet sad, look in her eyes.

    Another friend confided to me in tears that her live-in boyfriend insisted she get an abortion, and she did, and he promptly broke up with her, and moved out, and wouldn't speak to her. A few years later she was married to someone else, and miscarried her first child, and said to me, maybe God was punishing her for destroying her first child. I told her no, no. But she was so alone.

    I have often told my fellow pro-lifers, I believe every woman (well, maybe there are some who are so hardened or convinced of the rhetoric who are the exceptions) but, every woman knows when she is pregnant, it is a baby. And she knows what an abortion means: the baby dies. She may not say it. She may block it out, for now. Fear or some other emotion may be overwhelming her. But we should see that many of the women deciding to go to the clinic are probably hoping, waiting, wishing for some other way out. Some real and viable way out, that would really work in their situation. For some, that trip to the clinic must seem like a march to the gallows.

    I don't know anyone but God who can enter into her heart and give her that way out. That's why our prayers matter more than anything we can say or argue. Our prayers beg God to help her. Oh God, please help her.

    ~Bonnie

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    1. Thank you for your comment Bonnie, you are so right, no matter how much support a woman has, in many ways she does face her pregnancy--especially her crisis pregnancy alone. We as pro-lifers must find a way to enter into that in our hearts if we are to really reach women who need us. We must absolutely pray, not just for an end to abortion, but to an end to the circumstances that lead women to feel it's the only way out. Thank you so much!

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  16. So beautiful Nella! Your honesty and heart are laid bare in this post.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this. I'm often surprised when people say, "I would never consider an abortion, how could they?" I think it shows a lack of self awareness that is unhelpful in offering support to those who face difficult pregnancies.

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    1. Thank you Neva. I absolutely agree, when someone expresses that sentiment: "I would NEVER consider and abortion...", all I can think is, "Then you've never been scared enough." It shows such a lack of awareness and compassion. Thanks again!

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  18. I want to say thank you for your post. I have walked a mile in those shoes. I have made that extraordinarily difficult decision. If I had the knowledge then that I did now, I cannot say that I would have made the same choice. I have lived every single day grieving for what I lost. Even now, married and with three children... I look back on the child that I still was and grieve for the loss of innocence...the fear...the loneliness...
    But I thank you because it is something that I have never talked about or told anyone.... But the anger that others express about this decision... the vehemence with which people explode their opinions...hurts. I remember driving into that clinic, with people beating on my windshields calling me unbelievable names. I remember being placed in a room with all the other women that day for endless hours while we waited...where we all began to tell our stories to each other... I remember holding the hand of the 12 year old that had been beaten and brutally raped as she cried and told us that she wanted to die.... All of us comforting each other.... women and girls of different ages, races, experiences... I remember the sounds... I remember the psychologist's compassion...the nurses comfort... I remember lying down in my car on the way home and the protestors taking signs and eggs and beating my car with them.... I live with the experience in my memories, the guilt on my conscience, the loss in my heart... every day.
    Your message means so much to me b/c I tend to not enter this political battle. Because I DO know what having that choice meant to me. How much courage I had to face what I did. How much courage I have every day since to continue on. And people that have not been in that situation do not and cannot truly understand what it means. But I also know that I had no idea at the time of what I was losing. And I do know now...
    Your message of grace affected me so much more than someone beating on my car, calling me a murderer and a whore... I was in such a scared, lonely place then. I wish I had someone who spoke with grace to me then....
    I hope others will read your story and realize that if you want to conquer fear and you want to instill hope, you are better to do this with love and with open arms...regardless of your agreement with their decision... than to do it with hate and hostility. Then idealistically there wouldn't be a need for this battle. People expect hate, compassion surprises.
    I appreciate the opportunity to comment on such an excellent post. I hope that my story does not invoke hateful comments, as I promise that no one can say anything hateful to me that I have not told myself already in the 15 years that I have lived with my choice.

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    1. Thank you Anon, for sharing your experience here. I'm so truly sorry for what you've been through, for how you were treated, and for the fact that you were so terribly alone. You illustrate so clearly why hatred has no place in the Pro Life movement. Your post better not invoke hateful comments, and I think based on the comments thus far it will be fine. If it's not, mark my words but I will rain some righteous anger down on that person and I feel quite certain my readers will as well. God bless you!

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  19. thank you for your response to my comment. I'm number 34 and my name was anonymous. I appreciate your compassion and I've prayed for you since I began reading your blog... almost from the beginning of your blog.

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    1. It's my pleasure Anon, please know I'm here anytime, you can always email me via my contact page but if you want to continue to comment anonymously that's fine too. You are not alone. There are millions of post-abortive women in this country, over 55 million since Roe Vs Wade, and we all need to acknowledge that that says more about us as a nation and a culture than it does about the women themselves. Women should NEVER EVER be in a position to be at war with their own bodies and their own children and we have created a time and place where that is so. WE ALL DID THIS TO YOU and we should all have nothing but sorrow and compassion for what you've been through. You are a brave soul and a daughter of God. He loves you and I love you. God bless.

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  20. I've read your post several times, and a thought has been nagging me for a week. I understand what you are saying, but in some degree I disagree with what you’ve posted here. Today at Mass, this was the Gospel. Because of the length of it, I have to split my comment into two posts:
    “On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
    A very large crowd gathered around him
    so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
    And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
    And he taught them at length in parables,
    and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
    “Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
    And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
    and the birds came and ate it up.
    Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
    It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
    And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
    Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
    and it produced no grain.
    And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
    It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
    He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

    And when he was alone,
    those present along with the Twelve
    questioned him about the parables.
    He answered them,
    “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
    But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
    they may look and see but not perceive,
    and hear and listen but not understand,
    in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

    Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
    Then how will you understand any of the parables?
    The sower sows the word.
    These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
    As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
    and takes away the word sown in them.
    And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
    when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
    But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
    Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
    (Cont. in next post...)

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  21. (Cont. from previous post...)
    they quickly fall away.
    Those sown among thorns are another sort.
    They are the people who hear the word,
    but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
    and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
    and it bears no fruit.
    But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
    and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”” Mark 4: 1-20
    And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?” Mark 4: 21
    Your post cautions that we should consider well before we post pro-life comments. I don’t know if Heather even knew of your situation before she posted about having courage in the face of a crises pregnancy, but if she did then she was putting the lamp on the lampstand. What struck me most profoundly was, if she didn’t, then she was speaking prophetically, maybe even to you, without even knowing it. That in itself should have been an eye opener. Your anger and resentment is more than understandable. But you also could have heard what she said as if the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to you through her post. So it occurs to me, that pro-lifers are like the sowers who scatter the seed, and if some of it falls on the road, or on rocky ground, or among the thorns, that does not mean we need to stop sowing.
    You admit many, most pro-life posts are done with great compassion, even Heather’s: “I agreed with what she was saying, but I couldn't stand to hear it. I am pro life, but suddenly many messages that used to sound totally compassionate and reasonable to me, messages I have spoken and typed myself with nothing but love in my heart, sounded insensitive and sometimes hurtful.” Is the answer really not to post, or make comments, or be so afraid someone might get hurt by what we say, that we say nothing? I don’t think it is, because the sower needs to sow. Good seed, yes. Compassionate and loving, yes. But how the listener receives it, well, that’s not so much in our control.
    I know you went through a lot, more than most of us will ever go through. Maybe you’re mad about it. Maybe the trauma of it still haunts you. But I feel more sure of keeping up the voices of hope and courage offered by pro-life posters, than I do of shutting them down for fear one reader may be hurt. Because maybe another, maybe many others, will take heed and find hope and courage.
    God bless you. Please know I am totally sympathetic to what you have passed through, but I cannot agree 100% with what you have posted here.
    I post as Anonymous because I don’t have a website or blog, but I sign as Margaret.
    God Bless. Margaret

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    2. Hi Margaret! Oh my gosh I love this comment! Thank you so much for giving this so much consideration and for putting so much time and thought into your comment. First and foremost, I never say in my post that we should never make pro life comments or posts. What I say is that we should first reflect on the circumstances that surround women facing a crisis pregnancy and PRAY about it before we post or comment. When I talk about the Holy Spirit putting a muzzle on me I’m just saying that often when I ask God what HE wants first, sometimes He asks me to zip it. I’m not suggesting that is what He will always do to everyone, but that we should all make it a practice to ask first. I never say we shouldn’t speak up for life, but that we should pray about it first and be sure that we are sowing HIS word, and not our own. When I talk about pro life posts being done with compassion, what I’m saying is that I understand the INTENT is compassionate, but sometimes the execution is not. Sometimes the execution is such that the poster seems to forget they are talking to individual children of God who are suffering, and that’s what I was trying to get at when I referred to what happened to me when I read Heather’s post. It was the first time I read a pro life post as a woman in crisis and it helped me to truly understand how pro lifers can sound to women who need them most. I think we absolutely should be afraid to hurt someone with what we say because that might stop them from seeking help when they need it most and are most vulnerable. I agree with you that the sower needs to sow, but what I was trying to say was not that we shouldn’t speak out, but that we must be absolutely sure that we are sowing HIS seeds and reaching out with HIS love. As for Heather and I, I talked to her that day about it and she was a love as always, and I contacted her about this post as well. We’re good :) I appreciate your points, and I actually agree with them for the most part. I don’t think we should stop speaking out to defend women and children from abortion, but I DO think we should continually reflect on how we do that and what it driving us. The point is to save women and children, and being hurtful will never accomplish that.

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