I do not consider myself a great parent. Like many of us I alternate between adhering to someone else’s advice and making it up as I go along. But I’m learning. A lot.
Now before I go into details I need to clarify that I am not one of those people who experienced a sudden “pro-choice to pro-life” conversion. I have been pro-life as long as I can remember; it has always seemed like common sense to me. Even if the science were in doubt (I don’t think it is), why would you risk it? The right to life is the most basic of all human rights, more fundamental than even the right to make choices with your body. It really cannot be much of a contest from an ethical standpoint. If there is even a 1% chance that an organism with substantial neurological activity, a heartbeat, and the ability to experience pain qualifies as human life, then how can we as a civilized society justify a procedure that kills it?
And so it came as no surprise to me that I immediately fell in love with that tiny ultrasound image on the screen. We named our baby early on, and my wife and I started to talk to her as a person every day. We couldn’t wait to start setting up her nursery and we put her name all over it. And if things had turned out differently and my wife hadn’t been able to get pregnant, or (God forbid) if she had suffered a miscarriage, we would have felt devastated. I continue to grieve with a broken heart for those friends and family members I know who have experienced such heartache.
But none of that is what changed my opinions concerning abortion. Instead, it was everything that came afterwards.
Take, for example, the title of this article that you are reading. I used the phrase “having a child” as if I had a whole lot to do with it. In truth, and as every man knows, my wife did 99.9% of the work. That’s why they call it labor. All I had to do was just stand there breathing on cue and try to keep it together (I didn’t) when our baby’s little head popped out. My contribution barely qualifies as an assist. But it was after the delivery that the real work started for me.
There were, of course, a few fairly easy days early on. These were made possible by family visits and help from the hospital staff. After that, though, came the many sleepless nights, daylong alternations between feeding and crying, “projectile explosions” as my wife likes to call them, and everything in between (I’ll spare you more ingestion-related details). This part I couldn’t hide from; instead I was there front and center trying to help (and usually not doing a very good job). I’ll go ahead and admit that it took me more than half an hour just to figure out the carseat.
The truth finally set in—baby raising is hard!
Of course now, a couple months later, a single smile from our milk-loving angel wipes away a dozen sleepless nights. When she follows me with her eyes and giggles at me, I forget all about the cost of that truckload of diapers. Instead I just stand there, light as a cloud, feeling my knees buckle underneath me. It’s an experience like none other.
That’s love. But even in the midst of such experiences there is still a nagging thought that I cannot shake loose. Namely, it’s the thought that my wife and I have it easy. Really, really easy. Not only have we both been on this earth a while and figured out how to support ourselves, we’ve also made it past the entry level of our careers. My wife received a generous dose of maternity leave and I enjoyed a couple weeks off myself. Our hospital bills are almost entirely paid off and the service was nothing short of splendid. The hospital even had a specialized nurse available to teach my wife how to breastfeed.
But how in the world, I continue to wonder, do you do all this on your own? How do you keep your sanity when your life is changing faster than you can keep up? What do you do if there is no one running the same way to comfort you and help you keep pace? What do you do when you’re still trying to navigate your career and figure out how to make ends meat, and suddenly the baby bills start to pile up? How can you raise a child when you yourself are still very much a kid?
Consequently I have the utmost respect and admiration for single parents, especially younger ones. That brave college girl trying to finish her degree while also studying the difference between types of diapers, or that young father trying to finish a work project so he doesn’t have to again be the last one to pick up his kids from daycare. You guys are the hardened heroes; I’m an amateur.
And this is what I mean about abortion. It’s not that I’ve given up my pro-life stance at all; in fact, I’m more convinced than ever that life begins early on. I want to see Roe v. Wade overturned and become a distant memory. But here's the point: we as pro-lifers would be amiss if we succeeded in this endeavor and did not do our utmost to care for the mothers and fathers of unplanned pregnancies. Next to the baby’s life, their well-being has to be our main concern. We must make certain that crucial support like paid maternity and paternity leave, parental classes and support groups, lacticians, basic baby supplies, and adoption services (when needed) are widely available and easily accessible for those who cannot afford them on their own. We must specifically accommodate and support the greater numbers of parents who will shoulder the burden of an unplanned child after abortion is removed as an option.
There are those who will say this is not our responsibility. They may say that almost all unplanned pregnancies are a natural consequence of irresponsible decision-making. They may argue that birth control and abstinence are two easy ways to prevent such circumstances, and unexpected parents should have made use of them. Of course they have a point in this, but it does not change our role and the support we should offer unexpected parents. As Jesus said, let he who has no sin cast the first stone.
We as conservatives have the truth on our side, and polls continue to demonstrate that the public is beginning to realize it. Scientists are increasingly making the case for life at or near conception, and with a legitimately pro-life president and a few Supreme Court appointments we could soon decimate the abortion laws in this country. We in fact already have the infrastructure, logical and scientific arguments, and marketing network to make this happen.
We just need to add some love to it.