But have you ever paused to wonder what happens to all the babies who are "saved"? I'll tell you what happens: Each one needs a home, a forever family. Those families may or may not look like yours. Sometimes a newborn is raised by a (very young!) woman who chose to give him/her life, often without a father present in the home. Sometimes a birth mom starts out to raise her child but becomes completely overwhelmed by all the pieces that led her to this point in the first place, and the little one lands in foster care. Sometimes grandparents find themselves suddenly in the role of primary caregiver for a little person they had hoped to dote on and send home. Sometimes the child goes directly to foster care because of the birth mother's issues with alcohol or drug dependence. Sometimes this, sometimes that, but always, always, a home is needed. Any decent home will do, but of course, not every decent home will do it. There are the valid (but unacceptable) excuses:
-We are too old. (And this child, what, he is too young? At least he's here, remember?)
-We've already raised our children, now we want to relax and enjoy life. (And this child, he doesn't deserve to have a chance to be raised in a stable, settled place where it's safe to relax, and he can learn what it means to enjoy life?
-We're too busy. (Doing what of eternal significance?)
-We didn't sign up for this. (And this child did?)
Yada, yada, yada. At Hickory Lane, we echo all of the arguments stated above: we're too old, we've already raised our children, we're too busy, and we didn’t sign up for this… But here we are, and every day is sanctity of human life day, sort of. Not that we are always thinking about it. Life is way too lively, too hectic, too intense, for much of that kind of introspection. We are busy creating lesson plans or making doctor appointments or finding library books or rushing out the door to piano lessons/ Kids' Club/riding lessons/basketball…pick one, pick several! All of which probably sounds a lot like any other family with school age children. But, but , but…
There is another dimension to Roe vs. Wade that those of us who are foster/adoptive parents and families don’t talk about much with "outsiders." We aren't sure people will get it and we don’t want to be misunderstood. The last thing we want is for people to think is that we want pity or that we are complaining about our lives, our choices, our children. We talk among ourselves, we nod knowingly, we commiserate on facebook, we say a few words or a lot of words which all mean the same thing. (I'm taking a deep breath here.) IT IS HARD. Yep, hard. Please don't misunderstand. We love our kids, we know this is right and good, we are as pro-life as anyone you'll find anywhere. But, for all of the above reasons, and a few (dozen) more, this might be the hardest thing we have ever done.
See, our children don't come empty handed, however small they may be when they arrive. From the earliest moments of their existence, their little life suitcase was being packed. So, our tiny (or not so tiny) sons and daughters arrive lugging the luggage they did not choose and we help them discover what's in the bag and figure out what to do with it - For.The.Rest.Of.Their.Lives.
Being pro-life isn't a one day bus trip for us; it's a forever journey, and the baggage is formidable.
Some of the baggage is immediately obvious. For reasons out of their control, some of the babies being saved from abortion will never walk, will never talk, will never reach the milestones most parents take for granted. A child might come into the world screaming, withdrawing from chemicals you can't spell and would never consider taking into your adult body. (You wouldn't give them to your cat.) Some of what they carry is less noticeable. A silent child arrives on the doorstep, watchful and sober, having already learned at some deep pre-verbal level that crying doesn't help because no one is there. Being prenatally bathed in alcohol and severely underfed is another common scenario that has lifelong repercussions. Other wounds are carried deep, deep and the impact of the oozing pain colors every day of their/our lives. We don't know how to heal them or if they can heal.
Of course, it isn't always this way. Sometimes a mom chooses life for her child, and the result is Steve Jobs or Tim Tebow. And what a feather in the hat of the prolife movement is such a story, an obvious illustration of why every child needs a chance. And I agree. Strongly. Every child must have a chance to live the fullest, best, most loved life possible. But if this is to be true, someone, lots of "someones," (possibly even you?!) must step up to the plate to do the filling, the blessing, the loving. And those actions exact a great cost. Because for every Tim Tebow, there is another child standing, sitting, fidgeting, maybe even drooling, on the sidelines who will never operate a computer or throw a football.
My mind pages through pictures of these shadow children. Sweet, smiling, seven year old Josiah sat, wordless as always, in his wheel chair in his parents Sunday school class last week and needed suctioned just before prayer time (no nursing coverage that day) and his mom longed to breakfast out with the girls on Saturday but couldn't (again, no nurse, you can't have them all the time, you know, and it was her husband's weekend to work.) Dan is an adult now, living on his own, but throughout his teen years he regularly ravaged his parents home and lives (mirrors, hearts, drywall all in need of major repair,) because the baggage was overwhelming and he couldn't find hope. Little Matthew lived his early months in a box, underfed and neglected, and his brain will never, ever catch up to what he missed. Freckle faced Bobby can run and play and laugh with the pack, but watch out when he's upset. His fears power his anger, and for a six year old, he can throw a hard punch. Ask his mom.
These too are the children for whom you marched last week. And you meant well. You stood for right and truth and you were a voice for the voiceless. And I want to thank you. For what you did last week. But it is a new week, another week, and what does being pro-life look like for you this week?
Look around you. Find the shadow children, watch their parents. Do they look tired to you? Are you apt to judge them as disheveled or disorganized, do you think their kids are disorderly? One Sunday morning after a particularly challenging church service with a troubled toddler, a man behind me commented directly to me, "My, you have your hands full." In all fairness he was stating the obvious, but…did it need to be stated? I wanted to grab his (unwrinkled) lapels and shout, "And the alternative would be what? My hands should be empty? Then where would this child be?" These type of interactions are what make us foster and adoptive parents skeptical about pro-life proclaimers. It isn't that it isn't good, it just isn't enough.
Maybe it's okay to march, but maybe there is much, much more you could do to show your pro-life-ness, for God's sake.
Maybe you can't become "home" for someone who needs a forever family, or
Maybe you can.
Maybe next year instead of marching you could save the bus fare and the restaurant meal charges, and contribute it to someone for quality respite care or a night out with their spouse or new winter boots.
Maybe you can look around with new eyes. Instead of passing judgment on a single mom, pass her some groceries or a gift card.
Maybe that boy you (rightly) marched to save is going to need some help figuring out what it means to be a good man. That's one thing his brave mom can't show him, and most days she can't tell him either, because she's not sure there is such a thing. Give up a round of golf once a month and teach him how to repair his bike or pay him to help you clean up your yard or help him participate in 4H or take him to the library. Anything really. And while you're at it, he's got a sister who is also clueless when it comes to men. She's trying to figure it out on her own, and she's going nowhere fast.)
Maybe you could march up to that family's door with a bag full of disposable diapers. (Even though her youngest is now in second grade, my friend still has two in diapers. It adds up.)
Maybe you could tell a family that you are praying for them every day and mean it. March to the door of heaven, to the throne of God every day on their behalf. Pray for each one of those children by name. (Every "saved" baby has a name.)
Maybe you are noticing biological children whom you think might be coming up short on parental attention because the extra kid(s) need so much care. Instead of condemning, contribute – your time, your interest, your services, yourself! Become as trained as you need to be in order to qualify as a respite care provider for their child.
Maybe this list should be longer; God knows it could be. But I'm tired tonight, and maybe it's time for you to do your own thinking, to make your own list, to march away from judgment and foolish busyness with non-essentials.
Maybe it's time for the church to become truly, fully pro-life, 24-7, 365 days a year.
Maybe you could start tomorrow (today?!) - for God's sake.
It's another sanctity of human life day!