I walk into the store already cringing inside. I try to be optimistic. Maybe it won’t happen this time. If I carry my head high, if I look happy and confident, surely it won’t happen today. Not now. Not here. . .
I browse the isles smiling to myself as my baby kicks in my belly. He’s slowly being rocked to sleep by my walking but I enjoy the odd jolt or kick as I shop. I pause for a moment to consult my list, check if I’ve missed any food item from this part of the store. I look up to see if pasta is on this isle and see them…
Two well dressed women stand at the other end of the aisle making no effort to hide their disgust as they look at me and my swollen belly. I see them whisper to each other, can feel their disapproval as it flies past the bottles of spaghetti sauce and hits me in the face. I bite my cheeks and carry on. Those women don’t know me. They don’t know my situation. I’ve done nothing wrong! I say to myself as I turn my cart around and walk the opposite direction from the pasta I needed. I’ll circle back around later when the isle is empty of glares and judgement.
I continue on towards the frozen foods. Picking up some mineral water for my husband. It’s his favorite, and I smile to myself as I think about how excited he gets when I buy it for him. We don’t have much money to spare so it’s a nice treat to get a special bottle of the 60-cent sparkling water for him. With my mind on my hubby I continue through the store, doing my best to concentrate on him and thoughts of my unborn son to keep the glaring-women out of my mind.
I cringe as a particularly painful braxton-hicks contraction hits me next to the milk display. Tears well up in my eyes as I wait for it to pass. It finally does and I take a deep breath. Just a few more weeks and I’ll get to meet my boy. I rub my swollen hands together and keep going. I hurry back to grab the pasta I skipped earlier and then make my way to the check out.
I stand there in the open, feeling exposed. I glance around a bit silently hoping the women from earlier are gone. They seem to have left and I feel ashamed at how relieved that makes me. I shouldn’t let it bother me this much, but it does.
As I look to my right I see another couple staring at me. They are in their sunday best, clearly they, like me are squeezing in a shopping trip between church and a sunday nap. They however, are dressed to the nines while I sport the only pair of jeans that still fit over my belly, flip-flops and a messy bun. I see their eyes glancing between my belly, my face and then by bare left hand. I no longer sport my wedding ring, since my fingers are so swollen, but it’s clear they assume I never had one to begin with. The exaggerated stares from my belly to my hand continue just long enough to make me wonder if they are trying to get me to notice them. If they subconsciously want me to feel their disapproval of my age, my (assumed) marital status, and most of all my beloved son. The son that I love so desperately, who seems to be hated by those surrounding me, although they’ve never met him or I.
I look away from the couple as the urgent whispers from a mother and daughter walking past reach my ears and I hear words like “these young moms” and “need to keep her knees shut” and “that poor baby”.
Tears fill my eyes for the second time this shopping trip as I rush to push my cart forward and pay. I swipe my card and slip my sunglasses over my eyes. The last thing I need is for people to see this “worthless young mom” crying.
I rush through the parking lot as fast as my belly will allow, throw the groceries in my cart and sob uncontrollably in the front seat feeling alone. Knowing that, although I am guiltless, I will continue to be overwhelmed with shame at every turn for the remainder of my pregnancy. The tears continue to flow as I wonder if it will be the same for my child. If people will glare into the carrier as I walk with him through stores. Fear fills my heart as I think about him growing older and hearing other parents whispering statistics regarding the children of teen parents just loud enough so that he can hear as he plays on the playground or waits for his turn in little league.
As I wipe at my tears I remind myself that my son will grow up in a culture of love. I think of all the family members and friends that are anxiously awaiting his birth. My breathing settles only for the tears to begin to fall once more as I think about the young mothers with no such comfort. And in this instant, as I’m savoring just a taste of their pain, feeling their daily turmoil seeping into my life for just an instant, I understand. For the first time in my life I see why a mother would consider, and even go through with an abortion. For the first time I see that it’s not always a selfish act on the side of the mother. That she’s not just searching for her own easy way out. I can see now that it would seem like a mercy to the unborn child. To spare him from entering a world that is offended at his very existence. I can see that she would want to protect him from a society that views him as nothing more than a statistic, expecting and even hoping for him to fail before he has even taken his first breath.
My husband and I had been married for a year when I got pregnant. We were expecting our son and overjoyed when I saw the positive on my pregnancy test. Despite all these things, almost every time I went out in public pregnant, I was made to feel like I was a failure, that I had done something gravely wrong by conceiving the joy of my life. As I sobbed in the parking lot that day, everything changed for me, as I understood for the first time in my life why young girls would consider, abortions.
Motherhood is scary. Although I wanted to be a mom my entire life, and wanted to try for a baby when we did, I was still scared. I was more than terrified about what kind of mother I would be. How I would care for my boy and if I could handle it. Wanting desperately to be a good and loving mother.
At every turn I was doubted by strangers. Although I had wonderful support in my husband and his family, the clear disapproval of strangers added an extra burden that was difficult to bear.
What I cannot imagine, is if I wasn’t married. If I was accidentally pregnant. If my significant-other had left me and my parents disowned me. If, then, I walked into stores and was met with stares, jeers and judgement at every turn.
Who would want to bring a baby into a world that already hates him?
Truly, it would seem like the compassionate thing to do, to end his life before he can start enduring that pain. If he’s already a disappointment to every adult I come in contact with, how can he have any hope for a future. If I don’t know what I’m doing, and no one offers to help me, how can I have even a glimmer of hope to raise him up in a healthy and loving environment?
So you think you’re pro life? May I challenge you to look at how you treat young moms? How you react when you see that unmarried girl sporting a baby-bump. Do you encourage? Do you stop her just to say “Congrats on your pregnancy, I bet you are going to be a great mom!” Or do you silently stare, maybe without even realizing it. Even if you don’t notice your glance from her belly to her left hand until you’ve done it, she notices. She sees you turn to your teenage daughter and make some comment like “see, that’s why you shouldn’t have sex”, reducing her to nothing more than a object lesson for your daughter. No longer a human mother, simply an example of failure for your daughter to learn from.
If you are truly pro-life. If you really want to fight for those precious babies, you should also fight for their mamas. Offer a smile, a word of encouragement, or, maybe even your phone number. Strike up a conversation with her, see if she needs any help. Don’t judge her, don’t look down on her, because she is more brave than we ever could imagine.
The love she has for that child, to keep him, to bare the shame and embarrassment at every turn. Every step she takes into public to feel the stares and hear the whispers. That is a fierce kind of love. She deserves our love, our support and our acceptance for that.
You can’t change her past. But you can help her with her future. Even if it’s just a smile. You might be the only person who tells her that she’ll be a good mom or that she can do this. Please, be that person for her.
To the mamas: if some one is reading this today, struggling and trying to make that difficult choice, I want to let you know that you are loved and your child is as well. I may not know you, but I love you. More important than that, God loves you and your child. Please don’t end your child’s life before it’s had the chance to be born. Email me, let’s talk about options that you have in your area. Most of all, know that you and your baby will not enter a love-less world, because you are both already loved more than you could ever imagine by the God who made you both.
*Edit May 2014 – Thank you so much to all the support and well-wishes towards my pregnancy. This was actually written about my experiences with my first pregnancy, now several years ago. I’m no longer pregnant and the words and glares made in my direction do not hurt me in the slightest now that I’m past that hormonal day, but my heart remains broken for the many young girls I know are experiencing this and FAR worse for making the brave choice to keep their babies. For that reason, I share this post, to inspire more love and support for all mamas.