Three Kids was Enough

Today I’d like to thank Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, for inspiring the title of this post. I recently read an article where she defends her and her husband’s choice to end the life of her fourth child in the hopes of reversing the stigma of abortion.

It truly bothers me, how she claims that it was an easy decision, as casual as deciding where to go for breakfast in the morning. Ultimately she and her husband reasoned that their family was big enough with three children and they didn’t want it to be any bigger, therefore they had the right to end the life of their unborn child. While abortion advocates always insist that an abortion is merely a medical procedure (as insignificant as getting your wisdom teeth pulled) I can’t believe that among rational, educated people it is accepted that intentionally stopping the heartbeat of another person is not murder, but good medical practice and a fundamental resource for female contraception.

Because it’s just like the situation from Girl Please where arguments are expected to stand in one instance, but not in another and no one blinks twice at the hypocrisy. If Cecile Richards “aborted” her 4-year-old child with surgical instruments on the same logical grounds that her family was already large enough, she would be rotting in jail for murder. But since presumably she had the “procedure” before her “fetus” reached the subjective legal deadline that qualifies you as a human baby these days, she faces no legal repercussions for actions. It’s brilliant actually.  Her child was legally deprived of his or her basic human rights by being disqualified as a human. That is the logic and reasoning echoed in infamously lethal ideologies such as Nazism and racism.  And of course, let’s not forget the eugenics that inspired Planned Parenthood in the first place manifested in the desire to grant the right to life on a selective basis only.

What makes it especially clever is the subtlety, how it shifts the focus from the desired elimination by clouding the death, or “outcome” (let’s not use the strong language of truth as we might offend someone) as deserved, convenient, or justifiable because the target was determined less than human by those in power.  And with the ensuing societal acceptance wrapped up in pretty legalize and medical terminology, Ms. Richards is free to spend her days perpetuating a woman’s “right” to deny rights to others deemed less worthy of those rights in the eyes of the law. Even though this is branded as the height of progressive modernity, it sounds a lot like oppression to me.

However, there is one thing Cecile Richards and I agree on, her words that:

“when politicians argue and shout about abortion, they’re talking about me — and millions of other women around the country.”

Yes, yes they are, and that conversation should include all women. Those politicians and pro-choice media personalities don’t simply get to silence my dissent by dismissing myself and the women in my family as “ignorant” and “Christian.” But I imagine they would certainly try because we would be Cecile Richard’s nightmare if this theoretical conversation was actually inclusive because the populace would risk hearing the tale of my mother who made the opposite choice of Cecile when she found out she was pregnant with her fourth child and my youngest brother.

Yes, in the year 2000 when I was just shy of turning ten years old I found out my parents were expecting another child. Although my parents welcomed the idea of having a baby, my mother, as I found out later, was justifiably terrified. Not only was she thirty-eight, but she had already had two bouts of thyroid cancer and was worried the chemicals from chemotherapy alone could result in serious deformities. Doctors suggested abortion as an option, but my mom really does believe in life, and believed that my brother was my brother at the moment of his conception and that there was a purpose to his life. So she decided to just trust beyond the fear and press forward.

When my brother was born we did discover that he had apraxia, which is a learning disability where (and I’m oversimplifying a bit but this is my understanding of it) the brain knows what it wants to say but has trouble communicating it. Doctors were worried that he would never be able to read. However, with the help of some amazing intervention specialists, he left kindergarten above grade level and has been at or above grade level ever since. No stranger to adversity, at age ten he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Type 1. He takes insulin shots with every meal. It is discouraging sometimes because he’s a sweet young man and he was more mature about it then I would have been in his shoes. Yet day in and day out he’s my little brother. He’s in the marching band, he loves Star Wars, and he hates social media so I’m going to stop before I give away too many personal details and he gets mad at me. I lucked out with him because he’s absolutely fantastic and we are very close, to the point where I couldn’t imagine my life without him and I certainly wouldn’t want to. I am so grateful to my mother for saying yes to life and being open to the possibility that maybe three kids wasn’t enough, because she has given me and my youngest brother a chance to know and love one another in this life, a chance that Cecile Richards’ three children will never have with their youngest brother (or sister). And that is the reality that gets left out of the conversation, the part that nobody wants to talk about.

I tell you this not to oversimplify the situation or instantly convert you to the pro-life cause. I’m telling you this because the quality of a life cannot be measured by any human intellect. It so far surpasses our expectations, predictions, and understandings, and any attempt to determine a standard for what constitutes a quality life is a dangerous and deadly game that we have no right to play. Even though I have told you parts of my family’s tale, none of us have any right to comment on my mother’s decision or debate whether or not my brother’s life was “worth it” (a disgusting endeavor but one that our cold and calculating culture of death permits), not even my mother herself. Because while she carried my brother and has cared for him in every way, she did not create his life, it was only entrusted to her and my father. And that responsibility, while overwhelming and frightening at times by its sheer magnitude, is never something we should shrink from if we hope to retain our humanity.

Life is a gift and it is anything but standard, and I hate the frightening consensus that life only counts as quality if it’s sanctioned by the parents, privileged, pain-free and perpetually satisfying. We create such a phony ideal through the media that we too quickly forget that life is intrinsically valuable and infinitely worthwhile. We’ve been so trained to live only for earth and create a legacy in the shifting sands of time (a futile effort at best) that we forget our heavenly significance, the destiny our Father had planned for us the moment He first breathed life into veins. Because not only were we made to live, we were made to live forever.

Don’t ever give up on that promise.

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The Littler Way

So as you all can probably imagine I spend more time than I ever dreamed I would arguing with people I’ve never met on the internet. (Believe me it’s embarrassing to admit because I never wanted to be that person.) But as fate would have it I publish a lot of stuff online and when people misunderstand, offer a crappy counter-argument in an arrogant way, or bash something that doesn’t deserve bashing I just feel some inexplicable need to defend it. Anyway, in one such instance I innocently posted my article A New Faith and a guy responded, “the only thing I hate more than people who blame God for their problems are people who give Him credit for their successes.”

I can’t imagine a person needing to begrudge another person their gratitude, and I said as much to this mystery man and I explained how I felt about God and I admitted honestly that “I hope by the end of my life that I take credit for nothing, because I would rather be anything than proud.” And oh my goodness the internet exploded.  Had more people read it the internet might have shut down entirely because people were furious about my attitude and horrified by my religious “brainwashing.” Like I’ve just been so brainwashed by religion that I don’t realize how dumb I am and if I saw my ignorance through their eyes I’d feel sorry for my pathetic self and repent by reading Richard Dawkins.

If you have to be brainwashed by anything, it should be religion, the water of grace, the stuff of the Saints, nothing like truth and solid dogma to refresh your mind. In fact, I would rather be “brainwashed” by religion than the new atheism because I have studied the effects of both and made an informed decision to remain Catholic. Because I think a fantastic measure of truth and sound dogma, that is seriously underutilized in this day and age, is to look at the lives of the people who live their creeds and ask yourself which way you’d prefer.

But before I go too far down an entirely separate tangent I’d like to come back to the purpose of this article, which was to enlighten people to what exactly I meant by my apparently super controversial statement. Because there was a reason it sounded so outlandish to my atheistic and cynical counterparts, to the point where it angered them, and the reason is a sad one. It was because they don’t understand the essence of humility which I believe, in large part, is why they also have so much difficulty having any kind of relationship with God.

To explain, let’s examine the nature of the disagreement. The article I wrote was discussing a gratitude and a new faith I had developed in the past year or so and a confidence that if God could get me through those particular trials then He could get me through anything. The counter was that I had gotten myself through the various trials on my own and that my credit to God was, in a word, stupid. (Or ignorant, if you liked that one better).

Now what I was trying to get this guy to understand was yes I did make some economical decisions that helped me save money and yes I was proactive in searching for jobs while unemployed etc. But to tell my tale of hardship and woe out of the context of my relationship with God would not only render it significantly less interesting but horrifyingly incomplete. My article glossed over the year as a whole, it did not include my daily prayers or take into account the fact that my new faith came second, not first. What these people missed was that with God great things never start off great, they start off small.

To clarify, my big year didn’t begin as a year, it didn’t even begin as a day, it began as a moment. A moment where I was really afraid, intimidated by the future, and unsure of what to do next. So in that moment, I decided to do something new because my old way, the type-A extremely well-organized 5-year plan method, the way of the world that career experts recommend as foolproof, was leaving me in knots and getting me absolutely nowhere. I decided to forgo my careful planning and trust God. In 23 years as a practicing Catholic, I’m not sure I had ever truly and genuinely trusted in God before to actually come through for me in my adult world. I had always kept everything rather compartmentalized, maybe due to my skepticism that God really does have a grand plan for my life and cares about my day to day needs too.  I don’t know I guess I’d always had God as an idea, but certainly an abstract one that I wasn’t sure how to incorporate into my life, and I guess it was time for us to finally get personal.

And get personal we did. Because instead of living in fear I thought I’d dare to be daring. I basically said something to God along the lines of “well God with everything I have going on, with my old plans out the window, it seems a good a time as any to finally start living life like it’s an adventure again instead of a calculated chess game where the object is only to win. And adventures always have a good ending, so I want my final destination to be heaven. Forget the rest of it, forget making a name for myself, or having it all, or living in the suburbs. My goal now is just to go to heaven and enjoy the trip, and I’m going to need You to take care of me each moment until I’m finally there, because I trust in Your mercy and I can’t wait to see it.”  And that was that.  I started sharing each moment with God: the good, the bad, and the ugly crying. And the more I tried it the easier it became and the more I actually enjoyed the little moments of being alive again. I realized that, although extremely informal, this was prayer and as it became more natural to me I was noticeably happier, even though my circumstances hadn’t even changed for the better yet.

So as the time started flying and nearly a year had passed, I wanted to pay tribute to that way, which I affectionately call “the littler way” (because St. Therese had a “Little Way” of offering random acts of kindness to God but since I can’t always be counted on to be kind my way was even littler in that I was going to share the moment with God no matter what it held, whether I was managing kindness or was my usual sassy self.) But after those many months I wanted to give God credit for exceeding my expectations, because as I found out God has a way of making the most insignificant, or even awful, moments of life really beautiful just by being a part of them.

rose

And this littler way, be warned, has a way of making you extremely little too, because with God it wasn’t merely “coping” as they cheer you on to do in the self-help section. It was learning how to live in the present moment in peace, in joy, and with a new faith (hence the title of the original article). And the reason I said I would rather be anything than proud, is because to reframe what I just told you as an empowering story of how I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, made a plan and stuck to it without compromise, and did all of this without help from anyone would not only be self-serving, arrogant, and misleading it would be an outright lie (which I strive never to do). The worst kind of lie too, one that diminishes the light of the truth by blowing the smoke of the world. I mean, it’s impressive how much work has been done already to that effect, because I actually had the intellectuals (and by that I mean those who were not ignorant like me) lecturing me on how “pride is not a bad thing” and “you realize there are different degrees of everything, right?” (i.e. as long as I keep my pride in reasonable check it won’t harm me or others at all, which, interestingly, is the ironic error that Elizabeth Bennet mocks Mr. Darcy for in Pride and Prejudice.) It was certainly something to behold. Ignorance is truly bliss by comparison to this mental game of Twister.

Because when my adventure comes to an end and I finally get to heaven, I hope that when I stand before God I don’t feel the need to brag about a single accomplishment or hand Him my resume. I hope instead that I look Him in the face with one of those thousand-watt smiles and say, “thanks for everything Dad. I loved every minute.”