January 19th is the March for Life and January 22nd is National Sanctity of Human Life Day. These days always take me back to my own story.
Shame, embarrassment—two forces that drive people to keep quiet about the roads they've traveled. I too have kept quiet and am nervous of writing this even after nearly 30 years. I do not write for myself, I am writing for others, the girl/guy woman/man who finds themselves pregnant, embarrassed, ashamed and confused.
I was in college, a Christian conservative college in the south—and having come from a sheltered past with little freedom and lots of rules—I was enjoying the college lifestyle. That is not to say I was wild and running free, but the college, even with its boundaries, was much more freedom than I had ever known. I found lots of trouble and received a fair share of demerits – for sneaking out of the dorm, toilet papering cars, wearing pants/make-up/jewelry. I found myself in a serious relationship, and we eloped over the summer break. When everyone came back to school we were married.
But how do you say, 'yes we are married, AND we are expecting'—just could not find the words. Eventually the tummy starts growing as the little life develops and the pregnancy demands to be known. I became very sick as I could not even take a drink of water without becoming violently ill. I ended up in a high-risk doctor's office. My kidneys were infected, I was being admitted, and was told to prepare to lose the baby. After a 13-day hospital stay, my kidneys recovered and my baby was perfectly safe. The experience opened the door for everyone to finally know we were expecting. Still being college students, I was going to classes and growing like a balloon. Some former friends were still nice to me and some were not. Looking back they may have been judging me or perhaps they just did not know what to say. A few of my friends threw me a baby shower and I felt totally loved in that moment. To the credit of the ultra-conservative college, no one ever called me to an office to 'discuss' my situation or counsel me on moral decisions, but in some ways never acknowledging me was also a missed moment to help too.
In an age where abortion is often the way out of such a crisis, I have to say I never even thought of or considered abortion—I just never did. Not that I was so wise or smart, but it just literally never crossed my mind. Perhaps it was the culture of the time where abortion was not considered an answer—as it is so often today.
The lies that are told to women today in a similar situation as mine—are just that—lies. The fear that surrounds anyone in a pregnancy that is not planned or wanted can be overwhelming, debilitating.
The first lie: You will never be able to finish college. I will not pretend it was easy—but we both stayed in college and finished. We had some good friends and sisters that helped watch the baby and shared in our lives. Took a little longer, but done is done. I was also was able to eventually fulfill my dream of earning my masters and ultimately my PhD as my years progressed. So the 'you cannot finish college' fear was a lie.
The next lie: You will not be able to afford this baby. Again, this was not easy for us as we struggled to afford this new married life, the college years, the new baby and the subsequent baby that seemed to be on the way when I was at the eight-week post-partum check-up from baby number one (don't ask me how that happened!). Embarrassment and shame were a part of the journey—we had help from a local church once that made my skin sink into a new shade of red, but we always seemed to make it. My husband hustled working hard to provide and then driving nights delivering pizza's (often to the same college kids that had at one time been our friends). Too many times the tip money from delivering pizzas was the urgent diaper money we needed. We always seemed to make due and make it by. So, the lie that you will not be able to afford this baby is not true—it will be tough but you can do it.
Next lie: Everyone will judge you. Well, this one may not have exactly been a lie! Judgment and harshness were a part of the journey, but looking back it was of such little consequence in the total scope of life. A great outgrowth of this is the mercy that is ingrained in me for others who walk through shamed times---I have been there and I get it—and I can love in the deepest way now. The humility that can grow inside of you during these times will keep you centered on Christ and guided for your journey in ways you never would have been able to have been guided towards.
All this to say—fear is a liar! Do not let fear guide your decision, do not let fear tell you who are you or who you will always be. Do not live in this fear and do not believe these lies—Satan is the father of lies, but God's way is truth, God can and will show up for you. God can take ugly and make it beautiful, God can take pain and make it the best time of your life, and God will take what you think is a crisis and make it your best blessing ever—He did for me. I have three little blessings that are priceless treasures—three grown men who love God and share His message, love in unique ways, and serve others.
My friend Roland Warren, CEO of Care Net said it best—that the premarital sex was the sin, not the baby. The baby is the precious gift, a new life that God created and purposed. Regardless of the circumstances, this is a life that is meant to be.