In a little country graveyard, lies my firstborn baby, in a grave marked only with corner markers. She was laid to rest at the feet of a good friend’s husband, and at the time, I marked her grave with a wooden cross, which slowly deteriorated through all of these long years.
I am writing this today, in an effort to show how our beliefs and opinions evolve through the years. At the time my baby was stillborn in 1973, abortion was a contentious issue, as it still is today. In those days I was strongly pro-life. A few months after the loss of my baby girl, I wrote an article for a local newspaper about the hopes I had carried for this first child of mine, as well as my deep feelings about the abortion issue. Following are excerpts from this article:
“When I first learned that I was pregnant I was thrilled. I had wanted a baby for so long…it was an answer to my prayers. I read everything I could on prenatal care and kept an avid eye on all of the month by month developmental charts. I was awed to think of this small being I was carrying. When I first felt the baby move and heard its heartbeat, I felt that this must be one of the most special moments of a woman’s life. I began to think of how I would raise my baby. I wanted to help my child to grow up at peace with himself and show him the beautiful side of people and nature. As I began collecting baby clothes, I pictured the tiny little body which would be using them. I wanted my child to know he was loved. I fell asleep at night cuddling my stomach because it seemed somehow as if the baby would know I was holding him and loved him.
Two months before my due date, my little girl was stillborn. It was a shock and I was heartbroken. I never even had a chance to hold her and tell her I loved her. I could have nine more children but I would not miss this one any less. When I see a little girl laughing and playing, I know my little girl will never laugh. When I see flowers and sunlight, I know she will never see them. She will never fall in love or be a mother. A part of my heart is lying in that tiny grave, under the flowers she’ll never be able to see. Nothing can change the heartbreak and regret I feel, but perhaps this story will touch the heart of a mother who at this moment cannot decide whether her baby’s life is worth a change in her lifestyle. Maybe in this way my baby’s death will count for something.”
As I read these words now, 45 years later, after being blessed with three more children and five grandchildren, I realize how cold and cruel these last two sentences seem to me. In those days, I saw abortion as completely wrong and selfish. I was young and had not experienced much of life. I did not know how difficult and tiring raising a baby alone could be. I didn’t think about how a single mother would need to work to support her child, to pay for childcare, to feed and clothe her little one. I did not know that the costs of healthcare would rise so astronomically. I did not think of so many issues that arise for single parents to face alone.
Through the years, these very issues have influenced my stance on abortion. The very people who scream the loudest against abortion often do not have any concept of the problems facing a poor, single mother. I realize that there are women who make this choice for reasons I do not understand, but it is not up to me to judge them. Giving birth and raising a child to adulthood is, to me, the greatest treasure in life, but to some women, discovering they are pregnant feels like a life sentence. Who am I to decide for another woman what is right for her?
I still don’t like the idea of abortion — I can never say that I am comfortable with it, and I do not believe in late-term abortion, but I think abortion must be a private decision. It should not be legislated by politicians who know NOTHING about a woman’s circumstances. Through all these years of living and listening to all sides of issues, I have evolved, and I pray for the women who must make this difficult decision, and I believe it is a decision better left up to the woman herself.