Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Women Want [Need]

When we found out about our surprise first baby, I really thought it would be best for everyone -- the child included -- for him or her to die. I actually prayed for a miscarriage, because it all just seemed like one big misunderstanding by the universe.

I'm queen of the pro-life Facebook posts and witty in-your-face factoids about why a baby in the womb should have some protections.

But I'm not sure why I act this way.

So I want to apologize, if my words cause eyes to roll, or exasperation at another seemingly clueless pro-lifer who just doesn't get the realities of life. Because I have been there. Some of the most vivid emotions I can remember are the fear, anxiety, and anger of being pregnant.

In the first few days, I was a little excited, caught up in the unfamiliar mystery happening inside a body I thought I knew, the anticipatory feeling that everything would change, that life wouldn't be the same again. I felt a little special, and even quietly celebrated Mother's Day with our secret two-week pregnancy.

But then the logistics hit. We were both contract employees, not getting much work. We had no health insurance, student loans to pay, heck, rent to pay. Yes, we wanted to have a family, someday, but there were things to get in order first.

I called hospitals to check how much it cost to have a baby without health insurance. I didn't even bother writing down the numbers in my naive little research spiral. I felt like a kindergartener who accidentally walked in on an administrator meeting, as I spoke with one medical provider after another.

"It's $2,030 up front, due on the first visit, plus labs, sonograms, and hospital fees. If you need a payment plan, you can pay $1,500 on the first visit at 4 weeks, and $1,500 on your second visit at 8 weeks. Hospital fees tend to run about $4,500. Unless you have complications, and then it's more..."

After one conversation, I hung up the phone in tears. But it wasn't from the usual helplessness of another obstetrician wanting nothing to do with an uninsured patient. The woman on the phone had actually said something nice to me, and it caught me off guard. Then the pregnancy hormones kicked in, and I realized I was crying because someone was nice to me, and I started laughing uncontrollably. That remains the most inexplicable emotional moment of my life. 

It wasn't just the medical costs that beat me down. I had just finished student teaching; I was applying for TEACHING jobs. No one wants to hire a new teacher who's pregnant and going to need maternity leave just as the second semester starts.

It felt like everything was wrong. The world didn't want this baby, and I was beginning to agree. It really would be easier to go back to the simple, pre-baby life, and I begged God to agree with me, and just quietly take this baby before things got worse.

It felt like no one was on my side, and all of the token pro-life/anti-abortion appeals sounded like empty, selfish words from people who lived easy lives.

And then I told a friend, and she responded with tears of joy, which confused me. I'd expected her to list the reasons it wouldn't work out, or counsel me through with "It's not so bad." She knew that we were poor, unemployed, without health insurance, but none of that compared with the joy she experienced for this new child. She also offered free babysitting for life.

After that, I felt better about our pregnancy, and months later, finally found the courage to share the news with others. The responses were surprising. Sure, there were a few unsolicited comments along the lines of, "What were you thinking?" But mostly, a lot of stories about surprise babies and life circumstances never being what we plan. It turns out a lot of good kids come out of crappy circumstances. And, crappy circumstances can change.

I don't like to talk about this. I feel like it's an ugly story, that reveals just how self-centered and hypocritical I can be. In truth, it just reveals how scary life can be, and how one person can help another experience hope.

I needed a friend who believed in me, and whose vision for my life wasn't limited by my circumstances. The problems that seem insurmountable when we're alone become possible in community.

This is why I love Loreto House. It's a calm in the storms that often accompany unplanned pregnancies. Loreto House asks women, "What do you need?" And it's okay if the answer is complicated. I need a car to get to work. I need a place to live. I need a job. I need childcare. I need to finish my education. I need healthcare. Loreto House mobilizes a community, to meet the needs of women in difficult circumstances, expand their options, and support their futures full of hope.