Each Sunday morning when we’re all together, my family goes through what’s affectionately known as the “lentil update.” My 11-year-old son and 8-year-old stepdaughter learn about what’s developing in their new baby brother or sister, set to arrive in late June. It’s our “lentil update” because that’s how big the baby was when we first learned the news of our lentil-sized human, six weeks into its life, already complete with eyes, nostrils, ears, intestines, brain, muscles, and of course, a beating heart.
The tradition started with just me and my husband. He was still sleeping when I slipped downstairs to take the test. Even though we’d talked of little else since combining our families this summer, we weren’t expecting positive news so soon.
When we told our son and daughter the news at nine weeks, our little lentil had progressed to the size of a grape, and had all its essential parts, even a four-chamber heart. Now each week it’s our game, guessing how big our addition will be and what we’ll learn about how it’s grown. Baby’s sex may still be a secret, but brother or sister, the baby’s presence in our family is constant and welcome.
It Wasn’t Like This Last Time
It wasn’t like this last time. I learned I was pregnant with my son at 19 after taking the test in the basement bathroom of a college dorm, knowing my life would be upended. Instead of weekly updates surrounded by conversations of hopes, dreams, fears, and love, it was weeks of agonizing, counting the costs to my life and career plans of having a baby.
Instead of bursting at the seams to tell everyone I love, my pregnancy was mostly secret, only disclosed to family and the closest of friends for the first several months. Now I can’t wait to show more than I am, but then, going out in public with a pregnant stomach brought shame. When I decided to take a year off and transfer home from college, I hoped I could slip away into the night rather than tell everyone what was going on.
I did tell some friends, however, and the advice was consistent: “You know you can just take care of that problem, don’t you?” No one understood the choice to keep the baby and give up a top-tier education in favor of a life struggling to pay the bills and finish school while raising an infant.
At the time, the choice for me was simple, if hard to admit. Even if unintended, pregnancy was of course a possible outcome, and one I and not the growing baby in my womb should take responsibility for. The second decision to alter my life by keeping him was much harder, but choice one was black and white in a way that surprised me, given that at the time I would have described myself as pro-choice.
As much as I wanted to give myself every excuse in the world to pursue a different path, I couldn’t get past the obvious unshakeable feeling that to do so would push the consequences of my choices onto another life, the rights of whom I would have denied vehemently before that moment of clarity and solitude in the humble surroundings of a college dorm.
What Might Have Happened Doesn’t Haunt Me
Looking back now, “solve the problem” rings in my head in a different way. The callous simplicity of those words makes me angry. This time, as we track our new one’s development with love and devotion, hanging on every update, celebrating every flutter, I realize that I was getting those “words of wisdom” well past the developmental points that leave me in awe now—well past a heartbeat, the organs, the development of nerves, reflexes, hiccups, a recognizable face.
I didn’t know those things then, but I know them now, and every update only makes me eternally, humbly grateful for choosing life. My son was a person then as he’s a person now, as is the baby we wait to welcome into the light now 11 years later.
Each week my family sits together and marvels at how human our addition is, but the conventional wisdom I received back then would have one of those members missing. I can so clearly now see what I could only hope then. Having my son regardless of the sacrifice, the need to work harder than before, going through the shame and humility of seeking support I never thought I’d ask for, all of it has been marvelously worth it. He’s my life’s greatest joy, and my life and my family wouldn’t be complete without him.
What if I had made a different choice? My heart breaks reading stories of women who chose abortion over life, only to be racked with guilt when they experience their first wanted pregnancy. I know not every woman deals with those feelings of remorse, but I have no doubt I would, and the fact that it remains so little discussed in culture in favor of politically correct dialogue over choice does a disservice to all women.
How Our Choices Affect Others
Most importantly, the stark difference between these experiences—the prochoice warrior forced into a moment of truth conversion and the loving family eagerly tracking their newest member’s growth—makes me hope more than anything that our children are learning a lesson I only learned just in time. I wonder, as I watch them chatter on about the baby, Will this attitude toward life last?
What will my stepdaughter, who talks about how there are “four people in the bed” during her bedtime routine, think about abortion when she’s grown? Will my son, who rubs my belly during story time in hopes of feeling the baby, support women around him to make the right decision when needed?
They are too young to know about abortion just yet. When they learn, will they be mortified, remembering how early their sibling seemed fully human? Will the intentionality with which we discuss this baby as alive leave a lasting mark?
Thinking back on my experience, I’m certain the steady influence of strong prolife believers in my life growing up accounts for my conversion. Like all convictions of the heart, no law will change a woman’s belief about the humanity of her unborn fetus. But I’m grateful for those whose strong convictions later helped me, and I’m equally grateful for such a unique way to pass that same lesson on to those I’m responsible for guiding toward truth in a world that will give them lots of opposite advice.