Over the years I have had people tell me that they think the tradition I have with my mom for my birthday is sweet. Most don’t even know the reason behind the birthday tradition. About a week prior to my birthday last year I decided to share that reason on my Facebook wall.
Ever since I had enough of my own money, I take my mom out to dinner on my birthday. Fundamentally it is a big thank you to my mom. She is who nourished me and cared for me both in utero and post utero. But it is more than that. I wouldn’t have a birthday if it had been left up to my mom’s doctors.
My mom has suffered from poor kidney function most of her life. Between being pregnant with my brother and myself (a nine year difference), she had been hospitalized due to, and on medication for, her kidneys. Even though women have had children well into their thirties for a long time, I was still considered a change of life baby and hazardous to the health of a normal woman back then. Between my mom’s kidneys and her age, her nephrologist and a second opinion doctor both agreed she should terminate her pregnancy. Terminate me.
Yeah it is a bit much to hear that information as a child. The doctors saw me as a threat to my mom’s health and to her lifestyle. At one point they even asked my mom if she wanted to die and leave her husband a widower/single parent. Leave her son without a mother. The doctors laid it all on thick.
So what saved me? Several things.
My mom’s OBGYN was the family OBGYN. His practice saw my grandmother and all my aunts that lived in the area, later on even me. He let my mom know there would be risks and it was possible that both she and I would lose our lives. That said, he supported her decision, whatever that was, and he would be there every step of the way. The OBGYN also let her know he would work with all of her doctors to try and make the pregnancy as safe as it could be.
That’s the doctor side of things.
My mom is also Catholic. She wasn’t born catholic. As a child she was baptized protestant and raised in that faith. However also as a child she noticed my grandmother would slip out of the house very early on Sunday mornings. My grandmother was first generation American. She was also of French/Italian decent and devoutly Catholic. So even though my grandmother married a Protestant, and took his religion as she did his name, part of her would always remain Catholic. Most of my grandmother’s adult life was spent attending both catholic mass, by herself, and protestant mass with her children.
When my father, a Lutheran, married my mom they both felt disconnected from their own churches so they attended mass of various faiths as well as other locations of their own faiths. Finally they settled on Catholicism because it felt like a homecoming of the soul. Both of their families had roots in the Catholic church and it felt right to “return”.
Religion aside, they both felt strongly about every life having meaning and value. My parents had multiple failed pregnancies in between my brother and me. They had been trying to have a second child for what felt like a long time. Suddenly they were pregnant at a time where they had given up and they were told they should let go of the idea. But they couldn’t.
What my mom did, with my dad’s support, was very brave. She accepted the fact that she might die but that she was going to try to have her baby. To her, and my dad, I was a miracle they had almost given up on.
Those nine months had its fair share of ups and downs.
Medications, multiple hospital visits, lots of monitoring… and still when she went into labor the hospital refused to admit her because the OBGYN on call was not familiar with her case. There was a complication but still she was not admitted. My mom almost bled out in the waiting room waiting for the OBGYN on call to show up. Back in that day lawsuits against hospitals were rare and women did not receive recognition for “little” malpractice issues.
Thankfully when the doctor on call did show up he not only made sure my mom was admitted but that her doctor was called. By the time my mom gave birth her doctor was there handling everything as promised. In the end mother and child were both fine.
Having been raised with this tale, it is hard not to celebrate my mom’s bravery and perseverance while celebrating my birth. After all without her courage I would not have a birthday.
When I have chosen to share the story of my birth with others the take away starts with warm fuzzies towards my mom. Sadly it often ends with some pro-baby comment as if my story is a good poster child tale for being pro-baby. It’s not. If anything it highlights the importance of women needing to be able to make decisions about their body.
My family is pro-life but we are also pro-choice.
That statement often confuses people because I am Catholic so I MUST be pro-baby. But being pro-life is more than being pro-baby. It is about caring about life from start to finish, not just when it is convenient. Not just when a baby is in utero. It is about making sure there is a good life waiting for that child. Helping to ensure that child is not going to end up dead before it has a chance to experience the good this world can show it.
Another point here is for those who wish the mother to be dead if she even considers abortion. That means you are pro-baby not pro-life. That only venerates babies not life as a whole. Most of the same people who are pro-baby do nothing to ensure that women who choose life for their baby have any assistance. How does that make any sense?
Being pro-choice is more than about being pro-abortion. In general I am anti-abortion. I advocate choice. The right to say “This is MY body”. That a doctor should not make a decision without my input into the care of my body.
Too many women do not have a choice over what happens to their body. They can not receive decent healthcare. There is no “good” or “consistent” sex education in America. Being on a contraceptive is looked down upon and yet so is an unplanned pregnancy.
So please, before you put my tale in the pro-baby category, make a third category. My story proves you can be pro-life and pro-choice. I am glad my mom had a choice and that she was brave enough to pick life for me.
Some day when I feel like discussing religion a little further I will delve into the concept of sin and how taking away someone’s choice is not the same thing as saving them from sinning.