The March for Life just took place last week, and the DC mall was overtaken with hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, faiths and ethnicities proclaiming the value of life. It’s an awesome event that continues to grow each year. Recently, a major theme has been “Love them both”, both momma and baby. I am so encouraged to see this, as the rhetoric of the pro-life movement has typically been heavy on baby to the dismissal of the mother. But I have found that the pro-life movement hasn’t quite figured out how to implement this mantra. The focus continues to be on the baby, and the mother continues to take a back seat.
The simple fact is that the pro-choice movement acknowledges how painful and life changing having a baby can be and gives women a way out of it, a very harmful and undeniably evil way, but a way nonetheless (*heard that audible gasp*). It’s sad because the pro-life movement is populated largely by Christians, and we have a God who showed us the inestimable value of pain and suffering when He sent His Son to die on the cross. The language of the value of redemptive suffering is ours! Very often in Scripture, when the inspired writer wants to communicate great pain, he describes a woman giving birth (Is. 13:8, 21:3; Jn. 16:21), but it never ends there. Through His resurrection, Christ showed that death and pain was not the end. However, He didn’t get that resurrection until He underwent His death – His agony in the garden, the scourging, the carrying of the cross, and finally pouring out every drop of His blood on Calvary. That is what a woman is going through in pregnancy and birth. She’s literally giving her life over for a new life. Christ Himself asked His Father to allow the cup to pass from Him, knowing full well that the result of His death would be life for us all and that He would rise at the end.
So here are a few ideas then on how to “love them both”:
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge Mom’s pain.
Sure, having a baby is a happy thing. But growing a baby all too often isn’t. It’s an incredibly difficult time in a woman’s life, physically, emotionally and mentally. I was asked when I was pregnant with my first how I was feeling. I was never one to sugar coat, so I gave an honest response – that I felt awful. The person quipped back, Oh but it’s so wonderful to be creating a new life! She wasn’t wrong, but she completely dismissed the real pain that I was going through creating that life. Acknowledging this pain does not diminish the beauty of the new life. This person, very active in the pro-life movement, missed an opportunity to practice what she preached – to love us BOTH. Momma’s bodies literally provide all the raw material to form this new life, and very often we just need to talk about the toll that takes on us, to talk through it, to encounter a kind and listening ear who will hear us, encourage us and not dismiss us. It helps us to know that we are not alone, and to be able to love the new life we’re making even more.
- It is not “anti-life” to have serious apprehensions about having a baby.
The movement does a pretty good job with focusing on women in crisis pregnancies and unwed mothers, and really these women are up against unimaginable odds if they want to even consider keeping their baby. However, what about those parents who are stable and married and suddenly get the news that another baby is coming? Any reasonable rational human being is going freak out when they see that positive pregnancy test, even when it was a very deliberate choice. This doesn’t mean that the baby isn’t wanted. It just means that the parents know exactly how important this event is, the responsibility that they now have to provide for, love and raise a new human being. Parenthood is a life-long commitment, and it’s a huge weight. It’s total self-sacrifice. If that doesn’t give someone pause, they need psychiatric evaluation. It doesn’t mean that the parents wish they didn’t have a child, rather it means that they want to be the very best parents that they can.
- If you’re a close friend or family member, offer to help with housework or organize a meal train once the baby arrives.
Everyone loves newborns. They’re so cuddly and loveable, and you’re just chomping at the bit till you can go see that peanut and get your snuggles and a glorious whiff of that new baby smell! But the postpartum period is not for pansies, and mommas are juggling A LOT when this precious little one arrives. Don’t forget about her! She can barely keep her head above water just trying to figure out how to breastfeed (it may be natural but it does NOT come naturally!), recover from giving birth, especially if she had a C section, find any time to slip in a quick nap, all while being assaulted by the irrational world of postpartum hormones, and in some cases postpartum depression. Meanwhile, the laundry pile is stacking up, the dishes in the sink have spilled over onto every counter surface, and she really can’t sustain herself on Digiorno pizza and protein bars alone. Those early days home with baby are anything but glorious. Having home cooked meals delivered or someone to throw all those burp cloths and baby clothes through the wash can be an incredible lift to her mood and take a massive load off her mind (literally!). In order to take care of that precious new baby, that momma needs a lot of care too.
- Don’t overlook Dad.
Fathers are often overlooked because it’s Mom who’s doing all the heavy lifting – er pushing. But there’s not a single mother I know who could have gotten through pregnancy, childbirth and those early newborn days without the love and support of the father. I had my first child via C section, so my husband had to help me shower and go to the bathroom, he had to change all the diapers since I couldn’t bend over, he had to keep my water glass filled so I could make milk, and he helped with feedings since our daughter was a very lazy nurser and it was rough going. There wasn’t a whole lot I could offer him in return except telling him as often as I could how much I appreciated what he was doing. Dads today take a much more active role in those early days of babyhood than previous generations, and they need just as much encouragement as Mom does. Maybe when you bring that meal over, you can include a 6 pack of his favorite beer or some good ole football talk (the Patriots in the Superbowl again). This goes even moreso for those dads who aren’t married to mom. They’re fighting incredible pressure to “just get rid of the problem”. Knowing that he has someone on his side is vital to loving that baby.
These are just a few ideas, but hopefully it gets more ideas flowing. The best thing after all for any child is a mother and a father who love each other. That mom and dad need a lot of care in order to be able to pour out to each other AND this new baby. Let Mom know that she matters, that you care about her wellbeing and that you’re willing to help in very practical ways with whatever she needs. Do that, and you’ve loved that baby far better than you’ll ever know!