Babies, Blessing and Chocolates

Shelley Lembke

I got a phone call today informing me of an acquaintance's new pregnancy.

"Oh, how wonderful," I said to the caller. "But then, what other response would you expect from me?" I added. A knowing laugh on the other end of the phone revealed that my comments had made complete sense to the caller. She knows that I think all babies are wonderful gifts from God. I am unashamedly prolife.

This, of course, results in me not quite fitting in with the rest of society. I've gotten used to it. Whenever the subject of kids comes up in conversation, the mouths of most people hang open at the mention of the fact that we have four children (which includes a set of twins). The aforementioned mouths usually hit the floor when I add the phrase, "so far." Yes, I admit it! We have four children, so far. We are very open to the idea of having more.

If those mouths can recover from the shock of such a comment, the next thing they inevitably say is, "Why?" "Why on earth?" "How can you possibly?" or some other such polite query. Well, the Good Book says not to throw pearls before swine, so I am left to judge whether or not the person actually cares about my opinion or if they've written me off as needing psychiatric attention.

My answer to the honest question is a complicated one, or rather, my arriving at the answer was complicated for me, but maybe the answer is really deceptively simple. So simple, in fact, that it eludes most people all together. One day I was thinking about how hard people try to have babies and become pregnant. Consider fertility drugs, invitro fertilization, surrogate parenting, egg and sperm donation, and storage of embryonic human babies in case of later implantation. Once a pregnancy occurs, the next hurdle becomes keeping the woman pregnant.

Women will go on complete bedrest, undergo "selective" abortions (a.k.a. "Selective Reduction" - how's that for a euphemism!) in the case of a multiple pregnancy, endure a plethora of diagnostic procedures, all to get a pregnancy to term. Physicians even perform prenatal surgery on babies to correct deformities before birth! Wow! As I marveled at modern medical science, a thought occurred to me one day: what is the difference between the fetus (a term I dislike, but will use for the sake of argument) at 20 weeks whose mother allows prenatal surgery to keep it alive, and the fetus at 20 weeks whose mother allows an abortion? Why is one allowed to live, and the other is not? Is one baby more valuable, more important a person than the other? Is one more of a person than the other?

The difference is that one is wanted, and one is not. Gee, that doesn't sound fair to me. Why is one pregnancy hailed as a miracle, and the other a mistake? Why is one a "baby" from the moment of conception, and the other just a "fetus?"

Many people will argue that a "fetus" isn't a person until it can survive outside the womb. Well, great, at what age is that ? Modern science is there to rescue the preterm baby born months prematurely, but it is also there to perform a partial birth abortion on the unwanted infant at the same gestational age. If the wanted baby deserves life, why doesn't the unwanted?

What happens when younger and younger premature babies can be saved? What is the magical cut off point in a pregnancy when a child "deserves" to live or die? It's all just a matter of convenience really. What of the feminist argument that a woman has a "right to control her own body?" Ok, fine, what if a woman is pregnant with a girl baby? Doesn't that "woman" have any rights? Well, perhaps we should only abort male babies then?

Um, no, that would be sex discrimination. How about only babies who are deformed? Well, that won't work either because we know those doctors can even operate before birth.

December is the month of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn. It is also the month of the Nativity, the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus wasn't born to parents of importance --- in the eyes of the world. He was born into poverty, into humility, with society questioning the virtues of His mother since she had become pregnant before her marriage. Sounds like conditions that could easily be played out in today's world, doesn't it?

Mary knew her life would be fraught with difficulties because of the Child she humbly consented to carry, but she bore her responsibility with joy, love and faith.

And when Jesus came into this world, He came not as a rich king amid fanfare. He came as a poor, helpless baby. What does that tell us? If Jesus chose to come to earth as an infant-if it was important for us to remember his birth, should not all births be important? If His life was important, when we are created in the image and likeness of God, don't all human lives have dignity, worth, and value? We learn by example. The example He gave us is powerful if we will just look at it.

The Word made Flesh came as an infant. His Birth was a quiet one in earthly terms, but Heaven rejoiced. If God loves each of us as His own child, would Heaven not rejoice at the ordinary birth of one of us? God is glorified by each life He allows us to help create, no matter the circumstances.

So, back to that original shocking statement that I am open to having more children. We, as Catholics believe that all life is precious and valuable. In fact, never once does the Bible mention children being anything but a blessing! Barrenness was the curse. Unfortunately, nowadays, it's the exact opposite, just as Jesus said it would be. How can we change this around?

We must not be ashamed of our families. We must not cut ourselves off from the idea of new blessings. We can't allow ourselves to shut of that part of us that tugs at our heart strings when we see a new baby, and thinks wistfully how nice it would be to have one of our own. We must help get to know other large families. The advice and support we can lend each other is enormous! And we absolutely must help support women alone who choose to carry their babies to term instead of aborting them. Find a maternity home or shelter near you and donate time, money, prayers or goods. Above all, we can't forget to educate our children in this area.They must grow up knowing and seeing how precious all babies are.

I consider myself abundantly blessed that the Creator allows me a share in new life, that He entrusts to me a new life, a new soul. What an extraordinary gift! If, in the words of Forrest Gump's mama, "life is like a box of chocolates," then take a moment to examine the idea. That box of chocolates is usually given as a token of love. Most people would feel sorry for the poor guy who gave his girl a very specially selected, expensive box of chocolates and she refused them, threw them out, wanted to exchange them for something else, or picked a few and nibbled at them, but got rid of the rest. We would think she didn't appreciate his gift of love for her.

Well, if God is giving me chocolates, in the form of children, it's one box I won't refuse.

Editor's Note: I think Shelly has opened a great topic for discussion with her article, and her suggestions for how we can foster an appreciation for the blessing of children. Have you done anything in your community to help mothers and families? Do you have any other suggestions to make? Is there some help you'd really appreciate? Please share your opinions and stories with Domestic-Church.Com. It won't be 'blowing your own horn' - you can be anonymous if you want - but rather an example and inspiration to others. It's by this kind of sharing that we will all strengthen our own domestic churches and ultimately rebuild society.

To subscribe to the Totally Catholic E-Zine, send your request for "Totally Catholic E-zine" with these words "SUBSCRIBE TOTALLY CATHOLIC E-ZINE" to this address:

Return to Essays Page.