I came to college with a mission. I was a Jesus-lovin’, baby-savin’, praise-music-beltin’ Mother Teresa in training. Of course, I was naïve and a little silly, but my intention was to share the joy that had blossomed in my heart with a world that desperately needs it. Though I’ve matured and mellowed, I still want to do just that. But, you know, a little less… jangly.
About 30 seconds into freshman year, I found the college’s pro-life club and signed up. By my sophomore year, I was the president. I think that this is due more to accidents of circumstance than my administrative ability, but it was a position that I relished and a cause that I cared about deeply. My now-husband and I spent our free time together doing pro-life work, performing praise and worship music for college events, and playing intramural sports. I got good grades, I didn’t have a drink until I was 21, and I served as an officer of various honor societies, clubs and councils.
And then, I got pregnant.
I stared into my future with dread. I imagined myself looking forward to a life of shattered dreams. My wonderful life, my successes, and a promising future were seemingly ruined by one stupid decision. There was never, ever a possibility that we would abort. But the pain and fear of young lives crippled were very, very real. We were cornered, and I was doomed.
The first thing I realized as the fog lifted on those first few weeks was how arrogant I’d been. I had no idea what a cataclysmic event an unplanned pregnancy can be, even under relatively happy circumstances (e.g. a healthy, committed relationship, family support, a college education). I knew that it was often panic which drives mothers and fathers to the terrible “relief” of abortion, but experiencing an unplanned pregnancy showed me how much empathy I’d been lacking and how essential pro-mother programs (like the Pregnant on Campus Initiative) are.
Next, I got to experience firsthand just how real, how human, how precious the unborn child is. Feeling my son grow within me caused me overwhelming joy. It also brought profound sorrow when I reflected on the legally sanctioned, actively promoted practice of violently destroying these wonderful creatures within their mothers’ own wombs. This strengthened my resolve to see this barbaric crime exposed for what it is and utterly eradicated.
But lastly, and most importantly, I came to understand this, which you have heard before: There is more to pro-life than anti-abortion. There is a reason we use this term, and it is not simply rhetorical. A pro-life person does not simply save the baby; she loves the whole family. She doesn’t stop at not-killing the child, but insists on the child’s inherent dignity and worth. She protects and defends life not just because killing is evil, but because living—just being—is good.
I had heard these things, and I believed them, but accepting them anew, on this side of unplanned pregnancy, changed everything. Reaffirming my pro-life principles meant abandoning my melancholy and embracing joy. Yes, there were struggles. Yes, there was mourning of the plans that I didn’t get to fulfill. Yes, there were arrangements to made, bills to pay, and a whole new life of marriage and parenting to somehow figure out without missing a step. But these things did, and do, hold little weight against the immeasurable good that is a single human life.
The notion that accepting a child at a difficult time would bring about my ruin is an ugly lie. It so permeates our culture that it came to me—me!—in this hour of great distress, and its phantom still creeps into my mind on some endless, sleepless nights. This lie could have destroyed our future, had we accepted it, and locked us inside our own regret. It was the witness of the pro-life community that affirmed our decision to give our child life and encouraged us that it was a beautiful one, filled with hope. Without the conviction that this single life was worthy of making so many demands on us, the challenge would seem utterly impossible.
When we stand for life, we must do so in a way that celebrates all of it. The unexpectedly expecting parents find themselves looking not just at nine months, but a lifetime of living with the decision that they make. Not only must we denounce abortion, but we must extol the beauty of humanity. A mother is little comforted by thinking, “I didn’t do that terrible thing.” Instead, I find great peace in knowing that all of this struggle is for something inexpressibly good.
* This post was contributed by Jillian. Jillian is the mother of Joseph Benedict. She hopes that her experience empowers women to embrace the glorious struggle of motherhood and to reject the lies of the culture of death. To share your story, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.