People often say they don’t understand how women can even consider aborting babies. I do. The claustrophobia and feeling of being cornered is intense. At times it can feel like no one cares about you, only the baby, and you wish you could jump out of your own skin and escape for a while. And if I felt that as a happily married woman with family and church support, how do other women feel?
Hi. I’m Candace. I’ve got a fantastic husband and a just as fantastic son named Asher who is currently pulling at my toes. He was never meant to be here, and I’d like to give you a bit of an inside scoop on my ‘second faith crisis.’
I believe all Christians mature through testing. I had already spent years working through spiritual and mental health issues that had severely tested and shaped my faith - what I call my first faith crisis.
Years later, my husband and I spent time in discussion and came to the conclusion that if we wanted children, the best plan was to adopt. Our reasoning was sound. We didn’t want to risk my mental health, my work as a self employed piano instructor (read: no mat leave), and my ability to continue volunteering as a search and rescue dog handler for the province.
With a belief we could quietly demonstrate that one can be a Jesus lover, educated in Biblical thought, and choose not to have children or traditional ‘women’s roles’, adoption seemed like an excellent option. I list these things and they seem like items to you, but to me they were integral to my identity.
So on July 1, 2019, when my husband and I watched those two lines pop up faster than any positive result has a right to, I stared down the barrel of postpartum depression, financial uncertainty, the expectation to be content talking about diapers and discipline, and the fear of being written off as hormonal instead of being valued and heard for my experience, education, and giftings. All I could say to my husband was “I’m stuck.”
I’d like to share with you some of what I felt as I processed my situation. Those months are such a blur, but I remember the fear of so many things. What if I didn’t make it through postpartum depression? What about gossip? What if my baby came home someday crying because some kid told him ‘my mom says your mom didn’t want you’? What if he thought he was not loved? What if I couldn’t keep working because I was too sick? What about all the lost income because I didn’t have mat leave? What if something went wrong? What about my students and their needs? Was I selfish for wanting to do the things I loved instead of staying home with a baby? What about all the women who wanted kids and didn’t have them...why was I given one instead?
As the pregnancy progressed, I began to feel more and more fear that something would go wrong and one or both of us would die, while at the same time worrying about life with a baby and experiencing doubt about my plan to make it work and return to teaching shortly post birth.
And now let me share with you the good side. God was so gracious and gave me a virtually sickness/symptom free pregnancy. I kept working until I’d been in labour for over an hour, and was able to return to work four weeks after Asher was born. I have a husband who has given me much space and worked so hard to try to understand and empathize as I processed, and supported me in my desires for privacy and space. We were able to finish our house and move in last fall, and were able to hire an excellent doula, who I’m sure wondered why we hired her at times, but she was so worth it. And, I was able to come to peace with the idea of a baby.
I didn’t and don’t think of myself as a ‘mom.’ Rather, I am a caretaker for God’s creation, of a being that He decided needed to be in the world. And how could I not love and care for something God loves? I don’t believe I am called to be a mother, but I am called to be God’s servant in whatever He sets before me. And that just happens to now be parenting a son. In that, along with some more digging into Scriptures, left me assured that the rest of me and my career and work was valuable and shouldn’t stop. I could find peace and even joy.
Asher arrived February 23, 2020. And even there, God cared for us. Lockdown hit two weeks after his arrival, and instead of the stress of going back to work as normal, I transitioned my entire studio to online and was able to continue breastfeeding and working fulltime until my summer break! I even got the space and privacy I craved by default.
I could leave you there and let you think that all is well, but you’d only have half the story. That woman in an unplanned pregnancy needs a ton of care after the baby arrives. Asher did not have an easy arrival, and I’m in the midst of working through the physical aftermath, delayed trauma-like symptoms, memory gaps, and feeling like time stopped at the hospital. My brain still hasn’t processed the fact that I have a seven-month-old child and that life continues to move on around me. At six weeks post partum, I felt fantastic. At six months, not so much. And with COVID, the aftermath has been amplified even more.
I hope that provides a bit of a glimpse into the mind of someone who experiences an unplanned pregnancy. I am lucky to have a caring husband and know the God who loves me. I cannot imagine that I would be able to stand on my feet and continue without them.
If you take anything out of this, next time you come across someone with a baby on the way that was unplanned - don’t just advocate for the baby, advocate for her too. Advocate for her as a whole person, not just as a mother. Don’t stop when that baby arrives. Keep going for the next year and the next decade. Show both of them Jesus!
And be kind, whether she kept the baby or not. Be supportive and show it in tangible ways. Hold off with the comments. Trust me, you won’t be saying anything that she hasn’t had running around her brain for months. Check in on her at 6 months, and 8 months, and 9-11 months when most postpartum suicides happen. The mental and spiritual aftermath of this new life is immense, especially now.
I thought I was done writing, then a friend sent me a screenshot of something that just about made me hit the roof as I read it. I told my friend that but for God’s grace, the kind of thinking in that post could lead to ending a pregnancy. Ending Asher. So let me add a postscript from the trenches:
I want you to know that life is the right choice. Asher is God’s creation. He is loved and he is valuable. And even on the days when he doesn’t make me ‘happy,’ there is no question that he is a person of infinite worth. I choose to love and celebrate him because he is lovable just as he is, but I also choose to celebrate the self discovery God is bringing through him in the midst of my learning. Asher has no idea what God has done through him already. He is my second faith crisis and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
If you would like to send Candace a message, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put her name in the subject line.