Light the candles: It’s my 31st birthday, and I’m wishing out loud!

Time to celebrate life – not just for me, but for everyone.

My 31st birthday is October 13, 2012. I’ll admit I’m quite excited. I see birthdays as kind of a big deal. It’s not about the balloons, flowers, or my favorite layered chocolate mousse cake. While I appreciate those things (especially the cake), the main reason I love birthdays is because of what they represent. I see birthdays as a special time to celebrate the gift of life.

It’s no secret that I almost didn’t make it out of my mom’s womb alive. Like many women, my mother was caught between two choices.  The words of a wise janitor in a hospital hallway gave her the strength to make the right one. She walked into the abortion doctor’s office and told him she’d changed her mind and was having her baby. Thirty-one years later, I’m still here and all grown up.

Over the years, I’ve been in multiple discussions focused on the question “When is a fetus a baby?” I’ve heard all sorts of interesting opinions. Some people believe that life begins at conception. Others may be pro-choice but are uncomfortable with abortions done in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. While aborting a seven-week-old fetus is justifiable to them,  a more developed fetus makes them squirm. Some defend the right to abortion up to nine months. There are even those who argue for after-birth abortions if the baby is deformed or has a disability.

My personal story has given me a simple perspective. If I had been aborted at six weeks, I wouldn’t be here. If I had been aborted at six months, the truth remains. The way I see it for my life is the way I view it for other children. Regardless of the time of termination, a beautiful life has been lost. Isn’t that the main point? There are millions of people who will never blow out a candle or hear a Happy Birthday song. They won’t experience Disney World like I did on my 30th birthday or spend time with sweet children in a Mozambican orphanage as I did when I turned 29. No one will kiss them on the cheek and whisper, “I love you” or tuck them into bed at night and read them a story. The beauty of life has been stolen from a generation who met death in a place that was supposed to be their safe home.

Fifty-five million-plus children have died in America alone, yet somehow I am alive. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt something akin to survivor guilt. My mother left the hospital, but there were women who stayed. Why did I survive and they didn’t? I’ve often wrestled with feeling that I must do something significant to prove my life’s worth. We all love an overcoming story. The “I had my baby and he became a nuclear scientist or pro-baseball player” tales are the testimonies we cherish. At times I’ve felt internal pressure to have an exciting life or an amazing career that would cause people to think, “Boy, I’m glad she’s here.”

As I’ve struggled to understand my worth, I’ve learned important truths. Life is meant to be enjoyed. I am here, and that’s cause enough for celebration. I’ve grown to appreciate my successes while being grateful for my failures. Life is a complex journey – full of ups, downs, joy, and sorrow. I’ve lost friends and gained others. I’ve felt the sting of lost love yet dared to open up my heart again. I walked through the confusing years of adolescence, the confident days of college, and am now settling into my own skin as a woman. I’m more than a girl who survived abortion and became an advocate for its end. I’m more than my degree, my career, or anything I’ve done or will accomplish in this life. To borrow the words of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, “I make God smile.”

I have value just because I am a human being. I am loved by God and others. I deserved a chance to see daylight. This is my birthday wish for every baby in the world. I wish for them to experience the complexities of life on this dear planet we call earth. Life is not perfect, but it’s worth living. I wish for legalized abortion to end and for babies to live. It’s a big wish that some may think me silly for wishing. But I do have 31 candles this year, so I figure I can get away with dreaming big.

This weekend I’ll be spending my birthday cruising down a New England river, on a beautiful boat, gazing at the autumn leaves with my family, friends, and wonderful boyfriend. For these moments and the ones to come, I’m grateful to be alive.

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