It was only two months ago – on Pentecost Sunday, a Sunday I will never forget – that my husband and I received some wonderful, life-changing news. I can still hear and see my daughter, Anna, and her husband, Daniel, standing on our threshold, excitedly telling us that they are expecting a baby and that we are going to have a grandchild!
I was more than elated. It is difficult to find words to convey what my emotions were. I don’t think I have ever hugged Anna for so long before. What with wanting to congratulate, share the moment (one might say impact), receive the message, comprehend the work/pain/love of her motherhood, and communicate my support, I wanted to hang on to that moment of time to have her for my own for just another minute. My precious baby girl! She hugged me right back.
How little time has passed since she made me a mother and I would just hold her and gaze at her sweet little face until my neck hurt. It’s true. I needed a chiropractor to fix my neck, her beauty was so captivating. There was nothing more beautiful in the world. Thinking of her leaving would bring me to tears. Yes, the tears were also brought on by post-partum hormonal swings, but the intensity of that maternal love can be described in no other way than to border on an insane-sounding bond. What an exquisite creature! How powerful my attachment to her!
The news of Anna’s pregnancy struck me like an out-of-body experience. For days, I felt that I was outside myself, observing things from afar. I functioned in my body, but my mind was elsewhere, enraptured and too transfixed on the marvelous to care much for practicalities or even focus on the drama of what was happening here on earth. It was a lot to take in: this event that connects me in a chain of ancestry and immortality. What is expected of me? I searched my memory of grandparents and great-grandparents to find my role models and consider my place.
Anna’s four sisters were utterly overjoyed at the prospect of becoming aunts, jubilantly planning their future activities and adventures together with the new baby. It seemed the baby would have to prepare for a battery of doting relatives. We hoped that he/she would be up to the task of being adored by so many.
About two weeks later, the happy couple was back with more exciting news. Daniel, the proud father, was shaking. He had taken the rest of the day off from work, at the insistence of his sensitive female co-workers after viewing the first ultrasound. As Anna tells it, the technician matter-of-factly announced to them, “There are two in there!” Two babies! Anna and Daniel are expecting twins!
Amidst soprano screams of delight followed by a quiet text-mania to those family members not present, my slightly queasy- feeling daughter, resembling an angel, glowed happily as she carried her two blessings in her womb; she now embraced both babies, dubbed by the doctor as Baby A and Baby B, fully in her mind and heart.
Baby B had been my name too when the doctor discovered, only at birth, that my mother was carrying twins. Today we see so much more. As Anna told her sisters that the babies were now the size of blueberries and that the doctor could hear their tiny hearts beating, I saw their eyes fill with tears of wonder.
In another week, we heard with glee how the babies were the size of raspberries and had tiny arm buds. How delicate! How precious! Only six to seven weeks along, yet all systems were already in place! They were growing rapidly.
Another week went by, and Anna called with a shaking voice asking for prayers. She had seen some blood and was going to see the doctor. My heart stopped beating for a moment, frozen with sick apprehension. The core of my being refused any threat to my grandchildren, and I felt raw strength rising up to defend the small ones. Mercifully, we learned very soon that everything was fine. We had only to shake off the scare.
In that situation, I felt the profoundest contrast between the desire to protect my beloved ones and the cultural apathy and even enmity toward new life in the womb. Fully aware that I would rather die than allow anything to happen to that new life, the sad opinion of an acquaintance – ironically, someone I used to baby-sit – resounded in my memory: “A fetus is not viable,” and therefore, the presumption goes, it “may be destroyed.”
The world of my children born after Roe v. Wade, and now the world of my grandchildren, is one of survivorship. They are living in a society and under a government that will not protect life in general and therefore does not necessarily celebrate life in particular. We cannot rejoice with everyone. Many do not share our elation. The excitement has been diminished due to the wounds of abortion – abortion that has been submitted to, championed for, or silently assented to. In fact, it would be hypocritical to say that one baby (or two) rather than another should be celebrated. We see the disparity, and the more we delight in the twins’ developments, the more we can sense a certain lack of enthusiasm, the hardness of hearts.
People will accept the destruction of the unborn for the very thing we marvel at: the unborn are small. Small limbs, small organs, small spine. They are hidden; we can’t gaze upon the precious features and behold their humanity, so we pretend that eliminating them is something that is not going to have terrible repercussions.
What else is small when a baby is growing? Plans are small. Hopes and dreams are small. These things are also taking shape, and like the sacred, they begin with a spirit and slowly fill a void to become manifest as the gift of our future, creating their entrance into a family tree and humanity’s history. Every baby lost, every miscarriage or abortion, may be small, but it is counted. No one forgets that she had a baby.
As I endeavor to help ease Anna’s morning sickness, as plans for work and wardrobe, birth and baby supplies consume us, I marvel at how something so small extracts such love. Anna is understandably tired but immeasurably happy. She is growing, too. The physical discomforts of pregnancy, the pain and sacrifices are all a part of the process of becoming a mother. The mother of twins has even greater challenges. Anna accepts it and anticipates it with joy. People warn her of the trials ahead, and as she says, “I know, I’m going to be tired!”
There are times in every person’s life when we are called to make sacrifices, do difficult things, and persevere for a lot longer than we feel ourselves able. With that constancy in faith and love, our sacrifices for our children are glorious.
The babies are the size of plums now. Their joints are moving, and they have tiny taste buds and reflexes. They still have a long way to go. They are not viable. But they are fearfully and wonderfully made…and very much loved.