Babies, John the Baptist, and the Dobbs Decision: A Meandering Meditation
I just nursed my second baby back to sleep for the second time. She’s a rambunctious seven month old - interested in everything, devouring solids, and getting more opinionated by the day. Some days are smooth sailing. Other days include floods of tears from the baby, the toddler, and sometimes, from mama. Childrearing is hard work. It requires all you have to give and then some. It sometimes requires nursing the baby to sleep then immediately rocking the toddler back to sleep at midnight. It sometimes requires remaining the calm, still voice in a storm of tears and screams from every side until every little one’s needs have been met. It is exhausting. But it is the most beautiful, worthy work of my life. For once in my life, I have to truly pour myself out. I thought I was a pretty patient, charitable, and humble person until I had children. Since then I have seen with increasing clarity how little, ridiculous, and fallen I am, how greatly in need I am of God’s grace to protect and guide me. My vocation is to raise precious, immortal souls for God’s eternal kingdom and to nourish and protect their little bodies while they are mine to care for. Motherhood has made me face the reality of how greatly I am in need of God. I am nothing. I can do nothing without Him. Though He made woman for this great vocation it is not without Him that we can do it well. It is not without Him that we can do it with such joy, peace, and love as our children deserve.
I write this as someone with a lot of support. I have a wonderful, loving husband who works hard so I can stay home with our children. We have extended family that we see all the time, who freely mind our children if needed, and who support our desire to have a (hopefully) big family on one modest income. In the moments where I am stressed, feel overwhelmed, or am tempted to dwell on past poor decisions I made regarding our children, I try to remember those who are not so fortunate as I am: the women who feel lonely, isolated, forgotten, abandoned, and/or abused. The women who are in frightful, precarious positions in terms of financial or familial stability. The women who are with child that consciously weigh a decision to abort. The women who have gone through with an abortion. I wonder if they know that God’s grace is sufficient? If they knew that or believed that, would they have chosen the same course of action to end the life of their child?
It has been a year since Roe v. Wade was overturned. The Supreme Court turned abortion legislation over to the states. This was a great win for the pro-life movement yet there is still far to go. There’s a lot more flexibility in each state determining abortion laws yet there is also the danger of the great extreme: multiple states in this country have no parameters that protect the life of an unborn child, which means that in those states, a child could theoretically be aborted when a mother is in labor. Thirteen states have abortion banned except for rare cases. This is a win - children are widely protected in these states - yet there is still the issue that abortion is legal and available in this country. It is harder to get in many places than it was before, but in other places it is more accessible and at greater risk for the mother and child the later an abortion is performed.
I believe it was no accident that the Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade happened on June 24, 2022. It was the observed Feast of the Sacred Heart last year but it is also the calendar date the Church celebrates the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. This is significant because both Jesus and John the Baptist were conceived in inexplicable circumstances. Mary, with child through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, was not yet in the home of her husband, Joseph. Elizabeth and Zechariah had been childless for many years and were likely beyond the typical child-bearing window of opportunity when John was conceived.
Though these women were surprised to find themselves with child, they rejoiced. They submitted themselves to the will of the Lord. Mary’s fiat - “be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) resounds down the centuries to us as a humble submission to the Lord’s will. It is, in its very humility, a victory cry of womanhood over Eve’s presumptuous rejection of God’s law in the Garden of Eden. It is in humble submission to the Lord’s will that woman (and man!) finds joy and peace. When women accept the child that has been given to them from the Lord there will be much less resistance to the inevitable difficulties, frustrations, and toils of daily carrying a child in utero and caring for them after they are born. Submission to the Lord does not make life easier in itself, but rather alters the disposition of the one who submits. Humble submission to the Lord makes the unbearable, bearable. His burden is easy and His yoke is light - not because there are no burdens to bear, but because He does not leave us to bear our burdens alone.
Mary had Joseph’s support once the angel told him what was going on. Zechariah, initially incredulous, supported Elizabeth and trusted in God’s providence for them. Mary came to be with Elizabeth in the last months of her pregnancy, and according to Cora Evans, was present during the birth of John. The birth of John, that forerunner to Christ, brought all these people together. Babies have a way of bringing people together. Their existence ought not be the cause of division. Women who are considering abortion need support. They need to know that there is cause for joy in the existence of their child. Every child, no matter the circumstances from which they came, is an image-bearer of God. Each unique human person is a new reflection of God’s goodness and creativity. He deemed it necessary that they should exist. They need not other than He willed it. This should cause immense joy and wonder!
Abortion has been restricted in this country, but it has not yet been made utterly unthinkable. We need to make abortion unthinkable by being a culture and a nation that values and supports life. We need to build strong families that support one another. We need to raise our children to help those who are vulnerable and suffering. We need to support those who find themselves weighing the abortion option and help them. Every life is sacred, every life is worth living for the glory of God. May we not only be living in the era of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, may we also be living in the era that makes abortion unthinkable.