Being Pro-Life Is More Than Pro Birth
Since one of those memories came up on Facebook, and abortion is once again talked about in this election, I figured I would share a little more of the story of our late daughter Sammie. I think we need more real life stories and thoughts based on first hand experience, so feel free to share.
2 years ago, we found out we were pregnant. We were ecstatic, and in disbelief. We always wanted more kids, but we weren’t spring chickens (43 and 45). Finding out we were expecting felt like a miracle to us. However, after 20 weeks when we went to find out the gender of the baby we found out our daughter had trisomy 13, a rare genetic condition that rendered a child incompatible with life. Her organs weren’t developing as they should, and the hemispheres of her brain weren’t developing either. If she were to survive to birth, her time on earth would be truncated. She could live a few minutes or a few months. Of course we were presented the option to terminate the pregnancy. My wife and I are very pro-life people, and to be honest, the option briefly crossed our minds. It would have been in some ways an easier option. However, it was not the better option.
We relished each moment of our pregnancy with our son, and our daughter deserved no less just because we knew the outcome. We wanted to cherish every moment, and do whatever we could for our daughter during her brief time on this earth. Even though she didn’t have a properly developing brain, she could taste. She loved chocolate and would jump in the womb whenever my wife would drink hot cocoa. She didn’t do that with tea or coffee, but certainly for chocolate. Definitely a girl.
This baby wanted to be born, and as parents, we did what we could to make it happen. So, on Feb 23rd 2015, our daughter Samuelle Hope Lee was born. It was wonderful, even though it was brief. She was baptized, and shortly thereafter she died in my arms. To leave this earth in the arms of someone who loves you is a blessing all of us hope to have, and I’m blessed to have given that to my daughter.
My wife and I were blessed to be able to do this. BLESSED! This wasn’t just some grit your teeth and bear it for principles type of thing. We were blessed to be able live out our beliefs. There were a number of factors that enabled us to do this, and we are humbled that we could do what we did. And not having one of those many factors would have made this extremely more difficult, if not impossible.
Health insurance – I have health insurance through my work that helped cover some of the medical expenses. The life insurance policy covered the death of a child, which helped with some of the expenses. The OB/GYN that we worked with was also pro-life, and his office waived our fees. But even with all that, we still had to pay around $3K in medical expenses. For some that might just be a weekend getaway, but for many others, it can mean financial distress.
Family leave – Going through something like this was difficult, and I was fortunate that my job would let me take leave or work from home during this time. I was able to go to almost all the doctor’s appointments to give my wife support as we heard increasingly bad news with each visit. I was able to be at the hospital for Sammie’s birth, as well as for her funeral, and to be at home to grieve. They were also willing to let me be home for however number of days Sammie would be alive. I probably took around 20-30 days of leave or work from home during that time. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t or if I lost that many days of pay.
Support – My wife and I had an embarrassment of riches when it came to support. From our friends, our church, our families, our son’s school, my wife’s MOPS group, to people we never met before, we had a wealth of support. I tear up whenever I think of the support we received and how much it meant to us. One of our friends set up a crowd-funding site to help us cover medical and funeral expenses. Without it, our funeral expenses would have cost us over $6K and that is with the funeral home only charging us the cost of materials which was basically a modest urn. Sammie’s final resting place is a modest slot in a wall at the local cemetery. Much better than having our loved and wanted daughter disposed as medical waste.
Here’s the part where I’m going to get on a soapbox. If we are truly pro-life, we have to do more than oppose abortion. 9 pro-life Supreme Court justices and Roe vs Wade being overturned will not solve the issue because there is just so much more to it than that. It requires meaningful actions. Actions that allowed us to choose life. Actions that will allow others to choose life. Actions that will make life a better alternative to abortion.
Like I said, we were blessed to have factors line up in our favor to choose life. I would like others to have that blessing as well. People need access to health care, period. We need to fight for affordable access to healthcare for everyone. We cannot be truly pro-life without supporting it. If our health care costs were expensive for a child that lived minutes, imagine the costs for a child that lives a full life span or a child with more intense, prolonged medical needs. Without access to affordable healthcare, abortion will always be the cheaper option.
To truly be pro-life, we have to support paid family leave for all. It has to go beyond 2 weeks of vacation and 6 days of sick leave. I would like everyone to have the time needed for the birth of a child, regardless of the child’s health or longevity. I would like the parents of children with special needs to have the time available to tend to their children’s needs and go to doctor’s appointments, social work meetings, etc. I would like the parents of ‘normal’ kids to have the time for the curveballs that life throws at them. Family leave and access to affordable health care is crucial when it comes to the birth of any child.
If you oppose abortion and oppose the means to affordable healthcare and family leave, you’re not pro-life. You’re heartless.
As people of life, we have to be willing to give our support to one another. We were so blessed by our support, and I hope for anyone going through even a fraction of what we went through to have an abundance of it like we did. I hope those that go through long-term trials, like a child with special needs to have much more than what we had. Before you post in a comments section or a meme somewhere, how about considering someone going through a difficult pregnancy. Consider someone with a difficult child. Consider ways that you can help. Pray for them, even if you don’t know one personally, because they are out there. Many practical needs are neglected due to caring for a child, so help with meals, chores, or whatever. Be with them during difficult times, and withhold judgement because they are often judging themselves enough. Encouragement is needed exponentially more than criticism.
If we are to be truly pro-life, we have to go beyond just pro birth. We have to make life a better option than abortion, regardless of the circumstance. We were blessed to be able to choose life, and I want to afford that blessing to everyone. We shouldn’t create obstacles to choosing life. We need to remove them. Remove them for everyone, not just the people we like.