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Living In Color…Are There Exceptions?

0 Comments 23 July 2014

MH at Special Olympics

February 1, 2000 was a day that was nicely planned and executed. I arrived at the hospital at dawn, went to pre-op, then to anesthesia and then off I went to the OR. Before I knew it, behind that blue cloth, the sounds that I had longed to hear for 39 weeks, my baby girl was here. Minutes later I saw my MH for the first time. I had no inkling that every single particle that made up my life to that point was now changed forever.

Why am I writing about this now? I am struck by the current ‘discussion’ both in the media and in the political debate surrounding the question of abortion. I have no desire argue a view as to pro-life or pro-choice, but I want to communicate what I believe to be the most vital part of this particular discussion that is seemingly absent. This idea of exceptions and who should make those determinations? Whose choice is it to make? Are there exceptions?
My life before 2/1/2000 could easily be characterized as one defined by strict absolutes. One where there was no room for what one would call “exceptions”. Truth was clear; it was black and white and living within those bounds made me feel safe and sound. It also made me feel very self-righteous. I had the answers and was ready to give them to those who asked, or even those who did not ask. I am very sad to say that my perspective on life, on people, rarely, if ever, included compassion or empathy or considering where or what or how they might come to their decisions or perspectives. If your life or choices or views were different, quite simply, you were “them” and I was “us.” (And as crushing as it is to admit, I firmly believed that God was with “us”).
Not long into my ‘new life’, as I like to call it, with MH, I soon learned of this tragic flaw in my life as I experienced firsthand, often times from those who should have been the first to offer such compassion, what it was to be left wanting. There is nothing in this world like experience that will enlighten the soul and humble a life. As painful as this time was, and sometimes still is, I found myself in a new place. I was no longer in that spot of absolutes, far above the muck and mire of the world, but I was down in it. I was broken, fragile and human. And in my new found humanity, amazingly, I was just as connected to those who had similar beliefs as to those who had beliefs that were completely contrary to mine. Our humanity, our likeness was far greater than our differences and the compassion and community found there was far greater than any I had ever experienced in my black and white world.
My lens on life was different and my lack of ‘exceptions’ opened the door to questions and even deep faith struggles. I do not know if those questions will ever be answered while I walk this earth, but I am not afraid of them. I am no longer afraid of the mystery. I believe that the God I trust, the God who made all of humanity does not need me to answer for him. So what does this have to do with the current discussion of abortion and exceptions, you ask?
I told my children that it is very easy to look at the questions before us in an election and say, “I am this” or “I am that” but what is not easy is to live a life that actually has to make real decisions that reflect that stance. For a Todd Akin or a Richard Mourdock to say that there should be “no exception” in the case of rape for an abortion is so removed from what is real. It is a great philosophical stance, ideological stance, spiritual stance and certainly political stance if you are courting the giant sub-culture that is the evangelical right.  And for all I know these men have had their daughters suffer a rape and become pregnant, or their wives perhaps, or their aging mothers, I do not know their lives. Which is my point, I do not know their lives and they do not know mine. But I do know my life and I do know that I am responsible before God for my daughters. And I do not believe that any other person on this earth has that responsibility before him but my husband and I. Yes there are truths that are clear, however, there is also wisdom and in the broken world that we live in, we must use both.
While I would want to believe that I would treasure life more than my daughter’s emotional and mental health (the one daughter that I have who has mental health), I cannot say that I would. I am weak and broken and I am not sure what I would choose if she were, God forbid, raped and became pregnant. But that would not be a decision that legislators like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock should make, it would be for our family, with the guidance of family, friends and clergy to make.
But I can tell you, that if my MH, my daughter who is mentally retarded were raped, what I would choose. And I know that I am outing myself by making such a choice public. I know that I am inviting judgment from those who believe that this is a ‘black and white’ issue. However, my heart is heavy with anger that so many are so sure that they not only believe that know what they would and should choose, but they believe they have a right to choose for me, my daughter and my family. I would not allow my baby to have a baby.
And while men like Akin spew nonsense about ‘real rape’ has he ever considered facts about rape that are true of my baby girl like these?
Would Akin and Mourdock have me forcibly sterilize my daughter who will never be able to defend herself against such an attack?
Would they have me force her to carry a baby when it would potentially drive her mad as she cannot even understand a simple stomach bug acting upon her body and the anxiety from simply vomiting can make her delusional?
Would they have me take her off all of the medications that allow her to live a somewhat stable life? Medications that allow her to sleep, to have some level of self-control, to control her OCD and anxiety so that she doesn’t live in a constant state of confusion and fear? All of which are medications that would do certain harm to a baby in her womb?
What would you have me do Todd Akin? Richard Mourdock? Mitt Romney? Paul Ryan? Which of you, Republican, Democrat, Independent, male, female, politician, clergy…which one will make this CHOICE for me?
Real life is not lived in black and white. Those who believe that it is are denying their humanity and the humanity of others. To quote the magnificent Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Oh, and yes, I can hear it now, what are the chances of your mentally retarded kid getting pregnant? To answer your stupid question…50% higher than your 12 year old daughter, thanks for asking! So, it may be the “EXCEPTION”, but were it to happen, it is our choice to make, not yours.
I am committed to life. My everyday life is a testament to that reality. Life is precious. MH’s life is precious and I would not choose to sacrifice her life for your absolute.On February 1, 2000, I was blessed with Mari-Helen. She changed my life and I would never go back. She taught me that life is not black and white and I love living in color.

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things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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