I actually had five pregnancies, two of which sadly ended in miscarriages, but I am now blessed with three fine adult children and six grandchildren.
I have been thinking about my pregnancies quite a lot recently, and especially about my first, back in late 1966. We didn’t have scans in those days, so we could not have a preview of the tiny person inside me. Until I felt the ‘quickening’, I had little evidence that an unborn child was growing inside me, other than the ‘clues’ most women get in early pregnancy, which included what is popularly described as ‘morning sickness’, except that I got ‘evening sickness’ instead! Yet without having much evidence of ‘the baby’, we still talked non-stop about ‘the baby’ and looked forward eagerly to the arrival of this newcomer into our family.
In those days, the most important news when a new baby was born was ‘It’s a girl!’, or ‘It’s a boy!’ Details of the baby’s weight, exact time of birth, and name followed later. During my pregnancy, many people speculated about whether I was expecting a girl or a boy and some had all sorts of theories about how to spot the difference. One person insisted that I was expecting a boy because I was ‘carrying towards the back’. In fact, our first child was a little girl.
My first thought when I saw her was that she seemed to be in technicolour – a rosy face, blue eyes, black hair– and that she was more beautiful than I had ever imagined during the months when she was nestling in the hidden mysteries of my womb. She was born at home and both my husband and my mother were present and they saw her a few seconds before I did. The birth of a baby is traditionally described as ‘a happy event’ and we were certainly very happy indeed.
When I first held our little one in my arms, I thought, ‘I will love you til death us do part.’ I know that some parents tragically outlive their children, but most children outlive their parents, and I became keenly aware of my own mortality. I became more conscious of a need to take good care of myself, not just for my own sake, but because I wanted to be in good health so that I could be a fit mother for our little daughter, for as long as she needed me. I was especially conscious of mortality at that time because my maternal grandfather died just eight weeks before our daughter was born – sadly, he did not live to see his first great-grandchild.
We were extra thankful for our bonny little girl, because I had a threatened miscarriage when I was three months pregnant. My doctor advised me to have plenty of bed-rest and eventually all was well again. Sadly, my second pregnancy and also my third ended in miscarriages and after that I was advised that it was unlikely that I would have another full-term pregnancy. But I had a prayerful Christian grandmother who wrote to me telling me that she knew how much we longed for another child and she prayed every day that God would grant us our wish. As I mentioned earlier, we were blessed with two more children – a son, and another daughter.
During the years when I had two miscarriages, many of my friends were giving birth to their second and third children. I had a keen mixture of feelings – delight in their healthy babies, and sorrow about my own loss. I had another keen mixture of feelings when I was in hospital after having my second miscarriage. The teenage girl in the bed next to me was in hospital for a cauterization after a botched abortion. I appreciated her predicament and the desperation that prompted her to abort her unborn child. Yet I was very conscious of the fact that she had destroyed a tiny human being. I saw the baby I had lost – clear facial features, folded arms, bent knees. I was not a Christian then, but I had a definite awareness that this tiny human being had been created by a power far greater than I was, far greater than any of us are. I grieved that this little one would never grow into a vibrant child such as our young daughter, and I felt so thankful for our daughter when she came to visit me in hospital.
I know there are times when abortion is, sadly, the most realistic option for a mother or her unborn child, or for both. But on the whole, abortion is anathema to me, especially when it seems to be performed as a convenience for women who insist that they can do what they want with their own bodies, and who apparently have no respect for the little ones who were created inside them, little ones who have no say in what becomes of them.
I think of these words from the much loved Psalm 139 :
‘For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.’