Heart Extension

Dear girls of mine,

I saw today that the younger sister of one of my high school friends just had a baby. She’s in her early twenties now—no longer the bubbly little girl I remember—and is unmarried. The father scuttled away upon hearing she was pregnant, and she’s now raising her darling little daughter on her own with more intention and joy than I see in most parents. She’s also terrified… but fiercely in love with her baby and determined to view the situation as a the most beautiful kind of gift. Life. Dimpled wrists. An extension of her heart to cherish.

What broke my heart is the way others have responded to her, particularly her own family and their Christian compadres. They have told her she has no right to celebrate this new life, that she had no right to take gorgeous maternity pictures or keep the baby or think that God loves her in spite of a surprise pregnancy. They followed standard etiquette for conservative types and abandoned her to the “consequences of her actions.” (Such a stone-hearted phrase, that; it practically comes with its own gavel and Arctic wind.) Instead of congratulations or compassion or newborn diapers or listening ears, they offered scorn. And this in the name of a Jesus who told a woman caught in adultery, “Does no one condemn you?… Neither do I.”

Thinking about their reaction makes me furious until I consider how marginalized and unloved someone would have to feel to treat others with such supercilious contempt. Graceless actions come from graceless hearts, and I suppose this girl’s family deserves pity more than hate mail. All the same, I hope they one day realize what they missed out on.

(Like this

Precious toes

and this

Happy girl 2

and nibbling soft cheeks and snuggling a tiny, trusting person to sleep and receiving slobber-kisses and celebrating milestones and building a relationship and getting to watch a precious new story unfold.)

However, the words weighing on my heart right now are for you. I want you to know that your dad and I love you. Unconditionally. This means our love stays even if you reject us, commit a crime, join a cult, scribble with bright green marker all over the newly painted walls (to use a hypothetical example), or come home from high school one day with a positive pregnancy test. And while we hope your eventual families grow out of the same deep commitment that started our own, new life will always be welcome here. You will always be welcome here. No matter what mistakes you make or what curveballs the future throws, you will have two sets of arms ready to hug you… and any little ones you bring into the world. (No matter the circumstances. Really.)

My friend’s little sister is right; children are the very most beautiful kind of gift.

Two Cyd Charisse understudies

I love you to the moon, to the sun, to the farthest reaches of uncharted future and back,

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  1. YOU are the kind of Christian heart that sets the best kind of example for those so-called Christians…are they all completely UNCLEAR on the CONCEPT? Applause to you for the best kind of reaction, Bethany.

  2. “What broke my heart is the way others have responded to her, particularly her own family and their Christian compadres. They have told her she has no right to celebrate this new life, that she had no right to take gorgeous maternity pictures or keep the baby or think that God loves her in spite of a surprise pregnancy.”

    That is disgusting, and only serves to undermine the good work compassionate Christians are trying to do to eradicate the need for and availability of abortion. Unwittingly, such people as this woman’s family and friends help create an anti-life culture.

  3. What a wonderful letter to your girls…. It is weird, one of our beloved baby-sitters came to stay with the kids on Saturday Night while we went to a hockey game (surprised?). She came a bit early because she “needed to talk to me.” This gave me an immediate pit in my stomach. She is 21 weeks pregnant. She is 21 years old. I don’t know how long she and her boyfriend have been together, but about 6 months sounds right. She dropped out of school last year, and now has no plans on going back. It initially broke my heart for her. But. She was tearful, but happy. So excited for her little girl to come. I know that it was hard for ME to have children. I was ten years older, and married, and had a house and a car and a job… and it threw me for a loop. But she is embracing this gift. This new life. And, her boyfriend has stuck around and is excited too. Jeff and I had a very uncomfortable conversation around this. We want our own children (of course) to wait to have kids until they are prepared and intentional about it, but things happen. We were just plain lucky it didn’t happen to us. They are so excited to meet this little girl. And, Jeff and I are too.

    We have decided just to answer any questions that arise but this post certainly informs our answers. In fact, I may just print it off to use as a cheat sheet. Hope that is okay with you.

  4. beautiful. beautiful.

  5. What a powerful statement to share with your girls…when the time is right, and in the meantime, to tuck away into your heart, in case you ever need to exercise this strong compassion for anyone around you. As you actively are here! I hope you feel close enough to the new mama to share some of your thoughts…I bet you anything she needs to hear love. I can’t understand it when people who will protest outside abortion clinics refuse to give support to those who DO decide to keep their unplanned child. It makes me want to beat my head against the wall! I know there are some programs that DO support single moms in a loving Christian environment, and I hope that because more of the response than condemnation. And if she IS a professed Christian, then a double portion of shame on them…”For there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

    I notice I get kinda Biblical in my scorn and curses! Can you tell I’ve been reading Exodus a lot lately?

  6. Oops, what I meant to say about those programs (and people) who do support single moms in a loving compassionate Christian environment is that I hope THAT sort of response becomes the norm, instead of scorn and shame and a refusal to HELP.

  7. I heart slobbery kisses. Rhys has been liberal with them the last couple of days…

  8. Liz – I guess it’s just a matter of church tradition completely snuffing out real spirituality or open hearts. That happens in so many situations and is so effectively mixed with religious guilt that people have a hard time breaking out of the mold. (A really hard time.) But I agree, it’s not real Christianity… and if it is, then I’d prefer to be called a heathen. 🙂

    Darius – Thankfully, this girl’s family didn’t undermine her decision to keep her baby, but they managed to wreak plenty of emotional damage on her. To [very loosely] paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13, a pro-life stance is meaningless without love.

    Meg – Of course you’re welcome to, but I doubt you’ll need a cheat sheet when it comes to giving your kids honest answers. This situation with your babysitter could be the perfect opportunity to reiterate your love to your children and maybe even open up some conversations about the future.

    Lindsey – Thanks, friend.

    Sam – I tend to get Shakespearean in my scorn, so you’re very welcome to get Biblical. 🙂

    Q – Amazing how a little baby slobber can turn us strong and capable mamas in puddles of goo, eh?

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