January 22, 1973 – Roe v. Wade decision effectively legalizes abortion.
November 11, 1973 – I was born.
I was conceived very shortly after the woeful date in American history that allowed my mother to terminate my life if she saw fit. I mentioned before, that I often think of myself as a survivor.
But the more accurate sentiment would be that my siblings born following me were more the survivors. When I was born, it was kind of a no-brainer that I would live the gestational period, or at the very least, avoid an attempt at abortion, because I was my parents’ second living child (there were two miscarriages before me). I was born into a family with an older brother who was four-plus years older. My mother has told me before that in the hospital, she cried tears of joy because she had her “perfect” family, a son and a daughter. Of course at that moment, she could not see what the future held, so in that moment, she simply felt blessed and grateful for what God had given her.
My mother stayed home with the children and my father was in the military. We were far from the financial stability that most people think they should have before having a family. Neither of my parents, at that time, had a college degree and my father had a modest income in the military. We moved around, both in the U.S. and abroad (Korea). My mother asked the military priest/chaplain after my birth about sterilization and, God bless him, he informed my mother that it would be a sin of self-mutilation (that is how she relayed the story to me). My mother was convinced by this priest that she should not do anything to sterilize herself.
When my younger sister was conceived, my mother told me that the military doctor at the military hospital offered an abortion. According to my mother, this was offered to her without the consent or knowledge of my father. And according to my mother, she could have had this done completely without his knowledge. Praise God that my mother chose life for my sister! My life would be empty without her. While we don’t always agree and most likely it would appear to some that we spend more time bickering than we do loving each other…my life, both as a child and now as an adult, would be lonely without her.
My mother never mentioned that the same offers were placed before her when my next sister was conceived. We were overseas for the entire pregnancy, and she was born just a few short weeks after arriving back in the States. Following her birth, my father entered law school, and our family settled in Kansas.
Shortly after my second sister’s first birthday, my mother was at a health clinic for a pregnancy test and found out she was indeed pregnant with a fifth child. My mother related the story that she must have turned white and her stomach knotted in fear and a bit of nausea to find out they were expecting another baby. I gleaned from that information that my brother was NOT planned. Again, my mother was offered an abortion. Again, it was pitched to her as something that could be done quietly, without my father’s knowledge or consent. Again, I praise God my mother chose life for my brother!
Life was not rosy. We were poor and we didn’t have health insurance. My father told me how he and my mother made an appointment at the Catholic hospital in town to explain their situation, they set up a payment plan and had the bill paid before my mother arrived to give birth. It was tight. We were living on the leftover funds granted my father in loan money for law school education. My father told my sister and me how he would ride his bike to school every day and have that day’s food money allotment in his pocket. He would ride his bike home, stopping at the local grocer to buy whatever meat or fish was on special and take it home for my mother to cook for supper.
I remember every night the family ate dinner together before my father took off for a late night of studying. I remember all of us sitting around the table for an extra 20-25 minutes while my father led us in a Rosary. One of my sisters related to me that my father once told her, “We were very poor. I often wondered how we were going to make it through the next day, let alone another week, month or semester. But we tried to be faithful, we attended Mass each Sunday as a family, and together, we prayed a nightly Rosary. I believe it was a miracle that there was food on the table every night.”
I’ve told the story before. My parents’ marriage didn’t survive. But we children DID. The years of growing up without my dad would have been absolutely unbearable without my siblings. As an adult, when I look back on the years healing from the divorce, working through the abandonment of our father, staying on course while our mother got herself through nursing school, the awful memories are there, but there are so many good ones. I have those good memories of life as a kid because my parents chose life for my siblings.
I remember summer days in the backyard playing a kickball/golf game my older brother made up. I remember lazy afternoons playing Spades…one sister and me were a team, my older brother and my other sister were a team and my baby brother floated around sitting on our laps. I remember walking down the street to the YMCA to go swim at the pool, singing or “rapping” our favorite songs. I remember walking to the library to get my youngest sister and brother to “Story Time” on Wednesdays during the summer. I remember walking with my siblings to school and walking home. I remember swim practices. I remember that we all survived the social ostracism on the swim team and at school because we had each other.
I don’t talk much about my even-younger sister and brother much. But they are important to me, too. My father married again after divorcing my mother. When I was thirteen, another sister was born. Then, when I was seventeen, another brother. While I never lived under the same roof with either of them, they are still an important presence in my life, especially in the role of Aunt and Uncle to my children.
I am ever grateful to my parents for choosing life and ensuring that I have a say…and that my siblings, too, have a say.
Today, I write this story to share with Father John Hollowell.
I found his blog through this amazing video.