I’m halfway through the last year before our youngest child will be at school full-time. It means I still have two days a week with her at home. “Mummy Days” is what we call them. And they are wonderful.
Last week, on the Thursday, we’d been cooking fritters with whatever I could find in the fridge and pantry: cheese, quinoa, eggs and dried herbs. We were sitting at the bench and I was just looking at her – as I so often do with my kiddos – wondering at this marvellous example of God’s creation and what I’d done to earn the honour of being her mum.
A thought dropped into my mind: does she know how valuable life is? Does she know when it begins?
Now, Adelaide is five. It wasn’t the birds-and-the-bees discussion that I was thinking of, just a general understanding of life’s inherent value. It felt suddenly important that we talk.
“When does life begin?” I asked clumsily.
Rethinking it, I tried again, “When did you begin?”
“Was it when you were born?” I suggested, immediately regretting the guiding question. Rookie error.
She nodded her head enthusiastically, sensing that’s what I wanted her to say. Except I didn’t. Facepalm. What was I doing?!
She kept munching on her fritters and sipping from her polka-dot cup, the sun spangling into confetti light from the sequins on her unicorn top. And then I remembered her book.
I hurried to the study. Where is it… There! Reaching, pulling it down, fingering its hand-sewn fabric cover, the little felt cloud on the front and the bulge of pages carrying more than ink. I carried it back to the kitchen.
“Have you seen this?”
Her eyes immediately enlarged and she reached out eager fingers to begin exploring.
Throughout both Adelaide and Roman’s pregnancies (and the beginnings of the two children we lost to miscarriage) I kept track with a special little book. They’re like journals to my unborn babies, capturing for them all the changes happening to my body and the exciting firsts; the first ultrasound, the first flutter of movement, the first time we heard their heartbeat. There are letters written carefully onto the pages – mostly revealing my excitement and longing to meet them. There are Bible verses and prayers, lists of things to be done in preparation, a birth plan (which didn’t go to plan!!), drawings and photos of me – my stomach more and more distended as the due date loomed.
These diaries continue beyond birth to note all significant milestones up to about four years of age.
“This book is all about you,” I say.
For the next half-hour, she sits on my knee, absolutely absorbed, as I show her how precious she was to us even though we didn’t meet her until she was nine months old. She is enthralled as I show her the ultrasound photos, pointing out her feet, her head, her nose. She asks question after question about her development in mummy’s tummy and beyond. She swoons over the pictures and photos – one even of my friend Madeline and I, both pregnant with little ones who are friends today.
That night, we did the same with Roman. They sat there side by side on the couch marvelling at their beginnings and chatting to each other about it.
“Thank you God!” my spirit sang. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see them grasping the fact that we loved them well before they were born.
This was a big step on their journey to knowing the value of life. We will continue building on it from here, but I know this was a significant moment for them.
A little while back I read of a woman, Michelle, who fell pregnant at the age of 18. Everything about her circumstances pointed her towards terminating the pregnancy. But she explains how the thought never crossed her mind. It was never an option. And that was because of two separate experiences as a child.
Firstly, aged seven, Michelle saw the intense grief of her mother when she had a miscarriage. Her mum was open with her daughter about what she was going through.
“My seven-year-old self was deeply impacted by my mother’s grief and it taught me that the loving connection to a child starts not when they are born but from the moment life is conceived.”
Secondly, aged nine, Michelle was flicking through channels on television when she stumbled across footage of a surgical abortion. Her child’s eyes saw the horror and injustice of the procedure, although no one was there to explain it.
“I had witnessed a life taken in the cruellest of ways. I saw a baby screaming in pain as the doctor removed it from its mother’s womb, limb by limb. I now realise that I saw the termination of a child at twelve to fourteen weeks gestation.”
I want my children to have that same ingrained understanding that life is precious. Or perhaps it’s this: I want them to never LOSE the understanding that life is precious. Because I believe we’re born with that. But what Michelle’s story taught me was the importance of being real and truthful with our children. It was integral that she saw her mum’s grief to understand that parents form a connection with their children long before they hold them in their arms. And it was important that she was exposed to some of the reality of what abortion is.
In time, I will do the same for my darlings. And so, the conversation continues.
*Feature photo by Doxa Visual