This post has been inspired by things that are currently constantly flooding my Facebook newsfeed.
First off, let me promise you that this is not a debate about abortion. This is not a debate about politics. This is not going to be a post that ends with me asking you not to post pictures because of how it affects me personally, or me asking you not to practice your right to the freedom of speech. I would instead like to have a discussion with you about how we might go about speaking to each other in mature, open-minded ways, in order to better understand each other’s differing opinions, rather than furthering the ever expanding divide that seems to be spreading through us, influenced by our differing opinions. The apparent hatred and divide that is sweeping across our nation, portrayed primarily on social media, is heart-breaking, preventable, unnecessary, and does nothing but bring more negativity into a world that desperately needs the opposite.
My presentation of the concepts I would like to discuss may take a moment to flesh out, so please bear with me. I will be illustrating my point using an example of an issue dear to my heart, which is simultaneously very present in the current media.
I recently scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, and was completely shocked as I was bombarded with horrifically graphic images, memes, claimed “articles” and so on regarding the issue of full-term abortion. One particular picture did me in. The picture was horrific. Graphic. Disgusting, disturbing, and brought forth a flood of emotions that really can’t be put into words. The post I saw was promoting a particular presidential candidate, and saying hateful things about the other presidential candidate. It ended with something along the lines of “if you vote for this candidate, you have no heart.” I immediately blocked it and spent the next hour trying to get my heartrate under control. I won’t show it to you, I won’t describe it to you, but just know that the depth of emotion that it brought up inside of me was enough for me to haven been rolling it over in my mind time and time again for what has now turned into weeks. I later went back to that post, and skimmed over the dozens and dozens of comments, which were nothing more than a heated debate involving people slewing “facts” at each other, the majority of which were from dubious sources. The lack of respect, lack of desire of understanding from each other, and the lack of simple regard for how words might be affecting others was, to put it simply, just very sad.
Again, I promise this is not going to be me discussing politics or my stance on abortion.
This is a plea, on behalf of a momma with a very hurting heart, on behalf of someone who would love to have a real, honest, open conversation about sensitive issues, and on behalf of so many others out there who want you to know and understand what those kinds of images do to our hearts, to please consider your words and their potential.
Honestly, this is a plea, from the bottom of my heart, for all of us to start open and honest conversations about hard issues, and maybe, just maybe, say a few less hateful things to our fellow humans.
For the remainder of this post, I’d love to consider us friends, out on a coffee date, on a hike, or at our favorite sushi restaurant. Will you be my friend for the next 7 minutes?
Friend, let’s have a real conversation about a topic that is very hard to talk about.
I will not lie to you. The image that appeared on my newsfeed elicited so many emotions because I just lost my daughter in May. A full term little girl, who had been diagnosed with a condition incompatible with life. A very, very wanted life, tragically taken from us. Obviously I am very sensitive to anything even remotely related to various subjects surrounding babies, loss, etc. I will not pretend that I am not emotionally invested in this discussion. However, I would like to approach it from a different perspective. Not a perspective of right or wrong, he said she said, vote this not that. I would like to present to you a perspective of, please, let’s learn to talk about this nicely.
I am part of several Facebook groups of moms and dads who have lost little ones. One is a group that chose to carry their little one full term despite a fatal diagnosis. The other is for parents who had a child diagnosed with Anencephaly (what my daughter had). I have had the honor of hearing their stories, meeting them virtually, learning from them, grieving with them, seeing pictures of their little ones, and have gained so much perspective from being part of this “loss momma” community. Something I have learned, is that everyone’s story is different. Everyone has been faced with similar decisions, as well as very different decisions. Everyone’s support systems are different. Religious beliefs are different. Grieving processes are different. Everyone has a story. A unique story. A story that is theirs. But every story ends the same way. We all lost our child.
Everyone in those groups is a loss momma or a loss daddy, or is about to become one.
Due to current world issues, the discussion of full-term abortion has come up frequently in these Facebook groups. And do you know how it usually comes up? Something along the lines of “a good friend of mine posted this article, and it broke my heart. Because she/he has no idea what it is like to make those decisions. The article essentially told me I am a horrible person, that I did the wrong thing, and that I will pay for what I’ve done.” Now, I hope no one would ever go up to someone and actually say that. Although, based on things that have been said to me, to my face, in front of groups of people, I really don’t put it past people to do/say things like that. But it is so easy to put it on social medial. It is so easy to post something and start a hateful debate, not open for reasonable conversation, and ultimately not care about what other people think or say. Or how it might break their heart.
Friend, let me walk you through the basics of the decision making process when there is a terminal diagnosis. First, you’ve just been given the most devastating news of your life, you are in shock, you can’t speak or think, and then your options are given to you. Terminate pregnancy (this essentially means induce labor), a medical procedure that stops your baby’s heart and your baby is removed in pieces while you are under anesthesia, or carry your baby as long as there is still a heartbeat. Those were the three decisions my husband and I were given. I am so fortunate to have had a doctor that kindly presented our options, did not try to persuade us one way or the other, and supported our decision 100%. Not everyone has that kind of support from their doctor.
I’ve virtually met mommas who had much more complicated decisions. I was told my little girl may or may not make it full term, but chances were good that she would. It posed no health risks for myself to continue to carry her. I heard the story of a momma whose little one had a brain tumor that was growing so quickly, if she chose to carry full term, the process of birth and delivery would have been horrific, for the mother and the child. It would have involved surgeries and the baby would have likely not been able to be delivered in one piece. The tumor would far outgrow the child. The child would be in great amounts of pain throughout much of the pregnancy. That mother was faced with decisions far more complicated than I can imagine.
I’ve hear stories of mommas who so desperately want to meet their baby alive, but there is no way to determine how long they will survive in the womb based on their baby’s diagnosis. These mommas don’t know how to decide when to induce labor (just imagine, choosing the day your child will die….process that for one moment), or to let “nature take its course” and never meet their little one while their heart is still beating.
These decisions are the basics of what many moms and dads are faced with. These are the ones that they are willing to talk about. These are so many more, so many that are so much more complicated. Regardless of religious views on the matter, pro-life or pro-choice, decisions where there is no black or white line, no handbook, no religious manual, decisions are made where no choice is easy.
Now imagine a scarred, broken-hearted momma, making those choices. Trying to choose the right thing, but having no idea what the “right” thing is. How do you choose the “right” thing when the reality is there is nothing “right” about the situation you find yourself in?
My friend, now imagine her scrolling through Facebook this last month, and seeing opinionated, uninformed, harsh words, name-calling, accusations, and graphic images, of things surrounding such a heart-wrenching issue. And that “issue” is the life of her child that she so desperately wants, but a life that is being or has been ripped from her arms.
I am not just talking about myself here. I am talking about hundreds and thousands of moms and dads across the world.
Friend, you do not know the agony in the hearts of those who have made those choices, unless you yourself have made those choices. You do not know the potential regret of those who wish they had chosen differently in those moments of carrying their little one. You do not know their story.
If we don’t know their story, do we really have any right to use hateful language, to point fingers, to say what they did was right or wrong, or to post horrifically graphic images that might stir up emotions inside of them that could completely incapacitate them? Yes, you have that right. You have the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression. There is nothing to say that you can’t do that.
And this is where I make my plea.
Friend, regardless of where you stand on the issue, regardless of your motivation behind posting those articles, behind calling names, pointing fingers, posting pictures…regardless of any of that. Please. Please, take a moment, and consider how you might be affecting someone. Consider the power of what you are about to do, and the magnitude of how it could impact someone. Before you post it, take a loss momma or loss daddy out for coffee, and hear their story.
You may have the purest of pure intentions with your words, posts, or pictures. But the reality of it is that I rarely, rarely, see mature, responsible, informed discussions about any topic like this. It nearly always resorts to the opposite of love and kindness. It does not result in humans wanting to know each other’s stories and learn from each other. And that breaks my heart. Because friend, we have so much tolearn from each other.
I don’t want to change your mind on any issues. I don’t want to persuade you to vote one way or another. I don’t want to debate, argue, or point fingers.
But what I do want, what I so desperately want, is for us to start having conversations with each other about these issues, so that we can understand each other just a little bit better. If you are pro full-term abortion, I would love to sit down and have a conversation with you so I can understand why, so I can hear your story. If you believe that no mother should ever decide when her little one’s heart stops beating, I’d love to sit down and have a conversation with you so I can understand why, so I can hear your story. If you simply want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic, I’d love to sit down and have a chat with you, answer your questions as best I can, and hear where you are coming from. I would love to learn from you.
That, those conversations, is how we are going to lessen what appears to be our ever growing ignorance, and learn how to love and support each other despite our differences in beliefs.
I used this particular issue as an example because it is currently dominating my newsfeed, and it is an issue dear to my heart. These concepts of having healthy conversations should be transferred into every aspect of our lives. Politics, religion, sexuality, gender identity, food allergies, animal rights, you name it. Anything. Big or small, maybe putting aside our aggressiveness and approaching any and all topics with a desire to know more about where others are coming from would result in just a little bit more and love and kindness in the world.
Please, my friend. Can we please behave as civilized, adult, human beings, and act with a little more love and kindness towards each other? Instead of saying or posting emotionally charged words, let’s have an open-minded, informed, healthy conversation. What’s the worst that could happen? Heaven forbid, we might walk away with different opinions, but having understood the other person just a little bit more than we did before. That’d just be terrible.
Friend, let’s make a pact. Let’s make a pact to practice our freedom of speech and expression in a way that honors the fact that we have those freedoms. Let us take advantage of the fact that we are allowed to have our own thoughts and opinions, just the same as everyone else is allowed to have their own thoughts and opinions. Let’s take advantage of that and learn from each other. Let’s disagree with each other in a civilized manner, where we can walk away after a hug or handshake, and still want to see each other the next day. Let’s use our freedoms to inform, learn, grow, and support each other.
Go have a conversation with someone who believes differently than you. Go hear the story of someone who has had to make a difficult decision, listen to what they have to say, and give them a hug, and simply say “I am so sorry you ever had to make that decision.” You will never know how far those simple words will go.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand more times…
Love and kindness. It really is that simple.
Thank you, friend, for sitting here with me right now, and listening to what I have to say. Now, I would love to hear what you have to say.