By Lindsay Steele
During the holidays, I observed a sweet moment between my son, Bradley, and his grandfather. We were at an Applebees, where I had ordered Bradley a kids’ meal of mac and cheese. But Bradley was much more interested in Grandpa’s French fries. He watched Grandpa dip the fries in ketchup, and Bradley promptly picked up a fry and did the same. Even through Bradley was guilty of “double dipping,” Grandpa didn’t mind, and together they finished off the order of fries. It warmed my heart, and I couldn’t help snapping a few pictures of the moment.
While it sounds trite to say, it’s a moment that never could have occurred without the selfless choice made by a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy roughly 60 years ago. With the 45th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision occurring Jan. 22, I find myself thankful that Bradley’s biological great-grandmother made the brave choice to carry her child to term and give a childless couple the chance to have a family through adoption.
It may be easy to think that women did not have choices prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. But pregnancy terminations did occur. In the 1950s, the National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that between 500,000 and 1.2 million abortions occurred annually.
Approximately 60 million abortions have occurred since the 1973 ruling, according to the Guttmacher Institute, though the abortion rate has fallen in recent years.
Several of my relatives have been faced with pregnancy amidst difficult circumstances. They had to put aside their fears to face a lot of unknowns but, in the end, made the decision they felt was best.
My aunt faced an unexpected pregnancy in young adulthood. The father did not want to be a parent. Ultimately, my aunt made the decision to give the child her last name and raise the child on her own. She met my uncle while her child was still in diapers. My uncle also said yes to parenthood by loving the child as his own. After marrying my aunt, he legally adopted my cousin.
One of my cousins faced a crisis pregnancy in high school and, together with her family, decided on a semi-open adoption. I think her decision affected her deeply for a long time, loving and missing her firstborn child. Even though he is now in his late teens, and she has two young daughters, she still thinks about him. They keep in touch, on his terms, and he recently supported my cousin at her dad’s funeral. Seeing what my cousin went through has given me a unique perspective on adoption and what an emotionally difficult decision that can be — for a lifetime. To me, she and all birth mothers demonstrate tremendous bravery and selflessness and are deserving of respect, no matter what struggles they may face before and after the baby’s birth.
My own parents were probably a little stressed when they became pregnant with me at the beginning of my dad’s final year of graduate school. They wanted a child; it just happened a little sooner than they expected. They had faith that everything would work out, one way or another. I don’t believe my dad slept much from February to May as he balanced fatherhood, work, school and student teaching. Somehow, they got through it and life slowed down a bit after my dad landed his first full-time teaching job.
I have never had to face an unplanned or ill-timed pregnancy, but I know it isn’t always easy to choose life. Watching my son Bradley double-dipping into Grandpa’s French fries, I’m grateful for relatives who made that courageous decision to choose life amidst very difficult circumstances.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)