Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Misty Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Sexual Assault

The Right–and Wrong–Way to Talk about Rape

rapeA well-known Catholic blogger recently wrote about the connection between the dehumanizing mentality of the “hook-up” culture among youth and the high incidence of sexual assault. His point was sound-that we need to move beyond focusing on whether we just have “consent” to sexually use another person, and instead embrace the values of respect and commitment inherent to lifelong marriage.

But reading the hundreds of vitriolic comments following his article, one thing was clear: Few readers actually heard the blogger’s intended message. Most were outraged anyone could suggest women bring rape on themselves (not what the blogger said). Others insisted rape would be virtually non-existent if women just avoided risky situations (also not the blogger’s point). Women should have the right to walk through a doorless, all-male prison naked without being subject to so much as a catcall, said the first group. To the second group of folks, women need to have “common sense” and “take personal responsibility for themselves” by avoiding risky situations and behavior.

Both positions are wrong.

For decades, author Camille Paglia (a leftist, atheistic lesbian, by the way) has been vilified by secular feminists for proposing that women avoid situations that leave them more vulnerable to sexual assault. But Paglia has a point. We live in a broken, violent world. This fact, along with man’s proclivity for sin and his physical superiority over women, means that females will ALWAYS be at risk for rape. (I know that males can also be raped, but that’s another post.) I have four daughters; I would love nothing more than to live in a world where every man respects their inherent dignity. That world doesn’t exist, however, this side of the veil. And I don’t want my daughters to naively assume it does and suffer for it.

What I want my daughters to be is PRUDENT. Prudence is rightly called “The Mother of all Virtues” because it directs us to act wisely in pursuit of a good outcome. Prudence tells you it’s unwise to go to a party and drink so much that your judgment is impaired and you go home with a virtual stranger. Or to invite strangers you met online to your apartment. Prudence tells you it’s unwise to ditch your friends over a disagreement and hitchhike home at midnight. (It also tells you not to pick up hitchhikers.)

Prudence is that virtue that tries to keep us safe, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But prudence can only increase your chances of being safe; it can’t guarantee it. You can exercise great prudence and still have a bad outcome. You can prudently obey all traffic laws and still get into an accident. Or prudently spend your money and still go bankrupt from medical bills. You can prudently have just one drink, stay at home instead of going to a club, and only date men you’ve known for years–and you can still be raped.

This is a very important distinction and it bears repeating: prudence may increase your chances of staying safe, but it can’t guarantee it.

We need to teach our daughters to be prudent in their choices, because prudence will increase their chances of staying safe. But we also need to emphasize that they can make the most prudent choices about behavior and situations and STILL be a victim of sexual assault.

What we should NOT tell them is that they need to “take personal responsibility for themselves.” Such language is dangerous because it implies that a woman can fully control whether she’s a victim of sexual assault. That if she dresses modestly, doesn’t drink too much (or at all), and avoids strangers, then she won’t be raped. And that simply isn’t true. There’s absolutely no way to entirely safeguard against sexual assault in our broken world. If a woman can be raped by her own husband, in her own home, then we ought to recognize that sometimes, all the prudence in the world can’t prevent a woman from suffering sexual violence.

When a woman is taught to believe she can virtually eliminate her chances of being raped if she “takes responsibility” for her clothing, company, and circumstances, then she will only blame herself if she ends up being sexually assaulted anyway. Worse, everyone else will blame her, too. This blame can be unspoken, but the victim absolutely will feel that blame. She will feel it in the pointed questions from investigators about why she was at that club or out that late (if she can even suppress her shame to come forward). She will feel it in the subtle questions and comments from friends and family about how much she drank or what she was wearing or who she was with. She’ll feel it in the lack of support, as those around her privately judge her as someone who just wasn’t “responsible enough” to avoid the rape and withdraw from her when she suffers. And it will make this wounded soul feel violated all over again, to have the blame for her rape redirected back to herself instead of where it belongs: solely with the man who raped her.

Regardless of whether a woman acted prudently prior to being raped, she deserves nothing but unconditional support after she’s suffered sexual assault. It doesn’t matter if she actually did walk naked through a doorless, all-male prison and got raped—she’s a victim of violence, pure and simple, and we’re called to love her with NO judgment whatsoever of her behavior.

But until we change our mindset about sexual assault, and stop perpetuating the illusion that women can fully control whether they’re raped through good choices, we will continue to teach women to blame themselves. And women who blame themselves don’t report sexual assault, meaning they won’t have access to the resources and support they need to heal. It also means that a rapist will go unpunished and likely violate more of our sisters (or brothers). The “taking responsibility for yourself” mindset also leaves the rape victims who do come forward vulnerable to unfounded and painful judgment, which only compounds their suffering.

Let’s teach our daughters, then, to embrace the virtue of prudence. Let’s teach them to make decisions that will increase their chances of staying safe, but with the understanding that sexual assault can happen anyway. And that if it does, then they are NEVER to blame for the actions of another person, whether they were prudent or not. Perhaps just as importantly, let’s also agree never again to ask women to “take personal responsibility for themselves” to avoid sexual assault. Because no woman is ever responsible for being raped.  Ever.

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Leticia Parenting Respect Life Vocations

Where is the Cry to Ban Porn?

There are now two dead girls and one who is forever changed because they were gang raped by boys who then posted pictures and videos of those rapes online. Where is the outrage that politicians are giving to the gun debate?  Oh, right, porn isn’t on their agenda. It’s not even on their radar. Well, it’s on mine. And I’ll tell you why.

I was sexually abused as a small child. Most people know that about me. However, the part I rarely talk about are all the boys and men who followed, who took advantage of me because of that experience, using me for their own enjoyment.

I was used by man after man. Boys talked me into doing things that, had the Internet existed and our exploits gone public (as they so often do now), I would have been horrified for the world to see. It was bad enough that most  people in my town knew through gossip.

The reason I hate talking about the promiscuity that followed my sexual abuse is because I know I share the responsibility for that behavior. Yes, boys used me and talked me into things I didn’t want to do, but most of the time, I chose to let them.  Only once was I actually force into sex and even then, it wasn’t so much fighting an assault, but acquiescing to the man so it would be over as soon as possible.

So I know what these girls are going through. Yet there’s a huge difference in what happened to girls in my generation and what is happening to the girls of this one.  We didn’t have the Internet, cell phones with cameras, or even cell phones at all. I’m not sure we’d be alive today if we’d had. But there is one important similarity between the women of my generation and the girls today: both are plagued by fatherless homes and easy access to porn. The “boys will be boys” mentality probably plays as big a role today, too, in the acceptance of casual sex.

Whenever it’s suggested we need to examine our attitudes toward sex and porn, people balk at the idea because in our “me first!” culture, this could change how we have “fun.” We don’t want to think porn is wrong and contributes to sex being so abused in our culture. Because maybe then we’d have to face our own porn use…our own contribution to this problem.

Many kids (including mine) have seen their parents engaged in non-marital, intimate relationships. Go to a club on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see two crowds: the college kids and the “single mothers” who are there for “Ladies’ Night.” Sometimes the women are the same young age, but for the mothers at least, the fact that they are at a club means the kids are home with a babysitter. Nothing is wrong with Mom having fun with her friends once in a while. But when your kids see that Mom’s (or even Dad’s) life revolves around having romantic relationship after romantic relationship, that becomes normal for them. Children learn through example, after all. 

And while Mom is out clubbing, where is Dad? Not at home…not even in the family, most of the time. It’s fairly normal today for kids to be raised in fatherless households. I’d go further and say many kids really grow up parent-less, not just fatherless. Even when children are fortunate enough to live with two parents, the parents are often either glued to their phone or computer, working all the time, or chauffeuring the kids to a thousand activities. Being a parent is much more than that.

I didn’t always know this. I was a self-centered mom for most of my kids’ lives (and may still be, considering I just told my son, “I’ll talk to you about anything you want when I’m done writing my post!”). Parenting is about talking to kids and teaching/guiding them on how to make good decisions, holding them accountable when they make bad ones, and applauding them when they make good ones. Nowadays a lot of parents think that it means defending their kids against anyone who wants to hold them accountable for anything.

But even more damaging than kids receiving no guidance and not being held accountable for poor choices is the easy access to porn. Porn is a contributing factor in most sexual assaults, because kids today have 24/7 access to hardcore, violent porn. When my husband was a teen who wanted to look at porn, there was a whole set of hoops to jump through: getting someone to buy the magazine for him, the embarrassment in ASKING someone to buy it for him, and then finding a place to look at it. Today, there’s no shame at all attached to looking at porn, much less any difficulty in accessing it.

Before my conversion, I watched porn, all kinds of porn, and the stuff I’ve seen that kids can access for free on iPods shocked the hell out of me. Teens with raging hormones and access to that kind of violent porn will act out at some point. Many people–even those who watch porn regularly–don’t realize that rape is the most common plot in porn movies.

But most adults in our culture glorify or at least ignore the dangers of porn. At worst, it’s “No big deal for consenting adults.” But we’re forgetting our children learn to behave by watching the behavior of adults. If Dad “checks out” Kim  Kardashian, then teen boys are going to think it’s okay to do the same. If they find porn on their parents’ computers or phones, they’re going to Google how to get more on their iPods and own phones. Before long, they will want to live out these titillating scenes. And it doesn’t take much convincing for a group of boys to think it’s okay to imitate what they see in porn by raping a drunk girl.

Porn is everywhere, even in the grocery store aisle, folks. I opened a copy of Cosmo the other day for the first time in forever and holy moly…there were articles about sex clubs, orgies, girl-on-girl sex, and masturbation. The whole thing from cover to cover was sex, sex, and more sex. My 11-year old could buy that magazine.

Why do we wonder what is behind the epidemic of rape in our society? Isn’t it obvious?

As adults, we are the only ones who can help our children. Do we have what it takes to look at our lives and make the changes needed for the sake of our kids? I hope so, because if we don’t, there will be a lot worse things happening to our kids in the future. I wish our nation’s president was nearly as concerned with our youth’s access to porn as he is with their access to guns. As long as we’re banning things that harm our children, where is the cry to ban porn?

 

Categories
Abortion BirgitJ Current Events Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Respect Life Month Testimonials Vocations

When “I’m pro-life, except” really happens…

A B O R T I O N:

The rationalizations are many…

“Why have a baby born into a family who does not want ‘it’?”

“What about school/career?”

“Should we really force a woman to bear a child against her will?”

“What if the baby is deformed or not mentally ‘normal’?”

“Maybe the woman just can’t afford a child right now!”

“It’s not my place to make such an intimate decision for someone else.”

“I’m personally opposed to abortion, but…”

I’ve heard them all. As someone who was in high school when the infamous Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions were being discussed and then handed down, I have been transfixed by the topic for years.  The research that was required  for my first Social Studies debate on the topic, caught fire in my heart and soul and has been a burning flame of conviction ever since.  An otherwise timid public speaker, I could rattle off facts and arguments with fluid ease when pro-life issues were involved. Some of the rationalizations were very simple to dispute with developmental charts and biological facts. Others would tweak at the heart and seem difficult to counter – but were they?

“What about the rape/incest exception?”

 

Aha! Yep, that one makes folks a bit more squeamish. Would you really expect a woman to carry her attacker’s child? Well, in a word, ‘yes’! After all, why punish a child for his father’s crime? Wouldn’t that just create another victim? That child has committed no crime, has been convicted by no jury, and is given a death sentence through no fault of his own. But, but, but…

“Wouldn’t the woman’s life come to a screeching halt, 

with no chance of a future?”

In a nutshell, no! What makes me so sure about my answer? Well, my ‘ace in the hole’ response comes from a very personal story…

Sometime in the 70’s I found myself the recipient of unwanted advances by a neighborhood boy – I was barely 14 years old. Weeks later I would reluctantly tell my mother the facts of that encounter and she would surmise that my persistent bout of nausea wasn’t the flu after all. She would fall to the floor with the shock of it all and I would be forced to let go of the denial that had kept me halfway sane. The ensuing months were a blur and yet time stood still. My early high school career came to a screeching halt and was substituted with a ‘homebound’ teacher and an algebra tutor. Time, however, marched on and adjustments were made. This wasn’t an era of ‘baby mommas’ and ‘baby daddies’, this was a more sheltered time and after a while we began to attend Mass in a neighboring town.

Then early summer hit and with it ‘the time’. I remember the kind-faced nurse with the gold watch who held my hand – no visitors in the labor/delivery area were allowed then. She kept me somewhat calm by talking about mundane things – like my nice tan. The hours ticked by and the pain increased. There was a recurring little stream of tears at the corner of my eyes but I never called out. I just looked at that gold watch on the nurse’s arm.

Then there he was – a blue eyed bundle of around 7 pounds. They laid him in my lap and I timidly poked at him – counted the fingers and toes, because that’s what I’d heard you did, and then quickly bundled him up again. I felt more fear than joy – more spent than at peace. I don’t remember much more of the hospital stay but I do remember the early days of being back at home. My jeans fit again quickly and I hesitantly went outside for a walk on the sidewalk in front of our house. I looked ‘normal’ again but couldn’t quite get the idea of what had happened to make sense in my 14-year-old brain. The sun was still shining but somehow it didn’t sink its warmth into my skin.

Inside the house were my sisters and that little wooden cradle with ‘him’ in it. My parents had stepped up in support of us and decided to adopt the child and raise him as my brother. We were a family of firm Catholic faith and there could be no other option. They would add this child of mine to their brood even though my mother was 4 months pregnant at the time of his birth. He would soon have a little brother! The adoption papers were drawn up and there was no fuss or disagreement – after all I was still a minor. This plan was for the best – for all of us. Sacrifices were made in families every day – for the good of all – especially the smallest, weakest members. This was our Catholic faith in action!

The blue-eyed angel grew a full head of blonde hair and five months later his dark-eyed, black-haired ‘twin’ would become his sidekick. He always knew that I was ‘special’ and that he was adopted, even before he knew what that meant, because my parents wanted him to know the truth from the beginning.  ‘The Boys’, as we called them, would grow up together as brothers with a bond that grew stronger and matured with adulthood. Our little family of 7 lived an idyllic life in our small town and acceptance was regained from most. The whispers would always be there but we all grew accustomed to them and we circled the wagons around our family and our Catholic faith.

I returned to high school and met a young man during the summer of my sixteenth year. He was someone my mother trusted and the first one I dated. We became quite the pair and were soon ‘going’ steady. Another reminder of that time would come when we parked in a quiet meadow and I told him my story. He had heard the murmurs but I needed to tell him myself – that it wasn’t quite the way it was portrayed in some circles. To my surprise and joy he accepted my tale with a loving calm! He was not in tune with the naysayers, his heart was his own – and mine!

We married the Thanksgiving weekend of my senior year, with the blessing of our parish priest. Our high school courtship had remained a chaste one – by our mutual agreement. After our wedding we approached my parents and asked if we could adopt the little one – now three years old – ourselves. My mother’s answer was an unequivocal ‘NO’!  She explained that he was now her baby and she simply could not give him up. We did, however, have ‘The Boys’ over quite a bit. They were our ‘practice kids’ in those early years.

That fall, after having graduated from high school, I began my college life. Although my scholarships were rescinded when I married, I gained 24 credit hours by taking the CLEP test. I remained on track to graduate on time. In what seemed like no time at all I found myself in my senior year of college – and I was also pregnant with our first child! Our son was born before I walked the stage to receive my diploma.

Since that time many things have happened. After graduation with a BA in Art my various jobs have included Art Teacher, Office Manager and Catholic Book Store Manager as well as a Field Representative for a pro-life US Congressman. In the pro-life realm I have been an Executive Director of Right to Life of Owensboro (twice), served as Newsletter Editor and Board Member of several pro-life groups,. My life has been full and fulfilling. I tell you these things, not to brag about my credentials, but to enforce the point that your life is never over – no matter what cards you are dealt.

During our 36 years of marriage, my husband and I have had three children and married off two of them. We have welcomed 5 grandchildren – gifts from their happy marriages. The two children born to my ‘special brother’ and his wife, round out our total of seven grandchildren. They are all 7 years old and younger. I am Godmother to all seven of these angels and we are quite the tight-knit bunch. Life prevailed and has come full circle. Contrary to being ‘ruined’, I can honestly say that my 54 years on this earth have truly been blessed!

NOTE:  When he was sixteen years old, I went for a drive with my ‘special’ brother. As we sat in an empty church parking lot, I filled him in on the grim details of his origin. I had, of course, gotten ‘our’ mother’s blessing. He had a right to know but it needed to be the right time for him. We talked and exchanged thoughts of Our Story. Our relationship had remained strong throughout the years and that would never change. We just needed to ebb and flow in our own time.
+   +  +
Fast-forward to a few days ago we discussed my idea of publicly telling Our Story . Of course the folks in our hometown know some version or another of the story and a few people currently in our lives know the details as well. I’ve also shared Our Story with frightened, pregnant girls and their mothers. I’ve shared it with intimate friends and fellow pro-life warriors. But it’s not mine alone to publicly tell. However, we are comfortable with each other and I knew he would honestly tell me how he felt. His answer was as straightforward as he, himself, is. He said, ‘’it’s Our Story and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Tell it like it is.’’
~
We are quite the pair – praise God!

::This story first posted on October 8, 2011 – it was *so* good, we just had to repost it!::

Categories
Abortion BirgitJ Catechism Current Events Doctrine Ink Slingers Respect Life

The Trauma and Pain of Abortion after Rape

Much has been made of recent remarks about abortion and rape by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin. From President Obama to his opponent to the Democrat establishment, Akin is being vilified. He certainly could have voiced his sentiments with more tact, but the demonizing he is undergoing is disingenuous. For the record, let’s look at the offending quote without the accompanying scandal mongering.

“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, if it’s a legitimate rape, that’s really rare.  The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said. “The punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not in attacking the child.”

Some of the furor seems to be over Akin’s reference to “legitimate” rape. As police officers know, many reported rapes are later discovered to be false reports, while the real rapes go unreported. Akin didn’t need to differentiate between the two, but his underlying message remains intact. In fact, his last line conveys it quite well.

“The punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not in attacking the child.”

Yet there seems to be an ongoing campaign when it comes to this facet of the only genuine pro-life philosophy – the one with no exceptions. When this topic is discussed there is usually a very quick about-face and the conversation is side-tracked in a completely different direction. This time the red herring is the way the sentiment was stated. Most times the focus is also deflected away from one of the victims – the child! It’s a given that what happens to the woman is an irreparable violation of the very core of her being, yet she is not the only focus. When a child is the product of rape, two victims emerge.

As someone who has experienced the very situation of which Akin is speaking, I feel more than competent to weigh in with my own take. Some months back I shared my story, for the first time after almost 40 years, and it was both frightening and cathartic. Fortunately, my child lived and I have been immeasurably blessed because of it. While no one has the right to question or dismiss a victim of rape, we do need to consider both mother and child. As attorney Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived from rape, states,

“The Supreme Court has said that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment for rapists and that rapists don’t deserve the death penalty. I don’t think the innocent child conceived in rape deserves the death penalty for the crimes of her father.  It seems to me that is cruel and unusual punishment”.

There is also a second victimization thrust at the woman should she conceive as a result of assault – abortion. The woman has already suffered tragically. That she should undergo another violation, just as permanent, is an unspeakably depraved suggestion. And it comes at a time when she is the most vulnerable. Killing the child within her womb will not erase the assault. In fact, it will compound her victimization. She will mourn for her child long after that child would have breathed and lived. Instead of healing, the woman will have been violated again. This fact will remain with her for a lifetime. Women who have experienced the trauma of abortion, without the violation of rape, are unable to forget. As this woman found, who aborted after becoming pregnant with her rapist’s child, it is actually much worse to live with the compounded trauma of rape AND abortion.

The crux of the true issue lies in the intent of many of those who exhibit the most outrage about this issue. They aren’t exactly known for their sympathy for the plight of women embroiled in an unplanned pregnancy. Their choice is a one way street; their support lasts only as far as the Planned Parenthood doorway. This same crowd shows no compassion for a baby girl who is aborted because of her gender. There is no emotional support to be found for the mother who finds herself in a crisis. That Planned Parenthood facilitates statutory rape of young girls with mature partners isn’t met with moral indignation. They hide behind the false shield of ‘privacy’ and fail to live up to the legal requirement to report this crime. The rights of the parents of a minor girl are also sidestepped and their vain glory comes from ‘beating the system’ and counting their thirty pieces of silver. After all, a major source of their income comes from peddling the death of babies.

Often too, the inclusion of rape/incest is a tool for getting a pro-abortion “foot in the door.” Studies show that conception by rape is a statistically low occurrence – all one time sexual contact has a conception rate of 5% or less. In truth, the vast majority of abortions have no medical basis at all. They are performed electively, often as a means of backup birth control. Abortion proponents know that using victims of rape who have conceived will make a better story to sell abortion-on-demand. Not even those who believe in the right to abortion want to admit that abortion has become a standard for the weakest of reasons or no reason at all. This, too, serves to again victimize those women who conceive from assault, as they are shamelessly used to tug at heartstrings to sell a destructive procedure to the masses.

Honesty and a clear understanding of motivating factors should be openly disclosed. True choice is about having more than one option. In a moral society, life surpasses all other goals. Life reigns supreme among our inalienable rights. Manipulating words and news reports does a disservice to society as a whole. We need more honest dialogue. Even if we don’t agree on the bottom line, I beseech the pro-choice folks to at least employ honest words and not slogans filled with misleading insinuations. In the mean time, we must educate ourselves and then proclaim the truth clearly and often. Don’t allow your silence to be the death knell for a helpless victim of circumstance. We must love them both–mother and child.  Let them live. Let them heal. And let both sides, who insist they care, show true compassion to women who suffer the horror of rape.

 “For Pope Benedict, laypeople and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their Catholic faith to be apostates; they simply need to be silent when their baptism demands that they speak out, to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage.” ~Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Denver

Categories
Abortion Apologetics BirgitJ Current Events Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Respect Life Month Testimonials

When “I’m pro-life, except” really happens…

A B O R T I O N:

The rationalizations are many…

“Why have a baby born into a family who does not want ‘it’?”

“What about school/career?”

“Should we really force a woman to bear a child against her will?”

“What if the baby is deformed or not mentally ‘normal’?”

“Maybe the woman just can’t afford a child right now!”

“It’s not my place to make such an intimate decision for someone else.”

“I’m personally opposed to abortion, but…”

I’ve heard them all. As someone who was in high school when the infamous Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions were being discussed and then handed down, I have been transfixed by the topic for years.  The research that was required  for my first Social Studies debate on the topic, caught fire in my heart and soul and has been a burning flame of conviction ever since.  An otherwise timid public speaker, I could rattle off facts and arguments with fluid ease when pro-life issues were involved. Some of the rationalizations were very simple to dispute with developmental charts and biological facts. Others would tweak at the heart and seem difficult to counter – but were they?

“What about the rape/incest exception?”

 

Aha! Yep, that one makes folks a bit more squeamish. Would you really expect a woman to carry her attacker’s child? Well, in a word, ‘yes’! After all, why punish a child for his father’s crime? Wouldn’t that just create another victim? That child has committed no crime, has been convicted by no jury, and is given a death sentence through no fault of his own. But, but, but…

“Wouldn’t the woman’s life come to a screeching halt, 

with no chance of a future?”

In a nutshell, no! What makes me so sure about my answer? Well, my ‘ace in the hole’ response comes from a very personal story…

Sometime in the 70’s I found myself the recipient of unwanted advances by a neighborhood boy – I was barely 14 years old. Weeks later I would reluctantly tell my mother the facts of that encounter and she would surmise that my persistent bout of nausea wasn’t the flu after all. She would fall to the floor with the shock of it all and I would be forced to let go of the denial that had kept me halfway sane. The ensuing months were a blur and yet time stood still. My early high school career came to a screeching halt and was substituted with a ‘homebound’ teacher and an algebra tutor. Time, however, marched on and adjustments were made. This wasn’t an era of ‘baby mommas’ and ‘baby daddies’, this was a more sheltered time and after a while we began to attend Mass in a neighboring town.

Then early summer hit and with it ‘the time’. I remember the kind-faced nurse with the gold watch who held my hand – no visitors in the labor/delivery area were allowed then. She kept me somewhat calm by talking about mundane things – like my nice tan. The hours ticked by and the pain increased. There was a recurring little stream of tears at the corner of my eyes but I never called out. I just looked at that gold watch on the nurse’s arm.

Then there he was – a blue eyed bundle of around 7 pounds. They laid him in my lap and I timidly poked at him – counted the fingers and toes, because that’s what I’d heard you did, and then quickly bundled him up again. I felt more fear than joy – more spent than at peace. I don’t remember much more of the hospital stay but I do remember the early days of being back at home. My jeans fit again quickly and I hesitantly went outside for a walk on the sidewalk in front of our house. I looked ‘normal’ again but couldn’t quite get the idea of what had happened to make sense in my 14-year-old brain. The sun was still shining but somehow it didn’t sink its warmth into my skin.

Inside the house were my sisters and that little wooden cradle with ‘him’ in it. My parents had stepped up in support of us and decided to adopt the child and raise him as my brother. We were a family of firm Catholic faith and there could be no other option. They would add this child of mine to their brood even though my mother was 4 months pregnant at the time of his birth. He would soon have a little brother! The adoption papers were drawn up and there was no fuss or disagreement – after all I was still a minor. This plan was for the best – for all of us. Sacrifices were made in families every day – for the good of all – especially the smallest, weakest members. This was our Catholic faith in action!

The blue-eyed angel grew a full head of blonde hair and five months later his dark-eyed, black-haired ‘twin’ would become his sidekick. He always knew that I was ‘special’ and that he was adopted, even before he knew what that meant, because my parents wanted him to know the truth from the beginning.  ‘The Boys’, as we called them, would grow up together as brothers with a bond that grew stronger and matured with adulthood. Our little family of 7 lived an idyllic life in our small town and acceptance was regained from most. The whispers would always be there but we all grew accustomed to them and we circled the wagons around our family and our Catholic faith.

I returned to high school and met a young man during the summer of my sixteenth year. He was someone my mother trusted and the first one I dated. We became quite the pair and were soon ‘going’ steady. Another reminder of that time would come when we parked in a quiet meadow and I told him my story. He had heard the murmurs but I needed to tell him myself – that it wasn’t quite the way it was portrayed in some circles. To my surprise and joy he accepted my tale with a loving calm! He was not in tune with the naysayers, his heart was his own – and mine!

We married the Thanksgiving weekend of my senior year, with the blessing of our parish priest. Our high school courtship had remained a chaste one – by our mutual agreement. After our wedding we approached my parents and asked if we could adopt the little one – now three years old – ourselves. My mother’s answer was an unequivocal ‘NO’!  She explained that he was now her baby and she simply could not give him up. We did, however, have ‘The Boys’ over quite a bit. They were our ‘practice kids’ in those early years.

That fall, after having graduated from high school, I began my college life. Although my scholarships were rescinded when I married, I gained 24 credit hours by taking the CLEP test. I remained on track to graduate on time. In what seemed like no time at all I found myself in my senior year of college – and I was also pregnant with our first child! Our son was born before I walked the stage to receive my diploma.

Since that time many things have happened. After graduation with a BA in Art my various jobs have included Art Teacher, Office Manager and Catholic Book Store Manager as well as a Field Representative for a pro-life US Congressman. In the pro-life realm I have been an Executive Director of Right to Life of Owensboro (twice), served as Newsletter Editor and Board Member of several pro-life groups,. My life has been full and fulfilling. I tell you these things, not to brag about my credentials, but to enforce the point that your life is never over – no matter what cards you are dealt.

During our 36 years of marriage, my husband and I have had three children and married off two of them. We have welcomed 5 grandchildren – gifts from their happy marriages. The two children born to my ‘special brother’ and his wife, round out our total of seven grandchildren. They are all 7 years old and younger. I am Godmother to all seven of these angels and we are quite the tight-knit bunch. Life prevailed and has come full circle. Contrary to being ‘ruined’, I can honestly say that my 54 years on this earth have truly been blessed!

NOTE:  When he was sixteen years old, I went for a drive with my ‘special’ brother. As we sat in an empty church parking lot, I filled him in on the grim details of his origin. I had, of course, gotten ‘our’ mother’s blessing. He had a right to know but it needed to be the right time for him. We talked and exchanged thoughts of Our Story. Our relationship had remained strong throughout the years and that would never change. We just needed to ebb and flow in our own time.
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Fast-forward to a few days ago we discussed my idea of publicly telling Our Story . Of course the folks in our hometown know some version or another of the story and a few people currently in our lives know the details as well. I’ve also shared Our Story with frightened, pregnant girls and their mothers. I’ve shared it with intimate friends and fellow pro-life warriors. But it’s not mine alone to publicly tell. However, we are comfortable with each other and I knew he would honestly tell me how he felt. His answer was as straightforward as he, himself, is. He said, ‘’it’s Our Story and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Tell it like it is.’’
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We are quite the pair – praise God!