Today is my adopted daughter's first birthday. She was born at 7:02 in the morning. At 10:00 that fateful day, my wife and I received a call from our agency that a little girl was born three hours earlier, and if we could 'hit the ground running.'
Today, she toddles around the house, grasping her milk bottle, bonking things with it. A one year old is a marvelous human being, like no other: curious, funny, dramatic, flirtatious, self-aware -- relentless -- as relentless as the rhythms of life all around us, in the green of Spring. She will not be stopped, like the budding leaves outside her blue room on this sunny Spring day.
My wife and I adopted after many years of attempting to conceive, starting the old fashioned way, escalating to high tech. At a certain point, we were confronted with ratcheting-up the high tech conception machine, needing to be fed packs of money. We dithered at the machine's threshold, rationalizing. We decided against it, concluding that parenting was more important than casting our genes.
What followed was two and a half years of the adoption process, involving classes, forms, background checks, check-writing, and waiting in the desert. We waited a very long time; we got involved with a teenage birthmother, who eventually retracted her offer from us; we waited, and waited some more; and then, 10:00 on March 24th, 2004, the desert bloomed.
Recently, much has been written about the morality of abortion. I can tell you that in the past, I have essentially voted for abortion rights, and have yet to vote against them. But never have I done so with a clean conscience. Never with a sense of victory or righteousness. It was a rational vote, running against the grain of my soul.
Here's what I feel:
I look into the beautiful, smooth face of my budding girl, who chases dust bunnies down the hallway. I look into her eyes, and know that legally, she was an option. A choice. Her birthmother did not wish to raise her, or perhaps even love her -- but she let her live, for unknown reasons.
There is a peculiar gray zone in our culture. I have seen PBS documentaries showing the extraordinary efforts that medical science can make to save a fetus. As technology develops, the dateline of viability moves back further and further towards the point of conception. Another dateline -- the option to abort -- remains somewhere at the other end of pregnancy. Life and death decisions are made between those two rational lines. The reasons for aborting vary greatly, but the outcome is always the same: death, and tragedy.
I will have to admit that since adopting, my view on being 'pro-choice' has changed. Someone asked me about my position on abortion, and this was my post-adoption response:
"I am pro-choice. A baby can either be kept, or given to a worthy, loving family."
I will admit I am unclear on the legal aspects of abortion. Legal or illegal, abortions happen. They're tragic. They might be murder -- or at least the killing of a possibility. Secular and deist priests disagree, and cannot form consensus. And they never will. Somehow, faith trumps rationality in the abortion debate. People either have faith that a fetus is a glob of cells, no different from a cancer; or that it is a man or a woman in the rough, with sentience and a connection to the universe that is more important than our Earthly desires.
Annie Gottlieb of Ambivablog wrote in The AmbivAbortion Rant, Part II:
I would like to try an experiment. I want to try to find a way to talk about the value of a human life without automatically resorting to religious language. There are reasons to avoid abortion like the plague that neither contradict religious reasoning nor depend on it, and that may speak to people whose ears and minds close the moment they hear “God” and “child-killing,” because they fear that a much larger agenda lies in wait.I would counter Ms. Gottlieb's fair-minded attempt to extract religion from life with this challenge: Conceiving, gestating, birthing and raising human children is nothing short of a religious experience. It's anything but a rational, reasoned, scientific endeavor, resting upon facts and figures. What bothers me about our secular dystopia is that the flower of human existence -- our wonder, awe, spirituality, mystery, entrancement with the possibilities -- is so tragically snuffed out by our rational pursuits. The very core of our being is, well, being. There is no rationality in existing, or in living. Even the most unreligious among us exude an infectious mysticism and holiness when they give birth, if only for a scant few irrational moments.
Children are immensely impractical. They disrupt, they demand, they're expensive, they're loud, insistent and can be quite selfish. Even atheists define parenting in religious terms more than practical ones, betraying an undefined faith in fate and hope. Children connect us to the past and the future, and constantly challenge us to live as fully as they do. Every moment counts. Time cannot be wasted -- there's worms to be found in the backyard, and the skittering sound that the Autumn leaves make on the street. There's the smell of Papa's coffee in the morning, and the funny braids of the rag rug by the toy chest.
As the civilized world rationalizes away its own inheritors and successors, people should have to look into the eyes of my little girl, who has managed to stay on this Earth as her birthmother's option. In a world full of so much death and tragedy, gaze into my daughter's dark brown eyes -- you will be reaching into humanity's primordial core, the deepest of wells. It's hard not to fall into the spell her eyes cast, pulled between the sparkling possibilities of her future, and our eternal human past, so vast. Try looking into her eyes, and not feel religion.
Happy birthday, sweet daughter.