She was 19 years old. He was 23. She was in college and working in a restaurant. He had a good job with benefits. They were engaged to be married, the wedding scheduled in about 10 months, and had begun marriage preparation with a priest. Exciting times, to be sure.
But they were afraid something was wrong. She hadn't been feeling well for a few weeks and missed quite a few classes. He loved her deeply. Always a worrier, he had serious concerns. So he convinced her to see the doctor.
"You're pregnant," the doctor told her.
In their wildest imagination, they never had considered that. His first thought was relief. It wasn't cancer or anything else life-threatening. Instead ... it was life! Exciting times, indeed.
Alas, not everyone reacts with excitement when an unmarried 19- and 23-year-old are going to have a child. Some shocked parents cry and scream. Some folks judge and gossip. Opinions fly among people in conversations. Advice comes, whether solicited or unsolicited. Surely all that and more happened to this young couple.
"You're too young to be parents. You have your whole life in front of you. Finish college first. Get to know each other better. Financially, you're not ready. Make sure your marriage will last. Travel and have fun first, because kids will end that. You have a choice, you know."
A choice. Yes, and many women have made a tragic choice. The year this couple learned they would be parents, a total of 1,333,521 legal abortions were performed in the United States. This couple never came close to making that 1,333,522 abortions.
Yet hearing all those worldly voices speaking about having a choice, one couldn't help but feel a twinge of temptation at least once or twice. There's nothing sinful about temptation. Even Jesus was tempted. "Get thee behind me, Satan!" the young man would say. "I'm going to be a daddy."
This couple was devoutly Catholic, so throughout their lives they had been exposed to the pro-life, anti-abortion message. Temptation lasted a split-second; there would be a baby, God-willing more babies after that. And those children would grow up believing in the sanctity of life as well.
That's because being pro-life permeated their entire lives, a way of looking at the world that included every innocent baby in a womb but stretched far beyond that. They were "pro-human beings." Protect life "from birth until natural death," says the Catholic Church. No abortion. No death penalty, either. No assisted suicide for someone with a fatal disease or for an elderly person who doesn't want to live any longer. No aggressive military action.
Being pro-life, to this couple, didn't mean just making sure that every fetus receives complete respect as a human being with a chance to live. It means to lovingly care for the women during their pregnancy, then tending to those women after they give birth. It means caring for those little boys and girls once they are born, too, and perhaps even moreso for those born into challenging circumstances: poverty, discrimination, poor health,or other special needs.
Pro-life means making sure all those children are educated equally, raised morally and respected religiously, that they have access to clean water, safety and adults who don't abuse them. And it means caring for the environment and earth in a way that lets future generations of children enjoy the same quality of life as past generations.
Being pro-life means allowing those babies to grow into free adults with work and homes that uphold dignity and the pursuit of happiness.
This couple had a baby girl the middle of the following year, and in one way or another they taught her all those things as she was growing up. When she was 22 and as yet unmarried, she heard those same words from her doctor: "You're pregnant." There was surprise, sure, and probably some tears. But there was no judging, no screaming, nothing other than respect and understanding and love ... and joy. Yes, there was great joy.
That year, the official number of legal abortions in the United States was 827,609. She never considered adding one to that total. She only considered life.
"Now that," someone once said, "is a future we can live with."
Eisenbath is a member of St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles. RELATED ARTICLE(S):Man of the House | A place to ‘kick back and be with God’