Miscarriage: The Pro-Life Movement’s Inconsistency

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Has the pro-life movement fully embraced what it espouses? This is a question I am left pondering in the wake of my most recent miscarriage. I have sensed for some time that there is indeed serious cognitive dissonance going on within the movement of which I am a member. My miscarriages have taught me that while we preach to the world that a child is  murdered through abortion, we do not fully live that message in our response to families who have experienced a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage.

As we pray in front of Planned Parenthood, we are so sure that a child is being torn apart, limb-from-limb with each abortion. We even believe this about a child aborted at 7 weeks, which was the age of my child who died a week ago in a miscarriage. Our hearts ache, we grieve, we pray fervently. I know from personal experience that surgical abortion day is truly tragic. It is not only heart-breaking because a child has been murdered, but it is painful to watch these women stagger out of the clinic. I have watched women unable to get home, who were either too sick, hopped up on medications, or too emotional to leave. I can’t approach them or offer them comfort lest I be arrested, although, the compulsion has occurred more than once in me. There may come a day when I say “the hell with it” and walk over to check on those women regardless of the consequences. This desire grows in me after each of my losses. They may not know that they have killed their own child, but I do, and the denial of their motherhood will have long term consequences. I weep for them and greatly desire to console them.

I have never questioned, even before I lost a child in miscarriage, that a child dies in an abortion or miscarriage no matter the gestational age. When I found out that I had lost my daughter’s twin, I mourned the loss of a child. With my third miscarriage the child died days after conception, and yet, I knew that I had lost my child and I grieved as one who has lost a child. My grief has compounded over the years as I have now lost four babies.

So what is the disconnect I see? People within the movement far too often do not show the same care, concern, or understanding of those families who have lost a child to miscarriage as they do to an abortion. Now it is understandable that abortion is truly horrendous and it is the great moral and human rights issue of our day. There is no doubt of this fact, but a miscarriage is also the loss of a child. Why is it then that rather than allow or encourage the grieving process we tell people who have suffered miscarriages some of the following: You can always have another child (can I really?!), they are in a better place, how disappointing for you (I just experienced this one), something was clearly wrong with the child, a miscarriage is just a hiccup on the road to parenthood, and the list goes on and on. If we truly believe what we say, then why are we treating families grieving a miscarriage in this manner?

Life is sacred. All human life is worthy of great dignity because all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. The image is no less at the moment of conception when full potentiality has entered the human being or in a person who is 107 years old. When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, she isn’t rejoicing over tissue. We constantly state this argument to the pro-choice side, and yet, we don’t fully embrace it ourselves. If we truly understood these words then we would be grieving with miscarried families. We would be reaching out to them with support and resources and we would be learning from their experiences.

The available resources are sparse. I’ve looked and only recently has miscarriage become a more open topic of discussion in social media. We should be recognizing that they, that I, have lost a child or children. We certainly should not tell them that they can always have another child or that a miscarriage is disappointing. A miscarriage is agony and comes with profound grief. While we all grieve differently, a person who truly understands when life begins, knows they have lost a child in a miscarriage. A child they will never hold.  Would we go to a funeral and tell someone that the loss of their loved one is a great disappointment?

The reality is that many times we are not fully aware of the philosophies within our culture that influence us. It took me taking an entire graduate course that focused on the philosophy of nihilism for me to understand how I too have been shaped by false philosophies. The advent of medical technology in the area of fertility and sexuality has completely reshaped how our culture understands children. Even within the pro-life movement, the lie that we are in control of our own fertility is believed. This blog post is not meant to address the contraceptive mentality, but that is an issue I plan to address at a later date. While it may not be intended, this influence is betrayed in words which imply that a family can control whether or not they have a child or more children. We do not know if we can have more children, if any. It isn’t up to us, it is up to God. This erroneous thinking is largely subconscious and unintended, but it can do damage to those who are suffering from the real pain of miscarriage and infertility.

Tied to the on demand fertility of our culture, is the belief that each pregnancy is a part of the journey to having a child. In some cases the desire to become a parent supersedes everything else and miscarried babies are disposed of and not even recognized as lost children. They are dehumanized. This understanding that miscarriage is a part of the process points to a disconnect within a movement that argues the sacred nature of all unborn children in the case of abortion. This is precisely why implying that the loss of a child in miscarriage is merely a disappointment betrays the errors of our culture. Pregnancy is not a trial and error presupposition. I do not get pregnant as if I am playing Russian roulette. I get pregnant in the belief that I will give birth to each unique child I carry. My immediate response to a pregnancy test is one of love. When that child dies, no matter what age, the loss is devastating precisely because it is the death of a child. I am not test driving a car. I am a co-creator in an “embodied spirit.” Each unique baby is a gift and many of us can forget this fact, even if we do not mean to forget.

When an individual said that I must be disappointed in my loss, I was taken aback. Disappointed is not a word I would use to describe my emotional state at the moment. I didn’t just lose my job or the house of my dreams. I lost my fourth child. The bleeding of this miscarriage has only begun to let up. Grief-stricken, agonized, in anguish, angry, sorrowful, suffering, these are words that describe how I feel right now. I am not disappointed. I am suffering tremendously from the loss of my fourth child. And, no, it does not appear that I can just have another child. While I know this person meant well, it is crucial for us to understand that words matter. If we want to win this fight and end abortion, then we need to truly live the pro-life message. We need to celebrate each human life as sacred and discard any part of the “throw away” culture or erroneous philosophies which may have infected us. We need to stop telling people that they can always have more children, that a miscarriage is only a stumbling block on the road to parenthood, or that parents who have lost children in miscarriage should not grieve as if they lost a child. These are all lies. They are lies that we have mistakenly taken on from the culture of death.

I understand and I have learned that people do not know how to respond to grief. It’s awkward for people, which I understand to a point; however,  if we are truly going to bring a Culture of Life to the world then we need to stop ignoring the very real grief families suffer from with miscarriage. We need to stop using accolades and partial truths in response to their pain, to my pain. After four miscarriages, I pray at Planned Parenthood precisely because I understand, better than most, a child is being lost, as well as motherhood. A mother who has miscarried understands abortion in a completely different light. No, we don’t know the trauma and horror of abortion, but we certainly know what it is like to bleed out our beloved child. We know intimately that life begins at conception. We know it in our very being.

Compassion for the grieving goes a long way. Movement towards the grieving and tangible support can in some way lessen the burden of grief. We cannot take away another’s suffering, but we can walk alongside those suffering from miscarriage. I have learned from relief work during the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history, as well as in my own suffering, that the grieving are not looking for great gestures, profound thoughts or answers, or for someone to fix their pain. The grieving only desire a recognition of their pain and the understanding that it is warranted.  They are looking for a human response from the people around them. “I am sorry for your loss” is enough, because, quite frankly, it is all that can be said. This type of response recognizes the child lost and does not minimize or dehumanize the unborn child. In the case of miscarriage, people are also looking for guidance. They need to know how to respond to a miscarriage, especially Catholics. There is no reason why the pro-life movement cannot devote some time and effort into resources and ministries for those bereaved by miscarriage.

The pro-life movement cannot be fully effective while ignoring its members and countless families who have experienced miscarriage. We cannot continue to treat miscarriage like an “unfortunate” event. This type of approach is patronizing and insensitive and it is completely contradictory to the arguments, the true arguments, we use to fight abortion. It flies in the face of the very mission we have all signed up for, which is the protection of children, women, and men. It is incoherent to fight abortion in one breath while remaining silent or responding hardheartedly to the pain of miscarriage. Either life begins at conception or it does not. We don’t get to hold onto abortion as a great horror while ignoring the anguish of miscarriage. Both result in the tragic loss of a child. The pro-life movement needs to fully embrace the message found in the Culture of Life and that means responding to the great sorrow of families grieving the loss of a child to miscarriage. If life does begin at conception, which it does, then miscarriage should be recognized as the great tragedy it is, which is the loss of a child that comes with profound grief.

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8 Articles/Blogs to Help You on the Spiritual Journey Oct 5-11

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I am going to start a new weekly update on my blog of articles or blogs I see that will help you on the journey to holiness. I have noticed that a lot of the places that collect Catholic blogs and articles focus on news and politics. I think there is a need for Catholic writers to also focus on the mission, which is a life of holiness and evangelization. There are many wonderful articles available each week, if you look, that provide spiritual guidance from the saints, the Church, and daily life. Here are a few from October 5-11.

The Ultimate Challenge: A Heroic Life as Spiritual Fathers, David McClow at Catholic Exchange
Be Perfect…Really?, Br. Timothy Danaher, O.P. at Dominicana
The Beads and Repetition of the Rosary, Romano Guardini at Catholic Exchange
A Lamp for My Feet, Br. Ambrose Arralde, O.P. at Dominicana
The Man of Wasteful Love, Dr. Tom Neal at Word on Fire
Enemies of the Cross of Christ, Sam Guzman at The Catholic Gentleman
Saints are Still Being Made, K.V. Turley at Crisis Magazine
God Wants Me to Be Happy-A Reflection on a Deeply Flawed Moral Stance, Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington DC

Pax Christi

Just Say “No” to Discouragement

I have been fighting discouragement pretty hard this week. I was struck deeply by a quote by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride, because it shows you trust in your own powers.” Some of my frustration has been of my own making and some of it is with the state of the world. I have no control over the latter. All I can do is try to serve where I can and pray for the conversion of souls. God has called me to multiple roles of service; all center around the dignity and sanctity of the human person. I am a cradle Catholic, but I would say that I had a full conversion 5 years ago. That would make me a newer Catholic, even though I have read theology and philosophy since high school.

I was not prepared for how lonely of a road it can be at times, even within the Church.  My vigor and passion for Our Lord and His Church have at times been met with apathy and outright hostility.  I think that this is a struggle for a lot of people who come to full conversion.  I know many RCIA candidates who are on fire, but become disillusioned when they see that their rigor is not shared in their parish.  I should have known better.  The Saints have met much pushback.  I am not a Saint, yet, not even close.  That is the goal, but I have some very deeply rooted sins that Our Lord is ripping out of me.

I think my discouragement has been compounded by the chaos that has been in our parish for a year now.  A much beloved priest was moved out of our parish suddenly because of some shifts that were needed throughout our Diocese.  This was a major shock for many of us and it has been struggle.  Our replacement quickly became ill and had to retire, and then we spent months with a different priest each week.  In late summer we finally were assigned a “permanent”, which really means temporary, priest who is on loan from a Diocese in Nigeria by way of Tucson.  We all knew that he would leave this summer, and that is the case.  We are now praying and waiting to find out who the Diocese will assign us on a permanent basis.

While we come to Mass to give God “right praise” and receive the Holy Eucharist, in our brokenness we need a shepherd.  Our current priest is a holy and godly man, unfortunately people have not accepted him and there has been a lot of nastiness.  His hands are tied by his posting with us.  So all of this has compounded my own discouragement and many people have left our parish.  I myself have thought about it, but we will stick it out.

If there is one thing about ministry, it is difficult.  It is called service for a reason.  You get to see the best and the worst in people.  I head up what should not be, but is, the most controversial ministry in the Catholic Church in our country today: the Sanctity of Life Committee.  It seems a given that Catholics would understand that we are called to bring a Culture of Life to the world, but that is not the case.  We are a small Committee of 5 deeply dedicated women.  We do what we can and want to do more.  Our Committee’s job is not just to tackle abortion, which we do with passion and purpose by praying at Planned Parenthood and providing much needed items to moms in crisis pregnancy, we also must teach and share social teaching.  That includes the hot button issues of our day: marriage (to include divorce, “gay marriage”, and contraception), the death penalty (the Church’s position is much nuanced), war, etc.  We do what we can, but it is difficult to figure out how to combat both ignorance and disobedience.

About a year ago one of the women on our Committee had discovered what the real issue is in the Church.  She had found a book, which most of our Committee read, by Sherry Weddell (a fellow Lay Dominican) called Forming Intentional Disciples.  I had been beating my head against the wall in response to the apathy and hostility within the Church.  I did not get it.  This book answered my questions.  The majority of Catholics are ‘sacramentalized, but not evangelized’.  What does that mean?  It means that most Catholics, the vast majority, have not had a conversion to Christ.  They do not actually know Him and His call to follow Him as disciples.  Catholics go through the hoops and receive the Sacraments, but many do not even know what they are doing or just do it because that is how they were raised or what they married into.  No wonder our Protestant brothers and sisters do not understand us?!  And no wonder we have such a hard time engaging people.

This is not an easy issue to tackle and it is one we cannot really look at until we have stability in our parish.  It is something that our Diocese is trying to do on a macro level, but we need micro level changes.  I know one thing, we all need to support and encourage one another on the path.  Discouragement is the sin of pride.  We need to lift each other up.  We need to help each other in the battle, because we are waging a fierce spiritual battle both inside the Church and outside of it.  We need to find a charitable way to engage disobedience rather than sit idly by or get into fights.  We need to pray for the conversion of souls and fast.  I cannot stress this enough.  These are the weapons we use to fight discouragement and despair.  The forces of darkness are on the move and many souls are at stake.  I would suggest fasting throughout Holy Week next week.  Skip a meal, stay off the Internet, or offer some other sacrifice daily.  This is a great time to re-gain focus, if like me, you have wandered a bit this Lent. As we approach the Holy Day of Easter, remember that the battle is won in the end. Let’s pray that we all make it on the journey to holiness and see Our Lord waiting for us at the end.  God bless.

A Response to Feminism’s Clarion Call to Be “Self-Made”

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I saw yet another article condemning stay-at-home moms as second class citizens. Quite frankly, the author is not worth the link in on my blog. She is worth prayers, but not a link. The argument is always the same: The self-made, individualist, materialistic, selfish woman is the REAL woman of the 21st Century. Let’s call a spade a spade shall we? Anyone who trumpets themselves as the center of the universe is struggling with selfishness. How do I know? Mainly, because like all people, I have to battle my own selfish nature. The biggest difference is that I know that my family will tear it right out of me, while rugged individualism will leave me selfish and alone.

I am not condemning women who choose to work. My mom worked part of the time we were growing up, as did most of the women in my family. No, rather, I would say that we must always prioritize properly. It is family and then career. Part of the reason I decided to stay home is because, when I enjoy my work, I am a workaholic of the worst kind. My family would suffer as my aspirations took precedence over them. I worked for 12 years before I got married. I was a workaholic. I cannot believe the hours I pulled while I was in the Navy.

What exactly does it mean to be a “self-made” woman? To own a lot of things? Make a lot of money? Promiscuity? Childlessness? Being alone? I am not sure what this phrase even means, but I hear it a lot. I think of myself as pretty “self-made”. I chose to marry my husband. I opted to stay home with our daughter. I am choosing to stay home to school her because, yes, I think that I can do better than the public schools and I assure you my daughter’s test scores will reflect that fact. This is not arrogance. It is the truth. I choose to serve my family over myself. Is it hard? You bet. I fail daily, but it is my choice. I decided that others are more important than little old me.

Let me think back to my “glorious” single days of my Twenties. I worked a lot. I had multiple careers including stints that a lot of 20 year olds could only dream of. I lived in Europe and traveled. I saw the back-stabbing, self-centered, corruption up close interning on Capitol Hill at The Heritage Foundation. I did everything that I wanted to do, but it was never enough. Why? Because “I” am never enough. I am not the center of the universe. God called me back to Him during Holy Week of 2009 and there I have stayed.

So if being a “successful” and “self-made” woman means selling my soul and my family, then I would rather keep my soul. I know what real priorities look like. There is nothing that I can buy, no men that I can date, no salary that I can make, that would take away the joy I have received in my husband and daughter. I truly feel sorry for the woman who cannot experience that joy. So you can berate women like me all you want, but we know the real secret to happiness: sacrificial love.

Dear Daughters: A Letter to Girls, Teens, and Young Women in Their Dating Years

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*A note to moms and dads: Some of this may be hard to read or understand, but this is the reality of what our daughters are facing. Things have changed drastically since we were teens.

Dear Daughters,

  You are beautiful.  Every single one of you.  You are created in the image and likeness of God.  You were made to be loved and to love others.  You have every right to be truly loved.  Our society will tell you things that are not true.  Our society will push you to do things that you do not want to do.  Our society will tell you how women are to act.  Our society will tell you how women are just like men.  This is a lie.  Yes, men and women are equal, but they are not the same.  You do not have to be a man and you should not try to make men into women.
You might be a young girl, teenager, or an adult when you stumble upon this writing.  It is meant for all daughters, but I wanted to directly speak to teens and young women who are dating.  You will get a lot of information in your short life about how you are to act, to be, and what to do.  You will be told that certain behaviors are normal and expected.  You probably heard a lot of this in your sex ed classes or other classes.  So here are a few things I want you to know.  I am a daughter.  I have been hurt by the lies.  I also have a daughter. All women deserve respect and love:
*You do not have to have sex.
*Waiting to have sex until you are married is best for you and your future husband.
*No man should expect sex from you. A man who loves you will wait for you.
*Your peers should never pressure you to have sex.
*Teen pregnancy is not “normal”. If it happens there are plenty of centers that will help you.  Planned Parenthood is not one of them. Abortion is not the answer.
*Casual sex hurts women. It hurts men too, but they are less likely to recognize it.
*It is NOT acceptable for boys and men to look at pornography. If he will not stop, then he does not deserve you and you need to move on.  You need to discuss this with your boyfriend.  He may be doing it and you do not know it.
*It is  NOT acceptable for women to look at pornography or read pornographic novels like 50 Shades of Grey.  S&M is not normal and it should not be read in a novel that portrays it as normal.  It is unhealthy, destructive, and uses people as objects.  Pornography is not just pictures and movies, it includes novels.
*No man should expect you to act like a porn star.
*No man has a right to hit you or abuse you in other ways.
*It is always the right thing to do to get help in abusive situations.  You have a right to safety, love, and justice.  If the first person you talk to will not help you, tell someone else.  Keep going until someone will help you.  Never give up.  You are worth it!!!!  The first girl I met who was being beaten up by her track star boyfriend was when I was 15.  It starts early.
*Rape is never right or acceptable.  Get help!  You deserve healing and peace.
*Abuse from family members is never right.  Get help! Talk to someone, regardless of how it impacts your family.  You deserve safety.
*Cheating (you or him) is not acceptable behavior.  Love requires devotion and loyalty.
*It is right for a woman to desire marriage, regardless of what our culture tells you. (Men want marriage too)
*Sexual promiscuity is never the answer. It only leads to pain and self-hatred. You deserve a partner who loves you for you and does not use you as an object.
*Never live with a man before you are married.  A man who will not put a ring on your finger, but will live with you, is not fully devoted to you.  Cohabitations end in break ups way more often than they do in marriages.  You deserve MARRIAGE!
*Women and men should never use drugs.  Stay away from drugs!  You have so much more to offer this world.
*Binge drinking is dangerous. It puts you in vulnerable situations that you may not be able to get out of.  Enjoying a couple of drinks is fine.  Binge drinking is not.  Regardless of what our culture tells you, you are not physically stronger than your average male.  You also do not have the physical capability of keeping as much alcohol down as a male.  Alcohol poisoning hits a lot earlier for women.  You have a long life ahead of you.  Don’t endanger yourself to fit in.
*It is a good thing to desire feminine things: motherhood, marriage, love, comfort, security, etc.  You can also desire a career and success in the workplace.  God created us as female.  The gifts we have to offer the world stem from the beauty of our femininity.  You were not created to be a man.
*Motherhood is the most important job.  It comes first. It comes before a career (you can still have one, just prioritize).  Shaping human beings is a tremendous gift, it is hard, but joy-filled.  Children help make us better and less selfish people.  It is a good thing to desire children.  It is natural.  When we do not prioritize our children, they are hurt and become resentful.  Children need their parents, even if they say the opposite.
*No one should expect you to go on birth control and that includes doctors.
*Material possessions are not more important than having a family.
*You deserve a man who works hard for you and wants to provide for his family.  Slackers need not apply.
*Not all forms of feminism are good.  In fact, the majority these days will bring you heartache and misery because they fly in the face of who you really are designed to be.
*Take a lot of what you learn about feminism and politics in school with a grain of salt. Ignore snide comments about religion.  Read and educate yourself on these topics from a variety of sources.  Learning does not end after school.
*Remember that you are so loved that God came to earth as a man and died for you.  You are worth dying for.  No matter what you have done.  Jesus Christ forgives all sins and he gives us the grace to overcome sin.  Ignore the people who mock you for this belief.  They, like you, crave love, but have not found it.
*God needs to be priority in your relationship.  Religion becomes huge in marriage.  Marrying across religions and even denominations can add stress to a marriage.  Really consider your faith before you get married.
This list is not meant to be a condemnation.  Rather, it is to show you that you are worth more than what the outside world would tell you.  Doing these things will help you find happiness and love.  You are worth so much more than what our culture would have you believe.  You are talented, unique, smart, beautiful, and gifted.  You have unique gifts to give to the world.  You deserve a man who truly understands what it is to love, and he deserves a woman who truly understands what it is to love.  God created you in His image.  That makes you beautiful beyond compare.  May God bless you on your journey.

*There will be a letter to sons coming very soon.

Liturgical Living: Feast of Epiphany Birthday Party for Jesus

Yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany.  The Roman Church has a week of Christmas left before we enter back into Ordinary Time.  The ladies who help me run the Sanctity of Life Committee at our parish and I decided to host a Birthday Party for Jesus.  We needed to collect crisis pregnancy items and what better way than to ask the families of the parish to bring a gift to Baby Jesus? This is the Sunday we celebrate the Magi bringing gifts to Our King, so it is a perfect day for a party.  We had the Knights of Columbus provide food and the Women’s Club helped us decorate.  We were all nervous about how it would go, and by the grace of God, it was a hit.

We were able to collect a lot of items for our local Catholic Charities and we had a great time celebrating the birth of Our Savior.  We played musical chairs, Pin-the-Tail on Mary and Joseph’s Donkey, the clothes pin game, and had crafts.  Plus, there were lots of cupcakes and our priest even won a round of musical chairs!  This is a great way to remind Catholics that we are still celebrating Christmas.  It did not end on December 26th.  It is also a great event to use as a fundraiser, especially helping babies and moms in need.  This is another way to live liturgically.  You can have a birthday party at home or start one in your parish.  Merry Christmas!

P.S. I am slowing moving into blogging regularly again.  I have a few columns to write for CatholicMom.com that I need to finish and then I can get back into a regular routine.

 

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Liturgical Living: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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I am slowly starting to incorporate the liturgical calendar into our lives.  My husband and I did not grow up that way, so we are learning as we go.  Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Since I work in pro-life ministry and help women in crisis pregnancy, she is very dear to me as the Patroness of the Unborn, and the Americas.

 
For this Feast Day, I am going to make a Mexican (an American version, really) Taco Salad for dinner.  I like tailoring meals to feast days.  Perhaps I will cook more authentic meals once I get the hang of remembering certain feast days.  We will then read the story of St. Juan Diego (whose feast day is December 9th) and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is a beautiful story.  I actually have a friend who went to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a pilgrimage this week.  What a blessing for her!
 
I will also dedicate my daily Rosary to her and to the protection of the unborn and healing for victims of abortion.
 
Since I am new to liturgical living, I will keep things simple.  Do you have traditions for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe?  I am always looking for ideas.  Advent blessings!  Our Lady of Guadalupe, ora pro nobis.

My First Ever Short Story-A Very Rough Draft-Lacks Punctuation for Dialogue

Hello!  My name is Alexandra.  Most people call me Alex or Alexis, but I prefer Alexandra.  No one really cares to ask me my preference, so I gave up on correcting people long ago.  I want to tell you my story.  I have heard my whole life that I am worthless and that my mom should have done away with me.  The woman, whom all I can do is thank for giving me life, since that is all that she ever gave me.  All I know of my father is that he was one of many in a long line of affairs.  I am not even sure if the man’s name on my birth certificate is real. “David Miller” may as well be “John Doe” as far as I am concerned.

For whatever reason my mother decided to carry me to term, in a world where doing away with me would have been easy.  She gave birth to me in some alley in SW Washington DC.  She had been high at the time.  An older homeless woman found me lying in the snow.  My mother had left a trail of blood as the only remaining evidence of her existence, in what would be her last appearance in my life.  She survived, only to overdose 10 years later.
The old homeless woman dropped me off with some sisters who would feed her hot meals a few times a week.  Unfortunately, the sisters could not keep me.  As happens with most homeless children in this country, I was placed with Child Protective Services.  I passed from foster home to foster home; 23 in all before the age of 13.
That last home did a number on me.  It was where I lived the longest.  There were four other foster kids in the home with me: two boys and two girls.  The boys were 16 and 11 and the girls were 8 and 6.  The foster parents were raging alcoholics who also dabbled in various drugs; meth being their favorite.  Occasionally they would leave leftover meth lying around, when they were too high to know the difference.  That is when, Chad, the 16 year old taught me about the power of meth, and eventually, he taught me about sex.  Neither seemed like a big deal.  Why not get high and have sex?  They told us that it was natural at school and the school nurse had gotten me on the Pill when I was 11.  She said I would have sex sooner or later anyway.  I guess she was right.  Eventually, Chad turned 18 and wound up in prison for jacking our “parents’s” car.  That was the end of him in the story, but drugs and anonymous sex would dominate the next 8 years of my life.
At 15 I got tired of living with my foster parents and ran away.  I lived on the streets. I had to avoid shelters because I did not want CPS to find me.  They caught up with me a couple of times when I got arrested for shoplifting.  I usually stole food and beer.
I had a few relationships, the longest being with my dealer.  He used me as a mule for his political clientele.  He told me that I was pretty enough and willing to do favors when necessary.  Why not just get paid for sex too?  Let’s just say, I know which Congressmen like young redheads.  Occasionally I got an expensive meal and a night in a luxurious hotel.  It beat sleeping in Bobby’s dingy apartment.
Bobby finally took up with some 18 year old and kicked me out.  I was back to living on the streets.  I was 23, homeless, and had fully turned to prostitution to make my living.  My rich clients stayed with Bobby so I was back to sleeping on the cold, hard cement and eating only when I had some money.
One spring evening I was wandering through a college campus.  I thought that I would blend in, not realizing the state I was in.  I must have looked pretty bad because an older man wearing all black, except for white at his collar, gave me a sandwich, 20 bucks, and a business card with an address of a nearby shelter.  He then ran off towards an enormous cathedral with a blue dome.  The Church was lit up and people were hurrying in.  I wondered what people were doing there at 8pm on a Saturday evening?  It was warm enough to sleep outside in the open, so I found a place to sleep in a nearby cemetery.  It was one of my frequent sleeping places during the warmer months.  I would sneak in and hide until they locked the gates.
I spent the next few months in a booze and drug induced haze.  I walked the streets in search of clients.  I never had any problem finding one: young men, middle aged, even older men.  All lonely and lost in their lust.  I gave them what they wanted and they gave me what I wanted.  We then discarded one another and went onto the next.
One night the tragedy that had been my life up until that point, came crashing down.  It was autumn.  The nights were starting to get colder.  The shelter I usually stayed at was full for the night, and I would never make it to the nearest one before they locked up for the night.  I honestly do not remember too much about that night.  I was too messed up to know the difference.  I don’t remember where those two men came from.  I barely remember them taking turns on top of me.  When they had had their fun, they left and I curled up in a ball along an alley.  I heard church bells chime in the distance as I passed out for a few hours.
Days passed by in a blur.  I never really thought about what had happened.  I figured that was normal.  That is all men need me for anyway.  Why not take whatever they want and leave?  I continued on my usual path.
One night in December, I hit rock bottom.  Yeah, the actual bottom.  I had scored a sandwich, of all things, and was just about to eat it when out of nowhere someone knocked me to the ground.  They kicked and punched me.  When I could not fight back anymore they took my sandwich and ran.  These things happen when you live on the streets.  It’s called survival of the fittest.
So, there I was lying in the snow, yet again.  I was unconscious as snow flakes fell softly on my lifeless body.  The only softness I had really known.  I came to for a split second to see billows of white and black cloth blowing in the wind.  Black shoes and running.  And, then, I slept.
I awoke in terror.  Pain and deep depraved ache had taken over my body.  I screamed out as two women held me down.  The agony was unending.  The terror, soul shattering.  I tried to claw my way out of the bed.  I heard one woman say that this would be the worst of it.  The other asked if it would be good for the baby.  Baby?
Days passed by until I awoke one bright and sunny January morning.  Sitting in a chair across the room from me was the most beautiful man that I had ever seen.  He was holding a leather bound book and his head was bent low.  He was mumbling to himself.  He wore all white, and a black cape like object hung over the back of his seat.  He was probably about 30, with a strong square jaw.  He had dark black hair and the lightest blue eyes I had ever seen.  He had a strong, but gentle voice.  His eyes were full of light and serenity.  A peace and joy that I had never seen before.
He closed his book and looked up at me with a radiant smile.  I immediately wondered what he wanted from me and I put my guard up.  They always want something from me.  He introduced himself as Father Gabriel Moore.  Father, I thought.  Who goes by Father?  You did not think that there were people in DC who had never met a priest before, or had dealings with a Catholic, or the Church.  Let’s just say, we don’t run in the same circles.
He then told me that he had found me unconscious in the snow on his way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  Given the state I was in, he wanted to get me help without also getting me arrested.  He called a woman from a local parish who was a nurse, and a former addict.  She had nurtured me through detox.  Her name was Mary New, and her daughter, Theresa, had also been there helping me.  He then said that he had to leave, but that he would be back frequently to check on me.
Later that week Mary came to see me so that we could talk about what had happened.  I had a headache, my back hurt, and I felt fat.  Mary asked if I knew who the father was. The father?, I asked.  Of your baby?, she said.  It was then that I realized with horror that I was pregnant.  I spiraled into panic and confusion.  She tried to comfort me, but I just screamed for her to get out.  All I could think about was how I had no money, no job, at least not a licit one.  I could not have a baby!  The father could be any number of guys.  Then it hit me.  The deep crushing realization.  That night in October came back to me in a haze.  I had been without my birth control for a few days.  I was going to the health department the next day.  One of those two men was the father.  One of them.  I curled up into a ball and rocked myself to sleep.  Eventually a restless sleep enveloped me.
I did not speak for days.  Mary brought me food and checked on me regularly.  I laid in bed mulling over my options.  Father Gabriel came to visit me daily.  Whenever he entered the room, this warmth and safety would wrap around me. I would blush and shy away.  But, as I got to know him my confidence grew.
As I got stronger, I started to think about what I should do about the baby.  The other girls on the street found ways to get abortions.  I was sure that I could figure it out.  This seemed like my best option.  I just cannot have a baby!  I have no way to care for them.  I don’t even have a place to live.  I told Mary of my plans.  At first, she was silent.  She asked me if I was sure and I said yes. Teresa came in and sat down with us.  Mary then told me about her days as an addict and her three abortions.  She had run out of an abortion clinic, half doped up, when she decided to keep Theresa.  A group of sisters in the area had helped her and she converted to Catholicism.  It saved my life, she said.
I told her that I did not need anyone to tell me what to do.  She smiled and she and Theresa left to make us lunch.  They continued to feed and shelter me.  I thought about her words.  I had even taken a walk to the closest abortion clinic.  My belly now obvious for all to see.
I did not want my child to have the miserable life I had.  It was better to kill them.  After all, my foster parents had repeatedly told me that my mom should have aborted me when she had the chance.  But, I never could bring myself to walk into that clinic.  I saw groggy women leave with their boyfriends.  At least they had someone to support them, I thought.
One spring day, as I was out for a walk, I heard church bells.  They sounded vaguely familiar.  I walked down the street a couple of blocks, until I stood before a stone building with a cross on top of a steeple.  For some inexplicable reason, I felt the urge to go inside.  As I opened the door, my eyes were met with darkness.  As my eyes adjusted, I walked into the empty sanctuary.  It was silent.  A silence so deafening that I did not know how to deal with it at first.  The light poured through stained glass windows.  The golden rays warming abandoned pews.  A single red candle burned next to a large, ornate golden box.  It was beautiful.  I ran my hands along the smooth, cold marble pillars.  A faint scent of incense hung in the air.  A statue to the right of the altar was of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  She held a small child, who looked down at me.  He was holding up two fingers.
I sat down in one of the pews.  It creaked and groaned.  I sat there for a good while.  I enjoyed the quiet, warmth, and peace of that place.  I was happy, until for no reason that I could understand, fear grabbed hold of my heart.  I could not breathe.  I had to get out of there as quickly as possible.  I ran out, nearly knocking the parish priest over in the process.  He asked me if I was alright, but I ran out into the street to breathe in the city air.
I did not belong in there.  Me?!  I do not belong in such beautiful places.  I belong in the gutters, not among beauty.  That woman, whomever she was, was the exact opposite of me.  That child was hers.  The one that I carry cannot be mine.  This child will go to some family.  If I cannot kill it, then at least it will go to someone who as an actual home.  I will risk them ending up like me.
The next day Father came to see me.  He would go for walks with me sometimes.  I was getting quite big, but still needed the exercise.  I greatly enjoyed our time together and I felt things for him that I had never felt for a  man before.  It confused and excited me.
I had learned a bit about his life.  He explained some of it to me, but he was patient in his explanations of the Church.  What he talked about intrigued me, but deep down I knew that I was unworthy of such a life.  What I knew, was that I loved him.  And finally on one of our walks I could not contain it, and I kissed him.  He gently grabbed my wrists and sat me down on a nearby bench.  I protested.  He then told me about his vow of celibacy.  Celibacy?!  You mean there are men who actually can give up sex?  But, I love you.  He told me that he loved me too, as a great friend and sister.  Isn’t that what every woman wants to hear?  He then asked me to walk a couple of blocks with him if I could.
We ended up standing in front of the stone building that I had run away from.  We walked inside.  Silence.  Deep silence.  He led me to the front of the church.  He pointed up at cross with a man hanging from it.  It was strange in its beauty and power.  He then said that you are not in love with me.  You are in love with Him.  For you see, my life is His.  He dwells in me.  I was hurt and confused.  He then told me that he had left a gift for me with Mary and he would come see me in a few weeks when the baby was born.  He left.  I felt utterly abandoned.  Another man leaves.  I did not understand.
When I got back to the house, I found a gift bag on my bed.  Mary had gone to work at the hospital.  Inside were two leather bound books.  One was smaller and said The Gospels on it.  On the inside it said, “Start here, Father”.  The other book was a beautiful Bible, my first.  I placed it in a drawer and began to read from Matthew.
I read all of the Gospels in one sitting.  I read with awe, confusion, wonder, and a very deep skepticism.  What does Jesus of Nazareth have to do with me?  What does that man on the Cross have to do with the likes of me?  This is the 21st Century.
Weeks went by.  I kept reading over and over again those words that bewildered me and gave me something like hope.  But, I still did not understand.  Then the agony of labor hit.  Mary got me to the hospital.  I labored for hours.  I wanted to give up.  I was ready for the baby to be with someone else.  Finally, a brand new scream broke out into the world.  I was stunned and exhausted.  The nurses worked to clean her up.  Tears streamed down my face without my realizing it.  And out of nowhere I asked to hold her.  As they placed her in my arms, the most amazing thing happened.  I felt love.  I knew love. I chose love.  A love unlike anything I had ever known.  I had the deepest gratitude that I had ever experienced.  I instantly loved this stranger.  It was then that I knew I could not give her up.  I could not let her go.  And I haven’t.
My understanding of what Father was trying to tell me was slow going.  I felt hurt and unwanted.  I was exhausted from the duties of being a new mother.  He came to see me a couple of weeks after the baby was born.  I had named her Hope because that is what she gave me.  He encouraged me to continue reading the Gospels and told me to consider attending a Mass.  I was unsure.
I finally agreed to go and I sat in the very back pew holding hope.  She slept.  I felt self-conscious and guilt ridden.  Once again my whole life told me that I should not be there. I spent most of Mass fighting the urge to flee. Then, the strangest thing happened.  The priest said the words of what I now know is the consecration.  I had read the Gospels over and over again for months trying to see how they applied to me.  Then it hit me.  Jesus is here now.  He told me so in John. He is calling to me. Me?! Me. A nobody.  A former prostitute, drug addict, throwaway.  My whole like I had not known love or compassion.  Or so I had thought.  Then I remembered: the nuns who had saved me as a baby, the church bells, the older priest at the campus, Father Gabriel, Mary, Theresa, and now Hope.  That was Love on the altar.  He had been calling me all along.  This nobody, was somebody to the Creator of the Universe.
Being a mother has not been easy, but it has saved my life.  Choosing to abandon my old ways and follow Christ is a daily struggle, but it is the only struggle worth making.  My life, by the world’s standards, should have ended with my mother killing me.  I lived in emptiness, loneliness, and forsakenness for most of my life.  I used people and they used me.  I was raped, beaten, a prostitute, and a junkie.  But that is all over now.  I am a new creation.
So, was my life worth living?  Even knowing the pain and despair that I endured?  No life is beyond salvation.  No life is not worth living.