We go through our pep talk every time I take the kids out. “What do we need to show the world?!” I shout to the back of the van. Then comes their battle cry, “That children are blessings!”
A couple years ago, I started telling my sweet kids that even though we know every life is a gift, not everybody else does; so if we behave and smile when we’re out, we can show them how much of a blessing a handful of kids is.
It’s more of a reminder for me.
Through the parking lot with my short chain of ducklings trailing, we chant, “No fits! Inside voices! Ohhhh-bey!” Under my breath I beg for God’s mercy, make sure my face is relaxed, and try to get out of the store as quickly as we get in. Every mama knows a child in public is a wild card – anything from barometric pressure to sugar intake can affect behavior – multiply it by four, add a growing baby belly, and my sanity is in their tiny hands.
But I know regardless of the day’s elements, pregnancy fatigue, and check out lines, my demeanor is more important than my kids’ because if someone is going to convince onlookers that children are blessings, it’s me.
In our public appearances with a bump, three boys (aged 6, 5, and 3), and toddler girl in tow, the looks, questions, and comments our family typically hears come again from curious strangers. We get the classic “Do you know what causes that?” to “Which ones are you babysitting?” and “You got your girl – why didn’t you stop?!” (Yeah, I got that one in Mass). Though our family of now seven is hardly record-breaking, I know we’re a sight to see. A traveling circus, it feels like.
People point to our unborn son, “Was that one planned?” Well, yes – by God. He was a bit of a surprise for us, but I was praying we’d have another one.
Being a mama is how the Lord has called me to the Pro-Life Movement.
We duck-lined up to the checkout the other day and the cashier’s eyes were huge as she took us in. I laughed when her sights settled on my my obviously expectant tummy. “Don’t they fight? Don’t they make a mess? And you’re pregnant, you poor thing.”
I didn’t hesitate to tell her they absolutely fight – all the time; but they’re also the best of friends. They have the most compelling and natural concern for each other. And they’re psyched out of their minds for their little brother to come out.
Then I laid that awesome JPII line, “The greatest gift you can give your child is a sibling.”
Maybe it’s pride, but I like to think the Pro-Life Movement needs more traveling circuses – couples willing to welcome children by conception or adoption; small families willing to become big families by the same means; mamas willing to go out happily (and publicly) with their kids. A woman considers abortion out of fear that a baby will turn her world upside down in the worst ways; secular society views children as obstacles to a free life. What bolder statement, what happier invitation, could we make than to accept babies – planned or not – for all the upside-down they bring?
And what’s as important as speaking of our blessings as blessings, is receiving comments with sweetness and patience. Chances are that onlookers who regard my crew as a handful of burdens and mess-makers grew up hearing the same about themselves. There’s a whole context and backstory to every bit of skepticism, even disgust. So take the stares and questions! Smile and be real. Show your kids that other people are gifts just like they are.
Isn’t that the whole message of the Pro-Life Movement? We know that life in every stage is a gift from God; even if that stage throws fits, needs an extra trip to the bathroom, makes a mess, and fights. An imprint, an image of Divinity Himself will always be worth the upside-down, and it’s up to us mamas to show the world.