Friday, February 12, 2016

I want to live in the grey areas

I learned a long time ago in a high school photography class that the best pictures aren’t from bright sunny days, the cloudy ones can actually be better. Clouds filter the light and add a little grey which actually makes things pop a little better in the shot. I want to live in the grey when it comes to looking at issues and people. I don’t want to vote based one one issue, and let that define whether I think someone is right or wrong. It’s not that I don’t think there are certain issues that are black and white, definite right and wrong things, but I don’t want to live in those spaces, I don’t want to look at at people through those lenses. I want to live in the grey first. I want to see the person living through the issue and not the issue itself.

I used to think things were a lot more black and white, but I as I have experienced more of the world, met more people, learned more of their stories, things are changing for me. I don’t see things so clearly defined anymore. One of the biggest confrontations with my black and white thinking came during our surrogacy journey. In order to work with our agency, we had to agree to terminate a pregnancy if there was an issue of severe disability and the baby’s parents wanted to terminate. This was a huge decision for us. We very much value life, and we were hurt very deeply when someone close to us had a late second term abortion, even after we offered to adopt the baby. Both Valentine and I saw abortion as something not to be used for birth control but something to be used when life was in danger. Disability was a different issue entirely. As we talked to the agency and each other more about this issue we learned a great deal about why someone would terminate. Apparently early termination was much more common in international surrogacy situations, even in very highly developed, wealthy countries. In those countries there does not always exist the same support for children with severe disabilities that the US has. Kids with disabilities may not be as accepted by communities and in the larger family context. In short, it can be much harder to raise a child with severe disabilities and their quality of life much less, than what we might expect here in the US for children. We also know kids in the US with severe disabilities and we know how hard it is for their families, even with the opportunities available to them.

This wasn’t just an issue about the child’s health either, it was very intimately intwined with my own health and the mental health of our family. I have known women that had to carry pregnancies to term, that they knew would end in tragedy. I have watched them carry their babies, knowing that they would die shortly after birth. Yes there are miracles where death in babies is beaten, but there are also great medical advances that can give us a pretty certain picture of what lies ahead. Those that carry their terminal babies to term get to enjoy what precious moments they have with their baby, before they die. They enjoy kicks and movements, and can soak it all in. Our baby’s parents would not have had that luxury. I would have been the one experiencing that, I also would have been taxing my body, and my family’s endurance emotionally day after day for a very horrible outcome. I have to say too, after the miscarriage, after being the only one to “hold” that baby with my body, I can’t imagine going through an entire pregnancy to have that same awful outcome. After much thought and prayer, Valentine and I made the decision to allow someone else to make that decision for their baby that we would carry. We made the decision to allow an abortion if we found out the baby had a fatal condition or would have severe disabilities. We decided that we would not to international surrogacy as that would up the probability of making such a hard choice, but we decided we would ultimately let the parents choose. It was not easy, but we looked into the stories behind the issue, and the people that would be affected and we just couldn’t see it in black and white anymore.

You may not agree with that decision, you may even be pretty angry with us for it, that’s ok. You don’t have to agree, and honestly my need to live in the grey is about so much more than abortion. There are so many issues that people decide are the absolutes of how they will base their vote. We have so many things that we cannot imagine as anything more than completely right or completely wrong. I just worry that when we do that, we dismiss the people and the stories behind those issues. We see the issue instead of the person. I think that doesn’t help morality or people, it dehumanizes and demoralizes. Whether it’s abortion, guns, welfare, marriage equality whatever it is, you name the issue, there are so many complexities surrounding it, that you really have to hear the stories, and get to know the people behind them. We also have to realize that no one candidate or law is going to fix any of these issues. Something isn’t going to suddenly become legal or illegal because of one elected official. Something also might not need to be made a law, if other parts of the story are addressed.

I want to vote from and live in the grey area. Honestly, I think that is what Jesus did. When approached with religious law breakers, Jesus addressed the person first. He knew them, he spent time with them he didn’t just dismiss them for their issues. Yes he would steer them in a different direction, he would tell them if they were wrong, but that came later, that came after he loved them as a person first, and sometimes, he didn’t even have to say anything, just being in his presence, and being loved by him was enough to change their lives. I want to see the overall picture of the candidates, how their position on a bunch of different issues comes together, and how they came to those positions. I want to see how they treat others when they too are forced to live in the grey. I want to try harder to see the person and not the issue.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hitchiker Adventures #6: She isn’t lacking in love

Recently, upon finding out that I don’t feel the same way about the Hitchhiker as I do about my own kids, someone in my life has taken to praying for the Hitchhiker, “that she will know she is loved”. Not that she will know she is loved by God, but by her family and by ours. Now I might not put much thought into this, except for the fact that it’s the same person who thought since I liked the Hunger Games, I must not like children very much. This person also continually asks how I will “give up the baby” and when I say it’s not going to be a problem, they respond with “I could never do that”. So the implication I get from this prayer is that, perhaps the Hitchhiker is not feeling loved, since she is residing in my belly, since I don’t think of her like I thought of my own kids, and I don’t want to keep her. This person even made up their own name for the Hitchhiker, because they seemed to think that Hitchhiker was sweet enough. When my basketball sized uterus feels really heavy, this makes me angry, but when I am sitting here with this squirming little girl inside me just enjoying her temporary presence, it just makes me laugh. Really?!? This baby is one of the most loved babies ever, and she is teaching us so much about what love means.

look at that, that’s love!
First off, let’s establish, that this baby would not be in my belly were it not for love. Love more than anything else motivated me to go on this crazy adventure in the first place. Following Jesus command to love one another, and to serve led me to this. Anytime I had an objection to doing this, like my body was going to get wrecked, always in the back of my mind was the question, “is that a reason not to love someone?”When people told me it would be harder because I was 38 and not 28 like when I had my last baby, again the question was, “but is that a reason not to love someone”. (and by the way, it isn’t any harder, it’s the same hard!). Love for his kids, made my husband decide we could do this. Love for a family they had just met, made my kids excited to do this. Love from her parents led them to put their trust in a stranger, and give her to us for 9 months. They loved her so much, they took this huge scary, complicated step. Her whole existence right now is rooted in love, and each day she grows love grows right along with her.

We are learning so much about how fun love is, through this process. We have seen how messy and hard and awkward it can be, as I went through so many procedures, and we endured the death of the first Hitchhiker. We have also learned though how crazy fun love can be, when you just do love, as Bob Goff says in his book Love Does. We are having fun with this baby. We have a whole new part to our family now, with her family. That is fun. We get to relive the experiences we had when our kids were born, through their eyes, and share in their excitement. I love that! I love sharing the things that excite me with others, whether it’s mission trips to places I have been before, or new friends, and this pregnancy takes that to a whole other level. We get to have fun on this adventure with them, and my kids are old enough to remember and understand it all too. They feel the baby move, they marvel at how huge I am getting, they think about what it means that she can hear us. Plus everyone gets to make jokes about how I am pregnant but it’s not Valentine’s. She is not experiencing a depressing, lonely, joyless existence. Love is all kinds of fun and she is along for that ride!

Love makes it fun to surprise people with her story too. It’s fun to educate them about surrogacy, but it’s also fun to explain why we would do something so nutty. People aren’t used to hearing about love like this, and when they really hear it, they often well up. They are encouraged by it, they enjoy it, they all of a sudden get to be in on the fun, and the miracle of it all. She hears recordings of her family reading her stories too, so all you psych experts can be assured she will have in utero attachments to them as well, it’s not just our love she is getting now. I am sure at some point in her angsty teenage years, she will feel a bit awkward about her origin story, but what kid doesn’t? I’m still cringing over the Super Bowl baby commercials. Her story is a unique love story, but a fun one.

Love endures space and time too. Just because she won’t be with us, doesn’t mean we won’t love her still. Our family has had the privilege of loving so many people over the years who aren’t a daily part of our lives right now. They are still very much a part of us. We can’t hold all the youth group kids we have loved hostage with us, they grow up and leave. Friends live far away. We don’t give them up ever, we just love them from afar. It may not be as intimate as the love we have in our family of four, but it is love still. We still think about them, and keep up with them when we can, and we enjoy having people to love all over the world. We are still as present with love for them as we can be, and will be for her too. She will always have a connection to us and she will always be loved by us.

I can’t imagine that will all of that, this baby would ever not feel loved, because gestated in my belly. Just because I am not planning for her babyhood, or weeping because she won’t be with us in a couple more months doesn’t mean she won’t know love. This is  a once in a lifetime adventure unlike any other we have been on, and I know that is because it is all about love. She is right smack in the middle of it all, hearing the joy, feeling the love.  So no one needs to pray that she will know she is loved. She is a little physical representation of love and how hard, scary, vulnerable, but more so, how beautiful, awesome and fun it is!