"I am a rock, I am an island. And the rock feels no pain. And an island never cries."
--Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel
I lay looking at the ultrasound picture stunned. The picture is not at all what I expected, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
That day, I was about 12 weeks into my pregnancy and finally had made time for an ob/gyn appointment. Don't worry, I was taking prenatals and generally doing what pregnant ladies do, but I didn't have time to go to the doctor. Plus, I knew there wasn't anything they'd do anyway. At this point, I was an intern, seeing needy patients, working on fulfilling graduation requirements. Mentally, I had to get through that first. That and my boards. Then I would think baby thoughts...or more baby thoughts. It's hard to avoid baby thoughts when you're struggling through the fog of exhaustion and nearly throwing up on patients.
So, the doc examines me. Her face shows alarm. We are friendly. She helped me through a minor health issue and we bonded. I know her enough to know that she's worried.
Doc: "You're measuring 16-18 weeks. Could your dates be off?"
Me: No way
Doc: We need you to get blood work and an ultrasound now.
I feel myself go weak. My friend had a similar situation where there was something wrong with the baby and everything grew too quickly. In an instant, I was running through birth defects, problems with me. Terror struck. I went down to the ultrasound room. The tech came in cheerful and businesslike. Of course she can't tell me what she sees. Of course I know what I'm seeing because I just took three years of radiology in school.
And I see. I see them. Them. Two of them. I lay back on the table, dizzy, and the room goes a little gray.
Driving the hour home from that appointment gave me plenty of time to consider the ramifications. This was not at all what I had expected. No wonder everything seemed to be happening so fast. The boobs, the belly, the fatigue all made more sense. Suddenly, doctoring with twin babies seemed ridiculous. How would I do that? One kid, I could see. But how could I work and nurse and care for twins? All this work for what? And the doctor told me I had to stop working at 19 weeks. Had to. No choice. Twin pregnancies are more fragile. Yes, you feel good, but look at the statistics. At that instant I felt more vulnerable than I had in a long time. Caught between my dreams and love and concern for my unborn babies, I felt small before the possibilities.
That's what happens when you choose to love and go out on a limb and take a risk. Most people don't view having children that way, but it's true. When you make the choice to have a baby, you think about the love and the expansion of your life. You imagine holding him and caring for him and loving him. The excitement. The anticipation. The romance clouds your mind.
The reality of children is that suddenly, you're more vulnerable. Suddenly, you have something to lose. Suddenly, it matters a whole lot more when a politician makes a stupid law or creates debt for the next generation. Suddenly, healing the world takes a back seat to protecting your children. Suddenly, the society's scariness comes into sharp focus.
Loving makes us vulnerable.
Withholding love doesn't make you strong though. This is one of life's paradoxes. Being a rock, being an island might spare you pain but it also isolates a person creating a brittleness of being. A person can protect herself and by doing so, limit vulnerability. It calls to mind something G.K. Chesterton said. He described a soldier, timid and afraid versus a soldier bold and engaging. Often to save his own life, the soldier has to risk it, because to try and protect it is to surely die.
Love is like that. In order to survive and thrive, a person must reach out and that makes him vulnerable. But to be alone, is to assure the hurt. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a parent, that uneasy balance rules life. A consuming love reveals a vulnerability. Loss of or harm to this child would cause more grief than it's possible to contemplate. It's almost crazy-making to consider. With the TV blaring on about snatched and murdered children, parents feel even more vulnerable. It could happen. It happened to them.
Still, to not have children, to not love, to not reach out is to live a fear-driven life. Fear makes a person timid. Fear makes a person weak. Fear makes a person lonely. Ultimately, it takes courage to love and to live. And the people who withdraw and avoid loving to save themselves end up doing just the opposite.
Love makes you vulnerable but it also makes you strong.
In honor of this idea, I'm sharing with you some of my favorites. Here is the great Simon & Garfunkel tune "I Am A Rock" set to my favorite Harry Potter character Severis Snape, played by the inimitable Alan Rickman who I also love. Go to the link HERE. I can't embed it. But it's worth a look.
The brilliant and always beautiful Anchoress adds this when referring to the European birthrate which is declining precipitously:
I’ve realized over the years that anti-life action, abortion, euthanasia, are all failures of love, and failures to be willing to open yourself up to all the ache and beauty that love brings. People don’t mind the beauty but they don’t want the ache, so they settle for a beauty less vibrant but safer.So, Europe is dying, but why? Author Bruce Thorton says over at The Corner:
Because, replies the author of Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide, “children are expensive. They require you to sacrifice your time and your interests and your own comfort. If your highest good is pleasure, if your highest good is a sophisticated life, then children get in the way. Why would you spend so much money and so much energy on children if your highest good is simply material well-being? That's sort of the spiritual dimension of the problem."Having children, loving in general, requires a certain amount of faith and optimism. Nihilistic despair and hopelessness starves love and leads to solitude. And when whole countries despair, whole countries die.
“The spiritual dimension of the problem.” There are so few children in Europe, in other words, because there are so few believers.
Risking love means risking life. And to not risk is to already die.