Why I might have chosen the child-free life

During a recent radio interview with EWTN’s Sonrise Morning Show, we discussed how body image plays a role in keeping women from embracing pregnancy and becoming mothers. Our culture definitely perpetuates the whole I-don’t-want-to-do-that-to-my-body – “that” being pregnancy, otherwise known as granting your stomach and bum their very own zip codes and saying sayonara to your ankles for several months. This is my {hot} body and I’m not giving it up for a baby. Sacrificial love is out of style. And our bodies are mere objects rather than instruments we have the responsibility to take care of in order to fulfill our vocations.

I honestly thought we’d be discussing Time magazine’s recent “The Childfree Life” article, but I’m always up for a little body image talk. And as the conversation continued, it became clear that the fear of a woman losing her pre-mom bod ties in to the decision of more and more married couples to skip the whole procreation thing, and I did end up marbling in some of the the talking points I’d prepared into the conversation

I noticed Time cover story when I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist. I don’t pay much attention to that “news” magazine, especially since I had a less-than-desirable personal experience with it. On the cover, there was a picture of a beautiful couple with toned bodies sunbathing with blissful smiles on their faces under the headline”The Childfree Life.” I thought of reading the article, but I decided to stick with checking out a chic pair of boots I had pulled up on my smartphone because I’m deep like that. Besides, I knew the cover and the article, which I did eventually check out online, had its own sensationalist agenda. Honestly, that toothy couple reminded me of advertising than journalism. Showing a good-lucking, childless couple was just another savvy marketing campaign. Forgo pregnancy, adoption, or any other way of acquiring soul-sucking, money pits, also known as children, and you, too, can travel the world, find the ultimate kind of happiness, and look like a movie star.

The cover definitely was suggesting choosing not to have children can be equated with more happiness, or in the very least, with more freedom to pursue things that might make you happy. On the flip side, the parenting camp has been guilty of using our own alluring marketing. Children are always blessings not burdens! You don’t know what real happiness is until you bring a child in to the world. They’re hard work, but they’re worth it. They give far more than they take! You think you’ll be fulfilled without them, but just wait when you’re old and there’s no one to take care of you! Have children, and you’ll have a different kind of happiness!

Upon closer examination, we see that child-free couples don’t have perfect careers or envy-worthy bodies, and they’re not always on vacation either. Their life is sometimes good and carefree, but I can bet sometimes it sucks. Just as parents’ lives sometimes do because of their kids or not. And children? Yes, of course they’re blessings, but sometimes they are a pain in the you-know-what. Children force us to live in the present, and usually this is put forward as a positive thing, but when that present involves poop all over your walls or a teenager screaming he hates you, you may wish you were anywhere but in that gut-wrenching, toxic moment. We love our children fiercely, but sometimes they disappoint us in little ways and in big ways, too. Or we disappoint ourselves because we don’t parent exactly the way we planned or desired. I’ve often wondered if my own parents have ever regretted having my older brother, who has given us hope but also plenty of despair throughout his lifelong struggle with addiction. I know they love him terribly and have invested many prayers in him and have also learned a lot from dealing with his sickness, but do they ever regret having him? I seriously doubt it. Anything worth creating exacts a prices from its creator, and sometimes the cost is very, very high. I should ask them. When I do, I’ll share what I find out.

I love being a mom, and I hold it to a very high esteem and yet, I can’t simply sugarcoat children or over-glorify motherhood anymore than someone who doesn’t choose to have kids can elevate the a life sans kiddos to one of hassle-free, money-flowing bliss. Nor can we making sweeping statements that people who choose to not have children are selfish. They are doing what they think will make them happy, and if we moms are honest, having children is something we pursue, in part, because we believe it would and does make us happy on some level. As Christian moms, our adversaries might even argue that we are “selfish” in that we are open to life because it serves as a conduit to grace or perhaps even a path to sainthood.

I’ve seen myriad responses to the Time magazine article – many of which have been guilty of accusing one side as being selfish or narrow-minded, but, again, it’s not so black and white, and both sides are idealizing their own realities. I’ve also seen arguments stripped of any emotions that simply present the practical and economic concerns of the dwindling birth rates in the United States. I have a friend who has more than half a dozen lovely children. She says that when approached about their super-sized family, her husband sometimes jokes that he’s just just trying to save Social Security. A funny way to deflect any potential judgment on the size of his family, yes, but there is some truth to it. We need young people to take care of the aging population.

To that end, Fr. Robert Barron discussed the problem with individualism when specifically applied to the decision to have children or not in his response to the Time article.

He writes,

What particularly struck me in this article was that none of the people interviewed ever moved outside of the ambit of his or her private desire. Some people, it seems, are into children, and others aren’t, just as some people like baseball and others prefer football. No childless couple would insist that every couple remain childless, and they would expect the same tolerance to be accorded to them from the other side. But never, in these discussions, was reference made to values that present themselves in their sheer objectivity to the subject, values that make a demand on freedom. Rather, the individual will was consistently construed as sovereign and self-disposing.

And this represents a sea change in cultural orientation. Up until very recent times, the decision whether or not to have children would never have been simply “up to the individual.” Rather, the individual choice would have been situated in the context of a whole series of values that properly condition and shape the will: family, neighborhood, society, culture, the human race, nature, and ultimately, God. We can see this so clearly in the initiation rituals of primal peoples and in the formation of young people in practically every culture on the planet until the modern period. Having children was about carrying on the family name and tradition; it was about contributing to the strength and integrity of one’s society; it was about perpetuating the great adventure of the human race; it was a participation in the dynamisms of nature itself. And finally, it was about cooperating with God’s desire that life flourish: “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it” (Gen. 9:7). None of this is meant to be crushing to the will, but liberating. When these great values present themselves to our freedom, we are drawn out beyond ourselves and integrated into great realities that expand us and make us more alive.

It is finally with relief and a burst of joy that we realize that our lives are not about us. Traditionally, having children was one of the primary means by which this shift in consciousness took place. That increasingly this liberation is forestalled and that people are finding themselves locked in the cold space of what they sovereignly choose, I find rather sad.

Fr. Robert Barron is a master wordsmith, intellectual, and a great theologian, so I very much appreciate and respect his analysis, and, yes, as a mother myself I do find it sad that some people aren’t having kids. I know what they are missing. (I know I’m missing some things, too. We do trips around here, not vacations. There is a difference.) However, there’s something more than solipsism behind this new childless ethos in our culture: Fear.

I cannot help but think of women I know who have made the decision to not have children and how outwardly, their decisions seem to be based upon what they think will make them happy (and perhaps does) – their desire to travel, their brilliant careers, or just not wanting to be tied down. But I have had several childless friends who, perhaps after a few glasses of wine, have confided in me that the real reason they don’t want to bring children into the world is rooted in fear. They’re not being selfish. On the contrary, they’re being overly concerned with what might go wrong if they become a mother. They are fearful for the children they may never have. That fear is not self-seeking; it comes from a place of love and a desire to do what they think is right. And I’m not talking about the fear of losing her girlish figure like Jillian Michaels once admitted to. No, it’s something even scarier than acquiring stretch marks. She’s afraid she will be an awful mother, and she’s great at her career and being a wife, so why screw things up? Or she’s afraid her genetics will come back to haunt her, and her child will grow up to have an addiction, an eating disorder, or some other mental health disease. Or she will get leukemia. Or she will just grow up to hate her. Her co-workers don’t hate her. She doesn’t want to be hated. She wants to be loved, and there’s a chance that that vessel of hopes and dreams we parents call babies will be a disappointment or will turn out like that terrifying character in the haunting novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin.

I know another friend who does have a child and pondered having another one, but she just can’t make the jump. She makes things happen in the workplace; yet, she can’t make her child poop on the potty or do much of anything else. In a hushed whisper, she confesses she’d like to have another child, but she’s afraid – not just about finances and all that practical stuff – but because she feels like she’s sometimes a horrible mother. She knows the joy of being a mother and how it makes her a better person. But sometimes it makes her a worse person. Sometimes it hurts so viscerally, she’s not sure she can handle any more of it. She loves her child, but she doesn’t always love being a mother. She’s afraid she’s screwing up her kid.

Me, too, I whisper back. I’ve joked that at least with four kids one should turn out okay and will hopefully be a happy, selfless human being who remembers to call me on my birthday. But maybe not.

I know those fears intimately well. Lately, in fact, I’ve had more a lot of anxiety about my mothering. I don’t feel like I do too much right, and I’m worried that my children will share my own anxiety one day. I want them to be content and trusting and naturally happy – all these things that don’t come easy to me.

When my first child was put into my arms, I experienced profound joy, but I felt terrified, too. I wasn’t afraid of dropping my baby on her head or of SIDS, although trimming those tiny nails on those pink, delicate fingers made me nervous. My husband seemed to worry more about germs and all the potential physical dangers. My fears were more of the emotional variety. Before becoming a mother, I was aware of all those fears that were mostly about what I would lose once that squawking little one was placed in my arms – money, my body, the ability to travel, spontaneity, sleep. But even as I did start to lose some of those things just being pregnant, those weren’t the fears that kept me up at night. I was more afraid of what I might gain. Once I had a baby, I would have a new insight into my humanity, and I would be so invested in something I would love with all my being, but that love, well, it might not be enough. Wrapped right along with that sweet bundle of joy was the sometimes crippling fear that I’d be a horrible mother, that despite caring so much, maybe too much, I’d screw up big time.

It’s this fear that the Time magazine article and the child-free couples as well as parents seem to have completely overlooked as a reason for choosing not to have kids. They probably wouldn’t even admit that it ever came into play. There just was never a desire to have kids, they might argue. Maybe not, but fear has a funny way of burying every other feeling you’ve ever had. It can take over and is more invasive than the most noxious weed.

It’s this fear I have had to overcome every time I’ve given birth to a new life. It’s not wishing I could afford more designer jeans in my closet, hide away more money in our retirement savings account, or have more time to pursue writing that novel I’ve been dreaming about that would have kept me from procreating. If I had let anything prevent me from becoming a mother, it would have been fear that I’d be a dreadful mom, and my kids – because of what I did or didn’t do – would turn out to be miserable, in need of therapy, or not so nice.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” But we don’t want to do things badly. Getting fired from a job stinks, but feeling like you nurtured a bad seed or raised a terribly unhappy child? I’m not sure I could handle that. But what if I’d caved in to those fears? What if we all did? Being a parent is worth it – even when you make mistakes. Which we do. All of the time.

Here’s the thing about us parents, more specifically Christian parents. If we believe in God, then we believe in hope. We believe in redemption. We believe in light being born out of darkness. We bank on God’s compassion when we, in our human weakness, don’t dole it out to our children very freely or when we’re not very compassionate with ourselves. We slip, we stumble, we screw up all the time as parents, but God somehow makes good out of the mess we create or that is created for us and is out of our control. We don’t always see evidence of the goodness, but we believe it is there. If we don’t, then we’re not really believers.

As for being imperfect parents to imperfect children, we don’t give up on our children or our lowly selves, but sometimes we do have to give our children and ourselves up to Him. Whether we’re worried about money, losing our identity, or just being a lousy parent, we turn to Him. We trust. We learn to be optimists even when the glass is glaringly empty. This isn’t easy for someone with melancholic tendencies such as myself, but I have to be a Pollyanna – my faith demands that of me – and I have to learn to not rely on my own strength but to be open to the Holy Spirit and to believe in the promises of Christ.

The primacy of self may be partly to blame for people choosing the childless life, but it’s sometimes to blame for choosing to have kids, too. We want the good without the bad. We want the cuddles and kisses without the poop, tantrums, or wayward older children. We want the teenagers without the hormones. We want to kiss a boo-boo and have it immediately be all better. We don’t want to hurt or see our kids hurt. We certainly don’t want to hurt our own kids. We invest in our children because that’s what parents do but also because we expect a return for our investment. We want to see the fruit of our work ripen well and become something beautiful. We want to bear virtuous and content people into the world; we don’t want to create slaves to addiction or depression or worldly desires for sons or daughters. But becoming a parent forces you to face your fears. It forces you to relinquish control, to trust, and to look beyond yourself as well as your own limitations. When we’re fearful of rejection or what may come of us or our children, we become more focused on ourselves and our own desires. We push our children or even the idea of parenthood further and further away because we’re a bunch of scaredy cats.

Recently, I was having a lousy day. My kids’ behavior was lackluster probably because they sensed that Mama was anxious. Well, a child or two was deserving of compassion that I did not give. Later that same day I wept and wondered how I could be so unkind to the people I love the most. I found myself wondering why the heck I was blessed with these children. How were my kids going to turn out having me as a mother? Then, not too long after my maternal misstep, I heard a child crying. Another child ran to her younger sister and reached out to her, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Not too long after the sincere apology and the mercy in return, they were playing together again. And I was hopeful. It is always hope that conquers my fears. When I feel like I’m sinking, I am buoyed by hope.

I wish I could convince all those couples contemplating having children that parenthood is the path to pure bliss, but that wouldn’t necessarily be true. Sometimes parenting a child is the path to heartbreaking sadness, financial woes, health worries, and more. Having a child makes you more vulnerable than ever before. I don’t know what the future holds for my own children – the ones who are here with me today and the ones who might end up under my care in the future. But if some of those subterranean fears surface and become a reality, I know what I must do. I must cast any blame aside. I’ll have to hold onto hope and detach myself from thinking I can save my child, or the belief that if I don’t save her or keep her from harm or unhappiness, that it’s because I am a lousy mother. I may have to let go of the very happiness our world lauds and says we are in control of and should seek. As Fr. Barron eloquently points out, our lives aren’t about us. We find freedom when we free ourselves from our own expectations and when we let go of the fear enough to let hope in.

Most of us who have chosen to have children (or it has been chosen for us and we have accepted it with grace and trust) probably do see children as bringing happiness and adding something meaningful to our lives. Children will grow up to be the adults who will someday save us all, we might tell our childless friends. Upon closer scrutiny, however, none of these things may actually end up being true at least not all of the time. Yet, every child we add to our families and communities serves as an ambassador of hope, a reminder that the future is worth investing in and sticking around for.

Having children sometimes brings happiness but it’s when it doesn’t that it becomes even more apparent that accepting the call to parenthood is one of the bravest and most hopeful things we can do.

7 Quick Takes: The “Of Breast & Women,” Discernment, & More Edition

— 1 —

Thank you to everyone for your prayers on behalf of my mom. The recovery has been agonizing, but this was expected. My dad sent me a photo of her scar. It’s a nasty and Frankenstein-like. Yesterday I posted a photo of it onto Facebook. The image was really small on my phone, but the new time line format made it humongous. I apologize to anyone who caught a glimpse of the gruesome incision site. I removed it when I saw how big it was!

I beg for more prayers that the surgery was actually effective in curing her trigeminal neuralgia pain (it’s too early to tell) and if it wasn’t, that we can remember that Christ came to heal – not necessarily cure – the sick.

— 2 —

I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to “Of Breast and Women.”

Not really, but I do find it fascinating that the two posts of mine to receive the most traffic have had to do with breasts. One listed my top 10 reasons for nursing a toddler. The other examined the Komen debacle. Crazier still, my most infamous freelance article to date discussed how I overcame my reluctance to nurse at Mass.

— 3 —

I haven’t been able to keep up with all of the Komen discussions, but a good friend of mine did have several Facebook friends argue, charitably I should add, against some of my points made in my post.

One such individual wrote (and also commented after the original post),

“I think the reason that Planned Parenthood is a necessary ‘middleman’ is because women go to the clinic for services (let’s just assume that they aren’t there for an abortion), receive a breast exam they might not otherwise have performed (either on themselves OR by another doctor), something abnormal is detected and they are then referred on to another location where they can receive a necessary mammogram (thereby benefiting from that Komen grant). Without the ‘middleman’ those women would probably not proceed directly to a mammogram clinic at all thereby making the Komen grant reach fewer women.”

Although she makes a valid point about the possibility of women going to Planned Parenthood and receiving a breast exam and then possibly being referred to a low-cost mammogram, she’s missing a big point* as did so many people when we thought Komen was definitely defunding Planned Parenthood. Komen is a non-profit with limited resources. It has the responsibility to be the best steward of its funds. I think we can all agree on that. So for now, let’s put my pro-life and others’ pro-choice (or pro-Planned Parenthood; that’s one in the same to me) beliefs aside and just look at this issue from a practical standpoint. Planned Parenthood primarily serves women of reproductive age; yet, screening mammograms are recommended to start at age 50 unless you have an increased risk of breast cancer. Thus, Planned Parenthood’s target population is not the women who really should be getting mammograms. Komen has limited resources, so doesn’t it simply make more fiscal sense to give grants to organizations that directly bring mammograms to the population that is most at risk for getting breast cancer such as mobile mammography units, charitable health clinics, and organizations that provide health fairs, etc.?

This doesn’t mean that Planned Parenthood doesn’t catch any breast cancer because maybe a manual breast exam performed there does lead to an early cancer diagnosis and a saved life, but how many more lives could be saved if the money was directed elsewhere?

Likewise, it should also be noted that the kind of manual breast exams offered at Planned Parenthood aren’t much different than the ones a woman can perform in the shower. An individual’s own self breast exam might be even more useful, in fact, because she gets to know her breasts and might notice subtle nuances a health professional might miss.

What’s more, some health agencies have argued manual breast exams are not effective in detecting breast cancer early. They can also lead to unnecessary testing. Maybe a health professional feels something unusual that’s actually not unusual for your breast and refers you for what proves to be an unnecessary mammogram. This drives up all of our health care costs.

Try to put your feelings – whatever they may be – about Planned Parenthood aside for a minute. Shouldn’t what Komen really have done is look at how many dollars it takes to catch a certain number of breast cancers supporting Planned Parenthood’s breast health care versus how many dollars it takes to catch a certain amount of breast cancers at an organization that is actually reaching the target audience that is most at risk for breast cancer? I’m betting less money would be spent and more lives would be saved if the grants were offered to places that actually served the people who need screening mammograms.

Pro-lifers have been accused of making this about our pro-life ideals. But not supporting Planned Parenthood has always been about our ideals (and thus political for us since the issue of abortion has been political ever since Roe. v. Wade). It’s the people who claimed they weren’t pushing their pro-choice agendas and insisted they were only angry at Komen because they didn’t want to deny women of life-saving breast exams who seemed to be being more furtive. Either they didn’t know the facts about how little Planned Parenthood actually does to detect breast cancer early and/or how there would be more fiscally responsible partnerships for Komen to pursue in an effort to save lives. Or they should have just come out and said this was really about their pushing their pro-choice agenda.

*After I shared a lot of the above with her, she left another comment agreeing that I’d made a good point about Planned Parenthood’s target audience not being the women who need life-saving breast cancer screenings the most. It’s been a good discussion for me, but I definitely started doing what I promised myself (for the sake of my kids and family) I wouldn’t do and started feeling like I had to answer every argument against my logic. I can’t do it anymore. Maybe some of my readers will make up for my slack. But I haven’t been as present as a mama as I aspire to be, and these kids entrusted to me are number one priority (and that husband of mine needs some TLC, too, after working over 80 hours in one week).

— 4 —

On another but related note, I turned in my request to leave the BlogHer Network on 2/2, and I received a very gracious note from one of the network’s managers in which she explained that the community needs a voice like mine because BlogHer really does strive to create a forum where we can talk about issues near and dear to us in a “healthy, intelligent way.”

Since then I’ve had many Catholic/Christian bloggers point out that I’m mostly preaching to the choir here on this blog, but that BlogHer might bring some people to this space who would never normally read the musings of a crazy, extended breastfeeding, passionately pro-life mama. I also had someone comment after my Komen post that they found me through BlogHer and that my blog has made her think twice [about abortion].

I’m not sure BlogHer needs my voice, but maybe those unborn babies do.

The manager also sent me two links from the BlogHer main site that offered a different point-of-view on the Komen situation, but neither was passionately pro-life. One was pro-Komen even though the woman was grateful for Planned Parenthood and the other was pointing out all the mistakes Komen made by waffling on its decicion. While the Network may have a diverse range of voices, I still feel the main site needs a more balanced approach to issues and that an email should not have gone out headlining a post that was clearly in support of Planned Parenthood.

Nevertheless, all of this has made me pause. How do I best serve God? And my family? Truth is, as much as my ambitious, little self would love to start a social media revolution and launch a pro-life publishing network or something like that, that wouldn’t be fair to my family or even possible given the other demands of my life.

Barbara Curtis left BlogHer and has never looked back. She encouraged me to be still and pray about this, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I really, really want to do put my personal agenda, feelings, pride, etc. aside and make the right decision. I don’t want to seem like a fickle, flip-flopper, but I have to ask myself: Am I giving the unborn more of a voice by making a stand and leaving BlogHer, or did I jump the (emotional) gun and would have more of an impact by remaining in a Network that gives voices who don’t share my ideals a bigger microphone over at their main blog? These are questions only I can answer. I have lots to ponder. Discernment has never been my strength.

At least I know I’m not alone in my confusion. Candace is pondering, too.

— 5 —

Whatever I decide, this whole experience made me aware of the number of women who do share my passionately pro-life position. I was blown away by the outpouring of support and solidarity from the online community, and I’m very grateful for all of the words of hope and encouragement I received. Let’s keep up the good fight! For LIFE!!!

— 6 —

I just received my copy of Welcome Risen Jesus: Lenten and Easter Reflections for Families, which, ahem, was a good reminder that Lent is right around the corner. Reading Sarah Reinhard’s little book together is a simple but meaningful way for families to make the most of this beautiful, sanctifying season. And it’s only $1.99!!! That’s quite the steal for a book that just might help your children (and you!) grow closer to Christ this Lent.

If you’re still not sold, consider my 4-year-old’s glowing endorsement.

“What’s that, Mama?” she asked me as I pulled the book out of its packaging.

“It’s a book we’re going to read together during Lent. My friend wrote it!”

“Your friend wrote it?” she gasped. She flipped through it. “Wow! Your friend is a good writer-er.”


(I believe I used the phrase “true dat” in my last QTs post. My kids are consistently and simply stating some big truths.)

— 7 —

Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t somehow marble Star Wars into this post.

My older brother drew this hilarious spoof of some of our family as Star Wars characters. My kids call my parents Gaba and Papa, so we have Gaba the Hutt and Chewpapa. Mary Elizabeth (also known as M.E.) is the “M”peroror (fitting since she bounces around here on a mission and doesn’t let anyone stop her). Madeline, of course, is Madeline Skywalker. Rae, our resident princess, makes a lovely Princess Raea. Thomas is a cute Yoda, but my favorite is our Darth Layla. Layla is our black Lab-Great Dane mix.

I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if Madeline signed all of her valentines this year with “Yoda the one for me.”

Some of these “takes” weren’t so quick so if you’ve stuck with me for this long, you’re a real fan.

Have a wonderful weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Let’s Talk About Komen (& Why I’m Leaving the BlogHer Network)

I drafted this post last night. I should have published it then because now it seems like pro-lifers such as myself (and many but not all of my readers) are too late, or Planned Parenthood is too much of a bully. I just saw this article. Komen is backing off its decision to defund Planned Parenthood. There’s this from Creative Minority Report, too. Sigh.

I’m still going to publish my original post below because the point I make about needing to make our voice heard is more important than ever. In addition, my point about not understanding why people were so upset since Komen’s original decision simply prevented Planned Parenthood from funneling money to other organizations that provide low-cost mammograms is a valid one. Komen’s new (and now, it seems, reneged) policy intended to give the grants directly to the organizations that provided the low-cost mammograms rather than providing the money directly to Planned Parenthood to refer women to get the mammograms elsewhere. What’s the problem with here? The fact that Komen, instead of Planned Parenthood, has been accused of turning this in to a left-right issue boggles my mind. I’ve also seen arguments from people who were angry with Komen suggest that this isn’t about being pro-life or pro-choice; it’s about caring about women. It’s a human issue, not a health issue. Um, how is abortion not a human issue as well as a health issue? Oh, that’s right because abortion doesn’t kill babies. It helps women. No matter that having an abortion is linked to an increased risk of depression and addiction.

I guess the mama bear in me has finally reared its mad, I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore-head!

At any rate, here’s my original post:

I’m not a particularly courageous person. It’s not that I’m not brave because I am. I caught a snake that had found its way into our laundry room all my own and freed it outside, for example.  However, my vanity and my desire to be a people-pleaser usually wins out and tempers my bravery. I’m not concerned what snakes think of me.

But when it comes to protecting my family or looking out for my children, the chutzpah in me takes over and I can be downright feisty. Just ask my husband who’s close to me and knows my inner strength or the big kid at the playground who kicked my toddler down the slide (true story). The mama bear in me is strong and easily revved up if someone threatens my children. Do. Not. Test. Me.

Today I found myself asking myself why I was only considering my children to be the four children whom I carried in my womb and now live under the same roof as I do. Why wasn’t I extending my mama bear instincts to the rest of children – including the most fragile and precious ones of all? The tiny ones without a voice? The ones who need me to be a roaring mama bear if they have any chance of being heard?

It comes right down to fear, fear of being misunderstood, fear of rejection, fear that not everyone will like me, fear that I’ll offend someone even if I make every effort to express my opinions in a charitable way. It also can just be downright exhausting to put my pro-life views out there even when people are charitable about disagreeing. I just don’t have the time to ping-pong rational arguments back and forth.

But this mama bear is putting her fears and vanity aside and climbing, claws clenched, atop her soapbox today. I know for certain I have several pro-choice readers. I always welcome benevolent discourse, but I’m putting it on the record that I’m not going to feel like I have to defend anything I say here. Take it or leave it, my friends.

Like many of my fellow pro-lifers, I was thrilled when I heard the news that the breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure had announced it was ceasing to disperse all grants and further donations to Planned Parenthood. I never understood the relationship in the first place. One organization has a mission set on saving lives; the other one – no matter how many primary care health services it provides – destroys lives. And not just those of babies. I happen to know women whose past abortion haunts them and has caused emotional damage. I also have a friend who worked as a doctor in a city ER and had to treat several women with perforated uteruses that were the result of botched up Planned Parenthood abortions, so many women are left with more than emotional scars. She can’t understand why anyone in the medical community – no matter their views on abortion – would be against an investigation into an organization that provides medical services.

Now I’d like to believe the Susan G. Komen foundation is basing this recent decision on a pro-life stance. That’s what Planned Parenthood and others who immediately started politicizing this announcement are raging about – that Komen is choosing sides and has been bullied by the mean, old pro-lifers to stop supporting Planned Parenthood. Similarly, some of the pro-life announcements I’ve seen seem to think this decision is based entirely on pressure from the pro-life community. However, the way I see it is the non-profit organization’s new policy is a focused effort to be better steward of Komen’s resources. If your organization provides low-cost mammograms to women who need them, it will still be available for grants. Planned Parenthood offers manual breast exams in their clinics. It does not offer mammograms onsite. Instead, some Planned Parenthood locations provide grants to women to receive low-cost mammograms at other organizations. Why does Komen need a middle man? Why should Planned Parenthood receive money to give grants for mammograms to other organizations? Komen is wise to give the money directly to the clinics that actually give the breast cancer screenings rather than funneling it through Planned Parenthood (or any other establishment for that matter).

Likewise, I don’t understand why so many Planned Parenthood supporters are threatening to stop giving to Komen. Were you only giving to Komen to support Planned Parenthood, or were you interested in finding a cure for breast cancer and/or helping it to be detected early in women of all socioeconomic levels? You can still give to Komen and then also write a check directly Planned Parenthood. Opponents of the decision are arguing that Komen’s decision is going to reduce access to care to women who need lifesaving screening exams but as I pointed out above, this policy change really just removes an unnecessary middle man. The very people who are going to stop giving to Komen because of reduced access to care are the real ones who will be disenfranchising women looking for affordable breast screenings. If they’re not only concerned about the breast screenings, then, again, like I just said give directly to Planned Parenthood.

As for those of you who are pro-life and agree with Komen’s decision, make your voice heard. I have a friend who knows someone who works for the organization who left her job in tears yesterday because she spent the entire day answering the phone calls of angry people expressing their disdain for Komen’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood. She did not hear one single positive voice all day; no one on the other side of the issue took the time to applaud the organization for its decision to make saving lives its priority. I know many pro-lifers remain reluctant to make a donation because they’re unsure if this new Komen policy is set in stone. Others have argued that Komen still funds embryonic stem cell research, but this isn’t the case any longer. At any rate, if you’re not ready to put your money where your mouth is, then just use your mouth for now. Don’t feel like you need to write a check just yet, but do send email, write a letter, or make a phone call and say something positive about this turn of events.


Finally, if, like me, you happen to be a pro-life blogger, I wonder how you feel about being a part of the BlogHer Publishing Network now. I have no intention of partaking in any mud-slinging here. I’ve been honored to be a part of this Network for several years now despite the fact that the main page for BlogHer frequently pushes ideals I don’t subscribe to. But they do include a diverse group of voices in their networks and people who are on both sides of the fence politically and some who don’t even know or care that there’s a political fence.  Whatever their views, the caliber of bloggers in this network never fails to impress me. BlogHer and its founders and employees have built word by word, blog by blog, a tremendous social media community. The Network has empowered women from all walks of life as well as given us a voice – and a very powerful one at that. I’m also extremely indebted to BlogHer for paying me to engage in something I love to do, especially since so many organizations fail to put their money where their mouths are and ask writers to blog for free (and I am trained journalist by trade; this is my work). Likewise, I’ve enjoyed other perks of being a part of BlogHer such as  receiving free samples, gift cards, review opportunities, etc. The publishing network also offered you great freedom in choosing the type of ads you wanted to appear on your site, so if a certain product – something that wasn’t environmentally friendly, contraception, etc. – wasn’t something you’d want to support, you could refuse it.

But this freedom, the paycheck, the other perks, and the sense of community cannot make up for my recent unease.  Yesterday I received a BlogHer newsletter with a headlined piece written by BlogHer co-founder and CEO Lisa Stone. She wrote,

You know where BlogHer stands: We’re non-partisan because we exist to create a global stage where our bloggers can be sopartisan. And as an American, I’m religious about your right to free speech, no matter what side of the abortion issue you embrace.

That said, I must also share that I am horrified by this turn of events, at a time when America’s health care lags at #37 and exhibits dramatic differences based on race and income. Just as women are about more than our breasts, so is health care for women about more than abortions. [emphasis hers] Especially the kind of primary health care that Planned Parenthood has been providing for years to women and children who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

I hope the Susan G. Komen organization is listening.

Non-partisan? Well, I’ve loved writing as part of the BlogHer Publishing Network. That said, farewell.

This wasn’t an easy decision. It’s not like I make tons of money from the affiliation, but it does have its perks and I’m just a peon standing up against a media-machine. I guarantee no one at BlogHer will be losing any sleep over the fact that that crazy, Catholic mama Kate Wicker is leaving the BlogHer Network. But change always starts out small doesn’t it?  One rain droplet and there’s a ring of ripples on the glassy surface of a pond. One voice speaks up and says she won’t stand for this, and maybe others join her.

No, making the decision to break my affiliation with BlogHer wasn’t easy. Drafting this post wasn’t particularly easy either (partly because we’ve been engaged in some serious germ warfare around here, and I’m just wiped out), but last night I talked to a friend who stood up as the only vocal pro-lifer out of more than 100 students in a policy-making classes. That took courage, chutzpah, and she’s just starting to tap into her mama bear instincts. Her first baby is in utero, and she/he kept kicking every time someone mentioned Planned Parenthood. Courage must run in families.

If she could stand out like that, then I certainly could put this blog post out there and have the courage to leave the media megastar, BlogHer*.

So that’s what I’m doing. And I’m going to contact Komen, too, as I urged you to do above. I also ask other pro-women, pro-life bloggers out there to take a stand and step out of your comfort zone, even if you don’t usually blog about serious issues. Unleash your mama bear. We are all spiritual mothers whether we have our own children or not, and we owe it to them to speak up.

Now I just need to start my own publishing network that financially backs bloggers who are pro-life, pro-women, and new feminists. Seriously, it’s a good idea, isn’t it? I’d be all over it if I didn’t have four little ones who need a hands-on mama more than a media maven.

*Since BlogHer makes agreements with advertisers about how many blogs will be showcasing their ads, I’m not able to pull my BlogHer advertising immediately. In fact, I have to find out when my one-year contract ends, but I am only allowed to pull out after it ends after filing a 60-days written notice. I’ve already submitted my written notice and am waiting to see what the next step is.



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