Do Catholics Have Crisis Pregnancies?

Let me tell you about a woman I know.  She is a cradle Catholic and firm pro-lifer, happily married to a supportive and loving husband.  She lives in a modern apartment in a safe, friendly neighborhood, and her family’s income is enough to provide for their necessities and a few luxuries too.  She has a wonderful support group of like-minded family and friends.  But last year, she became unexpectedly pregnant and it was one of the biggest crises she ever faced.

She was thrown into panic–she had two children under 4, and already felt overwhelmed; she was on anti-depressants; they already had four people squished into a 3-room apartment, and couldn’t afford to move; they had enormous student debt; and her husband was scheduled to be in the middle of an unpaid internship the month the baby was due.  She worked a physically demanding part-time job, and the pregnancy brought with it panic attacks, severe insomnia and nightmares, back pain so bad it made her limp for a few months, and depression that occasionally reached the point of suicidal thoughts.  She was angry at God, afraid of the future, and resentful of the baby.  She felt horribly guilty that she couldn’t view the baby in her womb as anything but a burden, and she felt ashamed to be so overwhelmed when she had such a fortunate life.  She was so scared of another pregnancy after this one that she was flooded with temptations to take birth control or get sterilized.  And once, at the darkest point, the thought of abortion came into her mind.

This woman is me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t think it was possible for someone as fortunate as me to have a crisis pregnancy.  Thanks to God, and to my marvelous group of friends and family, the temptation never returned.  But it opened my eyes to the fact that anyone can have a crisis pregnancy…and this means that anyone can be tempted by abortion.  I already knew that many women get pushed into abortions, and suffer terrible guilt afterwards; but now I felt like I understood what they have gone through.  I gained a much deeper compassion for women planning or recovering from abortions, a compassion which I hope will continue to guard me against ever stereotyping or vilifying them.

I also learned something about the pro-life movement (or at least, that part of it that I’ve experienced): we are so concerned with welcoming new life and affirming the blessing of parenthood that we pretend we’re always happy about it.  When a woman like me finds herself in a crisis pregnancy, she may be scared to admit it.  After all, doesn’t she realize how many infertile people would kill to be in her position?  And doesn’t she understand what a blessing fertility is?  And shouldn’t she make sure everyone sees her joy, so she can witness to the Gospel?  When a pro-life woman with several kids gets the usual “are you done yet?” or “how on earth can you manage?” comment in the supermarket, she feels compelled to reply with something enthusiastic, like “we’re happy to have as many children as God gives us!” or “oh, we love having a house full of little ones!”  I used to always have a cheerful reply like this waiting, so I could be a good witness for the secular world.  But during this pregnancy, things were so bad that I couldn’t muster up a pro-life rallying cry.  I couldn’t even joke about the trials of pregnancy.  It was deadly serious.  So instead, I started admitting to people–first my husband, then my friends, then even my coworkers–that I was not expecting this, and I was having a hard time.  And suddenly, I didn’t feel alone anymore.  No one responded with “oh look, she was pro-life until she got pregnant!” or “I’m glad I’m not Catholic, I wouldn’t want to be drowning in diapers like her!”  Instead, I received the support and sympathy I needed.

Looking back, I think this may actually be a good form of witness, too.  Certainly, it’s good for secular people and pro-choicers to see examples of joyful parenthood; but it’s also good for them to see that, even when parenthood is a crisis, it’s worth it.  As a priest once said to me, you can’t be sure that you’re faithful until temptation comes along and you resist it.  You won’t really know that you’re pro-life until you are tempted with abortion and choose life; and nobody else will know it, either.  By all means, let’s show the world how happy a life open to God can be.  But let’s also be someone they can relate to–for their sake and for ours.

Many thanks to the strong and amazing Rebecca Frech, at the blog, Shoved to Them, whose post about crisis pregnancy inspired me.  These thoughts have been on my heart for a long time, but her post crystallized them in my mind and inspired me to write.  Her follow-up post gets a little more specific about temptation to abortion and solidarity with post-abortive women.  And by the way, here is the happy ending:

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I love this baby more than I have ever loved anyone else in my entire life.  I can’t help thinking that some of that is due to the hell I went through to bring her into the world.  I paid for her with my blood, sweat, and tears and she was worth it!

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28 thoughts on “Do Catholics Have Crisis Pregnancies?

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  6. abortion was not a considerTion, but we had a similar crisis pregnancy with our first (and after her, God taught us the NFP model that “works” for us, Marquette). We went to the local Birthrightfor help because we were broke. They refused, saying they’d only help if we were considering abortion.

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    • Wow, that’s awful. I wonder if that’s a Birthright policy, or if it was just the particular one you went to? Glad you found Marquette–we just switched to that too, and so far so good!

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  7. Wow, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve always been sort of ashamed at the utter feeling of panic I experienced when I got my first positive pregnancy test at the age of 23, three weeks after my wedding. We didn’t even have an apartment and I had just learned my job wasn’t going to give me benefits. A lot of Catholic people, including one of my NFP teachers told me that the feelings of stress and the fear I had were “from the devil” and it just infuriated me. Even worse I got called a complainer – didn’t I know that all I had to do was work hard and everything would be dandy? We should be able to witness to the difficulty of following Catholic teaching without being accused of being unorthodox. God Bless you and your family.

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  8. Oh, this is so beautiful! Thank you for showing us that even though life can suck big time, it is always worth it. Stories like yours help us to remember that none of us are perfect. Thank you for making a courageous decision when it was so, so hard, and giving your baby the gift of life. How blessed she is to have you as her mom!

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  9. Hugs to you Rosie! You’re so right. I still vividly remember standing in the vestibule of my church, all those same feelings and temptations crashing through my mind when I was about 5 or 6 months along, and they had pamphlets out for a crisis pregnancy mission. I was married and had some support but it wasn’t enough. As I picked one up, an older couple walked by. The gentleman scoffed and said in a stage whisper “she should have noticed by now it’s too late anyway.” To have that attitude from a fellow Catholic in the back of the CHURCH is why these stories are so important; to be pro life is to support life, in whatever stage or situation it may find you.

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  10. Beautiful post. Everyone’s cross is different, and we need to have compassion and empathy for all. I’m one of the infertile ones, but I also understand that the other end of the spectrum can be equally challenging. Great point about being pro-life. We truly are tested in fire. One might ask me how I can be pro-life if I can’t get pregnant. My answer? Sometimes pro-life means refusing to give in to the temptation of IVF/surrogacy.

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  11. Something I’ve been reflecting on is how much we Catholics need to believe in and extend GRACE. That being Catholic doesn’t automatically mean being strong and holy all the time, that salvation is an ongoing process, and that we need to acknowledge how weak both we and others are… and extend grace like Jesus does. Your article and the comments made me think of that, and how often I’ve come across people in the Church who don’t seem to get it.

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  12. This was such a great read and a much needed one! Even reading through some of the comments was great. I have had the same temptation myself at the being but I couldn’t be happier with my choose of choosing life! And I am always down on myself for have ever had those thoughts of ending one. And how bad of a catholic I was for thinking of it at all on top of becoming pregnant outside of marriage. I never thought of it as a small battle with temptation. I never even thought that others Catholics were temped as well. By the way the picture of your baby is adorable! Adorable babies makes all the struggles in life worth it!

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    • So glad it helped, Jessica. Mama guilt is so awful. Not only are we supposed to do the right thing, but we’re supposed to be thinking and feeling the right thing, too! While dealing with pregnancy hormones! Totally unrealistic.

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  13. Your essay & the comments here all beautiful and sobering – esp for me as an elderly unbending Catholic male. I was reminded of a novel I read some time ago – nothing to do with pregnancy but the same principle of a form of temptation to apostasy. The story is “Silence” by Shusaku Endo.

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  14. I’ve been through a “crisis pregnancy” as well. My husband was an independent contractor and we were on a COBRA without a pregnancy rider. January I came up pregnant and the jobs petered out. We were on food stamps and some help from family and friends but no job for about 6 months. Finally he found a job in Texas (closer to family) and we had insurance, just a month and a half before the baby was due.

    I wasn’t tempted to abort it, but I did have a paper in my file ready for me to sign off on a tubal ligation. I told God that if He didn’t find my husband work before this baby came I would sign it and I’d be done. I should get down on my knees for Him putting up with my ultimatums but I am still intact, we have a good job and we are closer to my family now.

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  15. This is why it was so hard when I was a single mom and got nothing but grief from Catholics. I understood that I had done something sinful in getting pregnant outside of marriage, but seriously, I was constantly tempted to get an abortion because then I could avoid the NEVER ENDING harassment. You can’t be pro-life and then constantly shame people for being pregnant.

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    • Yup – I remember being single and pregnant and basically being told by far too many people that the only “responsible” thing to do was have an abortion. Pissed me off. More detail here: https://athenasantics.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/my-abortion-story/

      Stories like yours is why I love the movie Juno – she gets attitude from people and she just kinda shrugs it off and rolls her eyes. I mean – what are you gonna do? You can’t tell them off, because then you’re “oversensitive” and “hormonal,” and you certainly can’t agree with them, you can’t even try to talk to them calmly because then you’re still “angry” and “hormonal” … actually you know what? No matter what you do you’re “irrational” and “hormonal” to someone who’s determined to see you as somehow less of a person for committing the unpardonable crime of bringing new life into the world.

      You can’t win – I get it. Glad it’s behind you now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for sharing this, Athena. You’re very brave. Here’s a Langston Hughes poem for all you (former or current) single Mamas!

        S-sss-ss-sh

        Her great adventure ended
        As great adventures should
        In life being created
        Anew–and good.

        Except the neighbors
        And her mother
        Did not think it good!

        Nature has a way
        Of not caring much
        About marriage
        Licenses and such.

        But the neighbors
        And her mother
        Cared very much!

        The baby came one morning,
        Almost with the sun.

        The neighbors–
        And its grandma–
        Were outdone!

        But mother and child
        Thought it fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. This was great. I know when we conceived my son, even though we “planned” for him, my hubby lost two of his 3 jobs within months after and his insurance fell through. We were pretty broke and felt fairly hopeless. I really appreciate your honestly. I think God wants you to witness with joy but above all honestly. That it is worth it and the joy is hard to eke out but you’re telling the truth through action that life has worth. Brava 🙂

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