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Living for Others

Here is a photo of my son Noah, when he was about 25 weeks old.

My wife and I had just been told that Noah had a massive hole in his heart, and that he was likely to have Down Syndrome. (He did)

Put yourself in our shoes. There are many heavy emotions flowing thick and fast through your heart. Your mind races ahead, drawing out a narrative of the next few weeks, months, & years ahead. You feel like your entire future has just been re-written.

Your child is disabled. Permanently. 

You will be his carer, perhaps permanently.

You feel like your entire future has just been re-written. Your child is disabled. Permanently. You will be his carer, perhaps permanently.

You grieve the way in which his extra chromosome will cause a syndrome of health problems and physical characteristics. You mourn that your child will struggle to stay even close to the average curve charts of other children in strength, intelligence, speech, co-ordination, life expectancy and many other things.

You think about the impact all of this will have upon your well-being, the well-being of your family, and the well-being of your other children. The enormous cost of time, energy, and money. Your independence later in life. You immediately feel a sense of shame that you cannot quite explain; that somehow you and your child have just been marked. You fear a coming embarrassment that might follow you like a shadow. You fear a thousand second glances—a thousand awkward conversations. You shudder at the thought of spending endless amounts of time in hospitals, surgeries, seeing specialists, worrying, fretting, uncertain about your child’s future. You will grieve as you farewell your hopes and dreams of having a healthy, typical child.

Such is the stigma and fear that the words “Down Syndrome” and “congenital heart defect” can throw upon a person. In the stress of the moment, it may be difficult to grasp the reality that some of these fears are unfounded.

And this is just the beginning. I can’t even begin to imagine the extra burdens upon you if you are experiencing all of this as:

  • a single mother
  • an immigrant 
  • someone dealing with poverty, serious mental health issues or addictions
  • a teenager
  • someone with limited support
  • a person on the cusp of an exciting career
  • a person who has been abused

etc.

Can’t even begin to imagine it.

Now, you’d be amazed just how quickly all of the above thoughts can flash before your eyes.

And you have the power to make it all go away. No one will question you. The vast majority of the media you consume will support you all the way. Medical professionals may expect, or even pressure you to terminate the pregnancy. Friends of ours were told, “Most women get it cleaned out and start again.”

We understand firsthand why people choose to abort their children. We have stood at the very edge of that decision and looked down into it. And yet, we were never compelled to even consider terminating Noah’s pregnancy. Many people may not understand this. It’s easy to explain away our objections to abortion as a duty forced upon us by some allegiance to archaic religious laws, or a sad byproduct of conservative political alliances. It’s easy to dismiss it with rhetoric about the patriarchy; with talk about the rights of women over their bodies; with reminders about how hard it is to raise a child in this oppressive modern world. We’ve heard it all. We’ve read it all. 

We understand firsthand why people choose to abort their children. We have stood at the very edge of that decision and looked down into it.

But even if all this were true, the reason for our decision can be summed up in one question: Should we live for others, or live for ourselves? 

Most of us will say, “For others”. But your views on abortion will reveal your true answer. It will hoist your true colours up the flagpole.

Look again at the photo of Noah at 25 weeks old. Here is an “other”. Do you want to live for him, or for yourself? You don’t have to be his parent to answer—your answer, as a member of the society he belongs to, is crucial too. It will help determine whether his parents are more likely to live their lives for him or for themselves.

Perhaps we would prefer to say that “he” is not an “other” after all. “It” is just a clump of cells. It is just a “potential” human. It is part of the mother’s body, over which she has full independence (a “part of her body” that has a completely unique and distinct DNA sequence that only violence can prevent from blossoming into full consciousness, like her very own womb experience … oh the utter madness we will swallow… ) 

Living for others means living for the mother too. It means unconditional support. It means rallying together as families, communities and societies to do whatever it takes to provide refuge and hope for pregnant women and their children.

There are other reasons to oppose abortion and uphold the dignity of all human life. There are tragic circumstances where some use their power to force or coerce women to end the life of the child for whom they would otherwise have lived. There are women who will continue difficult pregnancies without challenging their motivations for doing so. But I write all this in the hope that, as you continue on living in a society where abortion is increasingly normalised and sanctioned, maybe I’ll help persuade you to pause, and make or reaffirm your commitment to live a life for others.

You might have your own reasons, but I choose to live my life for others because I live for King Jesus; the King who “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor 5:15). Notice how we are called to live for the one who died for us. Jesus lived his life for others to the utmost, to the point of giving that life away. And his love compels us to imitate him and live for the sake of those around us.

I delight in imitating Christ and living for others even when it’s hard, even when it clashes with my so-called “better judgement”. And I rest in the forgiveness of Christ when I fail to do so. Those dreadful and overwhelming thoughts which flooded my heart and mind upon receiving Noah’s diagnoses have largely faded away. Many of the fears were completely unfounded. And even when they were legitimate, by putting Noah’s needs before mine, I was set free from them. I feel pride in him, not shame. I have hope for him, not despair. The griefs are real, as they are with any child, but they occupy their proper space within a heavenly perspective. I see now that many of those early thoughts and feelings were born from a desire to live life for myself.

Our journey of life and parenthood was not what we had expected it to be. Indeed, it has been far more precious and beautiful than we had ever thought possible. And I hope and pray that one day you’ll get to meet Noah and experience the wonder of watching him live his life for you.


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