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Ashlee is Mama of one darling boy. A 28 week early bird, now 1 and some change, doing beautifully. She lives near Chicago with her sweetheart husband and French Bulldog. She's a thinker not afraid to get her silly on. Babywearer, veggie queen, photography nut. Before the domestic days Ashlee was pursuing a future in developmental psychology but has happily shifted gears in favor of staying at home and couldn't imagine doing anything else. In her free time (ha!) you can find her whipping up babyslings, holding down the fort at Mama Speaks and spotlighting as an Itsy Bitsy Yoga Instructor.

This Thing

I've had this thing weighing on my heart and mind for some time. It keeps popping up in my life through a blog post here, an overheard conversation here, a friends trials there. It is something that I have such uncertainty about, I think we all do, and it makes me ache, it breaks my heart, brings tears. I start this post with a disclaimer. That my words here are not meant to judge anyone. That is not my place, not my right, not my position. I'm writing this post mainly for the selfish hope that translating my thoughts into words will lighten my load. I also want to open the dialog. I want to hear your thoughts. Comments are open. I only ask that everyone remain respectful.

That thing is Abortion.

I should start by saying I'm not one to say I'm on one side of the fence, or the other. There was a time in my life when I was probably 100% for a women's choice, no questions asked, whatever. But now, the more I think about it, the more stories I hear, the more lives I see touched, lives I see taken away the more I find my self just aching at the thought.

I guess my current struggle with it began a couple of months ago. David casually mentioned that he'd read a study. A study that showed over 75% of women who find out via prenatal testing that their baby will be born with Down Syndrome, terminate their pregnancy. Oh, how I wept! Not just because of the shear numbers involved but because of the friends I have with Down's. People who have changed my life. People I realized in today's time could very well have never been given the chance to leave their mark on this world. I guess I understand the fear, the unknown. The thought of not having that "perfect" child, of having a child that may suffer. Down's often brings with it some degree of mental retardation, and there is always a characteristic "look" - almond eyes, shorter stature, and a higher risk for certain health concerns. But is this reason enough?

I'm thinking of two examples from my own life. A family friend who passed away in my late teens due to heart complications. She was born with Down Syndrome. She was small and had almond eyes but was in no other way different than you and I by societies standards. She went to college, married, had children, lived a full and wonderful life. I met another dear friend when I began working at his group home. He, as well, has Down Syndrome. He falls at the other side of the spectrum however, he has moderate mental retardation, is non-verbal (with the exception of the phrase "that way!") and needs help to complete common everyday tasks. He will never live alone. Yet he is one of the sweetest people I've ever know. The most joyful. The most compassionate. He loves cats and pennies, swimming pools and ice cream cones.

Is either of these people worth removing from this world based on a diagnostic test? A test that can, unfortunately, be false.

A babies gestation didn't mean much to me until I was pregnant myself. Until I counted down those days and weeks myself. But now this brings up another issue that devastates me. Most of these babies, babies who are aborted due to having Down's and other "defects" are happily in their mothers womb until their fourth, fifth or sixth month. Xavier was born at six months- 28 weeks, 1 day. I recently worked with a mom who's son was born at five months. Today our boys are alive and well. I just don't think that God makes mistakes.

I guess this brings up the topic of when a baby is a "baby". Many doctors will tell you that a baby is not officially viable, and therefore not a "baby" until they've taken their first independent breath. For me a baby is a baby at the moment of conception if not before. I think for many people on the pro-abortion side of things, words are chosen carefully to support beliefs. A baby is not that, but a fetus, sometimes a "defective" fetus, therefore a fetus that warrants "termination". But when you a call a baby a baby a whole new set of words come to minds. Then you are ending a life. Four letter words that begin with K and a six letter word that begins with an M begin to seem more fitting. Words that under any other implication are crimes.

And maybe it's because it is that in my mind, that it seems such a strange thing for me. The bottom line is that I could never, would never. I couldn't even begin to think of it. More than anything I could never trust my own reasoning to make a life and death decision in any circumstance. Does that mean I think differently of someone who made the opposite choice. Absolutely not.

I have so much more to say, so many more thoughts bouncing around, but I'll stop right there for now. This post is tough, and long, and so pieces.

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  • Blogger Glass Half Full says so:
    9:47 AM  

    This is such a contraversial issue and I don't think society will ever come to a conclusion....BUT my stance is that life is precious and designed by God. Life starts at conception in my book and I believe God views it that way too.

    Good post -- even if it's stirring the pot! Way to go! top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    10:44 AM  

    You succinctly and successfully explained your position without casting judgment on the women who do not see things the same way that you do. I, too, believe that babies are babies from conception, and thus the Down's Syndrome test was of little interest to me as a pregnant mom. The only reason it would have mattered would be if there was some medical intervention that could help the baby before birth, and Down's Syndrome being a chromosomal thing, there isn't.

    Thanks for being willing to intelligently and kindly articulate a controversial thought. top

  • Blogger JoynerFam says so:
    11:01 AM  

    I dont agree with abortion, I dont believe it should be used as birth control and or for picky parents. A child is a life no matter how small or however unperfect they might deem it to be. I understand how you feel about the issue. I concur. Stirring the pot makes the end result much better. I should know im a chef. top

  • Blogger Heaven Sent says so:
    11:56 AM  

    I agree with absolutely everything you said. Life begins at conception for us humans, but begins much earlier based on God's plan.

    I would love it if the concept of abortion would disappear so that every child would be given a chance at life -- a chance at a miracle, a chance at changing lives like yours and mine. What is "healthy" anyway? I know I would love Emma just as much if she had nine fingers and toes instead of ten.

    In my heart, I know what God wants, but it is my calling to LOVE people, NOT judge them. I am not pro-choice by any means, but I am not someone who would ever make someone else feel damned for what they have chosen to do. That's between them and God, as is every other decision we make in our lives.

    I just pray that those little ones who never got to meet their earthly parents are in heaven rejoicing with their heavenly Father. That is the only thing that keeps me from falling apart every time I hear a story of abortion.

    You are brave for posting on this topic, and I am inspired that you took such a public stand without being malicious or disrespectful. Well done! top

  • Anonymous Peant Butter and Jelly Boats says so:
    12:28 PM  

    I have 2 family members with Downs Syndrome and I can say, with certainty, that people with DS bring so much joy, warmth and love. To terminate based on DS makes me very, very sad. Abortion is a topic that strikes a cord with me. My mother gave birth to me when she was 15 years old. She was offered an abortion at the time and opted not too. Also, my brother was adopted into our family once his birth mother's parental rights were taken away. Even in the stickiest situations, there are other options. I believe that a baby is a baby from conception. As far as a woman's right to choose...I believe that a woman has a right to choose or choose not to have sex. If she chooses to do the things that cause a baby- that is her choice. I do not believe it is a woman's right to choose to end a human life, even if it is growing inside of her body. I do realize that some woman who want abortions did not have the opportunity to choose weather or not to have sex. I don't know where the answer lies for those women. I still would rather see adoption rather than abortion. top

  • Blogger Tracey says so:
    1:41 PM  

    Well put. I agree. Hence, the reason I never took any prenatal testing. I knew I wouldn't terminate, so what would be the point?

    I did, however, have a conversation with dh recently where he hemmed and hawed over answering what he would have wanted to do had we found out, prenatally, that our child was d.s. Interesting... top

  • Blogger Adventures In Babywearing says so:
    4:38 PM  

    When I was pregnant with Noah, we were told that he might not be born with kidneys and possibly other complications, this found out through the routine ultrasound. We had seven more ultrasounds during our pregnancy and they couldn't tell what all was wrong with him. And when he was born, he was perfect. He had TWO kidneys and he was completely normal.

    It breaks my heart to think about how many times parents are told a false report and the decision to abort is made according that false report.

    I personally believe life begins at conception. We found out we were pregnant with Gray within just a few weeks. He was my child that I loved with all my heart even then. I would never want to know what it would be like to lose a child through miscarriage- I've seen friends lose a baby at just 1 or 2 months and it is still like losing a whole child. Whether they've birthed and held that child or not. It is loved and longed for. Even if a child is not "wanted" or "intended," that child has a spirit. There is a heartbeat. There is life.

    This is just my personal view. I honestly think that we must reach the hearts of the women making the decision to abort, not through laws banning abortion,... through showing them support and love.

    I have friends that have had abortions, and I know that it was probably the worst experience and hardest thing they have ever gone through. I will always be there for them, whatever they decide. I have also seen the emotional toll that abortions have done to friends. I think there needs to be more support and awareness of what happens after an abortion to the mom and her body- physically and mentally.

    And now I only speak as a woman that has never had to be faced with such a choice. But I know how it feels to have a life all of 3 weeks living inside my body and to see what miracles take place the entire pregnancy and beyond. And how amazing and precious life- big or small- is.

    Steph top

  • Anonymous Mama C-ta says so:
    11:42 PM  

    Stir it up, little darling, stir it up.

    No in all seriousness, this is such a controversial topic but one that I feel needs to be discussed and you've done so eloquently. And I'm not just saying that b/c I pretty much agree with everything you've said.

    I just never say never. Actually I always do and always regret it. I like to think I couldn't ever abort but I've never been raped - yes adoption sounds better but I don't know what it's like to carry around the product of rape for 10 months, albeit a child.

    In high school I volunteered for the Special Olympics - I saw first hand the joy, frustrations, sadness from losing, pride from winning all the people with Downs felt, just like you and I because they are just like you and I. I don't see me aborting b/c of birth defects. When I decided to have a baby, I decided to have a baby. It wasn't "I'll have a baby only if he ends up my idea of a perfect baby."

    I have a friend whose daughter has cerebral palsy. She was told she may be born with mental retardation and she should abort. That was the last time she saw that doctor. Her daughter will never be able to live on her own, and my friend was a single mom for a good portion of her life so far. But I see the joy she brings; I couldn't imagine her any other way or this world without her.

    I generally say I'm pro-choice and pro-life. There are too many situations that I couldn't fathom and once you get into "pro-life with exceptions" it just gets too tricky. But I do know my uterus is no place for the government.

    Lisa said it best "I am not someone who would ever make someone else feel damned for what they have chosen to do. That's between them and God” Although I could never abort, it's between them and their God. top

  • Blogger Staci says so:
    7:43 AM  

    That statistic literally makes me sick to my stomach.

    I believe that the baby growing in the mother's womb is a human child. No matter what the circumstances are outside of the womb, I do not believe that the baby deserves to die for it. No matter how "imperfect" the child is.
    I am pro-life, unashamedly. However, I believe that moms who made the choice of abortion in the past need grace and compassion, not condemnation.

    Always love your sincere heart, and beautiful writing Ashley.

    Staci top

  • Blogger Julie Luse says so:
    11:14 AM  

    That was great. Thanks so much for sharing and being real. You totally approached a heated topic with grace. You would have asked me in high school about abortion I might have been for it only for the sake of someone being raped. You ask me today, I would raise the rapists child with love, because it's not the child's fault. I, too, know many mom's who when tested were told they were having a Down Syndrom child and they DIDN'T!!! I was told to get tests done because of family history, there was a chance that Asher would have been ever worse off than down syndrome. My response to trust the Lord instead of an MD paid off!! I can't wait to hear more in the future!
    Julie :) @ Raising Contentment top

  • Anonymous Brandy says so:
    11:41 AM  

    I 100% agree with you. We just never know, and I do not believe God makes mistakes.
    Do you ever stop to wonder if maybe the cure to AIDS, Cancer, etc. has been sent, but it was aborted? I wonder ALOT!
    My mother got pregnant with me at 15, later I heard my grandmother telling someone she was glad my mom hid her pregnancy until her 6th month, or I WOULD HAVE BEEN ABORTED!
    Thanks for bringing up this TABOO topic, it is hard to discuss, but you did it very tactfully. top

  • Anonymous Keri says so:
    1:21 PM  

    I loved how you wrote this post eloquently. Before I was pregnant, I was 100% pro-choice. Then I had Lochlan and everything changed. While I am still pro-choice in general, I know in my heart that I could never have an abortion, no matter what. My baby was a part of me from DAY ONE of conception.

    One of the reasons I had a midwife was that I didn't have to take all those pre-natal tests (other than health-related tests for me, like Strep B, eclampsia, etc) and I wouldn't have to face the pressure to take those tests either. I knew that whatever happens, happens. We would face those challenges when they came up and in life, there are ALWAYS challenges, just different kinds. In the end, those challenges make us more compassionate people. I like to say that everything happens for a reason. =D top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    2:53 PM  

    I totally agree with everything you said...but I will take a side. I am completely pro-life, hands down. I did have prenatal testing with all 3 pregnancies...only to be prepared in case something was wrong. My doctor told me that sometimes waiting lists for schools for specials needs children are very long and so you would want to get put on a waiting list while you were still pregnant. And there are so many false readings that it's scary. It's sad that such a thing as this is even a debatable topic. top

  • Blogger Heidi says so:
    10:59 PM  

    I too believe that God makes no mistakes. Even having had a miscarriage last fall I couldn't believe the devastation we felt but God knows what he's doing and he's in control.

    I don't even have my Dr do that test because it's not accurate and she says "it's pointless if your not going to 'do anything about it." Which makes me sad that there are people who that late in their pregnancy could abort their child after they've felt in moving in there, it's just one of those heart achy things for me. I ache for the child lost and the parents who made the choice. It's so hard, I too know that 10 years ago I would say I was pro-choice, now not so. top

  • Blogger Jennifer says so:
    1:13 PM  

    I have been reading your blog for a while now, and decided to come out of lurkdom to commend you on writing this. I agree with you 100%, and you wrote this so well!
    I also agree totally with Peanut Butter and Jelly Boats: "As far as a woman's right to choose...I believe that a woman has a right to choose or choose not to have sex..." I must remember that - I love it!
    I have a cousin the same age as me with DS - and he is such a special person. It breaks my heart to think he might not be here if his parents had flet that way.
    My son was born at 24 weeks ges. He is a happy, healthy 13 yr. old now. And to say that he wasn't a baby yet? I'm waiting for the day someone says directly to me that they are not babies at that stage - then I will show them my son. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I refused the testing they wanted to do. They even tried to make me think that some things had to be done, and that I really didn't have a choice - but I stood firm. There was nothing that I needed to know except that she was alive - that's all that mattered. And of course, she was perfect, but even if she hadn't been, it would have been ok.

    I could go on and on, but I won't. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you writing this - you wrote what I feel far better than I could have! top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    7:09 PM  

    I am anonymous for personal reasons.... Ashlee... You may know who I am.....continue reading.....

    I was raped at 17. I had an appointment within days to find out if I was pregnant because I knew that if I was pregnant I would abort immediately. I figured the sooner I did it the less impact there would be and as long as I did before my 2nd trimester it was ok. They said it was too soon to tell. Scared, I ran and picked up a test at our trusty pharmacy.............. and I was pregnant! I couldn't believe it! I immediately sought an appointment for an abortion. I had the procedure scheduled because I knew that was the only way out..... I never went through with it....

    I then decided on adoption. I met a loving couple from the Netherlands. I chose that location because I knew my child would be bi-racial and while there is ignorance everywhere we go, the Netherlands tends to be less "ignorant"... in my eyes atleast..... My pregnancy was obviously not what I had hoped. Lots of complications, I was a Junior in High School with parents who were not there for me for as long as I could remember. I had high academics and was continually asked by the school to leave and go to a "special school" where trouble kids go. I wasn't troubled, just a 17 year old who was pregnant. I had the grades, but I was "promoting sex". Nobody knew the circumstances. I was scared. Some thought I was a whore who got pregnant by my boyfriend who lived in Chicago. Little did they know. Only God and I knew the truth. I was abused mentally and physically as a child and while I was pregnant I was still abused my mother. I was 2 weeks overdue and it was then that I knew I was still pregnant for a reason.....

    My beautiful daughter is now 9 years old. I am married to a wonderful husband who is my best friend with whom I have 3 children with and I wouldn't change a thing.... Life does begin at conception and while every woman has a choice the precious life inside of you doesn't..... top

  • Anonymous Bea says so:
    9:05 AM  

    How is Xavier? I've been praying for you. We haven't talked in a while. top

  • Blogger JoynerFam says so:
    10:03 PM  

    Hey were coming to valpo on sunday. Wondered if we could meet up? Ill try calling you again later this week. top

  • Anonymous Casual Friday Everyday says so:
    10:20 PM  

    I'm 100% pro-life. And it breaks my heart to think women kill their babies because they may have DS :(

    I know it has to be horrible to hear your child MIGHT have DS or other problems, but all you need to do is hold the baby and it won't matter to you. top

  • Blogger slappy higganbotham says so:
    1:30 PM  

    a child is a huge, lifelong, and life-changing responsibility for both parents. they should have the choice whether they want to have the baby or not.

    terminating a pregnancy is awful, but you know what's even worse? seeing parents that do not want their child. or worse, are disappointed by what their child is before it is even born.

    your opinions are heartfelt, but should not be used as basis for any sort of governing law. top

  • Blogger Jessica says so:
    12:49 PM  

    Great post! My best friend's little girl has Down's and although it's been tough, I know that she was put here for a reason. They did, in fact, have all the tests just b/c her dr. suggested all his patients have them, and through 2 ultrasounds and 2 blood tests, Down's was not detected. God makes NO mistakes!

    And thanks Anonymous for posting your comment and for your honesty. top

  • Blogger Katja from skimbaco.com says so:
    12:50 AM  

    Great post!
    And many posts here made tears in my eyes.

    This is such a tough subject. I'm pro-life, and I never had those tests done - I would have never had an abortion if the baby had DS etc. I could never do it, whatever the situation was, but I don't believe it is governments issue to stop it. I'm with Mama c-ta in this - pro-life and pro-choice.

    I don't think a teenager who is raped by her own father for example should be forced to have the baby.

    Or what if the pregnancy is risky for the mom? My friend has a very difficult diabetes (has had since she was 7 years old), and she got accidentally pregnant a few years ago. Her diabetes was not in control, and the pregnancy might have been lethal to her. She had an abortion, even though it was the toughest decision she ever made. She probably never can have children, but should she be bandoned sex, just because she has a bad case of diabetes?

    If abortion was made illegal, it would be going back on time - illegal abortion clinics, women using hangers... like it was before.

    The regulations should be tightened, and it should never be considered a birth control method. Sex education in schools should be much better, and people should be just more educated, so there would not be such a need for abortions.

    I'm from Scandinavia, and I remember having sex education at schools since I was on the 7th grade. Seeing pictures what herpes or klamydia does was not something I wanted to see - but worked much better for me saying no to sex, than God/government/mom/teacher saying I shouldn't do it.

    I was also shown pictures of fetuses in different weeks of pregnancy - we were shown what the fetus would look like when it was still legal to have an abortion.

    Seems like many parents want to shield their children from knowing things like that too early - I much rather teach these to my children before they experience it, because they didn't know about it. top