Her March Isn’t Over: Supporting Single Moms Who Choose Life
Another January has come to an end, and another March for Life is in the books. This year was unlike any other in the past due to social distancing, but the goal was the same, and the passion has not waned. And in this moment, in the aftermath of the speeches and songs and rallying cries, Christians who desire to champion God’s perspective on life and seek to lift the burdens off of victims and the oppressed need to ramp up their involvement and energize their passion.
When I was called by God to love Him and surrender myself to His ways while in the midst of a crisis pregnancy[i], I was also being groomed by the pro-life community to take on a whirlwind of activities that would promote the cause. I was happy to do it because I wanted other women in my situation to realize that the abortion industry’s distortions did not have to apply to them. Every woman is an image bearer and precious in God’s sight, therefore the beautiful work of redemption and restoration that He performed on my behalf is available to her, as well as to her baby, and the rest of any affected family members.
I’m a writer, so I write articles. I am a fairly capable speaker, so I was also asked to speak at churches and rallies and dinners. During my state’s hearings on laws to limit abortion in the “special cases” of rape and incest, I represented in testimony that small percentage of women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies conceived via sexual assault. And I am glad I did (and have continued to do) all of those things.
I also represent another minority group: those women in crisis pregnancy situations who have a built-in, dedicated, and loving support group. My mom was the first person I called when I found out I was pregnant. My brothers took time out of their lives and came to spend a weekend with me to show their support. Even though many friendships went through transitions, most of my relationships were strengthened.
After delivery, I returned to my writing and editing career, which continued uninterrupted until I got married six years later. My employers weren’t concerned whether my single motherhood would cause personnel headaches, thanks to my mom being the primary babysitter. With employment came healthcare. These privileges are not the case for the majority of women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy.[ii]
These challenges don’t even address the most basic, “How do I get through this day?” kinds of questions such as the following:
- Am I diapering the baby properly?
- Why isn’t she feeding?
- What are these spots on his legs?
- How can I get her to stop crying all night long?
Today Google burps out answers faster than it takes to type the question—an option that certainly wasn’t there 22 years ago when my youngest was born, much less 31 years ago when I was a brand-new mom, but the internet has become clogged with fake information. It’s nearly impossible to hear good old-fashioned advice of the kind that mothers and grandmothers pass down.
I was a white, middle-class, college-educated professional, so for the most part, people didn’t regard me with suspicion or my circumstances with distaste. Christian and conservative media was regularly affirming my position as the pro-life movement was becoming a more credible political constituency. The welcome I received from church fellowships was always friendly and open. I once overheard a church leader mention my name as if I was his trump card in a conversation about whose church was more pro-life. I admit, I learned to wield the special case card in a lot of situations to get past the awkward conversations all of us women hate that inevitably make us doubt our worth.
On April 28, 1990, I attended a massive Rally for Life in Washington, DC, my almost 1-year-old in tow. On the bus to the rally, a reporter for the local paper interviewed several riders, including me. She was puzzled by the thought of someone going through with a pregnancy that began with violence. She was taken with my daughter’s sweet nature and delicate beauty, and it left her sober-minded and meditative for the rest of the trip. Upon arrival, she walked with our group to the mall and leaned over often to talk to and smile at my daughter, and then she disappeared into the crowd. She did, after all, have a job to do. I often think of that reporter and pray that her reaction indicated some soul searching and heart plowing work by the Lord. Maybe today she’s a believer and pro-life because of our encounter. Our conversation was heard by others on the bus, and as a result, I was treated a little like a hero that day.
I suggest that the above scenario is far from typical for others who have had to explain or defend their pro-life affirming choices.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what happened the day after that rally. My life continued pretty much the way it had without a blip from the moment I discovered I was pregnant. The next day I went to church and worshiped among friends. I didn’t worry about having sufficient food for me or my daughter, nor about a roof over our heads. I didn’t have to make decisions or discipline alone or be her sole source of interaction.
I went to work the following Monday to a good job that not only provided for us financially but that also allowed me to use my skills and gifts. I didn’t have to juggle child care issues around commuting or scheduling obstacles. The scant sunburn we both picked up on that day could be treated with over the counter lotion, which I could easily afford, or prescribed medication if necessary, which was covered by my employer-provided insurance plan.
I once saw a meme on social media that asked a valid question: If the pro-life community is successful (and pray we are!) at putting an end to abortion, what is it we intend to do about the resulting population boom—both in children born out of wedlock and a demographic of women in need? Granted, it’s hopeful and very possible that the number of children who would no longer be at risk of abortion won’t equal the number of children who are today regularly aborted because many of the adults conceiving the children will take other measures—preferably not seeking immediate sexual fulfillment without a plan to be responsible about the possible outcome. But most won’t. Granted, a portion of the babies conceived in these situations will be born into some form of stability—either a home where grandparents are prepared to care for the child or a newly established family because mom and dad have decided to make their sexual union legal under God and the state. But most won’t.
I don’t think many of us are ready to deal with this influx of single mothers into our neighborhoods, our school districts, our play groups, our sports clubs, or our church pews. For most of us, our circles just don’t naturally open up and make space for people who in their daily experiences face different challenges than we do in ours.
My white, middle-class, college-educated, professional persona gets a pass but shouldn’t just because my sins are not as visible as others. To my shame, I play the church lady game with ease. I don’t make people uncomfortable, and in fact, the hand I’ve been dealt makes it very convenient for those around me to support me. No edgy questions about welfare or privilege. No queasiness about whether mercy might be misconstrued as enabling.
However, those who were dealt a different hand or who don’t play the game or have the tools to fake it know what Christ experienced through the shame of the cross, and the truth is, they might be closer to identifying with Him who was despised and forsaken than I am. God sees my mask even if others can’t, which is why the commands to love and show mercy are never based on behavior but on Whose image we bear. “Are we to treat the visibly saved with greater honor than all of humanity, made as it is in God’s image?” asks Rosaria Butterfield, and adds, “We never know the treacherous journey that some people take to share the pew with us Sunday after Sunday.”[iii]
If you’ve participated in the March anytime in the past or viewed the livestream this year, what a great opportunity to lend your presence and your voice to the call for rescue for the unborn. It would be a tragedy, however, to go right back to your routine without a single thought for the moms who are in the trenches—who have lived the speeches and who have made the lifelong sacrifices to keep and raise a child born out of a crisis pregnancy. They don’t get the luxury of simply feeling good about it until it’s time to move on to the next cause. It’s a hard and lonely road they have ahead of them. They may have been dealt an unfair hand. They may be where they are because of sin. In either case, it’s Jesus’s call as to what they deserve and whether He will save them. We are called to show mercy.
It doesn’t take a lot of time; it isn’t even that hard to do. Get to know a single mom and find out what you can do to lighten her burden. Take her shopping, read with her child, provide free babysitting, assist her in procuring job training or advancement, network on her behalf, cover her monthly car maintenance checks or her bus fare, be a non-condemning ear when questions about child care providers or budgeting or relationships come up. And don’t be surprised when she teaches you something or helps you out, too.
Share with her God’s Word. Start with passages that exhort you (Psalm 68:5; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:19-20; James 1:27) before you take her to those that speak to her situation. Endeavor to create a welcoming environment in the body of Christ, easing the weary and oppressed, never knowing what bridges you may be building in the process. Make sure she isn’t sitting alone, that her presence isn’t an opportunity for ungracious speculation, that the conversation includes her experiences, that church activities are conveniently located and scheduled. Eliminate unnecessary cultural obstacles all the while pointing to the glory of God, revering Him for His majesty, thanking Him for His mercy to you.[iv]
The likelihood is that a ministry of mercy to the unwed mom will require dying to self so that the light of Christ will shine through and she and others can see His glory. That means dying to the mask, dying to the church lady, dying to the respectable persona, dying to artificial expectations and relying entirely upon the pure and righteous treasure of Scripture. I am no better than anyone and I trample on the goodness of Christ if I act as though anything that has eased the burdens in my life is because I am more deserving. (Hebrews 10:26-29; Psalm 103:10)
The March may be in our rear view mirror, but the women and children stricken by the culture’s wild road trip to sexual license are lying all over the path in front of us. The March may be over for those who attend, but it’s not for the single mom. Pour grace into her exhausted and lonely life, smooth her path while you help her become strong in Christ, revive her along the way as she walks in obedience, and pray for her to daily submit her household to Him.
[i] “I Was Pregnant with a Baby”, last modified January 23, 2020, https://thereyougothinkingagain.com/2016/01/02/i-was-pregnant-with-a-baby/.
[ii] Aparna Mathur, “The Cost of Being a Single Mother,” Forbes Magazine, November 18, 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/aparnamathur/2015/11/18/the-cost-of-being-a-single-mother/?sh=35d8f0fc793c; see also “Single Mother Statistics”, last modified August 29, 2020, https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/; and “Single Mom Statistics and Data,” last modified October 16, 2017, http://www.wealthysinglemommy.com/single-mom-statistics/
[iii] Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christianity (Pittsburgh, PA: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012).
[iv] Voddie Baucham, Jr., Family Shepherds (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 173-179, reprinted as a website post, “What About the Fatherless Families?,” https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/faith/essentials-faith/reaching-out/what-about-the-fatherless-families/