My dog came into the porchlight, her mouth holding a critter. “Drop it,” I commanded. She’s good this way. Tinkerbell isn’t a vacuum-eating sort of animal. She likes her organic tidbits, bathed in hot water, steeped for five minutes.
A baby squirrel plopped onto the brick, crying out in pain as it hit. Most every household has a designated critter handler. I’m mine. I have ‘shewed’ black snakes, carted baby bunnies into the woods, rescued stunned birds who’d hit the windows and nursed them back to fly. But a baby squirrel? That required round-the-clock feeding. Skills I didn’t possess.
I tucked the hairless little critter in a shoe box, covered it for warmth, and closed the lid, putting a book on it so the cats wouldn’t snatch it. I prayed to God to take it out of its misery, figuring it would pass in the night.
Next morning, I headed off to a Love Life walk with my friend. I was checked in to ensure I was a safe individual and given a code of conduct, including no heckling or engaging with the women coming into the clinic. No men dressed as grim reapers or “murder’ signs were welcomed. We gathered to pray so that the women might reconsider abortion. It wasn’t a protest. It was our beliefs mirrored in a peaceful action that said, “there’s another way.”
Someone handed me a replica of a fetus at 20-weeks. I held the tiny model, marveling over the development. It was a baby, only not as big as a birthed one. Her heart would have started beating two weeks ago. She had all her organs, though not fully developed, as well as defined eyelids, ears and lips. She only needed more time in her location. She needed only the opportunity of birth to grow into a four-year old.
At one point during our praying and singing, I glanced up to see three clinic volunteers, identified by their vests. I caught the eye of one young lady, and shuttered my own, so as not to breech any engagement boundaries. Yet we had that brief moment. Her eyes, my eyes. I was the zebra to her lion; she was the zebra to my lion. The chain-link fence between us served as the metaphoric divide in our beliefs.
After the walk, my eighteen-year old daughter, who is all things observant, all things animal and really, all things orphan—as she was one herself not ten years ago—greeted me at the door. “The squirrel, Mom.” Yes, the squirrel. It hadn’t rained in weeks. The earth would make it hard to dig a grave. Could things every be easy?
I took the book off the box and opened the lid. “It’s still alive,” my Li shouted. Sure enough, the baby squirrel gave us a four-paw stretch to reiterate this point. “We’ve got to do something.”
I grabbed my cell and called the wildlife rescue, a connection I’d made when one bird wouldn’t revive as quickly as I’d have like.
“We’ll get the incubator ready,” the rescue worker said.
Switching off the talk radio, we made the drive as quietly as we could. My truck seemed to hit every bump in the road, although I was eagle-eyed to avoid them for our tiny rescue. ‘His name is Mo.” Giving our squirrel a name occupied my mind for the forty-minute trip. “After the baby rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter.”
“His mouth is moving,” Li said. She’d checked him over, registering all his parts. We’re a teenager house. Most of our conversation evolves around anatomy and complaints thereof.
I prayed he’d make it until we got to the rescue. My plead raised my voice. “He made it through the night. That’s a good sign, right?”
The rescue worker handed me a clipboard. “Fill this out.”
“His name is Little Mo,” my daughter said.
“No puncture wounds. No external damage.”
The rescue worker’s voice lowered. “Might be internal.”
She rushed Little Mo through a steel door. Our small one, so exquisite, so helpless was beyond us now. Hopefully, he’d become the squirrel other squirrels would race up the oak. The squirrel who’d bring Shagbark hickory nuts onto the porch and dine, leaving the casing for this waiter to sweep off. He too just needed time to grow.
Praying for the rescue of tiny babies in vitro and praying for a baby squirrel was too much for one day. It was too obvious. I eased into the truck with my daughter, adopted from China. It’s highly possible if her parents had had the means, she would have been aborted for being female. Another deep thought in a day of them. Ultrasounds are used there to determine sex selection, while ultrasounds here are used to introduce a pregnant mother to her child growing within. The divide is so great. Everything is at odds, including the use of technology.
Even the use of color. A great commingling occurs in Washington, DC near the Roe vs. Wade date. Pro-life meets Pro- choice in hotels to check in and check out. One year, I wore my new fleece. It happened to be fuschia. I like the color fuschia. I like any color jacket when it’s below thirty degrees. Nothing prepared me, however, for being chilled out by my fellow lifers. The mere color I wore got frowns instead of smiles, isolation instead of community. Some on my “team” had turned on me because of a color. I wasn’t recognized as a person, only a belief.
Perhaps this is the problem at the heart of the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice debate. We are treating the pre-born, whatever you think of it—baby or a collection of cells—as a belief. By a belief, a baby is born. By a belief, a baby is terminated. Which is right?
Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.
- Which belief follows the most normal course of biology? You don’t have to believe in a higher power to recognize the amazing collaboration of cells that make a person a person.
- What if we’re following a belief believing we are at the core of it?
We have reduced the smallest of us as a right to keep, or a right to end. We have deemed the culmination of a fertilized egg as a malignancy. Worse still, we have taken ownership of a complex set of cells that should boggle our minds with its sheer design. Most lovingly spoken, doesn’t that smack of slavery? Deciding to take the life of someone else and reduce it into a place it doesn’t belong, such as prostitution, forced labor, or the trash heap?
Yes, it is extremely hard raising a child you’ve invited into your world. How much harder one you did not? No doubt here. But what if we pause and wonder about the life of that child? What story is he or she supposed to live or tell? What story will she or he not be able to tell because we’ve chosen to silence that life?
One final note. When I was an atheist, I totally opposed abortion. Why? I figured if we get only so many trips around the sun, why end the life of someone’s one shot? Sadly, as a new Christian, I bought into a friend’s lie. In a twist of beliefs, I paid for half of an abortion. This is on me. This child would be a teenager now, all hormonal and concerned about pimples and peer groups. I erased that and I deeply regret this to the day I die. That tiny replica in my palm, the one I held in my hand at the Love Life walk, stood for some small one. A life I helped end. A story untold. Dear God, I wish I could take it back.