You can handle this one, God, be my guest

May 21, 2007

It was a good weekend. We went to the beach, watched the first two dvd’s of Lost, drank a bottle of wine. I devoured most of the Scott Smith’s The Ruins and stuck to the two-hour-a-day writing plan even though it meant getting up before 7am. I didn’t obsess about the job situation. I went running, and did a whole nonstop three miles for the first verifiable time ever. (Verification courtesy of Map My Run, which rocks btw.) In short, I was feeling as optimal as I’ve felt in a good long while.

There is just this one little thing called Bad News 2. Over aforementioned bottle of wine (a tasty Smoking Loon pinot noir, nice and fruity like I heart it), my MIL (who was in Boca for her Saturday library class) started discussing the possibility of life after the upcoming Tuesday. Tuesday is the last day for SIL to get an abortion in the first trimester, the last day when the procedure would not involve an overnight stay, the last day in which most people I know would be completely understanding of the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Wednesday will be the first day of the second trimester, when everything starts getting dicier. As it stands right now, the SIL is looking to her “boyfriend” (I have other terms I would like to substitute and will freely if you call me on the phone, but for the sake of clarity I’ll use the most generous one I can muster) for a decision. The “boyfriend” by the way has a sister who is 17 and pregnant and a brother who has one child by his teenage girlfriend already… or something like that, I might have the details reversed, but let’s just say that in “boyfriend’s” world, it is 100% normal for teenage mothers to give birth to children that no one is able to provide for and it is normal for that to just keep happening, like whoops, here’s another human life on the way, how did that happen. We’ve been blasting her for two solid weeks now with facts and figures and budgets and reassurances that yes, indeed, she deserves a second chance and no one is going to think less of her for it. Sometimes she says she’s considering abortion, sometimes she just sits there like a cement wall, deep down knowing that if she just sits there long enough something is going to give.

Anyway, back to the wine conversation. With a few sips in us, the underlying truths about our feelings about this situation started to come out with a bit more clarity, or perhaps just more openness, than they did during our last weekend at their house, when we were all struggling to find some common ground from which to stage our attempts at intervention. It’s been clear to me from the get-go that my MIL has already mentally moved on to accepting the birth of this child. Fair enough–if SIL chooses to carry it and it is born, it doesn’t matter what anyone accepts or rejects. The part that I am profoundly not okay about is the part that comes after, the part where all of us are going to be asked to shoulder some part of this responsibility that we not only didn’t ask for but also actively prevented dumping onto anyone else. There’s a great comeback for this feeling too: life isn’t fair. Again, fair enough. None of this changes my anger or my fear. Those are my feelings and those are what I have to navigate by at this moment in time. So when MIL started in with “you know, if it looks like SIL is going to have this baby, then there is going to be a baby shower and you will all be invited and you will all ATTEND,” I felt that it was in my best interest to establish that, no, for starters, I would not be attending any baby showers. In fact, my baby shower non-attendance is really the least of my refusal to take joy in this disaster. It will be followed by my non-babysitting, non-diaper changing, non-grocery buying, and non-cash handing out. But what about the innocent child? Sorry, that’s not my innocent child and SIL knows it. I will not be demonized for protecting myself. I just won’t. Agreeing to go along with this is too much to ask of me, at least right now. When I’m fifty and contemplating grandparenthood, maybe I’ll feel differently. Right now I feel like a young adult whose primary concern is making it on my own and figuring out who I am. That’s my responsibility. This potential baby is SIL’s, and I’m not going to do anything to obscure that fact. We harangued each other for a little while longer, quite good naturedly, and enjoyed our wine, and sat side-by-side at the dinner table with our own sets of uneasy feelings. Besides, a lot could still happen between then and Tuesday and between then and December.

Sunday morning, we drove down to church in Miami. Actually, I drove, because one thing this whole mess has made clear to me is that D and I need to get better about sharing our responsibilities. Normally, he drives and I freak out on the passenger side. So, I’m starting to drive more. It’s only fair and it feels good, at least good in a theoretical way even though I95 really stresses me out. We had just hit the outskirts of Miami when the sky started turning a beautiful blend of pitch blacks and pretty soon, we were in a major downpour. I kept my cool mostly and kept the car between the white lines totally, and indeed we made it to church on time and only a little wet.

It was the wrong service for me to be at.

It was volunteer recognition Sunday, meaning that they handed out certificates to anyone who had worked Sunday morning childcare or taught Sunday school during the past year. So, instead of all the babies being across the street being cared for, they were in their parents arms for the whole service. And I’ll tell you, the babies were out in force, goo and gaaing and looking too round and too cute in their fabu Sunday outfits (this is Coral Gables, after all). Meanwhile, here is SIL in her wheelchair, knowing that she is two days away from the finish line for being talked into an abortion. Not the best mise-en-scene, God, not your finest moment. Then we sang the hymn known as the Servant Song, which we last sang at MAW & DT’s wedding reception. We barely had to sing the first lines, “Won’t you let me be your servant..” before I was feeling that anger rise up again. I know that you are God, God, but I’m not volunteering to serve anyone who is voluntarily screwing her own self over. Nope. Not my job–I’m going to be someone else’s servant and there is nothing you can do about it, God.

Of course it got worse though, and instead of getting angrier I just got sadder.

Next there were the announcements, with the lead-off announcement being that our best Miami friends had their first daughter early early on Friday morning. I heard the news on Friday and it was like I had done three espresso shots in a row. I am so happy for them and excited for the life of their daughter I can barely contain myself. But how can I be so wholeheartedly excited about that baby, and D&F’s baby, and so unrepentingly negative about the one SIL might have? Also, as excited as I am, I know enough to be a little scared too. It’s a big, uncontrollable thing they’ve just started and as much as anyone can help them with it, they are still on a journey that I cannot yet comprehend. They’ll need prayers and help as much as anyone, and guess what, they waited until they were financially at least semi-stable. I just wanted to cry.

Then it got even worse. The elementary age children spent most of the service putting on a mini-musical about, of all things, Jonah and the whale. You know, Jonah, the guy who tried to run away from God’s command for his life and ended up in the stomach of a large sea creature? Every single adorable little song they sang was about how important it is not to shirk the responsibilities God gives you, especially the ones you didn’t ask for. And as an added bonus, the kids were painfully beautiful to watch. They put on a great show, with real inflection in the lines and loud singing of the kind our choir director could never quite get us to do. There was one little girl, the youngest one probably, who was just a half-second behind in all of her dance moves and I saw how that was just perfect all in itself, just the way it should be. I’m pretty sure I’m going to hell just for thinking the word “abortion” while watching these kids put on a Jonah play.

For our final hymn, we sang the one about “Here I am, Lord, is it I Lord?,” about how in my heart I am willing to do whatever the Lord calls me to do, no matter how inconvenient or difficult. Yeah, no. I had to stop singing for a whole verse at one point. I’m already an inadequate Christian, so I should probably avoid making myself into a hypocrite too. No, Lord, I will not. Not going to do it. Not if you lead me, not if you call me, not if you ask me. Well, you can ask, but my answer will be NO. There was not very much solace for me in church yesterday, and I guess that’s my problem. Unlike the possible baby, which is not my problem.

It appears the secular world may be lining up against me as well. Now, here I am on my Monday morning innocently reading the latest New Yorker short story while my budget spreadsheet updates. It’s by George Saunders and the title is, “Puppy.” It’s all going along quite swimmingly until this sentence: “he’d been raised on a farm, or near a farm anyways, and anybody raised on a farm knew that you had to do what you had to do in terms of sick animals or extra animals—the pup being not sick, just extra.” It may just be my symbolism honing instinct going of whack, but this sentence too seems to be smacking me gleefully in the face, saying, “see, the MIL’s right, you are going to have to deal with this, you are going to have an extra life in your life that like it or not you are going to have some responsibility toward.”

Whatever. Send your signs, your wrath, your couches full of pee. I tell you right now I’m not having any of it.

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6 Responses to “You can handle this one, God, be my guest”

  1. Victoria Says:

    Hi Liz! How come no one suggested putting the child up for adoption? That would certainly solve a lot of problems and would be a wonderful selfless act which would provide the child a much better life and would make a couple who might not be able to have a child of their own, really happy. I am totally biased because all of the kids in my family are at least, part, if not completely adopted (me too). Of course, this is absolutely not even remotely my business, and I’m sure whatever happens will eventually work out, although it may not seem so at the time.

  2. Liz Says:

    Hi Victoria! Thanks for reading 🙂 If I wrote about it on my blog, it can def. be your business, so I wanted to let you know that I have brought up adoption, especially the open kind (which AH, another friend and reader of this blog brought to my attention), but for some reason in the minds of my family adoption is not an option. SIL herself is adopted, so I guess everyone is willing to let her off the hook on the basis of all the issues that giving her own potential baby up for adoption could cause. I will continue to bring it up, however, because of course you are exactly right–it’s a better life for the baby and the most amazing, selfless gift to another couple. Things do tend to work out, I know this from my own experience, but man I am so not in the mood yet to just laugh and smile and assume that will happen. So thanks for bearing with me on the irrational rage.

  3. Kat Says:

    Maybe you’re angry right now, but why do you think she’s screwing anyone over? It’s better for the baby to be alive than dead, or given away to someone else. The baby needs to be with her mother, and she seems like a pretty stable sort of girl from your blog.
    Won’t she be happy everytime she looks at the baby? Won’t you be happy everytime you do?
    It’s no tragedy, it’s joy what happened really.
    Maybe I’m being biased, but I don’t think so. I’d call it talking from experience instead…I fell pregnant at sixteen, and had my son when I just turned seventeen. Just so you can do the maths, I just turned nineteen.
    I didn’t screw up anybody’s life. I’m perfectly happy, amd so is my son. He’s well cared for, nineteen isn’t nine, we can actually look after children.
    I run the household, and most of the time it’s pretty damn clean.
    My son doesn’t have that many toys, but the ones he has, he’s happy with, he’s a happy boy who has a lot of toddler ‘friends’ and we have a wonderful bond.
    I study international relations at one of the best universities in the country, and I’m in my second year.
    I’m single, and my parents don’t help out.
    I live on gov. benefits — maybe it’s only in Aus where you can survive on them.
    We’re not rich, but we’re happy.
    Nobody’s being screwed over, and our futures aren’t bleak like the stereotype is.
    I’m not the only teen mum I know who completely doesn’t fit the stereotype — maybe the only one at uni, but definately not the only one with a great job or great ambitions, or even just the well-looked after child and well kept home.
    Stop thinking in stereotypes — maybe then the situation won’t seem so bad to you.
    But yeah, I suppose you’re just angry at the moment. I guess I’m talking about it from the other side of the storm so to speak. But trust me, you’ll all be fine.:)

  4. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  5. Josh Says:

    My submissions: ,


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