Life Sunday is January 22. Rachel Crawford, the President of the Students for Life Club at the University of Michigan will be speaking in the West Wing at 9:45 a.m.
In this blog, Rachael Varblow shares some of her experiences working in foster care that help shape her view of life, value, and intrinsic human worth.
As a foster mother I have been privy to some raw moments in the lives of birth families. One that stands out most is the day that Anna first held Baby Jenn. Anna had relinquished her rights to Jenn at birth and left the hospital, not even naming her baby, who entered the foster system with the legal name of “Unknown” which was then changed to “Baby Girl.”
Anna changed her mind two months later and wanted her baby back, but as a seven-year heroin addict it wasn’t that simple. So, when Jenn was four and a half months old a meeting was finally arranged. I brought her to a locked down rehab facility in Highland Park and, in a small conference room with tacky carpets and fluorescent lighting, Anna she saw her baby for the first time. Anna’s face turned a ruddy color when she saw her baby, then she paled and paled some more until she had to sit down. She was afraid to touch Jenn, let alone hold her. What sticks out in my mind even today is the way that Anna’s whole body began to tremble as she held out her arms and took the baby from me for the first time. Later I asked her counselor if the shaking was from withdrawal and she told me no, Anna was past that stage. It was just her reaction to meeting her baby.
Over the next few months I went on to teach Anna to sooth, change, dress, and play with her baby. I taught her how to make a bottle, took them to doctor’s appointments and trained both birth parents in Jenn’s physical therapy.
We had planned to adopt Jenn, but Anna changed her mind.
Anna had changed her mind once before. Her father knew his daughter was a drug addict, felt she couldn’t parent, didn’t want to take on a child himself. So, he paid his daughter to abort the baby. Anna found herself at Planned Parenthood with a wad of cash in her pocket. Her parents, sister, and the baby’s father all told her to abort. But, she didn’t. She decided to have the baby and place her for adoption.
Jenn was born with thirteen illegal substances in her seven-pound body. Her heroin addiction was so extreme that she went into severe withdrawal. She had to be placed on methadone and spent a month in the NICU.
Then she came to us. We worked with her through withdrawal, hypertonia, torticollis, plagiocephaly. She showed a lot of autistic tendencies, but we loved on that baby. We worked with that baby. We prayed over that baby. Everyone we know prayed for her. And she healed.
We got to be with her for her first smile, her first hugs, her first step. I was the first mama she ever knew, the one she cried for in the night and reached for over the edge of her crib in the morning.
When Jenn was eight and a half months old she went to live with her birth parents. She was on target developmentally. She showed no signs of autism. She was happy and normal. Her tremors and fussiness were gone. She went to people who truly loved her and were thrilled and terrified to get to bring her home.
The last time I saw her she was in her father’s arms wearing fuzzy purple jammies with white polka-dots. It was devastating to stroke her cheek, squeeze her little hand one last time ,and then turn and walk away. I had believed she would be mine and now she wasn’t.
But, if that grief is the price I pay for her to have a chance at life, I pay it gladly. I am pro-life. Raising and losing kids is not easy, but I know that each life has value, each child deserves the best possible chance.
Jenn’s big tough grandfather cried when he told me how he paid her mother to abort her. “I thought it was the right thing,” he said, “I’m ashamed of what I did. You can’t know how glad I am that Anna didn’t do it. My grandbaby’s blood would have been on my hands.”
The thing is much of society would agree that he was doing the right thing. A baby born addicted to heroin could have serious problems. Isn’t it better to end the pregnancy, more humane? As Christians we answer with a resounding NO! Abortions are the products of fear, of difficult –sometimes awful– situations that seem to have no solution. We so often forget the power of Jesus, the power to take something that seems terrible and heal it and make it good. Because every baby is created by him, endowed by him with value, and deserves a chance to live.
At the same time we had Jenn we had Baby Meggie who was born one addicted to cocaine (among other things). She’s almost five now, adopted along with two of her sisters by a great family.
Then we had a victim of severe abuse with a chromosomal abnormality. He’s the happiest friendliest child I know and surging past the limitations doctors predicted he’d have. And he’s my son.
Another of our babies was conceived by and born to HIV positive parents. She is HIV-free.
Any of these kids could have been considered good candidates for abortion, but all of them were given the chance at life and thrived. They are loved and loving, valued and healthy. They bring joy to the world around them. The world is a brighter place with them in it. My life is better with them in it.
***Names have been changed to protect privacy.