I open the van doors and a soccer ball, an empty Burger King cup, and a purple tennis shoe fall on the asphalt parking lot. I scramble after the rolling ball and when I bend over to pick it up, my swollen belly heavy with child gets in the way. Once I’ve secured the athletic equipment, I turn back to the van and to the children steaming out of our large and noticeable 15-passenger ride.
“Who left the soccer ball in here?” I ask to no one in particular.
A chorus of “I don’t know” and “It wasn’t me” echoes back. I sigh and shove the stray goods under the seats of the van. My van is cleaner than my house, which isn’t saying much considering random items dart at me when the doors are opened.
I grab my toddler, Camille, from the car seat. She wraps her pudgy arms around my neck and plants a sticky kiss on my cheek. Someone slipped her a Dum-Dum lollipop to distract her from a steadily increasing fit of drama and now her hands and face act like adhesive on my skin. I smile at her anyway and my heart skips a beat at the sheer cuteness known as Camille. One grin from her cherubic face and she confirms my purpose on planet Earth.
All six of us make our way to the contraption that corrals the carts. I plop the baby in the front and begin to buckle the seat belt when I notice an elderly woman standing behind me. She’s counting my kids.
“My, you have your hands full, don’t you?” she says.
“Yes, I do,” I smile back.
“You have 5 and another on the way?”
I nod. She looks pensive.
“How do you do it?”
I throw my head back and laugh out loud.
“One day at a time!” I exclaim, “And some days are better than others, I can promise you that!”
This time she starts laughing.
“I’m sure that’s true,” she giggles.
She’s quiet for a second and then she says softly,
“You sure are blessed, aren’t you?”
“Every day and in every way,” I respond.
I grab my four-year-old’s, Christopher, hand as he begins to wander away and with that, the conversation ends. I take my brood into the grocery store where my children spend the next 45-minutes begging for treats filled with sugar and red dye #5.
My family often ignites commentary from bystanders when we go out in public because our size attracts attention. We get our fair share of the typical stuff, things like “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “ Are you done yet? “ But for every off-color comment I’ve received, I’ve also had people observe my children and then recount a funny story about their own. I’ve had people tell me they wished they’d had more children or admit they couldn’t have any, even though they wanted them. I’ve had white-haired grandmas grab my baby’s hand and ohh and ahh with delight.
It’s in these random interactions with strangers, small moments many people wouldn’t count as important, that I know I’m doing my best pro-life work. My pregnant body and my gaggle of kids is the most effective commentary there is for how much I value life. Without using any words, my five children and the one on the way are the best proclamation of my deep belief that all life is valuable, particularly the defenseless in the womb.
I’ll admit it; I sometimes wish I could do more. I’ve watched all of Lila Rose’s Live Action videos and I cried my way through Abby Johnson’s book unPlanned. When I think about people like Alveda King, Father Frank Pavone, and Sean Carney, I’m convinced when Roe V. Wade is eventually overturned, it will be these brave and tireless men and women who will go down in the history books as the greatest Civil Rights Activists to ever live. I’m inspired by their courage and their conviction and I often find myself longing to fight along with them, to protest and picket and write political pieces on the injustice of killing a baby in the womb.
But I haven’t been called to that particular battlefield and while I pray and fast and keep informed about the efforts to overturn abortion in our country, I know my own battlefield is in my home with my five children. My battlefield calls me to die daily to my selfish tendencies and to teach my children to do the same. I haven’t been called to the political battlefield of Capitol Hill but to the battlefield of motherhood, to a place where instead of telling the nation about the undeniable value of life, I live it every time I give a cup of cold water to the thirsty or clothe the naked. With every diaper I change, every meal I prepare and the picture books I read throughout the day, I am promoting and protecting the least of these.
In serving my family, I affirm a pro-life stance and in a round about way, I am fighting the battle against abortion. I don’t need a pro-life bumper sticker on my car — though I think they are beautiful — because my family is a walking, talking pro-life advertisement. Life is loud and chaotic and abundant at my house and anyone who peeks into my windows or opens my van doors can see that. But I must warn you to be careful — because I can’t promise a soccer ball or used cup won’t fly at you when you enter.
Colleen Duggan is a popular writer for Catholic media and holds a Master in Education from the University of Notre Dame. She has spent the last 12 years teaching religious education classes, running Bible studies, and giving talks on Catholic spirituality at the parish level.
Visit Colleen’s website: http://www.colleenduggan.net/
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