Baby G. and Me

Posted: June 23, 2009 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
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By Matt Horanbaby computer

          The only name I know is “Baby G.”
          In 2006 I did a six-month internship as a hospital chaplain.  I had the privilege of sitting with people in the midst of unimaginable grief, and indescribable joy—often in the same day.  It was one of the most formative experiences of my life.
          There are a few moments in those six months that I will carry with me forever.  One was my encounter with “Baby G.”  I was paged to come to a room on the maternity floor, because a family had lost a baby 20 weeks into the pregnancy, and wanted it baptized.  I hung up the phone and began walking toward the room.
          As I walked, I contemplated the pair of firsts I was about to have.  For one, I was about to do my first baptism.  I’m confessing here that I did actually agree to do a baptism before I was commissioned for ministry—I did not feel that I could refuse this family’s request on that technicality.
          In addition, I was about to see the youngest baby I’d ever seen.  I wondered what he or she would look like, and what it would feel like to touch the head as I did a baptism.  Entering the room, I became immediately aware of the little bundle that the mother was holding.  I introduced myself and told the parents how sorry I was that they’d lost their precious baby, and invited them to share their story.  Through tears they recounted their excitement—their dreams about their family’s future, and how the dreams were all lost on the horrible day when the mom stopped feeling any kicking.  They concluded with their desire for the baby to be baptized, and mom held the bundle out towards me. 
          My heart leapt into my throat as I took the white bundle of cloths.  I didn’t see anything but the little blanket until the baby was in my hands.  Very light, but heavy enough to remind me of the significance of what I was holding.  To this day I wish I knew if it was a boy or a girl, but they’d not looked yet—the nurse promised to look after the baptism.  The family’s last name started with “G,” so they called her what they call all unnamed babies—“Baby” and the family’s first initial.  So I held tiny little Baby G.
          Baby G was about the size of a television remote control, with a head a little bigger than a baseball.  There was a little mouth, little nose, and little eyes.  Baby G’s humanity just washed over me like a wave, and I suddenly felt so profoundly sad.  As a parent of two beautiful girls, I thought about all that Baby G would not get to do—walking, running, ballet, tee ball, soccer, cheerleading, football, dances, driving, prom, college, dating, marriage, career, parenthood.  I felt so sad.  What a loss.  I was comforted by the thought that Baby G’s soul was already in the arms of Jesus Christ.
          What I noticed next is what haunts me to this day.  I don’t know a lot about human development, but it appeared that Baby G didn’t have eyelids yet.  Therefore, when I finished looking around at the tiny features, trying to get my brain to wrap itself around the great loss that I was witnessing, my gaze settled on the two little eyes that were open and staring right at me.  I noticed how expressive a face it was, as if it were about to say something.  I wanted to listen, wanted to interact with him or her, to maybe get in one last word.  I wanted to fix this, but of course, I couldn’t.  It all seemed so powerfully final.
          I performed my first baptism, baptizing Baby G in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  I welcomed him or her into the family of God, and praised God that such a little life could make such a big splash in the lives of the people in the room.  I truly believed that the church—the family of God, would be better off because of Baby G, even though we only got the benefit of the slightest little toe dipped into this world.  Until that day I tended to oppose abortion, but mostly because I was conservative in most of my political leanings.  Ever since that day, abortion saddens me because of Baby G. 
          To some—many even in my own denomination that frequently offers resources and support to proponents of abortion—a 20 week old fetus has no human rights.  It is an expendable piece of tissue.  Millions of parents are desperate to adopt babies and give them a good home, but to my shame the United Methodist Church and other organizations are active in lobbying for the availability of abortions of kids the same age as Baby G, and some even older.  I pray that God would lead us to repentance.
          I went to an abortion clinic a couple months ago.  It was April 15th 2009, to be exact, around 1:00 pm.  My friend Molly and I were going around to our neighbor businesses, bringing them Easter lillies to thank them for letting our church use their parking lots on Easter Sunday.  One such neighbor, directly south of us next to our youth building, is a “women’s center” that advertises “terminations up to 24 weeks” on the sign in front.  There were no cars in the parking lot, so when we walked in, I didn’t expect to see anybody inside, but I was stunned.  There were easily 20 people just inside the door in their waiting room.  Every one turned to look at us when we walked in, and I can’t really describe the looks on their faces.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I’ll never forget it, but I’ll never be able to describe it either.
          I thought about friends and relatives of mine that so badly wish that they could have children, but can’t.  I thought about how hard it was for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law to adopt their kids, and how long they had to wait in line for them.  If people would decide to have an adoption instead of an abortion, how many tears of joy would be cried?  How many beautiful moments would occur when couples who dreamed of being parents finally get a call and come and see their baby for the first time?
          And how many abortions will happen today, thereby preventing those tears of joy, and preventing those beautiful moments?
          It’s tempting to hope that the appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court might lead to the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, the high court decision that preserved a woman’s right to have an abortion.  It’s tempting because that would be the easy way.  The easy way to save babies, but also, the easy way to vanquish people that vehement abortion foes have made into mortal political enemies. 
          People buy banners and signs and buttons and commercials and rent portable toilets for rallies so that they can shout at each other, spewing hatred that is often more passionate than any sort of passion to help women or help unborn children on either side.  I wonder how much money people have wasted on banners and buttons and toilets that could have been spent supporting moms who are putting babies up for adoption.  How effective has all of the anger and shouting and marching been, anyway?  Been at it for a few decades now, and my church still has a next-door neighbor that does terminations up to 24 weeks. 
          Maybe it’s time for a new plan.  Maybe it’s time to channel our resources into helping people afford the adoption process.  Maybe we can channel our efforts and passions towards loving moms who are not ready to be moms yet, celebrating and affirming the courage and love they’re demonstrating for the baby as they give him or her to another mom to raise.  I wonder what would happen if that was the new strategy.
          If we would stop trying so hard to make abortion illegal, perhaps we could just help it go out of business.

  1. student says:

    Is this a non condemnation approach that assumes people are good by nature?


  2. Matt Horan says:

    Not sure I follow. Can you say more?


  3. student says:

    Sounds like a plan to give help to the pregnant, not condemnation of the abortion option.

    Assuming this inference is correct (if not, say so), is this how the church should deal with sin generally?


  4. Matt Horan says:

    Ahhh… I think I see where you’re coming from now. I’ll take the bait.

    What I’m saying is that there are likely to be more kids saved this way–supporting parents of unwanted children and welcoming them into the church–than wagging a finger at them across a barricade at a rally of some kind.

    Are people good by nature? Good question. As a Wesleyan, I don’t tend to be a “TULIP” subscriber. In my view, the grace of God is offered to all before their moment of salvation, and there is a reciprocity of which humankind is capable. So, I don’t subscribe to total depravity. The image of God is visible in humankind, and therefore we are able to respond to the grace of God by our own free will. Can I answer with “partial depravity”? 🙂

    Should we deal with all sin this way? Another good question. I think that when we paint with broad strokes we tend to make a huge mess. I look at the life of Christ, and he went from specific personal encounter to specific personal encounter–meeting people’s needs, healing, forgiving, restoring dignity. Therefore I hesitate to define a way that the church “should deal with sin generally.” I prefer that the church deal with sin specifically–loving the individual and helping them return to a hopeful and restorative path through in intimate relationship with Jesus Christ based on their specific situation. Listening and getting to know them and asking them what they need–this is the pattern of Jesus. Even when he probably knew what they needed, he would often ask them what they needed anyway, listening and responding in kind.

    Does that answer your question?


  5. Matt Horan says:

    I guess we’ll never know if that answered his or her question. 🙂


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