Childbirth by nature is a noisy event. Above the pulse of medical equipment, laments of pain and discomfort rise from a laboring mother. Direction is heard in the voices of medical attendants. An infant cries after her lungs expand with her first breath of air. In the best of circumstances, childbirth’s final crescendo of distress and clamor ends in euphoric joy and the hush of contented nursing.
My birth offered a different kind of quiet—a silence endured rather than enjoyed.
Moments after my first breath I was whisked away from my birth mother’s side by dutiful nurses. She was left to rest in silence.
And there was silence for me. Although I am sure the hospital nursery was filled with audible sound, my tiny infant being experienced the silence found in the care of strangers. With no familiar smells, no familiar voices to calm my cry, fear quieted everything around me.
For my adoptive father and mother my birth day was also a day of silence. There was no call from the adoption agency to interrupt the obligations of an otherwise unremarkable Thursday. It would be six more weeks before they knew I was born at all.
My birth mother was only sixteen. She had morning sickness and sometimes needed to brush her teeth a second time before stepping onto the school bus. The desks in her classroom barely had room enough for her pregnant belly.
Birth mothers are brave. They walk through fabled tales of undue vilification and merited accounts of heroism. They navigate public shame and adoptive parents’ hopes. They endure physical discomfort and journey through emotions of loss, relief and uncertainty.
She held me for a moment in those first minutes of my birth day. Although I met her years later, I never asked how that day felt for her. While she sat in her silent room on the maternity wing, did she grieve? Did she miss my movement in her belly? Did her young shoulders feel light again with the burden of my care removed? Could she lift her chin and sense God’s hand in all that she had just suffered?
Most of all, did she ever wonder if it was worth it?
My gratitude for life and the sacrifices of both my birth mother and adoptive parents is the golden thread woven throughout the fabric of my being. There were moments, though, that my gratitude fueled an internal feeling of indebtedness—the thought that my life needed to be “good enough” to merit the gift of life.
Sanctity of life—the sanctity of my own life—was about utility. Did my life have enough productive value in the world to merit the resources and affection exhausted on its behalf? Self-valuation was a daily task. Had I tipped the scales far enough from burden to blessing that I deserved to live?
It was as though the ramifications of abortion haunted me beyond the womb.
Try as I might, there was never a point where I looked at my life and saw complete justification for the sacrifices made in my birth. Sure, I had a few moments that shined—honor roll report cards and several well-timed “yes, ma’am’s,” but alongside those tallies came records of glaring disappointments and betrayal. No doubt my adoptive parents would testify to the many joys I brought their lives, but could they say with assurance those joys outweighed the pain?
My gratitude for life came with an undeniable guilt for having it. How good was good enough to live?
Creation by nature was a noisy event.
Above the rejoicing of angels, the boom of thunder echoed from created light. Direction was heard in the voice of the Almighty God. Birdsongs filled the sky and the trumpeting of elephants heralded the arrival of great beasts.
We would expect this newly created world to settle into God’s euphoric joy and hushed contentedness in seeing all that He had made “was good.”
But creation settled into a different kind of quiet. The crescendo of God’s masterpiece settled into the sound of stirred dust.
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” Genesis 2:7 (NIV). “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” Genesis 1:27 (NIV).
Every day before, God spoke, and it was. Now, on the sixth day of creation, there was dramatic pause. Did the angels peer in wonder as, without words, He began to mold clay in His hands? After witnessing the intricate formation of each sinew and the placement of the last strand of hair, they must have stammered in astonishment, “He…he…he is like Him!”
On the evening of the sixth day, God looked at Adam, the first of humankind, and declared that he was “very good.” The rest of creation got an A; Adam got an A+. Adam did nothing to deserve his grade.
Adam’s value—his being good enough to deserve life—rested in the estimation of his Creator. God says to each of us, “I formed you. I made you like Me. You are very good.” The valuation of life rests in the hands of its sustainer alone.
God not only created Adam and Eve, but He gave them the ability to create more God-like beings. He commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. God’s plan of creation holds a vast family as its crown jewel. Each member bears His resemblance.
Unplanned, unexpected, untimely, unfortunate—there is no adjective that can remove God’s likeness from my existence. Circumstances cannot change the intricate architecture of my DNA, nor remove my creative, moral and spiritual nature that mirrors the divine. My value is found in my ancestry—I am a descendant of one formed by the hands of God. Very good is good enough to live.
Although I cling to these truths imperfectly, my life testifies that God’s hands are busy in silence. On the day of my birth, I see His hand gently lifting the face of a downcast teen mother. On the day of my birth, I see His hand cradling a quaking, fearful babe. On the day of my birth, I see His hand resting on the shoulders of hopeful parents standing beside an empty crib.
Humankind is the only part of creation the Lord brought into existence with His hands. May we shudder in fear at the thought of using our own hands to end another’s existence.
–Sharon Autry lives in Rockledge, FL.
How Christians are winning the fight to protect the unborn: magazine.thewarcry.org