by Margot Finn
Do you know what it is like to live in the same house as a room that you intended for a baby who died?
God help you if you’ve already set up a crib and changing table. Do you disassemble them yourself in a sobbing rage late one night, thinking about all the times people told you chipperly to “get sleep now while you can!”? Or do you hack them to bits and burn them some bleak February day when you would have been massively pregnant, about to go into labor any day now, in the alternate timeline where your baby wasn’t dead and you weren’t burning Ikea furniture in your backyard. Do you just close the door and let whatever preparations you’ve made sit there, silent and unchanged indefinitely and never go in and maybe hold your breath if you ever have to walk past the door? Maybe it’s not a room, it’s just a corner of your own bedroom where the bassinet was probably going to go. What do you do with that space? Do you hang something on the wall that only you will know is a silent visual prayer that your heart will heal someday? Do you build a tiny shrine? Do you put the laundry basket there and curse every time you throw a sock into it?
In the wake of New York State deciding it will let families whose pregnancies are doomed or threatening to kill the mother make whatever heartbreaking choice they want to in that unfathomably shitty situation, a lot of people are calling me and my sisters of circumstance murderers. The support group that I help run is in turmoil. People who are still learning to say the words, “My baby died,” and swallow the bitterness in their mouth without gagging are facing social media feeds full of people clutching their pearls about baby-killers and saying that what these heartbroken parents did should remain illegal in New York and everywhere, that it is evil and unimaginable and wrong.
These are the choices I want those people to think about: what would you do with the crib for a baby you loved and who died? I don’t care what they think they would do if they were pregnant with a sick baby. If they haven’t been in that situation, then they don’t know. And I definitely don’t care what they think I should have done about the most profound and life-altering choice I’ve ever had to make. What I want them to think about is what they would do with the heartache of losing a wanted baby. I want them to think about the fact that many of the babies who are killed in late-term abortions have rooms and drawers of carefully-folded onesies and burp cloths and siblings with “big brother” t-shirts and picture books to teach them about what babies are like. These are babies that families had begun to imagine and shape a literal place for in their lives.
What a strange bunch of murderers we make. Weeping parents clutching ultrasound photos that turn out to be the only pictures they’ll ever have of their beloved “murder victims.” Moms who order teddy bears made to weigh exactly what their “murder victims” weighed at (still)birth so they have something the same weight to hold in their arms. Families who light candles every year and keep memory boxes with a few precious items—footprints, a blanket, a hat—that are all they have to prove to themselves their beloved “murder victim” was real.
If you encounter one of those people this week or ever and you would like to tell them some version of my story, please do so. I don’t even care if you get the details wrong. As long as you are trying to get the message across that abortion can be a loving choice, you’ll be honoring me and her.