Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pro-life dental work

Some of you may remember how a while back I went to some big chain dental practice located not three minutes from my house and was told that I had cavities in eight of my molars. I took great exception to these tidings, and so went for a second opinion to Dr. H, my regular dentist, much further away but much more trustworthy. And she, bless her soul, flashed her light in my mouth, proclaimed the previous diagnosis to be hogwash, and pronounced that I had but one (count it! ONE) cavity in one of my lower wisdom teeth.

(Am I alone in being an adult in America with all four of my wisdom teeth? One thing both dentists agreed on was that they rarely saw a complete set of wisdom teeth.)

I was torn between immense relief at this verdict, triumph that I was vindicated in my initial incredulity, and my sputtering outrage that some punk practice would have drilled all my back teeth for -- what? As a preventative measure? I cannot stress this enough: they would have drilled all my back teeth unnecessarily. If this does not arouse fear and loathing in you, you are not human.

Dr. H is very active on the local pro-life scene, and as she probbed and swabbed and cleaned she told me about a talk she'd recently attended about the importance of supporting maternity homes for young unwed mothers and their children. I couldn't make any more coherent response than "Uh hunh", but the hygienist said, "I sure wish that sort of thing had been around when I was young. Then maybe I wouldn't have had to give up my daughter."

The dentist paused and stared at her assistant of many years. "I never knew you'd had to give up a child."

As she passed implements over my head, the hygienist told us how she'd gotten pregnant when she was fifteen and had gone to live in a home for unwed mothers. The girls weren't really allowed to leave the grounds often, and were strongly pressured to give their babies up for adoption. She'd always wanted to find her daughter, who would be 26 now, and this desire had intensified now that her other children were grown now and also wanted to meet their older sister.

Rich Leonardi recently posted about the misconception floating out there that
the pro-life movement only cares about children in the womb. Catholic pro-life work today takes many forms -- education, counseling, prayerful protests outside of abortion clinics, adoption support, and maternity homes that work to keep mothers and children together. I have not known many contemporaries who became pregnant as teenagers, but of those few, all had the support and love of their families and friends in keeping and raising their babies. Being a single mother is never easy, but the job of the pro-life movement is not to condemn these women, but to give them loving encouragement and moral support.

And remember, pro-lifers make the best dentists.


Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

And remember, pro-lifers make the best dentists.

You know, I really wanted to go to Dr. H. I'm all about supporting whatever pro-life doctors are in our area (all two of them). But...I called to ask how much a first visit for a cleaning would be and it was $290! Do you get some sort of aromatherapy massage with that?!

Speaking of maternity homes, I'm going to the blessing of the one up north of here this Saturday if you want to go.

I guess all this would have been better for an email...I can't think today. Long morning.

mrsdarwin said...

I guess we're fortunate that we have a pretty good dental plan through Very Big Anonymous Company.

Rick Lugari said...

(Am I alone in being an adult in America with all four of my wisdom teeth? One thing both dentists agreed on was that they rarely saw a complete set of wisdom teeth.)

We all have wisdom teeth, they're standard equipment, doncha know. It's just that in most people they tend crowd the rest of the teeth and cause problems. I'm just not sure what your ability to comfortably house all those teeth say about you...

Literacy-chic said...

Aren't we evolving away from needing wisdom teeth? I've only got 2... (and they still aren't out!!) My mom had 3... They were good for the ones that got lost along the way, as I understand it! ;)

I enjoyed this post, btw.

Literacy-chic said...

They were good for the ones that got lost along the way, as I understand it! Not my mom's in particular, they were removed, but in the distant dental past...

Foxfier said...

Wisdom teeth tend to be removed even if there's no crowding because they tend to get problems easily.

You forgot that we also care about the women who already had an abortion-- damage control, y'might call it.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to get the name of your dentist. It's about time to take the boys for their first visit (probably past time actually). I'm procratinating. I have a really bad feeling that it's not going to be the best of times.

Anonymous said...

As an adoptive mother, I realize that I'm a bit sensitive about this topic, but I must admit I'm struggling with this post.
Perhaps your dental hygientist's parents realized that their 15 year old daughter was not ready to parent a child and they were not willing to take on the responsibility. Perhaps they knew that adoption was the best long-term solution for their granddaughter. I know a family where one of the daughters had a child out of wedlock and kept the child (thankfully didn't abort!). The grandmother ended up shouldering the responsibility because she didn't want her daughter to have to give up her child and she want her daughter to finish school and be able to work. The younger children have gone on to have children out of wedlock also because they know grandma will help out. Definitely a difficult situation to be in.
Not every young woman is mature enough to handle raising a child on their own unfortunately. Many of the maternity homes I'm familiar with only help until the child is two years old (the one you link to says the same) unless the mother goes on to have another child. Many young moms need help beyond that time frame...a very heartbreaking situation.
In my sons' case, we adopted our oldest son as a newborn. The birthparents had another son just 14 months after their first (still not married). They tried parenting him themselves for the first two years with diastrous results. Our John will have to live with those results for the rest of his life.
What we really need is chastity education...a difficult thing to do in our culture. The whole situation definitely helps show what happens when people don't follow God's plan for marriage and parenthood.

mrsdarwin said...

The whole situation definitely helps show what happens when people don't follow God's plan for marriage and parenthood.

I think you're absolutely right about this.

rose said...

I'd agree that there are a lot of situations where adoption is the best choice, but I think it's important for the mother to actually *make* that choice, and not be strong-armed into it. Otherwise, even though the child may grow up happily, the mother may be left with a lasting sense of bitterness. I spent last summer working at a maternity home, and we had *very* strong rules about the staff not being able to pressure the women--we weren't even allowed to say things like, "If I were in that situation..." (We also weren't allowed to use the phrase "give a child up for adoption"--it had to be "make an adoption plan," so as not to foster the impression that the women were abandoning their children if they adopted.)

Anonymous said...

I perhaps didn't make myself clear in my last is a complex situation.
I do not want young mothers to be strong-armed into placing their child into an adoptive home either, but I also realize that many 15 years old do not have the maturity to make a decision that is best for their child. If the grandparents are willing to help out and be supportive, that's wonderful. I know people who have done that and are happy with their decision. I applaud them for that.
However, I also know that in the case of my adoptive children, both birthmothers were in family situations that were not conducive to raising their children. Both were only 16 years old and their parents knew that they themselves could not handle raising their grandchildren (I would explain the situations, but I don't feel it is my right to divulge that info.) Both birthmothers were unhappy about not being able to raise their children and I imagine that their parents were instrumental in helping them make the decisions they did. I'm hopeful that they didn't feel strong-armed, but I know it involved pain and heartache on their part.
We met Michael's birthparents shortly after he was placed in our home and his birthmother cried and I cried right along with her. I have written several times on my blog that I feel pain knowing the pain these young women went through. I do think it is cruel to not let the birthparents have some continuing contact if they choose. When we adopted our daughter almost 21 years ago, it was a closed adoption and we didn't meet the birthparents and we had no exchange of letters and pictures. I found myself wondering about her birthparents and how they were.
When we adopted Michael 6 years later, things had changed, and we met them and sent them letters and pictures through the agency. Those letters were instrumental in them choosing to have us adopt John when it became apparent that they were not in a position to continue trying to raise him.
Shortly after Michael's adoption, I wrote a letter to our daughter's birthparents with pictures and placed it with the agency, but there was no contact until 2 years ago. Since that time, I have continual contact with her birthmother, though our daughter does not want to have contact with her yet.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we should not be quick to condemn grandparents who make a decision knowing that they are not in a position to help their daughter raise their grandchild. I realize that there are also grandparents out there who just don't want to be bothered (for selfish reasons)with raising a grandchild. A 15 year old cannot possibly raise a child in our society without help. Even if she is able to live in a maternity home for two years, she would still be only 17 when she had to leave and then what happens? It would still be difficult to be raising a child at that age without help. I know that in the case of our John, his birthparents were both 18 by the time he was born and they still did a terrible job taking care of him. He will suffer from their neglect for the rest of his life. Perhaps someday he will be bitter about that...should his pain be of less importance than his birthmother's?
As someone who has parented a teenager and is in the process of parenting 2 more, I know that they do not always make mature decisions and need parental guidance. In the case of a child born into these situations, the decision should be made in regard of what is best for the child and sometimes that decision is an extremely painful one.
Unfortunately, many young women in these situations are not in families that are stable and supportive and their innocent children suffer because of it.
My heart aches to think of what these young women have to go through. Many of these poor girls don't realize the consequences of the choices they make.
Our society has really messed things up in this area and I'm afraid that it may just get worse before it gets better. Sin has consequences and unfortunately, many people don't foresee these consequences and it results in pain and many times in innocent children paying the price.
I don't see that there are any easy solutions to these problems. Maternity homes can be helpful, but are not a cure. Adoption is painful. Abortion causes the greatest pain of all. Many people think contraception is the answer but don't realize the emotional and physical toll that too can take. Many young people don't realize the emotional consequences that premarital sex can have. The best solution is chastity and unfortunately our society does not make that choice easy.
In a perfect world, every child would be born into a loving family with a mother and father who are married and able to raise their child. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. Sometimes painful decisions result.

Heath Morber said...

I think you're both right. Adoption should not be "strong-armed" as you say, but Barb is also right that teens are hardly able to make mature and wise decisions. They need to be presented with the fact that adoption is a very viable and often the best option in their situation.

I was conceived out-of-wedlock to a young couple who were clearly unready to commit to one another and much less raising a child. My mother placed me up for adoption. As a newborn, I was placed with a loving married couple who were desperate to have a child and nurtured me and loved me as their own. Contrast that with the thought of my birthmother keeping me; a 20-year old seeking out an identity in life, struggling with depression and self-esteem issues.

I have met my birthmother, have a good relationship with her, and she has no regrets, though she admits that it was very difficult at the time. She sees me now, realizes that I am a well-developed young man, and she knows that she made the right choice.

Another large problem I see with encouraging single moms to raise their children (though I'm not opposed to it in every instance), is that it implies that having a father around to help raise the child would be nice, but largely unnecessary. Grandfathers, uncles, brothers, etc. are less than ideal substitutes.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Ah, Mrs. Darwin, I too have all four of my wisdomm teeth. Perhaps we should start a very exclusive club.

(It is the fear of having a dental experience like yours that has me still traveling 60 miles to see our old family dentist rather than finding a new one near our new current house.)

sdecorla said...

I can see Barb's point - if an unwed couple finds that their parents are willing to help raise their children, they may be less likely to mature since "mom and dad will always back me up."

But that being said, speaking as a mother, I can tell you that giving up a child for adoption would be the emotional equivalent of sawing of your leg without anesthesia. I know no one here is suggesting that teen moms should be forced to give up their kids for adoption as they once were, but I personally don’t think they should be subjected to even the slightest pressure to give them up. What a horrible, horrible thing that would have been, to give up my daughter. I can’t even imagine.

Of course, the ideal is for everyone to follow God’s plan for marriage and family – then these things wouldn’t happen.

Anonymous said...

Part of my perspective comes from my experience with my own sons. When we adopted our first son, he was a newborn. His parents were 16 and 17. We met them...the father was relieved to have us adopt our son...the mother cried and as I stated before, I cried right along with her. It was terrible, but she kept saying that she knew it was best for Michael. Her mother was willing to help her raise her baby, but her stepfather didn't want her to, so she knew it would not be a good situation. His parents definitely were the ones that helped talked them into doing this. But no one made them do it. Five months later, she was pregnant again. By this time, her mother had died tragically. She was going through an emotional time. Once again the paternal grandparents knew that their son was not ready to parent a child and they didn't think she was either. But she decided to keep the baby. By this time they were both 18, but the father did not want to help and our poor John went through two years of hell, being severely malnourished and neglected, until she decided that she couldn't deal with him any more and we adopted him. At 21 months, this child had no teeth, couldn't walk, didn't cry (because he had learned that it did him no good), weighed only 14 lbs, had no growth hormone in his system, couldn't talk (only made droning sounds when he was going to sleep). He looked awful. No child can go through this and not have it have long term effects.The only reason I think he managed to survive at all is because the grandparents would take him on weekends when they were allowed to have him. There's more to the story, but I think you get the general picture.
The first month we had him, he gained 5 lbs, grew 1 1/2 inches,starting walking and getting his teeth. It took several months before he would cry and would let me cuddle him. He is still developmentally delayed 12 years later. Our pediatrician is amazed he is as good as he is.
But I can't help but think that if we would have been able to adopt him as a newborn, his life would be so different. He paid the price.
She chose to keep him and she chose to neglect him. The grandparents didn't strong arm them, but they knew from the beginning that the birthparents weren't ready to deal with raising a child. So I have a hard time when people are critical of grandparents who try to talk their children into placing their baby for adoption. Because of our John, I find myself thinking of the whole thing from the child's perspective.
It would be a hard, difficult thing to give up a child for adoption, but it is a horrible thing for a child to have to go through what my son did.

Anonymous said...

I want to add that after thinking about what I wrote, I should say that John is still paying the price for her decision, and will pay it for the rest of his life. It has affected him physically and intellectually. He will always have to deal with this.
Teens are still under parental care because we know they are not yet ready to make mature decisions about everything. Why should their parents not have a right to at least slightly pressure what they may know would be the best thing for their grandchild? Not strong arm, but suggest. I'm talking about birthparents who are still under the age of 18...not birthparents who are older.