COVINGTON, La. (BP) -- If your name is Sheila Ross, stand up and take a bow. I want to thank you for helping me through a difficult childbirth. Though we have never met, you encouraged me.
I was apprehensive at my first pregnancy. Sharing my anxiety with an acquaintance, she said, "I was afraid the first time too, but I knew if my friend Sheila Ross could have a baby, I could too."
I don't know why her statement about Sheila stuck in my mind, but it did. Throughout my pregnancy when doubts would arise, I would just say to myself, "If Sheila Ross can have a baby, I can too."
The months rolled by. Before we knew it, the 40-week mark arrived. But nothing happened. For three long weeks, I experienced no labor. An X-ray revealed that our baby was breech. The doctor hospitalized me and induced labor, anticipating it would take 12 hours before our daughter made her debut into the world. He wanted to avoid a C-section—something that would be done in a heartbeat today.
We settled in for a long afternoon. As I lay there, my husband Waylon opened a gift I had given him -- candy, gum, peanuts and things to pass the time, including one of those games where you try to get the numbers in consecutive order. He became focused on how he could get number five before number six while I was wondering if I could make it through the next contraction!
When the nurse wheeled me into the labor room and called the doctor to see if she could administer some pain meds, I mumbled something indistinguishable under my breath. "What did you say?" the nurse inquired with empathy. With a drugged slur I said, "If Sheila Ross can have a baby, I can too. If Sheila Ross can have a baby, I can too!"
The statement didn't make any sense to the nurse, but I can assure you it meant something to me. In fact, Sheila got me through the next few hours as I continued to repeat, "If Sheila Ross can have a baby, I can too," until they finally sedated me enough to put me out.
The Lord blessed us with a perfectly healthy baby girl -- our firstborn, Anna. Waylon and I were later told by more than one doctor that Waylon could easily have found himself in a situation of choosing between the baby's life or the life of the baby's mother. What grief for couples who have to make such a choice.
Unfortunately, thousands of people in our country make decisions every day to end the lives of their babies -- not because of complications, but based on selfishness, convenience or sexual irresponsibility. Abortion is a word that doesn't cause a cringe anymore. Many people think of an abortion as a right -- one that the Constitution guarantees.
At age 34, my mother had three teenagers and an alcoholic husband, and then found herself pregnant with me. Today she would have been counseled by friends -- maybe even family -- to abort. They would have advised her she already had a difficult situation and having another baby would only increase her hardship. According to the world's way of thinking, my life should have been snuffed out shortly after conception, my body thrown in a soiled laundry bin.
Studies show that after choosing to terminate a pregnancy, a woman can live in denial for many years, but at some point she will have to come to terms with what she has done. Too often those who encouraged her to abort her baby and those who performed the procedure are not around to help pick up the pieces.
Perhaps you or someone you love made that decision. Perhaps it haunts you. What do we say? We say with every ounce of compassion and tenderness we have that the past is past; nothing can change it.
However (I'm so thankful for God's "howevers"), the future is filled with hope. That's where acknowledgement and remorse for our sins make a difference.
The Psalmist said, "He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:10-12).
Perhaps you or someone you love is trying to decide right now how to handle an unplanned or difficult pregnancy. With every ounce of compassion and tenderness we can muster, we affirm that it's worth choosing life. I'm so thankful that my mother chose life.
Choosing life doesn't take away all apprehensions about delivering a child. But if you find yourself wondering if you can make it through the next contraction, try repeating this to yourself: "If Sheila Ross and Martha Bailey can have babies, I can too!"
Martha Bailey is a pastor's wife, a mom and speaker who blogs weekly at www.marthabailey.com and has authored two books, "It Hurts But I'm Okay" and "Putting My Dress-up Clothes Away." Her husband Waylon is pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, La. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE (www.SBCLIFE.net), journal of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.