I stared at the test, willing the pink lines not to appear. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be pregnant again. It was too hard. I couldn’t bear the thought of another miscarriage, and I was terrified of what another birth would do to my already broken body. As the results became clear, and relief washed over me, one thought burned in my brain- “so this is what this feels like.”
I knew that if the test had been positive I would have dealt with it. I would have been cautiously happy and hopeful that this time would be different (and by God’s grace less than a year later we did have a second baby, without my fears coming to fruition.) But that day, for the first time, I understood what it felt like.
That day I thought back to the year I spent sitting in my car for an hour, every weekday, outside the only clinic that performed abortions in my area, praying for the women and their babies walking through those doors to be saved. I remembered asking God to give me eyes to see them and heart to love them the way He does. He was faithful and, as is often the case, it was suffering that finally opened my eyes and heart. I finally understood the fear, the desperation, the feeling of having no good choices. The worry that if I told anyone, they wouldn’t understand. The feelings of shame at my relief and my lack of faith in God to be good in all things, and of loneliness in my struggle finally made me see. I could finally understand what could drive a girl to the doors of the abortion clinic, to think she had no other choices. I finally knew that sometimes even though what is right and true is clear, it is also incredibly scary.
A year later, I told my doctor, confessed my fears and my shame, while we listened to a tiny heartbeat. She cared for me with expertise and experience of her own loss and worries. I’d never had a female doctor before, never trusted I would be heard with compassion and respect. In fact, in the past I had often been dismissed by doctors. It was what I expected. Thank God for her. Thank God that there was a woman in the room. It made all the difference for me.
There have been so many times that I have needed a woman in the room. That so many of us have wished for a woman in the room. Not that a man cannot be a wise and kind advocate—I have so many brothers, friends who I trust to care for me and for others. But expertise and shared experience, authority and understanding, respect and representation—those things are hard for women to believe in when there are none of us in the room.
We have been excluded from so many rooms so often and for so long.
We’ve listened to men talk about us, rather than to us. We’ve wondered if we will ever be seen or heard.
We’ve often been afraid often to tell the whole truth- our desperation, our guilt and shame, our loneliness. Even our dreams and aspirations. We’ve been defensive or deferred to share our struggles and our stories after so many men had dismissed them, dismissed us.
We’ve made quiet, desperate decisions, with no good choices and with no one in the room we can be sure will understand.
We’ve been misled and manipulated. Some have come to believe that the only thing that gives us opportunity is dismembering our own children, or that the only thing that gives us value is birthing them.
232 years with no women in the room has, in part, led us to use women and their children as political cudgels to wield against one another.
This time, I chose a woman in the room. And I wept.
I wept as I waited in line to vote, the familiar feeling of no good choices welling up in me and spilling out behind my sunglasses and mask.
No choice to protect the unborn with my vote without enabling and endorsing the dehumanization of refugees and women and whole nationalities of image-bearers.
No choice to protect immigrants, to provide more economic, medical, and social services for desperate women and families with my vote without enabling, funding, and propagating the abortion of image-bearers. No good choices. Only tears.
I wept. And I hoped.
I hoped that by breaking this glass ceiling and opening this door, one day there would be another woman in the room. In the same way that Justice Ginsberg paved the way for women like me, including Justice Barrett, I hoped and prayed that Vice President Harris would lead to more women like me in the room.
I hoped and prayed that somewhere was a young woman, watching someone who looks like her stand where no woman has stood, and see a place for herself. A young woman who is volunteering at her local crisis pregnancy center or teaching English classes to refugees. A young woman who is running for school board to advocate for the special needs children she adopted. A young woman who is working for prison reform during law school. A young woman who knows now that there is no room where she cannot walk through the door, fighting for women and their children alike, with gentle compassion and fierce protection.
I wept watching Vice President Harris being sworn in. I had a lot of conflicting emotions- elation and sadness, pride and trepidation. How I feel about my vote, about our first female national officeholder, about our country, all of it, is complicated. It should be complicated.
Vice President Harris is complicated. No one is just one thing. She is full of contradictions. So am I. And so are all of us in a world where there are often no good choices, where joy and sorrow are mingled together inextricably, no matter which box we check or who sits in the White House.
As citizens of an already Kingdom in a not yet world, upholding even the straightforward Truth that all humans are precious image-bearers of God is often complicated and messy in political practice. We do our best to make the right choices when sometimes no choices are fully righteous. I’m not sure that I did make the right choice. A lot of people chose differently. That’s ok. It’s complicated.
It would be easier to pretend it’s always simple, that we can pick a side and be done. But fighting for every human life is a multi-front battle for hearts and minds and policies and people. We have to be willing, at the least, to have complicated conversations, with everyone’s voice heard, every cost counted, every wound bandaged up.
It will be difficult. We will agree and disagree, be inspired and be disappointed. Often all at the same time.
So for now, I hold hope together with my grief. For now, I work every day to make the those choices I finally understand less desperate for as many women as possible, whatever the Supreme Court may say. For now, I lean into honesty, while working with all who will join me to give help and dignity to all image-bearers. And for now I look forward to the day that there will be women (and men) in every room who are compassionately, consistently, and completely pro-life.
Emily serves and lives in Norman, Oklahoma. You can follower her on twitter at @hoopersnook