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Choosing "Life" Over A Perfect Life

alec vanderboom

A Reaction to this quote in the NY Times.

"Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent. “This is bad, but it’s not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have,” she told me, referring to the reduction."

(ht: the Anchoress: Repugnant Non-Parenting)

My father-in-law was an identical twin, born in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. At the time of his birth, his mother had two older children ages 3 and 5. (She would eventually go on to have six children). His family was poor. His father was addicted to prescription medication.

At some point, his mother became overwhelmed by the needs of her young children. When her husband was called into service during WWII, she gave away one of the six year old twins to his paternal grandparents.

This abandonment left a huge scar on my Father-in-law. Even though his grandparents lived close by, he never came home again! When his father came home from the War, his mother invited her son back home. However, her little boy refused to come home. He said he was "used to" his grandparent's home now. For some reason, she never forced her nine(or ten) year old to move back in. (She later expressed regret to my Mother-in-law. She said it was a mistake to ever send him away.)

As an adult, my Father-in-law still spoke about "the exile" as though he were sent to a different country, rather than 100 yards across a gravel country road. There was a lasting distance between him and his birth family. At age 20, he got a job for the State Police and moved hundreds of miles away his family. Even though he talked often on the telephone to his twin brother, he rarely returned home to visit his brother or his mother.

The boy grew into a man. He had an important job in the community, locking away criminals. He married and had three children. The intimacy scar affect his family life. He found it hard to talk to his children, especially to his only son. He didn't attend his children's sports events or talk much about their friends.

Work was hard and took a lot out of him. He worked hard 12 hour shifts some days/some nights. He had a soft spot for the poor and gave money to the desperately poor he came into contact with through his police work. He hated seeing kids abused or neglected.

And my Father-in-law was mad at God. Very mad at God.

At age 73, he caught a rare form of blood cancer that for some reason was ubiquitous in his small town. A victim of an environmental toxicant, perhaps? He was dead within 12 weeks of his diagnosis.

Yet something amazing happened to my Father-in-law during those last 12 weeks. His twin brother, the favored one--the one that got to stay with Mom while he was sent far from home--prayed for him. His son prayed for him. The twin brother called his little known nephew, my husband. These men prayed together on the phone for my Father-in-law's conversion.

My Carmelite husband called a priest, and asked him to gave his Father the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Sick. His Father's heart was opened.

The last three weeks of my Father-in-law's life was beautiful. It was a living example of the men in the vineyard who were called "late in the day." The priest brought the Eucharist four or five times. Three Nuns came to visit the sick man in his house. He died in the full grace of the Roman Catholic Church. He died a holy death and gave a sign of seeing the Virgin Mary.


I was horrified when I read Jenny's reason for aborting a twin "so that she wouldn't be a second rate Mother." It seems so horribly close to the same reasons that I've been beating myself up for having morning sickness with a fifth child and spending weeks "abandoning" my own older children. Who knows how much this sick culture of death has infected all of us American women. What is a "good mother?" Why are we so afraid of failing or children?

My husband's grandmother was in Jenny's shoes. She lived Jenny's worse nightmares. For some reason, Grandma Ruth felt like she couldn't "handle" twins. Her decision to give my Father-in-law to his grandparents had a lasting effect on his psyche. I came into my Father-in-law's life when he was more than 60. He still talked of that hurt with fresh tears in his eyes.

And yet....

My Father-in-law was alive. He went on to become the father of my dear husband. The Father of a Carmelite. The possible Grandfather of a Nun.

What would my life be like if Grandma Ruth had the option of "twin reduction" abortion?

How much love would the World have missed out on?

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My father-in-law with me and two of his grandchildren in October 2007.

We're coming up on the 2nd anniversary of my Father-in-law's death. Blessed Virgin, pray for the soul of Bob Benjamin. Pray for all of our beloved dead.