I’ve always wondered what happens to the man in the relationship when a woman decides to have an abortion. From different things I’ve read, many men are relieved when the woman decides to abort their child, freeing him from the shackles of fatherhood. Others sit on the sidelines and tell the woman that it is their choice and they will pay for their half. Others are simply absent and flee the scene of the crime once they’ve made their score. I wonder how many of them voice their parental and fatherly right to claim that unborn child as their own? Currently in the United States, the courts side with the decision of the mother, as if this child was of no concern or relation to the man who is responsible for half of its genetic make-up. Maybe it’s time for men to stand up and embrace fatherhood with new vigor.
As I reflected on this injustice against men, I realized that it goes back to that old pro-choice mantra of “my body, my choice”. This phrase is shouted loudly at Planned Parenthood rallies, Women’s Marches, and national conventions for political parties. Sometimes (most disturbingly) it’s printed on T-shirts worn by young children of abortion supporters. The pro-choice movement is essentially boiled down to this idea - this is my body, I am an autonomous being and no one from without has any right to infringe on my right to what I want with my body. It has been the cornerstone of the pro-choice movement and a difficult “right” for pro-lifers to combat. Furthermore, it is impossible to deny the fact that women do indeed undergo more physical hardship during pregnancy and that it is the woman who must carry the unborn child for nine months – regardless of whether or not she intended to conceive and regardless of whether she plans to raise the child or place it for adoption. I’ve gotten to witness this firsthand as Annie carried then nursed our three born children, and now as she carries our fourth. Seeing the physical toll that motherhood takes on Annie’s body, I often wonder at God’s plan for childbirth, and the sacrifices offered by a mother for her child and family.
Reflecting on this, I am reminded of the words of the “Institution Narrative”. That moment of the Mass when the priest takes the host and says “Take this all of you and eat of it. For this is my body which will be given up for you.” It is such a beautiful moment because at the moment (if you’re still awake or not thinking about which donut you’ll have after Mass,) after this prayer, the prayer prayed centuries ago by Christ at the Last Supper, we believe that the host is no longer merely bread, but the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. How incredible is that? But beyond that, (as if there could be anything beyond the awesomeness that is Transubstantiation,) is the imagery of the words themselves. “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” I used to hear those words and think of it in terms of the sacrifice; the people of the Church giving Christ’s body as a sacrifice up to the Father. I viewed the term “given up” in a directional sense, and missed another level of meaning.
Christ was foregoing his earthly body, giving it up, for the sake of a greater cause. He sacrificed his physical self to achieve a much greater good. He allowed his physical, autonomous person to be given up for the good of all. I think about Annie and pregnant women everywhere and I can’t help but see Christ’s sacrifice in their decision to bear life. Annie told me once that the Mass took on an entirely new meaning when she became pregnant. That during the Eucharistic prayer, as her feet were swelling, her belly growing heavier, her heartburn escalating, and a miniscule Conor McGregor was punching her in the bladder, all she could think of was, “this is MY body, little one, given up for you.”
It’s no wonder the courts side in favor of the mother and why men everywhere probably feel as awkward as a 6th grade dance at approaching the issue of abortion and their paternal rights. After all, it’s her body given up for the child, not mine, so what say do I have? Well, speaking as a father, I would say, a lot! Yes, my wife has sacrificed an incredible amount for the sake of our children and our family and I have never been more proud of my beautiful, sexy bride than when our children are first born. I know that my sacrifices can never match those of Annie’s and I am not trying to. But I think it a pertinent reminder both to those that say men do not have to sacrifice anything, to those men who think they don’t need to sacrifice anything.
The life of being a true husband and father is a life spent saying, “This is MY body, given up for YOU.” It means that when I want to roll over and go to sleep after a long day, I roll the other way and scratch Annie’s back because it helps relax her and gets her to sleep. It means that when I really want to be playing video games or drinking a beer, I’m painting a wall or fixing a drain, trying to make a better home for my family. It means that when I come home from work tired and my children are fussing and my wife is drained, I muster up energy and love to run around tickling the heck out of them! I want to encourage men everywhere, take seriously your role. Don’t let society belittle your important work of giving yourself over to your family. Remember that to be a husband and a father truly is what St. Paul says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives (I’ll add family here), even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her…”