It’s a time of miracles and wonderment. When a woman is ‘with child,’ she is often willing to adjust many aspects of her life. Women are amazing! While pregnant, they will stop smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut out alcohol, and even exercise!
Why are so many women willing to pursue a healthier lifestyle during pregnancy but not after surviving breast cancer–even though a better lifestyle has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer recurrence? What about survivors of heart attacks? Considering that they have only one heart, it seems they would be motivated to develop healthier habits–but this is seldom the case.
There are good reasons why pro-life supporters want mothers to see a real-time sonogram of their baby before scheduling an abortion. As soon as a woman knows for sure that she is pregnant, she begins falling in love with her baby. While there are exceptions, this is the rule.
A mother almost immediately sees the fetus as a real person. It’s her baby. For fathers, this process may happen more gradually over a few months or even years. But to Mom, this is a precious, tiny person. And it’s not just any person. This is an innocent, helpless, needy person who is completely depending on her.
Love has three major components. During pregnancy, two of these three ingredients are already present—irreversible commitment and mutual dependence. The third element, communication, comes more gradually.
Suddenly, a pregnant lady sees cigarettes as an enemy of her baby! Yesterday they may have been her best friend, but today they threaten the “love of her life.” Love for her baby deepens even more when she feels the fetus kick. Now she is continually aware of this other person, strangely separate, yet very much a part of her own person.
I remember one patient in particular. Teaching music was her life, and a wonderful teacher she was. She loved her students and they loved her; every year her schedule was so packed that students had to be turned away. She was married to a very stable and considerate high school teacher, and was certain that her life was complete. As she approached thirty years of age, I began to ask if she had considered getting pregnant. She assured me that she and Larry had such a wonderful marriage that a baby would just dilute and maybe even upset the perfect love they already enjoyed. I explained that this new person would not dilute anything. Her total love would grow. Larry’s total love would grow. While they would still have each other, their love would know an expanded reality.
When she tried to get pregnant, nothing happened. Fertility studies revealed a very low sperm count. At that low level, pregnancies rarely occur. Miraculously, a few months later her pregnancy test was positive and they were both elated. However, their elation turned to devastation when she began to bleed and miscarry. She wanted to know how long they had to wait before trying again. In three months, they were looking for another miracle.
It was soon that I was shocked to confirm her pregnancy test as positive again. This time, she told her precious music students of this massive change in her life, because now, she was doing everything possible to avoid the risk of a repeated disappointment. Until that point, nothing would have ever tempted her to a change in her teaching routine. Now it was different. Now her life was “fetus first.” And yes, Benjamin expanded their lives and love in ways previously unimaginable!
Though this is not a scientific, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, I have watched this story and its many variations occur countless times over my medical career. The results are so compelling that I am convinced that a real love relationship will motivate us to improve our lifestyles when almost nothing else can. The things we do because of a love relationship with someone else are amazing!