We were out in California visiting my relatives and I was about 26 weeks along in my second pregnancy. Sometimes you just never know this side of heaven why things happen as they do. Something went wrong - amniotic fluid had built up so much that I was measuring 40+ weeks, and consequently, I went into pre-labor. They tried to save her through a C-section, but her lungs hadn’t developed properly. Heather passed away before I could even hold her. Many who suffer a miscarriage experience this grief and its weightiness and it is difficult to move on. Weeks passed and the long healing began. It hit me then and there - life was fragile and I wasn’t in control of it. Her brief life of 18 minutes taught me more about life than I had ever known before.

Both my husband and I dreamed of having a big family. 15 kids? Bring it on! We had underestimated, however, how difficult it would be to get pregnant, and after our fourth living child, there was a word for it ... secondary infertility. I was beginning to sense a theme: we are not the authors of our life. This is just where God opened our eyes to a world that we would never have chosen for ourselves. This wasn’t in our plan: fostering to adopt. But it was in God’s. We were blessed to adopt a 2-year-old taken from extreme neglect, a 3-month-old born at 23 weeks gestation, and an 18-year-old, all within a window of 4 years! We learned quickly that being pro-life wasn’t just about saving babies; there is more to it than that. Being pro-life meant loving not just those who were easy to love or whom we were familiar with, but including loving those who were hurting or different. Like our son who has a reactive attachment disorder, our daughter who is developmentally disabled, or the moms and dads who were struggling with addiction; in short ... everybody! We learned that everyone has a story and it’s worth listening to.

Reaching out to the broken and loving with a spirit of love is a big part of being pro-life, but it’s difficult because we have to all step out from our own place of brokenness. It’s the person you give money to on the street when your mind tells you they might spend it illicitly. It’s welcoming special needs kids to participate in activities where they can feel wanted and their dignity respected. It’s cooking a meal for a family who needs a hand. It’s loving your aging parents and all the difficulties that come with getting older. Being pro-life from conception to death is a full life transformation. It is all about letting go of YOUR plan and giving your life fully to God so He can WOW you! He really is a total mastermind, and His end goal is always the same - to bring us closer to Him.

Recently, I also experienced the loss of my mother. After 3 days of being unresponsive in hospice care, my sister and I stayed up both nights to be with her in her final moments. But on that third day, we could barely keep our eyes open and my sister told my mom to “wake us up” so that we could be with her in her final moments. At 2:11 a.m., our newborn foster baby who was with me in the room, began to cry loudly and woke us both up. Mom passed away four minutes later. God had woken us up! As we watched her final moments and breaths slip away, we realized we were blessed to be included in a moment so divine that it took our own breath away.

Life and death hold a beauty no words can accurately illustrate. It’s like the veil between heaven and earth open in those few brief moments. Life and death might be God’s bookends, but being pro-life is also about everything in between. It’s the suffering, the brokenness, the joys, the people. It’s seeing Christ in all we know and meet and letting him be in control. Our current foster baby is our 15th placement. I smile thinking about that number. It’s not the way I would have planned it. It’s even better because it’s God’s plan. Being pro-life is just that. It’s defending the sanctity and dignity of life from beginning to end and allowing God to be the author of all that is.

Maria Stewart — SFA Theologians Guild Member