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Living The Pro-Life Blessing

November 10, AD2014

A few years ago when a journalist interviewed me for an article on Mother’s Day for our city’s major paper, she asked me if I ever regretted not using my degree to pursue a career. I simply stared at her in shock for a few moments, my mind blank. “No”, I finally stuttered, “the thought never entered my mind”. It was then the journalist’s turn to stare at me in shock for a few minutes. Even though this article merely shared a humorous peek into my hectic life written by a bemused acquaintance, half of the ninety comments had to be deleted after publication because they were angry, profane attacks against my lifestyle. Obviously a pro-life feminist stance strikes a raw nerve in society, a symptom of a decades old battle between the pro-choice and pro-life camps. Ironically both sides fight for the equality and dignity of women. It is my hope that by once again articulating my positions with respect, simply sharing my journey, even bitter adversaries will begin to understand my pro-life, feminist stance even if they do not fully agree.

I admit the words pro-life and feminism seem to oppose each other. However, true feminism is not the antithesis of motherhood or a pro-life stance. Contrary to standard stereotypes, one is pro-woman precisely when one is pro-life. I was surprised to discover a challenging, satisfying life as a mother of a large family. I am a conundrum because I am a joyful mother of nine children. I feel vilified by modern environmentalists, as well as feminist career women and of course beatified by religious right at the same time. Most people, of all persuasions, expect me to appear haggard and filled with regret or lamenting unfulfilled dreams. I realize I surprise people when they first meet me; their eyebrows shoot up, their mouths drop open and they sputter, YOU, had nine children. This is because I am 5’ 1” and weigh 108 pounds even though I was pregnant or nursing for eighteen years without a break. Yet, I am healthy, remain quite articulate, and have a quirky sense of humor. This challenges the typical image of a woman of a large family as a grim battle-axe, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle the poor, deprived dears. Surprisingly, my kids turned out well rounded and successful, while I, who grew up with only one sister, discovered dignity and freedom as a mother of nine kids.

After the birth of our fourth child, Michael and I struggled to understand exactly how we should live our lives. Of course we practiced natural family planning, but I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation and  we were pro-life, abortion was not an option. My doctor, after considering another unplanned pregnancy surmised, “Ah, I remember reading about a woman in New Zealand, two years ago, who conceived five days before ovulation.” I raised my hand and chirped, “Well, you can add me to that list!”

Around this time, my husband and I discussed an article which quoted Pope John Paul II whose main premise was that letting go of control and trusting in God was not some abstract principle but a day-to-day practical call that included the surrender of our fertility. Although we could not imagine how large our family would become, the words of this article resonated within both of us. Guilt lifted off and a sense of purpose took its place. It took a few years to really believe none of our children were simply a failure of the natural family planning method. Many small experiences kept reinforcing the truth; God called each of our children into being with our cooperation. We stumbled blindly at times and then a burst of clarity would shine light on our purpose as we lived out pro-life.

Of course, not everyone can stay at home these days with their kids. Not everyone is called to mother a large family, but every woman should understand the tragedy of abortion. I have witnessed the life destroying effects of abortion on friends who have struggled to move past grief and guilt for decades after; abortion  destroys not only the life of the unborn, but has unforeseen repercussions in the life of the mother. The effects are even more far-reaching, because abortion is an injustice that affects all of society. A pro-life society is a just society.

I don’t have all the answers. What would I have done if my thirteen-year-old had become pregnant? Yet, I do know that life does begin at conception. I simply wish to express that motherhood is a pro-life feminist career and abortion is not pro-women.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

 

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Melanie Jean Juneau serves as the Editor in Chief of Catholic Stand. She is a mother of nine children who has edited her kid's university term papers for over a decade. She blogs at  joy of nine9 and mother of nine9 . Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, a columnist at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC, author of Echoes of the Divine and Oopsy Daisy, and coauthor of Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood

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  • Emily Davis

    Melanie,
    You know as a nosy, I mean, concerned person… I had to check to see what you had written that would so inflame people.
    Dear lady, you are always a bright light.
    I hope you did not give these naysayers any space in your head.
    Blessings,
    Em

  • feminism is not deprive a child’s life, the way we educate children do not fully understand the consequences when 13-year-old pregnant

    • melanie jean juneau

      Yes, I understand your point which is why I end my article saying I do not have all the answers. The guilt of murder just might wreck more havoc on a young teen than giving birth. because the dilemma of a pregnant 13-year-old is, in fact, that another new life now exists with their own innate right to continue to live. Abortion ends an unborn soul’s life on earth. We are playing God by deciding they should die.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    How can one get pregnant before one ovulates? That seems biologically impossible for human beings.

    • melanie jean juneau

      My conclusion was that it was God in action. Usually, an egg lives one or two days, sometimes 3 but I am one of those..has been heard of types. I quote my doctor, “Ah, I remember reading about a woman in New Zealand, two years ago, who conceived five days before ovulation.” I raised my hand and chirped, “Well, you can add me to that list!”.

  • David Peters

    Amen Melanie. An excellent article!

    • melanie jean juneau

      kind and generous as always David- you are balm, to my spirit

  • linred

    Thank you for saying not every woman is called to be the mother of a large family, and not every mother can afford the luxury of staying at home. Those words show an understanding that many others, myself included, really appreciate.

    • melanie jean juneau

      yes- God loves a diverse expression of His love and I would be an idiot if i thought I was the perfect expressiom of His will

  • KarenJo12

    I’m glad it worked out for you. You are not everyone else and your experience is very, very far from standard. I don’t object to your family choices, although I do think nine children is irresponsible for the planet, but there are so very few families in this country that large that we can absorb a few without much damage. I strongly object to your advocacy for laws that impose your decisions on everyone else. Go ahead and live your own life but please allow the rest of us the same privilege.

    • melanie jean juneau

      I am not a self-righteous person who rants then attacks those with other opinions or tries to inflicts my opinion on others.Yet you strongly object that I want to IMPOSE my decisions on everyone else. Please do not lump me with certain American militant lobby groups. I am a Canadian. As I said in the beginning, my reason for writing was to facilitate mutual respect and understanding. I concluded by saying I do not have all the answers but I do know that life does begin at conception

    • Thomas Sharpe

      Canada has “plenty of open space” and a population that’s given over to contracepting, therefore nine is not irresponsible, if possible.

    • melanie jean juneau

      So true, In fact, I just edited a university paper, for one of my daughters, on Canadian Identity as it is tied into the rugged, vast empty terrain

    • Thomas Sharpe

      So true. My wife and I have four children and live outside of Boston. We’ve been accused of “overpopulating”! To help dispel this myth (lie) ask my CCD class “count the number of children and adults on the street you live on … “.

    • melanie jean juneau

      laughing- ingenious. Just by living our lives, trying imperfectly to remain open, listening and obeying while we stumble- still we offend others by simply being whom we are called to be- even without meaning to upset others.

    • Thomas Sharpe

      I sometimes think that only catholic Christians remain rational (sane) in this current age. Most everyone else: atheists, secular, protest-ant churches, governments, muslims… are not.

    • melanie jean juneau

      The Protestant stance on contraception is interesting given many are committed to living out their faith in their daily lives. Yet they do not surrender their fertility to God, even though natural family planning works for most couples

    • Thomas Sharpe

      I once worked with a Protestant and I was able to show him that NFP does of course work and it’s a better path. Note: FAM (fertility awareness methods) is, I think, a better acronym, the words “artificial and natural” make for confusion and there’s enough of that- I think that Protestants can have a hard time admiting that the Church is right on why contra-ception (an act against – the beginning of life) is wrong and how separating procreation from unitive is wrong, because deep down this calls into question whether the Church which now stands against the whole world on this one issue is “right” and they know what that might mean (does mean). Of course, the scandal of “catholics” who weekly profess that they do believe in the One, holy.. complicates things. Humanae Vitae is the answer. Notice how very quiet the mass media was when Paul VI was canonized at the end of the Synod. How very quiet. Demons are speechless as the eternal banner is unfurled, the Church blazing across eternity.

    • melanie jean juneau

      interesting insights, especially on the canonization of Paul IV- well said. I have never heard the term FAM but i like it

    • KarenJo12

      How much of that space is habitable? How much needs to be used to grow food for humans? What about the other animals and plants? Do you believe humans should simply expand and use every single scrap of space on Earth and drive all other species into extinction?

    • Thomas Sharpe

      No, I think there’s a demographic winter on the horizon.

    • melanie jean juneau

      I understand your indignation because I am an educated, informed, conscientious citizen of the world who has lived for years cringing under condemnation. All I know for certain, now, was this was my particular calling and witness to a modern society who is adamantly against large families. I do not think we will over run the earth

    • KarenJo12

      But you still haven’t answered my question. How does the world encourage large families while at the same time preserving wilderness? It’s not possible. There is no squaring that circle. If you say large families should be typical, you are saying that humans have the right to overrun the entire surface of the planet. Having everyone have large families requires that.

    • melanie jean juneau

      laughing- you keep assuming and putting words in my mouth. I did NOT say large families should be typical- I said this was my particular calling, a witness to the sanctity of life. It is also a witness to the fact that no matter what our calling in life, even if it does not seem to make sense, if we are obedient, then God will provide and we will reap blessings and live in His freedom and joy. It could be a celibate lifestyle, it could be a call to adopt, it could be the difficult path of one child and a taxing career as a doctor. My purpose with this artical was a call for mutual understanding, as I stated in the opening paragrapgh. This was not a rant that everyone should have a lot of kids and society should encourage that- No, it is simply asking that my story be read and understood as one of the many ways women can be faithful to the call of the Spirit in their lives

    • Kevin Aldrich

      My wife and I have seven kids and they have not overrun anything. I’m not sure they have even stepped one toe inside any wilderness.

    • melanie jean juneau

      laughing again- touché. Some fears about large families are irrational – people simply verbalize negative attitudes from secular society and apply them to all parents with a lot of kids

    • Kevin Aldrich

      “I strongly object to your advocacy for laws that impose your decisions on everyone else.”

      Where in the world did you come up with that?

    • melanie jean juneau

      not from anything I said explicitly or even implied. Some eaders must have had bad experiences with self- righteous types who have lots of kids and condemn everyone else. Then we get lumped with that minority. Or else they were called to have more kids by God, refused and now feel guilty so they attack parents of large families

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