I love family pictures.  Ours is not the kind of house where we are worried about putting holes in the wall, which is a good thing.  (I have such handsomness in my family it simply must be displayed!)  If you need to take a venture towards our upstairs bathroom, you will be treated to the "hall of fame" - a picapalooza of sports, music and baby photos.  On the end, in the spot of honor, rests our wedding pose, two happy youngsters who had NO IDEA that their lives were to change in such dramatic ways.  Sometimes I'll catch myself staring at those two babies (because now that I'm older, anyone younger than 23 is a baby) and marvel at their innocence, happiness, and lack of wrinkles.

Yesterday, I was able to add to the "hall of fame" and insert our newest family photo (professional thanks to St. Michael's and the updated church directory!).  It truly is a great picture; but also a bit disconcerting.  There are no longer two adults and five little ones, now there are two middle aged parents and their young adult children.  Looking at the blue, grey and green smiling eyes, I see a family.  Each their own individual yet an integral part of the inner workings at the Beers factory.

Reminiscing in the quiet, I was reminded of instances that occurred frequently at the beginning of our child bearing years.  Upon announcing yet another pregnancy, the most common reaction we would hear is "Don't you know what caused that?" or "ANOther baby?", "what, are you a glutton?", or, the most heartbreaking to me "Oh.  You're going to be one of THOSE Catholics." with the pompous head nod and glace to my right, leaving me burning with tears.  Some of my supposed happiest times were met with sad nods and looks of pity.

Most of the time, my timid, tired self could no more muster a good comeback than I could manage to stay awake on the couch for more than 15 min.  I just didn't have the mental strength to do anything but smile a fake smile then go home to wonder what we are going to do with another baby and little to no support.  Except for once.  There was one, distinct time that I had had it.  I was done with the meanness.  Even if people didn't intend for it to be mean, it was.  I looked at the person who asked me how I was going to handle another baby with so many toddlers and asked:  "Please take my children, line them up, look in their faces and tell me:  which one should I not have had?" She began to become uncomfortable as the steam began to build in my ears.  "c'mon, let me know.  Which one? You can't decide?  Maybe that's because I was meant to have these lovely babies.  Yes, they are exhausting;  yes, I will be poor for many, many years; yes it's loud; yes! yes to everything that's negative about having babies.  But we're happy and feel very blessed."

I couldn't imagine my life without every boy we have.  They each bring a light and purpose into my life that wasn't there before and couldn't be replaced by anything other than his unique spirit.  There are many people who can be fulfilled in life without children, but not me.  Ever since I was little, I knew in my soul I wanted to be a mother and felt very called to that vocation.  Not once have I ever felt that it was a mistake having one or all of them.  Which is why I grieve for those who have had a pregnancy occur at an inopportune time in their lives.  While we never had actually planned to have five children, we were married, had a home and good jobs.  I may have been persecuted for bearing children, but I at least had the support of a spouse.  Many others in this world are persecuted and have no one to turn to; It must be such a lonely road.

But there is love.  Love out there for all who feel deserted, lost and don't know what to do with a unexpected baby.  Love for the life and spirit growing and becoming ready to bring light on earth.  Love for the life meant to be brought to fruition.  Maybe not for you or I, but for families like my sister in law who is now a mother because of the generosity of another mother who chose to bear life and enrich our family with her gift;  Love in the form of support and counseling for a young mother who is confused and wondering what in the world is going to happen to her now.  And mercy for those who have chosen to terminate a life, only to suffer in regret later.  We are all a part of the human community and we all are touched by life's choices.

40 days for life is a time of prayer for all those mothers who find themselves in a situation of discernment, whether married and suffering the negative words of people, young, single and alone, or older and realizing the hard way they are still fertile.  Relief, guidance and joy is found when you allow God into your heart and ask Him for help.  I urge you to check out the 40 days for life website to find prayer locations;  We all are a part of the family of God and we are our brothers and sisters keepers.  I most likely won't add to my "hall of famers" but someone out there is waiting to hang a photo on a blank wall, just as there is someone who will look at their own hall of fame and give thanks that eyes are smiling back at them.  God is love and Love will lead the way.


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