“Bad Mother”

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46 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    Holy cats! Other than that, I’m at a loss for words.

  2. Betsy says:

    I, too, listened to that interview, and it disturbed me very deeply. I have a son with a rare chromosome disorder who is mentally retarded. We found out about his disorder via amnio. I won’t lie – we struggled after learning his diagnosis, and we even talked about the unthinkable, terminating the pregnancy. Because we were scared. And the cowardly parts of us wanted to run away from it and make it disappear. But in the end, after much prayer and soul-searching, we came to the realization we knew all along – that it was not, in fact, our choice to make. We had no right to end our son’s life simply because we were too scared to take on the responsibility of raising him.

    My little boy is now 3 years old, and yes, being his mother is hard at times. There are moments when it’s frustrating, and it hurts. But he is my son, and he brings more joy into our lives than I ever thought possible.

    In a way, I pity Ms. Waldman, that she lacked the courage to bring her child into the world, that she and her husband are so shallow. Our children bring with them no guarantees, and who is to say one of her supposedly “healthy” children won’t fall victim to some illness/accident, leaving that child disabled? Then what? Would she regret that child, because his/her disability would change the dynamics of her family? Surely not…

    I do have to say, though, in her defense – at least she owns her decision. She comes out and pretty much says she ended her pregnancy because she was too cowardly to go forward with it. At least she doesn’t try to pass it off as some benevolent act she was performing on behalf of her baby to “spare” him a life of hurt and frustration.

    Still, it made me very sad to read, and it made me sad for my son, that we live in that sort of world where people make those sorts of “choices.”

    Thank you for your blog, for sharing James, and for continuing to write. It truly is a treasure.

  3. Wagon says:

    I ended up listening to the entire interview- I think it’s truly sad that she imparts that babies are replaceable. The fact she seems very pleased about her first abortion is just a devaluation of life at all. There is something very difficult to understand in people who have had more than one abortion- life, even a clump of cells, should have more of an impact than to lead to more death.

  4. Evaleen says:

    John, thank you for sharing this. I felt that your response was put very eloquently and compassionately. The lies and ugliness of the world is such a punch in the gut. I will be praying for the safety of those unborn babies out there tonight.

  5. krista says:

    “I don’t mean to judge.”

    I don’t get it. You chose to judge this person and publish it on the internet. You clearly did mean to judge. Why do people say stuff like that? It reminds me of how Carrie Prejean repeatedly says, “No offense, but…” when she goes on to say that because of her personal beliefs the rights of a minority group should be denied. The disclaimer doesn’t make it any less offensive, just as your disclaimer doesn’t make your rant any less judgemental.

    Why does it seem like it is always the Christians who are by far the most judgemental? No offense. I don’t mean to judge.

    • john says:

      Hi, Krista. Welcome to the House of Gjertsen. I can’t really tell from your comment how you might have found us, whether from NPR or Cakewrecks or somewhere else. It doesn’t matter so much—as I mentioned in my post, I intend this blog to be a place where all are welcome—but it always helps the cause of communication to know where the other party is coming from.

      As far as where I’m coming from, I can only assume you found and read at least some of the sweetbabyjames blog and know a little about where we’re coming from. One of the messages Waldman communicated in her interview was that babies with special needs are disposable in a way that babies without special needs aren’t. This simply isn’t true, and special needs parents everywhere and the society at large are justified in condemning that kind of a choice.

      But by saying “I don’t mean to judge,” what I hoped to convey (NPR’s system didn’t let me type very much!) was that I’m not simply out to condemn, as though I were some kind of morally superior person. I’ve blogged numerous times about doubt. I’ve done some pretty irresponsible things, both in thought and in action. My only hope, Ayelet’s only hope, and your only hope is trusting in the sin-cleansing provision of Jesus. You’d probably find his words offensive as well, though his overarching purpose is to restore and give life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

      On any kind of hot button issue like abortion, I know people’s feathers are easily ruffled, and often a good dialogue is frequently a casualty of charged rhetoric. Along those lines, let me ask other commenters to be respectful of Krista. I reserve the right to dispprove/censor any comments which turn this page into a flame thread.

      Krista, thanks for commenting. I certainly aim to be someone who engages people who believe very differently than myself with honesty, authenticity, and civility. I appreciate you calling me out, in a way; I can always do better. And I appreciate what I took to be a little bit of humor with the way you ended your comment, as though you recognize the flip side of the coin. You’re welcome to stop in and visit our blogs. I don’t know if I’ve answered your question adequately or given you something else to respond to, but I invite you if you’d like to continue the dialogue to contact me directly at john_gjertsen @ earthlink DOT net.

  6. Sheila says:

    John, I agree. You were very eloquent, and you had a well-formed response.

    Waldman has become (in)famous for stating that she loves her husband more than her children … perhaps it’s a publicity stunt and nothing more, but I don’t think she’s entirely well-informed about life.

    To each their own, but I find her attitude extremely disturbing, not brave whatsoever.

    I don’t know your family, but the lessons I’ve learned from James and Dora are priceless.

  7. Mari says:

    Hi John,
    I listened to the whole interview on the radio the day it took place, and I found it very interesting. I think her honesty is unusual and refreshing, as well as surprising. Her choices are obviously not right for everyone. I hope abortion is always an option for women. No one should make that choice for another woman. I think abortion is one of those issues where we have to agree to disagree.

  8. Molly says:

    John,
    I don’t think I could have wrote something so elequont regarding such a hot issue – that I for one would be pretty upset over if I had been in your shoes. Kudos to you…
    I just recently came upon sweetbabyjames via cakewrecks and I’m truely touched by you, your wife and your beautiful family. If only all people knew what special angels ALL children are!

  9. Stephanie says:

    I fully oppose abortion. As much as I can understand the draw of avoiding all the pain and trials for you and your family, I just couldn’t face myself or God if I’d done that.

    I think the saddest part though, is that family. The bond between the husband and wife.. so conditional. And those poor children will someday read about how much their own mother disliked them and loved her husband better. Dysfunction at it’s finest. How hard it must be to have so little love that you have to ration it out to people. I hope that when my husband and I have children, our love multiplies and runs over to fill their lives.

  10. Priscilla says:

    John, as a mom of a special-needs child, two if you count our son with ADHD, I can honestly say that our oldest child saved my life. I remember telling my husband that I couldn’t handle it if she were born handicapped, then telling him a few months later that I think I could handle it if she was born with Down’s syndrome. Hah! Looks like I underestimated myself! Our oldest was born with Crouzon’s Syndrome. Being her mother has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but with God’s provision, I have also found that I’m very good at being her mother! (She’s going to prom tonight, and graduating with honors next month from high school! Thank you, Jesus!)
    In a very real way, I think we all underestimate ourselves. And if we are plugged into a relationship with Christ, then we sometimes forget that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
    When we FINALLY got pregnant with our son, everyone kept saying how wonderful, that he would be so much easier than our daughter…no doctor appts, no surgeries, no siezures, etc. He was a VERY difficult baby!! At least our oldest had been trained by the NICU schedule, and was a great feeder. There are no guarantees in life. All we can do is to trust God to follow through on his plans, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
    Otherwise, all we have is the futility of the world.
    A devout reader of Cakewrecks, I found sweetbabyjames.info and read it all in two days, and now I find myself here, rejoicing with you.
    Your blogs are a blessing.

  11. Jayme Q. says:

    Wow. I’m just stunned speechless, which is rare for me. I am many things – a mother, a wife, a teacher. I like to think of myself as open-minded, and I’m not deeply religious. I feel that there are always circumstances which we can never understand, and so I am pro-choice, even though that would never be a choice for me. When I was pregnant with my son, I was offered genetic testing and refused even the most common blood test. I didn’t need to talk to my husband or family about this – I absolutely knew, that no matter what happened, my baby was a person and I loved him and could never willingly to anything to jeopardize any future he might have.

    I was lucky enough to be given a beautiful, healthy baby boy. But would I have loved him any less if he had a disability? Not at all. I know that I don’t understand the life of a special needs parent, but having worked in special education, I can at least respect some of the difficulties that such parents are faced with. And I still believe that every single child is worth loving and worth saving.

    I am pro-choice because I understand that sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control, and sometimes people need that option, as their very last resort. But for people to casually choose that option, even when there is every chance of having a healthy baby – is deplorable.

    I hope that my ramblings make sense, and that you don’t mind me stepping onto my soapbox for a moment. I was just so absolutely shocked and appalled by this (the radio program, not your post) that I had to stop and say something. I came here from Cakewrecks on James’ birthday and have been checking in ever since. I’m so glad that James was blessed with the two of you, his loving parents, and that he had the chance to live his life and touch so many people in the process.

  12. krista says:

    Hi John. I found the sweet baby James blog from cake wrecks. I was really touched by the way you guys documented so much about his life and actually read quite a bit of it. I came here to see how you were doing after it all and was happy to see you are doing well and have a baby on the way.

    Obviously I am pro-choice, but honestly it was simply the “I don’t mean to judge” thing that hit a nerve with me. Thanks for explaining it more. To explain where I am coming from more, I am gay and married and raising a family and face a lot of judgement from people who seem to really miss the bigger picture in the life of Jesus.

    I have worked with people living with disabilities, but I could never truly understand what your experience has been being the parent of a special needs child. I guess where I was coming from, being a person who feels judged and has people say that the most important thing in my life (my family) is wrong, is that I don’t want to hear things like “no offense” or “I don’t mean to judge.” If you believe the way someone else lives their life is wrong and say so, don’t downplay it with these phrases. It sounds like I may have just misunderstood your intent anyway but your response was kind and it seemed like you were curious where I came from so I thought I would explain.

  13. Melanie says:

    Well, some of us out here in the big, bad world think that it’s cruel to bring a baby who will suffer into the world. It’s not about the babies being disposable, it’s about making the best decision for your family. How dare you judge and condemn her for making a decision you chose not to make? Did you hear her voice break as she struggled to finish her story? You’re being disingenuous to argue that she is some sort of calculating baby-killer. The story *I* heard was one of a mother who had to make a devastating decision not to bring a child who would suffer into the world, and broke her own heart in the process. I applaud her bravery.

    And you do no one any favors by describing Waldman as “psychotic.” Did you listen long enough to the interview to hear that she is bipolar? Or were you too panty-twisted to give her the compassion you seem to only reserve for fetuses?

    Finally, Waldman is Jewish, and therefore not an appropriate target for your evangelism. Then again, you probably think she’s hell-bound because she doesn’t share your religious faith, either.

    • john says:

      Melanie,

      Hello out there in the “big, bad world” and welcome to the House of Gjertsen.

      I had a son, whom you may have already met virtually (and if you haven’t, I’d invite you to do so at http://www.sweetbabyjames.info). His blood sugar could go from the 40s to over 500 in like an hour, or be anywhere in between. I mention this because those of us with healthy endocrine systems have a hard time understanding what it feels like to be extremely hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic, but when used to ask the nurses, the best explanation we’d get is that he felt sapped of energy, basically “cruddy” when whenever he wasn’t in a good range.

      Which was the vast majority of his life.

      And that frequently puzzled Abby and I, because we’d frequently observe him having a blast smiling and laughing, maybe in the bathtub, and it would be so obvious that he was ENJOYING LIFE, and then we’d check his blood sugar at the next interval and it would be like 435 or something.

      I mention that because you said that some think that it’s cruel to bring a baby who will suffer into the world. And I guess I’m honestly stuck on what you mean by “suffer.” Sure James suffered, and I’m sure “Rocketship” Waldman would have suffered to some extent, too (although the odds he would even have “special needs” was pretty uncertain). But healthy babies suffer as well. And they grow up and turn into adults that get laid off in a recession and get cancer, etc. and keep on suffering. I think you could say “suffering” was even a theme in our prior blog, and if I could persuade you to read one post in particular it would be http://www.sweetbabyjames.info/wordpress/?p=40. I don’t believe the specter of suffering should ever lead one to willfully end another’s life, in any circumstance.

      I wanted to respond specifically to some of the other things you said:

      “You’re being disingenuous to argue that she is some sort of calculating baby-killer.”

      I doubt “disingenuous” means what you meant to say here. I did say that Ayelet, and ultimately her husband as well, made the premeditated choice to kill their baby. And that’s essentially what Ayelet said as well.

      “And you do no one any favors by describing Waldman as ‘psychotic.’ Did you listen long enough to the interview to hear that she is bipolar?”

      I’m not a clinical psychologist by any stretch, and it’s quite possible I have misused the word “psychotic” as I think you misused the word “disingenuous.” A psychosis is “a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.” I did not listen to the entire interview (it was not a “driveway moment”!) but I did gather from other commenters on NPR that she suffers from bipolarity. Though I can’t relate to that any better than I can relate to a broken endocrine system, I would imagine that might lead one to act in a “psychotic” way? That’s why I chose the word “psychotic,” to attribute her actions in some sense to her medical condition, instead of a word like “monster,” which was more or less my initial reaction, and would have been more incendiary. Ultimately, I do not wish ill upon Mrs. Waldman, evidenced by the conclusion of my comment where I recognized her impairment and wished her well, hoping for her the best hope she could hope for.

      “Did you hear her voice break as she struggled to finish her story?”

      I did hear her voice break at a single point in the interview, and I notated on my transcript. It was not when she described in brutal detail what a dilation & extraction is, but afterwards when she recalled getting the doctor to assure her that her baby wouldn’t feel any pain during this procedure. Later in the interview she described her first abortion as not causing any trauma at all. I have much, much compassion for Ayelet Waldman and others in her situation. And also I have compassion for the unborn, the same way my heart aches any time I see the defenseless crushed under the yoke of an oppressor.

      “Finally, Waldman is Jewish, and therefore not an appropriate target for your evangelism.”

      It’s very ironic that you say that, because from a historical perspective, it was a significant event in the first century for early Christians to regard anyone BUT the Jewish people as appropriate to evangelize. Whether Animist, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Atheist, Buddhist, Marxist, the words of Jesus are very clear in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Specifically regarding whether Jewish people have any exempted status, Paul writes, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:9a,22b-25a)

      Finally, I’ll add the same thing I wrote to Krista. I aim to be someone who engages people who believe very differently than myself with honesty, authenticity, and civility. I would ask other commenters to be respectful of Melanie. And Melanie, if you wish to continue to dialogue about abortion or faith or multiculturalism, I invite you to do so by reaching me at john_gjertsen @ earthlink DOT net.

  14. Betsy says:

    Melanie, if I may respond to you….

    Ayelet never claims to have ended her pregnancy to “spare” her baby. She’s pretty up-front about the fact that she did not want to raise a child with special needs because it would change the dynamic of her family. It’s an ugly truth, but at least she was honest, and I respect her honesty. But for you to say you “applaud her bravery” is ridiculous to me. Ms. Waldman never claims to be making a brave choice, and I imagine if you asked her, she would own up to the fact that she terminated her pregnancy because she was afraid. Afraid of how raising a child with special needs would affect her family and her relationship with her husband.

    What I don’t have respect for is people who support terminating the lives of mentally retarded babies because they are “sparing” them a life of suffering. The truth is, when one makes a decision like that, one is sparing THEMSELVES the suffering of raising that child. Don’t try to paint it as a selfless act – it is not.

  15. Greg says:

    I know I’m late to this conversation…
    I think the most troubling thing about that interview (which I caught, too) was that she was very honest about the fetus inside of her being a person, being a baby (which is a good thing). But that didn’t do any more to stop her from killing the person inside of her. Very disturbing to me.

    But you said this:
    “But even more passionately, I believe a fountain of grace in Jesus Christ can rescue and restore all of humanity, even in its ugliest and darkest hour.”

    Well said, my friend.

  16. Carmen says:

    John,

    I see why you posted the interview, and I do feel for you and your situation.

    Sadly, your post and resulting comments are extremely judgemental. Instead of simply saying, “I pray for her and her family and her unborn child and hope that they find healing in Christ” you instead chose to insert your own “spin” on the interview and judge her decision based on your own life and what you have been through. Your disgust shows. Your compassion and forgiveness does not.

    I did not expect the tone in your comments, and I was quite taken aback. You have always seemed gentle and kind and caring. None of that was in your post. It was so disappointing to read your equivalent of throwing stones.

    This is the problem with many who claim to be “pro-life.” They adopt this judgemental, angry tone instead of trying to show love, compassion, and understanding. I see the anti-abortion groups with their signs, screaming and yelling, but I don’t see the compassion in any of their faces. They scream “Murderer! Baby killer!” Not exactly Christ-like.

    Perhaps if someone with compassion and love had helped Ms. Waldman she might not have had an abortion. But I guess it’s easier for the judgemental types to call her names and judge her than to reach out and help her. Even now, I feel that this woman needs someone to reach out to her and help her heal.

    I am sorry for your loss. I have read your story and was impressed by the kindness I read in your posts. I am also sorry that you feel the need to judge her.

    Abortions will never end as long as there is poverty, fear, and pain in this world. Abortions will never end until people of faith are willing to “walk the walk” and adopt unwanted children, financially and emotionally support pregnant women by giving them a safe place to live and helping pay for medical bills, and by providing pregnant women with counseling and emotional support before, during, and after they decide to put their babies up for adoption.

    • john says:

      Carmen,

      A thoughtful critique. Rereading what I wrote, I don’t see a single exclamation point or any other indication that my words were written in anger. Perhaps much is in the eye of the beholder. They were written with much grief over the life of the little “Rocketship” that was never allowed to take off. My disgust that you observed, if you’ll notice, was directed at NPR (and the Fresh Air program in particular), at putting such a heartbreaking and graphic story on the airwaves. The only time I address Ayelet directly is the last sentence, and I stand by my words. There is no other person besides Christ that can forgive a sinner, and I am a sinner myself!

      Your last paragraph gives everyone in the pro-life community some serious things to think about, and in fact I see believers doing all the things you mentioned. Locally in Orlando, we support True Love Choice/TLC Women’s Center (http://www.tlcwomenscenter.org/). Sadly, I think it was clear from the interview on NPR that it was not a lack of emotional support, lack of financial resources, or even lack of a desire to parent another child which led Ayelet to abort her baby—it was a self-absorbed decision made by one who could not be bothered with the possibility of having a child with a birth defect.

      Abortions will end the more mothers are able to see, as Ayelet saw, that they are carrying a baby and not a clump of cells, and have the bravery that Ayelet lacked to deal responsibly with the consequences.

  17. Carmen says:

    John, you even added a line about how you hoped the tenor of your words wasn’t too “harsh.” “Psychotic”, “repulsive” – not words of anger but, as I said, words of disgust.

    I believe many women see that they are carrying a baby and not a clump of cells.

    What I wish is that you and others could see that health issues, fear, abuse, severe poverty, hopelessness, and feelings of self-loathing, lack of self-esteem forces women to have abortions.

    Ayelet clearly was not emotionally or mentally able to handle even the thought of having a child with a disability. She described falling to the ground, wailing, and going through misery.

    You truly believe that no amount of emotional support would have prevented her abortion. I disagree but neither of us will ever know.

    So, even if you won’t say it or don’t feel it, I will. I hope that Ayelet and her family and her unborn child find love and forgiveness and peace in Christ’s love.

  18. Olympia says:

    Hi John –

    I found sweetbabyjames.info from cakewrecks a long time ago and I have been following your journey ever since. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me a glimpse into your lives. Your faith is inspiring, and I’ve said many prayers for you and your family. I continue to pray that God will bless the child in your wife’s womb!

    I did not listen to this interview, but from what I read in your post I’m sure this was very upsetting to hear. I have very close relationships with people with special needs. The notion that a disability makes a person less deserving of life is very upsetting to me, also.

    When I was a teenager I became pregnant. I panicked and hastily took the “abortion pill.” At the time, I felt that this was a way of forcing a miscarriage. I swallowed a pill and I began to menstruate. There was no surgery, no “D & E.” I thought I was erasing the pregnancy.

    In reality, a pregnancy cannot be erased, no matter what. I think about ‘what could have been’ a lot. I’ve wept many tears. The shame will always follow me.

    I am married now, and I have a beautiful child whom I lovingly carried to term. I am a Christian woman, and I am very involved in my church. I have begged God’s forgiveness many times. I want to believe that He has forgiven me, but I struggle.

    I share this with you because I want you to know that I am more than just a monster and a baby murderer. I am a Christian and a mother and a wife and a Child of God. Also, I want you to know that women like me are everywhere. The women who are outspoken about the abortions they have had seem so nonchalant about it – it is easy to get the impression that women who’ve had abortions are sick, non-feeling, deplorable people. I assure you that the silent majority of us are not. We are the women who sit next to you at church. We are your neighbors. We are your colleagues. We might even be your nieces or your sisters. We are silenced by our shame, and the knowledge that admission of our sins would make us the most hated people in our families and communities.

    I hope very much that you are correct, and that my child resides with Dora in the baby garden. I also hope that you can find a way to see those of us who have had abortions as more than just monsters. I may be among the “ugliest” of humanity – but I am human nontheless, and I sincerely hope that Jesus, at least, can see the good in me.

  19. john says:

    Olympia,

    Wow.

    First of all, Abby and I are continually blown away by the outpouring of comments, mostly on the last blog, from strangers all over the world. It’s really an amazing thing. It makes us immeasurably glad to hear it when we learn that our journey has inspired others to take a closer look at their faith, or, as one commenter this past weekend wrote, pick up a dusty Bible off their shelf.

    Your words, in so many ways, are so much better than anything I’ve written or can write in response. I know it took courage to write them.

    I think you probably know this, but for everyone else’s sake that might be reading this: I only used “monster” in response to another commenter, and then only to describe a sort of visceral—and yes, sinful! judgmental!—reaction which didn’t make the final cut when arriving at word choice. And I must confess that even the word “psychotic,” though I think it may be appropriate in a clinical sense, is probably not what I would have spoken to Ayelet face-to-face, and I should have been more careful with my words.

    It’s tricky to try and defend the unborn without throwing stones. But I *really* mean to not throw stones, as do most who are pro-life, I believe. My hope for Ayelet, as I said before, is to find mercy in Christ. And I think your testimony is so crucial to people like her, so I would encourage you to share it often without fear.

    Finally, I’m not sure to what extent you struggle with whether or not God has forgiven you, but let me affirm the words of the apostle John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from *all* unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, emphasis mine) I’m sure that’s easier to read than to feel, but I’m asking God to impart to you the full assurance that the cross is sufficient.

    Again, thank you for commenting. You add a valuable perspective to this dialogue.

  20. “I don’t mean to judge” – you clearly do. Unless you are in fact Ayelet and her partner, it’s not your business to judge their choices. Nobody knows the pain of an abortion like someone who has had one; if you haven’t had one, your opinion on the matter seems pretty arrogant and irrelevant.

    • john says:

      MissViolonjello,

      Thanks for visiting our blog; like an earlier commenter, Krista, I’ve obviously struck a chord with the “I don’t mean to judge” thing. (I’ve actually thought about editing my original post and making additions/deletions because I’m very concerned with meanings of words, but then I don’t want anyone who later reads the comments to be confused and think, “he didn’t say that”)

      Yes, you’re correct. I did mean to judge, in a sense.

      My revisionist attempt to try to re-express what I meant by “I don’t mean to judge” is, first, that I don’t mean any of this as a personal attack on anyone. Not Ayelet, nor her husband nor the doctors involved. Though I do grieve and, yes, judge the action taken, I don’t wish evil on any of them. I know I didn’t say this clearly enough, especially for those who are less familiar with the heart of Jesus, but I want compassion healing for everyone in that situation. Yesterday I added a link over on the right sidebar to TLC Women’s Center, which offers free pre- and post-abortive counseling and is committed to caring for people affected by abortion.

      Many of the popular comments left on NPR heard the same interview I did and used the word “brave” to describe Ayelet’s decision to terminate her baby’s life. They, in a sense, have also rendered judgment. Bravery means “ready to face and endure danger or pain” and what was very clear in the context of the interview was that the danger or pain associated with aborting the baby was perceived as less than the danger or pain of carrying a baby to term that might have special medical needs. Therefore, I find it a vocabulary disaster to use a word that embodies the idea of “self-sacrifice” in a situation where “self-serving” is so demonstrative—especially where *another*, not one’s self, has been sacrificed.

      Seems pretty reasonable to me that any human being should lament the choice that was made, and are as justified in judgment in the same way we are justified in judging the very similar case of Casey Anthony, who—if we are to believe the allegations—also had a child who was incompatible with what she felt her future was supposed to look like.

      Insofar as you’ve judged my words as arrogant, I cannot help. I can assure you that they’re not irrelevant. If I could encapsulate what it meant to be a dad of a special needs child for 482 days in 3 words, they would be: “life is precious.” What Abby and I mean to pass on to others who deal with similar trials, whether they be infertility or terminally sick children, is that God gives the grace to those who ask him for the faith to act with bravery.

      As the dictionary defines bravery.

      John

  21. Lamons Warren says:

    Please let’s retire the word “judgemental” from the language. The person who uses it to label another invariably convicts themselves of the same offense. Each person (we hope) has a moral code with which they measure the rightness or wrongness of any action. If you stereotype Christians as “judgemental,” it is because you use a different standard of moral ethics and consider your own superior to theirs. Isn’t this being “judgemental?” Without value judgements, all actions are equal, and life is without meaning.

  22. Angela says:

    I also heard the NPR interview and the interview saddened me. I was saddened that Ayelet felt the need to “over-share” so much about her life (if you heard the last of the interview, this comment makes more sense.) I was saddened by Ayelet’s announcement of making the choice between her husband and her kids, as though her heart was not large enough for equal love. And I was saddened that she did not have the courage to face life with the challenge being laid before her.

    I remember an article I read years ago in Reader’s Digest, written by a man who was the father of a child with Down’s syndrome. His article talked of both the difficulties and joys of raising a special-needs child. Prior to reading this article, I could not imagine being in such a situation, but the article moved and changed me. The father in the article talked about how blessed he was that his child had been part of his life because the child had increased the father’s tolerance, had shown him the beauty of a simple, untroubled soul. The child was the kindest person the father knew, and he knew his son’s soul knew no moral dilemmas, no prejudices, and no hatred. And the father commented that his son had something wonderful, a “one-way ticket to heaven.” I cry now typing these words because the words the father wrote were so beautiful and so heartfelt, and these words changed my world forever. I realized that there were far worse things in the world than being chosen to have a special-needs child, and that perhaps, God blesses people with special-needs children, so that those people might see another side of God. It’s not an easy path He lays before us, but God in His infinite wisdom knows we are stronger than we think we are. I am sad Ayelet could not see beyond the challenges of raising a special-needs child.

    I am going to pick up a controversy here and say that I do not judge Ayelet. We all have our own choices to make, both small and large, and if she is comfortable with her decisions, fine, as that is her life as she chooses to walk it. I can choose to agree or disagree with her choices, as we all have to choose what we believe in. For instance, I am a Christian woman, and I struggle with my decision to be pro-choice. I am pro-choice only because I believe that women should have access to safe medical help. I do not believe in abortion as a means of birth control, and I believe abortion should never be considered except in the instance of rape. I pray to God that no woman is ever in a situation where she would have to make the decision to have an abortion, but if any of us were to choose to make the decision, I would like women have the ability to have the procedure done safely. This choice of mine comes in direct contrast to the opinion my best friend has, as she is pro-life. But we are able, as Christians, to have love and respect for each other regardless of our personal choices.

    I do not believe you were judging Ayelet; I think you were just voicing an opinion, and you are entitled to it.

    By the way, I am so happy for your family! I will include all 3 of you in my prayers, with a special prayer for the safe delivery of a happy, healthy baby!

  23. Bedelia says:

    I have been an avid reader of both of your websites, and I admire your courage going through your history with your two children.

    However, I am horrified at how you judge someone else’s life from a simple interview. There are women who are unable to carry children to term for many reasons, and I find your blatant disregard for the woman’s own difficult life decisions heartbreaking.

    You have just lost a reader.

  24. Rachel says:

    John,

    I have a question for you after reading Krista’s post in which she became upset over your use of the phrase “I don’t mean to judge”. You’re obviously much, much farther on your walk with the Lord than I am, so I’d like to ask your opinion on the very idea/concept of “judging”. Recently in my church, we had a woman known as a “praise leader” (essentially she was chosen to hold a microphone when we sing!) leave her husband and family for a man she met on the internet. It didn’t go as planned, I assume, when she repented and came home to her family. Her husband and children are working on forgiving her and she has “outed” her sins in front of the church family.

    About a week after she returned, she made it back into the choir. A day or two after that, she was back out front with her microphone, singing God’s praise. This bothers me. While I’m well aware that Jesus has forgiven her (and my opinion is totally irrelevant), I feel like she shouldn’t have a position of “leadership” after so recently committing such a sin.

    At the church of a friend of mine, there is a woman who holds a position dedicated to educating newcomers about the views and beliefs of their specific church. This woman has had three children out-of-wedlock in a church that believes sex should be saved for marriage.

    At what point do we take this “let’s not judge each other” thing too far? We’re to love the sinner, I understand, but isn’t there a point when people should face real consequences for such decisions?

  25. Genevieve says:

    Carmen states “What I wish is that you and others could see that health issues, fear, abuse, severe poverty, hopelessness, and feelings of self-loathing, lack of self-esteem forces women to have abortions. Ayelet clearly was not emotionally or mentally able to handle even the thought of having a child with a disability. She described falling to the ground, wailing, and going through misery.”

    I would argue that these are all problems that Christ, with community, can overcome. My own story is riddled with suffering, yet here I stand still today with some purpose unfulfilled, some reason Christ leaves me here on this earth to suffer (and enjoy!) more. And I humbly come to the table offering one thing that solves all the dilemmas abortion so poorly treats: ADOPTION. My husband and I have four healthy biological children and are in the process of adopting a child with Down syndrome, simply to prevent one child from being discarded in this senseless way. The solution to a pregnancy that overwhelms the resources of the biological family is not murder, but adoption.

  26. Reina Brown says:

    Abortion is murder, and I don’t care about how people try to rationalize it. I was once asked that if I were in danger of dying if my child came to term if I’d abort my child. I answered that I could not be selfish enough to take the life of my child so I could live in vain a few years on this earth. My attitude is that I have had a chance to live, my baby has not.

    I also equated it to being similar to a loving parent standing in the way of the child to take a bullet, so the child would not be shot. Loving parents would not put the child in the way of the bullet so as to selfishly survive a few more years. Most rational parents would take the bullet and die for the child. To me, there is no difference.

    This post touched my heart and many of my other emotions. It is no human’s place to decides who lives or dies. Only God can make that choice. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing.”

  27. amelia says:

    I wanted to pipe up here, as I am the product of a woman who has had an abortion. My mom flew to England from the US in the late 1960s when she was 17 because abortion wasn’t legal in the States at that time. I think it’s hard to really get into someones head and know what they are thinking when they make that decision. My mom saw having a child as more or less being unable to escape from what was a harmful family environment and an uncaring boyfriend who definitely wouldn’t help if she had deicided to carry to term. I know she’s sad and reflects on it frequently, but at the same time, without that abortion, I probably wouldn’t be here, nor would my father or sister. Some people would label what she did as murder (can miscarriage be given a criminal label too?), and she did end a life, but I can see why she did. It’s hard to really decide what I would do if I were in my mother’s or Ayelet’s place – I’ve never been there, never been pregnant and never tried to. I just love my mom, and she went thought something traumatic so I could have the life I do now, and I respect her for it.

    I found this blog through cakewrecks, and it’s been wonderful and sad to read about the House of Gjertsen. I hope Abby’s pregnancy is going well as the due date approaches.

  28. Jordan says:

    Before I get into what I have to say, I’ll just give you a pretty basic understanding of where I am coming from.
    My mother had me well into her forties, and had an amniocentisis in order to determine if there were any potential problems. I was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome (I might be completely wrong with how this happened but pretty much my mother explained to me that they told her I had down’s syndrome.) I was born and, lo and behold, I did not have Down’s Syndrome and despite being a rather large baby (over 10 lbs!) I was healthy. This, of course, was a major blessing for so many obvious reasons.
    My mom told me she did not once consider having an abortion (my father was not as forgiving of the condition they believed I had and suggested that I be aborted.) And here I am, 17 years later.
    My oldest sister was concieved while my mother was engaged to her second husband, but was concieved by her first. Her initial reaction was to have an abortion, but she decided against it, immediately, once she saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound.
    So I am grateful that my mother did not abort either of us, and I am aware that there was a choice there but she decided instead to raise us, which has been an interesting ordeal..

    I do not mean to imply that I can begin to concieve some sort of understanding of the weight of the news that a mother feels when she finds out that her baby will not be born normal, healthy etc. What I would like to say is that I recognise that it is a difficult decision, and if it has been like any I have had to make in my life, I have a great respect for any who make it (whether for or against) because it is, and should be. I do not, however, think it is the right decision, or the one that is just or good or fair. However, I feel that we all should respect one another’s decision’s in that they are for each of us to make by ourselves. I also do not believe that I should be the one to make this decision for someone. Just because I don’t think you should have an abortion does not mean that you should not. However, this is provided that this person is thinking it through and making a decision based on their own needs and the needs of everyone around (AND INSIDE) them. Hasty decisions made around this subject are not condusive to a healthly lifestyle period in my book.

    I tend to be extremely liberal about social issues purely because it is not my place to make decisions regarding other people’s lives when it doesn’t affect me.

  29. boomama says:

    I am a little late to this party, but cannot resist posting when I read the comments from amelia. I recognize (or hope) that amelia’s comment about attributing a criminal label to miscarriages was made in jest, but it was such a hurtful and immature thing to say. Forget that crime requires action or choice, which miscarriage does not involve. But do remember all of the loving, would-be parents who mourn the loss of a life, of a future, that they would give anything to have, and that that loss is outside of their control. I commend John’s restraint in not responding to amelia’s blithe comment.
    I too have found my way here from cakewrecks and have appreciated the honest and touching story of your family. My daughter was born last August, and I like to think that she met James in passing as he was on his way back to heaven and she was heading to earth.

  30. howdypumpkin says:

    I think that, when one opens oneself up to being interviewed about something as controversial as this, one invites people to consider their feelings about the situation. That being said, the word “judge” has numerous definitions. Perhaps, when someone says they don’t mean to judge they are intending to say they don’t mean to pass any kind of definitive judgment on the person in question. As a Christian, I know that I cannot pass judgment on others – it is simply not mine to do. However, it is ridiculous for anyone to suggest that not “passing judgment” is the same as not ever having, or sharing, opinions or feelings. Jesus, himself, had feelings and opinions about the condition of the world – opinions which he freely shared with the people around him. There is nothing “un-Christian” about analyzing situations and it is unfair to expect Christians to be above something as basic to life as this.

    Bless you all.

  31. ameliahall says:

    It was a rhetorical question, I guess of questionable taste by some, but still rhetorical. That being said, there are women who are terrorized by their spouses (what I’ve read focuses on Africa and Saudi Arabia) because of a miscarriage – ie the miscarriage is because of some sin, or wrongdoing of the part of the mother during pregnancy. I was questioning how much we can classify an action, voluntary or involuntary by how much it touches us emotionally. I’m not going to tell anyone who had a miscarriage they’re a criminal – but stranger things have happened. I guess reproductive rights is a hot button issue for me – my mom made an action, an abortion, and because of that I am here today. It’s not all black or white morally, it’s a gray area.

  32. cla ro says:

    some people should not have children.

    and this woman is one of them.

    i was told at 17 that i could not have children. so i was completely unprepared mentally, physically, fincancially, when i did fall pregnant.

    but i didnt care. i was so overwhelemed by the responsiblity of being a mother and the way i felt BLESSED to have been allowed to be a mother that i didn’t care if my baby had three heads and 8 legs. I would have loved her anyway. loved her with every bit of my being.

    i live in ireland where abortion is illegal. not only is it illegal, but whenever the topic of making it legal is raised, the people here are against it. we just do not want it.

    being a parent is such an overwhelming experience, but i wouldn’t trade a moment of it. not even the bad moments.

    I belive that God gave me this little life to look after, and I WILL look after her. a child is a precious, precious gift. and having spent so much of my life believing that i would NEVER be a mother, perhaps i am looking at it from a different side, but i really don’t understand why anyone would want to kill a child. there are so many people out there who would love to have a child, any child, regardless of mental or physical disabilities, why not give it away if you don’t want it. why kill it

    the fact that this woman has had two abortions, and the second one seemd to be based on the ‘it’s my husband or my baby’ reasoning, shows that she is selfish and shallow and shouldn’t be graced with the gift of a child.

  33. lynn says:

    You do realize that half of women who have abortions are already loving mothers?

  34. john says:

    That is an astonishing statistic. When I went to verify it I found that in 2004 it was even 60%. I can only imagine how gut-wrenching a decision like that would be. I don’t think the word “loving” is the most appropriate way to describe someone who kills another human being.

  35. Nostawyn says:

    I’m ridiculously late to this party, but I really feel the need to put in my two cents. I found this blog, oddly enough through random clicking of links from a humor site. Your (whole family’s) story has really touched me and while I agree with a few of the other commenters who said that your tone is judgemental, I think that your reaction is perfectly understandable. You have been through stuff that Ms. Waldman was too chicken to face and I have no doubt that those experiences colored the way her remarks sounded to you. I’m not at all surprised that her seemingly callous treatment of/lack of consideration for special needs babies would upset you to the point that used what many consider ‘judgemental language’.

    As far as my views on the matter go, I have just recently learned that if I ever wish to conceive, I will have to spend copious amounts of money on treatments and the suchlike, and it makes me sick that people like Ms. Waldman get to conceive children that they terminate at slightest hint that something *might* be wrong. It just seems hideously unfair.

    That said, I am and will always be pro-choice, solely on the basis that no one has the right to my organs but me unless I feel like sharing. I am morally against using abortion as birth control, but it’s a descion that should be between a woman, her conscience, and her God (and her partner if they have a stable relationship/he’s really involved in her life). So, yeah. . . Rambling reply over.

    • john says:

      Nostawyn,

      Well, maybe a tad late to the party, but thank you for your comment. Rather than revisit the matter of abortion, I wanted to express my sympathy over the whole infertility matter. You might have known this already, but my whole history of blogging actually began with writing about infertility on http://www.hopeforthechildproof.net. I’m not sure if our words there would be any solace to you or not. I feel like I’m rambling awkwardly with little to say. I guess what I mean to convey is just I know the sense of frustration and loss that comes every month, and your comment kind of brought me back to that place.
      I am praying for a change in your situation, whether through adoption or a medical miracle. God is not distant in your grief though he may seem so.
      Thanks for visiting the House of Gjertsen.

  36. Leanne says:

    John,

    What riles me the most is the simple fact that although you are a loving parent, you are male. You never carried a child, you never went through an abortion, and will never know physically or emotionally what it is like to be a woman. And although you don’t mean to, there is a level of arrogance there because of that. You have the right to your religion/personal belief system, but if someone else has a different belief system, you cannot say a woman should be denied an abortion because you don’t want her to have one!

    I’m a twenty-eight year old female who comes from a family of doctors and nurses. We were raised in a religious household and had relatives with special needs. I had an abortion when I was twenty-five after finding out my child would most likely die after birth due to a rare medical issue. I talked it over with my husband, my family, and medical staff. Although it was emotional, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I made a clear-minded conscious decision with the people who love me and my husband, and I know God still loves me.

    Most pro-lifers are merely “pro-birth”. I’ve worked with adoption agencies in my city. The children that get adopted the most? White infants. The ones who are left to age out of the system at 18? Blacks, latinos, and the handicapped.

    Where are the Christians from your church adopting black AIDS babies? The ones with fetal alcohol syndrome? The ones coming off of crack withdrawals? Why didn’t you and your wife adopt instead of trying for another child?

    No one “likes” abortion. It’s physically painful, an emotional toll, and I’m judged constantly by people like you. But who am I to say that a raped woman should be made to bear her child? What gall do I have to say to a girl who’s relative committed incest that she should have that child?
    Unless the Southern Baptists, Mormons, and Christian Evangelicals of the world stop having 50 kids and start adopting all these children born of tragedy, then maybe I’ll listen to you.

    I’m sorry for the death of your son, but if you wanted to “walk the walk”, I’m sure there was already a Valor waiting in a foster home just down the street.

    • john says:

      Leanne,

      Hard to know what to say in response, especially to your first sentence. Right off the bat, it is evident that my gender alone disqualifies me from entering into a debate involving lives of children of both genders. I am indeed sorry for your and your husband and the difficult decision you had to make in the past. My intent in writing this post was multifaceted, but it was primarily not to condemn an individual. Rather it was to raise the conscience of society to make more courageous and ethical decisions by providing a rather extreme example of the opposite. I did not use an example of abortion in the context of rape or incest, where the ethics get quite a bit more murky, but rather an example of abortion in the context of convenience and selfishness which illustrated the most obvious need for protecting the least protected.

      Whether it makes any difference to you or not, we do have families who have adopted children in our church; in one case three African Americans were adopted by a white family. Adoption may yet be in our future as well. The desire for childbirth after a long ordeal of infertility was intense for us, as I suspect it is for most.

      Though I suspect we disagree on many areas, we both have said “I know God still loves me.” I say that is true because I have witnessed the love demonstrated on the cross where his son died to absorb the wrath that I justly deserve. I suspect that same gospel may be hostility to you, but I hope it is not.

      Even if you commented just to chastise me, I thank you for visiting the House of Gjertsen. Without a little debate and stirring of emotions every now and then, life can be pretty dull.

  37. Rachel says:

    I’m 17 and trying to find where I stand on tough issues like this. Your blog about sweet baby James was probably the most touching testament to the sanctity of life–even the life of a severely mentally disabled child. Thank you for showing that all things work together for good to those who love God.

  38. jenn says:

    John,

    Love your blog(s). Love that you and abby have a healthy beautiful baby. Hope you can finally rest peacefully despite the heartbreak you have experienced and continue to experience.

    I however, cannot believe that after being called judgmental HOW MANY TIMES here…you don’t see it?

    on Sept 9 you wrote:

    “That is an astonishing statistic. When I went to verify it I found that in 2004 it was even 60%. I can only imagine how gut-wrenching a decision like that would be. I don’t think the word “loving” is the most appropriate way to describe someone who kills another human being.”

    So now you know and are able to say for a fact….that every woman out there who is a mother and chooses an abortion later on is not loving? DO you really not sense your self-importance? Your judgemental attitude?

    I know you think abortion is murder and that Jesus teaches you this. But truly Jesus NEVER ONCE mentioned abortion. He said feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked. He NEVER EVER said, condemn and outcast the women who choose abortion.

    The choice you made with James was a noble and wonderful choice for you. But it is also the choice of a (presumably) wealthy, privileged white family with ample support from extended family. Ayelet did not make the same choice. One of the earlier poster pointed out, you should pray for her and other likeminded people.

    But do not condemn her. It is not your right. Just continue to live your life as an example. Leash back your desire to condemn…the wrath in your initial posts and in the comments since make me sad.

    You and abby have truly created a ministry through your blog about James. Now it is time to grow and recognize that your ministry is not to condemn those women who have HAD abortions but to foster support for those who are considering them perhaps? Perhaps your ministry is to help handicapped babies/children find loving homes?

    I know I know. Now I’m judging. But your posts about this have made me see you in a very different light and it makes me sad.

    • john says:

      Well Jenn, as I’ve said to all the others, thanks for stopping by the House of Gjertsen. All are truly welcome. The phrase “self-importance” leapt out at me in your comment, and I think it’s a good reminder that the context of Jesus’ oft-misunderstood “Judge not, that you be not judged” had everything to do with first applying the same rubric of judgment to your own life before applying it to others. Judgment, or making a moral distinction between two things, is not only a right but a responsibility. Jesus elsewhere commands his disciples to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

      If I didn’t make it clear in any of my previous responses, let me be clear about it now: I have judged the actions of Ayelet Waldman, and by extension, every woman who has turned to abortion as a matter of convenience.

      I have not sought to throw stones at them, neither literally nor figuratively, but have attempted to communicate the unfathomable grace of God that pardons sinners, just as I know I am one myself. And to the rest of the world that might stumble in on our little “House,” my intention is to use her example to show the depth of depravity that results in the cutting up and discarding of one’s own child.

      In the whole matter of first judging myself, it’s important to clarify something that readers who may not know us well may not have observed. Our son James’s diagnosis was completely unknown to us prior to his birth. So it’s not entirely comparable, and I don’t mean to elevate my own decision—as though I even made a decision!—not to have an abortion. If we had found out about the HPE at a 20 week ultrasound, it would have been heartbreaking. Horrifying. I’m sure I would have thought about every option we had. I think we would have proceeded with the pregnancy and started preparing the nursery for a different kind of baby, because in our worldview, abortion isn’t really on the menu. I know that, as a result of working through some grief and doubt and faith on our old blog, James William Gjertsen was born to give our family (and our big extended blog family) a message about God working all things together for good to those who love him.

      You mentioned how Jesus is never recorded to have said anything about abortion. But how hard is it to connect the dots? It is not hard to see how the Jewish people whom Jesus taught directly thought about the personhood of the unborn. Furthermore, Jesus elevates the importance of children above the view of his culture when he said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). The homeless, stranger, sick, imprisoned, naked, widow, orphan — you observe correctly that the gospel speaks about restoration and liberation of these groups. At its very core, is not the gospel a message about prevailing hope for peoples who cannot ultimately help themselves? Would not the unborn baby be another example of such a dependent? When the Son of Man comes in his glory and separates the sheep from the goats, are they not among “the least of these”?

      I ask these questions not just to Jenn, but to anyone who has labored to read this far. I believe we, as a society, have a responsibility to continue to act civilly to each other and listen, and, ultimately, to judge righteously.

      And yet, this post has sort of run its course. After almost 8 months, I’m closing off the comments. I hope to have further civil discussion, and maybe some post in the future will open another can of controversy. There are other demands on my time that prevent me from continuing to respond to comments left on this post.

      John

  1. January 18, 2010

    […] will also peek in on discussions dealing with the ethics of abortion and the alternatives thereto, and it is here where I have been so thrilled to witness the skill with which John and Abby have […]

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