If my mom were me, I wouldn’t exist.

Here is something I think about every Mother’s Day:

My mom was the valedictorian of her high school class. Like many women in the 1970's, she married her high school sweetheart, but she also insisted on going to college and getting her degree before having any kids. In the post-Watergate era, she had a burning ambition to become a journalist and reporter that would make the world a better place by exposing injustice and corruption. To be absolutely certain that she didn’t end up pregnant, my mom doubled up on the birth control — pills and a copper IUD.

Her junior year of college, she got pregnant with me.

Not having regular periods, my mom didn’t figure out she was pregnant until the 2nd trimester. When the doctor told her the news, he also told her that because of the IUD, there was a high risk that I would be born with severe mental and physical handicaps. (This actually isn’t true of IUD pregnancies, but after Thalidomide & The Dalkon Shield… it was commonly believed to be true at the time.) He urged my mother to have an abortion.

Given the information she had at the time, given the fact that she was so close to finishing school, and given MY secular, liberal worldview… I have no doubt at all that if I had been my mother, there would have been no me.

My mother absolutely did not want a child yet, did not want a life-sentence of possibly having to raise a handicapped child, did not want to see her goals and dreams and career derailed.

She went to the pastor of her church to figure out what she should do. He of course advised her that abortion was a sin, and that she needed to trust in God’s plan. And so I exist.

(Fun fact: I was totally the poster-child for Right to Life marches in our church growing up.)

My mom dropped out of college and became a stay-at-home mom. She never finished her degree or had a career, but she never lost her love for knowledge and learning and fact-finding missions. Which I absolutely benefited from as a child. If my mom had not filled the house with books, or pointed me and my bike in the direction of the library every time I had a burning question about the nature of the universe…. well, she wouldn’t have ended up with a college-educated, liberal, athiest daughter. So that turned out well. ☺

What I really wanted to say is this: I grew up in a very conservative family. I’m very liberal. Both conservatives and liberals get in the bad habit of vilifying their political opponents, distancing themselves from other perspectives so much that they lose sight of the basic common decency and goodness of most people, most everywhere.

I owe my existence to people that believe very different things about the world than I do. Whenever I feel absolutely certain about some political truth or world-view, that thought keeps me humble. Mother’s Day always challenges me to remember and celebrate the core values my family taught me, which have never changed: Be honest. Be kind. Most importantly — love one another.