April 3, 2015

Mother’s words about life echo years later in decision to have baby

(Editor’s note: As the archdiocese and the Church prepare for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, The Criterion is inviting readers to share their stories of how their faith has made a difference in their families. Here is one of the stories.)

By John Shaughnessy

Mary SchottFor parents who wonder if their teenagers ever listen to them, Mary Schott offers a story of how her mother’s words changed her life and made another life possible.

Schott recalls a moment in 1972 when she and her mom were watching television as politicians debated about legalizing abortion.

“As a 16-year-old, I certainly knew everything,” notes Schott, a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Indianapolis. “So after listening to the speakers for a while, I piped up and stated I didn’t see anything wrong with it, and that a woman should be able to do anything she wanted with her own body.”

Schott couldn’t believe how her mom reacted to her declaration.

“My mom—the quiet, sweet woman—raised up from the couch, put her hands on her hips and nearly shouted, ‘Don’t you realize what they’re doing?!’ I was shocked and aghast at her excitement and emotion. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her that way before. I was speechless and remained quiet and thoughtful. I certainly had to re-think my position.”

She then adds, “We can’t know what effect one single remark or effort might make for someone else.”

Actually, Schott does know the dramatic effect that her mother’s outburst had on her. It happened 18 years later—after she became pregnant when she was single and 34 at the time.

“I remember wondering why I had done what I had with someone I really wanted nothing to do with,” she notes.

“I remember how foolish I felt and how frightened, embarrassed and ashamed I was. My first thought was that I could save myself all of that anguish by just ‘getting rid of it,’ and no one else would know. But I would have always known.”

Schott resolved to keep the baby, a decision she made even as the challenges overwhelmed her.

“Ill-prepared for motherhood, with no husband in sight and no family support to speak of, I trudged through the pregnancy, half-planning for an adoption,” she says. “I carried this pregnancy because I had always been pro-life, and had been somewhat active in the movement and didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

“Even my pro-life, Christian doctor offered me the alternative, stating, ‘I’ll get you the best help I’m aware of,’ when he saw the tears rolling down my cheeks at the positive results of the pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe my ears and thought he must be speaking to someone else, only to look up and realize my very conscientious OB/GYN was very serious.”

When she told the doctor she would carry the baby to term, he said, “I think you’re very brave”—a comment that made her think “of the countless women who have carried children to term under less-than stellar circumstances.”

“I thought of a widow with six children in the 1930s and how she might have gotten by, what work she might have done to make her life work. I thought of women in indigenous and underdeveloped countries, and what they must do. I thought, ‘No, I am not brave. I am simply trying to do the right thing.’

“It wasn’t easy hiding under the pressure of co-workers who were unduly curious, asked pointed questions and made crass remarks. I saved up all the leave time I could, and managed seven weeks off with a November birth.”

Her daughter is 23 now. As Schott looks back on those years, she considers the hard times they faced together, and the tough times she created as a parent because of some poor decisions she made. She also thinks of the good decisions she made as a single parent, starting with her plan to make sure her daughter had the opportunity of a Catholic education.

“I asked God for two things: Could we please always have good Christmases, and would you please keep her in 12 years of Catholic school. He did. I am grateful.”

She is also thankful for her mother’s insistence that abortion is wrong.

“Thank God for that moment, or my daughter might not be here.”

(Has faith made a difference in your family’s life? Has it deepened your relationships as a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a son or a daughter? Do you have rituals and experiences of faith that have helped to make your family more Christ-centered? If so, we’d like to hear about it. Please send your responses and your stories to assistant editor John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion. 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

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