Sometimes when I'm counseling a woman about her decision to terminate a pregnancy, I talk about a job I used to have caring for the trees in a small Tennessee orchard. As a counselor, I'm supposed to listen and to provide information, so it may seem strange that I talk about myself and my own history at all, but the point of this little story seems useful to many of these women, so I thought I'd share it with you.
One of the primary duties of the orcharder, besides the obvious gathering of fruit and planting of trees, is pruning. A healthy tree needs enough space between branches to provide light and air circulation. If the tree is too dense, it won't be healthy. The tree will be weaker, prone to disease, and the fruit will be of poor quality. Left to its own devices, nature will create too many branches, because nature doesn't edit. Nature promotes life wherever possible.
When I first began cutting away branches, it was difficult for me. I felt like I was denying life. I felt that on some level, what I was doing was wrong. It was sad to let go of the possibility of all the fruit that each branch might have borne. But in the bigger picture, I realized, as I denied life to individual branches, I was offering caring to something bigger. I was working for the health and strength of the entire tree.
As a woman with the possibility of bearing a child, you become the trunk of your family tree, while taking on the responsibility the of orcharder. It's an awesome burden, and it can be a painful one, too. But the reward of doing the job well, whatever that means for you, is a healthy family, which includes, and springs from, a healthy self.
At the risk of going over the edge into corny sentimentality, I wish all of us plenty of light and air circulation, and the opportunity to bear as much fruit as we want.