The “anti-Mom” as a new anti-abortion icon

Waldman.jpgAyelet Waldman’s essay in the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column a couple years ago was even more irritating than the usual fare in that space–which of course makes you watch it, the way some people watch Fox News or others listen to NPR. You fume, and wonder how people get away with it.

Waldman’s self-revelation, for those who may not be as Times-obsessed as I am, was that she loves her husband more than her kids–and that unlike all the other mommyes she knows, she is having great sex while they are way too focused on their kids. And on and on:


An example: I often engage in the parental pastime known as God Forbid. What if, God forbid, someone were to snatch one of my children? God forbid. I imagine what it would feel like to lose one or even all of them. I imagine myself consumed, destroyed by the pain. And yet, in these imaginings, there is always a future beyond the child’s death. Because if I were to lose one of my children, God forbid, even if I lost all my children, God forbid, I would still have him, my husband.

But my imagination simply fails me when I try to picture a future beyond my husband’s death. Of course I would have to live. I have four children, a mortgage, work to do. But I can imagine no joy without my husband.


The column made Waldman famous, or infamous, as a kind of “anti-Mom,” a traitor to her vocation, and–no surprise–now Waldman has turned her column into a book, “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace,” which is out for Mother’s Day and is being reviewed all over.  

Want to puke? You may want to wait until your read this bit from the NYT review:

In an essay called “Rocketship,” Waldman takes brave risks that make the title of the book seem less like a feminist wink and more like a tortured cry of self-doubt. She describes the choice she made, over her husband’s initial objection, to terminate a pregnancy when a genetic counselor informed them there was a small — but bigger than usual — chance that their son would be seriously developmentally and physically challenged.


Waldman is never more moving than when she describes reading aloud, on Yom Kippur, before her entire congregation, a letter of atonement to the little boy or girl who would have been her third child. “I atoned before my husband, and my baby,” Waldman writes. “I begged Rocketship’s forgiveness for being so inadequate a mother that I could not accept an imperfect child.” She wants no consolation from the abortion-rights crowd (“Rocketship was my baby. And I killed him”), and she’s clearly unafraid of what the anti-abortion propaganda machine will do with what she has written.

So what will they do with her? What is the lesson here? Is there one?

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posted May 10, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Woah – this is a real revelation!! People who aren’t you have feelings, thoughts, and take actions differently than you do or would?
Will wonders never cease?

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posted May 10, 2009 at 3:41 pm

What’s not to love?
From a Pro-Life standpoint and a Catholic standpoint this is a perfect example of how God works in the lives, hearts and minds of human beings.
We are not called to be perfect or to make all the right decisions all the time. We can’t. That’s an impossible standard.
But when we do fail, even in a huge way, we recognize it, own it and atone for it. That is taking up the Cross and living as Jesus lived.
I’m not so sure about the whole “icon” thing. But if some women who have had abortions don’t speak about it, and speak about the change of heart and mind that can and does happen, then we are left with people making sweeping statements from a theoretical standpoint.
And, personally, I don’t think that is very enlightening at all — when someone talks, writes, or preaches about what I “ought” to do.
But someone who shares what they did, and how they dealt with it, and how they have recovered…well, that has some serious merit.

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David Gibson

posted May 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Dear *yawn*
I have no idea what you are talking about. Please explain.

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posted May 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm

What’s the big deal? She’s not an “anti-Mom” if she takes care of her kids.
Also, many women have actually had positive experiences with abortion:

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posted May 10, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Very interesting site, thanks for posting the address. The word needs to get out that there are women out there who do not regret their abortions one wit and especially to hear their struggles/pain to obtain one before Roe v Wade.

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posted May 10, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I’m sorry, Mr. Gibson. I didn’t really set the stage well for that. My post was to the hypothetical “anti-abortion propaganda machine.”
I am a retired veteran of the culture war. Retired because after decades of bickering, I believe I boiled down the conflict in one sentence: People don’t know how to mind their own darned business. I’m hanging up my protest signs and going for coffee.
What will they do with her? The same thing they do with everyone else: Use her to make a buck. One way or the other, she’s already ceased to be a person. Now she’s a story, and they’ll spin it whatever way they need to in order to maximize benefit for themselves and their cause.

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posted May 11, 2009 at 12:10 am

Mr Gibson, I am disappointed in the heartlessness of this article. Where you see puke, I see opportunity for Christ’s love and compassion. Where you see “anti-mom” I see “honest mom”. I see brokenness, I see creaturehood. I see a person who will never be comfortable with the decision she made. I don’t see a chance to mock and judge. Truly, I respect your work, but I am terribly disappointed.

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David Gibson

posted May 11, 2009 at 8:09 am

Dear Ann: Thanks for the comment, and any and all critcisms are of course welcome, as long as they are reasonably fair. In this case I’d defend myself against the charge of “heartlessness,” as I think you meant it–in that my eye-rolling (to put it mildly) re her original column and much of her book (which I have not read) was pulled up short by her “confession” about her abortion. What I meant to convey is that easy dismissals of her memoir may be too easily made–by me and others.
I still can’t get on board with her views on marriage and motherhood, but that’s me. The story of her terminated pregnacy, however, is pretty powerful stuff. My question was what the various groups would do with it–find in it the human story you did, or a “vehicle.”
And *yawn*, thanks for the explainer. I see what you mean.

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Your Name

posted May 11, 2009 at 8:14 am

We will say, God has forgiven you, God is not mad at you. You do not stand alone. Many women regret their abortion and some ask for the opportunity to speak publically of their regret. Mrs Waldman has made public her regret. She reminds us again that we all have something to atone for and something we regret. Ann is right, she is an honest Mom.

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posted May 11, 2009 at 9:04 am

We all are very aware that their ae people who believe that what ever they choose to do is fine. Some of them even murder in god’s name take 9-11 for instance, so it should not be so incredible that this woman see’s her self as justified in the murder of her child, or that other’s believe that she was with in her right’s. The only peace I can find in these murder’s is the knowledge that eventually she is going to have to ask for God’s forgivness.

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Your Name

posted May 11, 2009 at 10:03 am


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posted May 11, 2009 at 11:52 am

Perhaps heartlessness was a little harsh as you did pose a reasonable question to it. I think as a Catholic, I long for us to be above the stone throwing. And since we generally don’t prostrate ourselves in front of our congregations emptying our gullet of every wretched thing we have done, I am awed by not only the humility of the action, but the faith required. Yes, she lays it all out there for the scrutiny and therefore willingly becomes fodder but I want US to be more. I want US to be the ones willing to live the compassion of the Gospels. Color me crazy but isn’t that part of what Eucharist is?
Sorry for the fleshwound…

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Frank Clyburn

posted May 11, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Some people are very, very sick! Regarding news, I myself like Fox news…wonder why you apparently don’t?

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Robert R.

posted May 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I think that to terminate a life because it might be imperfect, or seriously challenged, is to miss a blessed journey. Explain that–rather than just condemning the sin–and you might encourage life. But as long as it’s all “abortion is terrible and we self-righteously condemn it,” it’s all huff and puff.

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posted May 12, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I lived in Manhattan for 15 years. Never saw one Down Syndrome child. The culture doesn’t allow it.

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posted May 12, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Regarding a special needs child, Dear Abbey once published a beautiful letter about how a pregnancy is like planning a trip to Paris. You are packing and dreaming about all the wonders of that great city. But once in awhile, circumstances dictate that a Parisien flight be diverted to Amsterdam, and the trip is no longer what you expected. You can pout, you can feel cheated and miserable, or you can explore Amsterdam, which is an amazing and different place, with its own unique beauty.

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