Conserving emotional energy

In pacing myself, medics have explained the three types of energy; physical, mental and emotional.

By far the toughest of the three types of energy to stop yourself from using is emotional energy, so here are some handy tips on how to manage, or dampen, your emotions:

  1. Go to church. Avoiding church might make you feel sad, or hopeless. But while not standing and lifting up your hands, and not thinking about the sermon, you must not emotionally engage with the worship. Compassion for those on the prayer list, or joy at the wonder of grace, are not allowed.
  2. Watch television. Avoiding it would allow your mind to wander – you may start to ruminate. But while not watching anything too interesting, requiring thought, be sure not to empathise with any characters, and select dramas where their emotional range is limited. Doctors, or another daytime soap, is preferable to weepy chick flicks, or a high octane drama.
  3. See your friends. Avoiding them would make you feel isolated. But be sure to disengage if the conversation goes anywhere deep, and to talk about yourself in as detached a way as possible. They may wish to feel sad or angry on your behalf, but don’t feel those things yourself. Avoid weddings, new babies, or anything too celebratory.
  4. Keep up with disability news. Avoiding it would risk being ill-informed about the things that affect you. But while reading about people tipped from wheelchairs by gangs, starving in waits for assessments, or dying of the illness you have, don’t fear. You haven’t the energy for worry, even if it is legitimate.
  5. Meet attractive people. Avoiding them would risk the self-pitying imaginings of a life without romance. But don’t sense the attraction, excitement or anticipation, these are too extravagant. Flirt without hopefulness, dance without joy.

Do not feel. Do not feel anything. A beige, bland numbness is ideal – floating through life with the detachment of an automaton. Any deviation from this will bring overwhelming pain, but you may not cry. Drugs are there to assist your apathy, but not cure you. Expect to be disbelieved when explaining these limits because you don’t look “very upset”. Upset is a luxury for those with enough energy to waste on feelings.

Self-control, patience and perseverance are virtues we undervalue. You will have these in abundance. People will still undervalue them.

Taking one for the team

Three things have happened recently:

New statistics about disability hate-crime

I listened to a brilliant radio programme on 5 live, highlighting the new information that police are failing to recognise attacks made on disabled people as hate crimes. On many occasions, disabled people have been targeted simply because of their disability, but when the crime is recorded that information is missed out. It’s significant for two reasons – one is that for disabled people an attack may take far longer to recover from because of their pre-existing condition – but the other is that, along with racially-motivated crimes and others based on a person’s protected characteristics, disability hate crime carries heavier sentencing than an equivalent assault carried out at random. The programme stated that society is at the same place now with disability hate crime that we were with racially-motivated crimes 21 years ago, before the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

It’s completely usual to experience ableist abuse or attitudes every time you go out. But culturally, people don’t currently stand up for the disabled person being insulted in the way that they would if, for example, racist or homophobic abuse was taking place. And often people are unaware that language being used is offensive – there’s a lack of education in the population at large as to what constitutes inappropriate behaviour.

The programme is available on iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04hmrv1

The homophobic hate-crime story on Doctors

Don’t judge me, I watch Doctors. A current storyline is that of Mandy, a nurse in the regular cast, and Catriona, a woman she meets at a nightclub.  As they’re leaving the club, they kiss in the car park, and a gang of girls shout insults at them, calling them disgusting. They wait until Catriona is leaving, alone, then surround her, drag her to the ground and begin to beat her up, until Mandy steps in and stops them. She’s left hurt and shaken.

That’s alarming in itself, but what’s more worrying is the attitude of those they speak to afterwards. The club bouncers don’t help to patch them up or call a taxi. The police don’t believe their story, putting it down to a bit of argy bargy at chucking out time, rather than the hate crime it was. They hold Catriona as responsible as the gang for provoking the assault, and say that as her injuries aren’t very serious, the crime’s not worth pursuing.  The hate crime unit are nowhere to be seen.

Experiencing aggression at church

On my first week on the welcome team at church, I was chatting to a new person after the service, and when we’d talked a while, was taking them through the crowd to meet one of our staff. At this point, a hand tapped my wheelchair. “You, stop, what do you suffer with?” the man said, aggressively positioning his body across mine, so I couldn’t move forward, and his face was bent over me, inches from mine. “I don’t ‘suffer with’ anything” I said. “You know what I mean, why are you in a wheelchair?” Slightly taken aback, I said “I don’t discuss my medical information with people I’ve never met.” “So there is something wrong with you… you have to take this.”

He forced a ripped piece of card at me. “I don’t want to take that, thank you.” I said. He said that I had to go to this website, and I had to take the piece of card. By this stage he was getting more aggressive and I just wanted to get away – the new person I was “welcoming” was growing increasingly uncomfortable. It was clear he wouldn’t let me move until I accepted his “help”. I took the card, and got away as quickly as I could. It contained a URL, an email address, and some other writing. I put it straight in the bin.

Concerning. Concerning that he had those preconceptions about disability. Concerning that nobody stepped in to check I was ok. When I mentioned it to one of the elders, he said it was good that I’d been the one to speak this odd visitor, rather than, say, a fresher student. I’d protected everyone else from having to talk to him. But that day at church, I was the only visibly disabled person there – of course an ableist was going to single me out.

But how does it make you feel?

The incident at church was ten days ago, but I still feel pretty shaken up. I’ve had nightmares. I purposely keep my push-handles tucked away on my chair, so that I can’t be tipped over, or pushed when I don’t want it. But in the nightmare, the man gets increasingly aggressive, and pushes me to the ground. I get surrounded. When I’m asking for the police to be called, the crowd are telling me to forgive him and to stop being a victim, and I’m going into a relapse. Someone says “if she can’t look after herself, maybe she shouldn’t have come out”. Someone else tells the man what’s “wrong with me” but it’s clear neither of them believe I’m really ill. I can’t speak or move, because it’s a relapse. People start to carry me somewhere, even though they’re hurting me by doing so. The police arrive when I’m too exhausted to think what happened, and people assume I provoked it, as this never happened before we had wheelchairs here.

I think the overwhelming feeling from this experience of aggression was one of being silenced. I felt somehow responsible, ashamed, as if I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. As if, somehow, by being openly disabled in public, I should be able to take the insults and aggression that come with it. That the fact that he probably meant well should make it any less hurtful. That in a nice church, this wouldn’t happen, so it’d be wrong of me to say that it had. It’s going to take a while to heal properly, and it’s going to take courage to go back to the welcome team this week.

After that, I don’t know.

On charities and knitting

I feel like it’s all our fault. Mine is one of the charities that actually do knitting. We’re giving you all a bad name.

I first met community-based knitting as a charity-run activity during the Olympics, when I spent quite a few afternoons with a church in Hackney. In their estate there’s a public square, with benches, flowerbeds etc, and rows of shops around the outside. It was here that they started. Just low-key at first, providing some wool and knitting needles, with a handful of residents who could knit to start people off. Small groups would gather, knit, chat, enjoy the sunshine. But in this context, it worked.

  • Knitting sessions gave the adults (and sometimes the kids) in the community an excuse to sit out on the square in the summer. Reclaim territory, keep an eye on their kids. You can’t sit on a bench alone in public, that’s just odd. But while knitting… well, that’s completely normal.
  • It gave older people a context to teach and to be valued for their skills. In a place where retired women are often vulnerable, seeing younger adults learn from and listen to their elders was beautiful.
  • It reestablished a sense of family. For many on the estate, London isn’t where they grew up, and they’ve lost many extended family in moving. The grandmother who reassures you as a new mum, the uncle who can lend a hand with DIY, all of that is lost when families are upended and have little choice of where housing is provided for them. An activity that helps communities get to know each other and build trust is essential.
  • It taught a new skill. Needlecraft fell off the school syllabus decades ago, so to teach my generation and younger how to care for their clothes opened up choices to them that this throwaway-fashion culture doesn’t afford.
  • It introduced a communal but also individual activity. It’s so easy to spend your free time attached to screens, ignoring those around you. A calming, creative hobby where the mind is engaged does wonders for your mental health.

So yes, we will go back to our knitting. Until our communal spaces are safe, our elders are valued, our families are supported, people have warm clothes and good mental health, we’ll continue. But if you think for a minute that any of those issues aren’t political – policing, welfare, housing, health provision or basic human dignity – then you best think again.

I’d like to thank…

I’ve just been on holiday. I had an amazing time. And I couldn’t have done it alone.

In a testament to just how much our Church loves each other, and how far I’ve come in relinquishing my stubborn independence in order to actually achieve anything, I’d like to say some thank yous.

Before I went:

Eight weeks of gradual planning and packing meant that I wasn’t too drained to travel. I’d like to thank my sister, for lending me a tent, and Ruth for coming over to help put it up. Dave and Amy for congratulating me on wrestling it back into the bag by myself. My Dad for lending me his tin box of useful camping things, with which I fed people, lent guy ropes, pegs, and generally kept other people warm and dry. My Mum for cooking for me in the week I was packing, and taking me shopping for food. Also for her heaps of encouragement. But then you’d expect that from family.

I’d like to thank my landlord and landlady for lending me a stove, ice box and gas, and for calling their friend Charles who had a kettle and brought it round specially. Thanks go to my physio for talking me through the energy I’d need for different things, helping push through the wheelchair assessment, and checking up that I wasn’t exhausting myself. And to the lady whose wheelchair I eventually bought, who completed the sale while attached to an oxygen machine, and whose parents drove her home in order to do so. Thanks go to Lee, the EPC manager who couriered parts to me in time for me to attach them, and the bike shop guys on my road for having a look at my spokes.

I’d like to thank the staff at Momentum, especially Sam who handled my booking, and all who answered my trivial questions carefully.

And for moral support, particular thanks go to Sally and Clare (also baker of flapjack, pray-er and wheelie skills helper) on twitter, and numerous other encouragers. At church, our student worker reacted just right, by getting to know me first and my care needs second. Then came naturally to the conclusion that if our church couldn’t look after each other, there was something wrong with the way we were doing church. I was emboldened.

When I got there:

Pete’s Dad Dave, who picked me up on the morning we left, and dodged traffic to get us to the meeting point on time. Pete for driving, Anna and Joe for letting me have the front seat when they were so squashed they couldn’t get into their own pockets. Anna W for coordinating it all. Ellie and Matt for making my packed lunch (with which we fed three people), and Samuel (4) for jumping up and down when I arrived at their house. Also thanks to the family for their spare key, and the backup plan of a bed and shower if I needed it.

Then I was safely in the care of my church group, a selection of 30 students and young (or not so young) adults, of whom I’d met five before. Thanks go to the tent putter-uppers, Nick, Martin and Ian; the chefs and food preparers, Imogen, Ben, and Naomi; those who brought me just what I needed and exactly how I’d asked for it. Thanks to those who did my washing up without questioning why, who bought food and planned for meals to just be there for me, and the girl who made me hot tea at 7am in the rain. Thanks to the people who pushed my wheelchair; Andy, Danny, Martin, Jenni and others, and to Ed for holding an umbrella over me while they did so.

When I collapsed, particular thanks go to Anna T for noticing what was wrong, following instructions, and holding my head up while I drank Andy’s squash. To Naomi for fetching Ian’s jumper and making me comfortable. To Andy for not freaking out and timing my collapse (33 minutes 45 seconds).

The isolation can be particularly tough, so thanks to Ian for asking good questions and listening, to Cameron for being up early enough that I wasn’t doing physio exercises alone, to Andy for speaking the truth when I was doubting, and to Becs, who gave me a hug when everyone went dancing and I couldn’t join in.

In worship, I love to hold my hands in the air, jump and dance. Thanks to Basil, Toby, and the effortlessly cool East London guys for dancing so that I didn’t have to, to Christian, Pippa and Hannah for singing so beautifully I felt heard when I was too tired to sing. Between us, the worship I wanted to bring was offered up from our church. And thanks to everyone in front of me who refrained from putting their hands up so that I could see the words. Thanks to those who prayed for me – the prophetic words and pictures seem to form part of a bigger picture, and it’s a beautiful and exciting one.

And to my friends from home, a big thank you to Rich and Dave for a very normal chat over hot chocolate like the good old days, a cheeky thanks to Rich for letting me steal his coffee to warm my hands on while I was in the shower queue, and amazing gratitude to Dave for going out from his parent’s house to buy me new wellies. If you don’t use walking boots for two years, they disintegrate entirely, soles first. Who knew?!

And afterwards?

I still had to endure a few lonely days’ bedrest with laughable amounts of pain. But the overall effect of the holiday was transformative. With this support team of around fifty people to share the load, it’s easy to move from feeling 100% disabled to only 2% disabled, which is hardly disabled at all. An amazing relief, and a window of respite from a tough few months of missing out. The sermon at church today was based on Philippians 4:10-23 – the bit where Paul talks about being content in all situations. It might be easy to imagine that I’d be more content with my life if I wasn’t ill all the time, but to my delight, as I closed my eyes to imagine the place I felt content, and found it was exactly where I was sitting. The preacher spoke of pain being measurably easier to bear when one isn’t alone, and of the encouragement of doing life alongside other people, just as Paul encouraged his church in Philippi and was supported by them. Of weak people being made strong through the embodiment of Christ’s love, the Church.

With the extended Church to support me in this way, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and with the certain hope of a time to come when there will, finally, at last, be no more pain, I have found I am able to be content with what I have.

That’s a shame

At church on Sunday, the preacher talked about how the cross frees us from shame. “I’ve heard this all before”, I thought, issues surrounding unconfessed sin, residual guilt, etc etc are long gone, I’m used to keeping short accounts with God. Then he pulled up a long list of thing which people are ashamed of – family circumstances, debt, addiction, work status, body image – and on the list was physical illness. Which made a little lightbulb go on in my head. (It’s fine, I was wearing my sunglasses.)

I go to the sort of churches where if you sneeze they lay on hands. To walk in with crutches is to risk being divebombed by prophecies that I’m going to be cured, and in-depth scrutiny about why I’m ill and when I’m going to be better. Yes, I have, occasionally, seen miraculous healing happen, and believe that God hears and answers prayer. And yet I haven’t been up to ask people to pray that I would be healed.

“Shame; awkward, senseless shame, does as much towards preventing good acts & straightforward happiness as many of our vices do” C.S. Lewis

At that point during the sermon, I thought about the field where I’d always felt my calling lay – ministry to people on the margins, particularly those who are isolated with health problems. I’ve known since I was 20, but it’s never quite taken off yet.

I’d dearly love to not be ill, but I think at the moment I’m meant to be. It’s giving me resilience, making me rely on God, making me rely on others. It’s nasty. But through it I’m meeting so many disabled people who I wouldn’t otherwise have met. I’m understanding at a much deeper level how it feels to be marginalised and fearful. I can see that God is using this situation for good, to form me into the sort of person who can fulfil the calling he’s placed on my life.

Previously, I’ve sometimes acted as if I’m sorry to others that I’m ill, for the inconvenience it’s causing them. It’s easy, and very British, to be apologetic when taking someone’s seat on the bus. I’m grateful, of course, when they offer. If it’s a priority seat, I’m also thankful that they get up when I ask them. But I’ve decided not to be ashamed any more.

As with most of the thoughts that occur to me, which at first I think profound, I’ve realised it’s a simple truth. God loves me.

While people I meet will happily shake their heads at me and say “that’s a shame, and you so young, you should try to get better”, I’ve realised that God loves me. He has the authority to heal me, and if he’s choosing not to, then he’ll be doing something clever behind the scenes in that way he always does. God is happy to spend time with me, even if others can’t. God welcomes me into the church, even if church members don’t. God isn’t ashamed of me.

In today’s Chrism Mass, a lot was said, as it always is, about us being a body united, that we are each a part of. Yah boo sucks to the ableds, as they have to now be part of a body which in part has disabilities. But even if it sucks to be ill now, I’m confident that the parts of the body that have no honour now will receive special honour later. None of the formative, humiliating, dependent moments are lost by God. I’m proud (? I might not mean that word ?) that I can share in Christ’s sufferings if only for a short time. I’m assured that I’m fully accepted by God, and a full member of the church, and that I’m accepted. And I’m accepted as I am now, not just as I will be if and when I get well again.

Practically speaking, I am becoming confident that my presence in the room is more valuable than the slight inconvenience of getting me into the room, and the minor inconveniences caused by making an environment bearable for me can also be borne easily by other people. While thankful to them for making those adaptations, I’m not apologetic that they need to be made, because I’m not ashamed of my disabled self.

I’m having a go at living this out, and I’m not sure how this looks yet. But give me a few weeks and I’ll let you know.

Giving up for Lent

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Phil 2 – The Message)

Last Lent was a good one. I was preaching for our Lent Course, working hard at planning a massive service in St Paul’s Cathedral, and at weekends, my boyfriend and I would go for long walks in the park. I’d get up too late and run for the train – in February, I even did a spontaneous 5k Parkrun in 31 minutes. Sure, at that stage I was averaging 4 hours sleep a night, but there was nothing I wouldn’t do because of my illness.

Since then, it’s been a tough year. Things I have had to give up include:

Going to the cinema/walking in the park/playing the piano/dancing at parties/privacy in public places/connection in non-public places/running (for the bus)/clothes with buttons/shoes with heels/bracelets/umbrellas/being able to afford things/being able to ignore things/being found attractive/dates that are straightforward/anonymity/spontaneity/using regular-looking office equipment/creating a good first impression/going upstairs in boutique shops/having long hair/having long showers/exploring/church without physical pain/buffets/lectures/classical music/coffee/travelling light/carrying anything/the list goes on…

My illness is affecting every system in my body, and as a result, every activity I’d like to do. If you’d like to know why any of these aren’t possible, feel free to ask – or better still, help me do one of them again!

The new normal

A normal week for me will fit in 16 hours of work, where I try to remember what normal felt like, try not to shock my colleagues with stories of the latest attacks on disabled people that are preying on my mind, and battle through typing with sore hands and thinking with a sore head. But the rest of the time, what’s left after you take out what I can’t do any more, is being cooked for, washing, dressing and feeding myself, keeping on top of my laundry, and a lot of resting.

Resting is very dull. Anyone who says “I’d love a day off in bed” has failed to understand what three days off, every week, sometimes without the energy to do much more than breathe, feels like. When you’ve listened to and fallen asleep during anything vaguely watchable but not too complex on iPlayer, texted anyone you think might reply, rearranged pillows and you’re still in pain, researched the next trip you’ll make when you have energy, emailed venues six weeks in advance to see if you can get in, and made plans that go “it’s a nice day, I could go outside, that would be really lovely” and realised you haven’t the energy to take a blanket into the garden, there’s nothing more to do. And while social media is great company, it’s easy to see others complaining about situations you’d love to be in – just because they’re seeing something other than your own ceiling and the mess you haven’t the energy to tidy.

What this does in Lent

In Lent, sermons seem to be about denying ourselves, learning self-control, and not being greedy.

I don’t get to church every week, for obvious reasons – if I do anything on Saturday I’m risking lacking the energy or coordination to get out of the house  – and church is early enough on a Sunday morning that I’ll still be in pain and rather sore even if I’ve rested well. When I get there, it’s noisy, uncomfortable, there are hymn books I can’t carry myself, steps without rails if I want to receive communion, and a disabled loo that smells of baby changing. Physically it’s not great, and to have tea afterwards requires such coordination with two crutches, no chairs and kids running around my ankles that it’s tempting not to bother.

And then there’s the people. Most are understanding, where they can be. It’s hard to build relationships on occasional attendance, or to connect with people who don’t have time for more than a passing word. There’s so much activism in the church – joining of rotas, socials, things to do – that I feel left out and as if they want me to feel guilty. On Sundays I just want to sit quietly, to pray, but not to be alone when I do that. There’s a saying, church is family. And just like that casually-racist grandparent who embarrasses themselves, church has those casually-ableist elders who say and do offensive things. They can be challenged, but there’s such a long stretch of them telling everyone you don’t know that you’re “touchy” that it’s hardly worth it.

Now that going to church makes me feel awful about myself, and I feel so little in common with other people there, it’s unsurprising that sermons aren’t hitting the spot either. They aren’t really for me. They’re for the normal people, the ones who earn enough to claim back Gift Aid.

Solidarity in the Wilderness

For me, this Lent, it’s been a great comfort to know that Christ suffered. Properly, really suffered – not just physically, a couple of days of torture – but emotionally too. He felt isolated, abandoned, and frustrated, particularly when his friends didn’t understand. He was used to depending on others’ hospitality for his meals. Overwhelmingly, he could see what his future held, and wasn’t looking forward to it!

I have felt isolated, abandoned and frustrated lying in bed, while Facebook shows that all my friends are together, having fun. I’ve been dependent on others to care for me. My present has been impoverished, by losing so many things that give me joy, as well as by gaining so much pain. I can’t help thinking it’s not meant to be like this. And I fear the future – in a year, will I still be able to walk? Earn enough to cover my outgoings? Express myself in a way that normal people can still relate to? Go out of the house on a regular basis? Lift cutlery, leave my bed, or wash unaided? And if not, what then?

My friend Jenny is far less well than I am, but with the same illness. If you have the time after my ramblings, please take the time to read her poem, Gethsemane. She articulates some of what I’m feeling this Holy Week – a gratitude that however bad this gets, we’re in good company, and we’re not giving up.

 http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2014/04/gethsemane/

Go on, #praytoendabortion, I dare you.

For the last few days, the hashtag #praytoendabortion has been trending. While I’m definitely pro-informed-choice, though I’d hope I’d be able to choose life if it was me, the fervour with which people have been praying out loud on street corners about this alarms me.

But I believe that God loves everyone He’s made, including pregnant women. But as ever, the world is broken, people are broken, and He’s called the church to be people through whom he can mend things.

I don’t think any woman enjoys making the decision to abort their foetus.

At 27, I’m single, work a part-time job on a temporary contract and have an energy-sapping disability. I’m really not looking to get pregnant. But if I were pregnant, what would my options be, and why might I choose an abortion?

For me, the things that stand in the way of me keeping a foetus, are:

  • The cost of healthcare, supplements etc
  • The impact on my current job, given my short-term contract
  • The stigma of being unmarried and pregnant
  • The impact on my own physical health, given my chronic illness
  • Concerns of the baby’s future if I could not raise it

In addition, if I were to raise my child, I could add in:

  • The need for suitable accommodation, as on my salary I rent a single room
  • The impact on my career and prospects, as I would lose my temporary job
  • The effect on future relationships and strain on family and friends
  • The need for practical support, as raising a child alone is difficult

Hypothetically, I might become pregnant as a result of rape. There’s an easy solution here – it’s for men to stop raping women. Most people would agree it’s potentially traumatic for someone to raise a child that looks like their rapist, so if we want that foetus to be born, we have to provide options like adoption.

I don’t think any woman enjoys making the decision to abort their foetus. But faced with leaving my home, losing my job, becoming more ill, and a lifetime of poverty, the whims of those deciding on what benefits I could claim, social isolation and the constant reminder of rape, I can see why abortion could be the better of my two unpleasant options. There is judgement and prejudice faced by single parent families, by unemployed people, by the poor, and to choose to keep your own child would be to choose that lifestyle for them, as well as you. 

But I can see a church where abortion ends.

I see a church where everybody is welcome, where you go to for support rather than condemnation. A church where older women are there to guide pregnant mums through the ups and downs of pregnancy, where shared meals beat isolation and generous giving covers the cost. A church where to walk in, alone and pregnant, you receive such friendship that you gain a family to call on.

I see a church where unwanted pregnancy doesn’t happen. Where boys and young men are taught to respect and honour the girls and women in their life, and challenge those who don’t. Where there’s no taboo about discussing domestic violence, sexual abuse, or teenage relationships before the child is conceived. Where education doesn’t shy away from discussing contraception, and where youth workers and schools workers can open up the conversation that directs young people to contraceptives that are freely available, because they are trusted. Where there’s always a night pastor to put you safely in a cab home, so you avoid relying on a predator.

I see a church where children and adults are nurtured. If it took a village to raise a child, it could be done by a church. Where girls whose families have rejected them find in the church the birth partners, financial backers, DIY helpers, benefits experts, advocates and peacemakers they need. Where adopted children find the extended family they never had. Where it’s so normal for a Christian family to adopt that a household without adopted children is considered unusual. Where a single mum and her child are right at home, are listened to, and can lead others without fear of stigma. And where a child with additional needs is so loved that their environment doesn’t disable them, and they can learn and grow and dream and laugh, and mothers expecting a child with a disability can see that. Where “I can’t raise this child alone” never has to be a reason to abort.

And I see a church where pregnancy needn’t mean financial instability. Where Christians will fight for the rights of their colleagues, so employers provide adequate maternity leave, adaptable jobs and job shares to fit around parenthood, and a living wage.  Where advocates fight to get adoptive parents and single mums all the benefits they’re entitled to, and pregnant mums, new mums and single mums can work because their church helps with the practicalities. Where Christian households will accommodate a pregnant woman so she can afford a warm, safe, dry home. Where “I can’t afford this baby” never has to be a reason to abort.

To end abortion we have to love the parents and the child, and church members have to expect to act radically and sacrificially. When we pray, God does change things, but by changing us and our attitudes first. I believe there will be a time when abortion for non-medical reasons isn’t needed any more. But that the church has to choose to act so that this can be a reality. Go on, I dare you to pray.