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When your child asks about abortion

Dinner is on the stove and I’m setting the table when our second grader walks into the kitchen.He is carrying a postcard he’s pulled out of the pile of mail.

“Is this what we were talking about?” he asks, and he points to a picture on the postcard.

I glance down and see that it’s a postcard from a pro-life organization. In one corner there are two small pictures of aborted babies. It’s very graphic and very disturbing.

My heart sinks.

“Yes,” I say. “That’s what we were talking about when we talked about abortion.”

Because of course we’ve discussed abortion. He just asked about it again this weekend, following up on a conversation from many months ago, when he saw protesters outside the hospital, holding signs with similar pictures on them.

And here we are looking at the pictures again—pictures I can’t face, pictures that bring me close to tears, pictures that make me feel physically ill.

The questions start coming.

How do people kill babies? Why do people kill babies?

I fumble to find words I don’t have. I admit that I don’t really understand, that it makes me very, very sad. But, although I believe in answering questions fully about anything and everything, I am not sure I am talking about this well. I’m too shaken by the images myself. 

“Those are scary pictures,” I say. “I’m sorry you saw them.”

I can’t read his reaction. I don’t know what he’s thinking or how much he understands. I’m not sure how much I want him to understand.

I wish pro-life organizations wouldn’t use graphic pictures like that. But what I wish were that abortion weren’t something I ever had to explain to my children at all. Obviously much of this is beyond my control.

My son leaves the postcard in my hands and heads back to the other room to play a game with his brother. They are building a fort using the couch cushions, and the postcard is forgotten—at least for now.

I stuff the postcard in the trashcan. But I know this conversation is just beginning.