Photo by GM Spear.
In 1999, when I was 17, I had an abortion. I’ve told my story many times and always feel ashamed at it’s simplicity. It seems crazy to write this but, I’ve felt envious that I didn’t have an abusive boyfriend that forced me to do it or a horrible childhood that led me to feel that there was no other way out. The truth was, I made the decision because of some very superficial reasons and I never thought that the decision would impact me the way it did.
I was raised in a single parent home. As a child I was shy, nice and had faith; however, in high school, became somewhat disorderly and with a mother working two jobs to support herself and me, I did not have anyone to stop me from partying and looking for acceptance in the wrong places. At age 16 I started dating a boy who was in college. Shortly after my 17th birthday I thought that I might be pregnant.
I remember crying uncontrollably in the pregnancy center room after it was confirmed that I was pregnant. My best friend asked the counselor what my options were and the counselor, with sad eyes, showed us a model of a pre-born baby. My already loud sobs got even louder as my best friend said, “How could you show that to her!” She grabbed my hand and we quickly left. We drove to her home, looked up abortion in the phone book and made the appointment. My mother was sleeping when I got home that night. I told her that I made an appointment for an abortion and if she didn’t take me I’d find someone who would. She didn’t say anything and I have no recollection of her trying to talk me out of it (about 15 years later my cousin told me that she remembered my mom and I fighting about it the night before it happened. She said my mom was trying to talk me out of it. My memory of this is just gone but I believe that it’s true.)
At some point I called my boyfriend and told him everything including needing $300.00 which he gave me.
The morning of the appointment my mom borrowed my grandmother’s car because ours wouldn’t make it to the clinic which was almost two hours away. I was embarrassed that my Catholic grandmother knew. My cousin Amanda, who was a year younger than me, tried to change my mind but I wouldn’t listen to her. She was the only person I remember that stuck up for my baby and I’ll forever respect her for that.
I don’t remember too much about the day of the abortion. People were yelling when we arrived but I don’t remember what they said. I don’t recall receiving counseling or education. I do remember sad eyes in the waiting room that belonged to girls like me and I remember the doctor looking at the ultrasound and then telling me that the baby was no bigger than his pinky nail as he held up his little finger. Per my cousin who was in the room with me, she again asked me if I was sure and then she was escorted out of the room until it was over.
At some point after it happened, I blocked everything out (which is probably why I still don’t remember the argument with my mother) and became emotionless about it and about other things in my life. I had three very close family members die shortly after and I didn’t shed a single sincere tear.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second son in 2009 that memories from after the abortion flooded back. Even though they cause me pain and sorrow, they also melted my frozen heart and allowed me to heal and let Jesus back into my life. Before these memories came back I thought that I was just a cold person and I hated that I couldn’t connect to my child. Then, I finally remembered that I did regret aborting her and I cried for her. I remembered sitting in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car as we drove to my home from my homecoming dance. As I wept, I told him that I thought I had made a mistake …
Another memory that came back was of a very close aunt of mine that died. I remember that, shortly after my abortion, I had a dream that she was watching over several babies. One of them I knew was mine. They were in a beautiful, peaceful clearing, surrounded by trees, a lake and air that almost sparkled. I remember that dream comforting me because my aunt babysat me when I was little and she always took care of children. I remember being comforted that she was taking care of mine. Out of all the dreams I’ve had in my life, I remember this one as if it were yesterday.
Another memory, in 2000, being overjoyed when I (and the man I later married) became pregnant with our first son. I remember walking home from the place I was working, watching the sidewalk as I walked, hand over my stomach and just knowing I was pregnant and thinking, God’s given me a second chance. At that time I didn’t have a relationship with God. I had left the church years before, but I remember thinking of Him.
The closer I grew to God, the more memories came back to me. I have to think that He knew that I wasn’t ready to receive all of them at once just like I wasn’t ready to trust in Him and accept his forgiveness for so many years.
Years later I would find other evidence that she was in my mind even though I thought I had blocked it all out. Going through old things of mine I’d find … a poem … a short story … a drawing of a little girl in that same clearing, which would always come back to my mind even when her memory was blocked out. My happy place was what I thought it was, until I accepted forgiveness and remembered that it was always her place, and now, our place, a place that Jesus Christ has welcomed me into so I could be close to him and to her. I meditate on that place and I imagine what it would be like to be there with her, holding her hand and kissing her forehead. She’d be 16 this year …
Back to 2009, when I was pregnant and all of these memories were returning, I also felt such a strong pull back to the Church. My family and I started attending every weekend. I knew that I had to and wanted to go to confession but I was so scared that God and the Church would not accept me. I thought back to my teenage years, after the abortion. I asked a close family member of mine if she thought I would go to heaven. She hesitation and said, “I don’t know.” I didn’t want to go but I was suffering. What I did was all I could think about. It’s hard when, I’d be at work with tears welling up in my eyes my throat feeling like it was closing shut but, I would just have to keep it all inside and stop myself from actually crying because how would I explain that? It’s not like I gave birth to a child that died. Everyone would understand that and know why I was upset but I couldn’t say that I was upset because of a child I chose to abort. I felt like I didn’t have a right to cry and I didn’t even fathom that I could grieve. Being at home was worse. I had told my husband that I had had an abortion before we met (another memory that came back later) but he didn’t know that the reason I was angry and shut off and depressed was because of that. I don’t even think he could understand how I could be so upset so many years later and he didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even say the words. I would email him … my husband who, at that time, I’d been with for ten years. He tried to reach out and I would lash out at him saying that he had no idea what I’d been through or how I felt … or I’d burst into tears at random times …
My mother went from being my best friend, someone who I’d call every single day, to someone that I couldn’t even be in the same room with. This has ripped our relationship apart and I have no idea how to make it better. I have deep-seated resentment for her for not being more strict with me, for not offering me any other solutions (at least, none that I can remember at this time) and for blaming me. In my head I think that, she thinks it was all my fault but I really wouldn’t know that because we don’t talk about it. I’m her only daughter and we hardly speak. This is the mother that did everything for me, who always tried to fix what was broken in my life whether it be a toy, or my feelings or my bad decisions. This though, this was permanent … and I have forgiven her because I know that she did the best she could and I know that she is a wonderful person and a wonderful mother but, I just can’t figure out how to get back to where we were …
I did, eventually schedule an appointment to go to Confession. I don’t know what I was thinking doing that because, by scheduling it, it wasn’t anonymous. I gave him my name. My character is to remain anonymous even if I’m confessing something small. I’m very introverted. God works in mysterious ways though. The priest that took my confession ended up giving me a Rachel’s Vineyard brochure.
I contacted them and even made a donation. The coordinator and I emailed over the next year but I avoided going to a retreat, telling myself I was fine because I had gone to Confession.
Finally, in 2011, when I could no longer deny that I was suffering, and after several loving invitations, I attended a retreat. On the day that I was supposed to go I was still having anxiety and second thoughts but my husband encouraged me to go. He is such a blessing to me.
At first, I admit that I felt disconnected to God. I felt embarrassed that my story was so simple. I grew up without a father but my mother did make my childhood wonderful. I was made fun of growing up and was rebellious in high school but, that could have been anyone’s story. Adults in my life didn’t try to talk me out of it but no one forced me to do anything either. It wasn’t until the second day, in the afternoon, when we were sitting in a circle in a chapel, when I felt a change. This perfectly peaceful chapel had big windows and I had chosen a seat that was in just the right position for the sunlight to hit me, warming my entire being. One of the team members wrapped a prayer shawl around my shoulders that was made by a local prayer shawl ministry. I don’t know how to explain it except that, I could feel their prayers and I could feel God’s warm embrace and I decided at that moment that I was going to let Him in and I was going to trust Him. That is something that I cannot say I had felt since I was a child.
The retreat was the best experience of my life. For once I did not feel like an outcast. I was able to cry for my baby, for myself and for the other amazing women and men that I met. I left there feeling like a new person. I had a new outlook on life, on people in general and I knew I was not alone. I left wanting to be a better person, mother, wife and Christian and felt like I could actually reach that goal without feeling like I didn’t have the right to do so.
My life has been wonderfully different since that day. I am not saying that I don’t have my bad days. I regret. Some days I just want to cry. Some days I’m angry. I still feel sad thinking about what my baby would look like now, wondering if my baby really would have been a girl, wondering if she will be a baby in heaven, or a child or an adult and hoping and praying that I will meet her one day. I feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear about adopted children reuniting with their birth mothers, wishing I would have made that choice. But every day, no matter how I’m feeling, I know that God is with me and that He forgives me and that I am growing closer to Him.
I want other women and men to feel forgiveness. Receiving healing and allowing Jesus into my life saved me and I can never thank Him enough for it. I live for moments with Him and my eyes have been opened to His presence in this world whether it be in nature, in the good works of everyday people or in the faces of the heartbroken and the hurting. I not only love Jesus with all of my heart and soul, but I am able to show love to my husband and children more than I was before. Every one of them had a hand in my healing and I thank them. My amazing husband never gave up on me and encouraged me to get healing when I was resisting it. My eldest son … he was the reason I decided to straighten out my life which was spiraling downhill so fast. My youngest, before he was even born, helped me unlock memories of my daughter. She’s not hidden anymore. She’s real. I remember her. I remember crying for her. I love her and I’m sorry for what I did to her. My husband and all three of my children helped me in my journey to Jesus Christ. They are amazing gifts from God.
Rachel’s Vineyard will always be near to my heart and I have helped on several retreats since my own. I pray for God to use me and my story to help others. I pray for those who are devoted to the healing of men and women who are suffering. I pray for the unborn. I pray for women and men who feel like they’re in a hopeless situation, that they will feel God’s presence and know they are not alone. I pray for those who don’t see the unborn as people, that their hearts will be changed.
Photo by GM Spear.