HAUNTED FOR DECADES
My Abortion Story
As I share my story, I'd like to remind you that I am someone's daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, or perhaps the lady who may share the pew with you. Please embrace me as one of these persons to you.
About 35 years ago, I had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to college and my 18th birthday. It was a summer to remember, or so I thought–one filled with dreams and hope. Little did I know that soon my life would take a dramatic turn for the worse, for it was later that summer I had an abortion. This event devastated me and left me with a bitterness that haunted me for decades to come.
It began on a hot, muggy, June afternoon. As my sister and I walked around our neighborhood, I shared with her my fear that I might be pregnant. How would my mother react if she were to find out? Later that day, my sister drove me to a clinic in a nearby town to have a pregnancy test. That car ride home was the first of two trips I would make from that particular clinic during the hot summer of 1979.
On this particular trip my sister warned me to prepare myself for trouble when I finally told my mom. What followed was not pretty. As my sister foretold, my mother did not receive the news well. She quickly decided on a course of action. She said I would have an abortion and I would go to college, in spite of my pregnancy. She contacted the clinic and scheduled an abortion for the next week. She told me I was not to see my boyfriend until after the procedure was completed and she would drive me to the clinic. After returning home, she would call my boyfriend and tell him to drive to the clinic to bring me home. I was to pay half of the fee and he was to pay the other half. If I did not agree to her demands, she would have him prosecuted for statutory rape.
Over the next few days, my mother spent more time with me than at any other time in my life. Sadly, this was not because she wanted to share my few moments of pregnancy with me. Rather, it stemmed from a fear that if I spent time with my boyfriend, we would find a way to not have the abortion.
No amount of tears changed my mother's mind. She was determined. And that was that! To make matters worse, as we headed for the clinic, I saw the father of my child at the corner of the entrance to the highway. The memory of seeing him like that has burned a scar on my heart that still bleeds tears.
The trip to the clinic was filled with pleading and begging, but no amount of pleading touched my mother's heart. Arriving at the clinic, my mother signed the paperwork handed to her. As we waited for my name to be called, I tried one last time to sway her, pleading, "Please mom! Please don't do this."
The nightmare continued as my name was called and I was led to a small office half way down a long hallway. The lady behind the desk asked me if I had any questions. As the last word left her mouth, I was on my feet. I ran down the hallway and threw open the wide double waiting room doors to again plead and beg for mercy. But, my mother was gone. I fell to my knees sobbing. It was then I felt my arms being pulled upward and dragged to a room where my baby was sucked away.
I awoke in the recovery room, my boyfriend sitting at the side of the bed. He held me in his arms until the nurse told us to leave. He tried to avoid every bump on the rode on the quiet car ride home. When we walked in the front door we could smell the hamburgers my mother was frying. The smell nauseated me as it still does today. She said the subject was closed and not to be mentioned again. The heat and the humidity left little air to breathe as our hearts were broken the day our child died.
I soon realized that having an abortion does not solve problems. It only makes them worse. Soon after my abortion, I left for college. After two semesters, I left. My grades were not good. Instead of focusing on my studies, my mind was consumed with how to correct my wrong, how to make this decision valid, how to block out the memories of the moments at the abortion clinic, and how to live with a gaping hole in my soul.
Several times since that year I have returned to college to work on my degree and upon each return I took with me the memory of what came before college. My mind always wondered about the what-if's. I kept walking away from school, sabotaging my education. I stopped going to church and felt so far away from God.
Not only had the life of my child been destroyed, but now I was destroying my own life. The next few years of my young adult life are a blur of moments of which I am not proud. I wished to block everything and everyone connected with the loss of my child.
Along with the death of my child came the death of my spirit. I involved myself in relationships that were hopeless, abusive, and ungodly. I was afraid to love again. I felt a sense of disconnect and yet all I wanted was to be loved, chosen, and protected.
I eventually married, and out of that marriage came my two beautiful children. I felt unworthy to be their mother as I did not deserve these two precious gifts from God. I felt responsible for all the pain my children have endured.
I continued to live with the consequences of this nightmare for the next 30 years, constantly waking up to the pain, the void, the anger, the depression, the loneliness, and the self-destructive impulses I experienced every day. I was convinced that everything that ever went wrong in my life was a punishment for having aborted my baby.
I spent a lot of years in and out of therapy and never once did they discuss that my cry to be whole was the grieving over the child I had aborted. I was filled with such a sense of shame and guilt that even after I confessed my sin, I could not believe that God could forgive me.
But, God never ceased loving me.
Fortunately, God heard my cries and held me close, wrapping me in His embracing arms. One day, I shared with my pastor the pain that I walked in daily from the wounds of my abortions. He told me about a supportive, confidential, and non-condemning ministry called Rachel's Vineyard. He told me that it was a weekend retreat ministry for both men and women, and all the "other victims" of abortion. It was not only for the woman and the father of the child, but the parent who had forced their daughter to abort, a spouse, or the potential grandparents, brothers, and sisters--all who were denied the child. He explained it was a safe place to renew, rebuild, and redeem hearts that were broken by abortion.
At Rachel's Vineyard retreat, through the Living Scripture exercises and communal sharing, for the first time in over 30 years, I was able to share my grief, guilt, and anger. I was able to recognize how the shame and regret had brought grief in my life and those close to me.
The mental health counselors and clergy who served on the Rachel's Vineyard team helped me to set in motion an end to my isolation. They aided in dismantling the toxic secrets and gave me tremendous support in breaking my struggle with shame. My preconceived fears of condemnation were transformed into blessings. My memories of abandonment, pain, and confusion were replaced with peace and reconciliation.
Despite my wrongs, I was able to recognize that God's mercy is so much greater than my sins. I found God's love, compassion, and forgiveness, not only towards myself, but for those who were a part of my experience.
I was now able to mourn my baby. I found peace as I honored the life that was once in my womb. I have the hope of one day seeing my child in heaven. I now think of my child with love and tenderness instead of pain and shame and I know she rests securely in the arms of Jesus.
My healing journey began that weekend, a journey I continue to make even now as I lay my nightmare at the foot of the cross each and every day, trusting in God's mercy and the sure knowledge that I am forgiven. I live in the certainty that Christ bore my sins upon the cross and died for me so I could know His peace and love.
While my baby was only with me for only a moment, she has forever remained in my heart.
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Check out: www.rachelsvineyard.org