Between 1972 and 1981 I had four abortions, the four events in my life that I have most painfully regretted. For a number of years after I had come to the knowledge of the "flesh and blood" reality of what I had done through those abortions, I would think over and over again, "I would give up my two arms and two legs to have those four children back."
You might be asking yourself right now, "How could anyone have four abortions? One, yes. A mistake that they made. But four?" I have asked myself that question hundreds of times and intensely reflected on my life to try to understand how I came to that place.
I believe that there is a connection between those abortions and the sexual abuse that I suffered as a child. That abuse left me with a damaged sense of what a relationship between a man and a woman is meant to be.
Another way I was grievously wounded as a child was in my relationship with my mother. I never felt loved by her. She was cold
and critical. At the time that I had my first abortion, I had already been suffering from clinical depression for at least 3 years. I fell into a severe depression after that first abortion, and I believe that each abortion after that inflicted another grievous wound on my sense of self.
I had my first abortion a few months before "Roe v. Wade." I had not heard the word "abortion" before a college friend of mine told me about the abortion she had had. Before that, it had never occurred to me that a pregnancy was something you could "get rid of."
I know that's what I wanted to do each of the first four times I found myself pregnant. The medical term for it is "terminating a pregnancy." I never once thought of myself as having a baby within me.
I found out I was pregnant a few days after I discovered that my boy-friend was married, a fact he had failed to tell me. Since I felt I had been betrayed by him, that our whole relationship had been based on pretense, I never even told him I was pregnant, because I believed he didn't truly care.
My father gave me the $300.00, no questions asked. A college friend drove me to the doctor's office. What I remember feeling is afraid, very much alone, and humiliated. The doctor talked to me in a very cold, irritable way. He snapped at me to "scoot down" as soon as he approached me. I was 6 or 7 weeks pregnant, so the doctor used the suction aspiration method of abortion. I painfully remember the suction sound.
A few days after I had the abortion, when the baby's father called me, I told him that I had been pregnant and had had an abortion. I think that I wanted to hurt him with that truth, as he had hurt me. "You killed my baby!" he said, but I thought that he was pretending to care about what I had done. I couldn't believe that he truly cared at all. A few days later I broke up with him for good.
About a week or so after I had that abortion a friend of mine from work asked me if I wanted to smoke some marijuana with him. I said "yes" because I was hoping that "getting high" would help me to feel better. I had become very depressed, and it was hard for me to do my job. He came over to my house that evening.
Soon after I smoked the marijuana, I began to feel very anxious, and I soon "lost it." I began screaming very loudly, "Oh my God, I'm a murderer! I'm a murderer!" It's not a thought that had occurred to me consciously, and the strange thing is that I never realized even then that I was experiencing severe guilt about that abortion. I thought that I was experiencing "irrational guilt" about the death of my youngest sister, who had been struck and killed by a car 3 years before.
The next day I couldn't get out of bed and didn't go to work. I didn't even call in. When I got out of bed that afternoon, I realized that I was severely depressed, that I couldn't get better without professional help. I called my father, and he met me at the local psychiatric hospital to sign me in, because I was covered under his hospitalization. I stayed in that hospital for 11 months. I was discharged in much better condition, but still with chronic depression. I saw my psychiatrist on an outpatient basis for 10 years after that.
About three years after that abortion I got a job as a "counselor" trainee in an abortion clinic. I was excited about getting the job, because I imagined actually helping the women I would work with to make well considered choices. After all, weren't the proponents of legalized abortion part of the "pro-choice" movement?
I assumed that the people who ran that clinic were "pro-choice," and, therefore, would do everything they could to help each woman who came there to get some real clarity of mind about what they most wanted to do. Have the baby and keep it? Have the baby and give it up for adoption? Or have an abortion?
I never consciously thought about my own decision to have an abortion 3 years before, but considering my feelings and desires about
becoming a counselor in that clinic, I know that (to use the words of a pro-life leader that I greatly respect) I never felt that I had had a choice at all. I never had a sense that I could depend on support from my baby's father, my parents, or anyone else. I also didn't feel that I had the inner resources that it would take to become a mother. I hoped that I could at least offer some emotional support to the women I would "serve" at that clinic.
The first day that I began training, the counselor who was training me informed me that all of the women who came to that clinic had already made up their minds that they wanted an abortion, or they wouldn't be in an abortion clinic. So much for helping them to make a clear choice. Oh, well, maybe I could be supportive to them, anyway.
"There's nothing to having an abortion," Della said. "I've had three abortions. It' no worse than having your tooth pulled." "This is not a baby. A baby is something that you choose…If, after you leave here, you find yourself sad when you see a baby, it's okay to cry, but don't worry. You can have a baby later when you're more ready for it." Those are all things that I heard Della say to the groups of women she was assigned to "counsel."
After a week of training I was assigned one woman to counsel. Part of my job was to ask the clients if they had ever been to a dentist and had novacaine. I asked my client that question, and she answered that, yes, she had had novacaine at a dentist's office.
But when the doctor injected novacaine into this woman's cervix, she had a reaction to it. I was not in the procedure room, only the doctor and the nurse. He came out and yelled for me to come into his office. When I went in, he screamed that I had not asked the woman about whether she had had novacaine. I screamed back that I had.
Then he told me that he didn't want me working there anymore, and I told him, "Good, I wouldn't work here if you begged me to." And I left, relieved. As I reflect on my life, I am still relieved that my guilt about the abortions that I had was not multiplied many times by having the responsiblity of assisting in hundreds or thousands of other abortions.
For six years after my first abortion I was "responsible" about using birth control. At that point in my life I thought of sexual responsibility as consistent use birth control. For a while I used birth control pills, and then I switched to a diaphragm with contraceptive gel. When I got pregnant the second time, of course, I had stopped being consistent about using birth control. I was so afraid of pregnancy that I denied (even to myself) that I was pregnant until I was (the doctor told me) 20-22 weeks pregnant.
I had been living with my boyfriend for over 2 years when I found out I was pregnant. When I told him, he asked me, with a scared voice, what I wanted to do. I turned the question back to him, "What do you want to do?"
"I won't be responsible for taking care of the baby. I already did my share of that." My boyfriend had been previously married, and he had lived with a woman with children for several years before we met. He was living alone when we met. He was willing to give me financial support, but not to share in the physical raising of the child. That was not enough for me at that time.
"Then I'll have an abortion," I said, and I felt justified, because I didn't think that it was fair for me to have all of the responsiblity for raising the child.
This is the abortion I have suffered the greatest guilt over. First of all,
I knew he was the kind of man who would have been consistent in giving me child support, and, with my greater maturity now, I believe that he would have become emotionally involved with the child once it was born. I am also aware now, from pictures I have seen and information I have read, of how fully developed my baby was at that point. This is all in hindsight. I never once thought of myself as carrying a baby at that time.
It is mind boggling to realize how powerful denial can be, like a
powerful magician. How could I deny the reality of that baby? My hips must have been wide, my stomach protruding, and the baby would be large enough for me to feel her movement at times. Yet I did not allow myself to think of the reality of that baby.
The doctor who told me that I was 20-22 weeks pregnant told me
that he did not perform abortions at that stage, but he gave me the number of a doctor who did, the same doctor who had performed my first abortion, when it was still illegal to have an abortion.
My boyfriend drove me to the doctor's office and sat in his truck to
wait for me. So, again, I felt terribly alone. I had to go to that doctor's office for two days in a row. The first day he inserted something into my cervix-laminaria- which "absorbs water and swells, gradually pushing open the cervix in the process" (from a paper on abortion methods). I remember that it would be normal for me to feel painful contractions. The next day, when I returned, he performed the abortion. I seem to remember the sound of the baby dropping into a bucket, though I am not sure of this memory. I have more
blank areas than clear memories regarding all of my abortions.
I also remember that I felt nothing. In fact, what I felt was painfully empty of feeling. While we remained together for a few more months, my boyfriend and I never talked about that abortion. Years later, after I had married, I called Arturo (fictional name) and told him I was sorry that I had hurt him. In a pain-filled voice he said, "We had a baby together." I didn't answer him. I thought it was a crazy thing for him to say. "We had an abortion," I thought to myself, "not a baby." (A baby is something that you choose, right?) Now I think that he was more in touch with reality than I was at that point.
My third and fourth abortions have "bled together" in my mind, like
photos that have been laid on top of each other before they have fully dried. I can't remember which father was the father of my third baby and which was the father of my fourth. One was a man with whom I was involved a few months. The other was a man I only spent time with twice. Both times I was in my first trimester, probably 6-8 weeks pregnant.
What I can remember about both abortions is that I dreaded them.
As the doctor was performing each abortion, I remember having a sense of horror and feeling that he was sucking my insides out. It was a psychological feeling. For both I was completely alone, without any support. When I went home after each, I can only remember feeling empty and sad, but I could not have explained to a soul why I felt that way, because I still had not acknowleged that I had ended the lives of my unborn babies.
The only time I ever talked about those abortions, until the last 13 years of my life, was when I would go to a doctor, and I would be asked (usually by his nurse) how many pregnancies I had had and how many life births. Then I would acknowledge (reluctantly and with shame) that I had had 4 abortions.
These are some of the "manifestations of abortion's aftermath" (from the National Office of Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing) that I suffered for decades:
a sense of alienation from self, friends, and others shame
difficulties in subsequent labor and delivery
inability to bond properly with subsequent children (for the first few years, with my firstborn child)
spiritual wound, and
increased bitterness toward men
I have experienced tremendous healing, for which I am deeply grateful.
I encourage any man or woman who is suffering from the emotional and/or spiritual wounds of abortion to seek healing. From my own experience and from what I have heard and read, I would say that healing from abortion trauma does not usually come quickly and easily, but I believe that if you are persistent, you will receive the healing that you long for.
My first step in healing came when I decided to carry, give birth to, and raise my fifth child. When I became pregnant with her, my feelings were dramatically different than for the previous pregnancies. I felt a great feeling of joy that I had this gift of life in me. So, what had changed in my life, that I was able to embrace the child within me?
First of all, I had sought and found a living relationship with
God, and I experienced His presence with me. Secondly, I had developed many genuine, supportive friendships, and those friends celebrated my baby's conception and growing development within me. They also showed genuine concern for me and gave me much moral and emotional support after her birth.
Meeting and marrying a man who desires me completely—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—has affirmed me in a way that I had never experienced before. He loves me unconditionally, as I love him. He has repeatedly told me (with obvious genuine appreciation) that I am a truly good person, something that I had never seen in myself before meeting him. We both have the peace of knowing that we will be together "for as long as we both shall live." The year after
we married, my husband adopted my firstborn daughter, and a year later we had another daughter together. He is my best friend and my hero.
My two living daughters are my greatest treasures. My older daughter
has repeatedly told me that she has always known that she is blessed to have me as her mother. She considers me her best friend, and she has told me that she knows that I love both her and her younger sister unconditionally. I cherish her love and appreciation more than all the money in the world.
My younger daughter is mentally handicapped. She has severe autism,
severe mental retardation, and severe language disorder. She is the greatest joy in my life. I often tell people that she has taught me, more than any other person, what is essential in life. My husband and I both say that she has brought us together and kept us together more than anything else. She has taught us both to love unconditionally.
Twelve years ago, I began to fervently seek inner healing. The following are some of the steps in healing that I have taken:
• I named my four aborted babies: Michael, Rose, Sybil & David
• Through counseling, reading, reflecting, writing, and praying, I have come a long way in facing the full truth about my responsibility for the murder of my unborn babies. This has been a very painful process
• Through Scripture reading and prayer, I have received great consolation from God.
• I have honored my unborn babies in the following ways: a poem in their honor; a memorial plate in their honor at the National Memorial for the unborn in Chatanooga, TN, which I visited in 1992; and by spiritually baptizing them.
• At a Project Rachel retreat, I received the comfort of sharing my abortion experiences with other women and men who are seeking healing. I also experienced, in a spiritual way, reconciliation with my aborted babies. It was a profound experience in which I felt my heart
was "made new."
I am continuing to heal through the experiences of my everyday life,
especially as a special education teacher. Through my writing, I have experienced great relief from the shame that I carried for so many years. In doing pro-life work, I feel that all that I do I do for my children. May God bless everyone who reads my story.
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