when I was 16 I left home to avoid the responsibilities of being in my family. I moved in with a man 7 years older than I who promised to marry me when I finished high school. Less than a year later I found out I was pregnant. I was on the pill at the time, even though they brought on horrible migraines. He told me I had to get an abortion to stay in his house. I knew it was wrong but I didn't want to live with either of my parents who were divorced and thought I had no other place to go. I chose abortion rather than to leave this man. He didn't come with me, but made me make the arrangements while he was at work one day. A girlfriend who drove (I didn't have my license yet) brought me with a mutual guy friend of ours and they waited int he parking lot for me. the pain of the procedure was worse than any period I had ever had, the nausea, cramping, bleeding and downright pain was only dwarfed by the guilt and regret I felt. but by then it was too late to second guess my choice. I sat in the "recovery" room, watching women laughing and joking around afterward while I threw up the orange juice and crackers they gave us for over an hour. The other women seemed oblivious to the weight of the darkness that was crushing me. I went home to rest. to wait for him to come home. I wanted to hurt him. to make him understand just how much this hurt me. I told him every detail of every minute I had gone through that day. When I was done, he was in tears and said if he had only known how bad it was going to be he would never have made me do that. Both of us believed that under the circumstances. we stayed together, still sleeping together, still on the pill, just like before. another year later and I got pregnant again. I hadn't done it on purpose. I wasn't "trapping him". I was till taking the pill, but I got pregnant again. When I told him this time, I truly thought he'd step up and be the husband and dad he'd been avoiding earlier. He simply said, "You know what to do." I went from nervously excited to screaming: you said you'd never make me go through that again! what are you talking about!?" all the denial and regret and guilt and pretense came up and out of me in a rush of hatred for what I had done for this man. "You're right, I know EXACTLY what to do! I'm getting the hell out of here! I will NEVER kill one of my babies for you again!" I gathered my clothes and toiletries and moved in with the woman who had driven me to the Planned Parenthood clinic the first time. she took me in and supported me financially while I went to school and babysat her little boy. When the dust settled a little and the weight of my situation started to sink in, I got scared about how this was all going to work out. how could I do this? how would I manage? I couldn't stay here forever. I found my old birth control pills in my stuff I had hastily packed during the move. Maybe one of these would "solve the problem". a few hours later I was on my knees begging God to forgive me and asking that he let me keep this baby, praying that the pill I took wouldn't kill my second child. I miscarried shortly after. Again the guilt was so strong I didn't know how I would go on. I thought about suicide, but couldn't do it. When my "boyfriend found out that I was no longer pregnant, he came for me. we made up before the summer was over and I went back to school. in the following year I realized it was not going to work, but didn't have the resources or self-confidence to try it on my own. I hated myself and I hated him for what I'd done for him. I finally left him just before my 19th birthday. I had enough of broken promises and no wedding. I moved in with my dad. I went to college. I started dating someone else. we moved in together and started making plans. I got pregnant and miscarried. I was devastated and thought God was punishing me. we went to genetic counseling to see if something was wrong with us physically. nothing showed up. we got married. I got pregnant again and miscarried again. I was inconsolable. would I lose every child I carried from now on? I got pregnant again and started bleeding in my second month. Not again! please God, not again! The bleeding stopped and I carried my daughter full term. she was born perfect and beautiful and my faith took a huge leap forward. it seemed my "punishment" was over, but my guilt held on. another miscarriage, this time I passed out from the hemorrhaging. My husband didn't want to try again. it was too risky now. I convinced him to try one more time 4 months later. the bleeding in the 2nd month scared the hell out of us again, more prayers and pleading. things straightened out again. Our son was born a month earlier than term and we spent a week in the hospital getting him stabilized. we decided that was where we needed to stop, child wise. a boy and a girl. I still cried at baby showers, avoided pregnant women and grieved over the losses the world told me were no big deal; "just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and enjoy what you DO have". it's not as easy as that when the culture tells you in so many ways you're not entitled to your feelings of loss, deprives you of the ritual of mourning properly like everyone else gets to do to establish closure and acceptance over that grief. 32 years after my first abortion, I found out about a post-abortion recovery program called Forgiven and Set Free by Linda Cochrane that is offered by Care Net and Abortion Recovery Assistance programs for women all over the country. I learned a lot about my own feelings, about the true nature of the God I pleaded with and prayed to, all the while rejecting His suggestions for avoiding the very situations I kept putting myself in. I was mentored and encouraged for 12 weeks as I learned and read and healed from a weight I had come to believe would always be pressing down on me and any chance I had for forgiveness and freedom from it. Thankfully I was wrong. I have complete assurance of seeing ALL my children someday and knowing only love and peace will be present when we meet. I know I am forgivena nd free form the guilt and shame and can live my life sharing this freedom with others who are still suffering silently and tearfully, unable to bear the pain the culture around us denies as real or warranted. it's not just a blob of tissue. it's not just a "product of conception". He or she is a part of us, part of our DNA, part of our soul, personally and as a nation. and we are less for their individual and collective loss. We need to acknowledge this hole. I saw a painting by Eric Samuel Timm called “Whole”. It’s powerful! It shows a woman just barely walking, hunched forward cradling a hole in her abdomen, through which you can clearly see the landscape behind her. The pain on her face is evident. The tiny building in the background far behind her is surrounded by blood and bodies. The figure on the foreground is “holding” an orb, just about the same size as her hole. It’s not in his hand, but is floating in the air above the smaller hole showing through the back of his hand. He has what she needs to be Whole. And she is making progress toward Him. That’s what we need to do. We need to make progress toward the healing that surely makes us Whole, and heals what is left of us when we leave the bodies behind. God takes that loss, that pain, that hole - and fills it with His Grace and forgiveness and we become Whole again for the first time. That is the story that needs to be told. I hope you make the most of this amazing opportunity to let those of us who've been there and come through the healing tell the story well and reach those still on the path from the building in the past.
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