- Posted February 14, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Have you had an abortion?
One of 55 million....
There is a day in 1983 when I was 20 years old, a junior in college, and I can tell you every detail. I was married to my high school sweetheart . Our day started at about 5:00 a.m. There was an earthquake in NY state that we felt in our apartment in Lynn. I got dressed in dark navy, pinstriped, straight legged Lee jeans. I wore a navy v-neck sweatshirt. I put on burgundy Bass tassled loafers with a matching belt. I also know I ate 2 pints of strawberry Hagen Daaz that I bought on the ride home at about 3 p.m. It was the first day of my struggle with weight.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember what I wore or what I ate or what time I woke up yesterday. It is remarkable that there is not much that I forget about October 7, 1983.
We got in the car around 6:00. My husband drove. And we went to 711 Boylston Street for a 7:30 appointment. It is an office building now. But it wasn’t then.
I had never been there before and I knew only a few hours after we arrived that I would never go back. Under any circumstances. Ever. And I never did.
I was asked, “Do you have any religious convictions that you would like to discuss with a counselor?” I vehemently answered, “No”. I truly believed that I had none. I was a proud and true atheist. Until the suction started, and my heart raced, and I begged for the abortionist to stop. Too late. SOMETHING was telling me this was wrong. Was it the sobbing from every other woman in that room? My cradle Catholic guilt? Natural law? God? If I did believe that I had just killed the only child I would ever conceive, my mechanism for survival immediately became suppression. I knew it was wrong on that Friday before Columbus Day but survival from that moment on relied on junk food, throwing myself into my education and later my career, denial, and the perception that if it ever got too difficult, there was a way out—a desperate way out to which I was more than willing to resort.
The years that followed were not pretty. Depression, panic attacks, and many suicide attempts. I was in counseling for many years. It didn’t help. It likely kept me alive because I was conscientious and kept my appointments. But the counselors kept telling me that it was perfectly fine to have had an abortion—one of them even told me about hers. Another encouraged me to buy a vacation home and enjoy the freedom that came from a life without children.
Through all of the personal torment and regret, I still believed that abortion was a woman’s right. I continued to be somewhat of a pro-choice ambassador. Just because it hadn’t been right for me, abortion was still necessary and perfectly justifiable in our society. Wasn’t it? How could a woman truly be free without her rightful escape hatch from the slavery of motherhood? I was definitely right about this. I had to be. My mental health hinged precariously upon my being right.
I got divorced, dated far too many men, I got remarried, divorced again, and finally gave up the dream. Once I gave up, I was given my husband—my true husband. In 2001, Steve married me –a depressed, unfulfilled, and broken woman -- and he loved me anyway. Love has a way of healing things. Or at least bringing attention to the stubborn wounds that won’t heal. The years went by and my sadness deepened despite our life that was so very good in many ways.
At some point, I opened my ears and eyes to hear prolife messages—probably for the first time in my life. I heard an interview with a woman who had undergone a second trimester abortion—her baby was born alive into a toilet in Florida. She was an emotional mess. It got me thinking and believing that there must have been a better way for that woman…there must have been a better way for me rather than existing in the life of regret that had dominated the past three decades.
Without any warning, I announced to my husband that I had made an appointment with a priest. I needed to talk to a priest-- just once. The stirrings of “what ifs” wouldn’t leave me alone. What if I could learn something that might help me? What if I received the sacrament of Reconciliation…might I feel something different after having been excommunicated for so very long? What if the Church had been right about abortion?
March 17, 2009 at the age of 46, I met with the local parish priest and my life was forever changed. He told me that my abortion had indeed been wrong. For the first time in 26 years, I heard the truth. Society kept insisting that it wasn’t wrong: It was legal, it was acceptable, it was COMMON, it was the right thing to do in the situation of an inconvenient pregnancy. I sobbed for nearly two hours with my priest. The hardest and best two hours of my life. I couldn’t get any better, I couldn’t get out of my own way, until I internalized the truth of what I had done all those years ago. The truth was that the 6-8 week old “fetus” that I was assured was not a living being yet was, in fact, a baby. He was my baby. My only baby. I like to think that I would have chosen to keep him had I known that.
My priest sent me to Project Rachel for true counseling—counseling of a spiritual and emotional nature rather than a societal, secular, clinical nature. I went with trepidation but with hope. I met many women who suffered with the same issues that I did: promiscuity, divorce, depression, anxiety, addictions. The Church had been right about abortion: it was wrong, not just for me, but for all of us. Healing from an abortion is a lengthy process…26 years of ingrained thinking is difficult to undo. It is still a constant struggle to forgive myself and to curb the longing for the child I should have been mother to.
My Project Rachel retreat opened my mind and my heart to the other truths that I had denied since I was a teenager. All it took was humility, a pastor with the patience of Job, and a husband who loved me. And, of course, God who had Called me back incessantly. I am proud that my faith and my knowledge of the Truth continue to grow. I even feel joy some times.
I am trying to give back now in gratitude for all that has been given to me.
I speak to young people in Confirmation classes about my abortion. I tell them about the beauty and richness of a life lived with faith, hope, forgiveness, and genuine love. But I know that what they will likely remember most is the old lady who stood before them still crying after nearly 30 years--crying about one baby who wasn’t given the chance to be born. And I tell them that the whole world changed on that day. Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, our lives touch each other’s in countless and miraculous ways. I pray that my child, whom I named Patrick, is touching your life today in some meaningful and heartfelt way.