Author Jenny Foster and her (now ex-)husband had a two-year-old daughter and were over the moon when they learned they were expecting a son. But their happiness was short-lived when a 16-week ultrasound revealed several concerning medical issues: a large cyst on the baby’s kidney, a hole in the ventricular system, no atrial septum, and a cerebral malformation. The neonatal radiologist advised the couple to have an abortion.
“It was a soul crushing decision to make, to take the life of the son I wanted so badly,” Foster told Live Action News in a recent interview. “At the time, I wasn’t walking with the Lord and my [then-]husband was an atheist. I didn’t know what to do.”
Pressure to have an abortion
She underwent an amniocentesis to determine if the medical malformities had a genetic component. She later learned that her son did not have a cerebral malformation, but the other medical diagnoses were confirmed. “There was no genetic component to my son’s medical conditions,” she said. “The genetic counselor told us that the congenital malformations my son had occurs about 25% of the time. I learned later that approximately 120,000 families a year receive a poor prenatal diagnosis.”
Doctors pressured her to end the pregnancy. Foster told Live Action News that her obstetrician informed her he would not feel comfortable committing the abortion if she waited any longer. “Apparently, he felt he wasn’t skilled enough to abort a later term baby, so he urged me to have the procedure done immediately,” Foster said.
After agonizing over the decision and seeing no other options, she decided to proceed with the abortion.
“When I first felt my son move at 14 weeks, it was a joyous feeling,” she explained. “Up until the time I was administered anesthesia as I lay on the exam table, I could feel movement. It was heart wrenching.”
A botched procedure
After the abortion, she began to have kidney infections. Within three months, she knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize at the time the infections were the result of the abortion. “I was walking around all that time with some of my son’s body parts still inside me,” she said.
A dilation and evacuation (D&E) was required to extract the remaining body parts, leaving her feeling as if she lost her son a second time. The trauma of the experience left an indelible mark on her psyche, and she was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.
“During the D&E, the doctor inserted a seaweed rod into my cervix to dilate it so the body parts could be removed. But it caused trauma to my cervix,” she explained. “Afterward, I experienced a multitude of medical problems such as bladder and kidney infections, a cyst on my cervix and an irritable uterus requiring me to undergo additional surgeries.” She subsequently developed fibromyalgia and thyroid cancer, adding to her struggles.
One night, unable to sleep, she wandered into the living room and noticed the family Bible on the coffee table. Picking it up, she flipped to Psalm 81.
“It was right then at that moment, I dedicated my life to Jesus,” Foster told Live Action News. But her faith grew in baby steps as she grappled with grief, shame, and regret. Sadly, the loss of a son, amid other concerns, impacted her marriage, and she and her then-husband divorced six months later.
“The mantra that played over and over in my head was: I wanted this baby, I loved this baby, yet I consented to ending his life,” she said. “Even though I knew God forgave me, it was hard to forgive myself for the decision I had made that affected every area of my life. It was as if self-admonishment helped me to atone for my sin.”
Though she eventually remarried, she kept the secret of her abortion for almost 20 years. She noticed her church leaders were also silent on the topic of abortion. One night in 2018, she felt the Lord speak to her spirit, telling her it was time she told her story.
“I wanted to reveal everything that I had experienced,” she said. “I didn’t want to sugarcoat anything. This is ultimately a story about redemption.”
While conducting research for her book in 2019, Foster was stunned to learn about perinatal hospice. which offers support to women with high-risk pregnancies without pressure to abort. “I think perinatal hospice gives families like ours the love and resources to carry pregnancies with grave medical diagnosis to term,” she said. “This option was not presented to us. I wish it had been better practices for hospitals and obstetrical providers in 2000, because we would have had a better outcome.”
No longer alone
The need to face her demons prompted Foster to travel to from Seattle, Washington, to Knoxville, Tennessee, in the fall of 2020 to attend the “Deeper Still” retreat, which takes a Christian approach to healing from the wounds of abortion. She arrived with a completed manuscript for her book, “Natty’s Pond,” but while there, she was inspired to write one more chapter.
“There [were] so many layers I had to work through, but God is so faithful,” she said. “I was honored to meet so many amazing pro-life warriors, from sidewalk counselors to those who dedicate their time and talents to helping women recover from the anguish of abortion.”
At the National Monument for the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she arrived just as the plaque commemorating the son she named Nathan was about to be installed. The staff graciously allowed her to mount the plaque instead – a memory she forever cherishes.
“You can’t plan that kind of thing,” she said. “It was God at work. I will always love Nathan and I miss him every day. But I’m grateful to know the Lord received him in an instant.”
“Natty’s Pond” was published on November 11, 2021, on what would have been Nathan’s 21st birthday. Foster continues to spread her message of hope to women who are hurting from the pain of abortion.
“Women need to know they are not alone,” she said. “Chances are, someone they know has been through similar experiences. We need to offer compassion to those who need it the most.”
Editor’s Note, 4/27/22: This post has been edited for clarity.
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