In a pro-life book that seeks to help people hurt by abortion, a woman named Michaelene tells of her grief after a coerced abortion and 22 years of abortion regret. Michaelene believed her boyfriend when he told her he loved her, even though they’d only been dating a few months. She moved in with him, leaving her home state and everyone she knew, and got a new job near his apartment.
Yet things didn’t go as she had imagined once she learned she was pregnant. She explained:
My 28-year-old live-in boyfriend was furious when he discovered I was pregnant. He immediately demanded that I have an abortion. When I brought up the possibility of adoption, he yelled at me. He said he wasn’t going to let his colleagues see him with a pregnant girlfriend. He threatened to kick me out.
Since Michaelene didn’t know anyone in the area, she felt she had nowhere to go. She had no friends or contacts locally, so she asked her boss what she should do. “After I told her about my situation, she recommended abortion,” said Michaelene. “She said it was the only logical option and offered to arrange one for me. I numbly nodded my head, and she made some calls.”
Michaelene’s visit to the abortion facility was, in her words, “not an empowering experience.”
“My experience at the abortion clinic was painful and humiliating – nothing like I’d imagined,” she explained. “Although the young women awaiting their abortions were anxious and tearful, the clinic staff was cold and aloof.”
But the most traumatic part was her emotional pain. “I was completely unprepared for the emotional fallout after the abortion. I thought the abortion would erase the pregnancy. I thought I could move on with my life. I was wrong,” she said.
Though she didn’t believe her baby was a baby before she underwent the abortion, afterward, her feelings changed. “[I]t was now clear to me that the abortion ended the life of my child,” she said. “I felt guilty and desired punishment. I deserved to suffer. The mere presence of my boyfriend caused deep hurt and pain. I found it difficult to work. In between student lessons, I’d retreat to the staff room and cry. I soon found myself in a cycle of self-destructive behavior that included an eating disorder.”
Michaelene broke up with her boyfriend and tried to put the abortion behind her, and for a while, believed that she had. But then she began having both psychological and physical symptoms. She explained:
About two years after the abortion… I began experiencing periods of intense anger followed by periods of profound sadness. For weeks and sometimes months at a time, I was too fatigued to do more than eat a meal and shower during the day. I lost interest in food, and my weight fell dangerously low.
She endured medical tests in hopes of finding the cause of her fatigue and depression, but doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. “I saw a number of doctors for the fatigue and weight loss,” she said. “They tested me for everything from lupus to cancer to AIDS. I didn’t tell them about the feelings I was having as a result of the abortion. I didn’t see a connection between the abortion and my current physical symptoms.”
Still, she said, “The downward spiral continued until suicidal thoughts began to scare me.”
At that point, Michaelene began seeing a therapist, who helped her identify that her abortion was at the root of her physical and emotional issues. From there, she began to heal. “With the help of counselors and supportive friends, my time of self-condemnation and self-punishment came to an end. I was finally able to enter into a healthy grieving process,” she said.
Michaelene found considerable healing after going through the grieving process, but she still sometimes struggles with feelings of loss and grief. She said, “[T]here are still times that are painful for me. After all, healing doesn’t mean forgetting. Mother’s Day is particularly difficult.”
She has always kept track of how old her child would’ve been, and the loss of the milestones that she would’ve shared with her child is especially painful. “The year my child would’ve graduated from high school was also filled with pain… If my child had gone to college, she would’ve graduated this year,” she said.
Though it has been 22 years since her abortion, Michaelene still mourns. “This child would now be a young woman with gifts and abilities, hopes and dreams… Her whole life ahead of her,” she said. “There will always be a hole in my heart – a hole in the fabric of our family and our community. My child would’ve been 22 this year.”
Grief after an abortion can last a lifetime and countless women suffer from abortion trauma that puts them at increased risk of depression, alcohol and drug use, and suicidal thoughts. Healing can come by allowing oneself to go through the mourning process, but the pain of abortion regret never disappears completely for many women.
Editor’s Note: For post-abortion help, contact the International Helpline for Abortion Recovery.
Source: Michaelene Fredenburg Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience (San Diego, California: Perspectives, 2008) 25 – 31
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