Editor’s Note: The following is an abortion testimony that we bring you with limited editing to best preserve the original intent and voice. We hope that this very personal account adds depth to the abortion discussion that is often eclipsed by slogans and slick public relations. This post first appeared at http://postabortionwalk.blogspot.com as is printed below with permission.
Written by Grace’s Mom
Here is the story of my abortion…I include the back story because I think it speaks to many women of my generation who were basically free to do whatever we wanted as teenagers and our parents’ idea of sex education was basically no sex education.
The story of my abortion…
Since I started this blog – I’ve wondered when I would take the time to tell my story as it were. I’m not sure why I’m moved this morning to tell it, maybe because it’s Independence Day and this will be another step toward my independence of the impact this story has on my life today. I apologize for the grammar and structure as with this story – I have to just let it flow out as it comes without going back to edit.
This will be the 4th time I’ve told this story. The first time I told it was to my husband a few weeks after we started dating leaving out most of the details. I told it a second time was to a Project Rachel counselor at my first appointment when she said, “so, tell me your story.” I was surprised at how easily the words came and how with each one, brick by brick it seemed, the weight of my story began to lift.
The third time was at my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat where I told my story after a few others had told theirs. This time it was to a room for of counselors, retreat team, a caring and warm Priest, and my fellow retreatants. What struck me were the similarities of our tales of woe – striking me more deeply were the pieces that set me apart from my retreatants – or most of them. Aside from the two other post abortive women on the retreat as part of the retreat team – I was one that was furthest away from the day I lost my child. The other thing that was vastly different was the condition of abortion clinics between then and now or most recently. The general process is the same, but now it seems since clinics have found their footing – they’ve enhanced their bedside manner a bit. The last thing that really stood out among all the stories I heard that day was that I was the only one that faced the actual abortion utterly and completely alone – at 17 years old. Which, I’ve come to learn in the last year or so has a lot to do with what makes me who I am now.
I don’t think my story is that unique or “special” in any way. I’m simply one of millions of women out there with a similar story and even though there are so many of us hurting from a past abortion – it’s still a very lonely thing. It’s still a lonely place to go in one’s mind even with a supportive and loving husband, even with loving and kind counselors, even with gentle and compassionate Priests … and even with our ever‑merciful and loving Lord who is with me always and for everything.
By way of background…
I lost (or gave away) my virginity at age 15 to my high school sweetheart – who was about as clueless as I was about what sex truly was about. Although – to his credit – he seemed to be more ahead of the game than most of his peers. We felt our relationship to be special of course and we weren’t like our peers who were just jumping into bed for the heck of it. We tried a few times and failed or otherwise chickened out of “doing it.” Being 15 does not lend itself to having a lot of freedom since neither of us drove – but we did visit each other a lot and our parents left us alone enough – and let’s face it – two hormone filled teenagers are going to find a way no matter what. I’ll spare you the gory details of it all – but the thing that is most important about this is that fact that I was so willing to give away my virginity to a 15 year old boy, not aware of my worth, not ever being told that I should wait, not ever thinking or being told of the consequences. Yes, I knew pregnancy was a risk – but not to me! And to put into perspective the skewed mind of two 15 year olds about what sex is…bless his heart my boyfriend did try to make it special, satin sheets and all on his parents bed one afternoon when I rode my bike to his house because he was home alone. In his pubescent 15 year old male mind, he figured that some candle light and – oh, let’s pop in a VHS tape that I found in my Dad’s porn stash to “get us in the mood.” In a matter of an hour I was now thrust into a whole new arena – we watched that tape with wide eyes. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That’s what I’m supposed to do? Okay, got it.
I mention the above, because against the backdrop of receiving zero sex education from my parents and the only information I had was garnered from Seventeen Magazine and my girlfriends who were also testing the waters, my first foray into what sex was a pornographic videotape! No wonder I’m so screwed up.
Anyway, we didn’t chicken out that afternoon and although I have my regrets for ever doing it in the first place I have to admit that it wasn’t as horrible as most people’s tales of their “first time.” I did feel loved (albeit in an adolescent way). My boyfriend was kind and caring (at the time). We felt like we were adults now. And the biggest thing I noticed after was that I now had a power that I didn’t have before. Sex is an awesome weapon when used properly and completely out of context from the way God intended. Especially when you are a teenage girl and your audience is completely governed by hormones.
Fast forward a few months … and I had been using my new found talent to get attention, “love,” admiration, dates, etc. So much so that I dumped my boyfriend for greener pastures because if I could make him “love” and adore me – who else could I get to do the same? I basically had no parental supervision and had gotten my driver’s license and a car at age 16 because I was involved in a lot of activities so my parents didn’t want to drive me everywhere. Talk about freedom – the wrong kind of course – but freedom nonetheless. As long as I was bringing home straight A’s on the report card – my parents pretty much left me to my own devices.
My boyfriend and I broke up and got back together a lot over the next year or so and each time we did, there were plenty of boys willing to take his place. I somewhat realized it, but didn’t care, that these boys weren’t interested in taking me to the movies or on an official date – they knew what they wanted and so did I. And even when I didn’t want it, some took it anyway.
In the summer before my senior year of high school, I stopped getting my period. My periods were always awful and horrible with days of painful cramps, etc. So I was quite relieved that it wasn’t happening anymore. I’m not sure when it actually hit me that I could be pregnant, but I ignored it.
One morning, in the basement, sorting laundry with my Mom – she asked me point blank – to get any underwear I was hiding in my room to be washed. I hid underwear from when I had my period because it was not a pleasant thing and my Mom simply did not understand that I couldn’t help that my periods were so heavy that most feminine hygiene products were not sufficient. So, I told her I didn’t have any. She asked how long since the last time I had any. I said, “I don’t know.” She looked right at me and said, “If you are pregnant, you are out of this house you know.”
I think we both knew at the point that I was.
I can’t remember the exact words following that but I know there was a lot of screaming and yelling and I do remember specifically saying that she never cared what I did. That afternoon she was pouring over the phone book and gave me a few numbers to call. I went into my room – alone – and called the first one. Women’s Health Services of Pittsburgh. Yes, they performed abortions. It’s $300. Yes, they can see me this Saturday. Wear something easy to get on and off like a skirt. No, no one has to come with me.
I remember my mom saying, well “good, that gives me a few days to find $300” and “Don’t tell your father.” Saturday came and off I went early that morning. My Dad was at the kitchen table with coffee – my behavior was nothing out of the ordinary to him. My mom came in my room and gave me $300 in $50.00 bills and told me to not lose it. She told me where to park and walk to the clinic. And off I went. She didn’t offer to come with me – she would have to explain to my Dad where we were going.
I parked on the North Shore close to Three Rivers Stadium. It was cheaper than parking in town. I walked across the 6th Street Bridge clutching my purse and checking the pocket of my skirt from time to time where the money was. My mom said not to put the money in my purse because it could get snatched.
I walked up to the Fulton Building. I don’t remember there being any protesters outside at all and Pittsburgh is basically a Monday – Friday kind of town so it was pretty quiet. I gave my name at the window and sat down. I wasn’t used to being in the City really except for the Arts Festival and the Regatta and other big events. They took me back to give me a pregnancy test. About 10 minutes later, it was confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. And “just in time” too – because it seems like I’m about 12 weeks along and one week more and I wouldn’t be able to have an abortion at all or I’d have to pay extra.
Looking back I wonder why my mom didn’t get me a test to take at home just to be sure before sending me downtown? I’ll never know I guess. There was no wait time after the confirmation of your pregnancy to the procedure – except for a quick stop in a “counselor’s” office. I do remember her. She was blond and cute and most likely just out of college and trying to save the world. We talked for a few minutes, she asked about my boyfriend, and then it hit me like a hammer, I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend was the father at all. I hadn’t even thought about him in the few days that this all happened. I had no intention of telling him because my Mom told me there was no reason to tell anyone. But, thinking about it, it could have been him or it might have been another boy. I’ll never really know the answer to that question either.
I remember her asking if I wanted to talk about adoption, etc. I said no. Next was the procedure room. I had never been to a gynecologist before or had any kind of pelvic examination of any kind so I didn’t know what to expect. There was a nurse and the counselor who stayed with me. The nurse explained the procedure to me and I saw the stirrups for the first time. The room was bright and cold. I didn’t change into a gown of any kind – now I know why they said to wear a skirt. There wasn’t much to do before the procedure because at that time there was no anesthesia given at all.
After I was “prepped” the doctor arrived. He never looked at me. He never told me his name. He never talked to me – he talked to the nurse. The counselor talked to me. If you are a woman, you know how horrible a speculum can be even when you know it’s coming – but when you don’t it’s a torture device. Then a clamp on my cervix. I really didn’t even know what a cervix was. The tears start to fall; the counselor held my hand and told me it’s going to be alright. I stare at the ceiling. The doctor is poking and prodding. I feel the cannula. The machine is turned on. It sounds like a vacuum cleaner. On and off. On and off. Checking. Back on. Checking. Back on. More tears, but I don’t make a sound. I don’t talk. The doctor says, “Almost done, I’ve got mostly everything.” The machine shuts off the final time. I remember hearing the gurgling sound of wherever my child is now being deposited. At that time, it’s not a child to me; it’s just tissue because that’s what the counselor told me. It’s not a baby yet, it’s too early.
I know now what a 12 week old baby looks like.
The doctor leaves the room, the counselor helps me to sit up and fix my skirt and I’m walked to the recovery area. A room full of reclining chairs, about 10 or so. Some girls are crying, one is filing her nails. One is getting scolded by her mother in some other language. I am the only one who is alone in my chair, curled up, feeling the cramping starting. I’m given something to drink and a cookie or two. I’m given some birth control pills and some other pamphlets that don’t fit in my purse so I keep the pills and toss the papers on my way out the door. I walk back across the bridge, in pain, with a bulky pad between my legs. I remember where I parked my car. I get in, start the car, and blast the air conditioning and drive home.
I get home, my Dad is now on the deck outside. I say hi and go to my room and lie down. My mom comes in, pulls down my blinds and before she closes the door she asks if I need some Tylenol. I nod yes. Before she goes to get it she says, “We will never speak of this again.” She brings me some Tylenol. I sleep for what seems like a day or so. The next day, I’m off on a day trip to Ohio with my boyfriend who I’m back together with. The day trip gets cut short because of my cramping and bleeding that I’m trying to manage. My boyfriend thinks it’s my period so no questions there. I let him drive my car back home and I go back to bed.
My life is changed forever. I have killed a baby, my baby. I take that fact and all the feeling s with it and stuff it down as far as I can. The feelings lie in the darkness of my soul for years.
That’s the story of my abortion as I remember it. I remember it every day.
Here is a post reflecting my journey of healing…I wrote this on the anniversary of my Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat.
Look at me…
As I approach the evening hours tonight, I delve deeper into my memories of my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat last year at this time. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been a whole year, other times it seems like a week ago, and there remain moments when I feel like I never went at all. That is when I pray for the graces that I received that weekend to return to me, to my heart and my mind and buoy me until I can plant my feet firmly back on the ground of my truth that thankfully is getting stronger and stronger each day.
I often will list (and re list and visit the old lists) of the positive and reparative things I’ve done and taken on since this journey begin. It helps to remind me of the good that has come of all of this. It helps me in my moments of darkness when the enemy is nipping at my heels and every other part of me that is exposed. Sometimes, too, the enemy has a way of barging right in on me without warning, bypassing the sneakiness that is usually employed. But, I remain strong in my faith and say a silent prayer and repeat as necessary. Reflecting on everything is also a good reminder that this will always be a part of me. I lost a child and that sad fact will remain with me until the end of my days. What matters now is how I deal with that fact.
I left that retreat with a full heart and I remained quite puffed up for some time. However, I did descend from the mountaintop eventually, and fears and doubts returned a bit. My cyclical life-long depression returned, luckily recognized and managed quickly. I was offered and accepted additional Project Rachel counseling and continue with it to this day.
Of all the things that I gained on that weekend, the event that changed my life for good was the adoration of our Lord.
At the start of my healing journey, I had just discovered adoration, not having much experience with it before. I even Google’d it before a 40 hours adoration that my parish had to see what I was to do there. I didn’t feel remotely worthy of being in the presence of our Lord in that way. My belief in the Real Presence has permeated my life through times of devoutness and times of being a lapsed Catholic at best. I have never believed in communion in the hand because my hands aren’t sacred, but I refrain from receiving differently because of my own insecurities. The fact remains that I don’t feel that I should be handling our Lord like that.
I went to my Church during 40 hours and sat way towards the back of the church. I saw the kneelers right in front of Our Lord and oh, how I longed to be brave enough to kneel right there, that close to Him. I stayed in the back and would glance up occasionally.
We are fortunate at our parish that there is adoration once a week, all day. However, it’s in the Chapel, a much smaller and intimate setting and a terrifying reality for this unworthy servant. I would always take a seat in the back rows of the chapel. The kids from school come to adoration for a small time throughout the day, and some of them sit in the front row. I thought how brave they are! Of course, my mind set was that they hadn’t had an abortion so of course they were welcome up front!
One time I had the whole Chapel to myself and I tried to talk myself into moving up closer. I thought about what would happen if I lay prostrate on the ground before Our Lord. My luck would be that someone would definitely come in at that moment. But I thought, just maybe, if I did that I would make myself worthy if I physically threw myself down at His feet pleaded for mercy, mercy that I would actually feel and know to be true.
All of those times spent at adoration along my journey, I lived in constant fear of being “found out.” Like a big “A” was blazoned on my forehead. I wasn’t worthy to be in His presence. How dare I even think about approaching Him? Just like that woman in the dust and dirt reaching out to Him – but I never reached out or looked up.
Throughout the counseling leading up to my retreat, I started to open the door, ever so slowly, to the idea that I was worthy and that no sin was greater than His mercy, that He actually wanted me there, that He was waiting for me.
I found that the more I went to adoration, the better I felt. I started to look for adoration hours wherever I could find them when I had time to go. [Note to self: we need an App for Adoration Times… Jesus is here! ] Many years ago, churches were open all the time and you could visit whenever you felt the inclination or need. Now, you have to call the church and talk to the sometimes dreaded parish secretary about getting into church and then most likely have to explain why.
This leads me to the adoration that changed my life for good. We had scripture mediation in the chapel at the retreat and a Marian Monstrance was displayed. Kind of like the picture I have included. It’s basically the image of Mary and she is holding our Lord. They draped some fabric over it to symbolize Jesus’ garment. People took turns approaching the kneeler and touched the garment and asked for what they needed from Him.
This particular meditation was torture for my soul. I couldn’t move from my seat. I was 3 feet from our Lord, closer than I had ever been and I was racked with sobbing that I tried to muffle as best I could. I never did take my turn at the kneeler and the exercise ended. In His great providence, the retreat leaders said they would have the same set up through the night for “anyone” who wanted to visit later. I went back to my room, threw out my decimated contacts, popped in some new ones and went to dinner.
Late that night after a long talk with a very kind and gentle Priest, I tiptoed up to the Chapel and found it empty except for Him. I walked right up to that kneeler and shook as I knelt down. The cloak lie somewhat over the top of the kneeler and I was careful to avoid touching it for I was still in my despair and afraid. I was afraid to look up. In the quiet of the Chapel in the candlelight, with the sounds of nature outside, I heard His voice.
“Look at me.”
And I did. I looked up and saw Him, in His mother’s arms. Mary led me to her Son reminding me that although He was the Word made flesh, He was her son too. Mary loved and cared for him just like I have loved and cared for my children. This Marian Monstrance reminded me that even He, at many times in His life, needed His Mom to hold him. Mary lived her life loving Him and adoring Him.
I began to feel that my adoration “from afar” was not what He wanted from me. I could adore Him in the same way I was learning to love Him. Mary illuminated His humanity with the fullness of who He was – all at once. Surely, I could meet Him this way and be this close, and look up and gaze upon His humanity and divinity contemporaneously. Mary was becoming my model for adoration in that moment. She was teaching me to hold Him too, within me, close to my heart and to fiercely protect His presence in me.
I was able to ever so slowly move my fingers just a bit and hold a piece of that garment in my hand and I felt His mercy reign down over me and through me. The tears came again and this time I dried them with His garment because I was worthy of His care. I was worthy of His love. I was worthy of His mercy.
Since my retreat, I still go to adoration whenever my busy life as a mom permits. I’m the one on the kneeler right in front. I haven’t tried to prostate myself yet but it’s not out of the question. After Mass, when our Priests are in the back to say Hello, I often will reach out and offer a loving pat on the arm, but I have ulterior motives in addition to wanting to show my love for our Priests. It allows me to just touch a piece of their vestments, just for a second, as a reminder that I am worthy of the Christ who he represents.
“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone?
He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him,
and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…” – St. Therese of Lisieux
The rest of my story and continuing journey can be found on my blog at postabortionwalk.blogspot.com.