A Need for Compassion
This story was written last week and is shared here with the permission of the author.
I need your compassion, as do many other women like me. I am a post-abortive woman. At the age of 54, I am finally confronting the damage that three abortions have done to me. I was one of the lucky ones: I did not suffer any physical damage to my cervix or womb. But the extent of the emotional, mental and spiritual damage in my life is quite overwhelming to me. Here is a bit of my story - my history, my recovery and my healing.
At 18 in the 60's, I was sexually active and terrified that my parents would find out how I was living my life. Ooops! I got pregnant and the father was long gone. I didn't even know his last name. Now what was I supposed to do? Like many young women at the time I did two things. I got drunk, and I had an abortion. That seemed to be the answer in those days. That answer (that choice) scarred me for life. It changed me forever.
Unbeknownst to me, I spent the next six years running from the anguish going on inside. My drinking and my promiscuity increased dramatically; I discovered some of those wonderful hippie drugs we all loved; I started a deadly relationship with food and yo-yo dieting, and I fell in love a dozen times and couldn't make one of the relationships work. During this time, I did meet the man of my dreams. He was perfect - well, almost. He had one flaw - he was married. So in 1974 when we wound up pregnant, there was only one easy choice - another abortion. I was so drunk the day of that abortion that I do not remember any of the details. That day is a fog to me except for one feeling that has remained - a deep pain.
For the next 11 years of my life, my coping tools all got worse - the drinking, the promiscuity, the food problems, and two marriages falling apart. Then, several things happened that began my long, slow journey of recovery and healing. God blessed me with a son in 1981, and in 1985, God gave me the gift of sobriety. My sobriety eventually led me back to my Catholic faith, which I had abandoned in my college days.
But my return to my faith did not occur until after I had one more abortion. In 1991, my married friend and I were pregnant again. This time I was sober. This time I wanted to keep the baby. I was given a choice - the baby or him. I was angry and hurt. But after so many years of craziness and foggy thinking, I caved in and had my third abortion.
For 36 years I was an ardent pro-choice advocate until circumstances of one wintry day in 2003 again changed me and the course of my life. Due to an ice storm, I couldn't go to my regular church for Sunday Mass. I went to a church closer to home, and after Mass picked up a church bulletin. There was a small box ad about Rachel's Vineyard post-abortion Retreats that gave a web site address (www.rachelsvineyard.org). Being the good computer junkie that I am, I jumped online to the web site. I sat there reading through the site sobbing, with tears streaming down my cheeks. I knew in my gut that it was time for me to deal with my abortions.
I finally attended my Rachel's Vineyard Retreat in April 2004. There are no words to describe this profound experience. What I write about it is fairly superficial detail. Thirty-six years of denial, shame, guilt, pain, sadness, and anger came to an end. I was shown how to look at the abortions through new eyes. I shared my experiences with 10 other post-abortion women. This was the first time I had ever told anyone about this part of my life. The acceptance and love and forgiveness offered to me began my healing. I faced my three children, named them and asked for their forgiveness. Through the miracles of this weekend retreat I know that God has forgiven me, and I am on my way to forgiving myself.
Like all good 60's kids, I wanted a "quick fix", although I knew one weekend was not going to fix 36 years of torment. My healing is a process, a journey just begun. I made my dead children a promise, which I quote in full "I promise you that I will no longer be silent about you. I will not hide in shame or guilt. I commit to turning our pain and sorrow into something good and positive. I will find a way to honor your existence and your deaths. I will let Jesus guide me in memory of you."
I am discovering many ways of keeping this promise. I shared my story with my family. They were all unbelievably caring, loving and supportive. Again I am blessed. Not all post-abortion women get such positive, compassionate responses. Some have families who do not want to hear their stories, who cut them out of their lives, who get angry and mean. That is not what we need for our healing. I pray that all families try to understand the depth of the pain of the post-abortion woman and find compassion.
One of the joys of my retreat was the discovery that I can use my God-given talents for writing and speaking to keep my promise and to, perhaps, help others understand the difficulties of the post-abortion journey. So I am writing letters to editors and articles such as this. I am speaking out when appropriate. I will walk in a Memorial Day parade this year in memory of Luke, Grace and Benjamin. I proudly wear a T-shirt that says "Women Regret Abortion". I will share my story openly and freely. I will not hide in silence, guilt or shame any longer.
I am not a politician or a lobbyist. I am just a 54-year old woman who has discovered what a heavy price I have paid for the three "choices" I made. I will do my part to make sure that all information is provided to women who are considering an abortion. I was never informed of what I might experience after the abortions. My consent was not informed. I will use my experience to let other post-abortion women who are suffering know they are not alone and that there is healing and forgiveness for them, too.
I pray that you, dear reader, will find compassion in your heart for me and for all post-abortion women. With compassion we have a chance for understanding and a chance to heal the gaping wounds of all post-abortion women.
We send our prayers and gratitude to Susan, who wrote this--may she continue to heal and mend, and experience a deep and solid restoration. May her words touch hearts. Bless you, Susan.