Rachel's Vineyard: Promotes post-abortive healing, in the newspaper of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.
MADISON -- Jody had two abortions, one when she was 22 and one when she was 26. She chose both abortions out of fear and confusion. Never before had she felt so angry and alone.
"In my heart of hearts, I knew what I was doing was wrong. But I justified it, buried it, saying: 'it's legal, it must be okay,'" she said.
"I don't remember much after the (first) abortion, except a sense of relief at being over the crisis," she said. "My mom recently told me that in the car on the way home I had cried and said that I felt like the life had been sucked out of me. I attempted suicide a couple months later and ended up in drug and alcohol treatment."
During the second abortion, "it was as if a part of me shut down that day," she said. "I look back and wonder how anyone can experience the trauma of abortion and not shut down. Abortion goes against the very mystery of what is loving, beautiful, and sacred about being a woman. I was deeply wounded. I had no awareness of how my entire life, my entire being had been affected."
After resolving to keep the baby if she became pregnant a third time, Jody miscarried after 10 weeks.
"I began hearing an ad on the radio that said: 'Why when I wanted it, it was a baby and when I didn't, it wasn't?'" she said. "My heart broke into a billion pieces. That was the beginning of a very powerful conversion to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. God was replacing my heart of stone with a heart of flesh."
Road to healing
Jody attended her first Rachel's Vineyard retreat about four years ago, then a second retreat with her mom a couple years later. "During the retreat I was aware that I was being led by the light of Christ, the love and encouragement of the (retreat) facilitators and the other retreatants," she said.
At the first retreat, all the feelings Jody had buried for years came rushing back - guilt, regret, confusion, sorrow, anger, helplessness and hopelessness, despair. But as the retreat weekend progressed, those feelings were replaced by feelings of forgiveness, peace, acceptance, hope, and love, she said.
"I connected with my children. I recognized their humanity and uniqueness. I offered myself as their mother. I welcomed them as my children. I knew that they'd forgiven me, as Jesus had. I have never cried so much - such healing, healing tears," she said.
Rachel's Vineyard gives women and men a safe place to grieve and to begin the journey to wholeness after abortion, Jody said. "I encourage grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and siblings of aborted children to attend a retreat," she said. "I want to encourage women and men to 'be not afraid,' as our beloved John Paul II said.
"Let us not linger, but go forth with the light of Christ and the love and support of so many into the darkness of our pasts. We can be forgiven and set free, free to help others who are struggling, too."
Sarah's (not her real name) abortion took place 26 years ago in January, 1979. She was a sophomore in college and dating a young man she thought she would marry after college.
When her fears about being pregnant were confirmed, Sarah was very afraid, she said, and felt as though she couldn't admit to her parents her mistake of becoming sexually active and still have their love.
She did not share the news of her pregnancy with her parents but instead turned to her boyfriend for support and protection.
"I still remember being shocked at the suggestion my boyfriend made that an abortion was the solution, as he was not ready to be a father," she said. "I felt hurt and rejected and just checked out emotionally at that point."
Sarah's boyfriend made all the arrangements, paid for the procedure, and accompanied her to the abortion clinic. Blocking the abortion from her mind, Sarah said it seemed like a vague, bad dream from her past.
"From my present vantage point, it is clear to me that I lived in deep denial for the next 23 years of the trauma my abortion was to my body, my mind, and my soul," she said. "I was able to function well in my life as a wife and mother to four beautiful, healthy children; however I see clearly now how my relationships with those closest to me suffered from the heavy but unnamed guilt, unworthiness, and shame I was carrying all those years."
Sarah attended a Rachel's Vineyard retreat in November of 2002 in Madison at the urging of her husband, with whom she was finally able to share her past after 21 years of marriage.
"The retreat weekend was the perfect setting I needed to pour out this long-held grief, regret, anger at myself and others, and to replace that with the unconditional love our merciful and forgiving Father offers us through His Son, Jesus.
"I can never undo the horrible damage that was done that day to my innocent child, to myself and my boyfriend, but most of all to the relationship I had with my God, but I do understand now, through the gift of this weekend that Jesus does want to forgive me, and he wants me to forgive myself and others for what occurred," said Sarah. "To a large part I have accepted these gifts of forgiveness for myself and others, something I would never have allowed for myself without experiencing a Rachel's Vineyard retreat.
"Rachel's Vineyard restores hope in lives that feel at times hopeless," she said. "It restores life - not the life of the child, who is at peace now with Jesus, but the life of the mother or father who have been lost, sometimes for years, in the lies surrounding abortion."