A New "Audience" — Revealing Your Abortion to Your ChildrenBy Annie Banno
Many questions came pouring in after my first column about going public with my abortion in the context of the new organization, SILENT NO MORE. "What was your son’s reaction?" "How do I tell my story without bringing my young children into it?" "What age is right to tell them?" "How do I answer the question, ‘What happens to aborted babies who don't get baptized?’" "How do I deal with my fear that telling them will change the way they look at me?" In upcoming columns I intend to answer each one, so bear with me!
My son is handling it well, but my life story may be different from yours. I’m a divorced/annulled Mom of eleven years, raising my son essentially alone. My guidance has been very influential. We are very close and I still get lots of hugs (though he would kill me if he finds out I said so!).
I’ve always been honest with my son in admitting my mistakes. I want him to feel safe coming to me with his own mistakes, no matter how intimidating this may be. When the feeling of "Mom, how would you know what I'm going through?" arises, he’ll know that I'm human too. Moreover, he’ll be equipped with concrete proof as to why he should always avoid the tempting, sinful path in life.
He was shocked when I revealed my secret to him last year (then age twelve). I had written a letter to the editor of a local newspaper describing my pro-life story and expressing compassion for others in my shoes. It was designed to counteract the violent, hate-filled stereotypes so often used to characterize our side. When I was told it would be printed, I decided to prepare my son, rather than risk having him learn of it from classmates in school.
As I cried telling him how sorry I was, he hugged me, and consoled me with words I used on him when he was little: "It's OK to cry, Mom. Just let it out." Then he said, "It's not your fault." I replied, "Yes, it really was. But I believe God forgives me. I hope you will too." He said, “Of course, I forgive you. You’re my Mom.”
The next day, he remarked incredulously, "So…I have a big sister in heaven?" Then he wanted to name her!
My son accompanied me to the final event on my recent Rachel’s Vineyard weekend, a memorial service where family members are invited, even encouraged to join, where we Moms read the letters we had written to our children in heaven. I realized there at the event how much I wanted him there. I had called his father, whom I had to beg to drive him from an hour away, after first borrowing a car from someone else who had to change her plans.
It was truly a miracle and a prayer answered. I didn't know until an hour before if my son would be there. I wanted him to be present to acknowledge his sister and to know how much he had helped me by his compassion. He came up with me and stood by me while I read my letter to my daughter, Erin Madeline, unable to stop the tears. As he comforted me and began crying himself, I was beyond moved. He put his hand on my shoulder, rubbing my back as I tried to read. Everyone was crying. Then my son was named in front of the whole group as "the brother of Erin Madeline."
He wasn't scheduled to stay after the service for the Mass, but after listening to the others' letters, he said he didn't want to go to his sports practice after all. So we stayed, and he even altar-served Mass! I am so amazed by him and proud of him…and grateful to God for him.
Several women on the retreat were deeply awed by his composure and greeted him with huge hugs. They'd been afraid to tell their own children and family members, but wanted to. Seeing the great love with which my son responded to my confession gave them the courage and hope to pray for the right way, words and moment to tell their kids and seek forgiveness from them.
I finally realized that God has blessed me with two wonderful children, both of whom have been given the gift of compassion for me, their Mom. And I realized that I don’t have to be ashamed anymore.