A flood of memories was slowly creeping into my mind. The first day of kindergarten was met with tears and separation anxiety. Eight more years of parochial elementary training…fears of greatly disappointing God with a mortal sin that could not be atoned for and my parents’ disappointment and horror if they ever found out. So, I numbed these ludicrous thoughts with REASON. Thoughts that were so very reasonable. “I have a career.” “I am single”. “I am not ready for this”. “This is just inconvenient”.
I made the phone call and the very pleasant receptionist reassured me that it would be quick, practically painless, and there would be support if I needed it. She then asked for $300.00 up front.
The appointment was made.
The days that followed were full of opinions and reasonings. Friends were supportive, even encouraging. My counselor gave me the go-ahead. One friend even offered to drive me there and wait till I needed a ride home. Only one offered an alternative view which burned in my mind, but again, I numbed that sentiment with more reasoning.
The night before the appointment I wondered how I got here in the first place. I was an intelligent woman, fairly attractive, liked by most. I had a promising career in the medical field performing cardiac testing …helping to save lives. Granted, I wasn’t in a stable relationship at the time. I kept rebounding. But the reboundee would not hear of the details…he only wanted the problem to be dispensed of. He offered no support, just a few bucks to appease me. The thought I am alone in this plagued me. I cried out to a god I didn’t know. Asked this unknown deity to make it go away. I beat on my belly. Reasoned It doesn’t matter, no one hears you…get on with it. So I slept a restless sleep.
I awakened to the sound of an alarm blaring the dawning of a new day. By the end of today I will be freed of my burden. I would go on with my life as if this never happened.
My friend Debbie picked me up promptly at 8 a.m. We drove to the clinic in Englewood, NJ. As I walked in the door I sensed a dazed-like state on the faces of those who sat in the waiting area. A tv blared out a comedy as women blindly stared at it. No-one looked at each other, only at the comic relief.
I checked in. Name? Driver’s license? Phone number? Emergency contact? Last period? Allergic to any meds? That will be $300.00 cash. A white wristband was placed on me and I sat with the others, blinded by the distraction.
We were called in groups of 3. A hospital gown was given to each of us, then we sat as corralled stock in another waiting area. I glanced over to the girl at my right. Her swelling tummy was visible. It caught me by surprise. Sitting on the stiff seat I glibly thought “at least I’m not that far along.” My guilt was somehow appeased by that thought.
Looking to the other side of the waiting area I noticed 3 curtains where the examination would take place. A nurse guided me behind the curtain onto a stretcher bed as a white coated doctor told me to place my feet in the stirrups. He hadn’t even told me who he was…he just put his latex gloves on and examined. “Eight weeks”, he muttered.
That was it? Eight weeks? Well at least it’s still only tissue.
Doctor No-Name left the room and a nurse asked me if I wanted to be totally anesthetized so I would be completely knocked out or partially…sort of a half-dream state. I opted for the partial, reasoning that it would wear off more quickly and I’d be back to normal with minimal side effects. Immediately, the nurse prepared me for the I.V. that would contain the anesthesia. When it was ready the unidentified doctor came back in the cubicle. He said he’d be inserting something to stretch the cervix.
OK….hang in there…it will all be over shortly.
Within minutes the pain was so unbearable I started to cry out. I can remember the nurse holding my arm as I intuitively reached to stop him from the procedure. I could see him nod at the nurse and before I knew it someone was waking me up and telling me it was time to leave. What? Was it over? Did I miss it? I just wanted to go back to sleep…to sleep it off…maybe never wake up. But this new nurse was abrupt and harsh. She motioned for me to get up and get moving. Debbie had come in the room to help me get dressed.
I felt dazed, dizzy.
I kept leaning on her and apologizing for being so unable to hold myself up. Walking gingerly out past the waiting area I half-noticed a different movie was playing now and a new group of women was staring. I passed the reception desk with not even a reassuring nod from one of them. We walked out the doors into the parking lot. As I was about to enter the car a wave of nausea overcame me and I promptly vomited in the parking lot. We drove home in silence.
Climbing the stairs to my 3rd story attic apartment I noticed that I had that place decorated to a “T”. Everything had its place. It was neat and clean and just about now feeling very empty. Scanning the living room, I searched for a safe place to store the documents given to me by the Planned Parenthood staff, hiding the evidence of my crime. I sat on the floor in the doorway of my bedroom. I felt the slight nausea subside, feeling physically lighter yet emotionally heavier than I’ve ever felt.
A cry sprung forth from a place deep within that I could not identify.
I cried for myself. For the child. I cried for all the women who undergo this. For my loneliness. Throwing my pillow at the wall I cursed the god I didn’t know. I wanted to blame someone for my pain…my parents, my upbringing, the nuns, the father, my culture. I felt myself shaking and weeping for this child that I would never meet. I thought it would all be over tonight, but as it turned out, it was only the beginning of a journey that would take me to a place of self-denigration.
It seemed I must do penance for carrying out this murderous scheme.
In the months following I went from sad to angry to numb. I drank more, ate more, slept more, and participated in destructive behaviors. My dreams were bizarre and I could only run from them. My running became fast and furious. I sabotaged good relationships and desperately desired those who ignored me. An insatiable desire to be loved and wanted burned in my soul. Nothing would satisfy it. Nothing was big enough to fill the empty space of losing a baby because of my own choice.
CHOICE has become a buzz word in the last couple of decades.
I can choose what toppings I want on my hamburger “Have it YOUR way”. Choose what kind of car I want to drive, what career path I want to take, and what friends I will journey with. I can also CHOOSE to end a life.
Granted, it is a life inside of me, nevertheless, it is a separate life from mine…a heart beating independent of mine…brainwaves separate from mine. We are led to believe that CHOICE is always a good thing. It isn’t for the baby. He or she has no choice.
The one place on the planet that appears to be safe and warm…peaceful and quiet…has become a warzone for the unsuspecting. In solace and comfort comes a sudden sound of suction, like the motor of a vacuum cleaner that crashes in on this vulnerable tiny human being. There is no shield, no defender, no place to hide, just sudden lifelessness. This is the end result of such “choices”.
Though my child went through a physical death, I went through an emotional death that was just as sudden and unsuspecting. The years that followed were a downhill spiral…until I met the Healer.
Guilt and shame are unwanted traveling companions. They kept glued to me though I tried desperately to ignore them. They remained, though quieter, yet still very present. I’ve read about women who experience a “post traumatic stress syndrome” after an abortion. They hear the sound of babies crying in their heads, they wake in the middle of the night shaking and fearful.
They are anxious and sometimes harm themselves. I didn’t experience these symptoms. Mine was more underlying, like a low grade fever. I knew something was wrong, but had difficulty defining it. After marrying and having my first child a love so strong overcame me that I couldn’t resist. You might think it was the love for my amazing husband or the fathomless love for a newborn baby.
These were deep and real and overwhelming.
But the love of God was what caught my heart by surprise. He was the One who helped me define what that “something” was. His love broke through my walls of resistance down deep to my pain…that relentless pang of empty that cries out for someone to fill it. When I looked objectively to the sacrifice of Jesus and what that meant to me I realized for the first time that guilt and shame had plagued me for most of my life and the only remedy had been with me all along.
He was the One who cried out in anguish and in triumph, “It is finished”, and He is the One who told those who caught the woman in adultery, “You who are without sin cast the first stone” to her accusers. To her he appealed, “Where are your accusers? Go, sin no more.” He is the antithesis of guilt and shame. Though I carry the memory of my first embryo deep in my heart, I carry the weight of that sin no more.
Now, instead of mourning over the loss, I know that one day there will be a marvelous human who shares my genetics waiting for me on the other side. Memories of that experience still grip my heart and bring me to tears because choices have consequences. I am being held by the One who holds my child and only because of His mercy will our lives mesh together again and we will live in the circle of His love…in a place that is immeasurably safer than a mother’s womb.
For further info, contact Lori: firstname.lastname@example.org
For post abortion counseling, contact your local Pregnancy Care Center