Waiting for Marriage during the Sexual Revolution: Mistakes I Made

Reading through some of these heartfelt stories from the lives of very real Catholic women is kind of sad; so many of us have been through unnecessary pain. While we all have a different tale to tell, I blame most of the trials on the sexual revolution of the 60’s. This time of “empowerment for women” caused and continues to cause a lot of pain and suffering. I seriously believe that most women would be much happier living in an era when life was much less complicated.

Since I was 15 years old, I have wished I was married in the 1950’s because it seemed to me that men and women respected one another then. They respected the Laws of God and were dedicated to maintaining harmony in the family. But I was born in the late 50’s and lived through the Cultural Revolution. Many of my girlfriends embraced it. They loved the freedom and opportunities that feminism presented, so they went on the pill and were determined to carve a new path for themselves. Not me. My plan was to let God be in charge.

I went to Mass throughout my college career, I pursued the talents that God gave me and I waited. I waited and occasionally I dated hoping to find “the one.” I thought I did everything right, but boys stopped calling me when I told them how I felt about premarital sex. I believed waiting for marriage was honorable, initially. Then it started to become embarrassing and eventually it haunted me.

When I was 21 I had sex just to get it over with. No longer having the stigma hanging over me, I could refuse sex because I didn’t want to do it, not because I was saving myself, which was apparently the kiss of death.

Still single at 24, I moved to a big city because I didn’t know what else to do with myself Lovestamp smallerother than pray constantly for a husband. I tried to date, but city boys were not interested in committed relationships. I became friends with a guy I worked with who was very sympathetic and encouraging. But after lots of conversations, he thought I needed to move out of the “Dark Ages” and embrace the feminist movement. His argument started to get to me. I mean, I wasn’t very happy and it seemed to me that everyone else around me was. They were living it up and I was pretty much waiting for my life to begin. Maybe he was right.

I allowed my life to take a very dark turn. I started having sex with my guy friend, who also happened to be married. It was a terrible sin and I hated myself for it. I broke it off a thousand times, but each time I fell into deep despair. I was painfully lonely and hopelessly in love with him. Then I got pregnant. He handed me $2000 in cash. I wept and I wept and I wept. I was a sinner, and I believed this was my punishment. I was trapped, scared, and desperately alone because I had given up believing in God, as my acts were so shameful. There were no angels to rescue me. I loved this married man and felt in my heart that if I kept the child it would destroy his family, and I believed that would make the sin of the affair even worse. He was my world and I didn’t want to lose it, so I took off from work the Friday of my 8th week of pregnancy and had an abortion.

Nearly two years later, after about 6 months of therapy, I was able to end the relationship for good. It had lasted 4 years and I was so wounded by it, it honestly took me another two years to emotionally move on. During that time, I started to talk to my younger, married sister more frequently. She was critical of the women’s movement and wanted me to leave the city. When we would say our good byes, she would often add, “I’ll pray for you.”

One time she ended the call with an admonishment, “I’ll pray for you,” she said, “but you have to pray too. God wants to hear from you!” All those years I had prayed seemed so fruitless, but with her words I realized how much I missed my relationship with the Lord. Inspired by her admonishment, I gradually journeyed my way back to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. It didn’t happen overnight, yet each step in His direction filled me with great hope and peace. I received the sacrament of Reconciliation, went back to church and began to study my faith for the first time since my 8th grade Confirmation. I also experienced vivid “directional” signs from the Good Shepherd, and I knew He was leading me out of the darkness. God’s generous mercy healed the wounds of my mistakes and I vowed to live my life differently.

After ten years in the city, I finally moved. I wanted to be closer to my family and I thought I needed to discern whether I was called to the consecrated life. One month into my discernment, I met my future husband. He was a kind and gentle man who was also profoundly hurt from the effects of the sexual revolution.

The Cultural Revolution of the 60’s brought about great change that I was clearly not prepared to deal with. My parents raised their daughters to be wives and mothers. My mother didn’t have any idea what the single life was like and thought I was being too picky with men. My home parish was equally clueless and Youth Ministry didn’t exist beyond CYO basketball. There wasn’t any support; I was very confused and it was obvious that the people who could or should have helped were just as confused.

I think the church has come a very long way in addressing the delicate moral issues that youth are confronted with daily, and as parents, my husband and I know we have to be ever-vigilant. Wife/mother and husband/father are admirable goals, but single men and women can also have meaningful and fulfilling vocations. There is no reason to wait for adult life to begin.

 

***EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know has been involved with abortion, or is having an unexpected pregnancy, please contact Project Rachel post-abortion healing or Gabriel Project pregnancy help for confidential support and assistance.

I wasn’t capable of getting past this pain

It is difficult to write this story, though the words have been ingrained in my mind and heart for a very long time. No woman ever gets over the loss of her child, does she?

I was all of twenty-three years, and in a serious year-long relationship with my boyfriend at the time. He was a difficult man to love, and yet I think I loved him deeply. I should mention that I have always been a person with strong maternal instincts, and I’ve dreamed of being a mom someday for as long as I can remember. My boyfriend and I, we were intent on getting married, and our relationship became physical only a few months after we started seeing each other. We tried to be careful and practice safe sex, though I admit, most times we weren’t, and I ended up having to take emergency contraceptive pills. I didn’t use any regular contraceptives.

One day, we messed up. I’m not exactly sure how; maybe we miscalculated the safe days, or I might have taken the emergency pill late. But one day, I realised that my period was late by a week. And I bought a home pregnancy test. My boyfriend came over, and my heart thumped painfully as I waited for the result. Positive.

For a few minutes, I was completely numb with shock. Now I wonder why, since I hadn’t been very careful at all. Then the tears came, and we never spoke the words out loud, but we both had decided that I couldn’t possibly keep the baby. I was living on my own and my very Catholic parents would have been devastated, not to mention my boyfriend, who never stepped up to at least discuss keeping our child. But yes, at the time, it was both of our decisions that lead to it. On the way to the hospital, I thought bitterly, how perfectly fitting this punishment should be, for me to have to willingly decide to give up a gift I’ve dreamt of for so very long.

Things moved like a blur. One moment, I was at the hospital and the doctor had just confirmed my pregnancy (I was 6 weeks along), and somehow she knew that I needed an abortion. And the next moment, I was at her clinic a few days later and being told the procedures for a medical abortion. At home, after I had taken the first pill, I was in tears again. I felt I was losing my mind; I had just read on the internet about the development of babies at 6 weeks, and I wanted to hold those words in my arms and never let go. When I read that babies sense their mother’s emotions even when they are so tiny, I tried to speak to my baby and hope that she would know how much I wished I could keep her, and how I wasn’t brave enough. The next day, I was given the next pill and the bleeding and the pain began, and then it was all over.

Only, it wasn’t truly over. I was deeply depressed. I believe that a woman’s body instinctively senses the wrongness of an abortion. When the body that is created to nurture a living being is forced to reject it, the body knows it and you feel just “wrong.” I would wake up with a heart that felt like lead and would remember the nausea I had felt for those achingly short days, and I would cry about how if I could go back, maybe I might have done the same thing again. I thought constantly about how God, in his mercy, had allowed me to get out of this situation with dignity, and yet, how it all couldn’t remotely compare to the unjustness of my child having to lose its life.

I am sad to say that my boyfriend did not truly understand my grief, nor did he try to help me face it. He is not Catholic; he felt forgiven after a few prayers and wanted us to move on with our lives. Only, I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. I couldn’t even think of confession. I felt that unless I was ready to consider myself worthy of forgiveness, I couldn’t be forgiven by God either. I had decided to fast on the day I would have delivered had I kept my baby. For my boyfriend, it was a ridiculous idea. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t capable of getting past this pain I was in, and was losing patience. Soon I stopped mentioning my grief to him altogether. It was my cross to bear and mine alone. I needed time to face what I had done in its entirety, and I wasn’t willing to sweep it under the rug and forget it ever happened.

I continued to see my boyfriend for 2 years after the abortion. If you wonder why I didn’t leave him right then, it was because I felt that our mistake could be mended if we still stayed together and were able to have other children and raised them as we would have done our first. And yet during those two years, my depression stayed with me. I hadn’t gone to confession and I still hated myself terribly. I continued to be physical with my boyfriend, if only just to feel something, anything, and my skin would crawl with self-revulsion. I was doomed to hell already, why stop? All this while, I was working, was successful, and was ever so charming in the presence of company. It is strange to think how the people who are the happiest on the outside may be living such dark lives on the inside.

The first time I sensed a ray of light was the time I went back home for Christmas that year. My family being so joyful and happy was overwhelming and during Christmas mass, I prayed the most heartfelt prayer I could pray. I asked God to tell me what to do and give me a sign, any sign. He, my ever merciful God, showed me what my life would look like if I continued down the path I was taking, and I realised I could never be fully content with a person I didn’t respect, and feared losing myself completely.

When I got back, I broke up with my boyfriend and quit my job to go back home and be with family. I realised that it was my only sanctuary, where I could try to rebuild myself again. And yet, it has been a long, long road to get to the place I am in right now. For a whole year after I came home I was hurting inside and couldn’t make myself go to confession. It was a vicious cycle and I felt unable to let go. That year, around the beginning of Advent, I was reading up on abortion and the Catholic Church. And when I read that abortion is an excommunicable offense, my heart sunk in my chest. If I was closed off from the Church, what hope was there of my redemption? How was I to go on? And I read further that if the sinner had no knowledge that his sin was excommunicable, then it is not, and that sin is forgivable.

As I read the words, it suddenly occurred to me how egotistical I had been all this while, to presume to understand God’s judgement and think myself unworthy of forgiveness. I had it all worked backwards. If God was able to forgive me, then I could begin to forgive myself. I couldn’t sit still. I called a taxi in the middle of the work day and headed to the church and right to the confessional. As I confessed I broke down and cried and that wall that had hardened over the years crumbled, and the priest then said those magical heart-touching words: “God knows how sorry you are. Your sin is forgiven. Now you must work to forgive yourself and the father of the child. Go in peace.” I felt so light I must have floated out of the church!

It has been two years since and I feel blessed and forgiven. Yes, I still have a long road ahead to absolve myself and maybe I never will. But the love I feel for my child who is with the Lord surpasses it all. There are still nights that I dream of being pregnant and wake up hurting, but I believe that time will find a way to help me heal.
In the many years that have passed, I have analysed my actions and intentions to no end. I would like to say that God has shown me that my past boyfriend was not the right person for me. And now I wait in hope for the time when I am wed to the most perfect person that God brings into my life; and I wait in hope for the time, with God’s grace, I bear children and raise my family to love Him as much as I do. Until then, His love sustains me and keeps me moving forward with hope.

I write my story as a message to all those who have experienced the pain and despair of abortion as I have. If you are feeling lost, know that God is waiting for you to take that tiniest step and say “Help me.” He will come to you in an instant and take away all that pain, I promise you. To those who are still considering abortion, I beg of you to please, please talk to your boyfriend, a parent, a friend, a priest or a counsellor, before you decide to go down this path. Families are most resilient when it comes to situations like this; trust in them. Trust God, for He will help you do the right thing and will give you the strength you need.

God bless!

 

***EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know has been involved with abortion, or is having an unexpected pregnancy, please contact Project Rachel post-abortion healing or Gabriel Project pregnancy help for confidential support and assistance.

Saved from Victimhood

I used to be pro-choice.  I want to tell you the story of how I became pro-life.  It is a journey that lasted many years.

I think I need to start by telling you that as an infant, child, teen, and young adult, I was a victim of abuse.  I was physically and emotionally abused by both of my parents.  I was sexually abused by my father, my maternal grandfather, and my maternal uncle.  The family abuse didn’t happen just occasionally, it was constant.  I lived as a victim in an environment of constant and pervasive abuse.  This type of family life can be pretty confusing and I think it was part of the reason that I didn’t notice some warning signs, and became a victim of date rape my freshman year of college.  It is remarkable that despite all of this, I never became pregnant.

Are you still with me? I’m not looking for pity.  I’m just trying to make it clear that when I was young and vulnerable, I was a victim.  And as I grew older, it became a life goal for me to never be a victim again.

The first time that I remember being aware of abortion was as a junior in college.  It was the mid 80’s and I heard a woman say, “A woman should have the right to control her own body.”  This was the first pro-choice rationalization that I had ever heard.  I was 20.  It sounded logical and so I thought I must be pro-choice.  I didn’t want anyone else controlling my body, certainly not the government!  And so it was, I was pro-choice.

On some level I knew that I had not completely thought it through, but I didn’t see a need to think it through. Through the lens of my victim experience, I knew that I never wanted to be a victim again. I knew that if I had become pregnant from any of my prior abuse, it would have lengthened and increased my trauma.  Also, I was too busy going to college and hanging out with my friends.  I was busy enjoying the freedom of having left the house of horrors that I grew up in.  I don’t remember meeting or knowing anyone that was pro-life.  I don’t remember any pro-life slogans.  It had never been a subject of discussion in my family.  It was never mentioned at church.

I met my husband in college.  Although we were both Catholic, neither of us was well-formed in our faith. We married in the church shortly after graduation.  Before long I became pregnant.  After 13 weeks of nausea and vomiting I started to feel better, but unfortunately I found that I had miscarried.  Through God’s grace I was given the understanding that my pregnancy, my child, was a real baby, not some blob of tissue.  I remember thinking that if my pregnancy was a baby, then it followed that all pregnancies were babies, including those pregnancies conceived in rape.  I had heard politicians saying that abortion was wrong except in the case of rape.  I finally understood this as a false logic.  I wish that in recognizing this false logic, I had become pro-life.  Instead I dismissed the pro-life movement for that false logic and of course I had been influenced by the media coverage of violent pro-lifers; I didn’t want to be a part of what I saw as a hypocritical movement that wanted to save babies but bombed abortion clinics.

Following my miscarriage, my husband and I were blessed with three healthy beautiful babies. Amidst the chaos of child-rearing I was blessed with a conversion to a much deeper faith.  I was no longer comfortable believing just parts of Catholicism, I wanted to embrace all of it. I did on the surface, but deep down I still had my doubts about abortion.  What if one of my daughters was raped, wouldn’t I want to be able to obtain a safe abortion for her?  Wouldn’t I want to be able to end the trauma for her?  I knew I would want to be able to end her victimization.  Thinking about this caused a deep conflict within me – so I didn’t think about it.

As a wife and mother I began having great difficulty dealing with my past.  I sought counseling but I also went to a one-day seminar in my diocese that was given by Dr.Theresa Burke.  The seminar was on helping women recover from abortion and from abuse.  My focus was on abuse and I continued to push abortion out of mind.

It was an excellent seminar.  To my surprise, with the exception of a few counselors and clergy, I was surrounded by post-abortive women.  I was seated at a table of 10 women.  During the course of the day, 8 of these women revealed that they were post-abortive.  Their stories were different in some ways but there was a recurring, resonating theme of victimization.  Some of them were victims of violence like I had been, some of them were victims of ignorance or poor decisions, but they were all victims. They found themselves pregnant and had nowhere to go.  They had no family support and no support from the father.  Or, the family and father offered the misguided support of paying for an abortion.

Our culture and judicial system led these women to believe that abortion was a legal, safe, viable solution to their problem. These women suffered greatly from their decision to abort.  Some said that they were fine for many years before the trauma of their actions hit them, but it did hit, and it hit hard.  They had struggled for years to forgive themselves and find healing. It was ultimately through the Catholic Church that most of them did find healing.

It was sometime during that seminar that I became 100% pro-life and I have never wavered since.  It is abundantly clear to me that women who choose abortion are not ending their trauma or victimization but instead are extending and repeating it.  My heart broke for these women.  As they shared their stories I could easily see how I could have been one of them.

I know that the ultimate victim of abortion is the innocent baby who has had no choice in the matter at all.  However, in a society that approves of abortion, the mothers and fathers are victims as well. In a society that considers abortion a right, can we even see the other choices that we have?

I pray for these victims daily. I am so grateful that in a period of life when I might have joined the ranks of these suffering and victimized women, seduced by the convenience of abortion, by God’s providence I did not.

Dreaming of my Daughter

I was 24 years old, performing at a dinner theater. I had a graduate degree and a whole life ahead of me with aspirations of becoming an actress. That summer I was free as a bird and full of high hopes and dreams. It was sometime in April that I slipped up and spent the night with an old ex-boyfriend, who was no longer in my life. I had always had irregular periods, so I didn’t give it a second thought that it had been a couple of months since my last period. But something inside me made me go to Planned Parenthood to have a pregnancy test. The result was positive. I drove home from work to look in the yellow pages for “abortion.” Since I was close to 12 weeks along, I had to make a quick decision. I made an appointment for the next week, called my ex-boyfriend, told him he needed to come with me and spend the night to take care of me after the surgery, and pay for half. That was that.

Fast forward. Throughout my twenties, I anxiously wondered if I would ever get married and had a few relationships, but none were Mr. Right. I had become irritable, and I came to see that around June 1st of each year I was especially ornery, and I had developed a pretty bad temper – easily agitated, impatient, and intolerant. Constantly keeping busy to numb a guilt I had suppressed, my life was full. But the busy-ness was a mechanism to survive – suppressing the truth of the damage I had done to myself, my baby, and my relationship with God. I was a strong feminist – it was the 80’s after all, and women had rights.

After meeting and dating for four years an exceptionally kind man who respected my intelligence and independence, I married happily, looking forward to a life filled with blessings. He was not ready to have children and I had another four years of waiting. We ended up blessed with 3 boys, but somewhere along the way I was overcome by a great depression. I had visions of a beautiful little girl coming to me in mind’s eye. I knew I was meant to have a baby girl. She was going to be talented, maybe an actress, a dancer, a singer, or a writer. I yearned for her with excruciating pain. My desire for her to arrive was filled with angst and frustration. Why is God punishing me with only sons? Was I destined to live without the life-giving bond that happens with a mother-daughter relationship? Who would truly understand my needs and care for me in my old age?

I sought out other women in my church, to find solace and intimacy in a life filled with diapers and talk of babies. My faith began to grow and I attended a Cursillo, (a weekend retreat of faith talks, confession, and mass). It was there that the Holy Spirit revealed to me the true source of my pain, an unresolved death – I had killed my baby girl 17 years earlier, and she had been coming to me all these years to reveal her existence. She wanted me to know that I only needed to seek her out, come to know her, and I would be forgiven and peace would finally be granted to me. But first I was to undergo the deepest despair and depression I have ever experienced. I attended a Project Rachel retreat, where forgiveness and healing finally began. It took one full year of psychological and faith-filled counseling, several confessions, and much prayer, before I achieved any ability to reconcile what I had done with my faith.

I had been a victim of a society that had taught me that there are no hard values of right or wrong – our rights are a matter of personal choice, and we were to respect any choice. But what those lies don’t tell you is that when you commit a wrong, your conscience beckons until you ask for forgiveness, and then sometimes the hardest part is forgiving yourself.

It was the Catholic Church that provided me with the only true solace I could ever receive, the merciful and tender love of Christ, who took me right where I was and held me in His arms. Once I had embraced the cross with Him, and understood it would be my testimony to witness for His mercy and glory, I began to see a purpose in my suffering and have hope.

Today, with 3 grown sons and the joys and sufferings of their trials and tribulations, I rely on my faith to get me through each day. It is only by trusting that the Lord, in His infinite mercy, wisdom, and love, will work through my daily labors to provide the grace to see me through each day.

 

***EDITOR’S NOTE: If you or someone you know has been involved with abortion, or is having an unexpected pregnancy, please contact Project Rachel post-abortion healing or Gabriel Project pregnancy help for confidential support and assistance.

Healing after an Abortion

Mine is a story of the great compassion, forgiveness and healing I have received through the Catholic Church.  For those who say that the Catholic Church is waging a war on women, I say, “read on.”

I am a Catholic woman. My husband and I have four children.  I go to mass daily, to confession twice a month, and I am very active in my parish.  I also had an abortion.

Abortion is the secret shame carried by a great number of Catholic women.  If we are to believe the statistics, three of every ten women sitting in the pews with us have had an abortion.  That was a shocking statistic to me when I learned of it.

My abortion was thirty years ago.  The circumstances were not unusual: failed birth control, no family support, very low income, no spiritual support, and a newcomer to the area.  I frankly didn’t see any other way out.  I also didn’t know that my decision to have the abortion would affect me for the rest of my life.

I told absolutely no one what I had done.  Only my boyfriend (now my husband) and I knew.  While I was attending mass at the time, I was not going to confession.  After we landed at a church in the Diocese of Arlington, a good friend took me to make my first confession in 25 years. I confessed the abortion, felt pretty good about doing that, and then went on with my life. However, I still carried my secret shame around with me, and not a day went by when I didn’t think about what I had done.  I felt like such a fraud, living this great Catholic life, but with this horrible sin in my past. I cannot fully describe the depth of the shame I felt.  The day of the March for Life and Mothers’ Day were always the worst days of the year for me.

It wasn’t until we had a parish priest who organized healing services that the thought ever occurred to me to talk to anyone about it.  The priest was my regular confessor, and he was already working with me on healing some of the wounds from my childhood.  It was after he prayed over me in a healing service that the Holy Spirit placed it on my heart that I should to talk to him about it.  It took every ounce of my courage, and it was a very painful conversation, but we met and I told him about it.  I was pretty sure he was not only going to throw me out of his office, but out of the Church.  I had read all those examinations of conscience about abortion being a sin that results in excommunication.

That wasn’t what happened.  My priest was incredibly kind, gentle, and most compassionate.  I wasn’t condemned or judged.  He was relieved that I had confessed the sin some years ago.  Then he suggested I go on a Project Rachel retreat.  Was he crazy?  Show up on a retreat for post-abortive women?  Then everyone would know about my secret shame!

I think my priest continued to pray very hard for me, because about a year and a half later, I did go on a Project Rachel retreat.  It was one of the best decisions of my life.  If you are a post-abortive woman, I cannot recommend one of these retreats more highly.  There were eight women on my retreat, and they were of all ages and walks of life. Not only were we not judged or condemned, we were treated like royalty! From the warm greeting at the door of the retreat center, to the many gifts lavished upon us, to the warmth and kindness of the priest staffing the retreat, it was a wonderful experience.  With the help of the Project Rachel team, I took great strides on my healing journey, and I am now more at peace than I have been in years.  And through it all, my confidentiality was assured, and even now, no one knows I went on the retreat except for the Project Rachel team and my confessor.

I hope sharing my story encourages other women to pick up the phone and call Jo at the Project Rachel office (1-888-456-HOPE; projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.org) and register for one of these retreats.  You will receive healing, forgiveness, and hope through this ministry of the Catholic Church.

submitted from Virginia