Stories

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.

The Pill ‘for Medical Reasons’ and that Slippery Slope

So, here goes. My birth control story.

When I was 19 years old, I came home from my first semester of college and begged my mother to take me to the gynecologist. I had been having irregular periods for about a year. So off we went, to the gynecologist appointment together: me, a 19-year old college student and virgin, and my mother, a devout Catholic very much opposed to the birth control pill.

You can surely see where this is going.

The appointment that followed may still be counted among the most horrific, humiliating experiences of my life. So, there at my very first doctor’s appointment excepting my pediatrician and orthodontist, the doctor was examining me while asking me health history questions. “Are you sexually active?” he inevitably asked, without looking up. “No,” I answered truthfully.
Next thing I know, he’s explaining that I am going to feel something cold, and before I have time to react, I am in the midst of my first (UNNECESSARY) pap smear. It. was. excruciating. I remember limping in pain out of the office 30 minutes later. He tells me to get dressed and meet him in his office. There in his office, he begins his sales speech for the pill. He tells me that it will fix the abnormal bleeding that I’ve been seeing, and help to regulate my periods. He goes on to say that it has the added benefit of treating acne, and that my skin will clear up while I’m taking it. And finally, he closes with, “And when you meet that special someone, it is a very effective form of contraception!”

My head was spinning. I remember asking how long I had to take it, and he said 6 months should be enough to get my periods back on track. OK, I thought. I can handle 6 months. It sounded like a pretty quick fix, to me. 6 months of medication, during which time my periods would be normal, and then when I came OFF the medication, they’d be normal once again from that point on.

Oh how silly and uninformed I was.

As I limped out of his office and into the waiting room, I was greeted by my mother who had a look of worry on her face. I think Abby Johnson said it best when she wrote that if only we based more of our decisions on what would make our mothers happy and proud of us, we would be so much better off. My mother knew all along, without REALLY knowing, that this was the beginning of my demise.

Still in a daze, I handed the sheet of paper the doctor had given me to the woman at the front desk. I assumed it was a follow-up sheet that I was to give to the front desk to schedule my next appointment. Then I was startled out of my daze and back into humiliation when the lady shoved the paper back at me and quite loudly quipped, “This is your prescription for birth control pills. I don’t need this!” Talk about mortification.

In case you haven’t already guessed, 6 months later when I came off the pill, my periods were anything BUT regular. However, in that interim, I had started to get used to the idea of being a sophomore in college with periods I could rely on, and more importantly, with beautiful, clear skin… especially since I was looking and waiting for a boyfriend. Now that I had stopped taking my pills, what I saw looming ahead of me was a return of crazy bleeding and acne flare-ups. NOT appealing. I told my mom I had to go back on them, but she wasn’t convinced. So off we went to gynecologist #2.

Gynecologist #2 was a very educated man, and after a brief physical exam (no pap smear), he took me to his office, and drew me pictures of ovaries with lots of tiny cysts on them. I had no idea what he was talking about, and frankly, I didn’t care. I just sat there politely pretending to listen, waiting for him to hand over the prescription for my happy pills. Which of course, he did. This time with instructions to stay on for one year.

By the end of my sophomore year, I had fallen deeply in love with a guy I had met on my first day and told my friends back home he was the one I would marry. And to my surprise, by the end of my sophomore year, he had fallen in love with me, too. We had dated briefly right before he went to study abroad (he was a year older), and now he had just come back and we were back together and very serious.

You can surely see where this is going.

About two months into a “very serious” relationship with the man I was convinced I would marry, I somehow went from virgin to … well, not. I say somehow because it wasn’t at all planned or necessarily talked about and decided. We had been physical already; such is the nature of college life, and I was no stranger to “hooking up,” but at the same time was very proud that I had not given away my virginity to just anybody. I knew that I believed in the teachings of my Church. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. But in my mind, I rationalized that sex was reserved for marriage because you are only meant to do that with the man you are married to. I really didn’t understand the complete beauty of sex at that point, but I was about to begin my education.

I remember that night vividly. Or maybe I should say that memories from that night continue to haunt me. I distinctly remember that we were very close to going that far, but still not quite there, when he suddenly jumped up and ran to his desk. I asked him what he was doing, and he said “Getting a condom … just … in case….” For some stupid reason, I assumed he meant “in case” he went too far and we were at risk for pregnancy. (I may have been stupid about the pill, but I did know about contact pregnancy.) I told him “It’s ok, I’m on the pill.” To which he pill packsresponded, “Oh… well… are you sure?” (This guy was not really known for his ability to articulate and convey an actual message.) And I responded, “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s to regulate my periods, but it still ‘works.’” (I realize now he was basically asking me if I was sure that I wanted to have sex with him. So, basically, one of the biggest decisions of my life came down not to a well thought-out weighing of consequences, but rather an ambiguous exchange of “Are you sure?” “Yeah, I’m sure.”)
And so, ignoring the underlying guilt I continued to feel every once and a while, we continued being intimate. Over Fall Break, my prescription for the pill was up, and this time I was adamant about staying on it. I threw a fit when my mother suggested I stop taking it for a while and see if my cycles normalized; because now, I actually needed that pill for contraception. But at the same time, both of us were not satisfied with the fact that no one had any answers for me about my health. WHY was I bleeding like this? WHY were my periods so irregular to begin with?? So we agreed to go together to Gyn/Midwife #3, recommended to us by my older sister. I was absolutely convinced that whether she gave us answers or not, I would be able to get more happy pills from her.

Gyn/Midwife #3 took me in her office first, alone. There she asked if I was sexually active, and I responded truthfully that I was. She explained that she wanted to run a couple of tests on me, some blood-work and an ultrasound, to find the issues that were causing my weird cycles. So we made a follow-up appointment for the following day for the ultrasound. On our way out of the office, I remember the ultrasound tech at the front desk asking me if I was a virgin. Of course being in front of my mother I said, “Yes,” and she got a look of concern on her face and said, “Oh, wait a second, we can’t do this type of ultrasound that was ordered. Hold on, let me go tell the doctor.” My face must have turned beet red. The tech came back, made minimal eye contact while she quickly said, “OK, it’ll be fine, just come tomorrow as scheduled.”
After the ultrasound and blood-work, the Midwife took me back into her office and explained my diagnosis: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I finally had an answer for all these years of crazy cycles! She was pretty detailed in her description and finally told me the solution: (I know you’ve guessed it) The Pill. I was to stay on the pill up until the time I decided I was ready to have children. (I was 20 years old at the time.) Now this next part I remember verbatim. I asked her: “Will being on the pill that long have any adverse effects on my ability to become pregnant when I want to?” (See, I was worried about my fertility even back then.) Her answer: “Oh, no, on the contrary: being on the pill tricks your body into thinking it’s pregnant every month, so when you want to become pregnant and come off the pill, it should be very easy!”

I was sold. This stuff was the best thing on planet earth.

Back to school I went, and me and my boyfriend continued our physical relationship up until I was about to study abroad for a semester. Soon before I left, we discussed our plans for the future, and he said he wanted to take a break. A break?? I. FREAKED. OUT. What did he mean a BREAK?? We were going to get married, what in the world did he need a BREAK for?!?! Didn’t he realize what I had given to him??!! Inevitably, because I was not very agreeable when it came to the “break,’’ we ended up breaking it off for good instead. I was completely devastated. It was one of the lowest points of my life. It was as if I had just lost my husband, because, in a way, I had. I say that because I had given myself to him physically, in a way that I had always intended (and God had always intended for me) to give myself ONLY to my husband. I thought that if not in word, we were at least “physically married.” But now what were we? What would we ever be? Everything was, in an instant, completely upside-down and backwards. What I didn’t realize is that it had already started out backwards.

So then I left for Italy, and while on the plane from NYC to Venice, I sat right next to a very attractive guy with whom I would wind up spending the rest of my life. We hit it off immediately, exchanged phone numbers, and began talking on the phone frequently, in Italy. Eventually, he invited me to his roommate’s birthday party, and we officially began dating.

Now, in my mind, when I began dating my future husband, it was to be an Italian “fling” to help me get my ex out of my system. I still had a very unhealthy attachment to my ex that I just couldn’t shake, and looking back it makes perfect sense why I felt that way. Because sex, as beautiful and life-giving as it is, is only MEANT to be shared with one person, one spouse, one partner for life.

Surely you see where this is going.

Way too soon, and way too impetuously, I slept with my new boyfriend (and present husband). And it worked… almost. I felt a physical detachment from my ex right after that, but I was still very much in love with him. And this poor new guy I was dating, well, he was just the catalyst to help me heal what couldn’t really be healed.

I started to notice that my new boyfriend was quickly falling in love with me, but I did not, could not reciprocate the feelings. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Hadn’t I always told myself I would only sleep with ONE man, and now here I was sleeping with someone I didn’t even love?? What a fast and furious downward spiral my life had taken, and I hadn’t even had time to sit back and reflect on it.

Flash forward a couple years or so, when both of us were back in the States, still dating (long-distance), still sleeping together. He was a man I now loved. At a certain point my birth control pill prescription expired, so off I went to another doctor. I was never worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it refilled, in fact, the thought never crossed my mind. I pretty much just had to ask for it and it was mine. No exam, no blood-work, no other tests. So when one day the pharmacy charged me full price for them because my insurance didn’t cover it, I was up in arms. “What??? What do you mean? I’ve ALWAYS had it covered!!” The pharmacist didn’t know what to tell me, but finally asked, “Do you work for a Catholic organization?” “Yeah.” (I had just started working as a Kindergarten teacher in a Catholic school.) “Oh, that explains it. They don’t cover birth control.” I was livid. “But this is for a medical purpose, I’m not on it for birth control,” I practically yelled at the poor girl. But her hands were tied.

I refused to pay the full price for months on end, so I got one more month’s worth and prayed for the best. Over the past 3 years, there had been several months in between prescription refills when I didn’t take the pill, and we just used condoms. But I HATED condoms. Absolutely loathed them. I felt like there was a foreign thing in my body that did not belong there and was not supposed to be there, and it made me physically sick. I think about my reactions back then and see that I had the truth all along: I knew in my heart what human sexuality was all about, what sex was intended to be, but my being on the pill blurred that crystal clear vision to the point where I could not see the whole picture. There was a time when I never would have thought of using a barrier method. Now it was just a necessary Plan B.

A month later, we were engaged. We planned to become celibate once we were engaged and would wait until marriage to resume our sex life. (See what I mean? Warped indeed.) But when we got married and became intimate again, nothing was new, nothing was exciting. In fact, I remember for the first 6 months or longer feeling guilt every time we had sex. It was a feeling I just couldn’t shake – why NOW did I have this overwhelming guilt? Our marriage, while legitimate in the eyes of God, began on a rocky slope, and it felt like we had to constantly struggle to stay on our feet, specifically in regards to our sexuality. I felt like the bonding element of sex was not bonding us at all, and instead almost became a hurdle to our union.

And then came infertility. The biggest hurdle to our sex-life.

I don’t think any woman (or man for that matter) could say that infertility didn’t have some negative effects on their sex life. But in our case, it added a curveball to an already disrupted foundation. Over the past 5 years, we have worked through most of these issues, but I always wonder how much easier it would have been, and could have been, if I had made different decisions.

Being on the pill for 6 years wreaked havoc on my reproductive system. Syndromes and diseases like PCOS and endometriosis were exacerbated over those 6 years, and the pill masked them to give me the illusion of normalcy and perfect health. But the worst thing the pill did to me was wreak havoc on my sexuality. From the moment I got my first prescription, I knew I was safe “just in case,” and almost overnight my plans and goals shifted from long-term whole person well-being to short-term physical and emotional satisfaction.

I can’t change my past, though often I wish I could. All I can hope is that God continues to heal my soul and my marriage. And praise Him, every day I see it happening more and more.

And that’s my story.

Until Death Do Us Part

Until death do us part.
We repeat these words, and we think we understand what they mean. Marriage is an earthly state. We get that. And we don’t really want to think about that stuff anyway–richer, poorer, sickness, health, that’s hard enough. But death is what happens after the kids are grown and you get through the other hard stuff, like potty training and teaching the kids to drive. And besides, you’ll grow old together, and you’ll have time to talk about all that end-of-life stuff together.

Somehow “death” means our own death. When I die, we will be parted.

But what happens when we’re the ones left behind?

And what does it mean “Until…”? What happens after that?

I’m 47 years old, and a widow. Even writing it seems strange. My marriage ended on August 26, 2011, when my husband Britt died, “suddenly and unexpectedly,”  as I’ve learned to tell people. We had met when we were teenagers, and were married almost 23 years. I had never lived without him my adult life. His death parted not only us, but 6 children who were 5 to 19 years old. The days and months, the first year, afterward are a blur. I really don’t remember a lot of what happened. I was cared for by my parents, 8 siblings and their husbands and wives (and if ever there was a case for a large family, this is it!), neighbors, and sometimes total strangers who signed up on a school signup sheet, who cooked for us, carpooled my children, mowed my lawn, cleaned my gutters and prayed for us. It has only been the last few months that I have been able to begin to contemplate, what next?

A lot of well-meaning people tell me “He’s an angel in heaven now,” or “He’s watching you from heaven.” Well, to say he’s an angel in heaven is no different than saying he’s a squirrel in a tree watching me. As Catholics we don’t believe that. But for the first couple years I did wish that I would “feel” him somehow, get some sign from him that he was indeed watching me, from heaven or anywhere. In my widow support group others shared stories of finding coins just when they were thinking of their husbands, or being able to have conversations with and dreams about their husbands. I had one very well-timed dream that I do believe God gave me as a gift, but other than that I don’t feel Britt with me, and it has really saddened me. Maybe I’m not listening, maybe I’m not trying hard enough, or maybe he really has just left me. Where the heck is he, and does he even care about us anymore? Is that it? I have no connection to him anymore? Just days after his death one of my daughters asked the question, “Does Daddy miss us?” How do you begin to answer that one?

I used to go to bed at night and reword the prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” and instead ask God to take my soul. I wondered, if Britt is in a “better place,” why can’t I be there, too? If our hope is to be united with Christ, why do I have to wait? You’ll be glad to know I don’t wonder that anymore. I have a theory now, and the best way for me to explain it is in book terms. I’m a reader, a librarian, so this works for me. I have gotten such peace from this.

The rest of my life is like a book that Britt had already read. He finished it a while ago, but I’m still slogging through. It’s a great book with a great ending, and he can’t wait for us to be able to talk about it together, maybe see the movie when it comes out. But he’s letting me finish it first. He’s not tapping my shoulder every few pages asking me how far I am, what’s happening. He’s quietly letting me savor the pages. He knows what happens, so he’s not bothering himself with watching my page-by-page progress. He has much better things to do, and I can forgive him for that!

So that’s the way I imagine him. He knows we’re all here; he sees the end; but he knows this isn’t the important stuff. When I get to a really sad part, he is sad I’m going through it, but he knows it gets better. Even the big stuff–my daughter’s first date next weekend, the father-daughter dance–yes, I’d love for him to be here, and I’m so sad for my kids that he’s not– but I don’t think he’s “missing” it.

And maybe my relationship with the saints and with Christ is the same way. Maybe I don’t need to worry that I’m not “feeling” God talk to me, or I’m not getting the answers to my prayer requests. On the very worst days, when it seems God has forgotten to look out for me, I need to remember He’s there. A priest told me that when he offers mass he imagines all the saints and souls of the departed are at the altar with him at the moment of consecration. The Communion of Saints. Britt may not be a saint, but he’s another voice up there for me. If I can think of him this way, then I can feel closer to the communion of saints and to God. I know they’re all waiting for me.

We believe that marriage should bring us closer to God, that our spouse will deepen our relationship with God, and that God is a partner in our marriage. Even though my marriage has ended, my spouse can continue to lead me closer to God, just as he did in life.

I just need to finish the book.

Porn Almost Destroyed my Marriage

So. Pornography.  I have been watching this website for a while and I hoped that someone else would write about this. Hasn’t happened.  I wish I didn’t have a story to tell, but maybe if I tell my story it will help someone else avoid or end a pornography story in her life.  I hope that when you read this you are shocked and outraged at how naïve or stupid I was, because that would mean that you are much better equipped to defend yourself against pornography than I was.  Here goes.

When my husband and I were dating, I knew that he possessed a couple of old Playboy magazines.  I never saw them.  I never found him viewing them.  They were old.  I think the story was that he had found them under his older brother’s bed one day and kept them.  I really didn’t give it much thought.  I wasn’t very familiar with men.  I didn’t have brothers.  I didn’t have close male friends.  I’m not sure, maybe I thought it was just a “male” thing that I hadn’t been exposed to.  What I had read in novels led me to believe that a Playboy magazine under the bed was possibly a rite of passage.  This was before the internet, before internet porn.

Shortly after getting married we moved into a new house in a neighborhood that was new to us.  One weekend we went to the local video store to rent a movie.   When we went inside, my husband disappeared into a back room labeled “Adult.”  I didn’t even realize what was in there.  He came out after a few minutes and wanted me to join him.  I went in with him and it took me about 2 seconds to realize that I was not interested in the videos on those shelves.  I was repulsed.  I left.

My husband rented an adult movie and brought it home to watch.  I refused to watch it with him. He told me that I was a party pooper.   It was a tense weekend.  He continued to go back and rent adult movies a few times a month.  He would pressure me to watch them with him.  It was a big source of tension between us.  I would tell him that they were wrong and I wasn’t interested.  He would tell me that I was frigid and a prude and there was nothing wrong because we were married.  I didn’t know how to articulate it but in the depth of my being I knew these movies were wrong.  Just thinking about my husband watching them would cause a cloud of darkness and shame to wash over me.  I was Catholic, but I didn’t know my faith, didn’t even know what a catechism was, let alone that I could consult it.  I couldn’t ask my sisters; I was too ashamed.  I couldn’t consult the internet; it didn’t exist.  I was isolated and discouraged.  His persistence started to wear me down and I started to believe him.  Maybe there was something wrong with me.  Why didn’t I want to watch these movies with him?  Why did I feel like he had been with another woman when he was only watching a movie?  He wanted me to join him.  I was his wife.  Was I supposed to join him?

Marriage was not what I had thought it was going to be.  My husband’s new hobby cast a shadow over every aspect of our marriage.  I was miserable.  I gave in and began watching the movies with him.

He was happy, or at least superficially he was.  Most days, I felt dead inside for the length of each movie.  It was as though I turned myself off and retreated  into myself to avoid what I was subjecting myself to. There were other days though, days when I found myself curious and enjoyed a  moment of the movie.  Those moments of enjoyment were followed by confusion, shame, remorse, and a deep darkness.  What was happening to me? What was I becoming?  The darkness wasn’t over when the movie ended either; it lingered.   It became something that I endured once or twice a month in order to keep peace in my marriage.  What irony!  I watched pornography to try to improve my marriage.

And then we moved to another state.  Two beautiful, joyous, wonderful things came along with that move.  First, there was no adult movie store in our new neighborhood, so the movie viewing stopped! (Praise be to God, still no internet!)  Second, after a few years we started attending church.  By the time we started going to church the internet was a reality and so was internet porn.  Thankfully my husband did not return to his porn usage.  One Sunday our pastor preached about the evils of pornography.  I was so happy and relieved. I finally had someone on my side! I also finally had some understanding of the Church’s teachings about it.

CCC 2354   Pornography…offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.  It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actor, vendors, the public),…it is a grave offense.

Basically, sex is something filled with beauty and dignity and watching others do it degrades it.

There were so many other joys that came with learning about and practicing my Catholic faith.  So many wonderful resources, and the sacraments as well.  The sacraments of the Church are transformative.  Confession gave me absolution and helped me to forgive myself, to let go of the shame.   It took time and counseling before I forgave my husband.  In the words of my counselor “your husband was young and stupid.  He knows better now, and his actions show it.  Forgive him; let go.”  Marriage is a journey to Christ, and our detour into pornography was both damaging and dangerous.   But the beauty of Catholicism is that all things can be redeemed through the sacraments and Christ!

Women today have it harder because internet porn is ubiquitous and so easily accessed.  One good thing that has come out of this scourge of porn is that it has raised society’s awareness of how destructive and addicting it is.  Pornography exploits, objectifies  and uses women.  It devastates marriages and families.  According to one study “Pornography users increasingly see the institution of marriage as sexually confining and have diminished belief in the importance of marital faithfulness.”1   Another study finds 56% of divorce cases involving “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”2

If pornography has become a part of your story, you do not have to look far to find help.  Go to your diocesan website to look for resources.  Most dioceses have resources on their websites under the Office of Marriage and Family. You could also search on pornography, but be sure that you are in the diocese’s search bar and not Google!

Here is the link for the Archdiocese of Denver.  It contains links to many helpful resources.

http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/6147/

Editors note:  This author and her husband are blessed. I don’t mean to diminish her suffering in any way but they are truly blessed that her husband did not become addicted as is so often the case with internet pornography. Praise be to God! 

If you or your spouse have an attachment to internet pornography, don’t be discouraged if your journey to recovery involves more of a struggle or effort than has been detailed in this story. In addition to the sacraments, recovery from pornography addiction often requires counseling and/or a twelve step group.  There are many Catholic and Christian counselors who are experienced in dealing with this devastating addiction.

1 Patrick F. Fagan, PhD, The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriages, & Community (December 2009).

2 Jill Manning, Senate Testimony, November 10, 2005, referencing: J. Dedmon, “Is the Internet bad for your marriage? Online affairs, pornographic sites playing greater role in divorces,” 2002, press release from American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 14.

I’m Alone

I broke up with my fiancé a week ago.

When I was a little girl, I never dreamed my life would be turning out the way it has. I’m 26. I’ve prayed for so many years for God to guide me, to show me His will for my life. I know He has heard me. I’m a good Catholic—I’m not supposed to be one of “those people” who start doubting when things don’t go their way. But I do doubt.
They tell me I’m still young, that I have my whole life in front of me, that God IS answering my prayers, that I just can’t see it yet. They don’t know how infuriated those words make me.

When I was in high school, I thought, “I’m lonely now, but I’ll find the right man when I’m in college.” In college I thought, “I guess he’ll come along after I graduate.” By 24 I was thinking, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.”

I truly believe my vocation is to be a wife and a mother, but I can’t start living it on my own. But I’m also not the type to just sit around and wait for God to plop a husband in my lap, so in the meantime I earned my Master’s degree, I have my own business, I volunteer, I have tons of hobbies that bring me joy. But I’m alone.

There is no “soul mate” out there for each of us, no matter what my ex-fiancé used to tell me. There are probably a dozen men with whom I could live a holy and happy life. But none of us is guaranteed anything, and none of us is promised a spouse. Maybe my husband got distracted along the way. Maybe he found another woman, a holier woman, to marry. Maybe he was aborted.

Just a few short weeks ago, I was imagining our wedding. I was thinking up names for our first babies. I was picturing our first cozy little apartment together. But it wasn’t right, and I had to end it. Maybe I was wrong? I don’t know. I feel more at peace now than I did when I was with him, so I guess that’s a good sign. But I can’t stand the thought that I hurt him by walking away, and I can’t help wondering why. Why has my life turned out this way? Did I do something wrong? Did I take a wrong turn? Why is it so hard for me to pray now, and truly lay everything down before Him? I thought that if I trusted Him for all those years, He’d take care of me. I just don’t feel very taken-care-of.

Adoption: A Miracle, Not a Last Option

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a great Catholic family. I was one of 8 children, so we did get the Catholic large family comments. I always knew that I wanted to have a larger than average family, too. I was also very lucky to meet my future husband who decided he wanted to join the Catholic Church.

My husband and I took a class in NFP before we were married, in spite of the offer my husband got from a friend to teach him about contraception for our wedding night (he knew we had abstained from premarital sex). We decided to use NFP in an attempt to postpone pregnancy for a year or two.

When we decided we wanted to start our family, it was exciting at first. After all, I thought, with NFP you can get close to pre-determining your child’s birthday. I had fun thinking about when our baby would be born and I even bought a grandchild birthstone charm for my mom’s collection.

After a year of trying to get pregnant, we were frustrated and depressed. My husband and I tried to work through it together. We both dealt with infertility very differently and it caused much tension in our marriage. My husband was optimistic and happy to keep doing his part to achieve pregnancy. I, on the other hand, dreaded the impending period every month and saw “achieving” pregnancy as a chore.

My married siblings were having children every 1.8 years and my husband and I spent longer than that trying to get pregnant. Friends were having “surprise” pregnancies. We heard all of the talk about IVF. One reason I didn’t tell people that I was trying to get pregnant was because I didn’t want to hear their recommendations about trying IVF or other methods not conducive to God’s plan for life. I just wished I could become a mom. Mother’s Day (which happened to be my birthday one year) was a little depressing. I even thought a miscarriage wouldn’t be so bad, because I would be a mom with a lovely soul in heaven. But I never saw that positive pregnancy test.

We sought infertility help from a prolife doctor and he was wonderful with us. We tried some medication and some natural supplements, but we still did not get pregnant. After exhausting what I saw as all of our viable options for a biological child, I wanted to proceed with adoption. When we got married we had talked about adopting some day, but we figured we would have biological children first. My husband wanted to keep trying to get pregnant, so we compromised and decided to try to achieve pregnancy for 6 more months and if unsuccessful, we would pursue an adoption. I was happy to have an end goal in mind. The monthly periods weren’t as depressing for me because they put us one month closer to an adoption. For those 6 months I became an adoption-information fiend and gathered information from wherever I could: internet, adoption agencies, and information sessions. We did not have any friends, family, or neighbors who had adopted so we had to look elsewhere. Adoption wasn’t a word we heard discussed at church and there wasn’t an adoption support group for Catholic families.

After 6 months of information-gathering and more failed attempts at pregnancy, we embarked on a new journey to adopt. We told close family and friends and they were surprised. I can remember telling my in-laws and the first response was, “Why would you do that?” We simply said, “Because we want to.” We didn’t feel that this was a back-up plan because our original plan hadn’t worked out. We knew this had been God’s plan all along, and we were now embracing it. I suppose He knew we wouldn’t adopt if we had started by having biological children.

We chose to adopt a child from Korea. We filled out the piles of paperwork and met other couples who adopted or were waiting to adopt. Right after our home study was completed we received a picture of our future son. He was beautiful! We told people we interact with regularly about him. People were happy for us but weren’t quite sure how to react. Do you throw a baby shower for a mom who is about to adopt? Do you keep asking if she has heard anything about when the baby comes home? I went to baby showers for pregnant women and expecting fathers at work. I didn’t look like I was expecting and we were hesitant to buy many baby things.

Life got very exciting when we received a surprise phone call that our son was ready to come home two months earlier than expected. A day later we were on an airplane to Korea. Meeting our son for the first time was the recognition of a miracle. Though we didn’t witness the medical miracle of birth, we knew that God had called this child to be in our family.

There wasn’t anyone to meet us at the airport when we arrived home. We didn’t even have a crib set up for him at home. There wasn’t a big baby shower with lots of baby items to doll up our son. But we were a happy family of three now.

We knew we would be back to Korea to do it all over again. And 16 months later we came home from Korea as a happy family of four. We witnessed yet another miracle child by adoption.

A year later we decided that we would pursue adoption again. This time God had a different plan: I was pregnant. Of course we were excited, but we were also disappointed that we had to stop the adoption process (we were not allowed to pursue adoption if I was pregnant). It was a sad call to the adoption agency to halt the process.

When we finally told people after the first trimester, they were elated for us. Friends and family were more excited than when we told them about our two adoptions. People figured we had finally gotten what we wanted – a child of our own.

Being adoptive parents has taught us that our children are not only ours. Our sons also have biological and foster parents who will always be a part of their lives. Ultimately, all children really belong to God, and, like being an adoptive parent, we are just given the privilege to care for them here on earth. We were looking forward to welcoming our third child a different way, but we knew that this child is still not our own.

We had always longed to be parents and we were blessed to experience both miracles of adoption and birth. No one method of becoming parents is better than another and no child is more special than another. In a way we were sad that people were so excited for us this time around. When our son was born we received a family heirloom blanket that was reserved for our “first child.” I was angry that people viewed our newborn as our first child. What about our other two blessings? All of our children were wanted and loved and we didn’t let ignorant comments from others bother us.

Three years later we followed God’s call to adopt our fourth son. Many people think we are crazy. If you know you can make your own kids now, why would you adopt? Why would you choose to have more than three children? We could easily limit the number of children in our family just by not signing piles of paperwork. If you can pick your child, why would you keep picking boys? The truth of the matter is that we don’t have a gender preference for our children and there are many more boys to adopt. We are so happy that we have been recipients of this most precious gift of adoption.

I harbor no resentment for those Catholic families who have children every 2 years. It is wonderful that they are open to the life God gives them. That was just not God’s plan for our family. He helped us to discover the miracle of children in a different way.

So how do we share the wonder of this gift with others? How do we shed light on the beauty of adoption and get it off the “very last option to become parents” list? We wish there had been support from our Church community during our adoption process, so we have started an adoption support group at our church. We need to combat the modern culture of ordering up a pregnancy through IVF, sperm banks, gender selection, and all other ways of controlling the biological process. We have the wonderful option of adoption so let us celebrate it and share with others. I will not claim that adoption is easy or that it is for every couple, but I wish more families would consider it instead of the “guaranteed results” at the fertility centers.

Marriage, Divorce, and Forgiveness

I’m proud to be Catholic and try to live my life by the 10 commandments. But sometimes, just sometimes, we have to do the unthinkable.

I think marriage is sacred and never in one million years would I have imagined I would be divorced. I found a great man, fell in love, we shared our faith and eventually got married. God blessed us with two wonderful children. We had a loving and wonderful marriage. Everything seemed perfect.

One day I found myself married to a stranger. I didn’t even like this man anymore. I remember thinking, “Who is this man and why is he sleeping in my bed, living in my house?” He had gone from an occasional glass of wine to more, and more, and more. I tried to talk to him and worried about alcoholism but my message wasn’t getting across. I tried sympathy, worry, love, compassion, anger, intolerance, threats: nothing worked. This was not the example I wanted my two small children to have.

It was like that for more than two years. We tried marital therapy, acupuncture (to treat cravings, my idea), yoga (again, my idea), conversations with priests, interventions, rehabilitation clinics, etc. I can say I tried it all – but this was the problem: I was trying, he wasn’t. He finally lost his job and he was completely removed from my life and our children’s lives. The children didn’t see him for days at a time, they would think he was on a trip or something. They would be shocked to see his car in the driveway. I had three priests tell me it was time to leave. “This is NOT what ‘in sickness and in health’ means,” said one. I prayed and prayed and prayed and finally decided to separate, move, file for divorce, and start a new life with my children. While extremely difficult, the divorce gave me my dignity back and saved his life.

The divorce was amicable. He didn’t have a leg to stand on, really. I gave him visitation privileges but under supervision. I didn’t trust him. What if he drank when he had the kids? While I felt compassion for my husband and an incredible amount of worry, I have to tell you I hated him. The relationship after our separation was strictly business. We endured three years of suffering and the destruction of my family, my life, my finances, a broken heart, accumulation of debt, and much worry.

He finally sobered up (if he hadn’t, he would be dead now, it was UGLY). For my children’s sake, I never spoke ill of him and I made the effort to get him Father’s Day presents and have the kids spend time with him. Boys need fathers – not drunk fathers, but he was finally sober and I caught glimpses of the man I had married.

Some time has gone by and I can honestly say that there has been a miracle. I prayed for a miracle, not the one I got, but God knows best. The miracle happened in my heart. I have forgiven him fully and my children are enjoying a different kind of family, but a family that cares for each other. He just celebrated 2 years of sobriety, he is always welcome in my house, and he spends all the holidays with us. I see him and while we are not legally married, I know he is my husband in God’s eyes. We are friends and I wish the best for him.

There must have been a lesson God wanted to teach us. I still don’t like to think of myself as “divorced” but I do like to think of myself as living the true Christian value of forgiveness. I struggle in other areas, but I can say forgiveness is wonderful. It brings peace, it sets a great example for our children, and I like to think that maybe, only maybe, I am a little closer to Jesus. I have no interest whatsoever in meeting another man. I want to dedicate all my energy to being a mother and I want God to feel pleased with the way I live my life. I don’t know what the future will bring. “One Day at a Time” is good not only for alcoholics. St. Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

Submitted from Alabama

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.