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.

Healing and Purifying my Past

I have been married for over 20 years. Before I married, I engaged in premarital sex. I was shy and didn’t know how to talk to guys, so I ended up drinking to get over that and that led to a lot of other troubles.  I mainly went to parties and nightclubs where drinking was common.  I would get drunk and end up going too far.

When I was 20 I had a baby that I placed for adoption. My boyfriend offered to marry me. He was a nice guy and wanted to do the right thing, but I did not think marriage was the answer. I found adoptive parents for my baby through someone that I worked for.  I met with the parents and we seemed to click.  When the baby, a boy, was born, they came to see me and the two families spent the evening together celebrating this new little life.  I was very sure that I had made the correct decision. My heart caught up with my head about 7 months after Eric was born. I mourned for a long time. A few years later I wrote to the adoptive mother through the adoption attorney. I simply wanted to know what Eric was like and if he was okay.  His mother wrote back and sent pictures. We continued to write and exchange pictures.

I was certainly not a great Catholic and I had no idea what the Church really taught about sex. But I did not like the idea of contraception. Outside of marriage, I did “dabble” in it. I was on the Pill for a month or so but I wasn’t comfortable with it and I learned that I had high cholesterol and that put me at risk for heart disease, so I stopped taking it. I also used barrier methods once in a while. My boyfriend(s) did not want a baby, so I went along with them. I wanted  to live a good life, but was easily swayed by the popular opinion of the time. I had a lot of ups and downs with attempting to live a chaste life, but I knew that it was what I should be doing. I longed to be a wife and mother. I didn’t understand how to live as a single woman.

When I met my husband, my life changed. My husband was not Catholic at the time, but he was open to life and wanted children. We got pregnant right away and were delighted. But because each of us had lived unchaste lives before marriage, there were some problems. I had always felt used by men, so that carried over into my marriage.  My husband could see nothing wrong with stripper bars, Playboy or racy movies. He no longer did any of these things, at my urging, but we argued about it anyway from time to time. One time he was expected to go to a bachelor party at a topless bar. It was the old argument that it was “one last time” for the groom,  my husband wasn’t interested but he was willing to do this for his friend. I think he had never been challenged to defend it before and when he tried to explain to me why it was OK, it changed him. HE was married. HE supposedly had said goodbye to those days. Lusting after women is a bad thing, especially in the case of a married man.  Wanting sex for its own pleasure is wrong.  It is not what God intended.  No one, other than me, had said to him that this was wrong.

Then I heard of Theology of the Body. I started reading about it and went to hear speakers explaining it. It made me think about things I learned in high school about contraception and why it was wrong. The Catholic teaching of marital love is so beautiful! It was what I had longed for but hadn’t understood.

My husband converted to the Catholic Church 15 years ago. What a blessing that was! My husband is my rock, steady and sure and once he makes a decision, he sticks with it. A few years back I read the book Every Man’s Battle aloud to my husband while we were driving on vacation. It was healing and tough. We talked about it at great length. I listened to the pain in his heart as he spoke about how men struggle with purity. I started praying in a new way. I asked Jesus to heal my past and my husband’s past. I asked Him to purify our memories. Our arguments about sexual issues ceased. We were on the same page. Slowly, my old memories stopped torturing me. My interest and desire for marital love increased. And it keeps on growing! I am thankful that God is the third person in our marriage.

We have grown so much in our marriage.  Thankfully, we were always open to life and now have 8 children! I know that God has blessed our union and continues to.  Being open to children has helped us be ready for the graces and healing that God sends us. We both would like more children, but time is no longer on our side. Having children, teaching them about the faith, going to daily Mass, reading books like Dressing with Dignity, meeting other Catholic women who were doing the same, all these things led me to a deeper understanding of how the Church views chastity.

We have no regrets about our fertility. We left it to God, trusting that He would send us as many children as He desired. God has blessed us with good health and steady jobs for my husband. We never found reasons to not be open. Many have asked us if we use NFP or assume we do. We don’t. We just trust in God. He has led us on a great adventure so far!