Weathering the Good and the Bad with this Man

I have written before about my marriage and the fruit of obeying the Church in being open to life. Now I am at the stage where I am getting too old for more babies. This has made me look at my marriage in a different light. I would still love to have another baby…my kids remind me that many women in the Bible were over 100 and I am just half of that! But the reality is that I am entering a new season of my life, of my relationship with my husband.

3238440598_46f82f4b75_mGod is so good! He has done so much for us. I have always thought I had a good marriage. But I am seeing that after almost 24 years, my love for my husband is growing. Weathering the good and bad with this man has yielded many blessings. When I look at him, he is still the dashing hero with whom I fell in love. I look at photos of days gone by and see how we have aged, but I don’t see it when I look at him.

I also see a gift of marriage that is not talked about for good reason. It is private and intimate. God has healed us from our past sins against chastity during these past two decades. Memories of sinful days before we met are faded, sometimes erased. It is in the marital embrace where I feel young. Maybe not young, but perhaps out of time. It is free and beautiful. I feel God intensely. There is no longer an embarrassment or disconnect between our lovemaking and God. He is there with us. I have read much about Theology of the Body and understood it in my mind. But in the past few years, I am understanding it with my heart. I wonder if couples who enter marriage chastely have this gift from the beginning. I hope so.

At the same time, I have a renewed strength to love my husband as best as I can. I want to forget myself, my aches and pains, my tiredness and ask him about his. I get up to make him his favorite breakfast. When he comes home from work, I want our home to be a respite for him. I want to cheerfully ask him about his day. I look for ways to serve him as my spouse, my best friend.

I realize that this flies in the face of our world. But I know this is pleasing to God. I know my husband lays down his life for me every day. We serve each other, as we do God’s will. All the years I wasted looking for how my husband could serve me, listen to me, help me! I know being self-centered is sinful. I asked God to show me how He sees me – and my eyes were opened to my selfishness. Now when I am grumpy I try to remember to say to myself, “Don’t be selfish, don’t be selfish. How can I serve others?” Suddenly, I am feeling at peace. God is good!

Photo Credit Liz West

Unequally Yoked

When my husband and I got married we were both Catholic, but we weren’t fully practicing the faith. Not only were we not well formed, we didn’t know it. My husband and I went to Mass on Sunday occasionally, if it was convenient, and also on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter.

One Sunday, we arrived at Mass and found there was a new pastor. This pastor’s homilies were like nothing I had ever heard before. In fact they made me angry! I didn’t speak to the pastor, didn’t even shake his hand on the way out the door, but for some reason I felt like I was arguing with him and so I started going to Mass every Sunday to continue the argument.

Each Sunday I would go to Mass and I would leave angry because I had just been informed of yet one more thing that I was doing wrong. I was overwhelmed with all of the rules. I was also skeptical of the pastor. I thought, “He can’t possibly know what he is talking about. He must be some kind of Catholic wacko.” I started researching and I didn’t have to dig very far to find that my pastor knew what he was talking about.

As I sat in that pew week after week I discovered that there were many areas of my life that were not in line with Church teaching. I had walked in the door pro-choice, pro-contraception, the list goes on. I found out that I was wrong.

Many other parishioners left. Several of our neighbors started shopping for a new parish with softer homilies. Some went to neighboring parishes; others went so far as to leave the Catholic Church. My husband found the difficult homilies amusing. When I tried to engage him in discussing our faith and what we should do, he would say, “Whatever you decide is fine.”

I decided we would stay. Somewhere deep inside I knew that this wasn’t about shopping for the right message so much as it was about finding the truth. My only explanation for this is that God, in His great generosity, must have given me a huge dose of grace. I began to change. I studied Catholicism. Everything I learned made so much sense that I couldn’t help but to grow in my faith. I fell in love with Holy Mother Church. I began going to daily Mass and volunteering in earnest. I was disappointed that my husband wasn’t interested, but I didn’t let that hold me back.

My new faith and his disinterest started to put stress on our marriage. It became really clear to me one Valentine’s day, when I received a Valentine’s gift basket from a girlfriend of mine. When my husband saw it I asked him to guess who had given it to me. “Probably Father Jones or Deacon Smith or the Youth Minister,” he said and walked out of the room. I was stunned. He proceeded to tell me how tired he was of my life revolving around God and the Church. He thought at first that it was a phase and that he just had to wait it out, but it was pretty clear that it wasn’t ending any time soon. He was tired of it and he wanted it to stop. I was no longer the person he had married.

unequally yokedI was devastated and yet it was clear to me that he felt jilted, like I had dumped him for God. I could understand that. My husband had been the center of my universe and now God was, and rightly so, I thought.

I sought counsel from a priest during confession and he told me that perhaps my cross right now was that I needed to tone things down a little. He didn’t mean for me to be less faithful. He meant that I should tone down my outward expression of the faith to give my husband a little space. This was my cross to bear. I left the crucifix on the wall but pulled the holy cards from the refrigerator. I cut back on my volunteer responsibilities. As I considered my primary vocation as wife, I realized that God didn’t want me to neglect my spouse in pursuit of my faith.

There was however, one area in which I couldn’t compromise. We were contracepting. Very early in my conversion process I stopped contracepting and at that point my husband chose to continue. This was very painful for me. I had learned of the beauty of the marital embrace and all that God had intended for it—that it be a complete gift of self. I yearned to give myself to my husband. And yet each time we came together I made my desire to be open to life clear and each time he denied me. The act that was supposed to be unitive was tearing us apart. I found myself wishing for a marriage “do-over”. It was humiliating to go to confession and confess my participation in my husband’s contraception. I was hurt and angry at my husband.

I finally realized that my wish for a do-over was nothing more than a pity party. I started to treat my husband with charity, not because I thought he deserved it (to the contrary, I thought he was being quite a jerk) but because I loved God. I began Natural Family Planning (NFP) on my own. My husband would have nothing to do with it. I began to refuse him on fertile days (not because I was opposed to conceiving but because history had proven that he would contracept). He continued to contracept on the other days but I found much peace in my own practice of NFP.

This went on for 3 years until I became pregnant and subsequently miscarried. My husband had surprised me by welcoming the pregnancy, and then was greatly disappointed and saddened as well. This loss was a turning point for me. I was done. I told my husband, “No more contraception. I won’t participate.” I had been patient and prayerful for 3 years but now I was done. I prayed for God to please pick up the pieces of my marriage and hold us together and mercifully He did.

Since that day my husband has never contracepted.

Several years have passed. I am at peace because my husband’s concession has allowed me to live in alignment with my faith. I continue to tone down my outward expression of my faith, and my husband is slowly but surely growing in his faith. We both have a long way to go, but praise be to God at least we are heading in the right direction!

Have You Ever Been Truly Loved?

I tear up every time my daughter watches Frozen and gets past all the blockbuster songs to the climax of the movie. What gets me is the scene where Olaf the Snowman explains, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” Within minutes of this epiphany Anna is willing to sacrifice her life for her ungrateful sister, who in turn finally realizes that perfect love drives out fear. It must be the most profound and Christian 10-minute segment ever found in a Disney princess movie.

Maybe part of the reason this movie chokes me up is because, by that definition, I can’t think of any human being who truly loves me.

I grew up in a broken home and my parents are still a mess. My husband has changed dramatically since we married and no longer even goes to church. My closest friends have moved away and I struggle to build new friendships.

My children do love me, for which I am very grateful. But I long for the self-giving love of adult relationships.

I do not write all this because I am looking for pity, though I admit self-pity is a constant temptation that I fight. I write this to personalize the painful situation that I believe most souls face!

Large swaths of the population have families just as broken and often much more so than mine. Thinking globally, it’s possible that the majority of the 6 billion people in this world probably go through their adult lives never feeling “truly loved” by another.

In a recent confession I was told that God calls some people to heroic sacrifices to make our hearts larger. And at the start of Lent Pope Francis warned us that those who are comfortable often forget about others and breed the “globalization of indifference.” So I am learning to give thanks for these challenges because my heart has more space for God’s love and can be more sensitive to the suffering of other souls.

In Scripture, God often explains himself to us by analogy to family relationships. God our Father, Mary our Mother, Christ our Bridegroom, fellow believers our brothers and sisters. But what happens when our experience of these earthly relationships is one of emotional pain far more than true love? Is it still possible to experience God’s true love?

I write to witness that you can know the infinite wonder of God’s true love in the Eucharist, even without having the experience of being truly loved by any other person. Many times after receiving the Eucharist, I have mystically and ecstatically felt the Real Presence of Christ flood my heart. Fed by the Bread of Angels, I am not empty – I can share this true love with my family and others.

At the prayer vigil before the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of sharing Christ’s love in today’s culture:

“[Evening is] the most weighty hour for he who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of broken dreams and plans: how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes was the wine of joy less plenty, therefore, the zest – and the wisdom – of life….

“To search for that which today the Lord asks of His Church, we must lend our ears to the beat of this time and perceive the ‘scent’ of the people today, so as to remain permeated with their joys and hopes, by their sadness and distress, at which time we will know how to propose the good news of the family with credibility…

“Grant us this creative charity which consents to love as Jesus loved.”

Have you ever been truly loved? If you have, challenge yourself to share that love with the hurting souls around you who have not been so blessed, and consider prayerfully how to “propose the good news … with credibility” to those who lack an experience of human love.

If you haven’t ever been truly loved, know that God does truly love you, and He can fill your heart even if nothing in your outward circumstances changes. Go with your empty heart to the Sacraments and let it be filled with the Grace that surpasses all understanding.

smaller ice love

Editor’s Note:  This story was originally posted in March.  It was lost due to some technical difficulties.  I reposted it today, April 8, and have tried to repost as many of the comments as I could find.

Healing Through an Annulment

My husband and I recently celebrated the first anniversary of our marriage in the Church – even though we’ve been married six years. We were originally married civilly in a small ceremony in October, 2008. But this year we had our marriage convalidated, which is the official recognition of our civil marriage by the Catholic Church, elevating it to a sacramental marriage.

4641589345_a74996f89f_qMarriage means so much more to me now than the first time I said “I do.” I now know that marriage is a gift from God, and not to be entered into lightly.

Most of my friends and family know that I was married before. My ex-husband and I had dated for five years before we married. We lived together beforehand, and although we were both cradle Catholics, neither one of us lived a very religious life. We attended the required pre-cana training for months, had a Catholic wedding ceremony, and then continued on with life as we always had. Nothing we learned or experienced changed our thoughts or values, or what marriage meant to us.

We divorced civilly less than two years after our wedding day. We chose to do this as amicably as possible. We had no children and didn’t share any bank accounts or property, so the separation was easier than many couples experience.

Within two weeks of the finalization of my civil divorce, I was diagnosed with leukemia, which made me question my life, death, and what was important to me.  I received the Anointing of the Sick and spoke with a priest who said that God loves each of us, even if we are divorced. At one time during my treatment, I felt a deep sense of peace that I was loved by God and that everything would be all right, even if I died because of my illness. It greatly affected how I viewed my life from then on.  I met my second husband shortly thereafter.

I didn’t begin the Catholic process of annulment until two years after that, when I was already civilly married to my second husband.

I had been back and forth with wanting to be “whole” in the Church for a few years before I actually sought an annulment. The process of civil divorce is quite different than the process of annulment in the Catholic Church. Depending on the state you live in, civil divorce can be mostly about filing the correct paperwork and paying the required fees. But divorce doesn’t exist in the Catholic Church. An annulment means that your marriage was never actually valid.  It was missing one or more of the required aspects that make it binding in the first place.

Many people believe that if you offer the Church enough money, you can get an annulment no matter what. This is simply false. I paid nothing to the Church in the process of my annulment. Some people may offer donations, but there is no guarantee what the results will be. You have to wait and hope throughout the process.

And what a process it is. You are required to meet with a priest who is part of a marriage tribunal and verbally recount your story.  You also do this in writing. Your ex- spouse is also encouraged to participate. Other friends and family on both sides are asked for their testimony.  It can take years. Mine took two years from start to finish. Every piece to this process is inspected closely to come up with a final determination. There is a back and forth with the responses to each inquiry.

It is a challenge to wait, especially if you have already moved forward with another relationship in your life. I often questioned all the “rules and regulations” that the Church had for marriage and living one’s life.  I would try to become comfortable with the philosophy that my father and many friends had, that if you were a good and loving person, you were OK with God (if He even existed) and everything would be all right; that sin really didn’t exist as I had learned it. But there was something so deep and eternal about the Church and at mass that seemed to go beyond the feel-good philosophies I was trying to adopt.

Our parish priest met with me frequently during this time and helped me to understand what I was feeling, and why an annulment did indeed matter for me.  He helped guide me to start the annulment, and redirected me at the times I drifted away again during the process. I also couldn’t receive communion during this time which made me feel like I was missing out on the grace that might help me get through the ordeal.

I may not have made it through without his support. But it was totally worth it. There were many times I simply wanted to give up and tried to convince myself it didn’t matter whether the Church granted me the annulment. But deep down I knew it did.

My husband and I celebrated when my annulment was granted, and then began the next step of having our marriage recognized. Since then we have been blessed with a son and are currently expecting our second child.

To those of you who are divorced and ready to start dating, begin the annulment process, and finish it first before they begin dating.  It has a healing quality that may be helpful before you date again.  It helped me to understand just how important and sacred marriage is.  This is essential to understand for any faithful Catholic who is considering dating. The waiting is difficult, but ultimately is a wonderful time to draw close to God, to discern his will for our lives, and how we are to live moving forward.

To all those contemplating starting this process or who are already in it, stay the course! No matter the result, you can find consolation and healing. Pray often and ask Mary for help and courage to make it through. I will be praying for you as well.

Vasectomy, Reversal and Reversion

Sometimes when I think of my life and where we’ve been I think – awesome, crazy and wow!

With the announcement that we were expecting number 4, people mostly responded with a “that’s AWESOME that you will have a big family!” When they found out our 4th was a boy, it was, “congratulations, now you have your boy!”

With the announcement that we were expecting number 5, people mostly said, “CRAZY.” I think 4 is definitely the cultural threshold as far as an acceptable number of children goes.

With the announcement that we were expecting number 6… silence. People didn’t know what to say, except WOW!

So here goes… the story of how we came to be a family of 8.

Greg and I tied the knot on April 18, 1998, and like many couples we feared rather than welcomed pregnancy, so we contracepted during our first 5 years of marriage. We attended mass regularly when we dated but became more sporadic after we were married. We fell into a pattern of putting our faith to the wayside and putting our social life and worldly needs first. I did not seek God in prayer or the sacraments and Greg did not either. We did as we pleased with no regard for the blessings that were abundant in our lives. We definitely lacked discipline in our faith life. Sometimes a feeling of nagging would creep into my heart as I wished we were acknowledging God.

During our first 5 years, Greg completed graduate school, took a new job, our first daughter, Annie, was born and we moved 2 times. Soon after settling in Kansas City, Genna and Elizabeth were born 16 months apart. Greg’s job demanded that he travel weekly. The stress and pressures of a young family and the demands of our extended families took a toll on our relationship. We let any practice of our faith fall away. We just did what was easy and did not work together.

We faced a few difficult years having 3 kids under the age of 4 and all the demands of life, and we made the rash decision that we could not burden one another with another child. So Greg had a vasectomy. We were officially a family of 5.

After Greg’s vasectomy we entered a dark time in our marriage. We knew something was very wrong but we did not fully understand the consequences of our actions. We both turned from our faith and sought happiness in this world and its offerings. When I reached one of my lowest points, I decided I had to turn back to God and return to the Church. My faith had often been a comfort to me when I was young. As God would have it, when my oldest daughter started kindergarten at our parish school I made some new friends who were quite devout. I had daily contact with friends who were witnesses to living a sacramental, Catholic life.

Our_Father 2_redAround this time, I began to practice my faith again by seeking a prayer life and the Eucharist. But there was still a nagging feeling of emptiness in our marriage. I was carrying a heavy burden and did not know what it was. Through the faithful Catholic families I had met and their example I sought to further my faith through the sacraments and adoration. Greg and I vowed to respect our marriage and sexuality as we learned more about Pope John Paul II’s teachings of the Theology of the Body. We also read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical called Humanae Vitae. I began to read what the Catechism said about the sacrament of marriage and my eyes were opened to the importance of our vocations as mother and father. We were responsible for 3 souls and it was our job to lead them to heaven. We had taken for granted the power we had in co-creating these lives with God. I could see more clearly the beauty of my call to motherhood. I began to realize I needed to offer up my children in prayer.

We believed God had led us out of a very dark time and now that we were beginning to grow in faith and honor our marriage, I was devastated that we had made the decision to have a vasectomy. I longed to be in a life-giving marriage. Ironically, the promise of freedom through the vasectomy was now a heavy burden for me. I carried this burden for 2 years without ever speaking of it. I finally found the courage to tell Greg how deeply I regretted this decision we had made. I could not imagine going through the rest of our marriage and not being able to welcome any more children. As our marriage became renewed, I believe God showed me the value of my vocation as a mother. I began to ask God daily how I could be healed of the pain this decision had caused. I wanted to accept God’s will in my life and accept my part in having rejected that.

We sought reconciliation with a parish priest for the wound we had caused in our marriage. At about that time, the Holy Spirit led me to a website called One More Soul, where I learned that there are doctors who reverse vasectomies as a ministry and at a cost that was affordable. We started discussing whether this would be possible.

Greg’s reversal was completed in February of 2009. Greg vowed to lead our family spiritually and we hoped and prayed the reversal would give him strength for that.

We have had one miscarriage and Peter, Natalie and Henry since Greg’s reversal. When Peter was born, the first child since the reversal, we felt God’s presence strongly as we watched our 3 daughters stand over the baby’s bassinet and spontaneously sing Happy Birthday to him. All the healing we had prayed and hoped for came to be in this very moment. It was truly one of the most powerful and joy-filled moments of our lives. We had strayed so far from God and our faith that we almost lost our marriage. We found our way back and experienced healing both physical and spiritual.

The additional children do make practicing our faith challenging at times, but the joy they have brought to our older children and us is immeasurable. Most days Greg and I pray together for the strength to grow in the face of our challenges. It feels like leaps and bounds from my days of despairing about my marriage. No longer do we turn away from our sinfulness, but rather we try to acknowledge that we need Christ on a daily basis to lead us on our path. We actively seek God’s will in all areas of our life now and are on a continual journey of renewal and as we seek God’s grace through the sacraments.

Editor’s Note: While it is admirable that this couple took the steps to reverse their vasectomy, the church does not require this. The church asks for sincere confession, contrition and absolution. A couple with this issue can also be guided by a priest in their journey of healing and openness to life as they look at their unique situation.

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.

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.