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.

An Emptiness I Tried to Fill

I got pregnant at age 17.  Roe v. Wade was not yet the law of the land. However, a lot of girls were sneaking off to get illegal abortions or going to states where abortion was legal.   Who knows what I would have done if abortion had been legal, convenient, and presumed by all of society to be a “right.”  But since it was not, abortion never really entered my mind.  My choice was between keeping the baby or giving it away.

It was mostly family expectations and the sheer impracticality of raising a baby at my age that forced my decision to give it away.  But with every week that passed I wanted just the opposite, to keep and raise my baby.  I was extremely depressed for my whole pregnancy, an experience made much worse by the isolation and silence that surrounded my decision.  In those days there was little counseling on how to work through our thoughts and emotions, or on how to evaluate decisions. The only counseling I received was to bury this reality of my depression deeper and deeper inside, to deny its very existence.  I was sent away to a “home” where well-meaning Lutheran ladies tried to keep us busy (I hate crafts to this day) and gave us talks about how to keep our pregnancy secret from everyone, including our future husbands.  After giving birth we were not allowed to see or hold our babies.  They were trying to prevent bonding, but bonding actually starts during the pregnancy and in the delivery, so not being able to see or touch my baby only left me with an emptiness that I tried for years to fill with various addictions.

By the grace of God, however, I was freed from my addictions and brought into the Catholic Church.

More than 40 years after giving the baby away, I made a general confession and had many subsequent confessions with a wonderful priest. I was finally able to let go of that 17-year-old girl’s isolation and understand the whole experience as one of the mysterious ways God called me to Himself.  A few weeks after my general confession (no coincidence I’m sure), I received a call from a social worker who had been looking for me for a long time on behalf of the son I had given up.  Again, no coincidence I’m sure, the social worker had finally located me through my father’s obituary.  I have this picture of my Mom and Dad finally meeting up in heaven, saying to each other, we have some unfinished business.

My son’s first letter to me began simply, “I’m so glad I found you.” We have now been in contact through letters for over a year.  I can tell from his letters what a good and stable family life he has with his wife and children, and how much his adoptive Mom and Dad loved him.  I could never have given him that kind of stability.  He sent me a copy of the obituary he wrote for his Dad’s funeral recently and the closeness and intelligence and love of that family came through loud and clear.

We are making plans to meet as soon as possible.  I am blessed.

submitted from Virginia

Healing after an Abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

submitted from Virginia