When I was 22, I was single, had graduated from college, and started my new job at IBM. I was on a journey of ‘success’, freedom, and final independence, or so I thought. I had always struggled during my young adult years between wanting to be a ‘good girl’, and wanting to enjoy worldly desires, like having fun, parties, and dating, which often led to sexual impurity - although the sexual impurity was just a veiled attempt to get love.
I was raised Catholic, and always thought abortion was wrong, but never wanted to impose my views on a girl in an unplanned pregnancy - which I now realize was a dangerous stance. Not long after college I ‘fell in love’ with a guy who was fun, energetic, and a bit more ‘dangerous’ than anyone I’d dated before. Physically and emotionally things went way too fast, and after a ‘romantic’ beach vacation with other friends, he and I discovered I was pregnant.
I was immediately way too scared to even consider having a baby out of wedlock. There was no way. I immediately put up a mental and emotional wall. It couldn’t be allowed to happen. It had already happened once with another sibling in my family back in high school, and I already knew how my parents would react - with shame and disgust. Ironically, they were pregnant when they got married. It didn’t matter, I knew I would never have their support. Plus this was the first time I was in love, and I couldn’t let something so ‘heavy’ interfere with the relationship so early on, plus the shame of it all, and I just started my new job. I somehow also felt like this was my fault, since it happened in my body, so I had to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and deal with this situation.
The guy I was dating took the weak way out, and said ‘Whatever you want to do.” So I didn’t allow myself to think, I just went into robot mode, and made the appointment. Strange, because the receptionist had said, “Oh, let’s make your appointment with Dr. Miller, because he’s gentle.” Looking back, that is so chilling, because it meant that some weren’t.
At the facility, there was one nurse in the hall who gave me a dirty look because she knew why I was there. I just looked away, and tried to ignore her, because she obviously wasn’t there to help me, she just made me feel worse. The abortionist was polite and seemed calm, and the attending nurse was nice enough. But I didn’t want to be there - this isn’t where a boyfriend who says he loves you, brings you. This isn’t what he’s supposed to allow you to go through. The procedure was quick and somewhat painless because I was so high on the nitrous oxide they gave me - that’s right, “laughing gas” - I was shuddering I had breathed in so much, and I didn’t want to know what was going on. My eyes were squeezed shut the whole time, tears running down my cheeks, my whole body shaking, my boyfriend whispering into my ear “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you..” over and over and over again, with the sound of the suction machine in the background, ripping our son out of my womb. I could feel the contractions as my baby was being sucked out of my uterus, and I thought, “This is all the ‘labor’ I can give you, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry...”. How twisted.
I felt a strange relief for the first few days, followed by an interior, deafening silence, like something had died in me. The relationship soured within the following weeks and months, and I panicked. Here I did all this just to keep him, but now it’s not going to work. I knew in my heart it wasn’t working anyway. He started drinking more, played head games, and would come in and out of my life, for sex usually. I soon got several STD’s from him, and he later ended up going back with his old girlfriend.
The whole thing was a big, humiliating waste. I went from being an outgoing, responsible, happy, very social person with hopes, goals and dreams, to a dark, sullen, completely withdrawn, abandoned, hopeless, intensely self-destructive and nearly suicidal person who was now completely lost, with no direction, and no bearings. I had thoughts I never had before in my life. I wanted to drive into the side of the freeway wall. The words of denial ‘no, no, no, no, no, no....’ repeated in my head like a battering ram, ALL THE TIME, either that or it was my ex’s name in my head. I developed an odd discomfort and fear when I was around knives. I would have feelings of wanting to rake my nails down my neck and the insides of my forearms.
The self hatred was so black, so intense. I would just cry constantly. I starved myself out of sheer misery and self hatred. I lost 20 pounds in less than 3 months. I couldn’t hate myself enough, like it was my own.. pursuit of punishment, I wanted to hate myself to death - as if that would somehow set things aright. Needless to say my journey to healing has been a long, long and much needed road, which started with confession a few months after the abortion. Even so, I still wandered for a number of dark years after that, searching for answers, feeling like I didn’t belong to the Catholic faith anymore. After six years, I finally found and went through the Project Rachel 12-step healing program. Two years later I went to the Entering Canaan Day of Healing and Prayer, which lifted this huge rock of shame that would never be on me again. A year later I attended the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, which was profoundly powerful and healing.
I AM that woman at Jesus feet, washing His feet with my tears, drying his feet with my hair. I love much, b/c I have been forgiven much. And now, I must continue to respond also, as I hear Jesus now saying to me, every day, for the rest of my life,
“Talitha koum: “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (Mark 5:41). He has much work for me to do.
- Kathy C