On Longings and Lies

At Mass this morning, a baby girl was sitting in the pew directly in front of me. She had wide, inquisitive eyes and dark, fuzzy hair that stood on end. Her carrier was turned in such a way that she was staring right at me throughout the first parts of the Mass, and every time I knelt, we were within inches of one another. I tried to ignore her, but she refused to allow it. Every time I looked away from her, she started to fuss. So we began to play games with our glances—I would roll my eyes about, and she would smile. And that would make me smile.

At the Offertory, her father took her out of the carrier. She stood facing me, gripping the back of the pew, and when the Sanctus came, and I once more knelt down, her tiny hands rested next to mine. Slowly, in that characteristic wobbly baby fashion, she reached out to grab my finger.

And that’s when a whimsical interaction turned into a heart-rending reality check. Because when those delicate fingers touched mine, what flashed through my mind was: This is what I threw away. This is what I destroyed. This is what will never be, not for me.

You see, I have two children. But they’re dead. And I never got a chance to hold their hands. They never even drew breath. Because I aborted them. And those are the two biggest mistakes of my entire life.

*             *             *

I was 16 when I got pregnant the first time. I was on the pill—actually, I was on the pill both times I got pregnant. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t get pregnant if you’re on the pill, because it’s a lie.

I knew I was pregnant at the moment of conception. I know it sounds crazy, but I felt the presence of another life like an epiphany—it was as clear to me as if someone had pranced into the room in a very grandiose fashion: Here I am! Look at me! And there she was. I know she was a girl the same way I knew I was pregnant. I can’t explain it. I just know.

And yet, I desperately wanted to be wrong. Even as I sat in my high school philosophy class feeling my body rearrange itself to make room for the budding life inside me, I clung to my shred of disbelief. I scribbled and passed a note to my best girlfriend: “Big problem, need help, meet me after school.”

She and I drove to the other side of town to buy a pregnancy test—we wanted to avoid being seen by anyone we knew. Then we went to the used book store where she worked and squeezed into the employee restroom to await the result. Neither of us said a word as we watched two undeniably pink lines appear in the rectangular window. We knew those lines were an equal sign with a whole mess of trouble on the tail end of the equation.

*             *             *

It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that I would have an abortion. Everyone in whom I confided my situation presumed that’s what I would do. Not a single person asked me if I wanted my baby, or suggested adoption as an alternative. They spoke about “the abortion” as if it were a reality already in existence, a decision already made: When are you getting the abortion? I bet you can’t wait to have the abortion. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better after the abortion.

This included the nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic where I went for a second test, still hoping against hope that all other indicators had been somehow broken or misguided. After she told me I was most definitely pregnant, she launched into a speech she had clearly given many times before.

Of course, she said, I couldn’t even consider having my baby—and yes, she did use the term “baby.” My reputation, my hopes, my dreams, my goals, my whole future—they would all be ruined if I carried to term. And imagine the suffering of the poor child; it simply wasn’t fair to bring a baby into the world without reliable and adequate means of support and at my age. Imagine the shame and discrimination such a child would face, having a mother so young.

And besides, I was still a child myself, she said, patting my hand and giving me her best impression of a Glenda the Good Witch smile. She was my friend. She felt my pain. She knew what was best for me, certainly better than I—after all, she was an expert.

According to her, the best thing I could do, the only thing I could do, was terminate my pregnancy. By any means necessary. She even told me how to get around Oklahoma’s parental notification laws, referring me to a clinic in Dallas where they “put women’s interests first,” and consequently didn’t ask pesky questions about whether an out-of-state minor had parental permission for a surgical procedure.

My boyfriend and the father of my baby also assumed there would be an abortion. Not only did he not want this particular baby, he never wanted any children whatsoever. He seemed resentful, as if he were annoyed with me for getting pregnant. He called the clinic recommended by Planned Parenthood to find out how much they charged, and scraped together a couple of hundred dollars—his half of the cost—in a matter of days.

As soon as he’d given me his share of the money, he began to nag me about following through. Did you call the clinic today? Do you have the money yet? How are you going to get the money? When is your appointment? What are you waiting for?

I felt like I was being swept away by a pro-abortion tide. Amid all of that pressure and in the center of all of those projected opinions, I never stopped to ask for one of the most important opinions of all—my own. In that echo chamber of voices telling me to kill my baby, my own voice was drowned out, and, at any rate, didn’t seem to carry much weight. After all, who was I? Like the Planned Parenthood nurse said, I was just a kid without any means of support. And how could literally every person I talked to be wrong?

So I made the appointment. And I had the “procedure.” But it was not a cure for anything. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your dreams will be shattered unless you have an abortion, because it’s a lie. On the contrary, an abortion is the beginning of a life-long nightmare.

*             *             *

Two weeks after my seventeenth birthday, I married the father of my baby, the little girl I threw away. And about three years later, we got pregnant again. This time, things were both very different and exactly the same.

This time, I had no clue I was pregnant. There was no epiphany. Whereas my daughter made her entrance onto the stage of my life with a burst of light and great fanfare, my son tiptoed onstage, unnoticed by every other actor. I didn’t even realize he was a boy until after I’d shoved him into the orchestra pit.

Whereas I had spent the nights leading up to my first abortion tossing and turning, deep in apologetic internal dialog with the child I was about to discard, heavily conflicted about the so-called choice I was making, I initially felt no internal conflict whatsoever about my second abortion.

I still felt I had no choice—and my husband again contributed heavily to that feeling with his vocal determination to remain childless. But another influential factor was my own dissolute lifestyle in the months leading up to my discovery of the pregnancy. I had ingested countless teratogens in the form of various recreational drugs and alcohol, and was terrified that any baby that had been simmering in the cesspool of my womb for nearly three months, as had been my son, would be born with horrible defects that would cause him a lifetime of suffering. The feelings of guilt engendered by that thought made me feel like a cornered alley cat—and having another abortion was my flailing effort to claw my way up the side of the building to escape the consequences of my own self-indulgent actions.

I made the appointment at the least expensive place I could find. I soon discovered the reason for the rock-bottom rate. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s possible to get a “quality abortion” at a bargain price, because it’s a lie. Firstly, there is no such thing as a “quality abortion,” and secondly, even with medically sanctioned murder, you get what you pay for.

It was obvious the minute I walked into the doctor’s office that she was really much more into the baby-delivering end of her practice than the baby-killing end.

The first clue was, every other woman in the waiting room was happily pregnant. They wore their baby bumps like badges of honor. Their faces radiated the joy of expectation. What must they think of me? I wondered as I sat down amongst them.

A beaming blonde leaned over. “When are you due?” she asked me.

I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell her, “I’m here to get rid of mine,” so I lied and instead said, “Oh, I’m here to find out.”

“How exciting!” She positively glowed with glee. I wanted to weep.

The second clue was, there were snapshots of the babies the doctor had delivered wallpapering every inch of that office. When I laid back on the cold metal table and put my feet in the stirrups, I discovered that even the ceiling was plastered in pictures. While the doctor brusquely tore away at my flesh (I was bedridden and bleeding afterward for several days), crushed the life of the tiny boy inside of me, and I cried out in abject pain, little toothless grins mocked me from above. Everything that could have been, but would never be, was right there in front of me, confronting and contemning me with joys I would never know.

I wanted to scream, “STOP! I want to keep him! Give him back to me!” but it was too late. My son was gone.

And every day since the deaths of my children, I have felt the two holes in my life where my son and daughter should be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your life will be more complete after an abortion, because it’s a lie. It will feel like something is missing for the rest of your life.

*             *             *

There are very few people in my life who know about this part of my past—at least there were before today. It’s something about which I am deeply ashamed. Abortion is by far the worst thing I ever did—and I did it twice. It’s something I don’t merely regret, because “regret” is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings about what I did. I rue it. I lament it. I mourn it. Every single day. I have built intricate psychological cubicles in which to compartmentalize the crushing pain of it all, just to enable me to function on a day-to-day basis.

It is not my aim to give a political lecture, or to give statistics about the emotional, social, and psychological damage wrought by abortion—there are people who are already doing a much better job of that than I possibly could.

No, all I hope to do by telling my story is to add my voice to the tragic chorus saying, “I did this, and it was horrible. I did this, and it was not a solution—all it did was create a larger problem that will never be solved, not in this lifetime. I did this, and I really wish I hadn’t. I did this, and I hope you won’t make the same mistake.” I’m telling my story with the hope that I might save even just one woman or girl the suffocating sorrow I have felt all these years—and that I will continue to feel until the day I die.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that bringing a new life into the world will close doors for you, because it’s a lie—the birth of something new always represents the opening of a door. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that destroying a life through abortion will open doors for you, or that it will help you realize greater fulfillment, because those, too, are lies—the biggest ones of all. Pushing your child off the stage of your life closes the door between the two of you, but it doesn’t sever the bond. And you can knock on that door ’til the end of time, you can pound on it ‘til your fists are bloody, but abortion seals that door shut. The only thing that provides some hope and eases the pain is seeking, and finding, the mercy and grace of God and the promise of a life to come. And yet, the void—the hollow space where your child should be—remains.

And inside that void, the longing whispers of what might have been will echo endlessly, inescapably, for the rest of your life.

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26 thoughts on “On Longings and Lies

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Every now and then, I come back and read this. I remember the first time I read this, I bawled. It completely changed my perspective of women who choose to have an abortion.

      I’ve never had an abortion but I mourn for the women who have had one. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Me siento en el pozo x más que trató vuelvo a caer y me siento fatal, porque a pesar que me duele y siento que Dios es misericordioso conmigo en mi a,ma falta esa fuerza para salir del pecado, quisiera sentir como escucho que muchos expresan, como ahora que me prometo que trataré, rezo el Rosario todos los días pero los días y semanas van gastando la promesa y la hacen cada ves más débil la boludes y la soledad van debilitando mi anelo de tenerlo a dios en mi corazón y necesito a quien tener o sentir en las manos alguien que me diga que le importó y vuelbo a caer y el reloj vuelve a continuar me gustaría sentir

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Love you Bettina, you are inspiration and I am proud to have you as a friend!! God Bless You!!

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Poignant. Aside from the importance of your story, you’re a very good writer

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Thank you for sharing your story, Bettina. I’m thinking of asking my parish priest to place your story in the parish bulletin, that if you grant me your permission.

      • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

        Linh, if I might be so bold as to make a suggestion: my work usually appears in print form in the Catholic newspaper Oremus. This piece will be in their August issue. They offer a parish-level subscription, which you can read about on the “subscribe” portion of their website: http://www.oremuspress.com Their periodical is family-run, respectful of and obedient to Magisterial teaching, and in need of support. Please consider a subscription to this worthy publication–which offers a wealth of wonderful material in addition to my efforts–on behalf of your parish in lieu of a one-time printing of my piece.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Sad because of what you know, in hindsight, was a lie. How many are never told the truth? How many never hear another opinion, another way, another option. How many are never rescued from a life of torment because someone else won’t stand up and say what is true? How many like you are about to destroy their lives forever because of cowardice on the part of clergy and laity in the Church?
      I do understand. I used to be a crisis pregnancy councilor and learned just how important the truth really is to those who know only the lie. No matter the cost, the truth MUST be told. Sharing this story will help others you may never meet but God himself will make sure your sacrifice is well used.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      This is heartbreaking. I too, had a teen pregnancy, though I was 19 at the time. I completely understand when you say you knew at the moment of conception, I did too. My story took a different turn, and I had my baby, but as someone who never valued her own opinion until she grew up, I totally get how you didn’t allow yourself an opinion. I pray for peace for you, and thank you for sharing this, as I know anyone who reads it will pause for a moment, and pray. Hopefully this will reach the eyes of many who may have tried to push someone into an abortion. You are being the hands of Christ in writing this.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Beautiful writing; there is much to reflect upon.

      Thank you for your honesty

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Made me cry. Thanks for sharing your story. I like how you put it at the end of feeling that bond still. ..and banging on the door but it will never again open in this lifetime. Luckily there are far greater things ahead than any we leave behind. Not in this world…but the next.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Your story brought me to tears. We should use stories like yours and proclaim them in the streets with a microphone during the 40 Days for Life campaigns.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      You are an excellent writer! ..it takes alot of humility to do this..and God loves a humble heart! We are all in the muk ..some people know it and others pretend they aren’t…I hope you keep writing!🦋🌼

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      We are blessed to have you in the Church. The Carmelite mystic St. Mariam Baouardy said, “In Heaven, the most beautiful souls are those that have sinned the most and repented. But they made use of their miseries like manure around the base of the tree.”

      God is busy bringing many other women and men just like you back into the fold. I’m an ex-con, and one of my street evangelization partners–a woman–was a heroin addict with multiple convictions. Many of us end up loving the old rite of the mass. Truly a work of grace.

      I hope you write your life story in book form. Pax Christi.

      • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

        Thank you for the words of encouragement, Scott. It’s funny that you mention manure as spiritual fertilizer; for a long, long time now, I have felt like God has been asking me to transform my unsavory past into a kind of spiritual compost that might help others grow–but I have been too afraid to act until now. I pray that at least one soul is fertilized, so to speak–if even one troubled soul can be helped to find the unfailing hope provided by God’s merciful and unconditional love, then the gut-wrenching pain and fear I experienced in writing this piece will have been entirely worth it.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Sharing your story will bear much fruit. Thank you for your courageous witness. You will be in my prayers, for continued healing.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      You are saving many lives.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Breathtaking. Thank you. My story could have been this so easily. Instead I get to hide behind my now large family…the pride of the parish. Know that I know we are no different. God’s mercy is for all.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Stunning. Beautiful. Thank you for your courage. Please keep writing.

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      Absolutely stunning article…. thank you for sharing your heart and the Truth…..

      Much love,
      Shalimamma
      LifeVictorious.com

    • […] published at Watching the Whirlwind. Reprinted with […]

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