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Healing the Shockwaves of Abortion
 

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You Don't Need to Suffer in Silence-There is Forgiveness
Bettina
California, United States

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--and I was in a relationship with what I thought was the man (boy) with whom I would spend the rest of my life. We had been dating exclusively for about 6 months, which is not very long, but feels like an eternity when you're only 16 years old.

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.

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 and should do--my best girlfriend, her mother, my drama teachers, the school counselor--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 pregnancy 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. 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 did—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 told me I should "beg, borrow, and steal" to pay for an abortion. She even told me how to get around Oklahoma's parental notification laws, referring me to a clinic in Dallas where she assured me no questions would be asked.

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—only 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 the most important opinion 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. We went to that clinic in Dallas--but the first time we went, they did the ultrasound, only to find I was not yet far enough along for them to perform the abortion. In those days, a woman had to be at least 7 weeks along in order for them to be sure they could, in the abortionist's words, "get all of it." She told me if she tried to do the abortion that day, she might end up leaving pieces of my baby inside of me without realizing it.

So, she sent me home to wait another week and a half. That time was agony. I spent a lot of it in internal dialog with my baby--trying to explain to her why I was doing what I was doing, begging for her forgiveness, making sure she knew I loved her and wanted her, but that I was just too much of a failure to be any good for her. 

The night before the abortion, I stayed up all night, talking to my baby.  The second time we drove to Dallas, a girlfriend of mine came with us. When we arrived at the facility, it was surrounded by protestors, and as we pulled into the parking lot, two of them approached our car. I still don’t know how the man who spoke to me knew that I, and not my friend, was the “patient,” but he pegged me right away. “This is what your baby looks like right now,” he said, placing something small and made of hard plastic into my right hand.

The only way I had been able to get some peace and quiet about having the abortion in my own mind and conscience was by repeatedly reminding myself of what I had been told over and over by the trusted adults in my life, it wasn’t a baby yet, it was just a clump of cells, it wasn’t like I was killing a human being or anything like that. 

And then I looked down at what the man had placed in my hand. It was a small fetal model--and it didn't look like a blob or a clump of cells, it looked like a human baby.

I flipped out. I threw the model on the ground and had to be restrained from punching the man who had put it into my hand. I spat some choice profane words at him while my friend and boyfriend essentially dragged me away and into the clinic. It was ugly.

I don't remember much after that--I don't remember the abortion itself, only that the lights in the room were low, and there was some kind of waterfall sound playing. The recovery room was full of crying girls and women. Nobody in that place seemed happy or even relieved. They looked like broken and discarded dolls.

That night, I made dinner for my boyfriend at his house (he had his own place). I remember thinking, "Now we can go back to the way things were." But he dumped me just a few days later, sending me into a spiral of depression and rage. I nearly committed suicide.

I don't remember how, but later that same year, we got back together, and this time I was determined to hang on to him. I had killed my baby for him, and I was determined not to lose him again. We got married 2 weeks after my 17th birthday.

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. 

Whereas I had spent the nights leading up to my first abortion tossing and turning, 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 the father again contributed heavily to that feeling with his vocal determination to remain childless. But another influential factor was my own reckless lifestyle in the months leading up to my discovery of the pregnancy. 

I had ingested large quantities of various recreational drugs and alcohol and was terrified that any baby that had been simmering in the cesspool of my womb for over 2 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. It was obvious the minute I walked into the doctor’s office--alone this time--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 almost 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. Little toothless grins mocked me from above. Everything that could have been, but would never be, was right there in front of me, confronting me with joys I would never know.

I begged the abortionist to stop and tried to close my legs, as if to shield my son from the abortionist's devices, but she merely shoved my knees back open and snapped at me, "It's too late for that now! Hold still!" Then she very brusquely and forcefully vacuumed away my baby and the remaining half of my heart, leaving me whimpering in pain, and pouring blood.

I had all the typical post-abortion behaviors and symptoms in the decades afterward: overeating to fill the holes left when my babies were ripped out of my life, drug use and alcohol abuse, depression, promiscuity (we're talking hundreds of partners--I was even a call girl for seven years). I tried to kill myself 15 years after the first abortion by taking over 500 prescription pills, mostly morphine. Nobody found me for 3 days, and the hospital staff all said it was a miracle I had survived. But most of all, I avoided facing the shame and grief of my abortions.

Until this year. This year, 27 years after my daughter's death, I said "no more." I got into counseling with someone who specializes in post-abortive healing and joined a small group of post-abortive woman. This past weekend, I did Rachel's Vineyard, which was nothing short of a revelation. I have known for a long time that God has forgiven me, but now I know my children have, too, which has allowed me to forgive myself. 

I actually told my story for the first time about 4 years ago, but I didn't really start to heal until now. I hope and pray other women who have walked this path will do the same. You are never alone. You can heal. You don't need to suffer in silence. I have decided to be silent no more, and you can, too.


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