How many abortions have you had?
What were your circumstances at the time of the abortion?
I came from a traditional uncomplicated, pious Catholic culture in the west of Ireland. In my late teens I emigrated to England, hoping to experience a world less restrictive, of more opportunity, more exciting. In the permissive social life of London, seeking love in the wrong places, in naiveté I became pregnant, the early stages of which involved severe sickness necessitating emergency hospitalisation.
I took what appeared to me at that time to be the only choice I had. This decision made in haste, triggered years of suffering, self-loathing, fear of family finding out my secret, fear of social exposure, self torture, and fear of God.
The main motivation for my abortion was fear. I could not tell my family that I was pregnant. I could not bring shame on them. I had the false expectation that I could turn back the clock on my life, and everything would be just fine again. I was so naive. I had no idea what abortion was really about, and the doctor who introduced the idea to me did not enlighten me as to the humanity of my unborn child. The word baby was never mentioned, just some products of conception.
We are being brainwashed today into thinking that there is nothing there, (in the womb) that it is a "blob" or a "bunch of cells". Each one of us began as an embryo.
The most powerful witnesses for the humanity of the unborn are not scientists, but mothers who mourn. We women are not crying over products of conception. We are crying over the deaths of our children.
How many weeks pregnant were you?
I was around ten weeks pregnant.
What type of abortion was performed?
To this day I do not know what type of abortion was performed. All I know is that I can still see the face of the anaesthetist peering into my face before he injected me. He said that I would be just fine and that I would wake up and it would be all over.
Did anyone pressure you or coerce you to choose abortion?
The decision to abort my baby was made in fear of condemnation by my family, in self pity that such a frightening outcome had happened to me, a mere teenager, a trusted doctor, assuring me that the procedure would be simple, effective, with no after effects, a quick and easy escape from my debilitating sickness and emotional problems.
How much information were you given on the abortion procedure at the time and by whom?
I was not given any information about the abortion procedure. I received no counselling, only assurance that I would be just fine afterwards. In my anxious state I did not ask any questions.
Do you think you were adequately informed at the time, of the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of abortion?
I was not given any information about abortion or its consequences. I am angry that a trusted Doctor told me that it was a simple procedure. There is nothing there just some cells, and that I would be fine afterwards.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
I just remember waking up screaming. Three nurses holding me down in the bed. Perhaps deep down in my subconscious I was already aware of the enormity of what I had done.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
I felt relief. Feelings of relief are common immediately after abortion. You are free from the burden of an unplanned pregnancy, free from anxiety, free from the pressures related to the decision. Free! It’s all over. You think that life can get back to normal…… that is, as long as you can believe you did nothing wrong.
I built a wall of denial around myself. Denial is a wall of protection that I put up in order to cope with the reality of my decision. It is not a difficult wall to erect. I began to build the wall when I made that decision, and added many bricks over the years. Society also provide’s bricks for that wall. Two of the bricks, misinformation and the omission of information which can lead a woman to believe the decision to abort is, physically a safe one.
How has your abortion affected you?
The lies have affected me the most. One of the lies is that you move on unaffected. Abortion changed my whole life. I wasn’t told that abortion would lead to unbelievable self-hatred. I wasn’t told that every time I heard a baby cry it was like a knife turning in my heart. I wasn’t told that on the birthdays of my living children, I would remember the one I would never bake a birthday cake for.
Abortion is supposed to be a quick fix for an unwanted pregnancy, but there is no quick fix for regret.
There was no quick fix for the guilt, the anger, the shame, the grief, the pain of loss. I suffered deep depression on the anniversaries of the abortion. I had nightmares, flashbacks to the abortion, suicidal thoughts, and low self esteem.
I have listened to many women’s stories of what led them to “choose” abortion. For some, it appeared to be the very best option. For others, it seemed like the only choice. For all it was the most traumatic event in their lives.
There is a common thread which runs through many testimonies of women who have suffered psychological trauma or physical injury: a sense of anger and betrayal when they discover that they were never told about the dangers of induced abortion.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
I had a great fear that someone would find out my terrible secret. I felt like I had a big A on my forehead.
I eventually met my future husband and shared with him about my abortion. He encouraged me to move on, but he did not understand the pain in my heart.
When my children were born I was so afraid that something bad would happen to them because of what I had done. I felt that I did not deserve to have them. I thought that God would punish me by harming my children.
I would spend many years attempting to bury the past before realizing that I was experiencing many of the well documented symptoms of Post Abortion Trauma. Neither could I have predicted that a day would come when I would be hearing these same symptoms being shared by many other women who have travelled down the same dark road.
What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?
The first step in my journey towards healing occurred when I decided to share my story with a friend. One night I risked our relationship by trusting her with my painful secret. To my amazement she uttered no word of condemnation and as I searched her face for signs of unspoken shock and horror I could see only a face filled with compassion, and a tiny ray of hope was born in my heart. I had begun to dismantle the secret. The isolation was ending. She said ‘Don’t waste your pain’ Let God use it for good. God can make miracles out of our mistakes.
Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering abortion today?
Millions of women and men around the world silently carry the grief of a secret abortion in their hearts. They are silenced by shame.
Abortion is repeatedly sold as a “safe and simple” solution. Routinely, no information is given about alternatives, fetal development or procedure risks. Before a woman can be truly free to make her own choice, she must make a decision based on factual information about all the aspects of abortion.
Individuals have a right to be informed about the inherent dangers of induced abortion. They should be aware that the psychological problems as a result of abortion and post-abortion trauma are a reality. At present, women are told nothing about the detrimental effects of abortion.
Many women tell me that after the abortion they are told to move on, and that their feelings are hormonal and will pass, or that the guilt and remorse they feel is because of social or religious conditioning.
Today I facilitate Rachel’s Vineyard retreats. Rachel’s Vineyard was founded in the U.S. by Dr. Theresa Burke, Ph.D. The retreat is an intensive process for emotional and spiritual healing. The abortion wound is a complicated and traumatic experience of grief and loss and the healing journey must enable the individual to safely journey to the heart of this pain and reconcile with God, self, and the aborted child and others. Women, men, grandparents, and siblings can participate in this retreat.
I have facilitated sixty five retreats since I began here in Ireland in 2003, and have witnessed the healing which takes place on these special weekends. I have facilitated Rachel’s Vineyard retreats in England, Scotland, Wales, Malta, Lebanon, and have been to the Faroe Islands to prepare for a retreat there in the near future. I have been invited to facilitate a retreat in Korea next October.
My hope today is that by sharing my story, it will help someone who is suffering in silence, to know that there is hope and there is healing, and also to raise awareness about the damage that abortion does to women, men and families. Abortion ends the life of an unborn child and deeply damages the mother.