Lynn Coles, Down
How many abortions have you had?
What were your circumstances at the time of the abortion?
I was born and brought up in Belfast. I am sixth of eight siblings. My parents were not religious in any way but we were sent to Sunday School. I went to a Grammar School and I moved to England in 1978 for work after my GCSEs. I started dating my boyfriend a year later in 1979 when I was still 17. The relationship was my first sexual relationship. We had been going out for about 14 months when I discovered I was pregnant. It was a shock as I had been on the Pill.
How many weeks pregnant were you?
I had missed two periods and reckoned I was about 10 weeks pregnant based on my dates.
What type of abortion was performed?
I never knew what type of abortion was performed. I don’t recall having anything explained to me. It is only when I went through abortion recovery counselling and I started to research what type of abortion procedure is used for the first trimester, that I realised I would have had a ‘vacuum aspiration’ abortion.
Did anyone pressure or coerce you to choose abortion?
My boyfriend was out of the country and uncontactable when I discovered I was pregnant. The Doctor I saw was tied in with my employment and he immediately mentioned abortion as soon as he gave me the test results. By the time I left the Doctor’s Office and walked back to my Department, my immediate Supervisor had been told. To me, abortion was just a word and I never really knew what it entailed. I knew of others who had had abortions and they seemed fine. I was given a week to try and contact my boyfriend but already booked in for the abortion the following week. Contacting my boyfriend was a near on impossible task in 1980 with no email, mobiles or Facebook. I had to resort to sending a telegram. I felt I had no other choice but to follow through on the abortion. I was being encouraged by those much more mature than me, those in authority over me and health professionals that it was the best thing to do.
I was ashamed to be pregnant and wished that I had told one of my sisters or a friend back home in Belfast. I think their advice would have been the complete opposite to that I was being given in England. Abortion seemed very acceptable in England.
How much information were you given on the abortion procedure at the time and by whom?
None that I recall. I saw one Doctor for the pregnancy test. I saw a further two Doctors before I was booked in for the abortion. I had been advised to say that I was suicidal to secure the signatures of the two Doctors. My employer would then pay for the abortion and health professionals employed by them would carry out the abortion. I was told by everyone that the baby was not a baby and was "just a blob of cells". I was encouraged to put it out of my mind and think about my career…and that “I would have plenty of time to have children in the future.”
Do you think you were adequately informed at the time, of the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of abortion?
Absolutely, categorically no. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone through with it and would have saved myself years of heartbreak. I chose abortion but little did I know that my ‘choice’ would prove to be a very poor choice.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
It was performed on 21st September 1980. I was put in to a ward with women giving birth and visitors coming to and fro with baby gifts, pink and blue balloons and flowers. Even then I recall thinking that this was not right. I was the only girl in that ward who was not married and not having a baby. I am sure the women who had their babies or were giving birth, knew why I was there but no-one spoke to me. I felt alone and isolated.
The next day I was taken down for the abortion. I was given a full anaesthetic. Later, I woke up in the bed and was immediately sick from the effects of the anaesthetic. I suddenly remembered that I had woken up during the procedure and felt a tugging sensation in my stomach. I had a vivid recollection of verbalising that I was in pain and recalled crying. This disturbed me so much that I called for a Nurse. I asked the Nurse if I had woken up during the procedure and explained what I recalled. She told me to not be so "stupid" and said "of course you didn’t". Everyone in the room heard her patronising tone and I immediately felt ashamed. Because of this, I decided there and then, that I would not ask anymore questions about the abortion ever again. I would put it out of my mind as never having happened. That day, the walls went up and my voice was silenced.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
Sadness…what have I done? Physical pain from the abortion procedure and emotionally confused particularly in relation to the memory of waking up during the procedure. After the incident with the Nurse, anger was the emotion that closely followed. That anger never left me until I went through the healing process many years later. It affected all parts of my life. A feeling of powerlessness also ensued. I berated myself for getting myself in to the situation in the first place. Relief was a small part of what I felt and if anything, I was only relieved that the procedure was over.
How has your abortion affected you?
I was led to expect that my life would go on as normal. It was nothing to be concerned about, just a simple procedure and "the baby wasn’t a baby anyhow". Unbelievably, and I even thought this at the time, I returned to work the very next day after I left the hospital. No counselling and no support.
Anger played a big part in the aftermath of my abortion. I was angry at myself for getting pregnant, angry at my boyfriend for not being there to my protect me from abortion and the abuse of authority of my employers, angry at my employers for coercing me in to the abortion with the threat of not only losing my job and my income but also my home if I did not abort.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
It affected my relationship with my boyfriend. He had no part to play in the abortion obviously and by the time he had received my communication telling him I was pregnant, I had already had the abortion. We had discussed marriage already and when he returned a few weeks later, we got engaged and married 6 months later. We should never have married. I felt that the abortion had changed me forever and felt completely different about my husband than I did prior to the abortion. I felt though, that I had had an abortion and forged this unhealthy bond now with the father of the baby I aborted – best I marry him. I am sure my husband then probably felt guilty in some way about what had happened and if you asked him today, he would probably agree that we should not have married.
The only conversation my husband and I ever had about the abortion was one in which he said that "at least we know we can have children". I never shared with him how it made me feel and was unable to articulate how awful I felt. Everyone around me was saying what a great thing abortion was for women but no-one was saying that they felt like I did. I thought it must just be me then.
The abortion affected how I trusted people. I kept people at arm’s length. I became paranoid about taking the Pill whilst married to my husband, even though there would now be no problem with me getting pregnant. We divorced after 6 years of marriage and no further pregnancies.
Over the following 10 years, I worked in a professional environment. I found that I would react to the subject of abortion when it came up on a TV programme or conversations with peers. Whilst still holding a view that it was "a woman’s right to choose", I would react angrily when people would espouse that abortion was a good thing. I never disclosed to anyone that I would constantly think about the baby I aborted – Christmas and anniversary dates being frequent triggers for memories. I would look at the children of friends, who would be around the same age as my aborted child, and ponder on what my child would look like, would he/she be walking? talking? going to school? Every milestone in life brought memories.
I subsequently met and married my second husband and we have been happily married for 21 years. I miscarried our first child, a daughter whom we named Lily. I fell pregnant straightaway with our second daughter, Holly. It was during the pregnancy with Holly and reading the ante natal books on baby development that the full force of what I had done ten years' previously fully hit me.
I read about the first trimester and how the heartbeat can start as early as 28 days after conception. The baby is fully formed (although still to mature) at 12 weeks. The reality sunk in that I had been told lies and had believed every one of them. I felt physically sick.
I had not told my second husband about my previous abortion. I felt that I had to do this because at my first ante natal appointment, they asked me outright if I had had any previous abortions and recorded that fact on my notes which I brought home with me. My husband was very understanding and compassionate. He and I were totally in the dark about the turmoil which was about to encroach upon our life. All your history is in your future. You just don’t know what the future holds when you make the decision to abort. Telling your husband about a past abortion is tough.
All through the pregnancy with Holly, I had mixed emotions. Very happy to be carrying Holly but also grieving the child I had aborted.
It affected my professional life also. I was a serving Police Officer when I fell pregnant with Holly. As a result of my experiencing poor handling of maternity rights and procedures, I became a Federation Representative for Female Constables (approx. 650) in my area. This was in addition to my normal operational duties and hours. I dealt with many sexual discrimination, harassment and equal opportunities grievances on a regular basis. I now know that it was my abortion experience which was the driving force but I couldn’t see it at the time. My thinking was: 'why can’t a woman have a child and her career?'. I didn’t want to see other women pushed into the same decision I had been pushed into 10 years previously.
I found that when I gave birth to Holly, that our happiness was tinged with sadness and I couldn’t bond with her fully. I looked at her and wondered what my aborted child would have looked like as well as what Lily (the daughter we miscarried) would have looked like.
To all intents and purposes, people would have assumed I had post natal depression following the birth of Holly. I knew, deep down, it was the abortion that was the crux of the problem but never shared that with my Doctor. The following four years were difficult and my poor husband, bless him, will testify to what it is like to live with a post abortive woman. We were on the verge of divorce when God drew me to Him. I had changed my ‘religion’ early on in life to ‘agnostic’ on official paperwork but for over the year of 1993, I felt that God was speaking the truth in to my life, slowly but surely. I came to a personal faith and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and my husband followed suit, one month later.
At that time, I knew instantly that all my sin was forgiven by what Jesus had done for me on the Cross and that included the sin of abortion. God does not have a sliding scale of sin with abortion being number one and gossiping as number 10. Sin is sin and only one person was without sin – Jesus. So, my burden of shame and guilt of my abortion was lifted and through God leading me to another Godly woman called Margaret, I received help and counselling to think and pray through how my abortion had affected me. I named my aborted child Stephen and gave him his rightful place in our family as the eldest. I became involved in helping other women who were struggling after their abortion experience
Fast forward a few more years to 1997 and I was pregnant with our third daughter, Bryony. God has done amazing things in my life and brought immense healing – physically, emotionally and more importantly, spiritually. Our daughter Bryony was born perfectly healthy and weighed in at 9lbs 11oz.
Both Holly and Bryony know they have lost a brother to abortion. Explaining this to them, in age-appropriate language, was difficult for me and for them. The abortion provider doesn’t give you instructions on how to do that nor are they anywhere to be found when that time comes. (NB: I would strongly advise that no woman should tell their children about a past abortion without first going through an abortion recovery programme and exploring her reasons for wanting to disclose this information with an abortion recovery specialist.)
What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?
Until I met Jesus, nothing helped. Nothing. I tried alcohol to numb the pain and when that didn’t work, I tried food. I felt suicidal a lot of the time which is ironic when I think back to being coached to say I was suicidal to obtain the abortion in the first place. I wasn’t suicidal about being pregnant but I was most definitely suicidal after the abortion.
Christ has set me free from the pain and burden of abortion. He has forgiven me and in turn I was able to forgive all those involved in the abortion decision and process including my abortion providers. The pent up, unresolved grief was the reason for the anger – along with unforgiveness. Withholding forgiveness is often the cause of depression in many people. It was such a relief to lay it all down as I was sick and tired of carrying it. A key verse from the Bible, which God used to speak to me at this time, was:
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I read a lot of books over the years on recovery after abortion and met with other women who had gone through the same experience. I attend regular training and keep up to date with research on the subject. I realised that God loved me even when I didn’t know Him and had rejected Him. He gives us free will to choose. There is nothing I can do to earn His love and nothing I can do which will make Him love me any more or any less. It is an unconditional gift – we just have to accept it. Every woman’s healing journey is different and God is still revealing things to me even now.
I have been involved in abortion recovery now for over 15 years, on a voluntary basis. I have used various programmes and now lead a course called ‘Surrendering the Secret’ www.surrenderingthesecret.com. It is an 8 week ‘closed Group’ and is completely confidential. You can go to the website and explore more for yourself.
Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering abortion today?
I have met Muslim women who have had abortions and been deeply affected. At the other end of the spectrum, I have met atheists who react the same way. Their symptoms displayed and what they share is a communal one. It is not a ‘religious’ thing to feel regret after abortion – it is a ‘human’ thing and a ‘woman’ thing. We were not designed to take the life of our children. It doesn’t matter what reason we decide to abort and it doesn’t matter what stage of pregnancy either. It is the abortion itself that deeply damages us and the ripple effects of abortion, cross the race, creed and social divides.
If you are pregnant and considering abortion, take the time to think things through. You are pregnant and so your body is changing already, you will no doubt be on an emotional roller coaster and your situation maybe difficult, causing you to consider abortion. Try to think objectively and not be driven by your emotions. There is always a way through even the most difficult of circumstances. I was told abortion would solve my problems, but it only gave me new ones.
There is help available for you. You are not alone. You can talk to others who have walked in your shoes and please don’t overlook the miracle of adoption.
If you are struggling after an abortion experience, I want you to know that you are not alone. There is hope and healing. Take courage, a deep breath and make contact with Women Hurt so you can access some help and start your road to recovery.