How many abortions have you had? One
What were your circumstances at the time of the abortion?
I was dating my boyfriend from the age of 14 and we became secretly sexually active when I reached the age of 16. I had been sexually abused as a very young girl and I associated sex with love. So when he said to me if I really loved him I would sleep with him I felt this all must be true. I became pregnant at the age of 18. I was in my final year at secondary school and had aspirations to go to University. I told my boyfriend that I thought I might be pregnant but we both tried to ignore this and at times I would find myself hitting my stomach to try and have a miscarriage. I kept my pregnancy hidden until I was 6 months pregnant and then my parents found out. They thought that our minister could give them good advice about what they should do with their teenage daughter who was pregnant. Unfortunately I was not shown compassion and understanding but condemnation and the threat of shame and disgrace. I lived in a small rural community and I would be known as the ‘Scarlet woman’ who had brought disgrace into my family circle and my ‘church community’.
I carried my baby to full term and thankfully my parents were able to persuade the minister not to bring me out into public disgrace.
I gave birth to my son on the 3rd December 1984 in a maternity ward with strangers. I had no one with me to support me. I never got to see my son Stephen, as I had been persuaded to give him up for adoption. 29 years ago girls didn’t have babies and go to university. I had a week off school and returned to school the following Monday and carried on as if nothing had ever happened. I shut off that part of my heart and it was never talked about.
I headed off to university the following year and settled into uni life. I was still seeing my boyfriend (of 7 years) and slept with him one more time. Unfortunately I got pregnant again. I knew that if I told anyone this time they would force me to marry my boyfriend and I knew that we were not a good combination. He had been quite controlling and I suffered greatly from self-esteem issues especially after having had a baby who I gave up for adoption and also having been abused sexually as a young girl. So this time I chose to have an abortion. “Sure it was only a blob of tissues and no one would ever know. I could keep it hidden away, deal with it and that would be it.”
Do you think you were adequately informed at the time, of the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of abortion?
The doctor at uni confirmed my pregnancy and suggested some clinics I could contact in England to help me get an abortion. I contacted the clinic and got a date then arranged flights for my sister and friend to accompany me. I did tell my parents and they left the decision to me as I was now 21 and could make these decisions for myself.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
I headed to London and went to the clinic for my check up. I had left it until the very last available opportunity and the doctor who did the check up said that a week later and I wouldn’t have been able to have the abortion. It was arranged that I would return the next day and check in to the hospital, have my abortion and I could be back home the day after. Everything would be over in one weekend. My sister, my friend and I tried to pass the time that evening by going to the cinema and pretending that everything was normal. My sister did keep asking me was I sure that I was doing the right thing but I had shut my mind and heart off to all emotions and was determined in my head that this was the right thing to do. Sure what could I offer a child? My boyfriend had been two timing me a number of times by this stage so what environment was that to bring a child in to. Even if we did get married and have this child sure we’d only end up divorced and that would be a greater ‘sin’ than what I was doing to this blob of cells.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
I headed to the clinic the next day and headed down to theatre to have my abortion. When I came round after the procedure I knew that I had a great sadness in my heart. I sobbed uncontrollably and they pulled a curtain around my bed so that I wouldn’t upset the others on the ward. I was so sad within my spirit and when my sister and friend came to visit me later that evening I just sobbed again. My sister cried with me.
I had to shut off my emotions if I was ever going to cope. Once again it was another topic not to be talked about. I shut off all feelings and tried to go on with my life. I had broken off the relationship with my boyfriend just before I had gone to London to have the abortion. I didn’t tell him I was pregnant so he never had a choice in my decision.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
I came back home and carried on with my university studies and then trained to become a teacher. I didn’t have a relationship with anyone until I reached 30. I felt that no one would want me as I was ‘soiled goods’. I met a man who had a chequered past like myself and got married. During these next years I tried to deal with the abuse I had received as a child but I was still not prepared to address the hurt caused by my choice to have an abortion.
What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?
In 2006, after having gone through divorce and was now in a new relationship I went along to a meeting in my new church and a lady there was speaking about her abortion. I tried to shut out what she was saying, that the blob of cells I had chosen to get rid of, was really my baby. I knew the truth deep in my heart but I had denied it for so long. It was not a blob of cells but this was my child. The pain in my heart resurfaced and I knew I wanted to find the healing and forgiveness she was speaking about. God could bring healing to the hurt in my heart. I could find help and be released from all the guilt that I had carried around for so long.
I spoke to her after the meeting and she told me of a retreat where I could go and find healing. I asked her to put me in contact with the lady who was running the course and it was arranged that I would attend the weekend retreat with my soon to be husband. He was so supportive and was able to see and hear the hurt that I had experienced and see me receive healing and be able to support me on that weekend. I started on my journey to healing and hope for my future. I was able to talk about my children, to grieve them and celebrate and recognise their lives.
Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering abortion today?
Earlier this year I also attended the course ‘Surrendering the Secret’ which helped me to deal with the hidden grief, shame and hurt which I had buried deep within. I can now speak about my children and celebrate their lives. I regret my abortion but I praise God I have found healing from the past and from my wrong decision but it no longer defines me or keeps me bound up in guilt and shame.