I was 17 years old. I was a senior in high school, straight A student, and I had just been accepted to a very good private college. I took all the accelerated “Ace” classes and was ranked 11th out of 300+. My SAT and ACT scores were top-notch. I went to church every Sunday, said my prayers every night. I was also in love. I had met Steve when I was a freshman in marching band – we both played the trombone. We fell in love quickly, like teenagers do, and even talked of getting married someday. We were both good Christian kids. Steve had given me a promise ring that said, “True Love Waits” and I wore it faithfully. We were intimate, but we managed to hold off having intercourse for about 2.5 years… then… we just didn’t.
Good Christian kids don’t buy condoms – what if someone sees you? And I couldn’t ask my parents for birth control – they’d be mad at me! Steve and I knew it was dangerous, that it was wrong, and so we tried to be careful, but it felt so right. I justified it a million ways. Sin separates you from God… But this love, this intimacy, the way my life was going – that was the closest I had ever felt to God. How could it be wrong? We both knew for certain that we’d spend the rest of our lives together, happily ever after.
It was just after school before my parents got home when I took the pregnancy test in the downstairs bathroom. As I opened the door, Steve was there and he knew the verdict by the look on my face. The first words out of his mouth were, “Congratulations…” I burst into tears.
I had never ever felt so terrified in my life. What would my parents think? What would EVERYONE at school think? This is NOT something that happens to someone like me. Everyone would talk about me, look at me, judge me, call me a hypocrite. The teachers that were all so proud of me would think, “Where did we go wrong… she had so much potential…” My parents would be shamed – this stuff doesn’t happen in MY family – we do things the right way. I would be mocked and ridiculed. I wouldn’t be able to go to college like a normal kid. I wouldn’t be able to live in the dorms or sleep in on weekends or go out to parties. I was utterly terrified, and every time I tried to summon the courage to do the right thing I’d just shut down and shake with fear. Fear of the judgment, fear of the pain, fear of my dirty secret getting out. I hated myself for being so weak, for caring what people thought. I prayed, I cried, I cried some more.
I looked to Steve for support, but he was in much the same boat. He had just started college and he had his whole life ahead of him. He was terrified. His family would be devastated. My mom, ever observant, saw me sitting at the computer a few days later. She just looked at me and flat out asked, “Are you pregnant?” and I told her the truth. I told her I wanted to do the right thing, to be strong… but I also told her how scared I was and how I wanted it to just go away. I just wanted to not be in this situation, wanted it to all go away and be ‘ok’ again.
We didn’t tell Steve’s parents. I didn’t even tell my best friends. I didn’t want anyone else to know – I just wanted it to go away. Years later, looking back, there was some talk of my mom convincing Steve not to tell his parents, but I’m not sure what the truth was. I do know that he was far from ready to be a dad. He lost his temper on the phone with me one night and said some incredibly hurtful words that cemented my reality. This can’t happen. I hated every fiber of my being and I resigned myself to go to hell forever and ever with no forgiveness, because that’s how much I hated myself for what I was about to do.
My mom drove me to the clinic in a bad part of downtown. There were protestors surrounding the entrance and I sat in the car for a long time not wanting to get out to face them. When I finally did, I kept my head down and a steady pace. I could still hear them though. “God loves your precious baby.” “God has plans for your baby’s life!” Tears were streaming down my face when I looked up and saw a man holding out a brochure. On the front was a pair of hands, covered in blood, holding a tiny dead fetus. My heart tore in two and I ran for the door.
The lady inside seemed clinical and bored. The waiting room was packed full. She gave me some paperwork to fill out and I signed my name without my middle initial, because it belonged to my grandmother and I didn’t want her name touching THAT paperwork.
We waited a long time in that crowded room, and as we waited I was losing my nerve more and more. I finally turned to my mom and said in a whisper, “Mom. I’ll walk out of here right now, right now, if you’ll give me your blessing to marry Steve.” She thought about it, thought about my future, the life I would be signing up for, thought about going through senior year of high school pregnant, and she couldn’t do it. I do feel terrible for putting that decision on her – it was my call, my choice, and I shouldn’t have forced her to say that. She wanted what was best for her kid, and she thought this was it, and I can’t blame her for that. I still could have walked out, I’m sure she still would have supported me… but without that blessing I just didn’t have the nerve. I was terrified and stuck between a rock and a hard place. Then my name was called.
Instead of being brought into an exam room, I was sent to another small waiting room in the back, with a little TV and about 6 other girls. The TV was playing a special about Boy George and every girl was looking very somber and nervous. I was in that waiting room for over two hours. Girls would come in and out. Some chatted. One girl had just had a baby and gotten pregnant again too soon. One girl was surprised how much more she was “showing” this time. One girl looked so sad and terrified that she just stared off into space and never said a word. Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon…
My name was called again and they brought me into a private exam room where they would determine the age of the child with an ultrasound. The gel was cold on my belly and I tried not to look at the screen. 10 weeks. 3 days. The nurse forgot to turn off the screen, and when I was getting up and wiping myself off I saw that little black and white image staring me in the face. It was heartbreaking. I wanted to scream, to run, but the thought of leaving terrified me as much as the thought of staying. She flicked off the monitor and hurried me into a chair in a little hallway station to give me some pills and an injection. The nurse said something along the lines of, “One more down… how many more to go?” She sounded irritated and ready to go home. How many of us were there? I thought. There were far more than I had ever expected.
They finally brought me back into an examination room and had me undress and put on the robe and sit on the table. I had never had a pelvic exam in my life, so I had NO idea what to expect. A middle aged nurse and a very old male doctor came in. The nurse explained to me that I had to hold very very still, because otherwise he might slip and puncture my uterus and cause internal bleeding. I also had to keep my eyes open so they could monitor me. They first gave me an injection in my cervix to cause it to dilate, and then they went in with the vacuum. It hurt, and it was humiliating. I was on pain meds, yes, but I could feel the tearing and I could see that brochure from the parking lot over and over in my head. It hurt so bad. I started flooding tears down my face, and the nurse had to keep yelling at me to keep my eyes open. The doctor actually said, “C’mon girl, I know it doesn’t hurt that bad…” Well, there’s more than one type of pain.
Afterwards, I was numb. I remember a nurse saying some very comforting things about my future and how it’ll all be ok now and how in a few days I won’t even feel it and I can go back to my normal life… I wanted to believe her, but “Murderer Murderer Murderer” kept playing over and over in my head. I had murdered my baby. I had killed something that LOVE between me and Steve had produced. I had killed a part of me, a very big part of me, which I would never get back. And in doing that, I had killed the love that had made it.
About a week later, riding in the car with Steve’s mom, she asked me if I was pregnant. I was shocked, but I could honestly tell her “No. No I am not.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, yes I’m sure.” I did finally tell her what happened, after years of guilt, in a letter that I wrote in the lobby of my college dorm. I’m not exactly sure what all I said, and I didn’t hear back from her for a long long time. When I did, she told me how angry she was, and how she was working on forgiving me. I can’t blame her for being angry – I murdered her first grandchild. I certainly had not forgiven myself.
I don’t really remember breaking up with Steve… I just kinda faded into the background of my own life. The rest of senior year was a blur and most of it is completely blocked from my memory. I did stupid things to escape the reality of my life. I didn’t care anymore. I hated myself. I cried constantly. The world was in gray-scale. I went through the motions, but life was just gone. I was depressed for a long long time. I went on to college, and since I had paid such a huge price to be there I worked my ass off. It didn’t compensate for what I did, but I would never forgive myself if I gave myself the opportunity to go to college and then wasted it.
In college I was a member of Intervarsity, the Christian group. I was involved pretty highly, and sophomore year I was asked to run a Bible study. I did NOT feel worthy to do this, and so I sat down with the leader and told him about WHY, I told him what I had done. I felt like he hated me. He said that because of this sin I’ll just work EVEN HARDER for God’s glory, and I can use it as motivation to do good works. I did the study, but after that I was done. There was no embrace, no forgiveness, only judgment and shame and hatred. I didn’t feel like I deserved anything but hell, but I had hoped. I wanted to feel God’s grace again, I wanted to start moving towards forgiveness. The path back has been long and hard, and I’m not there yet.
I still cry whenever I see bumper stickers promoting “Abortion is Murder” or “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart”. I wish I could tell these people that I know that better than anyone! I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. What would I have wanted to hear? What would have helped? I don’t know… There will always be people like that, I don’t really expect that to change.
I had an abortion on October 20th, 2000. Since then I graduated college cum laude with a double major and a minor, got a great job, fell in love with a wonderful man, and I have a son and a daughter. My life would be drastically different without this experience, but I think I would still have made the same choice. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t the end. I don’t regret the abortion so much as I regret putting myself in a situation where I had to make that choice. My excuses for not using birth control were born of guilt, not wanting to get caught. I wish I could shake 17 year old me and say “Suck it up Buttercup! Get your butt to the drugstore and stop worrying what people think, because that shopping trip is no where near as bad as an abortion.”
Abortion is never an easy choice or a quick fix. The the mothers do suffer. It does leave scars.