'To those feeling regret about abortion...'
An open letter to women who may not be able to fully celebrate this Mother's Day
You may not know me, but I know, I think, a little something of your pain. You see, a little known fact about me is that I had an abortion when I was 18. I forget sometimes…maybe you do too. My boyfriend at the time told me you couldn’t get pregnant the first time you had sex. I believed him, despite being in the top set for Biology and present for all the sex education classes in school. Now I know; some men just don’t like to wear condoms.
There’s a lot of talk about abortions in the media at the moment. About a woman’s right to choose. I remember being in the doctor’s surgery on my university campus. ‘Are you sure?’ they asked me. I felt heavy. My body was carrying a tiny new life and I wanted her. My mother told me, ‘You’re not ready to be a mother, but I am ready to be a grandmother’. I was crying all the time and confused by my older boyfriend’s anger towards me. ‘Just get rid of it’, he told me in no uncertain terms.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. That was the right order.
Abortion, for me, didn’t feel too much like a choice, it felt like an option I wished never existed. For once, I wanted to have to face up to the consequences of my actions. I loved babies and children. I helped out at the crèche at church and regularly babysat for a friend of the family. My dream was to have two children by the time I turned 24, so this was on track! Even if it was somewhat different to the way I expected. My lecturer pulled me aside and told me I could make it work. Students had babies alongside their studies and it didn’t mean they had to pull out of their degree. She told me about the support the university offered. I tried to listen but I felt dizzy and embarrassed. I didn’t want to be a teenage mum, a single-parent mum. I didn’t want the shame and the pitying looks in church. I went to a private school and got good grades. I wanted to be successful and do things the right way. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. That was the right order. But I also didn’t want my little girl to go*.
my phone rang constantly from the father of my child amidst texts which swung between loving messages and threats
The day before the abortion was due to take place, my mother convinced me to come home and not go through with it. Later that night, she left me home alone and she went to church with my sister; presumably to pray for me and her grandchild. In their absence, my phone rang constantly with calls from the father of my child amidst texts which swung between loving messages and threats. Eventually he convinced me to give him my mother’s address and he drove for two hours in the night to come pick me up. For years afterwards I would have dreams where he sat in various cars parked outside my mother’s house and there were always different people in the car with him. Friends I knew from university; all wanting something from me. That night, with no one there to stop him, he took me with him and drove the two hours back to campus and to his flat in case I changed my mind again.
I have to pause here because I haven’t relieved this experience for over a decade. I was so young and so scared; not of having the baby, but of my boyfriend. He was never violent towards me, but I knew he would do whatever it took to make sure that pregnancy ended.
If you’re reading this and haven’t experienced an abortion, I don’t know how to explain it. I was just under three months pregnant and I was put under anaesthetic for the procedure. When I woke up, I was sick and disorientated. Shorly afterwards I walked out to see the woman who I later discovered was my boyfriend’s girlfriend, sitting calmly in the waiting room. The day I killed my baby was also the day I found out that there was someone else in my boyfriend’s life. A long-term girlfriend whose presence explained - at least in part - why he was so keen to get rid of the evidence of his betrayal. I sat quietly in the back of the car as she yelled at him in the front. A life had been sucked out of me and I wanted to die too.
When my daughter Annie died shortly after birth a few years later, my immediate thought was: this is payback
When my daughter Annie died shortly after birth a few years later, my immediate thought was: this is payback. I killed a child before, now God is showing His hand by taking away this one. It took a long time to unwind from that thinking. I learned that Jesus is not in the habit of paying us back for our mistakes. But I grew up with the God of the Old Testament, the God who showed His people that we simply cannot live up to the strict law without failing. We will always fail and suffer the consequences of that judgement. Jesus came to free us from that bondage. The relationship we can have with God now is of love, not an adherence to rules like in the Greek and Roman Classics who were always battling with angry gods.
I wrote a piece about baby loss for the Christian media platform I lead, Woman Alive, ‘I may not be a mum, but I’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day this year’. I freely talk about Annie, the child I lost through no fault of my own, less so about my unnamed child. People are less sympathetic about abortion. How can I justify the sadness I felt about something I brought about on my own?
So I’m sending love to you, dear reader. If you have ever had an abortion under any circumstance, I’m remembering your child with you this Sunday. You may have had children before, you may have had children after, or you may remain childless as I do. But if you ever have days when you wish you could acknowledge that little one, whether you wanted them or not, I see you and I’m standing with you.
Happy Mother’s Day.
*It was too early to know the gender of my child, I just “felt” she was a girl.
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