The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Look at me...

       As I approach the evening hours tonight, I delve deeper into my memories of my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat last year at this time.  Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been a whole year, other times it seems like a week ago, and there remain moments when I feel like I never went at all.  That is when I pray for the graces that I received that weekend to return to me, to my heart and my mind and buoy me until I can plant my feet firmly back on the ground of my truth that thankfully is getting stronger and stronger each day.

       I often will list (and re list and visit the old lists) of the positive and reparative things I’ve done and taken on since this journey begin.  It helps to remind me of the good that has come of all of this.  It helps me in my moments of darkness when the enemy is nipping at my heels and every other part of me that is exposed.  Sometimes, too, the enemy has a way of barging right in on me without warning, bypassing the sneakiness that is usually employed.  But, I remain strong in my faith and say a silent prayer and repeat as necessary.  Reflecting on everything is also a good reminder that this will always be a part of me.  I lost a child and that sad fact will remain with me until the end of my days.  What matters now is how I deal with that fact.
       I left that retreat with a full heart and I remained quite puffed up for some time.  However, I did descend from the mountaintop eventually, and fears and doubts returned a bit.  My cyclical life-long depression returned, luckily recognized and managed quickly.  I was offered and accepted additional Project Rachel counseling and continue with it to this day. 

       Of all the things that I gained on that weekend, the event that changed my life for good was the adoration of our Lord.
      At the start of my healing journey, I had just discovered adoration, not having much experience with it before.  I even Google’d it before a 40 hours adoration that my parish had to see what I was to do there.  I didn’t feel remotely worthy of being in the presence of our Lord in that way.  My belief in the Real Presence has permeated my life through times of devoutness and times of being a lapsed Catholic at best.  I have never believed in communion in the hand because my hands aren’t sacred, but I refrain from receiving differently because of my own insecurities.  The fact remains that I don’t feel that I should be handling our Lord like that.

       I went to my Church during 40 hours and sat way towards the back of the church. I saw the kneelers right in front of Our Lord and oh, how I longed to be brave enough to kneel right there, that close to Him.  I stayed in the back and would glance up occasionally. 
       We are fortunate at our parish that there is adoration once a week, all day.  However, it’s in the Chapel, a much smaller and intimate setting and a terrifying reality for this unworthy servant.  I would always take a seat in the back rows of the chapel.  The kids from school come to adoration for a small time throughout the day, and some of them sit in the front row.  I thought how brave they are!  Of course, my mind set was that they hadn’t had an abortion so of course they were welcome up front!

       One time I had the whole Chapel to myself and I tried to talk myself into moving up closer.  I thought about what would happen if I lay prostrate on the ground before Our Lord.  My luck would be that someone would definitely come in at that moment.  But I thought, just maybe, if I did that I would make myself worthy if I physically threw myself down at His feet pleaded for mercy, mercy that I would actually feel and know to be true.

       All of those times spent at adoration along my journey, I lived in constant fear of being “found out.”  Like a big “A” was blazoned on my forehead.  I wasn’t worthy to be in His presence.  How dare I even think about approaching Him?  Just like that woman in the dust and dirt reaching out to Him – but I never reached out or looked up. 
       Throughout the counseling leading up to my retreat, I started to open the door, ever so slowly, to the idea that I was worthy and that no sin was greater than His mercy, that He actually wanted me there, that He was waiting for me.

       I found that the more I went to adoration, the better I felt.  I started to look for adoration hours wherever I could find them when I had time to go.  [Note to self: we need an App for Adoration Times… Jesus is here! ] Many years ago, churches were open all the time and you could visit whenever you felt the inclination or need.  Now, you have to call the church and talk to the sometimes dreaded parish secretary about getting into church and then most likely have to explain why. 
       This leads me to the adoration that changed my life for good.  We had scripture mediation in the chapel at the retreat and a Marian Monstrance was displayed.  Kind of like the picture I have included.  It’s basically the image of Mary and she is holding our Lord.  They draped some fabric over it to symbolize Jesus’ garment.  People took turns approaching the kneeler and touched the garment and asked for what they needed from Him. 

       This particular meditation was torture for my soul.  I couldn’t move from my seat.  I was 3 feet from our Lord, closer than I had ever been and I was racked with sobbing that I tried to muffle as best I could.  I never did take my turn at the kneeler and the exercise ended.  In His great providence, the retreat leaders said they would have the same set up through the night for “anyone” who wanted to visit later.  I went back to my room, threw out my decimated contacts, popped in some new ones and went to dinner. 
       Late that night after a long talk with a very kind and gentle Priest, I tiptoed up to the Chapel and found it empty except for Him.  I walked right up to that kneeler and shook as I knelt down.  The cloak lie somewhat over the top of the kneeler and I was careful to avoid touching it for I was still in my despair and afraid.  I was afraid to look up.  In the quiet of the Chapel in the candlelight, with the sounds of nature outside, I heard His voice.

        “Look at me.”
       And I did.  I looked up and saw Him, in His mother’s arms.  Mary led me to her Son reminding me that although He was the Word made flesh, He was her son too.  Mary loved and cared for him just like I have loved and cared for my children.  This Marian Monstrance reminded me that even He, at many times in His life, needed His Mom to hold him.  Mary lived her life loving Him and adoring Him. 

       I began to feel that my adoration “from afar” was not what He wanted from me.  I could adore Him in the same way I was learning to love Him.  Mary illuminated His humanity with the fullness of who He was – all at once.  Surely, I could meet Him this way and be this close, and look up and gaze upon His humanity and divinity contemporaneously.  Mary was becoming my model for adoration in that moment.  She was teaching me to hold Him too, within me, close to my heart and to fiercely protect His presence in me. 
       I was able to ever so slowly move my fingers just a bit and hold a piece of that garment in my hand and I felt His mercy reign down over me and through me.  The tears came again and this time I dried them with His garment because I was worthy of His care.  I was worthy of His love.  I was worthy of His mercy.

       Since my retreat, I still go to adoration whenever my busy life as a mom permits.  I’m the one on the kneeler right in front.  I haven’t tried to prostate myself yet but it’s not out of the question.  After Mass, when our Priests are in the back to say Hello, I often will reach out and offer a loving pat on the arm, but I have ulterior motives in addition to wanting to show my love for our Priests.  It allows me to just touch a piece of their vestments, just for a second, as a reminder that I am worthy of the Christ who he represents. 
"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone?
He burns with the desire to come into your heart...don't listen to the demon, laugh at him,
and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love...” - St. Therese of Lisieux

I have been changed For Good...

Lots to think about this weekend and reflect on since it's the one year anniversary of my Rachel's Vineyard retreat.  The Priest at our retreat used this song to demonstrate reconciliation and how sometimes, we are forever changed, For Good, even though it may have been something truly horrible that prompted that change in the beginning.  But with our Lord's infinite mercy, we find infinite grace. 

Who can say that I've been changed for the better?

I have a tiny circle of people that have held my hand and different parts along this journey and I have been changed for the better for having known all of them for whatever reason they reached out their hand for mine and helped me through. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Divine Mercy in My Soul

Hopefully this weekend I'll get a copy of St. Faustina's Diary.  After the last week or so and with what I have coming up in the next month or so - I need Divine Mercy in My Soul. I have it in my head, sometimes in my heart, I've felt it in my soul.  But, I need some practice in keeping it in all of me so that nothing shakes this most important truth that sometimes is the only thing that keeps me going. 

Yesterday, I got in a kind of debate with some folks about what happens to a woman (or in my case, a girl) after she has an abortion.  It still stuns me that some people think nothing happens to a woman who has an abortion except that one minute she is pregnant and the next she is not.  I'm sick of debating friends and colleagues over "women's rights" regarding abortion - if it's such a hard won right and should be so protected - why is it so shameful?  Why is it so hidden and kept secret?  Why are abortion clinics tucked away behind buildings with the windows covered by cardboard or paint? 

I'm not able to make a strong enough case to change some people's minds, but I'll still try from my little soap box here on the web.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The grief that sneaks up on you...

I would like to extend an invitation to any person in psychiatric academia to pick my brain for a while to find out if, indeed, post abortion syndrome actually exists. 

I’m aware that the anniversary of my abortion is looming, so a lot is being and going to be drudged up.  I’m better able to handle it now, armed with my faith and what I know to be true, with my acknowledgment that I have lost a child and am allowed to grieve for her, regardless of how I lost her, and the ability to allow the grief to wash over me for a time and then leave it at the foot of the Cross…again.
There are moments, however, still, that none of the above matters one iota and certain thoughts and feelings, long suppressed and/or never acknowledged or given a voice or outlet, consume me.  It’s often at the most inopportune times, when I don’t have time to allow it, when I have no choice but to push it down deep inside because of my duties as a mother to my two living children. 

My eldest asked me today if I was ever pregnant in the summer time.  I immediately said, no, I wasn’t, which is good, because I don’t do well in the heat to begin with, I can’t imagine doing it pregnant.  Then I remember, yes, I was pregnant in the summer time.  In the middle of summer in 1987, at this time, all those years ago, I carried Grace inside me.  The 11-12 weeks that she was growing inside me was all I physically knew of her.  I didn’t get to experience the rest of being pregnant with her.  I didn’t get to feel that first butterfly tickle of movement and then the all out gymnastics of an almost to-term baby in the womb.  Those feelings are what I loved the most about being pregnant and what I remember the most.  But I don’t have that memory of Grace.  I have no physical memory of her in that sense.
At least here, I have a place to put my thoughts for now.  I pray for the strength to find the grace in the truth I’ve discovered this morning prompted by a simple, innocent question by Grace’s sister.  Was it Grace that prompted the question?  What am I to do with it now?  Or, is it something evil causing me to yet again, bring it up and torture me?  I like to think I have some control over what it is and why.  I say a silent prayer, a few silent prayers, over and over in my mind while doing the dishes, while combing hair and making ponytails, while folding the laundry.

Jesus, please help me.  Jesus, I’m sorry.  Mary, guide me.  Grace, forgive me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rachel's Vineyard

"A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted because they were no more."  Matthew 2:18 

I remain completely overwhelmed and stunned at the response I've received thus far with this blog.  Some have offered words of encouragement and support, others prayers and "pats on the back" for my bravery (easy to be brave with the anonymity online though).  Most importantly I have had a few comments and/or emails from other women like me who have had an abortion - some who have sought healing, some who have not, and others who have never talked about it at all.

So, I offer the following link Rachel's Vineyard and Project Rachel.  I have experienced both Project Rachel one-on-one counseling and have attended a Rachel's Vineyard weekend retreat.  In addition, you may contact your local diocese for information about their abortion recovery program.  You can also ask your parish priest for contact information.  I would strongly encourage any post abortive woman to seek out healing - no matter how long its been.  I am a living testament to the power of what our Lord's mercy can do for one's heart, mind and soul whether it be peace of mind when you go to sleep at night or the ability to hear the word "abortion" and not visibly shudder.  Whatever it is you need, you will find it here...

Rachel's Vineyard

Project Rachel

National Office for Project Rachel

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In my Father's house...

I’m not sure when the panic started for me about the father of my aborted child, Grace.  I’ve been involved in counseling for almost the past two years and it wasn’t until recently that the idea of the father of Grace came to the forefront of my mind and thoughts. It seems as though I am running out of pieces to put together on this journey and the closer I come to its completion, “someone” throws me off, steals a puzzle piece or tries to give me a new one that would never fit into my puzzle so I’m tortured by a futile attempt at making it fit.

Maybe it was Father’s Day this year that prompted it.  That would make sense since now that I am finally grieving the loss of Grace – each special occasion or holiday since the first steps of my journey is now tinged with a poignancy that I hadn’t acknowledged before.  Thus, Father’s Day would be different this year. 
I’m blessed to have had a good father myself.  I grew up under his encouragement and belief that I could do or be anything I wanted to do or be.  He valued my intelligence and encouraged my education.  He was a good example in many ways of what a husband should be as he provided for his family and he worked alongside my mother, not extolling some of the chauvinistic traits that some in his generation would.  But there were areas where he fell short.  He wasn’t there for me emotionally or spiritually.  We were never close in that way that some fathers and daughters are.  And, obviously, he didn’t instill in me any sense of sexual well being at all - not entirely his fault as I’m sure that he thought my mom was taking care of that.

I hit the jackpot with my husband though, having found all of the good and virtuous things that my father encompassed and added to those were everything that was missing from my relationship with my father.  The Lord sent me a man who helped me piece back together my sense of self and show me the beauty that sexual intimacy should be and would be.
Maybe that’s what started the panic about Grace’s father – watching my husband in action.  I began to ache over the idea that he’s not Grace’s father.  I started to wonder about the what-if’s.  What if I didn’t have the abortion, Grace would have been about 7 years old when we started dating.  Would he even have wanted to date me knowing that? Would he have accepted Grace as his own child?  What kind of relationship would I have with Grace’s father for the rest of our lives?

I’ve been wrestling for a few weeks now about who Grace’s father is – since I was unsure and it was quite possible that it could have been one of two people.  I started to think how I could approach my husband and ask him to be Grace’s father in some symbolic way.  I prayed about it and thought about it and talked about it.  As I sat at Mass last weekend, I had a feeling come over me (a feeling that I recognized immediately as having had before on this journey) and that feeling told me that I did know who Grace’s father is.
Okay, so I make the decision of my truth about who Grace’s father is and I start to let that stew for a week or so.  I allow myself to think about all of the variations of what could have happened had he known I was pregnant.  Would the outcome have been different?  Would Grace be here today?  Would I be where I am?  I almost have to set a timer when I allow myself to go down those roads because it’s a long walk back sometimes.  But it allows me to think about it and then let it go.

I had to be reminded in counseling this week that I can’t take on new guilt now that I’ve named Grace’s father.  I can’t allow myself to feel guilty for having robbed him of a child.  I’ve seen and read a lot of things lately about men regretting abortion and what it does to them and although I know that it must be true – I didn’t have a choice in telling him that he was going to be a father.  Although I’m still quick to take the blame completely for my abortion, I have to remind myself that I was 17 years old and I didn’t have a choice.  My mom told me not to tell anyone so I didn’t… not even the father. 
This weekend started with me allowing these new thoughts and feelings to settle into my soul.  After work one day, I went to a church to sit and write in my journal and pray.  Luckily there is a church nearby my office that is open sometimes and it’s a gorgeous old Gothic church, just the kind I like.  I sat for a while in the silence and allowed the thoughts to come and go hoping to find a way out of this panic mode – waiting for an answer.

The day before I had emailed my Priest (an awesome Spiritual Father that I’ve gained on this journey) and asked for some prayers as I often do when times are tough.  He answered with kind and thought provoking words of wisdom.  As I sat in the church and thought about everything, I remembered one thing that he had said in his response, “Ultimately, you and Grace are the Father's children.”
Could it be that easy?

  The one answer that would give me peace about it all.  The one answer that was really the only realistic one that I had to cling to and the one that left no doubt at all about its truth.
It doesn’t matter (at least in the way I’ve tried to force it to matter) who Grace’s father is on this earth.  Although it makes me sad that my husband isn’t Grace’s father – it’s unrealistic to ache over it.  Yearning for this undiscoverable truth has cost me time and energy that I’ll never get back. 

So, I put my pen and journal down and wept at the simple and yet colossal idea that I could put the panic to rest that had taken up residence in my heart and mind because in my soul, I knew the truth – that God, the Lord and Father of all, was and is Grace’s father and that’s all she needs where she is.  He was her Father when she was formed in my womb, and He is her Father now and forever. 
I lit a candle before our Blessed Mother and asked for her protection and guidance.  I asked her also if she could go to her Son and please ask him to watch over whoever Grace’s father is on this earth and if he has earthly children to help him to a be a good father to them. 

I went back and sat in the pew and prayed some more, or tried to.  Whenever I seem to have some epiphany about something – the warfare starts all over again in my mind.  I attempt to pray it away until I hear the Pastor locking doors and setting alarms in my Father’s house.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A double-edged sword...

Another one of my many issues is completely biological and anatomical.  After my last Cesarean section I had a hysterosalpingogram performed.  It was after this test that it was discovered that I have what is known as a "unicornuate uterus."  It's a rare and mostly congenital condition (described below).  Of course, at this diagnosis my mind went directly to the notion that it may not have been congenital at all - and may have been physical trauma from my abortion.  I'll never know the true answer to that question.

However, what I do know is why when my husband and I tried to get pregnant - it took a long time and we never really knew why.  Right before we started any infertility type treatment - I would end up pregnant on my own (well, not on my own, but you know what I mean - with no medical intervention).  After two successful pregnancies - my OB told me that had he known of my condition before those two - he would have told us to start looking for a surrogate or some other way to have children because my chances were that slim or non-existent.  He also told me it was possible that I had some miscarriages along the way that I didn't really know about.  When we went back over all of our charts from NFP - it was clear that I was not ovulating regularly or sometimes, not at all - no temperature spikes, nothing.  With only one functioning tube - now it made sense. 

I think of this as a double edged sword - because most women (those who haven't had an abortion) would look at this as a complete blessing from heaven that they had two healthy children in spite of this rare anomaly.  However, in my clouded mindset - I do reflect on what miracles my children actually are but it's colored by the idea that my abortion may have been the reason why I had such trouble getting pregnant when we wanted to.  It may also be the reason I won't be able to have any more children.  I'm too damaged and the risk is too great.

The good thing is I'm getting better at recognizing the grace and the Grace in all of it and ignoring the negative thinking...

Even with a unicornuate uterus, a non-functioning fallopian tube, etc., I have two beautiful and healthy children here on earth and one as my own personal guardian angel in Heaven.

A unicornuate uterus is a uterus that has a single horn and a banana shape. Approximately 65% of women with a unicornuate uterus also have a second smaller or rudimentary uterine horn. The rudimentary horn can be solid or it can have a small cavity with a functioning endometrium. Sometimes the smaller horn connects to the uterus and vagina, but more often it is isolated or non-communicating.

A unicornuate uterus is the least common congenital uterine anomaly and represents 1 to 2% of cases. A unicornuate uterus can be asymptomatic. However, women with a functioning non-communicating horn may experience pain during periods, because there is no outlet for the menstrual fluid. Women with a unicornuate uterus are at risk of reproductive complications. They may have a difficult time becoming pregnant because typically only one fallopian tube functions. In fact the condition is sometimes first discovered when a women undergoes an infertility investigation.

Pregnancy can occur with a unicornuate uterus, and the term pregnancy rate is approximately 47%. But women with a unicornuate uterus who do become pregnant are at risk of: Spontaneous abortion - it is thought that the abnormal shape of the uterus itself and compromised blood flow to the uterus and placenta lead to spontaneous abortion.

Premature labor - since the uterine cavity is smaller than usual, the baby outgrows the available space earlier in the pregnancy and there is an increase in breech presentation during delivery.

Surgical correction of a unicornuate uterus is not possible, as the uterus can not be enlarged. Cervical cerclage may be recommended for women with a unicornuate uterus who have experienced miscarriages or premature births. Pregnancy can also occur in a non-communicating arm. The situation is similar to an ectopic pregnancy and must be treated as an emergency. If pregnancy occurs in the non-communicating arm, uterine rupture occurs in approximately 89% of cases by the end of the second trimester. Because of this risk, surgical removal of the non-communicating arm is recommended. Removal of a solid non-functioning arm is not necessary.

Diagnostic procedures
It is difficult to diagnose a unicornuate uterus with ultrasound. The condition can be visualized with MRI, three-dimensional sonography and with laparoscopy.

No surgical intervention is required unless endometrial tissue in a rudimentary horn results in pain or a pelvic mass or unless an incompetent cervix is suspected during pregnancy. A rudimentary horn may be excised to treat endometriosis and prevent an ectopic pregnancy. Cervical cerclage may be recommended during pregnancy in women with a history of miscarriage and/or premature birth or if an incompetent cervix is observed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I was up and at it early Saturday morning to get ready to leave to go to Mass and then pray at the abortion clinic.  The night before I tried to relax and dispel the warfare in my mind – a few glasses of wine usually helps.  A big stumbling block for me on this journey and part of the reason for this whole blog venture – is that my story and my healing and my past have to remain essentially a secret for the time being.  I have small children who aren’t able to understand yet and shouldn’t have to hear such things about their Mommy.  I’m sure at some point in their lives, I’ll be able to talk to them about it, but until then, I have few outlets for all of these feelings and thoughts. 

Adding to this is the fact that I didn’t talk about my abortion for so very long that once I started, it was like I couldn’t shut up about it.  I couldn’t turn my mind off about it.  I started to look at everything and feel everything against the backdrop of my abortion.  I really have to practice discipline when dealing with all of this or else it would overtake my life and I simply don’t have time for that.  It would be way too easy to curl up in a ball and shut the world out and wallow in my despair.  Not saying that I haven’t done that for an hour or two or an entire afternoon before.  It would also be very easy for me to become the Prolife Superhero if I didn’t have the necessity of anonymity reining me in at the moment. 

But in His good time – we will see what unfolds.  For now, this is my forum with countless pages of paper I write on and emails that I pester my poor, but patient Priest with, the times that I’m in counseling  and the talks with my husband after the kids are asleep are the only time I have to really talk about this part of my life.  It becomes a fine line between hashing out my past and living in the present.  There is a lot of work to be done, but not a whole lot of time to do it.  Add to it too that sometimes I’m in such a hurry to help someone else that I don’t recognize that I still need help too.

Saturday was a reminder of that need.  Feeling bolstered by my participation in the Mass, rosary in hand, I was ready.  This is all the “good” part of the title of this post. 

Why is it that abortion clinics – in all their do-goodedness and their “helping” of women – are often tucked away somewhere, with quite frankly, an ugly and desolate entrance?  This particular clinic is in the rear of a building, with chain link fencing all around, nothing descript save for one sign identifying the building.  Of course the pro-choicers would argue they have to disguise themselves this way because of the horrible profilers when in actuality – I tend to think of the old adage that if you have to do something in secret, it’s probably not the right thing to do. 

The group I was with was much smaller than the first time I prayed outside an abortion clinic.  The first time the Bishop of our Diocese was with us and that brought a lot more people out, there were more clergy, etc.  Yesterday, there was no clergy at all.  A sad fact for me and I’m sure the other witnesses.  The person in charge thanked the celebrant who jumped in at the last minute to celebrate the Mass.  The group is minus a Chaplain at the moment and is waiting on a new one to be appointed.  I don’t know, but there is something about having the Priests there the last time and of course the Bishop, I felt better being able to be close to some alter Christus (Christi?  Christae?), protected and safe.  There are a few videos on YouTube of some Priests that surround an abortion clinic on four sides and pray – I’d like to see the stats on those days of women who changed their minds.

Anyway, I digress.  This group prays 15 decades of the rosary and in between they sing a portion of a song – which is a bonus for me because I can sing as loud as I choose and nobody looks at me like I’m nuts.  They also have a large crucifix and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It’s a prayerful, peaceful witness across the parking lot from the door of the clinic.  They use these little walkie-talkie type things so everyone is on the same page and can hear and they ask people to use one to lead a decade.  The gentleman in charge did approach me and asked me to do just that, I silently shook my head, no.  Not up for that one yet, Lord, nice try though. 

I faired pretty well as I did the first time I prayed outside of this clinic.  My feelings and emotions are all over the place the whole time.  It’s uncomfortable at times because I know exactly what each woman is about to face when they get of their car and walk through that door.  I know what each tiny infant is about to go through.  I know every little sickening detail and I know what they are going to face when they come back out.  They think they just solved their “problem.” 

It’s difficult to watch each woman get out of the car too because none of them are alone like I was so it’s hard for me to watch and concentrate on my prayers when the anger starts to bubble up inside me at my own circumstances.  I temper it with thoughts of my Grace, thoughts of her glorified in Heaven and looking down on me with a smile on her face, happy that I’m finally at the place I am and not ignoring her any more.  She makes me feel okay about it for most of the time.  I ask her to intercede for me with our Lord and give me strength.

The strength I need for the ugly part - to not run down to the end of the sidewalk and punch out the woman who stands there and screams at each car that pulls in to the parking lot.  This woman is not part of our group – thank goodness.  I guess she is a regular there each week.  She sits in her chair and when a car pulls up she stands up and starts waving papers around screaming things like “baby killer,” “don’t kill your baby,” “you’re going to hell,”  and the like. 

She doesn’t get it.  None of those kinds of protestors do.  There was another “gentlemen” across the way and he yells and screams too.  Don’t they realize that maybe some of these women are choosing abortion because someone already screamed and yelled at them?  Or maybe they are choosing abortion because they are afraid that someone will scream and yell at them?  They are running inside the clinic to get away from your screaming!  Idiots.  So I keep breathing and praying to quell the anger and frustration.

The 15 decades were finished.  I watched about 6 or 7 women go into that clinic and 3 or 4 come out.  I hope that Grace helped to take those little souls and usher them to Heaven.  I hope that my witness there that day made some difference to someone.  The drive home was difficult but gave me time to sort out some thoughts and ready myself for reality.  Time to put it away for a while. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Good days... bad days... good days that turn bad...

So, I've been having a few really good days.  A good day is defined by not being crippled by bad thoughts, guilt, self loathing, etc., being able to smile, be happy, laugh, be grateful.  On good days, I'm fantastic.  I even did a good deed today... but sometimes good days can turn into bad days quickly.  I should have expected it since I'm planning on going to the abortion clinic tomorrow to pray outside.  I should know that there are forces at work that don't want me to do what I plan.  That's when a good day turns bad and all I can think about is this...

11 week old baby in utero

“The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.” St. Teresa of Avila

Well, I sure hope that he is because I need him!

I'm so completely and amazingly overwhelmed with the response I have gotten thus far with this venture.  It's more than I could have ever hoped for.  After a couple of days of having my story out there, I had times when I wanted to trash the whole blog and forget about it, what's the point, why am I doing this, it's not going to help me...but then a peek back in my journal reminded me of one of the reasons I had written down about why I wanted to start a blog at all - to help someone else - anybody else.  Bolstering my own psyche was a welcome side effect.

In the last year and a half or so of my healing from abortion - I have tried lots of different things to try to "fix" myself.  Of course, I'll never be fixed in the way I imagine - none of us will I suppose - but I have been able to take on some things that are reparative in nature and try to move me step by step from the 17 year old girl who had an abortion to a woman who lost a child.  That's a big step and even after I take it - I find myself taking 10 steps backwards again.  Some days I still feel as though I'm walking around with a giant A on my forehead and everyone knows!  I have just a few people whom I talk to about this and it's difficult sometimes to even face them.  I really hate being a coward.  It's hard not to think that everything that goes wrong in my life isn't a direct result of my having had an abortion - that I'm being punished continually in all manner of ways, but then I'll get a glimmer of something to remind me that all that is essentially hogwash.  So, back to my journal to force myself to write down some good things that have come out of this journey and some things that may lend me some insight as to why I took the first step toward healing. 

I can't pinpoint the moment when I thought - oh gee, it's been 20+ years, I think I'll talk about my abortion now.  I don't remember any one thing happening that prompted me. I think it was more of a gradual awakening to the idea that this pain, this hurt, this void and my despair that no amount of Zoloft could shake had to be dealt with - and now.  I had to find someone to talk about it to first - so let's just go all in - and find a priest!  Go big or go home right?  I had confessed my abortion years ago - while still in college wherein I was told that I was "absolved," but that he "couldn't guarantee it!"  Um, thanks.  That's worthy of a post on its own I'm sure.  What's the statute of limitations on bad confessors?   

As I sat here and typed out the story of my abortion - I had to just let it settle in for a few days.  As I was putting it out there for the whole "world" to see, the person I was most worried about reading it was my husband.  Although none of it was really new to him - I still worried that this would be the  moment when he would say, "Well, that's it, I'm outta here."  Like somehow he was going to see just how truly horrible I really am and run for the hills.  But, my personal "St. Joseph" came through again - with love and acceptance and understanding, as always.  He did remark that it was difficult for him to read and he was angry about it, not angry at me, angry at all of the circumstances, angry that I had to go through it.

I think the whole idea for this blog started a few months ago when I took my first foray into pro life activism.  I joined a group of people who were offering a prayerful witness outside of a women's clinic on a Saturday morning.  It was a pretty big group so I felt kind of safe in there.  There were a few women there with the signs that say, "I regret my abortion!"  I don't think I'll ever be that brave, but one of them did stand behind me for a few minutes so I felt like - oh boy - now everyone is really going to know!  But I just kept breathing and clutching my rosary.  It actually was really good experience for me.  I was able to hide my tears behind sunglasses and I could ignore the other crazy protesters with their disgusting signs and their hateful yelling. (Note to self for another post - "How NOT to witness outside of an abortion clinic.")  When I first thought about joining them - I didn't think my being there would do anything - I'm not going to stop anyone from having an abortion.  But, a wise priest reminded me that I could pray for ALL of the souls there that day.  So, I thought about all those little souls that would be leaving this earth that morning so that's what I concentrated on.  I just tried to picture my Gracie, ushering those little souls to Heaven with her and that maybe she saw me there and was proud of me.  

So, I'm heading out again this weekend to offer the same witness.  I will have all manner of spiritual warfare going on in my head from now until I get out of the car at the church so I'd appreciate any prayers you might have to spare.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The story of my abortion...

Since I started this blog – I’ve wondered when I would take the time to tell my story as it were.  I’m not sure why I’m moved this morning to tell it, maybe because it’s Independence Day and this will be another step toward my independence of the impact this story has on my life today.  I apologize for the grammar and structure as with this story - I have to just let it flow out as it comes without going back to edit.

This will be the 4th time I’ve told this story.  The first time I told it was to my husband a few weeks after we started dating leaving out most of the details.   I told it a second time was to a Project Rachel counselor at my first appointment when she said, “so, tell me your story.”  I was surprised at how easily the words came and how with each one, brick by brick it seemed, the weight of my story began to lift. 
The third time was at my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat where I told my story after a few others had told theirs.  This time it was to a room for of counselors, retreat team, a caring and warm Priest, and my fellow retreatants.  What struck me were the similarities of our tales of woe – striking me more deeply were the pieces that set me apart from my retreatants – or most of them.  Aside from the two other post abortive women on the retreat as part of the retreat team – I was one that was furthest away from the day I lost my child.  The other thing that was vastly different was the condition of abortion clinics between then and now or most recently.  The general process is the same, but now it seems since clinics have found their footing – they’ve enhanced their bedside manner a bit.  The last thing that really stood out among all the stories I heard that day was that I was the only one that faced the actual abortion utterly and completely alone – at 17 years old.  Which, I’ve come to learn in the last year or so has a lot to do with what makes me who I am now. 

I don’t think my story is that unique or “special” in any way.  I’m simply one of millions of women out there with a similar story and even though there are so many of us hurting from a past abortion – it’s still a very lonely thing.  It’s still a lonely place to go in one’s mind even with a supportive and loving husband, even with loving and kind counselors, even with gentle and compassionate Priests … and even with our ever‑merciful and loving Lord who is with me always and for everything.

By way of background…

I lost (or gave away) my virginity at age 15 to my high school sweetheart – who was about as clueless as I was about what sex truly was about.  Although – to his credit – he seemed to be more ahead of the game than most of his peers.  We felt our relationship to be special of course and we weren’t like our peers who were just jumping into bed for the heck of it.  We tried a few times and failed or otherwise chickened out of “doing it.”  Being 15 does not lend itself to having a lot of freedom since neither of us drove – but we did visit each other a lot and our parents left us alone enough – and let’s face it – two hormone filled teenagers are going to find a way no matter what.  I’ll spare you the gory details of it all – but the thing that is most important about this is that fact that I was so willing to give away my virginity to a 15 year old boy, not aware of my worth, not ever being told that I should wait, not ever thinking or being told of the consequences.  Yes, I knew pregnancy was a risk – but not to me!  And to put into perspective the skewed mind of two 15 year olds about what sex is…bless his heart my boyfriend did try to make it special, satin sheets and all on his parents bed one afternoon when I rode my bike to his house because he was home alone.  In his pubescent 15 year old male mind, he figured that some candle light and – oh, let’s pop in a VHS tape that I found in my Dad’s porn stash to “get us in the mood.”  In a matter of an hour I was now thrust into a whole new arena – we watched that tape with wide eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  That’s what I’m supposed to do?  Okay, got it.

I mention the above, because against the backdrop of receiving zero sex education from my parents and the only information I had was garnered from Seventeen Magazine and my girlfriends who were also testing the waters, my first foray into what sex was a pornographic videotape!  No wonder I’m so screwed up. 

Anyway, we didn’t chicken out that afternoon and although I have my regrets for ever doing it in the first place I have to admit that it wasn’t as horrible as most people’s tales of their “first time.”  I did feel loved (albeit in an adolescent way).  My boyfriend was kind and caring (at the time).  We felt like we were adults now.  And the biggest thing I noticed after was that I now had a power that I didn’t have before.   Sex is an awesome weapon when used properly and completely out of context from the way God intended.  Especially when you are a teenage girl and your audience is completely governed by hormones.

Fast forward a few months … and I had been using my new found talent to get attention, “love,” admiration, dates, etc.  So much so that I dumped my boyfriend for greener pastures because if I could make him “love” and adore me – who else could I get to do the same?  I basically had no parental supervision and had gotten my driver’s license and a car at age 16 because I was involved in a lot of activities so my parents didn’t want to drive me everywhere.  Talk about freedom – the wrong kind of course – but freedom nonetheless.  As long as I was bringing home straight A’s on the report card – my parents pretty much left me to my own devices.

My boyfriend and I broke up and got back together a lot over the next year or so and each time we did, there were plenty of boys willing to take his place.  I somewhat realized it, but didn’t care, that these boys weren’t interested in taking me to the movies or on an official date – they knew what they wanted and so did I.  And even when I didn’t want it, some took it anyway.

In the summer before my senior year of high school, I stopped getting my period.  My periods were always awful and horrible with days of painful cramps, etc.  So I was quite relieved that it wasn’t happening anymore.  I’m not sure when it actually hit me that I could be pregnant, but I ignored it.

One morning, in the basement, sorting laundry with my Mom – she asked me point blank – to get any underwear I was hiding in my room to be washed.  I hid underwear from when I had my period because it was not a pleasant thing and my Mom simply did not understand that I couldn’t help that my periods were so heavy that most feminine hygiene products were not sufficient.  So, I told her I didn’t have any.  She asked how long since the last time I had any.  I said, “I don’t know.”  She looked right at me and said, “If you are pregnant, you are out of this house you know.”

I think we both knew at the point that I was.

I can’t remember the exact words following that but I know there was a lot of screaming and yelling and I do remember specifically saying that she never cared what I did.  That afternoon she was pouring over the phone book and gave me a few numbers to call.  I went into my room – alone - and called the first one.  Allegheny Women’s Health Services of Pittsburgh.  Yes, they performed abortions.  It’s $300.  Yes, they can see me this Saturday.  Wear something easy to get on and off like a skirt.  No, no one has to come with me.

I remember my mom saying, well “good, that gives me a few days to find $300” and “Don’t tell your father.”  Saturday came and off I went early that morning.  My Dad was at the kitchen table with coffee - my behavior was nothing out of the ordinary to him.  My mom came in my room and gave me $300 in $50.00 bills and told me to not lose it.  She told me where to park and walk to the clinic.  And off I went.  She didn’t offer to come with me – she would have to explain to my Dad where we were going.

I parked on the North Shore close to Three Rivers Stadium.  It was cheaper than parking in town.  I walked across the 6th Street Bridge clutching my purse and checking the pocket of my skirt from time to time where the money was.  My mom said not to put the money in my purse because it could get snatched. 

I walked up to the Fulton Building.  I don’t remember there being any protestors outside at all and Pittsburgh is basically a Monday – Friday kind of town so it was pretty quiet.  I gave my name at the window and sat down.  I wasn’t used to being in the City really except for the Arts Festival and the Regatta and other big events.  They took me back to give me a pregnancy test.  About 10 minutes later, it was confirmed that I was indeed pregnant.  And “just in time” too – because it seems like I’m about 12 weeks along and one week more and I wouldn’t be able to have an abortion at all or I’d have to pay extra.

Looking back I wonder why my mom didn’t get me a test to take at home just to be sure before sending me downtown?  I’ll never know I guess.  There was no wait time after the confirmation of your pregnancy to the procedure – except for a quick stop in a “counselor’s" office.  I do remember her.  She was blond and cute and most likely just out of college and trying to save the world.  We talked for a few minutes, she asked about my boyfriend, and then it hit me like a hammer, I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend was the father at all.  I hadn’t even thought about him in the few days that this all happened. I had no intention of telling him because my Mom told me there was no reason to tell anyone.  But, thinking about it, it could have been him or it might have been another boy.  I’ll never really know the answer to that question either.

I remember her asking if I wanted to talk about adoption, etc.  I said no.  Next was the procedure room.  I had never been to a gynecologist before or had any kind of pelvic examination of any kind so I didn’t know what to expect.  There was a nurse and the counselor who stayed with me.  The nurse explained the procedure to me and I saw the stirrups for the first time.  The room was bright and cold.  I didn’t change into a gown of any kind – now I know why they said to wear a skirt.  There wasn’t much to do before the procedure because at that time there was no anesthesia given at all.

After I was “prepped” the doctor arrived.  He never looked at me.  He never told me his name.  He never talked to me – he talked to the nurse.  The counselor talked to me.  If you are a woman, you know how horrible a speculum can be even when you know it’s coming – but when you don’t it’s a torture device.  Then a clamp on my cervix.  I really didn’t even know what a cervix was.  The tears start to fall; the counselor held my hand and told me it’s going to be alright.  I stare at the ceiling.  The doctor is poking and prodding.  I feel the cannula.  The machine is turned on.   It sounds like a vacuum cleaner.  On and off.  On and off.  Checking.  Back on.  Checking.  Back on.  More tears, but I don’t make a sound. I don’t talk.  The doctor says, “Almost done, I’ve got mostly everything.”  The machine shuts off the final time. I remember hearing the gurgling sound of wherever my child is now being deposited.  At that time, it’s not a child to me; it’s just tissue because that’s what the counselor told me.  It’s not a baby yet, it’s too early. 

I know now what a 12 week old baby looks like.

The doctor leaves the room, the counselor helps me to sit up and fix my skirt and I’m walked to the recovery area.  A room full of reclining chairs, about 10 or so.  Some girls are crying, one is filing her nails.  One is getting scolded by her mother in some other language.  I am the only one who is alone in my chair, curled up, feeling the cramping starting.  I’m given something to drink and a cookie or two.  I’m given some birth control pills and some other pamphlets that don’t fit in my purse so I keep the pills and toss the papers on my way out the door.  I walk back across the bridge, in pain, with a bulky pad between my legs.  I remember where I parked my car.  I get in, start the car, and blast the air conditioning and drive home. 

I get home, my Dad is now on the deck outside.  I say hi and go to my room and lie down.  My mom comes in, pulls down my blinds and before she closes the door she asks if I need some Tylenol. I nod yes.  Before she goes to get it she says, “We will never speak of this again.”  She brings me some Tylenol. I sleep for what seems like a day or so.  The next day, I’m off on a day trip to Ohio with my boyfriend who I’m back together with.  The day trip gets cut short because of my cramping and bleeding that I’m trying to manage.  My boyfriend thinks it’s my period so no questions there.  I let him drive my car back home and I go back to bed.

My life is changed forever.  I have killed a baby, my baby.  I take that fact and all the feeling s with it and stuff it down as far as I can.  The feelings lie in the darkness of my soul for years.

That’s the story of my abortion as I remember it.  I remember it every day.