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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Progress of Pain

It always surprises me, although it really shouldn't, the depth of the pain that women still feel years after having had an abortion, even years after a Rachel's Vineyard retreat where so much healing takes place as the Mercy of God pours down in buckets.   

When I hear post abortive women express such pain, I always want to reach out and say it will be okay, this too shall pass, it will get better.  For some, this is very true. For others, myself included, the process takes longer, is more convoluted, and painstakingly slow.  Everyone's journey to healing is as individual as the person taking the steps. 

Sometimes and oftentimes, the healing journey can be very far from okay. I have come to believe that the answer exists in those not-okay times becoming recognizable, anticipated if possible, and then, with grace, manageable.  I think it's also important to have someone or somewhere to turn when those times show themselves.  I am still working on that part.  I am much more inclined to come here to write about it.  I still find it extremely difficult to just outright tell someone close to me that, hey, I'm not doing okay at the moment and I need a bit of help.  I suppose too that I don't reach out because the fear remains that I will disappointment those who care about me and who want to see me happy. 

In the wee hours of the night last night - one of those not-okay times washed over me like waves and I struggled to keep my mind above the proverbial water.  Something triggered some memories of my abortion and since it was late at night, with everyone asleep and I was alone in the dark with only my thoughts, the memory began to take over.  I was stuck on the memory of the sheer pain of my abortion.  I spoke in the story of my abortion how in 1987, there was no anesthesia offered for an abortion procedure at all.  Perhaps you could purchase some - but that was not an option for me.  I also wrote about how my abortion procedure was my first ever experience with any kind of gynecological exam or procedure of any kind. I had no idea what I was walking into.

The memory that I dwelt upon last night for hours, in and out of fitful sleep and nightmares, was the pain involved with a torture device known as a cervical clamp.  To make sure I wasn't crazy - I Googled, "cervical clamp pain," and sure enough thousands of hits appeared on the pain associated with this tool of the trade.  Surprisingly, most of the first hits were women recounting stories of having had IUD's placed or other intrauterine birth control devices and the pain they endured from the clamping of the cervix necessary to do so.  No anesthesia is given for that procedure either.

I decided to just allow my mind to go there and let whatever thoughts float in and out and I made a promise to myself that I would not respond or react, but just allow the memory to come and then, hopefully, go.

I'm not sure if the abortion procedure is akin to the attitude of health care workers towards an overdose victim whose stomach they now have to pump.  There have been lots of stories of how they make sure the stomach pumping process is not at all pleasant to make the patient never want to contemplate even trying to do that again.  Maybe the doctor who performed my abortion had the same mentality - make it hurt so as to discourage a repeat customer?

A cervical clamp is a wretched device.  Cold, metal, with teeth and it does exactly what its name implies - it clamps the cervix open - which means it stays in place for the entire procedure - and any woman will tell you that the pain is almost unbearable.  The memory of that pain is what kept washing over me last night - the intensity of it, the shock of it, the violence of it, and the shame of it.  I remember oh so vividly laying on that table, not knowing what to expect at all and then the sheer force of that clamp on a part of my body I didn't even know existed.  I remembered the tears spilling down the sides of my face and being told several times to be still and to "relax."  I remember beginning to shiver uncontrollably from the pain and thinking that it was never going to end. 

The memory of that pain can cause me to just about jump out of my skin even at the loving touch of my husband.  I hate the idea of that fact with every fiber of my being.  It's a confusing and complicated memory and one that I'm finding difficult to heal. 

I am several years overdue for my annual GYN exam - and I keep putting it off longer and longer - and these kind of memories are the reason.  I've had to have a cervical clamp several other times for other procedures and even though the bedside manner was completely different and the reasons completely different - that memory of that first pain remains and it's mentally and physically excruciating.  What's more is that I'm afraid to tell the person doing the procedure of my past and why I'm just about jumping off the table the minute any procedure starts - even something as simple as annual exam and pap smear where it's all over in a matter of minutes.   I'm not sure how they will react.  Will they understand my anxiety and proceed with care, or will they not care at all? 

I'm not sure why I chose to write about any of this today, maybe just to get it out there and out of me.  Maybe just to share the reality of what those who have had an abortion go through.  Perhaps just to let other post abortive women who may read this know that it's okay to not be okay sometimes. 

I'm not sure what time I actually drifted off to a restful sleep last night - but I remember one of the last thoughts I had before I did and that was that I am not the sum of my abortion and all of the pain that came with it - the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. I was reminded this past weekend of the words of Blessed PJP II, "... we are the sum of the Father's love for us."  I pray that today and every day I remember more and more that these painful memories do not make me or break me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes - Hosted at

I apologize that I have been horrible at blogging lately, I've been horrible at writing lately.  I feel as though I've been horrible at most things lately. Which, of course, isn't entirely true.  My children are fed and clothed.  Hubby is fed and clothed.  Dog is fed.  It's been a struggle lately coming to terms with the choices I've made in my life the last decade or so.  I work part time because I always felt that my number one priority is being a wife and mother.  I'm not so sure anymore.  I want it to be, but I can't help but feel run down with the day to day.  I have other interests and volunteer activities that keep me busy and engaged in adult conversation, but the problem is that then I often feel as if everything in my life is gets maybe 10% of my attention and nothing gets 100% or even close.  I find myself doubting ever making the decision to not work full time the past 12 years or so.  I think about where I could be in a career, how I should have gotten my master's degree, and how much money I could have made so my husband wouldn't feel all the financial pressure.  Would have, could have, should have. 

I have begun seeing a spiritual director and it's been a great process thus far.  I won't share most of what happens within that context because I'd like to keep that space a bit private, but I will share one of my "homework" assignments that I was given last month - that I completely failed to do.  Well maybe fail isn't the correct word - outright refused to try is a better description.  I think it's something that a lot of people struggle with, however, especially people with pain in their past or decisions they regret, or standards they feel they will never measure up to - so yeah, that's just about everybody.  My assignment was to look in the mirror each day and say to myself, "Self, I am loved and I am beautiful."  I wouldn't even attempt it.  Why? Because I don't feel loved and I feel even less beautiful.  I just kind of ignored the whole idea until my next meeting with my director and we talked about why I can't do this.  The discussion led to a lot of thoughts that I'm dealing with now as far as why don't I feel loved and beautiful? Do I even want to feel loved and beautiful?  Do I really want any of it?  Now, my new assignment is to, if I can, just look at my eyes in the mirror.  Just look myself in the eyes, ignore all the rest of me (thank goodness), and concentrate on my "windows to the soul" and try again.  I'm kind of scared.  Who am I kidding?  I'm terrified. 

I haven't been writing on my blog recently and have hardly taken pen to paper, but I do appreciate all of the comments and emails I have received from people who have said that my blog has helped them, or touched them in some way or that they too have had an abortion and appreciate my honesty and what I have to say.  It's always better when I don't feel alone in this.  I'll try to do better this month for those people who have asked me to please keep posting.  You are all in my prayers -  even the whack-a-do's whose comments I don't publish - you know who you are. 

I've been absolutely dumbfounded at the Catholic "blogosphere" the past few months.  Sometimes it's hard to even tell if we are all on the same team.  I'm astounded by the derision that exists and the meanness and harshness with which everyone defends their opinion about absolutely everything.  I get it, I am hell bent on some of my own opinions on some matters.  But, I don't get the extremeness of opinions in our Church.  And the same topics come up in my Twitter feed every day after day.  Aren't we supposed to all be part of the mystical body of Christ?  Christ must be suffering from severe body dsymorphia right now.  I don't know if I should love Pope Francis or hate him. I don't know if I should sneer at crying babies in church or offer a helping hand.  I don't know if I'm a heretic because I prefer face-to-face confession.  Should I demand that my Priests be pretentious and untouchable or the huggable, warm and fuzzy variety?  I wonder if I'm a bad Catholic because I don't homeschool my kids.  Should I feel superior now that I receive communion on the tongue (even if it took me months to work up to it and I still get so nervous about it?) Should I listen to Michael Voris or Mark Shea?  Ugh!  Can't we all just get along?  Maybe that's why I haven't been writing lately - I'm afraid I'm going to get attacked by my own kind in a place where I should feel the most safe and secure.  I feel bad because I fear I'm not strong enough to withstand any criticism.  I applaud those of you who are, but could you all get together and come up with 7 Quick Takes about the Church we can all agree on?  Thanks.

I recently finished a fantastic and extremely helpful book that someone recommend to me.  Dawn Eden's, My Peace I Give You, is an excellent read.  Ms. Eden offers ways to find help and healing with the lives of the Saints.  Although I did not suffer from childhood sexual abuse as  Ms. Eden did, everything that she speaks about in the book would be extremely helpful for anyone who has suffered from abuse or trauma in any way.  I found myself reading and re-reading paragraphs and chapters as I thought about some of the things that have happened in my life.  Having had an abortion is definitely a sort of abuse, and having one at the age of 17 would seem to make it even more so.  Ms. Eden gave me a lot to think about regarding forgiveness and also about living and reacting from a place of woundedness versus from a healthy place.  I'm not quite there yet.  Sometimes I doubt I ever will be, but Ms. Eden has offered me hope in some areas where I didn't have any before.  She's given me some new things to consider and a way to deal with some things that keep coming up all the time.

And now for something completely different... the other day in the car, my eldest asked me, "Mommy's what's a condom?"  Now, this is not the first time she's asked such a direct question and I'm glad that she feels she can ask me - but, holy cow, can we have these discussions while not driving the car?  Geez.  Anyway, I asked her where she heard the term... at recess, of course!  Her friends refused to tell her what it meant.  I explained it to her in the best way I could and she found it to be completely disgusting.  At present, she finds all of these discoveries essentially disgusting which is fine by me at the moment and for the next ten years.  I am grateful to have these discussions though, as my mom, to this day, has not uttered the word s-e-x in my presence more than twice that I can remember.  If I would have asked her what a condom was - I shudder to think what her response would have been.  So, a little pat on my back for one small success as a parent - my kid is, obviously, not afraid to talk to me about all things sexual.  Let's just pace ourselves, shall we?

So, the theme this month on Facebook is to spend each day posting what you are thankful for. I didn't take on the challenge.  Not that I'm not thankful - I just hate doing what someone tells me I have to do.  But, I'll take this last quick take to concentrate on what I am grateful for even if I don't see those things that are right in front of my nose every day.  I'm thankful for my life and for waking up every day healthy and warm with a loving husband by my side and a devoted canine who is just so damn happy to see my eyes open each morning.  Never underestimate the power of a wagging tail.  This can not be taken lightly in my case because of the suicidal ideation that I often suffer from - waking up each day and realizing what a gift it is to be alive is huge for me.  I'm thankful for my children, all three of them, for when they drive me crazy and for when they don't.  I'm thankful for my home and all the things in it because, though I constantly complain about the things I don't have, the things I do have are ridiculously excessive.  I'm thankful for this journey and for where every step has led, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the sublime.  I'm thankful for my beautiful Church and the sacraments and for each time that I am privileged enough to partake in the Eucharist and feel Him enter my body and soul and heart so completely and so overwhelmingly that it brings me to tears just about every time.  I'm thankful for all of the people in my life who have helped me along the way and who have held my hand.  I must admit I'm afraid that once I'm "healthy" or "fixed" from all of this that you will all disappear because I won't need you anymore.  I'm thankful for eyes that can see - and hopefully I'll use my sight to look in the mirror soon and realize that I'm worthy of something... anything, and hopefully one day, love.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!