In 1979, I was married and had two children. I had suffered with post-partum depression after the births of each of my sons but to a much greater degree after the birth of my second son. When he was born in 1976, there may have been scientific evidence that post-partum depression was hormonal. In my case, the “medical professionals” that I was dealing with made me feel that it was my fault and the treatment and cure were more my responsibility and determination on my part would rectify the situation. It had been difficult for the whole family to deal with and had put a great strain on my marriage, but we struggled with it for almost two years and finally things did become better.
Shortly after coming out of the post-partum depression, I became pregnant again. My husband immediately demanded that I have an abortion. His alternative to the abortion was that he would leave me. I consulted with my gynecologist who assured me that the solution was an abortion. There would be no post-partum depression after an abortion.
Strangely enough, I never spoke to a priest about what to do. I say strangely because I really knew that abortion was very wrong. Growing up I was raised Catholic and had attended Catholic schools for 12 years. In the 1960s, it became acceptable to be promiscuous and the birth control pill and other means of contraception were accepted by many people. I took advantage of this and I guess to make myself feel better about it, I stopped going to church and confession. I married a Protestant in his religion and eventually I hardly thought about my Catholic upbringing. So the thought of seeking spiritual guidance when I was pregnant never even occurred to me. In fact, it wasn’t until after the abortion that these thoughts entered my head.
I caved in and had the abortion and immediately knew that I had committed murder. Shortly after the abortion, I was hospitalized for three months in a psychiatric unit of a major NY hospital. The “treatment” left me feeling like an aberration. The post-partum depression was worse than ever and the treatments I received were anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs and shock treatments. I left the hospital feeling and looking like a zombie. And I somehow continued to function. I worked a full time job, raised two very active 2 and 7 year old boys, was a wife, and all the time there was a deep abiding sorrow in my heart. Then, in December of 1979, at the time my aborted baby would have been born, my 41 year old husband died of a heart attack. He was buried on Christmas eve. I knew that all of this was happening as punishment and now I had to add the guilt of my husband’s death to the picture. He was taken from me as punishment for my sin.
Now I was alone, trying to deal with raising my sons. I didn’t deal very well. I drank a lot and had no patience with the boys. I had stopped psychotherapy after my husband’s death and somehow life continued.
Fifteen years later, when my youngest son went off to college, I went into a major depression, I guess because I finally had the time to think about the past. Between 2000 and 2002, I was in an out-patient partial hospital four times and an in patient hospital once. After the last hospitalization, I realized that I couldn’t continue this bouncing around. The medical professionals kept telling me that what I was feeling was in my mind. There was no proof that the abortion was the cause of my depression. I finally believed the doctors and decided that the whole thing was my over active imagination.
Then in August 2002, I knew what the answer was. I would commit suicide. But first, I would “put my house in order”. I realized that there was no way I could make my sons understand what I was about to do. So at least I could eliminate the clutter of my life so that my sons would not have to deal with that. I started going through papers and in the first box I went through, the very last piece of paper in the box was an old newspaper clipping. The headline read, “Sisters of Life Aid in Post Abortion Healing”. It stated that there was a one-day retreat scheduled, a day of prayer and healing. There was a telephone number. I picked up the phone and dialed the number and one of the Sisters of Life answered the phone. I told about the old newspaper clipping that I had found. I asked about the days of prayer and healing. Did they still have them? The reply, “Yes. There is one scheduled for September 13. Do you want to attend?” In shock, I quickly replied that I would like to attend.
The greatest learning experience of my life was about to begin, one that would gradually bring me to a place of peace. Twenty three years after the abortion, I finally had the support that would gradually bring me to a place of peace. On September 13, 2002, I learned that I was not alone, that many, many women were suffering physically and emotionally after having had an abortion. After 23 years of being told it was in my mind, I learned that it was not my imagination. There was hope that I could be saved after all. Twelve other women and I were there to hear the good news that day and I came away from it feeling like I had just been operated on, that something bad had been cut out of my body, and the future was full of hope.
And so Entering Canaan on September 13, 2002, was now on the list of days that I will never forget. That day changed everything for me. I now was able to examine the whole experience from the Day of Prayer and Healing to the present.
One exceptional thing I discovered was that pride played a big part in keeping my healing from moving along. Even though I now knew that I was not alone, I still had a very difficult time forgiving myself and realizing that God had forgiven me. Over and over again, in confession I would tell of my abortion because I couldn’t believe that I was forgiven for this horror. Pride kept me from leaning on God to heal me and forgive me. Pride made me think that I knew more than God and kept me from realizing that the mercy of God was what had brought me to Entering Canaan to begin with.
Time heals all wounds with the aid of the resources necessary to bring about the healing. Dealing with grief is hard work though and requires that I listen in order to empower me to go on. Listening acknowledges the grief and acknowledges those around me. The healing though doesn’t bring me back to the me that I was before the abortion.
It is now almost eight years since the Day of Prayer and Healing I attended. Thankfully, I learned that I am not alone on the road to healing. God is with me and is patient enough to wait for me to get through my grief. He has shown me that the necessary ingredients for my healing are the wisdom to ask for His help and the humility to learn as much as I can from Him and everyone around me.
Grief is a very hard thing to deal with. In the beginning, family, friends and people in general are willing to listen and console. But as time goes on, people are less willing to hear about “it”. When you have an abortion, there is no one you can speak to about it. Society in general feels that abortion is okay and you are the only one feeling the way you do. One of the biggest blessings about having found the Entering Canaan ministry is that all the other women are there to hear and understand. I also can be a help to them by sharing my feelings with them. This is truly a unique experience in my almost 30 years of feeling alone. As time goes on, the pain is less and the hope is stronger. As C.S. Lewis put it, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn, by God, you learn.” –Mary