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They didn't tell me I could miscarry future babies or become sterile

I'd like to begin with a word picture. My mother was an excellent baker. When I was a child, the oven was like a magnet for me. Good smells and good food came out of it, and it was warm nearby. "Don't touch it," she would say. "It's hot!" You probably remember a similar scenario of your own. We'll come back to this word picture later.

I was a senior at Illinois State University. My major was Business Administration, with a minor in International Business. I was often on the President's list for high grades. I wanted to fly around the world on an expense account, conducting multinational business.

I had been dating a young man. We had been sexually active using condoms for a year and a half when, despite my better judgment, he talked me into using the withdrawal method of birth control. What do you call people who use the withdrawal method? Stupid. As we continued this selfish roulette, eventually my period stopped. Week after week after week passed. I could no longer ignore the situation. I went to the school-based health clinic for a pregnancy test. The results hit me hard -- I was pregnant. I was stunned. How could this happen to me? "I can't have a baby. I can't have a baby," I said, more to myself than to the doctor and nurse. Both of them remained silent and stared at the floor. Anxiety and bewilderment tried  to overtake me.

I told my boyfriend right away. He knew I had gone for the test. He was upset at the results. That clinched it. "I want to have an abortion," I told him. He spoke not one word. His silence meant agreement.

I told two of my college girlfriends. One agreed with us with a whatever-you-want-to-do attitude. The other tried to talk us out of it. "But you're in love!" she said. She was right. We were. But I was the main breadwinner-to-be; the one with good earning potential. My boyfriend flipped burgers at a local bar, while he remained on probation for low grades. 

I didn't know God then, so I couldn't rely on Him. Even though I had been raised in the Lutheran Church, I had failed to accept a personal relationship with Jesus. So, left to my own resources, I was desperate. I felt I had no choice. I didn't tell my family. Mom was overburdened with her own problems. Dad had largely been an absent father, due mostly to hard work and business travel. I wasn't close with my brother or sister. I didn't tell my best friend of twenty-three years. She lived out of state and we had drifted apart some. She wouldn't have understood. I was ashamed. And scared. 

But I thought I could deal with it. I picked up the yellow pages and made several phone calls. Because I was very squeamish about blood and needles, I searched for a clinic that performed abortions under general anesthesia.. I found one. The earliest appointment was several weeks later. I was apprehensive about the wait but made the appointment anyway. I tried to blot out my nervousness and feelings of  failure with marijuana and alcohol. It didn't work .

Finally, the dreaded day came. We had stayed in a motel the night before. In order to prepare for the anesthetic, I couldn't eat or drink anything after midnight. We had to be at the clinic early. I awoke in the morning and tried to act normal. I am sure I didn't succeed. We found the clinic and drove into the lot. As we approached the building, several protesters swarmed around me. One tried to show me a picture of a fetus. I kind of wanted to see it, but barely caught a glimpse before an escort blocked my view and hurried me inside.

My boyfriend had to wait in the outer lobby, so I went on, alone. I was instructed to change into my bathrobe and slippers, then have a seat. Soon, there were several of us sitting in a group. We were silent, and very tense. We waited to be called into the caseworker's office. We just wanted to get "it" over with. Someone spoke of the protesters outside. A young woman spoke up. "They said I didn't have to kill my baby. So I asked them, 'Well, are you gonna help me kill myself instead?"' The protesters had no reply. We all pondered the woman's conversation. We understood it. Another woman lit a cigarette, then passed it around. Even though I didn't smoke, I took a couple of puffs. The camaraderie and the distraction of such a simple act helped. For one minute, I didn't have to think . . .

I was called into the caseworker's office. She looked at me for a few moments. Then she spoke saying that she liked my bathrobe, and that it was a great color for me. I thought that next she  was going to tell me that I was "glowing". She didn't. But I was. She asked me about some clinical data, and about payment. Then she asked what birth control I had used. I hesitated. "Condoms?" she asked. "Yes," I lied. "And they failed?" "Yes." She counseled me on the importance of using condoms and foam. Next she asked if there was anything she could do. "I'm really afraid of getting an IV." She offered to be with me during that procedure. I gratefully accepted her offer.

Next, I was shuffled into another room for a blood test. Despite my fear of blood and needles, I got through it pretty well.

The next step was a pelvic exam. The doctor wasn't openly rude, just rushed. And he treated me like a body instead of a person.

The entire group of women (maybe 25 or 30) was now gathered in the waiting area. The lights were dimmed, and we were shown a brief slide presentation. Among other things, they told me that one woman in every hundred had to be rushed to the hospital, due to complications such as a rupture and the intestines coming through the vaginal wall. I really didn't understand how that could happen. But, one in a hundred - I figured that my odds were pretty good. They didn't tell me it was a baby. They didn't tell me I could miscarry future babies or become sterile. They didn't tell me about the debilitating effects of Post Abortion Syndrome. And they didn't tell me that I would deeply regret this decision for the rest of my life.

The staff began calling our names, one by one. Many were called before me.  I wished I could get this over with! Now, it was my turn.  I was told to lie down on a gurney. I asked for the caseworker who had promised to be with me during the IV insertion.

As I waited for her, my attention was pulled to the next gurney. A nurse was trying to stick an IV into a young girl. It wasn't going well. The nurse stuck her again, twice. The girl was getting very upset, and asked for a nurse that could insert the IV properly. She was nearly panic-stricken. I believe the nurse was being cruel. Perhaps it was because the girl was black. Or perhaps she was a "repeater", having been to the clinic before. It was then that I realized that these people could really hurt me if I didn't cooperate. The caseworker arrived and held my hand. The IV was inserted without trouble. I felt guilty and sad about the special treatment I had received, compared to the black girl.

My gurney was wheeled in through a set of swinging doors. A man in surgical scrubs was looking at me with steely eyes. I smiled a fake, sweet smile at him, hoping he would be nice and not hurt me. His face remained unchanged as all went black.

Later, I was awakened and made to sit up. "Your baby was bigger than we thought," a nurse shared with me. I didn't know why she said that. It made me feel really uncomfortable. "Oh?" I asked. I felt as though I had gotten away with something. And I felt very bad. I was led by two women into the recovery room. As soon as I lay down, I was "out" again, due to the anesthesia.

Some time later, someone spoke. "It's time to get up." I couldn't. Again, a little later. "It's time to get up." I sat up slowly and groggily.  I was helped to my feet then given a cookie and some orange juice and made to eat. Next, I was told to go and use the bathroom. I was unsteady, but managed to walk the distance unassisted. I was totally unprepared for what happened next. I saw blood. Mine. A lot of it. And it wouldn't stop. I became really frightened and nauseous. Somehow, I kept it together because I had to get out of that place!

Four years later, I became a Christian. My marriage failed. God began to show me how wrong my abortion had been. I volunteered at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. As I read about the grieving process in the Counselor's Manual, I grieved myself. I repented of my sin, and God began to heal me spiritually and emotionally.

Now, it's back to the stove where we began. In a manner of speaking, I have been badly burned. And like a mother, I want to protect others. As I do this, people can call me several names. Due to my sin, no one can call me "Mom." Some may call me a hypocrite. But Jesus calls me "Forgiven." Many people can be won over to the pro-life side with our love and forgiveness.

Priests for Life
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