This is the story of my abortion.
It was the summer of 1980. I was twenty-one years old. I had just finished my first year as a full time college student. The first three years after graduating from high school, I spent working full time as a secretary, and taking evening classes. This makes me sound hardworking and industrious. In a way, I was. But I liked living in my apartment, doing whatever it was I wanted to do, and living my own life.
I was studying Mechanical Engineering, at the advice of many good people. I had been good in math and was strongly encouraged to take up something non-traditional.
My first year in college was tumultuous. I had worked my way through a tremendous amount of anxiety, including acute insomnia. I loved studying and the sense of accomplishment it gave me. I loved the college campus (University of Illinois in Chicago). And studying kept me sober six out of seven nights per week. Although this story is not about my drinking, it would be incomplete without it.
I had a boyfriend named Jim. Actually, two boyfriends named Jim. I had been in a relationship with Jim #1 for a year and a half. We shared very many traits, enjoyed each other’s company, and drank together. I met the second Jim at college. I was attracted to his good looks. We studied together, and eventually went out together. I didn’t break up with or tell my first boyfriend. I lived a double-life and dated one, then the other. Neither knew about the other. I drank with the first Jim, but not with the second. And I studied ferociously all the time. I really wasn’t going out much at all. But when I did, I was a liar. I made up stories right and left to keep the façade going.
The summer of 1980 I found out I was pregnant. I knew Jim #2 was the dad. I was working a part-time summer job at a convenience store and I remember very clearly minding the store and feeling sick to my stomach. I was filled with awe because I knew it was from the pregnancy. Deep inside I was joyful. But on the surface, nothing was going to disturb my plan to complete college. I refused the joy and pushed myself to get an abortion. I never told anyone I was pregnant except the father: not a girlfriend, not my sister, not even my mother. I didn’t want anyone getting in the way of my decision. And I didn’t want to face humiliation. I knew the question would come up, “who is the father?” Even though I was certain, my lifestyle would not have suggested certainty to a few observant people.
Jim did not object to an abortion. I didn’t ask him, or suggest it, or look for any other option. I just told him. We took it for granted. At one point, Jim said his mother would have us live with her and be married. He didn’t ask me to marry him, just that his mother would want it. I said nothing. Jim’s relative owned a reception hall where weddings were held. We visited the hall once, and saw where the bride and groom sat. Inside, I would have loved to marry Jim, and sit in the Bride’s chair. I would not admit to wanting such a thing. I knew I didn’t deserve it.
So I continued with my plan. I found a Planned Parenthood in Skokie and I made the appointment. On August 19th 1980, Jim drove me to the facility. Before the surgery, the doctor spoke to me in his office with a nurse present, and described the procedure. He was very cold and factual. We proceeded to the abortion room where a nurse held my hand. It hurt then, and it hurt afterword. Jim took me home and I laid on my bed with terrible cramps. It was my older sister’s 25th birthday. She didn’t know she just lost her nephew.
Shortly after, Jim and I broke up. He threatened to send a letter to my mother telling her about the abortion. I posted my younger sister at the mailbox on a daily basis to collect any such letter. It never came. Even though I pretended to believe my justification that abortion was not morally wrong, I was certainly desperate that my mother should not know about it. I had quit going to church several years before. I had chosen not to accompany my mother to see Blessed John Paul II in Chicago just the year before. I am firmly convinced now that, had I seen him, I would have been spared the abortion.
A few years later I met a young man at college and became engaged. I told my fiancé I had an abortion. I had done many, many things that were hidden deep down inside me, that I never wanted anyone to know about. I was certain my future husband would not have married me had he known about them. But it was important to me that he know about the abortion. He said what I wanted to hear: that it was just tissue.
Years unrolled. I had three children. Thank God. I never had trouble conceiving. The babies came right away. After our third baby was born, my own obstetrician suggested I not have sexual relations with my husband until he had a vasectomy. I don’t think I followed the suggestion, but Doug did have the vasectomy. He cried on the doctor’s table. Our hearts broke a little more. We grew a little further apart. We became a little colder.
More years passed. My drinking continued in a quiet, controlled way, on my part. I became a “worse” mother. When my youngest was ten years old, I got a call from God to stop drinking and join a recovery program. I had known for years the drinking had to stop. Stubborn and reluctant to change, I was finally suffering enough to heed the call. I began praying. Within a year, I was divorced. My mentor in the program had been studying Butler’s Lives of the Saints as a daily meditation. Since I did what my sponsor did, I became instantly reconnected to my Catholicism after many years away. I got a rosary and started praying.
A few short months later, I was living in Minnesota. The kids were living with their Dad in Albuquerque. In the summer of 2002, I was touched by Holy Blessed John Paul II. He came to me in my heart and let me know I needed to repent of the abortion. Up until then, I still had not recognized inside that it was a deadly sin. It was time to repent, and I did.
A few years later, I was back in Albuquerque. On EWTN radio, I heard about Rachel’s Vineyard. I signed up for the retreat in Phoenix. There, in a meditation, I learned that my aborted baby was a boy and his name was William. I never met him. I pray for him every day now, and ask his forgiveness. It is a painful thing to live with on a daily basis, as many other women know. I thank God for giving William a life close to Him.
I pray that no one else will make this tragic mistake. Thank you for listening.
In love and service,