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I Will Never Forget
Marie
 
     
In January 1978 I was a 19-year-old college freshman, and my boyfriend was a 22-year-old student from Nigeria. I tried to ignore it, but I had to face the truth: I was pregnant, and I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do; how could I take care of a baby? I had no contact with my family; they didn’t even know where I was living. There was no one I could turn to. When I told my boyfriend, Emeka, he was outraged, telling me that he thought American girls were smart, that I should have taken care of things so this didn’t happen. He explained that he had a fiancé back in Nigeria that he was promised to marry when he finished medical school. He told me I had to get rid of this “problem.”

A nurse at the student health clinic confirmed the pregnancy and told me that the best thing in this situation would be to have an abortion, given the circumstances, since the father was black. She explained that lots of women went through this, that she had just last week referred another girl my age for the same thing. She said that once it was over, I could get on with my life, that everything would be normal again, and I’d have nothing to worry about. She made the appointment…for January 23, 1978.

Emeka picked me up the morning of the appointment, and we made the two hour drive to the “women’s health center.” He acted like we were just going shopping or something. I felt sick the entire drive. In my heart, I knew this was so wrong.

When we got there, a receptionist took our money and told us to have a seat. The waiting was full of women; I wondered how many were there for the same thing. After providing a urine specimen at the lab, a counselor called us into an office to confirm that this was what we wanted. She said I was about 9 weeks pregnant, so the timing was good. I just sat there, not saying a word. She asked me to sign some papers that I never read, then handed me some birth control pills, “So this wouldn’t happen again.” She never said anything about choices, options; never used the word “baby.”

A nurse led me to an exam room where I undressed. I don’t remember the details; my mind had shut down by then. I couldn’t deal with what was happening. I knew it felt wrong, but I was scared and no one seemed to care or even notice. No one else seemed to think this was wrong. If even one person had said, “You don’t have to do this, you have a choice,” I would have left. But no one said that, so I stayed and did what I was told.

The nurse had me lie down on a table and put my legs up into the stirrups. She said “the procedure” (she never used the word ‘abortion’) would be like getting a pap smear; I would feel a little cramping, and then it would be over. I was shaking so hard my teeth were chattering.

The doctor came in and told the nurse to get started. It was not just a little cramping; I felt severe cramping from the cervical dilators; then I heard sounds like a vacuum cleaner and thought my insides were being sucked out. It hurt a lot, and I started crying. The doctor told me to lie still or it would be worse. It probably only lasted a few minutes, but it seemed like forever. When it was over, I asked the doctor if it had been a boy or a girl. He just said there was no way to tell because it was just pieces of tissue, that it hadn’t been a baby anyway…just a blob of cells.

While in the recovery room a woman came in and handed me some money and said, “Your boyfriend left, but he left this money so you can take the bus back home.” I never saw him again.

After a few hours in the recovery room, I was escorted through the back door of the clinic to a cab in the alley for my own protection. The cab took me to the bus station where I boarded the bus and rode home, alone, in the dark…but I was thankful for the darkness. I was completely numb. I was bleeding and in pain, but most of all, I hated myself. I wanted to die, felt that I deserved to die for what I’d done.

Afterward, I started drinking, doing drugs, and sleeping around with any guy who asked…anything to make the pain disappear. I no longer cared what happened to me; I had no respect for myself or my body.

A few months later I attempted suicide with sleeping pills. But I didn’t die; I just got sick. I attempted suicide again, this time by cutting my wrists with a razor blade. Again, I survived. After months of feeling like I was in a black hole, I attempted suicide a third time. I made the cuts lengthwise into the arteries in my wrists. I remember seeing blood spurting out of my arm but not feeling anything. This time I almost died. When the ambulance got there, I was unconscious, and they could barely find my pulse. I was admitted to the hospital.

My parish priest found out I was there and came to see me. I started to cry as soon as I saw him. He sat down next to me and let me cry. I asked him to hear my confession. I confessed that I had aborted my baby, and I told him that I knew I could never be forgiven, but I needed help. I needed some way to go on with life. Then I waited for the condemnation, but it never came. He took my hand and said that this was not an unforgivable sin. He said that Jesus had died for me so my sins could be forgiven, that Jesus was carrying my burden and was waiting to welcome me back. Then he gave me absolution. I felt the weight begin to lift.
I wish I could say everything was great after that. It was better, but it would take years to recover.

A few years later I got married and pregnant. I was ecstatic; God was giving me a second chance. During that pregnancy, the depression came back. I wanted this baby more than anything, but I was terrified that something would happen—that God would take this baby from me, or that, somehow, because of what I’d done, I wouldn’t be able to love this baby. My husband tried to understand what was wrong, but how could I tell him that I had killed a baby?

After my baby was born, a little girl, I suffered post-partum depression. But I recovered, and I was (I am) a good mother. I loved my daughter so much. When she was 8 months old, I got pregnant again. I still had some depression but not as bad. My son was born, and I had two babies under the age of 2. I was busy but happy.

I became pregnant again when my son was 10 months old. This time, it was an ectopic pregnancy. The doctor told me I had to have surgery to remove the fetus or I could die. I refused, even though I knew the pregnancy couldn’t survive; in my mind surgery would have been an abortion. I wouldn’t listen to the surgeon’s arguments. I said I was leaving it up to God. My fallopian tube ruptured at 8 weeks, I started to hemorrhage and had to have emergency surgery. The doctor told me I would likely never get pregnant again. I remember thinking: "I deserve this. I killed my baby and now God is punishing me. I deserve it."

I finally realized I couldn’t get through this by myself. Even though I knew God had forgiven me, the pain and guilt just kept coming back.  I needed help. I was referred to Rachel’s Vineyard. What I needed was self-forgiveness. Through Rachel’s Vineyard, I found other women who felt like I did, who had experienced what I had. So began the struggle to accept the forgiveness God had offered me.

I will never forget my abortion experience. Every year on the anniversary of my abortion, I light a candle and pray for my child, and I ask him to forgive me. I wonder what he would have been like, what kind of person he would have become.

It wasn’t always easy, but I thank God every day for my life. Do I wish I had made a different choice…that I would have even been told I had a choice? Absolutely! But I am a more compassionate person than I might have been if not for this experience. It is important to not condemn the young women who made this choice; from experience, I know how much it hurts them. If this had not happened to me, I might not have realized how good God is. I might not have had the humility to lay myself at His feet and beg for mercy. Although most people don’t know my story, God knows, and He was with me through it. I know He loves me, and He has a plan for my life, and part of that plan includes sharing my experience. If telling my story helps even one woman, saves even one baby, then it’s worth it. I want all women to know that taking your baby’s life destroys your own...that’s why I am Silent No More.

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