It has been 41 years, but I remember every shame filled detail of that day in September 1975. It was early morning, foggy and chilly. I sat in the back seat of the family car while my mother drove me to the clinic. There were no words, spoken other than my mom remarking how lucky we were to live where abortion was now legal. Lucky? I didn't feel lucky; in fact, I felt like opening the car door and throwing myself out. But I didn't jump out of the car, and I just sat there in silence tracing the pattern of the car upholstery with my hand.
I was 17 years old when I discovered I was pregnant with my high school sweetheart's baby. I felt a flutter of happiness, even joy. I remember looking at the sky that day and actually being excited.
Then reality set in. I told my mother. She slapped me in the face, stormed out of the house, and took off down the road as I stood there, sobbing. From that moment on, there was never an option other than abortion. We were young, the father was still in school. This would ruin our lives, we were told. Ruin his football career. What would people think? The decision was made for us, and we were both too afraid to stand up and say “no.” I was made to feel ashamed and dirty, too ashamed to tell anyone else or ask for help. The father gave in and detached from me emotionally. He did not go to the clinic with me. I was alone.
Once I arrived at the clinic, I was herded like a sheep through a terrifying process. I kept saying, “I am scared, I do not want to do this. Please let me go.” I was crying as they placed a mask over my face. “Just go to sleep, this is the best option, you will be fine.”
I woke to the sound of other women crying in the recovery room. They kept asking if they could see their babies. None of them seemed fine. I was seeing women as far away from fine as possible.
There was no compassion, just coldness from the nurses in the recovery area. We were told to rest a few minutes, get dressed, and go, without our babies. We left with pale faces and the look of death in our eyes.
I did not cry. I was too numb and empty to cry at that moment. The tears would start later that night and continue for over 40 years.
I turned away from my church and tried everything possible to stop the pain. There was never enough alcohol, drugs, or men to make the hurt stop. No one I could talk to. I shoved the emotions down and became bulimic. Maybe food could fill the void? No. I only felt disgust with myself as I purged after binge eating.
In 2016, there were several back to back traumas in my life. My life was one big trauma. I became suicidal and was hospitalized. Through trauma therapy and a Rachel's Vineyard retreat I was finally able to speak my truth. I turned to the Catholic Church in the Year of Mercy. Still struggling to forgive myself, I felt surrounded by kindness, love, and support.
I am silent no more because of the hope my story may help shine the light of truth on abortion. I hear pro-choice women yelling, “This is my body, I will decide what to do with my body.” It seems they are confusing birth control with the taking of an innocent life.
At the age of 17 in the year 1975, that was not my choice. That is not what I wanted to do with my body. That is not what God hoped for me to do with my body and the life of my unborn child. On that day, I gave up control of my body and I have regretted it every single day since.
I have finally been able to share my pain and regret with my mom, and she has shared with me how deeply she regrets making that decision for me.