I was raped by a stranger. I was not only brutally physically violated, but my spirit seemed to flee my body in an attempt to escape the darkest night of my life. I felt empty, abandoned, disgustedly soiled, worthless, ashamed. I wanted to die.
I couldn't bear the humiliation of telling anyone I had just been raped. I drove home, alone and in tears. I didn't realize (and never could have admitted then) how blessed I was even to be alive.
For several weeks after the attack I tried to live as though nothing had happened. I was preparing to attend a three day Catholic women's retreat known as Cursillo. But a thought occurred to me, the same though that had been a shadow lurking in the back of my mind for several days: I suspected I was pregnant.
At first I dismissed the thought as paranoid. You see, I had to be treated for infertility before conceiving my third child. Nevertheless, I forced myself to buy a pregnancy test kit. The results were positive.
My heart sank into deep and unfamiliar despair. I tried to deny the truth even though I had all the physical signs. Feeling I had nowhere to turn, I attended the Cursillo. During the retreat God made me understand just how special I am to him. I never felt more loved at any other time in my life. In spiritual intimacy, God silently assured me that everything would be all right.
But when I returned home, everything wasn't right. I had to face the harsh reality: I was pregnant. The terror of an uncertain future knocked me completely off balance. What would my children think about the rape and pregnancy? How would they react? How could I answer their questions?
My children weren't my only concern. I was engaged to be married. How could I tell my fiancé the truth? Would he judge me? Would he think I was to blame for the rape? Would he leave me?
I started to panic. I began to lie. I thought it would be best and easier if I concealed the rape from everyone. I told my fiancé and others that the baby was his. Desperate and confused, I agreed to marry him the following month.
The day arrived quickly. My thirteen-year-old daughter accompanied me to Arizona, and we stayed in a hotel miles away from the Grand Canyon, where I was to meet my fiancé to be married. The morning of the wedding, without provocation, my daughter said to me in the most compassionate voice, "Mom, you don't have to get married."
God knew I wasn't ready to make this commitment. I prayed that whatever happened would be his will and not mine. As my daughter and I drove toward the Grand Canyon, snow began to fall. The roads became impassable. We never made it to the Grand Canyon that day or any other day.
A few days passed. As I agonized over what to do next, a horrible idea occurred to me. I could have an abortion and I wouldn't have to tell anyone. I could tell everyone that I had a miscarriage. I started thumbing through the Yellow Pages and found an enormous ad under "A" for abortion on the very first page. It read in big bold letters: "Abortions to 24 weeks. Unplanned pregnancy ended while you sleep." There was also a picture of a young, attractive woman with a bright, confident smile on her face. I understand now that the picture was intended to give me a false sense of security regarding the decision I was about to make.
I phoned the clinic and explained that I was four months pregnant.
"No problem," they said, "you won't feel a thing." The clinic also accepted credit cards for my convenience.
I made the appointment. I convinced myself that my life would soon be back to normal after the abortion. I only succeeded in convincing myself of another lie.
I had become a Catholic only a short time ago. I learned through the course of instruction that "direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law" (Catechism 2271). With this in mind, I struggled to rationalize my decision to have an abortion.
I lied to myself that it would be acceptable to have the abortion as long as I hadn't felt the baby move. A stronger inner voice of truth reminded me that life begins at the moment of conception. In this interior tug-of-war between right and wrong, I began to see the brilliant light of God's truth exposing the darkness of abortion as the evil it really is.
I realized I needed to come forward with the truth. Telling the truth meant admitting that I had intentionally deceived my family and friends. Telling the truth after so many lies was frightening and difficult. The fear of being scrutinized, judged, and rejected was overwhelming. Yet I knew I must do it to regain the freedom I sacrificed when I decided to have an abortion.
I told everyone about the rape. It was painful to witness the initial expression of shock and horror on the faces of those who love and care for me. I accepted responsibility for hurting many people by my lies and my lack of trust in their ability to love and support me. I asked for their forgiveness. God showered me with that precious gift in the fountain of their tears.
My parents' plea for the life of the child opened my heart completely to the realization of God's will. I canceled my appointment and announced to all my loved ones that I was going to place this child for adoption. Making this decision was like suddenly receiving the gift of sight after a lifetime of blindness. With renewed trust in God's promise that everything will be all right, I focused my new vision on his beacon of truth.
I began to listen to God more intently. I prayed more deeply for greater trust in God. I allowed him to put the pieces of my life back together. I hadn't totally cleared that storm, but I was confident that I was heading in the right direction.
I also prayed that God would help me find the best possible parents for this child, and God did just that. It was not coincidental that my physician knew a very special Catholic couple who through twenty-seven years of marriage were unable to conceive a child. I agreed to meet with them. Initially, I felt very protective going into the meeting. I wasn't anxious to give the baby to just anyone.
The interview lasted almost three hours. We exchanged many personal questions and answers in an atmosphere of trust and peace. I needed to be assured, above all, that the violent circumstances surrounding the baby's conception would not affect their ability to love the baby unconditionally. Without hesitation they affirmed the baby's complete innocence and assured me that they would love the child as their very own. There wasn't a doubt in my mind or heart that God intended them to be the mother and father.
I invited them to each prenatal visit. We looked forward to these because we were able to witness the inconceivable miracle of the baby's development. When an ultrasound was done at seven months, we could actually see and hear the baby's heart beating. We could look into the baby's eyes, and we could count the fingers and toes. We also learned that the baby was a boy. At that moment, I knew, looking in the eyes of the parents-to-be, that they loved him even before he was born.
The day the baby was to be born I had him blessed in my womb, and we were on our way to the hospital. I prayed one last time for a healthy baby boy.
Later that night, when I was back from the recovery room, I received the most beautiful birth announcement from the mother and father. I smiled. Tears of joy filled my eyes, and my heart gave thanks to God. Michael is alive!* His heart is beating and he's in perfect health.
It wasn't until after Michael was born that I appreciated what God had done through me. Above all, God told me life is a gift! How could I have even considered robbing this precious child of that gift? God had given him the right to live. It didn't matter how he was conceived. Michael will live a wonderful life with parents who cherish and love him immensely.
I haven't quite stepped out of Michael's life. I receive letters and photographs every few months and share them with my family and friends. I believe this is God's way of letting me know how happy Michael and his new family are. God is telling me that he is proud of me and that he loves me. God tells me that I can trust in him and he will bring me joy and fulfillment in my life.
God has proven to me that he truly does make all things work to the good for those who love him. God held me and Michael in his gentle hands through our incredible journey, and he wants us to share it with others. I pray for those mothers who are considering abortion. I pray that those mothers will choose life for their unborn child.
Life is a gift from God -- for you, me and all the baby Michaels.
*"Michael" is not his real name. I want to protect his family's privacy.
Laura Stucky is a parishioner of Madonna del Sasso Catholic Church in Salinas, California. She shares her story with prolife groups. Brian Kravec freelances from Salinas.