A Prodigal Daughter Story

  Anita Sonntag
Saskatchewan,  United States
 
  I had an abortion 41 years ago and with all my being I regret what I did. I had an abortion because the father of our child did not want our baby and insisted on an abortion and I didn’t have the courage to walk away from that situation. I could not go to my family for support. Being pregnant outside of marriage was reason for condemnation in the environment in which I was raised. I could not let my family know that I had put my moral values aside. I had given in to the pressure of my boyfriend because I thought that’s what I had to do in order to be accepted and loved and to avoid rejection. I grew up with a deeply rooted belief that I was not as good as others and that I had to please others. So I was living a double life. To my family I portrayed an image of being the good girl who abided by the Ten Commandments, and I believed I needed to maintain that image. So how could I tell them I was pregnant? Having an unwed, pregnant daughter around for others to see was just not acceptable.

I felt trapped by the situation. I could not face having this baby by myself. I considered moving away to someplace where no one knew me, having the baby and giving it up for adoption but I knew that would end the relationship with the father and I could not cope with that rejection. I felt like I was backed into a corner, that there was no other way out. So I agreed to the abortion. A part of me died the day my baby died. I did not grieve, I did not feel angry. I just felt numb, cold, empty and a deep sadness. I felt disassociated, somehow disconnected from it all. I was psychologically numb. I decided that day that I would never again think about what happened and that I would never, never tell anyone about it.  I didn’t want to look at what I had done because I knew how wrong it was. I knew we had killed our baby.

As time went on after the abortion, I blocked out that part of my life and I managed to forget about it mentally. In fact I was so much in denial that when I heard or read anything about abortion I wondered how anyone could do such a horrible thing. However my heart and soul and conscience did not forget. The event was like an abscess that was eating away at me even when I denied it’s existence.

I continued my relationship with the father and eventually I married him. Then over a period of the next 14 years, depression and anxiety and as a result, severe insomnia became serious problems.  Poor self – esteem and poor self-image, which had been problems from early childhood, became worse.

During this time there were two more pregnancies and we had two daughters, one born in 1977 and the other in 1981. I had difficulty bonding with the first of these children and she now speaks about a sense of being in an unsafe place while she was in my womb. The second one was born with a heart arrhythmia and was quite unstable for the first 3 weeks of her life.

After her birth the depression became much worse. I remember feeling like I was falling into a big black hole. I was terrified. There were times when I needed help to care for her as I could not cope on my own. I did not know then that I was suffering from post abortion syndrome. I went to see my doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist. I was placed on antidepressants, tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Getting to sleep at night became an obsession. In spite of all the medications, I still had trouble sleeping so I started adding alcohol to the mix.

One night when I was having a particularly difficult time, I called my Al-Anon sponsor at about 2 am. She was very alarmed by my obvious inebriation and the danger I had placed myself in. I am so glad that she was there that night and was able to get through to me. I am also thankful that in the midst of our conversation that night I threw up. It was like having my stomach pumped. I believe that divine intervention saved my life that night. It was at this time that I finally came to the realization that I had made a terrible mess of my life and that I needed God in a big way. I knew that I needed to return to my spiritual roots. I had cut myself off from practicing my faith because I believed that I had committed an unforgivable sin and that it would be very hypocritical of me to sit in a church pew. I went to talk to a priest and for the first time I told someone that I had aborted my baby --- and then I heard that I was forgiven. That priest was just like the father in the prodigal son story. He did not condemn me. He was a living example of God’s mercy and forgiveness. That day was a major turning point in my life. That day was the beginning of a long journey of healing, a journey that has been going on for 25 years, and has involved much prayer and counseling and the shedding of many tears. From time to time during prayer ministry or counseling I would briefly mention that I had had an abortion, but then I would push it back down into it’s hiding place within my soul. But God is faithful and bit-by-bit He brought about healing. I was aware that there was something that I couldn’t get in touch with, something that I could not name that still weighed me down but I still did not connect it with the abortion. It was like a load of rocks on my back that I could not get rid of.

In September 2006, God brought me in contact with a post abortion-healing program. It was through this program that I finally came to awareness that all the psychological and emotional problems that I suffered from were connected to the abortion, and that the “bag of rocks” was my guilt and shame and inability to forgive myself. Then last April I was so very blessed to be able to go on a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreat, which is a post abortion healing ministry and it was through God’s grace at this retreat that I was finally able to forgive myself and so now the “bag of rocks” is finally gone.

Now I want to be silent no more because others who are hurting as I was hurting need to hear the truth and need to know that there is help available. For many years I allowed my guilt and shame to keep this part of my life in darkness. Now I want to bring it into the light. I want to share how abortion affected my life and I want to tell others about God’s wonderful mercy and grace and forgiveness.

   
   
Priests for Life
www.priestsforlife.org