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I Cannot Keep My Story to Myself
Fifteen years ago I went to a party. I was in college. My boyfriend of five years and I were finished, and it was summer break. I wanted to drink and have a good time. This was not my norm, but I was getting close to graduation. I decided that I needed to experience college like a college kid, not like the responsible person I usually was. I was always the designated driver and took care of other people. This time, I felt it was my turn to let go. So, I went to a friend's party at their apartment. There was dancing and drinking. People would bring me drinks. We played drinking games and all the things that go on at a college party. I did not realize how drunk I was, or that I was more drunk than I should have been in comparison to how much I had actually drunk.
The party moved to Midnight Rodeo. I remember almost not being admitted by the bouncers because I was so out of it. Somehow I still got in. After a while, I don't know how long, I could barely stand up anymore. A "nice" guy, who was a friend of my friend, offered to take me home to my dad's apartment where I was visiting at the time. Before he took me there, he took me to his place where I passed out. I woke up barely, with him on top of me as he asked me if it was all right what he was doing. I was barely conscious or aware of what was happening, and I passed back out. Early in the morning when I woke, he drove me home, left me on the curb, and drove off. I don't even remember his name.
I felt dirty. I felt ashamed of my behavior. I felt guilty for putting myself in that situation. I went inside and took a shower immediately, but I did not say anything about it to my Dad. We watched TV together the rest of the day. I put the night behind me...or so I thought.
A month later, my body began to change. I was an emotional wreck. I took my cousin to see the Disney movie Tarzan and bawled when Tarzan's gorilla mom found him, which was not my normal reaction. I missed my cycle. I began to fear I was pregnant. I called my Mom and told her what had happened. I had not said anything to anyone before this. She advised me to get a pregnancy test. I was pregnant. I was devastated. I was only months away from graduating, finally, after 6 1/2 years. I saw my world crumbling around me. I didn't even have health insurance. I didn't even have the Church to turn to at this time. Although I was a "cradle Catholic," I did not have a relationship with God. I had received my Confirmation in 6th grade, and after that I had no more religious instruction. I had stopped going to Mass sometime in my early college years. I did not feel I could raise a child and I had no idea what to do. I was lost.
So, I relied on the person I knew I could trust, my mom. While a devout Catholic, she felt that a person who would rape someone would pass on their traits to the child, and that that genetic trait should not be passed on to future generations. She advised me to have an abortion and offered to pay for it. So, I did the "easy" thing. I went home, and we went to Planned Parenthood. They treated me like I was nobody. I had another pregnancy test and ultrasound to confirm once again that I was pregnant. They said I was 10 weeks pregnant. I told them that couldn't be since I knew the exact date of my rape, and it was only 8 weeks. I have learned since then that you count from the 1st day of your last period, but no one took the time to explain that to me then. No one took the time to counsel me on alternatives. We set an appointment for the next day.
It was the worst experience of my life. They gave me "laughing gas" to relax me, but I was awake the whole time. I felt the moment that life was ripped from my womb. I realized too late that I made the wrong choice. I killed another human being.
I went home, curled into a numb ball of shame, and I stayed there all day. I went back to my last semester of school, but I was not the same person. My head trainer was also Catholic. He noticed I was having a hard time, and he invited me to attend Mass at his church. He knew where I needed to be, even though I did not.
I went on to graduate and got a job in another city. I joined a church and the choir. I met wonderful people with whom I am still in contact today. Our priest was an amazing homilist, and I slowly found my way back to the faith. But I still felt dirty. I felt fake among my friends. Finally, I sat down to confession with Msgr. Don and told him everything. I was waiting for him to tell me that I was no longer welcome in the choir or church, that I was beyond saving and unworthy of forgiveness. It never came.
He took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, "Jesus loves you and forgives you." Those seven words lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I, a person who had committed an unspeakable sin, was forgiven! I walked lighter than I had in two years. I continued to attend Mass and sing and play in that choir until my boyfriend and I were back together. I moved to marry him.
Fast forward to when we were expecting our first child. At 14 weeks pregnant, I miscarried. I was again devastated. I had felt that God was giving me a second chance! We found out the baby had actually stopped growing at 10 weeks. It was too coincidental for me.
I was angry and confused. Why would God give me this second chance just to rip it away? Was He punishing me? Was He showing me how He felt? I didn't feel forgiven anymore. In my grief, I projected my lack of forgiving myself onto God. I still felt guilty for going out to party. I felt at fault for not stopping the guy. I felt unworthy of being loved. How do you love someone you don't feel is worthy of love, especially when it is yourself? It was my own choices that caused me pain, not of someone else. This feeling of unworthiness has haunted me through my relationship with my husband, my children, my friends, and co-workers. I constantly second guessed everything that had to do with social interaction. Did people really like me? Would they like me if they knew my secret?
It wasn't until last year when attending an A.C.T.S. retreat that I was able to work through my pain and forgive myself and allow myself to feel God's forgiveness. After a session, I went outside to pray. I have always felt closer to God in nature. As I stood outside and listened to the waterfall and the geese and watched a dragonfly with a broken wing struggle in the water, I asked God, "What am I supposed to do? I'm lost, I don't know how to go on. What do I do?" All of a sudden, a gust of wind blew over me. I closed my eyes and heard a whisper, "Let go." I asked again, "How?" A stronger gust blew over me and I heard it louder, "Let go." Can it be that simple? God forgave me years ago. I had put myself above God by holding on to the pain and refusing to forgive myself. It was time to finally let go of that pain.
I now have two beautiful daughters, and I know my husband loves me. But I also know that I should have a 14 year old child out there being loved by someone. Not a day goes by that I am reminded that my choice was the wrong one.
I have been feeling more and more that I cannot keep my story to myself. God has been calling me to use my pain and experience to help those who are struggling with making the same choice I did. If I can help persuade other women and men to make better choices, to party responsibly, to save themselves for the sacrament of marriage, or to choose adoption through sharing my story, then I can be silent no more.
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