It was 1974, I was a college freshman from a family whose alcoholic dad had abandoned us, and our mom without a high school diploma struggled to provide for us. I commuted to school and worked. I was the good girl, the smart girl, the one who made my mom so proud.
In wanting a normal life, I had a boyfriend and was living the “college life,” but “we” weren’t as careful as “we” thought. When I had missed my period. I was in a blind panic. How could I flush my education and my future away? How could I be a single mom with no money, no job, no future, and a reluctant boyfriend? I couldn’t tell my mom. She had such high hopes for me. She always was so proud of how smart I was. But this wasn’t smart. I couldn’t do this to her. Everyone thought I was a good girl. I’d be letting everyone down. I had to act fast. That’s why I had my first abortion.
I confided in a sorority sister. I cannot remember who found Planned Parenthood’s address. We went together on the bus. I was so upset. Everything was a blur. If this would “take care of my problem” I just wanted it done and fast, so that I could move on.
Planned Parenthood was above a parking garage with a sparse, depressing waiting room. No friendly faces, no counselors. They called my name. I gave a urine specimen. They told that this would be simple…a menstrual extraction of some tissue, a common procedure. They said what I wanted to hear. The less I knew, the better. I shut off my emotions when the doctor came in and dilated me, inserting a plastic tube attached to a big jar. I was told there would be a little pressure. They left me alone afterward, handed me a sanitary napkin, and sent me home, saying that I might bleed for a few days but not to worry. I felt empty. I was wobbly. I was a little nauseous when my friend and I left.
Afterwards I had serious bouts of panic attacks. I began to binge drink sometimes until I would pass out. Because I was in college, I didn’t realize I had a problem. In my junior year, my boyfriend and I married. The marriage lasted 18 months. I chased “success” and “career” and “education”. I met and married a man who didn’t want children. When I missed my period, my husband told me the baby would be mine alone to raise. I wasn’t as strong as my mom. I found the doctor from Planned Parenthood. He now performed menstrual extractions in his plush office. I recall pictures of beautiful little babies all over the very comfortable waiting room walls. There was still no discussion, no counseling, no sonogram. A urine sample and a procedure. Empty again. Marriage #2 ended.
I was hopeless and unfulfilled. During the day I was a business superstar. In the evenings, I drank away the pain. I couldn’t relate well to others with children or grandchildren. I sought counseling, but never even told my therapist about my abortions or my drinking. I was living a series of big lies. And no one knew of my abortions. Not my mom. Not my sister. Not my husbands. Not my close friends. And the friend who accompanied me that first time drifted away. Close relationships were lost to me.
My third marriage was a cliff of desperation. I wanted normal; he didn’t even want to share his name. When it failed, I really didn’t care to live anymore and had a serious vehicle accident, passively intentional. While recovering, a series of events/coincidences lead me to a church where I found healing. The understanding that Jesus died for my sins—the feelings of abandonment, drinking, and the ugly truth of my abortions—saved me. It was through the loving support of my church and our pastor’s wife, who openly shares about her abortion, that I found the healing and forgiveness that I had been running from for over 40 years. It’s why I’m silent no more.