I have shared many stories before, but never this one. Mainly because it has been tucked away, neatly filed in a category called: Lessons Learned the Hard Way. I just have one small request: please continue with a tender and open heart.
This particular event in my life is tangled up in a long ago dense and misty fog of equal parts shame and remorse. This one happens to be the catalyst that changed my life forever.
Some of you know, I was raised Catholic in a family that attended Mass regularly. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to bring toys to church, so I rebelled and passed the time counting the light fixtures. Sometimes my oldest brother, Paul, played guitar which provided me with a much needed entertainment break. In my 8 year old mind, it was like, “My brother is up there belting it out for Jesus! He’s definitely going to Heaven.” By the time we were holding hands and reciting the Lord’s Prayer, I knew I was almost home free (non-Catholics: this is code for church was almost over).
I received all my sacraments in a timely fashion: communion, reconciliation and confirmation. I also received the unspoken but fervent message of absolutely no sex until you’re married. I remember thinking: this is how to be a good girl.
As I grew up, it seems that I lost parts of myself along the way. I sought to be accepted but struggled with unworthiness. I felt uncomfortable in my body, trying to fill the void by binging and restricting food. I was unfamiliar with how to trust myself. I began to drift from my faith. I was gasping for control but the ship was already underwater. This led to choices that would leave the younger version of me ( you know the one who counted light fixtures?), clutching her pearls.
One day in the Spring of 1992 (before cell phones, email, and DoorDash) the phone rang. I picked up and before I knew it, my world changed. “You’re pregnant,” the amiable Kaiser nurse explained. The air was sucked up from the room like a vacuum. Time stood still. “No, no, no,” I gasped for air, “I can’t,” and then the tears came. I clutched the olive green rotary phone receiver, “I can’t have a baby. I can’t,” I kept repeating.
I was leaving for college in 4 months. I was 19 years old. There was no way I could support another human when I obviously wasn’t doing a very good job taking care of my own self. And my parents? They had worked so hard for my brothers and I to have the opportunity to attend college, their retirement literally within sight. This was my consequence, not theirs. I couldn’t tell them for fear of disappointment. I was instructed to wait 8 weeks for the procedure to be effective.
And so for two months, I woke up every single day with a pit in my stomach: I am ending this life growing inside of me because of my own irresponsible behavior. This is my fault. I wrote letters to my baby begging for forgiveness. I explained that if she came back in the future I promised to be ready to be her mom. I still have those letters.
I had the abortion.
I wept silently.
I recovered slowly.
I made the decision to never put myself in that position again.
I chose celibacy.
I made my way back to myself.
I continue to do this everyday.
No woman wants to have an abortion. But sometimes, because of circumstance, we do.
Sisters, the future of our reproductive freedom is uncertain. But if there is anything that we have learned lately, it’s that we are like the ants after a rainstorm that have sniffed out an open bag of marshmallows 5 blocks away.
Try to stop us. Here we come. There are more bringing up the rear. We will never stop. We are an army.
And we refuse to go back.