THIS is my story. A story of tragedy and healing.
The tragedy began in early 1986 when I found myself pregnant. I was 20 years old at the time. At first I was quite happy about the pregnancy and had every intention of keeping my baby. I say “baby”, because I knew that I was carrying a baby, not a “product of conception”. Everything within me testified to this. Yet at the same time, there was an air of unreality about the fact that I was actually pregnant, as I think there probably is with most women when they initially learn of their pregnancy.
My family were very supportive. Although the circumstances were not ideal, they were prepared to stand by me. They valued life and were prepared to do all they could to help me and my baby. I told all my friends and received gifts.
As I had private health insurance I was referred to an obstetrician/gynaecologist. On my first visit to this doctor, the seed of abortion was planted. I was surprised, when I had expressed no doubts about the pregnancy. Why would he suggest an abortion? I was by this time eight weeks pregnant. I had never considered abortion. I didn’t really know what it actually involved but it was something I felt was wrong. Now here I was eight weeks pregnant in this doctor’s office being presented with the idea of abortion.
Well, I started thinking about it. Not the baby but the idea of not having to be pregnant – how would that change my life? I went to see a social worker at a major women’s hospital in Perth. By this time I was feeling quite depressed, which I now know is quite normal at this time of pregnancy as the hormones are shooting all over the place. In addition, the doctor had planted a doubt in my mind about my ability to cope and had taken away my confidence. Well, the social worker just sat there and listened to me talk about myself, my family, my job, my plans, my confusion about the pregnancy. I walked out of there just as confused, just as depressed, not feeling any more enlightened about what this option, abortion, actually involved.
From beginning to end, the abortion procedure itself was never explained, and there was no mention of possible risks and side effects. I was never told that it was illegal to have an abortion in my circumstances – I was not in danger of losing my life if I were to continue with my pregnancy. The medical people I saw made it sound simple, normal, even natural. How could I make an informed decision when I didn’t know what I was doing? I have to say that never was the option of keeping my baby, or giving my baby up for adoption, put to me. It seemed the medicos and “counsellors” thought abortion was the best thing for me. My ambivalence seemed to be ignored. No-one asked why I was considering abortion when initially I was happy to keep my baby.
I decided to go away on my own for a weekend to really think seriously about this. While I was away, I wrote down all the fors and againsts for keeping my baby and for aborting my baby. I still did not know what abortion involved. I think it is important to point out at this time that my parents were away on holiday in England and had no idea of what I was considering or going through. I did not discuss it with my sisters or brother until I had made the decision. Anyway, I drove back home convincing myself that abortion was the way to go, although I was still confused. The words of others who thought abortion the best option (though they didn’t really talk about the other options) kept echoing in my head.
Another week went by and I had not done anything about organising to have the abortion. I was still not one hundred percent on my decision. So, what made me decide? Well, on the following Saturday I was sitting watching my boyfriend play lacrosse and I thought “if I have this baby I’m going to lose him”. He had not said this to me, in fact we had not really discussed the baby. I did not know how he felt really, I never asked him.
Well, the following day I rang up the doctor at home as he had instructed me to do if I wanted to go ahead with it. I told my sister whom I asked to drive me to the hospital. She drove quite slowly and we did not discuss the topic at all. This sister was quite influential in my life and I was used to her being quite outspoken about her beliefs and how I should be running my life, but this time she was silent. She didn’t try and talk me out of what she knew was a big mistake. Years later I asked her why she kept silent this time. She told me she felt it was not her place to interfere.
Anyway, we got to the hospital and filled in the necessary forms. It was noted that I was in for a D & C & T (dilation, curettage and termination). I was scared and very worried about whether I was doing the right thing. I was put in a ward with about six beds. I was up one end of the ward and there was a lady who was recovering from a hysterectomy down the other end. No-one came and spoke to me except the anaesthetist. When he came in he was a bit concerned about my age. I looked young and frightened. However he only spoke of what he would do in the morning. Then I was alone.
I woke feeling a sense of dread. I still had no feeling of certainty about my decision. Right to the last minute I wanted to stop what was happening and get out of there. But I felt that I had come too far now to change my mind, that it would be inconveniencing too many people for me to turn back now. Everything was rolling forward and I felt powerless to do anything. I was ten weeks pregnant. I remember being taken up to theatre and the doctor’s last words to me were “what are you going to do about contraception?” I never saw him or spoke to him again.
I awoke later that day back in the ward to find my elder sister sitting by the bed. She had been there for quite some time. I was feeling awful. The emotional pain was worse than the physical discomfort. The emptiness, the loneliness, the loss, the sadness. My boyfriend did not even know what had happened. I didn’t tell him until the next day. I had a visit from a very dear friend who came up to the hospital as soon as he heard.
My sister later took me home to her unit where my other sister, my brother and my sister’s boyfriend were waiting. No-one really said much. I told everyone that I had had a miscarriage. I went back to work the next day although I felt very weak. Outwardly life seemed to go on as normal but for me life was never going to be the same and it never really seemed normal again.
Mum did not take the news very well. I told them when they phoned from overseas. I could not wait for them to come home. I wanted my mum to take me in her arms and make me feel better. When they stepped off the plane I started crying at the sight of them. Mum was so devastated by what I had done she could not talk to me about it.
Where did my life go from there? Well I was still with my boyfriend. I experimented with drugs. I wasn’t a very nice person anymore. I was on a downward spiral.
The due date for my baby was November 13. That morning I woke up and started crying. My boyfriend was a bit surprised and wanted to know what was wrong. I told him why I was crying and he held me in his arms. We never spoke about it though. We moved into together the following year. I was volatile and life was not very easy living with me. I went off the pill and accidentally on purpose fell pregnant. My boyfriend was furious at first. I had made up my mind though, there was no way I was going to have an abortion again. He soon settled down and we went ahead and bought a house and prepared for the coming arrival. I had a trouble-free pregnancy and very easy labour.
My daughter was born on May 6 weighing a healthy 7lb 3oz. I suffered from post-natal depression though this was not diagnosed and I never got help. A deeper depression began to take over and became part of me. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before. I didn’t link it to the abortion at the time. I was later to realise that my loss of self-respect and my volatile outbursts came from the suppressed anger and grief resulting from my abortion.
I thought of killing myself many times. I suffered low self-esteem and became self-destructive. I destroyed any happiness that I had because I didn’t feel worthy of happiness.
My relationship with my boyfriend began to deteriorate as time went on. I was so difficult to live with that my boyfriend used to work as much as he could and when he wasn’t working he was training or playing sport.
It was ironic that the man I was so afraid of losing when I was pregnant, I lost anyway partly because of the effects of the abortion on my mental health. Eventually we separated when our daughter was only 16 months old.
By this time I had become a Christian. Six months later I met my future husband. We married in 1992. I told him about my abortion. I felt detached from the experience, having trained myself not to think about it, to find other things to focus on. Although I knew of Christ’s love for me, I still had a lot of unrecognised problems. I was verbally abusive to my daughter. She witnessed me having extreme attacks of anger and crying.
Six months after my marriage I began thinking very deeply about the abortion. I knew I needed healing. Not long after I saw a video of a woman who had had an abortion and had overcome the grief and despair through the grace of God. I was deeply moved. I became part of a support group for women who had had abortions. Through the group I was able to speak freely about what had happened without being judged or condemned. I finally started to grieve for my baby. Everything started to fall into place. I understood the reasons for the depression, the anger, the crying, the abuse.
The grief came slowly and is still a part of me. I think grief is an ongoing thing. I prayed about my baby and felt I had had a son. I named him David. I broke down in uncontrollable sobbing. It was a release of grief. I said sorry to him for allowing his life to be destroyed, sorry to God for taking the life of His precious child. I apologised to my mum for killing her grandchild who she was grieving for in silence. The Lord restored. In April 1993 I had a little boy.
I still cry for my boy but I feel free from the guilt. I cry for the babies and their mums who are faced with the same trauma or have already been through the trauma. I will never forget David or what I have learnt through him. This year he would have been eight years old. On April 13 I put a notice in the “In Memoriam” column of the newspaper. I visited the grave of a friend and laid two roses, one for her and one for David. Of course aborted babies don’t get a grave or public recognition of their status as a human being so being able to go to Jenny’s grave was wonderful. Recently (November 6, 1994) I attended my first Memorial Service for the innocent victims of abortion and laid a rose from mum’s garden for David. These things all help to heal the pain of what I lost and also give David the recognition that he, and all the innocents, so richly deserve. I thank the Lord for His grace and forgiveness.
* Christine Routley is vice president of Women Hurt by Abortion, Western Australia.