If the Shoe Fits
'You're not alone.'
On no day will [heaven's] gates
ever be shut, for there will
be no night there.
For years, abortion remained a dark place within me, an indefinable root of my pain because its consequences didn't exist according to those 'helping me' with my bouts of depression. Unbelievably, abortion was never brought up on any level by my doctors as a possible negative experience in my life, let alone the lynchpin to my pain. The despair I felt when I had my abortion was nothing, according to the therapists and according to a society that accepts abortion as a legitimate answer to pregnancy. There was no grieving for me because the baby I was carrying was just 'a blob of tissue,' 'a mass,' 'a cluster of cells' that, in my case, was adamantly unwanted by the father.
So, if abortion was such a walk in the park like everyone said, why couldn't I stop the self-loathing that consumed me? Why did I have to have surgery for my infertility and suffer eight miscarriages before carrying my last two children to term? Why couldn't I just emotionally 'reappear' in my life as if nothing had happened, like I was told other post-abortive women did? What was wrong with me? Why did I feel so alone? Why couldn't I let go? When did my worth turn into a frozen asset?
As found in the 1995 survey from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood's Research arm) . . .
25 million women have had the 40+ million abortions since 1971.
43% of all women who have reached the age of 45 have had an abortion . . . churched or unchurched.
Abortion is the #1 medical procedure performed on women in America.
Although we all know 'it takes two' for a woman to become pregnant, we often don't recognize that 'it takes a village' to abort those babies. Double the above statistics of post-abortive mothers to include the fathers—then multiply them to count grandparents, siblings, children, extended families, friends and, yes, even those abortion facilitators who were involved. Now you can begin to grasp the staggering numbers of those affected by abortion. The truth is that few elude the negative, trickle-down effects of this invasive 'procedure.' Whether or not you have personally experienced abortion, it's safe to say that most of us know someone who has. If you, or someone you care for, are hurting from the aftermath of abortion . . . YOU'RE NOT ALONE! And here's the good
news: There is forgiveness, hope and healing for the spiritual, emotional and physical wounds of abortion, but we have to choose to move from hiding to wholeness. Our willingness to come out from the shadows of denial into the light of a renewed future is the first step to freedom.
Self-sabotage so often plays recurring roles in our lives, don't you agree? I know for myself, self-sabotage held the dubious distinction of being one of my most repetitive habits—with denial running a close second. Let's consider what we have achieved in our lives with the baggage most of us have carried around. Can you imagine what we could accomplish in the way of joy, peace, satisfaction, inspiration and achievements in all aspects of our lives if we could just finally stop shooting ourselves in the foot? We all know those nasty little numbing habits come in various flavors such as overeating, overspending, overindulgence . . . over the top! Pick your poison. If we want to stop our not-so-merry-go-round, let's uncover the ways we've personally and defensively dealt with the pain of our abortions or the abortions of others. I've found that the only way to revoke the pain management of bad habits that rob our lives and those around us is to first own them. Mine, for example, ranged from physical problems, resulting in eight more miscarriages, to my inability to embrace trusting, intimate, lasting relationships—flanked by emotionally codependent relationships that brought domestic violence into my life, a lack of self-worth resulting in a lack of discernment of others, and difficulty relating, at times, to the children I did have. Add to these bouts with depression, alcohol abuse and feelings of total disillusionment, abandonment, rage and despair. Abortion cut deep into my soul . . . how about you?
The other day I heard a thought-provoking definition of the word insane — 'Doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, and expecting different results . . . is insane .' I liken that modern-day example of faulty thinking to the Israelites of biblical times, turning what should have been an eleven-day journey to their Promised Land into forty years of 'circling the same mountain' due to their disobedience. Boy, can I commiserate with them; I've repeatedly tried to tackle some mountainous issues in my life, only to find myself facing the same old dilemma or pain again. I call it 'being stuck in a negative rut.' I finally figured out that if I didn't want to keep stepping through the same old door of despair only to get smacked over the head with a dose of opposition and failure, obviously I needed to get some help!
Abortion was the most crippling shame, gut-wrenching guilt and lethal regret of my life. Once I ventured out of denial and allowed myself to feel the truth of my shame, guilt and regret, I desperately needed to heal . . . but how? 'Experience overrides theory' is a phrase I often use when passing along the good news of forgiveness and healing to others suffering from the effects of abortion. In writing this book, it occurred to me that had I not traveled down my path strewn with destructive choices, I could not speak about those defining experiences of my life with any credibility or authority. 'Been there, done that' comes to mind right about now.
I believe it's time to put real faces and voices to the overwhelming statistics surrounding abortion and finally address the harsh realities so many post-abortive women and men have had to live with. To know there are countless individuals and groups out there who are determined that the truth about abortion be known is so encouraging to me. And we who have 'been there' want to pass that encouragement along to you! I'm convinced that, without having healed from the travesty of such a 'choice,' we survivors would feel less qualified to hold out the hope that faith brings to those still in pain.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
Yes, there is a guiding light that illuminates our road to recovery, step by step. Also true is the fact that many of us are impatient, preferring a 'floodlight' of revelation to reveal the results of our efforts before we even begin. Again, I can relate . . . patience was definitely not one of my virtues.
So if you find yourself getting antsy when the door behind you closes before the one in front of you opens, here's my first promise to you, borne of personal experience: Along your road to recovery, you definitely will find answers to your pain, regret, guilt and shame. Not only that, you'll also discover there really is forgiveness and healing from abortion for all of us . Now comes the most amazing part: The keys to breaking our bondage are not for sale, nor can we earn our release . The bottom line is reconciliation is a free gift just waiting for us to accept it. We all know that we can't change our past, any more than we can get to the finish line called victory if we quit running our race. But if we're determined to be set free, the power to succeed awaits us. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train; it's wholeness for you and for those you love.
Oh, did I hear you say, 'That would take a miracle, and I don't believe in miracles'? Well, if you'll just step through the door of doubt, switch on the light, turn around and look straight into the mirror, you'll see a miracle in the making . . . YOU!
Not long ago, I was debating someone from Planned Parenthood on a television show about the subject of abortion. Frankly, I had to call upon a megadose of personal restraint when this young woman referred to having an abortion as 'a simple procedure, no more complicated than having one's tonsils removed or going to the dentist—with virtually no aftereffects.' She followed with another astounding statement claiming that 'one could have an abortion and be back at school or work that same afternoon, no problem.' As I picked my jaw up off the ground, I asked this lady if she had ever had an abortion. I wasn't really surprised when she said no.
'With all due respect,' I countered, 'you did not just describe my experience of abortion accurately.' It was then that I used my phrase, 'I believe 'experience overrides theory' when it comes to discussing the consequences of abortion.' I did agree with her that not everyone regrets their abortion; however, that does not negate the millions of us who do. The reality of our pain simply will not be swept under the carpet any longer.
If you are one of those millions who have been hurt by your abortion experience, you're not alone in your need to conquer your anger and self-destructive behaviors, as well as heal from the loss you've suffered. That process of repair begins by recognizing that the hurts you are feeling, sometimes for years, are real . You are not overreacting. You're not exaggerating. You're not silly or crazy or weak or hysterical if you feel deep in your soul that something terribly wrong happens when abortion occurs—to the baby, to you, to others around you.
Failed relationships, families, communications and trusts are just a few of the consequences. How do we connect our heads with our hearts and finally mend our broken hearts after all the ravages of abortion? Is it finally your time to stop hurting? Will you choose to heal instead of hide? There is a saying that 'Ignorance is bliss.' If you are reading this book, most likely you're not ignorant of the carnage that abortion brings to those involved on all sides of the story. Bliss is nowhere to be found after the 'quick fix' of abortion turns into an ongoing nightmare. If you're wondering now whether you want to stick your toe into the muddy waters of the memories that you've so diligently buried, let's take a look at the checklist that follows to see if any of these points apply to you or someone you care for. If just one of the following statements or questions strikes a single chord of conscience, pulls one string of your heart, challenges your mind to finally consider, or urges your soul to embrace the truth about abortion, don't let the negative tape of denial go off in your head again. Please don't slam the door on hope when freedom is waiting on the other side.
Here is my second promise to you: You'll have a lot of company and comfort from fellow survivors if you'll just allow yourself to ponder the possibilities of well-being instead of dwelling on wrongdoings.
If you're thinking, 'But I'm okay,'
let's hear from some who have been there.
Do any of the following sound or feel familiar?
'I've had two abortions. I say that with tears, not triumph.'
'I am never happy, and I feel bad if I let myself smile or laugh.'
'At no point did anyone ask me, 'Are you okay with this?''
'I had an abortion nine years ago that nearly ended my life.'
'I didn't think of losing my grandbaby, just that my daughter was too young. I was wrong.'
'At first, I felt that I did the right thing, but as time goes on . . .'
'Not long after that, I became very withdrawn and didn't want to spend time with my daughter.'
'She didn't even tell me I was going to be a father. She just got the abortion on her own.'
'My husband threatened to leave me if I kept it.'
'Things didn't get easier like I'd expected them to. They got harder because of what I'd done.'
'My doctor told me that taking the Pill a few hours different each day wouldn't make a difference . . . well, she was wrong.'
'I found out by accident that my mom had an abortion. I could have had a brother or sister.'
'I knew he still wanted me to have the abortion, but I didn't know how bad until he started harassing me daily with phone calls and threats.'
'When my dad found out, he said I should have an abortion because the guy would be in my life for the rest of my life.'
'I can't tell anyone.'
'I feel that, for both my abortions, the counseling was inadequate and five minutes at the most.'
'Getting pregnant triggered old fears I had related to my body and my sexuality. I was molested when I was younger.'
'Abortion nearly killed me.'
'You never forget. It hurts, sometimes real bad. With adoption, the issues are very different—you cry at the loss of the baby you gave up; you wonder how he's doing. With abortion the thoughts are so very sad. There is no birthday to wonder about. My abortion took place twenty years ago and it haunts me still today. Abortion is not the easier road; it's a different road . . . with a dead-end.'
'My girlfriend had an abortion in 1973. I have suffered through years of anger, resentment towards other people's children and my own stepchildren, and one divorce.'
Let's take a moment here to move from the emotional inventory above to a more compartmentalized review.
1. Did you experience abortion as a…
_ Mother __ Friend _ Father
__ Abortionist/Assistant _ Grandparent __ Counselor
_ Sibling __ Advisor _ Family member
__ Abortionist/Assistant __ Counselor __ Advisor __ Facilitator
©2007. Jennifer O'Neill . All rights reserved. Reprinted from You're Not Alone-Healing Through God's Grace After Abortion . No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.