One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a platform for women to share their stories. To give a voice to the deep mysteries of God’s re-ordering redemption in our chaos, our pain, our questions.
Today, I have the incredible privilege of doing just that. Here is the story of Hope.
*Note: Specific names and locations have been altered or omitted to protect the privacy of those involved.
“I think I actually have to go back to my relationship with my parents. Having a dad that was a father and not a daddy. I guess I was always trying to please him and not getting much in return, no emotional attachments. What does a girl do when that happens? She searches for someone to love her.”
Abi sits on my well worn couch, clutching the tissue she had grabbed before sitting down. She has an easy laugh that comes as goes as my child tumbles around at our feet.
She grew up in a strict Catholic home. Her father often called her “stupid” for bringing home B’s, and when she was late for curfew he called her “whore”.
“[I viewed God as] more of a judging [God]. Because the relationship that you have with God, your first idea of who God is, is transferred from who you thought your dad was. So if you didnt have a good relationship with your dad, it’s hard to imagine what it could be to have a loving and forgiving heavenly father.”
When Abi turned 16 she was allowed to start dating. She was careful with her relationships, protecting her sexual purity. After she graduated from high school she began dating someone who was a year older than her, and as she prepared for college she started to “break loose” from the control her father had had on her.
“We [her boyfriend and herself] went camping with a group of people. There was liquor there, and we drank beer and went off by ourselves. We started going too far, and I said ‘no’. But it was too late.
I went home and didn’t think anything of it until, it must have been a month later, I woke up in the middle of the night and threw up, and my mom knew instantly.”
Abi, then 17, was pregnant.
“So here I am pregnant, I’m going through all of these thoughts: ‘I’m going to college, I need to go to college. My parents are paying for college.’ My mom informs me that if my dad knew then I would be disowned and would be on my own. I would not go to college. So the option that was there was an abortion. But because my mom couldn’t tell my dad, she couldn’t go with me.”
The closest abortion clinic was a two hour drive outside of town. Abi had a work friend drive her.
“I felt a lot of guilt. It wasnt something that I had planned or tried to do. I did try to hurt myself, to no avail…I tried to hurt the baby. As far as going and having the abortion, it wasnt anything remarkable. I checked in to the doctor’s office, they put you under enough to not know what’s going on. I didn’t feel anything, you wake up and you go home. Because it was out of town…there were a select few that found out or knew…Come to find out, I wasn’t the only one that ended up having an abortion. So in a way I kind of felt like I wasn’t alone, but it wasn’t something that we could talk about.”
Her eyes brim with tears as she describes the shame she carried for years. At 25 she came to know Jesus, “I think it changed almost instantly when I became a Christian because I understood that he knew everything about me beforehand. So that was one of the first things I wanted to get rid of.”
“It’s something that I might carry my whole life. Right now I don’t ever see it not triggering at some point.” Abi went through a recovery program with a woman she calls a fellow “abortion survivor” at her church. Many crisis pregnancy centers offer this type of program, and volunteers who are survivors must go through it as part of the application. Part of this healing process is naming your child.
“In this class I took I named her Hope,” she says, explaining that in her hardest moments she has often clung to words as a way to get through. “Hope is one of my words. So I named her Hope.” In her home she has a statue her sister gave to her, on it is a balloon with the child’s name, she says it serves as a reminder.
She says there is still some pain when she thinks about her experience, “I dont know that it’s shame, just sadness I guess, for the sin itself.” I ask her what she believes God thinks of her now. Tears fall freely again, but this time less out of pain, and more thankfulness. “I’m his child. I’m his daughter, and he loves me.”
As she continues to walk out her healing, she considers what it will take to help women who are carrying similar burdens. “I believe it’s not about picketing, it’s not about standing against abortion. It’s coming alongside these girls. If I had had someone who had come alongside of me and said ‘Hey, I will be here for you, it’s going to be ok, and God still loves you,’ it would have been different. I really wish the focus would change…in a way the picketing and all that seems to me to be shaming…”
Abi is taking brave steps of obedience in working toward doing just that. “You can think you have done everything to rid yourself of all of it, but God says it’s a process, it’s going to take time. It’s all in his timing, who he brings into my path to work it all out.”
Millions of women deal with the heartache of abortion every day. Though it can be a lonely place, they are not alone, “If they’ve had an abortion it’s not the end, there’s forgiveness through Jesus. Or, if they’re thinking about it, [I would like] to walk alongside of them, to help them change their minds,” she says.
“We are to serve God by using our pain, to give other people the hope that we have. It feels good to take little steps of obedience. It makes me stronger, it allows me to be real with people…God wants us to have relationships, but you can’t have relationships and not be real with people. I don’t want to not be real,” she says, bouncing my chubby baby on her knee. She sets her down and heads to the kitchen to find her Bible.
She opens to Psalm 121, “There’s a lot of repetition of the words ‘watches’ and ‘keep,'” she explains, “Meaning he’s our keeper, our guard, always watching over us. And in the footnotes it’s talking about how we should have unfaltering trust in the Lord because he’s our unfailing protection. So that releases the fear. The fear of exposing myself to people.”
Abi now has three nearly grown children of her own. She says one day when she meets Hope she would like to tell her, “I guess I’m happy that she got to spend all that time with Jesus. She had a real precious time with Jesus and I am glad he pursued me so that I can be with her.”
Her next step of obedience…finishing that volunteer application for her local crisis pregnancy center, and sharing her pain in hopes of healing others.
If you or someone you know are dealing with shame or pain from a past abortion, or are facing the hard choice of having one, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help you get connected to loving people who will walk through this with you. You are not alone.