P.A.T.H.S. 
POST ABORTION TRAUMA HEALING SERVICE

Breaking the silence - information, hope and healing after abortion
 
 
 


  Women's Stories & Reflections 


MEET RACHEL

We are about to meet a lady, she has a story. A story that many people have but are too afraid to tell. She could be your mother, sister, aunt, neighbour, friend. But her story includes a topic so taboo that we cannot give you her identity.

Rachel found herself living a life like many others. She had a boyfriend, flatted, partied and worked a five to nine job. But something was going to change.

“I called my boyfriend and said to him, ‘I think I might be pregnant’ and he was really shocked. Rachel’s boyfriend arranged an appointment with a doctor.

“The doctor was really going to see how far along I was in my pregnancy to see whether he could recommend a termination”

Pregnant, without the support of her family or her boyfriend, she felt the only option was to terminate. Rachel and her boyfriend remained silent about the abortion until 20 years later.

“I started to realise that I had been impacted by my termination so I thought, right I’ll be brave and look at my abortion.” Rachel found a place called P.A.T.H.S…. “I saw that one of the effects from the termination is that you can be numb emotionally, and I thought that’s me, that’s how I feel, that’s what I’ve been like for years. And then as they years went by I would remember what age my child would be. I suppressed so much of the termination, that I can’t remember the time of day, the day, the date, even the month. I remember how old I was so I would meet people who had children that age and the loss and the grief was there but I couldn’t speak of it.”

After the abortion, Rachel married her boyfriend, with the intention to never have kids. “I didn’t feel that I was a worthy person to have children, not after where I’ve been. I didn’t want to have the fear of ever being pregnant again.”

Ten years later, fear became a reality, when she had to tell her husband she was pregnant.

“He was so shocked, and didn’t react well. And I was so angry with him that I really just wanted to pack up and leave, wondered why I’d married him, wondered why he couldn’t accept a baby., that we were in the right place, the right time, the right everything.....”

Pregnancy brought a heap of emotions, including pain that Rachel had tried to suppress for over a decade. Despite the stress she had a beautiful baby boy born with a burden.

“He had to carry the burden which he doesn’t know to this day, that he was given life. So for him, there was responsibility, that he had this opportunity that someone else didn’t. And one day I’d like to explain that to him, so that he has some understanding of the expectations that were put on him.”

Rachel had more children. With each pregnancy she was faced yet again with intense emotion.

“In the meantime I dragged my children from pillar to post being really busy doing lots of really good things, running different groups. Meanwhile whilst I was in the midst of all these different groups with women I would hear judgment, whether it was for abortion or against it, for the women or against this loss and grief that didn’t come to me until I had my kids and realised there was a child for real. So there was no place for me to speak.

For some people there will be certain things that trigger emotional responses... called connectors or triggers” says Carolina Gnad from P.A.T.H.S. For Rachel she had a fear of doctors.

“Doctors represented death, so I labelled the medical system, and in particular doctors, as being the mad butchers. I was terrified of going to the doctor, and when I did I would sit there and have panic attacks in the waiting room, and think this is crazy there is no reason why this should be, but that’s how it was, and it was hard to be there”

It took Rachel many years to find a space where her story could be told. And through that the healing could start.

“The politics quietens the reality for every woman who’s had a termination who finds that they can’t speak because they’ve been judged, hated, whatever else.... By the time the termination was finished I got off the table and part of me was left behind. The cost of having an abortion is a lot less than having a baby. I can understand why the government thinks this is the best thing for the mother, the best thing for the country, the best thing for the taxpayer. But ironically, I sit in my lovely big home, that I’ve worked hard for here, and there’s no amount of money that could pay the price for a life I’d love to get back. It’s been a high price to pay. The cost for me of a child that I could have today. And my healing has been finding my worth and the validation that my child was of worth.

At the end of this story what was meant for death there’s been life that’s been given. A journey in understanding and learning to love again, and with that there’s hope, there’s a space to speak of what happened that day and healing comes. And that’s my story.”

Your sister, your mother, your aunt, your friend... Rachel’s story could belong to anyone.”

(From Documentary DVD Meet Rachel for NZ Broadcasting School June 2012, journalist Mei Yeoh, produced and directed by Duncan Brown. Used with permission.)


Choice, not Coercion

Before I was coerced into an abortion in February 2002 everything seemed to have finally fallen into place in my life.

I’d spent years on my own as mother of two little children, working and studying to try to make a more comfortable future for us all. I’d started tentatively with study at 30, having never attempted anything like that before but after the incredible encouragement of an A and a B+ for my first two papers I gradually built up a head of steam that saw me graduate 7 years later with an honours degree in English Literature, my LTCL and LSB in Speech and Drama and a Diploma in Secondary Teaching. In my final 2 years I was working 24 hours a week and had no support network for myself and the children. But I did it for future independence and security. The following year I was working full-time in my dream job and thought that life was pretty wonderful.

Then I met Chris. Just when I’d decided that I couldn’t really be bothered with men, didn’t need one financially, and that as far as a relationship was concerned it just wasn’t worth the hassle. But Chris was amazing and that’s all I have to say. We were married in 1998 and all seemed to be rosy beyond belief. At the risk of sounding cynical, most would have thought that it couldn’t last. And it didn’t. Oh, I’m still married to him, I might even still love him a bit from time to time but I have been irreparably damaged and am only now, 3 and a half years on, building a world for myself in which I can function, albeit at a much slower pace and lacking the security and independence that had been so important to me.

Before the abortion, I knew I would never be the same again but no-one listened to me. Not one person asked me what I wanted and I was so much in shock (and delight) at being pregnant again at 40 that I was horrified when everyone automatically steered me towards the abortion clinic.

These are some of the things health professionals said to me: ”Your husband is too old.” (Get over it. Look at Tony Blair.) ”It’s only a bunch of cells.” (I mean, really, how stupid do these people think we are?) ”I’d be worried about you carrying a baby at your age.” (What utter bollocks.) ”You don’t need to go to counselling, you know what you want at your age.” (No, actually, I don’t.) And, worst of all, “What do you want to do with the contents of the womb?” (The ‘contents’ of the womb!?) This united front combined with my husband’s anguish over the extra pressure it would put on him (he had 4 other children) led me to, reluctantly, agree.

This is what then happened afterwards: I felt loss of control and depression which culminated 18 months later in a breakdown that saw me bedridden for three months and off work for six, by which time everyone had lost their patience with me. (Funny how a broken leg or hip is pitied and tolerated but a broken mind isn’t.)

During those months I was prescribed antidepressants that were to have a devastating effect by themselves. I did not sleep for months as every time I started to drift off the drugs would make me jerk awake. My doctor said to give them time to “kick in”. I was desperate and started to drink myself to sleep. A lethal combination, especially when combined with sleeping pills, a cocktail which saw me admitted to hospital barely breathing and with barely a pulse.

I took myself off all medication and instantly learned how to sleep again. I went to a wonderful counsellor and learned strategies to cope with my grief, and my friends, Anne and Roy, were always a phone call, or less, away. When I finally went back to work I realised that my ability to cope with stress had been totally eroded. I suffered though the rest of the year at my “dream job” and finally resigned relinquishing my independence and future security.

Despite this, I decided to accept life at a slower pace, to accept that I am now somewhat disabled. I still work as a teacher but part-time and not permanent. I worry about the future and, if Chris were to get fed up and leave me, I’d be dependent partly on a sickness benefit. Back to square one.

What makes me so angry is that it was so easy to push me through the system and for me to allow them to do that with so little background information offered.

If this can happen so easily to me how many young girls are being bullied into abortions and screwed up for life so that families can brush the whole matter conveniently aside? How many of us are warned that abortion can have devastating effects if it is not what the woman really wants to do? How many of us can discuss our grief freely and have a focus for that grief? How many of us are told just to pull ourselves together and get on with life?

How many of us, given the growing information on the terrible side-effects of abortion in some women, would have stood up and said “No! I’m not doing it...” and walked on with the consequences? I for one will not be stopping here. These women need a voice. And they couldn’t take that away from me. Watch this space.

- Karen


A REAL LIFE STORY - I had a termination .....

All my friends seemed to be able to hook up with someone and I was really beginning to wonder why I found it so hard. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself but no guys seemed to be keen to make a move. You can’t go through life without somehow getting some sexual experiences and I certainly didn’t feel that I could leave uni without having crossed that bridge.

Eventually it happened - it wasn’t the memorable experience I thought it was going to be and it certainly wasn’t like in the movies. In a way, nothing changed. I still didn’t have any kind of special relationship with anyone and now there were a couple of guys who knew how hopeless I was. Basically, I just wanted to finish uni and get away.

The problem was, I didn’t finish uni. When my period didn’t come, I couldn’t believe it. I’d been careful but obviously it didn’t work. I didn’t want to hear about options I just wanted the whole thing to go away.

I knew that Family Planning would sort it out - so I went there. I really wanted to use a false name, but it didn’t matter in the end. They just asked me the basic questions, did the urine test, gave me the news and then asked me what I wanted to do - was there anyone I wanted to tell. No there wasn’t. They said they could book me in for the termination and gave me an appointment note to take to the clinic.

The only good thing I could think of, is that no one I knew would see me going in or out of the clinic, and I could just go home, take it easy for a few days and get on with things.

It didn’t happen that way though. I didn’t somehow miraculously settle in work for my exams, I didn’t want people talking about me so I didn’t tell any of my friends and it was too late to tell anyone in my family. I had some counselling through the clinic, but that was a joke. There were only a few sessions and they certainly didn’t raise difficult questions or get into anything with me that was going to take any time. My last contact with Family Planning was when they gave me a free box of condoms and told me to take care.

It has taken a long time to begin to think about any of this, and I can honestly say that I have never really settled in my life. I know that my behaviour back then was unsafe and reckless but I didn’t care.

That experience is still somehow part of me - it’s the part that shapes my life but no-one can know about it. Having the termination is not something you can really feel proud of and even when you hear people say that they support a ‘woman’s choice’, you know that really they don’t.

I have never felt totally confident in my relationships since and have learnt that when you do tell someone about a termination, they either don’t understand what a massive thing it is or they can’t cope with it. They can never think of you without having that in the back of their minds.

Now I don’t tell anyone anything. I’m not unhappy with my life. I have never married or had children which I don’t think is a bad thing - it’s not for everyone. But I have never really done anything big with my life either, which is a disappointment.

This story is a snapshot and reflection and has no ending per se for it is an ongoing journey.....


My “Miscarriage” of justice and dignity

Lack of dignity. Lack of respect. Total lack of acknowledgement of religious belief.

On the 22nd September 2003 I lost my baby.

The registrar told me she was going to partake in a procedure - dilate and curette “the products of conception”. I will never, ever, forget that inhumane, disrespectful, absolute denial of life phrase, which was repeatedly used during my meeting as I was miscarrying my fifth baby.

That weekend a friend turned forty, great celebrations were had. Meanwhile I hid behind a façade and gracefully declined attending with a white lie. I had a little bleeding for days, but because I had spotting on my first child I hadn’t panicked. But I should’ve been more worried… I didn’t realize at the time I was losing my 5th baby.

I sincerely believe my unborn child was a gift, as is every single child. However to be honest, initially in the first three weeks of her short life I didn’t want a fifth child. The reason being I have Bi-Polar Affective Disorder or Manic Depression. My experiences of motherhood have been accompanied by increasingly severe mental illness. I have had repeated depressions after my children and after my fourth child Post-Natal Psychosis just 4 weeks after her birth. Living overseas at the time without family support, it was an incredibly difficult and frightening experience to get ill so quickly after birth.

So I feared the reality of facing another psychosis, it was pretty much guaranteed according to my psychiatrist. Additionally I feared facing the depression that seems to slither into my mind and envelope me with constant negative thoughts. It is only recently when I have become unwell once again, that through some gentle words from Carolina that I have realized I haven’t fully grieved for my fifth child. I told very few people about the baby. Despite being a Catholic, I worried about the judgment of others and the ignorant comments and jokes which were bound to come my way.

The reality is that my D&C was an awful, negative experience from start to finish. During my meeting with the registrar I continually corrected her by using the word “baby” as she said “products of conception”. Consequently I was wound up even before the surgery. We discussed histology and how the hospitals like to analyze the “remains of the foetus to examine and investigate why the foetus didn’t survive” (her words).

In Psalm 139 it is written “You created my innermost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb”. Obviously this young registrar was unaware of this beautiful acknowledgement of life. I told her that I wanted to have some remains of the baby to bury. But for some reason she wanted to debate this request too. She informed me that there would be little remains left. I felt she was unsympathetic, insensitive and did not even understand my viewpoint. I stood my ground and didn’t back down as this was my child and it was important to me. Once my husband supported my request she finally gave in and wrote it on the form. I found the meeting emotionally distressing and draining, did she not see we ticked Catholic as our religion on the form?

As I was wheeled up to surgery, the two nurses were busy having a conversation and laughing about some topic completely unrelated to me. I recall it was something to do with their social lives. They hardly acknowledged I was there. I felt completely invisible, just another number, a part of the system, all in a day’s work. Wheel them in, wheel them out!!

As I lay in the theatre and waited, I took in the sterile environment surrounding me. I felt a bit anxious and awkward knowing complete strangers were going to do an internal procedure on me. I certainly wouldn’t have wished this on myself. Then the anesthetist who was warm and friendly put the medication into my arm. I recall the words “Think of an island like Fiji” I remember my last thoughts being what a bloody stupid thing to say! I’m losing my baby.

Later in the recovery room I couldn’t stop crying. Having never had a general anesthetic I didn’t know if it was a reaction to the drug or to the trauma of the experience. But the point is I lay there quietly crying and the nurse overseeing myself and two others didn’t even come over. The touch of empathy of another can say so much. I felt fragile, disappointed and abandoned. Thankfully later when I returned to the ward my husband was there to provide me with support. But even then the nurse kept saying how many children do you have? I answered four, and she said you will be right….Those words completely failed to acknowledge the little unique child I had just lost. I bled for almost five hours despite being told I should only bleed for two. It was then I began to get some sympathy.

My heart belonged to my baby, though she was a part of me for a very short time. I had turned my mind around to wanting her by the seventh week. So when I miscarried her at ten and a half weeks I felt empty, guilty and full of sorrow.

It is so strange how you can walk around in public and hide such personal pain. I am a bit of an actress and only cried when I was alone. I named her Leisha, after a song by Michael W. Smith. I always remember the 22nd of September. Only God knows the reason why she was taken away. I have had to learn to accept her loss. I buried her beneath a statue given to me by my aunty and cousin who have both experienced miscarriages. She lies beneath the statue, under our beautiful Magnolia tree at home. When it bursts forth into its majestic purple colour in the Springtime …….I remember her.

Meg wrote this story a while back now – it seems timely to share it. It reflects how the attitudes and approach of health care professionals can affect the experiences of those who suffer a pregnancy-baby loss. We often hear how the reality of pregnancy-baby losses such as miscarriage and abortion are minimized or discounted leaving those grieving and hurting to suffer alone. People who have experienced any pregnancy baby loss often share how people and society have the expectation that it is ultimately not a big deal and you just have to get over it and get on or that at some point you can replace the child you lost. In Meg’s case it seemed well you have four children already and that’s enough or it means you won’t miss this one as much?! For some people it is not that simple and they journey through a whole range of emotions over time and have to work through complex issues. Any pregnancy-baby loss can impact a woman or family hugely and is rarely forgotten.


Denial - Louise's Story

As I grew up and up until the time that I had my termination I never believed that I would find myself to be pregnant, let alone to be in the situation that the pregnancy would be unplanned and end in a termination.

I never wanted to disappoint my parents, even at the age of 25, and I thought that knowing what had happened, they would in fact be disappointed in me... I was always encouraged to work hard, and had been taught that if I wanted anything in life I had to put in the effort to achieve my goal. This made me determined to finish what I start and has meant that I am very reluctant to ask for help.

In March 2000, I left for the U.K with the plan to get to know my extended family. Armed with my degree I intended to find work in my field in the U.K. But out of desperation and a serious lack of funds I took a job in a service department of a large car dealer. It was fine for a while but I became very homesick, I missed my family and my close friends. I was still holding out hope on finding a job that I was qualified to do and making good progress on paying off my student loan. I was too determined to give up and come home because of my emotions. I met Dan at work; we became friends... After a little while the friendship developed into a relationship. I finally had a close friend.

After about three months together I realized that I was pregnant. I consider myself to be a relatively intelligent woman, yet I still told myself that if I didn’t believe that I was pregnant, then I couldn’t be. It was about this time that Dan started to back away from me, he was vague about his plans, lied about where he was going and would snap at me. I was confused and very hurt, he was my only friend. I was pregnant and afraid.

I knew that he didn’t want to have children. I believed that the timing wasn’t right for me either and I was so far away from everyone and everything that mattered to me. I was 11 weeks pregnant when I told Dan. I had already made my decision before I spoke to him. He told me that he would support me whatever my choice was, but I wonder how that would have been had I have decided to continue with the pregnancy.

It was a whirlwind and bewildering time. I spoke to Dan on Wednesday, I saw the GP on Thursday, went to a Family Planning type clinic on Friday and was booked into a clinic a two hour drive away, for the abortion to be carried out on Monday. I was very frightened; I had never been in hospital before. I had no idea what to expect, no-one had given me any details or much reassurance. I felt ashamed that it had happened to me. I wished that I could have spoken to my mother but the person that I needed the most was the person I just could not tell. Dan drove me to Birmingham the night before and left me in a hotel room. I have never felt so alone. I lay awake in the bed waiting for morning to come.

The day will be etched in my memory forever. The big old house with three storeys, the waiting in many different rooms, the fact that everyone else had someone with them whilst I sat alone, and the feeling of complete helplessness. One woman who was also waiting said to me ‘You look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders’. I replied ‘At this point in time I feel like I do’. I will never forget her response and every time I think about it, it shocks me just as much. She replied ‘You’ve got no need to worry, there’s nothing to it, this is the fifth time I’ve been here, my kids think I’m at a job interview’. I don’t understand how anyone could treat it like it was a trip to the dentist.

We were all taken away in groups to have scans and tests. My scan revealed that I was in fact pregnant with twins. The nurse asked if that changed anything for me. But I had come this far I had to see it through. The other girls were looking in their notes’ folder and looking at their scan pictures. I never opened my folder or looked at the photos, seeing their forms would have meant accepting their reality.

I awoke from the procedure moaning with intense pain. I felt sick yet relieved - I could put it behind me and move on. I’d taken a couple of weeks off work to recover. I was anaemic so was exhausted but trying to put on a brave face. I can remember very little of those two weeks, I have blocked them from my memory, but I can still feel the loneliness.

Dan stayed with me for a month or so afterwards, more out of a sense of duty I believe. I returned to work and immersed myself in it. I began to not look after myself, eating very little and going to the gym excessively. Dan became more and more cold towards me – my only “friend” was shutting me out when I still needed him so much. I pretended to myself that the termination had never happened and almost believed that it was someone else’s life.

I decided six months after the abortion to return to New Zealand. I was unhappy and I was still alone. After I told Dan that I was leaving he changed and wanted to spend time with me. The day I left he broke my heart again, he told me that he loved me, the words that I had wanted to hear so badly, being spoken then, far too late.I expected being home that I’d be able to leave the memories of and feelings around the event behind me. I coped on the outside very well, but on the inside whenever the words ‘abortion’ or ‘pregnant’ were mentioned I would cringe and avoid having to make any comment. I tried to avoid situations where I might feel put on the spot as I feared someone might know my secret.

A while after returning home I started to see Andy whom I had known before I left for the U.K. He had described me then as someone who could light up a room. When I returned home he saw me as a shell of that person, someone who had retracted into herself. I had thought that I was doing a brilliant job of hiding what was going on inside of me. I told him the truth however. We eventually had a child together, a fantastic little boy. Both Andy and my mum were at the birth and after some complications a nurse asked me if I had ever had a general anaesthetic and why. I had always wanted to tell mum but not like that - it was horrible. A few days later we talked and cried, she told me that she wished that I could have told her and that she never would have been disappointed in me. In my heart I knew that would have been her reaction but I never gave her the chance and that’s something that I will always regret.

It was at this point which made me realise that five years later I did need help. Despite the fact that I now had a child, anything to do with babies made me cry - this was no way to live. Making the first step to speak to someone was not an easy one as it meant to me that I was no longer in control of myself. Despite this I knew what needed to be done. My GP gave me the contact details for The Family Life Pregnancy Centre where I met a counsellor from P.A.T.H.S.

The counsellor taught me that it’s ok to feel the way that I did. She helped me put everything into perspective and to create a sense of ownership in my story. I see how it has in some way made me the person that I am today. She helped me to grieve which was something that I had never done, and most importantly she encouraged me to acknowledge my babies, to allow thoughts of them through and to think of them as part of me and not something to hide away from.

I would like to say a big thankyou on behalf of all women in my situation. I appreciate what my counsellor did for me and helped me to do for myself. It can not be an easy job taking people back to such painful times in their lives, but with your support you helped me to make the passage through the pain and darkness out into the light.

Thank you. Louise




TRISH'S STORY

I was 40 years old and felt ambivalent about being pregnant because I feared I could not cope with another baby at this time. I sought help, but it seemed everywhere I turned nobody could give me the kind of practical help I needed. I allowed myself to have an abortion I did not want. I have always had fertility problems and have had treatment for many years.

My young son, a toddler at the time, was conceived through a Metrodin programme. He is such a treasure.

However, with the isolation, the lack of practical help, no experience in baby or child care and no family support with the first baby, I suffered severe postnatal depression and was just recovering when I found myself pregnant again. It was completely unexpected and a huge shock. I dreaded the thought of coping with another baby, as well as a toddler - it was too much.

The baby I aborted was my first child that I had conceived naturally, and as I anguished afterwards I believed the chance would not come again.

Incredibly I have been blessed with another baby, a baby girl this time, and although I feared something might go wrong with the pregnancy or afterwards, she too is a treasure. I still feel sad and angry about the baby I lost through desperation and systems that let me down and failed to help me.

(Trish C - P.A.T.H.S. 1999)


ALENA'S STORY

Three months after separating from my husband, the final break-up of a 20 year relationship, I found I was pregnant - the result of a one night stand. Single parent, sole income earner and 40 years old - I could not allow myself to consider any alternative to an abortion.

This was my fourth pregnancy. The first had been when I was 16 years old. I was not given any choice about the outcome of the pregnancy and was sent away from home to a home for unmarried mothers. My baby girl was adopted out. I had to swear on a Bible that I would make no attempt to have any contact with the child and that I was relinquishing any rights as a mother by signing the adoption papers.

My second and third pregnancies gave me two wonderful children - one from each marriage. Although these babies were both within my marriages, the pregnancies were not welcomed by either father and so I was pregnant and unsupported again. Both my partners were heavy drinkers and when they had been drinking that was when the abusive situations were at their worst.

My first marriage at 18 was physically and mentally abusive. The beatings started when I was pregnant and never stopped until I took my four year old and left. I went into another bad relationship within a couple of months - not physically abusive but with a moody, sulky man, unable to communicate his feelings. Although I knew the relationship was unhealthy, I hoped it would get better. I was too afraid of being alone again.

My second relationship endured three separations. I always forgave him and took him back regardless of how badly my first son and I had been treated, believing that things would change. I was still too scared of being alone. During the years of this relationship, I was developing some independence although I didn’t recognise it at the time. I had a good job and income and had earned respect within my profession. I still couldn’t believe I deserved any of this ‘good luck’, a belief regularly reinforced by my partner. I became pregnant after the final reconciliation of this relationship and we were married before the birth of my second son. I was so happy.

I had always hoped to have four children and I naively hoped that once the baby was born, my husband would agree to have more babies. Not to be. Although he loved our baby, he was emphatic that he would leave me if I became pregnant again.

About five years ago, my father-in-law died and a few days after the funeral my husband was assaulted. He was in a coma in intensive care for 10 days, there was no way of telling whether he would survive and if he did what extent of brain damage there would be. He was in hospital for a further three months before being sent home. He was relatively mobile but he was very dependent and deeply depressed. I only worked part-time in my job for the first six weeks so that I could share in his care.

Although he was alive and at home, he had become a very different person. Living with this sad, uncaring person was taking a huge toll on both of my children as well as me. The situation became unbearable and we agreed to separate. The relief was immense.

Shortly after he moved out, I had a brief affair (one night with a much younger man). Very flattering to me who had been unwanted and unloved for so long. The result of this "no strings attached" one night stand was that, I found myself pregnant. Shock - horror. How could I have been so stupid!

I made the abortion decision alone and told only my two closest friends who supported me in my decision. I had to wait until I was nine weeks pregnant to have the abortion. The longest wait of my life, as I felt really sick and was putting on weight. My biggest fear - that someone would find out.

The abortion itself didn’t seem so bad as I was so relieved to be “fixing the problem”. But the nightmare didn’t end there. I became really sick with an infection and I was trying to carry on with life as though the pregnancy and abortion had never happened. I felt ashamed and dishonest and it seemed to me that I was being punished yet again. I had never acknowledged to myself that I had been pregnant with a baby and that I had chosen to end its life.

I recovered my physical health and my body returned to its pre-pregnant condition. My life seemed to become so hard in the following year. I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to put into my job. I believed that it was the job - I’d been there for over 10 years and decided I needed a change. I left at the end of the year to work for myself. I gave my all to the business and it still wasn’t enough to earn what I needed. I was barely able to function. I had sought advice about hormone deficiency earlier in the year and had been put onto Hormone Replacement Therapy. Some initial relief but not enough.

Anxiety and panic had become a way of life. My weight had plummeted and I couldn’t sleep. The doctor was unable to offer any explanation for the panic and anxiety I was experiencing. Finally I decided to seek a female GP within our medical practice. Thank God for that doctor. By now I was a total wreck. I just wanted to run. My self confidence was completely gone. I couldn’t perform the most basic task, let alone earn enough money to keep us. The doctor believed that I was suffering from depression. The relief to know that this terrible feeling had a name was incredible. I was prescribed anti-depressants and she suggested that I seek counselling, advice that I gladly took. She agreed that I was unable to work and so, for the first time in my life, I became a beneficiary. After three months on the Sickness Benefit I was required to go to another doctor for a second opinion. I was fortunate that the doctor I saw was familiar with the P.A.T.H.S. programme and recognised that my depression was possibly associated with my abortion experience. The counsellor I had seen previously had suggested that my symptoms were consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but had not made a possible connection to the abortion.

Until I became involved with the P.A.T.H.S. programme, I had not seen myself as a victim nor had I acknowledged that I aborted a baby that subconsciously I wanted.

I struggled with the forgiveness step of the programme as I believed that I was the only person responsible for my experience. I now know that is not true and so have been able to forgive myself and others. My journey has been hard and has at times felt endless. I will never forget the poor wee soul that I couldn’t keep but trust that he is in God’s care.

I completed the P.A.T.H.S. programme. Writing my story made me feel very sad but has been very therapeutic. When I had finished the first part of this story I felt as though a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I could see things much more clearly and no longer totally blamed myself for the events and situations that seem to have been my life. I hope that I never have to return to the black hole of despair that now seems distant. I returned initially to part-time work and am now back to full-time work soon. I feel very privileged to be surrounded by caring family and friends who have supported me throughout this journey and continue to do so. Thank God for the P.A.T.H.S. programme and the blessing of my counsellor there who shared my fears and tears and helped me find myself when I was lost.

(Alena M - P.A.T.H.S. 2000)


ROSE'S STORY

It has been nearly ten years since I had the abortion - I was 32 years old. Ten years of lost enjoyment of life and the severe grief and pain the abortion caused in me. I lost my identity as a wife, a mother and what I saw as a good person. My self-esteem was low and I isolated myself from others to hide my grief.

I believe that life is a gift and very precious. I know my baby was precious to me already, as were my other two children, and I didn’t want to hurt him. One thing I asked the counsellor at the abortion clinic was “Will the baby know any pain?” She went on to explain the baby as so tiny, implying its insignificance or lack of development. I hope and pray he or she didn’t feel any pain. I didn’t ask her whether I would have pain, I was already in emotional pain doing what I thought I had no choice over.

The fear that I had, led me on the path of my baby’s death and in turn my own spiritual death - but I still live. I live with the grief and sorrow of my loss and what could have been. I have finally gained through my pain an awareness of myself. My fears and reactions from past hurts which were never understood or processed by me. I understand now, how I gave myself away and gave into pressure and became passive. I always thought one should put others needs and wants before one’s own. I put my husband’s wants and needs before our child’s and my own.

I feared abandonment by him, and that our two other children may lose their dad. I feared my husband’s withdrawal of me and his inability to cope. Having gone through attempted suicides with my teenage boyfriend when I was 15 & 16 years old, I also subconsciously feared my husband would do the same. He later told me that this was how he felt, but he never sought help for himself. He wanted me to have an abortion and found every negative reason to persuade me that I couldn’t have our baby. He gave me no support or said it was my decision or choice. I needed his approval. I felt a huge weight of responsibility to honour and obey my husband’s wishes.

The abortion was certainly not my so called “choice”. But I have learnt now that I do have choices and that I did have a choice then. This knowledge is incredibly hard for me to deal with and I am finding it very hard to forgive myself. I now know that I do not have to accept others’ negative statements as “truth” and am learning to listen to my own truths and intuition.

Was it a lesson worth learning? Yes, but not at the expense of my baby’s life. My marriage is now over. I hoped we could work it out but I desperately wanted another child. This wasn’t to be. I never pushed the issue hard enough for my husband to really take notice. He would never give me a firm answer - always “I don’t know”. Perhaps he knew if he said “no” that I couldn’t cope with it.

I thank God for leading me to the P.A.T.H.S. program, where I finally found the support I needed. The acceptance I received helped me learn to accept myself and lead me out of the darkness of the abortion experience. I also thank God for the gift of my life and that of my two children - they give my life meaning and a reason to go on.

(Rose - P.A.T.H.S. 2002)


MARIAN'S STORY

My first abortion at 20 was heavily decided by my partner, who gave all the right reasons to have an abortion, and in order to please him and keep the relationship, I also made the decision to have an abortion. Immediately following that abortion I had a lot of physical energy and joy and a happy partner. The idea of having just destroyed a life didn’t even enter my consciousness at that time, and incidentally I never told anyone, especially my parents - I had no support.

The relationship soon deteriorated into a very aggressive and unloving space, from, and for, both of us, and a couple of years later, ended. The years following that I felt a lot of hurt, pain and rejection relating to this abortion, but was only able to express it through anger (coming from a childhood lacking love, honesty of emotion was not something my parents taught).

The second abortion took place when I was 27. The decision to have the abortion was for exactly the same reasons as the first one. I thought it would be even easier as I now knew the drill. But this time when it was all over I didn’t have the joyous, energetic feeling. I was sad and thought a lot about the would-be baby. The mood swings became more frequent and I would get extremely angry - still no honesty, more denial covered up by excessive alcohol binges.

Before I absolutely exploded, through a friend I found out about P.A.T.H.S. and went along, still not identifying the relationship between my pain and anger, and the abortion, but decided to go along as I had never had counselling for the abortions. The key to moving on and releasing hurts I’m finding is awareness and understanding - which P.A.T.H.S. has given me. I began writing a journal for my emotional progress and after about the fifth session my page was headed “I am 28½ years old and today is the beginning of my life!”

(Marian F - P.A.T.H.S. 1999)


BERYL's STORY

My husband and I are directors of three Discipleship Training Schools with Youth With A Mission. We have six children and ten grandchildren. We are now three generations of Christians. God has blessed us tremendously, but life wasn’t always so great.

My family were not Christians. My father was an alcoholic, and my parents divorced when I was ten. I was the oldest of three children, all of whom were damaged emotionally in some way by the trauma of our childhood.

I married young, and we had three children. When I got pregnant again my husband didn’t want any more children and insisted on an abortion. Our marriage was shaky and abortion had just become legal in New Zealand. The newspapers were full of "a woman’s right to her body" etc.

So to "save" my marriage I finally agreed. Of course it only made things worse.

The counselling I received beforehand, consisted of one session where I was told that it was not a baby, just a few cells as big as my little finger nail. The abortion was quick, humiliating and painful. I remember the doctor spoke across to the nurse and said "This one must be four months." I felt cold. I knew a four month old foetus was a fully formed baby, kicking and moving around - not just cells. I hated that doctor and I hated the counsellor who lied to me.

Afterwards there was an initial sense of huge relief. It was over - I could get on with my life again. But a few days later a huge cloud of depression descended on me.

I cried continually - I couldn’t eat or sleep. My marriage was falling apart. I felt so much anger and resentment to my husband and I hated myself. We moved house - a fresh start - I got a new job to take my mind off everything.

A Christian girl there began to fast and pray for me. Six months later she took me to church and there I finally found forgiveness and healing. My husband watched me and three years later he too became a Christian. For three days after making that commitment I found him reading an old Bible and weeping. He asked me "What’s wrong with me?" I said "I think God is healing you." He agreed. A week after his healing took place his plane crashed into the sea off Wanganui. We never saw him again, but we had the tremendous comfort of knowing he had made his peace with God before he went.

It wasn’t until years later on a trip taking Bibles into China with my new husband, that I came face to face with abortion again. China’s one child policy means girl babies are aborted, drowned at birth, thrown into rivers etc. Sitting next to a Chinese courier in a restaurant, he told me that millions of girl babies are murdered every year - aborted forcibly at full term sometimes. Grief overwhelmed me for those women.

When I arrived home a friend and I started a group called "Open Arms" for post abortion counselling in Auckland. Over the years we have seen many women healed and restored. I have spoken on radio, in churches, women’s groups, I have run workshops for priests, and written for magazines so that this message of hope gets out.


Real Stories - “I had a termination” (RAJ)

If anyone had told me when I was in my twenties that this would be how my life would be, then I honestly think I would have ended it long ago. It’s been too hard, way too hard and the rewards at this end of it simply aren’t there.

I ‘got into trouble’ as an 18 year old, back in the days when you had to go to Australia for an abortion. Of course I had no money so my parents arranged for the family doctor to make a referral to a clinic in Sydney and my mother came with me. I don’t remember much about it, except that my mother went and bought a whole lot of clothes that she never wore and we came home again after a few days.

The sense of shame and guilt from that time was horrible and I remember thinking that I would do anything or sign anything so that people like my parents never had to go through anything like that again. I was all for abortion being legalised in NZ and the sooner the better as far as I was concerned. There’s no way around it though. When you have had that experience that young, it definitely leaves a mark.

Over the years, I have been active in all sorts of issues, committees and political causes. I’ve been married twice and have natural children and two stepchildren and now have two grandchildren. I have a close circle of friends but none of them really knows what I’ve been through and it is way too late to start telling them now.

I have had a number of health issues; hence the causes and committees, but the most damaging are the lapses into depression and alcohol abuse. I know it’s going to happen again but there seems to be no way of avoiding it.

As I have grown older, I am somehow becoming more and more irrelevant to my children and their lives. They seem to be the generation that knows it all and they are having children that have it all. They love me but they don’t like me; they are frightened that they’ll have to support me as well as worry about themselves in later years.

I worry for them too. I can accept that with a couple of marriages behind me, I have some baggage when it comes to family, but they each seem to be building their lives like a series of fortresses, keeping themselves apart from the smell and mess of real life.

I worry for their children and ironically, given my own history, for the children they won’t have. To be able to look out on a rich, full and varied life is a wonderful thing, but if no one is looking back at you, then it’s all for nothing.

All my life I have been ashamed of the grief that I brought my parents and I have tried to fix it by making the world a different place. They are both long gone and I no longer have the opportunity to talk to them as a damaged adult, rather than a damaged teenager that I’ve been all my life. It saddens me to realise that all they really wanted was my love.


My Journey

It was at a prolife workshop in January 2011. I picked up each of the leaflets and booklets they had there, to see what they were like and what I could use. Among them was a small booklet from the P.A.T.H.S. organisation. And I started reading.... Could there be yet things in my life stemming from my abortion that I could untangle and thus become more able to be who I am supposed to be?

Half a year later I met one of the P.A.T.H.S. counsellors for the first time. I outlined my life so far.... and spoke about myself as a teenager. Last year of school, a sheltered, loving, cultivated, religious home with high standards. “Teacher’s pet”, always a good girl. My warm caring Mom. My cool, very self-disciplined, yet very caring Dad, with his own very hard childhood. Starting to mix with “The Drama Group”, young (and old) people from the local amateur theatre and the low moral standards there, especially in regards to relationships and sex.

Acquaintance with Kirt, falling in love. His background was a broken home, bitter mother and a father he hated. His communist / atheist world views clashed with mine. He criticises, is even angry at my parents for raising us the way they did.... My parents are increasingly concerned, warning me. Getting more involved physically, avoiding full intercourse as a means to avoid pregnancy.

In my last year of high school my monthly doesn’t occur as usual. I have no thought of pregnancy. Or do I? Very deep down? When feeling queasy is added to it, I wonder, petrified, horrified. Pregnancy test is negative! What a huge relief. Yet menstruation doesn’t return, morning sickness increases. Some weeks later, second pregnancy test: positive! The world spins, whirls, I am totally dizzy. The SHAME! Big flaming letters over me: THE S-H-A-M-E! For me, my family, and only now, thirty years later do I see it. SHAME especially for my father, who holds a high position in his company, highly respected whom many look up to. He is proud of his five daughters. And now, I his youngest, failed him, terribly! I cannot remember Kirt’s reaction. That is interesting, strange. What do we do? Yes, “we”, it is my parents and I, not Kirt and I, and not I alone.

Only now do I remember that Kirt had offered to stand by me “If you want to, we can raise this child together. We can make it!” Why had I pushed that memory aside? I remember shuddering at the thought of raising a child with him, passing on his world view. Anyhow, we could not possibly work together in child rearing! I would have to go it alone. This made it clearer, that I needed to separate from him - we had no future together.

The family at home wrestled and struggled in great secrecy over it. Time was running out. I was almost 12 weeks now. In my country abortion was only permitted for women with severe medical problems etc. We briefly touched on adoption. For some strange reason it appeared to me worse, more heartless than even abortion. Why?!?

My father was concerned that I would be tied to Kirt with this child. My mother offered to raise the child for me... at 60... what sacrifice, devotion, commitment. Dear, dear Mom!! Somehow I thought that being raised without a father was worse than not living at all. Even though my parents and I talked a lot, I knew, the final decision was mine.

Looking back now I believe the strongest deciding factor was SHAME - unable to face the world, wanting to hide how low I had fallen. And what about my father’s reputation... I couldn’t do this to him, I loved him very much.

We learned where there was a clinic that did illegal abortions for cash. My mother was going to a conference in that city so we tried to work the two things together. I went to a doctor and got a referral letter (the doctor I later learned received payment for each person she referred).

On 28 November 1979 I trudged up a dark staircase in an old, dark, back alley house. Darkness all around - on people’s faces, in the small waiting room, in our hearts. Then the general anaesthetic. My heart was screaming, wanting to rescue my baby, wanting to protect, to shield it against all harm. Waking up, fighting the reality of it all. The doctor who did IT, walked past, stopping and asked “Did you have intercourse?” I answered no. “Well, of course I had to break your hymen.” Walking on. How I hated him.

When I talked with the counsellor about THAT DAY, I came up against intense furious hatred toward this doctor... a new dimension of hatred I had not yet known.... I prayed for help to forgive again, hand him and them over to God. I feel the hatred melt away as fog disappears when the sun shines on it (strong enough). I trust it is defeated for good.... no coming back. Now as I write four months later I am still free from it. The day after this pivotal session I wrote to my counsellor:

Last night when we were together as a family singing “It took a miracle”, the last two lines of the chorus especially touched my heart, and I sense that the “Making me whole” is doing a big step forward through my journey with you. You ask good questions that shed light into foggy corners.

Last night as I reflected on the day and gazed once more at “that day”, words and phrases rose onto the scene:

- repulsion (very strong)
- grief (bottomless)
- the tragedy of the situation
- dark, dark everything
- mechanical, automatic movements, almost beyond my control
- cold people, dead people
- me betraying the child, its trust in me!!
- myself feeling betrayed (by whom?)
- wanting to jump up, rescue my child, let nobody harm it
- battling the reality of death, not wanting to accept it
- defeat, paralysed
- my broken, ruined body, violated, desecrated

Through this journey now, I will connect my present Me with my Me from then. I will become one continuous person. All Me. Whole....

It took a miracle to put the stars in place
It took a miracle to hang the world in space
But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole
It took a miracle of love and grace!

What about naming my child? At first it seems too bold. I did not know its gender. Does it matter? Bridging the gulf is important, building a relationship now. During the weeks I sat with my counsellor I quietly listened for a name... Somehow I always believed she was / is a girl / woman. I never think of her as a child, but always as a young woman.

Yet as I dare name her, I notice one thing; Now I can look at her, fully, properly - and yet it feels like peeping through a small hole, secretly, so she won’t notice me. “She mustn’t see me”, I think. Why? I am so ashamed. I abandoned her. I failed her, betrayed her, broke her trust. I know Jesus forgave me, but can she forgive me? I cringe, I hide.... I am not worthy to be her mother..... But I conquer the fear to say out loud “I am the mother my children need.”

In later sessions we sift through Hurt, Anger and Forgiveness processes.

The idea of finishing the journey with a memorial service for the child (young woman in her thirties) appealed to me straight away, but while I was trying to visualise a way to do it, I understood, that all I really wanted, was to plant something in memory of her. A tree? A rose? No. I think a peony. Red - for the blood that was shed, hers, His... or white for her spotless life in Heaven, or both.

Jo....



WHY AM I SO ANGRY?


This inner rage which seethed

just below the surface of my emotions

would catch me off-guard,

exploding without warning.

I didn’t know where it came from

or why it happened

or even when it would occur next.

But like a rogue wave surging

soundlessly toward the shoreline,

it would smash against the jagged

edges of my life without warning.

Once spent, a heavy undertow of hopelessness

dragged my shame back out to sea.


- Patricia A. Bigliardi


LEND ME YOUR HOPE


Lend me your hope for a while, I seem to have mislaid mine.

Lost and hopeless feelings accompany me daily

pain and confusion are my companions. I know not where to turn;

looking ahead to future times does not bring forth images of renewed hope.

I see troubled timed, pain-filled days, and more tragedy.

Lend me your hope for awhile, I seem to have mislaid mine.

Hold my hand and hug me; listen to all my ramblings, recovery seems so far distant.

The road to healing seems like a long and lonely one.

Lend me your hope for a while, I seem to have mislaid mine.

Stand by me, offer your presence, your heart and your love.

Acknowledge my pain, it is so real and ever present.

I am overwhelmed with sad and conflicting thoughts.

Lend me your hope for a while, and a time will come when I will heal,

and I will share my renewal, hope and love with others.


Adapted from the poem “Lend Me Your Hope” author unknown.


THE HANDS OF GOD


You reached into my well and touched my pain

A pain that disturbed my well within

The well of life, and peace and love.

For within the well was the grief, the guilt, the loss

Of my dear sweet unborn babies.


I felt you gently reach in

And cupping them in your hands

You gently, slowly, beautifully, drew them upward;

Past my heart aching within

Past my throat clamped with tears

Past my mind so tortured and bent

Past my eyes overflowing with more tears

And gently, ever so gently, I felt them go

And with it the pain in my well

A relief, a peace filled my body


It may not be complete Lord,

This grieving, this pain, this guilt

But I know, the pain has gone from my well

The well is now pure, now waiting, now wholesome again

To give, to love, to uphold others in pain, in guilt, in grief.


Praise you Lord, for your gentle touch

Your gentle leading, your gentle healing hand and love

For now I know the peace, the joy, the contentment

Of being free of that pain, that guilt, that grief

Of losing two precious babies before they were held by me

Their mother, their friend, their soulmate

For what better hands could they be in

Than their Creator, their Maker, their Father-Mother God

To be loved and held for eternity

Praise you my God, my Creator, my Maker, my friend.


- Angela 1998


WHISPERS FROM HEAVEN


Mother, dear, dear, Mother, could we talk, you and I?

When I look down from Heaven, sometimes I see you cry.

I want so much to hug you then as tight as tight can be

Because I think the tears you shed are sad, sad tears for me.


Dear Mother, I forgive you, O please believe I do!

It must have been so difficult so very hard for you.

They told you things would be all right, your life would just go on,

But never said how much you'd weep and grieve when I'd be gone.


Yet we can still be very close and love each other, too

For though I am now with God I'll always be a part of you.

So, Mother, won't you name me, please and from my home above,

I'll hear you and I'll come each time you call to me with love.


I'ld like to be the faithful friend in whom you can confide;

Your sentinel before God's throne, the angel at your side.

So talk to me and sing to me, and pray with me, please do!

And when you send a smile to me I'll send one back to you!


So don't be sad, dear Mother, you'll be just fine, I know,

For I'll be there in spirit wherever you may go.

And when God brings you home to me, my heart will know true bliss,

As I run up to greet you with a great big hug and kiss!


- Your aborted child (S.M.E. - Brooklyn)



DEAR COUNSELLOR


Dear Counsellor,


It’s been just over two months since my abortion. I hope you will share this with all the counsellors at the clinic. I found it an extremely difficult decision to make and was very ambivalent right up to the time of the abortion. I believed it would be an easy thing to do and I would primarily feel relieved. I certainly didn’t expect to feel completely devastated, cry for weeks on end and find myself swamped by full-blown grief. To try and make sense of such sadness and pain I (eventually found) a few books on pregnancy-related losses only to find grief following abortion covered in quite a lot of detail and certainly describing how I felt. Obviously I was not the only person to ever have reacted this way to an abortion... Now I don’t know if you deliberately don’t mention the possibility of such a depth of grief because it hardly ever happens OR you are not aware of it happening. If the former, then I think women have the right to know... If the latter, then I hope this letter.... will change that.... I realise a pro-abortion stand serves you and most women well and it is a stand with which I wholeheartedly agree, but the deep strong feelings that go with an abortion, especially when the woman is ambivalent or unsure, must never be trivialised, denied or ignored.


(Written by LEE p220 in the book "Giving Sorrow Words" - Melinda Tankard-Reist)

 
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