My parents' reaction took me by surprise. Shocked, angry, and disappointed, they told me to leave the house and forget that I was their daughter. They believed that premarital sex was wrong and thought it would be a disgrace to have a child out of wedlock. At least, I thought, my parents were practicing Catholics and would never ask me to abort my child.
Alone in the Darkness
It wasn't long before the baby's father and I broke up. A friend's mother invited me to stay in their home. During this period, my father sent several messages urging me to have an abortion. He even offered to pay for it. I refused at first, but as time went on and I began to feel more desperate, I decided, finally, to have the abortion.
No one explained to me the baby's development or what the abortion would be like. I lay there just wishing that I could die. I could feel my baby thrashing around as the saline burned his skin and lungs. He was dying. Labor began. Alone in the room 12 hours later, I gave birth to a dead baby boy.
I looked at his tiny feet and hands. All I wanted to do was pick up my son and put him back inside of me. I couldn't fathom what I had done. I rang for the nurse. She came in, picked up my son and dumped him in what looked like a large mayonnaise jar, marked 3A. She left the room and I was alone filled with hatred for myself. The thought of death seemed comforting. My downward spiral had only just begun.
After the abortion I wasn't the same person anymore. I went through the motions of daily living but had no desire for anything. At night I'd lie awake asking God over and over again to forgive me.
Desperate for love, I married a man who abused alcohol and was emotionally and psychologically abusive to me. After the birth of our second son, I didn't know how I was going to care for two children while living with someone addicted to alcohol. I didn't want the boys to experience abuse. One day when my husband was drinking again, I took the children and walked out the door. This time, thank God, I had my children.
A Ray of Hope
Every day was a challenge just to get out of bed and take care of the boys. I did, however, begin attending Mass again, sitting in the back of the church, certain that everyone knew I had had an abortion - certain that the walls would come crashing down on me. But I went, listening for some word of hope that I could be forgiven for my terrible, "unforgivable" sin.
My seven-year-old son was ready to make his First Confession. At a meeting for the parents, a priest talked about God's mercy and His desire to forgive any sin - even the sin of abortion. I remember thinking: Can this be true? Did I hear him correctly? Will God really forgive abortion? That evening I left with the first inkling of hope I had known in 10 years.
It took time and courage, but I decided to call that priest and ask him to hear my Confession. Scared and nervous, I made my first Confession in many years. The priest was gentle and tried to make it as easy as he could for me. He was very empathetic and supporting. At last, I was on my way home.
I began to see the priest regularly for spiritual direction. At first, all I could see was darkness. It took a lot of effort to do the things he asked, like examining my life, because I was sure I would uncover what a terrible person I was. But I was tired of the depression and desperate enough to try. I felt sorry for my children who had a mom who cried a lot and simply couldn't cope with life. I wanted more for the three of us. And so I prayed, went to Mass every day, and spent time before the Blessed Sacrament. I needed so badly to trust in this God I had been told was so good.
I continued to struggle with depression. I would beg Jesus for healing. I felt bad that I had not experienced a full healing, and my confessor's eyes showed his own sadness over my continued struggle. I understand now that the fullness of healing must come in God's time.
One night I felt depressed and suicidal again, but despite these feelings I also somehow had a deep trust in God. I didn't want the children to see me crying again, so after putting them to bed I closed myself in the bathroom, crouched on the floor, and repeated over and over, "Jesus, I trust in You."
Lifting the Burden
I don't know how many hours I did that, but well into the night an experience changed my life. I experienced being on the Cross with Christ. But instead of encountering suffering, I felt love so intense that it was capable of taking away my pain. His love washed away my sin and I knew my healing was complete.
I have never since sensed the despair of abortion, but only the profound love and forgiveness Christ gave me. I've watched my life transform, miraculously, as I've been privileged to help countless women and men suffering from abortion's aftermath. Christ's love transformed not only my life, but the lives of those I love.
Before my mother died, I learned that my abortion had caused her great suffering, although she had never told me. One day when we were watching TV, abortion came up. She said, "Well, sometimes it's all right to have an abortion." I said, "Mom, it is never all right."
God gave us this moment of grace. My mother told me that my abortion was her sin and that she would take it to the grave with her. I was able to comfort her, telling her that we both bore responsibility for it. I told her that I forgave her and asked her to forgive me. After that my mother went to Confession to the same priest I had seen for direction, and she felt her terrible burden lift.
I believed that God was calling me to speak out against abortion, but I knew I couldn't unless my children first knew of my own abortion. I was terrified that they would hate me. By then I was active in the pro-life movement and they had been brought up to respect human life.
Facing the Challenge
I planned to tell my children about my abortion many times, but each time I backed out, afraid to say the words. Finally, one day I knew I was being given the grace to talk to them about it. How can I describe that day? I trembled as I told them of how our lives had come to be as they were. If it were not for my abortion, they would not be living in a fatherless home or seeing the strained relationship between my father and me.
The boys struggled with their feelings. They were angry with me. They grieved for the brother they never knew. They felt guilty for surviving. It took time, a lot of talking, and the grace of God, but they eventually understood why things were as they were, and why I had spent years crying. They grew closer to God and we grew closer to one another.
I didn't speak about my abortion publicly right away. Before I would do that, the boys needed time to deal with their feelings and cope with the loss of their brother. I was resigned and even at peace with the thought that the day might never come. But a few years later they gave me their blessing. To say I am proud of them is an understatement. They have become great advocates for life.
I've now worked for some years with the Sisters of Life, offering days of prayer and healing for those suffering abortion's trauma. I have witnessed countless miracles of His mercy and am convinced that God is marshaling an army of once-wounded women and men to dispel the lies of abortion.
St. Faustina Kowalska's diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, tells of these words spoken to her by Christ:
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy toward tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to my mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than asked. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in my unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.
I know that this is true. Jesus, I trust in you.
Theresa Bonopartis. "Divine Mercy in My Soul." Lay Witness (March/April 2002).
Abridged from the original article with permission, copyright 2000, U.S. Catholic Conference Office for Pro-Life Activities.
This article is reprinted with permission from Lay Witness magazine. Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.
Copyright © 2002 LayWitness