By Donna Brendel
I couldn’t say the words out loud, so I worked as fast as I could while I still had some courage. I ripped a sheet of paper out of my notebook and grabbed a crayon since I couldn’t find any pens. In green letters big enough to fill the page, I wrote, “I’m pregnant.” No, I thought, that’s just my condition. She needs to know my intention. I tore out another sheet and wrote, “I’m gonna have a baby.” Close, but it’s too childish, I thought as I crumpled up the page and ripped out one last sheet. “I’m going to have a baby.” There, that’s perfect, I thought with a smile as I imagined the tiny little baby in my belly.
Then movement from the back of the house jolted me back to the urgency of the moment. I stepped out of my room into the hallway and plopped myself down on the floor with my legs crossed. I knew my sister would have to step over me in order to leave for work.
As I waited I looked up to the window above me and admired the sunlight coming through the flowery stained-glass piece that Mom had made. It was cherished since she had died in a house fire eight years ago. Wow, has it been that long already? I mused. What would she think of my condition if she were here? Oh, how I wish she were here.
As my mind wandered, my sister was making her way down the hall. Without realizing my posture, I instinctively dropped my head and held the paper above me, like a white flag of surrender. I waited for her to react while she read the six big words. Then she blurted, “I knew this was going to happen! I knew it, I just knew it. Things like this don’t happen to girls like us. You have to have an abortion.”
I knew she would be mad, but I didn’t expect this extreme. “No,” I began to defend myself, “My boyfriend and I have talked about it. We’re going to get married, and we want to have this baby. He’s in the navy. He has health insurance. We’ll be OK.”
At the time I thought this was a trust issue. Who should I trust more, my sister who’s known me all my life, or my boyfriend I’ve known for 18 months? Since Mom died, my sister was more like a mom to me. She managed our home, finances, shopping, cooking, all the adult stuff. I just worked and went to school. I wasn’t interested in adult responsibility, but now I had to take interest. I had put myself into an adult scenario and gotten pregnant before marriage. I wanted to tell Dad, but how could I disappoint him? I would try to win my sister’s confidence. But did I have enough confidence in myself?
Even though my sister was older and stronger, she had struggled through puberty and wouldn’t open up to me when I tried to comfort her. And then when I hit puberty, she swore me to secrecy, like we had done something wrong. Annoyed and confused, I went along with it for a while. But I turned to my grandma for advice. I was so proud of myself for having the courage to reach out for help, and equally as exhilarated with the quick and positive response.
Where had my sister’s desire for secrecy come from? Was it because of our parents’ struggles with losing an infant, alcoholism, abuse, divorce, and constant fighting? I was too young then to process all the family dynamics, but looking back now I can see that we were regretfully neglected out of our parents’ lack of energy to do anything more than survive their own strife. I’ve also since learned the impact alcoholism has on children, the roles we play, and the secrets we learn to keep in order to minimize the troubles that already exist.
Was my sister’s reaction to my pregnancy anything new that I should’ve been shocked about? Not at all. Had my courage grown to stand up to her demands for secrecy? Unfortunately, no. I called my boyfriend, who was stationed across the country, and tried to explain my dilemma. I had to trust my sister’s advice because she knew me better. She said that I couldn’t handle a baby yet, that I couldn’t even handle myself yet. Unfortunately, I believed these lies about myself.
We were both so scared, but my boyfriend was confident. Though angry and frustrated, he gently encouraged me and reminded me of our plans for marriage and our love for each other and our baby. Yes, my thoughts beamed with a flicker of hope, I can do this.
My boyfriend’s family, not coincidentally, was also afflicted with alcoholism, divorce, and all sorts of strife. Neither of us were raised with stability or courage. We both knew too well the neglect and exhaustion of dysfunction. We strongly voiced to each other our conviction to value life in the womb. However, those around us demonstrated a lack of value concerning our own lives, and that affected our actions, especially mine.
I vacillated back and forth between trusting my sister’s adamant advice and my boyfriend’s promises, making my own promises to each of them one day and breaking them the next. The disappointment I caused them both grew heavier on me, and I couldn’t bear the weight of it anymore. Even though I didn’t know Jesus yet, I still prayed to God regularly, and I asked him for a sign. That day my dad gave me $80 to repay me for a dental bill I’d recently incurred, and I hadn’t even asked him for it. I thought that was the sign I’d prayed for since it was the amount I still needed to pay the cost of the procedure. I made the appointment and sadly went through with the abortion.
What I also didn’t know back then was God’s Word. Instead of looking for signs, I could have read for myself how God feels about life in the womb. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). I did not have to trust in a person or a sign. What I sought was written in God’s Word to me. But I wouldn’t discover this until five years later.
And it wasn’t until 20 years later that I discovered my dad’s feelings about life. After I’d received Jesus’ gifts of salvation and forgiveness, after I’d gone through several years of healing retreats, Bible studies, prayer, and worship, my confidence was finally rooted in the Lord. And I was finally ready to seek my dad’s forgiveness. He was now many years sober and much more gentle and approachable. After I confessed my secret and he quickly forgave me, I asked what he would’ve advised me to do all those years ago. He simply answered, “To have a baby.”
My life after the abortion was a mess, and I sank in a mire of fear, lies, and hiding. Had I sought either my earthly dad or my heavenly Father’s advice, I may have made a different choice, a courageous choice to value the life of my baby above others’ opinions.
God calls for courage over and over in Scripture: “‘Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:8). “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
I had indeed allowed fear to win. My own sanctity of life had been neglected and attacked, and I, in turn, inflicted the same treatment on my baby. I believe, however, that fear is smaller than it seems, and a little courage will divide and grow—just like the cells of a baby in the womb—if we’ll allow it.
Donna Brendel is a freelance writer in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome is a type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that affects many women who’ve experienced an abortion. Here are some of the signs:
3. Psychological “numbing”
4. Depression and thoughts of suicide
5. Anniversary syndrome
6. Re-experiencing the abortion
7. Preoccupation with becoming pregnant again
8. Anxiety over fertility and childbearing issues
9. Struggling to bond with present and/or future children
10. Survival guilt
11. Eating disorders
12. Alcohol and drug abuse
13. Other self-punishing behaviors
14. Brief reactive psychosis
Do you know people who are suffering after an abortion? Listen, show tangible and intangible love and care, be present with them, do not judge, offer hope, give them time, and suggest they seek any needed professional help.