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On Longings and Lies

At Mass this morning, a baby girl was sitting in the pew directly in front of me. She had wide, inquisitive eyes and dark, fuzzy hair that stood on end. Her carrier was turned in such a way that she was staring right at me throughout the first parts of the Mass, and every time I knelt, we were within inches of one another. I tried to ignore her, but she refused to allow it. Every time I looked away from her, she started to fuss. So we began to play games with our glances—I would roll my eyes about, and she would smile. And that would make me smile.

At the Offertory, her father took her out of the carrier. She stood facing me, gripping the back of the pew, and when the Sanctus came, and I once more knelt down, her tiny hands rested next to mine. Slowly, in that characteristic wobbly baby fashion, she reached out to grab my finger.

And that’s when a whimsical interaction turned into a heart-rending reality check. Because when those delicate fingers touched mine, what flashed through my mind was: This is what I threw away. This is what I destroyed. This is what will never be, not for me.

You see, I have two children. But they’re dead. And I never got a chance to hold their hands. They never even drew breath. Because I aborted them. And those are the two biggest mistakes of my entire life.

*             *             *

I was 16 when I got pregnant the first time. I was on the pill—actually, I was on the pill both times I got pregnant. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t get pregnant if you’re on the pill, because it’s a lie.

I knew I was pregnant at the moment of conception. I know it sounds crazy, but I felt the presence of another life like an epiphany—it was as clear to me as if someone had pranced into the room in a very grandiose fashion: Here I am! Look at me! And there she was. I know she was a girl the same way I knew I was pregnant. I can’t explain it. I just know.

And yet, I desperately wanted to be wrong. Even as I sat in my high school philosophy class feeling my body rearrange itself to make room for the budding life inside me, I clung to my shred of disbelief. I scribbled and passed a note to my best girlfriend: “Big problem, need help, meet me after school.”

She and I drove to the other side of town to buy a pregnancy test—we wanted to avoid being seen by anyone we knew. Then we went to the used book store where she worked and squeezed into the employee restroom to await the result. Neither of us said a word as we watched two undeniably pink lines appear in the rectangular window. We knew those lines were an equal sign with a whole mess of trouble on the tail end of the equation.

*             *             *

It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that I would have an abortion—everyone in whom I confided my situation presumed that’s what I would do. Not a single person asked me if I wanted my baby, or suggested adoption as an alternative. They spoke about “the abortion” as if it were a reality already in existence, a decision already made: When are you getting the abortion? I bet you can’t wait to have the abortion. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better after the abortion.

This included the nurse at the Planned Parenthood clinic where I went for a second test, still hoping against hope that all other indicators had been somehow broken or misguided. After she told me I was most definitely pregnant, she launched into a speech she had clearly given many times before.

Of course, she said, I couldn’t even consider having the baby—and yes, she did use the term “baby.” My reputation, my hopes, my dreams, my goals, my whole future—they would all be ruined if I carried to term. And imagine the suffering of the poor child—it simply wasn’t fair to bring a baby into the world without reliable and adequate means of support and at my age. Imagine the shame and discrimination such a child would face, having a mother so young.

And besides, I was still a child myself, she said, patting my hand and giving me her best impression of a Glenda the Good Witch smile. She was my friend. She felt my pain. She knew what was best for me.

According to her, the best thing I could do—the only thing I could do—was terminate my pregnancy. By any means necessary. She even told me how to get around Oklahoma’s parental notification laws, referring me to a clinic in Dallas where they “put women’s interests first,” and therefore didn’t ask pesky questions about whether an out-of-state minor had parental permission for a surgical procedure.

My boyfriend and the father of my baby also assumed there would be an abortion. Not only did he not want this particular baby, he never wanted any children whatsoever. He seemed resentful, as if he were annoyed with me for getting pregnant. He called the clinic recommended by Planned Parenthood to find out how much they charged, and scraped together a couple of hundred dollars—his half of the cost—in a matter of days.

As soon as he’d given me his share of the money, he began to nag me about getting the procedure. Did you call the clinic today? Do you have the money yet? How are you going to get the money? When is your appointment? What are you waiting for?

I felt like I was being swept away by a pro-abortion tide. Amid all of that pressure and in the center of all of those projected opinions, I never stopped to ask for one of the most important opinions of all—my own. In that echo chamber of voices telling me to kill my baby, my own voice was drowned out, and, at any rate, didn’t seem to carry much weight. After all, who was I? Like the Planned Parenthood nurse said, I was just a kid without any means of support. And how could literally every person I talked to be wrong?

I made the appointment. And I had the “procedure.” But it was not a cure for anything. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your dreams will be shattered unless you have an abortion, because it’s a lie. On the contrary, an abortion is the beginning of a life-long nightmare.

*             *             *

Two weeks after my seventeenth birthday, I married the father of my baby, the little girl I threw away. And about three years later, we got pregnant again. This time, things were both very different, and exactly the same.

This time, I had no clue I was pregnant. There was no epiphany. Whereas my daughter made her entrance onto the stage of my life with a burst of light and great fanfare, my son tiptoed onstage, unnoticed by every other actor. I didn’t even realize he was a boy until after I’d shoved him into the orchestra pit.

Whereas I had spent the nights leading up to my first abortion tossing and turning, deep in apologetic internal dialog with the child I was about to throw away, heavily conflicted about the so-called choice I was making, I initially felt no internal conflict whatsoever about my second abortion.

I still felt I had no choice—and my husband again contributed heavily to that feeling with his vocal determination to remain childless. But another influential factor was my own dissolute lifestyle in the months leading up to my discovery of the pregnancy. I had ingested countless teratogens in the form of various recreational drugs and alcohol, and was terrified that any baby that had been simmering in the cesspool of my womb for three months, as had been my son, would be born with horrible defects that would cause him a lifetime of suffering. The feelings of guilt engendered by that thought made me feel like a cornered alley cat—and having another abortion was my flailing effort to claw my way up the side of the building to escape the consequences of my own self-indulgent actions.

I made the appointment at the least expensive place I could find. I soon discovered the reason for the rock-bottom rate. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s possible to get a “quality abortion” at a bargain price, because it’s a lie. Firstly, there is no such thing as a “quality abortion,” and secondly, even with medically sanctioned murder, you get what you pay for.

It was obvious the minute I walked into the doctor’s office that she was really much more into the baby-delivering end of her practice than the baby-killing end.

The first clue was, every other woman in the waiting room was happily pregnant. They wore their baby bumps like badges of honor. Their faces radiated the joy of expectation. What must they think of me? I wondered as I sat down amongst them.

A beaming blonde leaned over. “When are you due?” she asked me.

I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t tell her, “I’m here to get rid of mine,” so I lied and said, “Oh, I’m here to find out” instead.

“How exciting!” She positively glowed with glee. I wanted to weep.

The second clue was, there were snapshots of the babies the doctor had delivered wallpapering every inch of that office. When I laid back on the cold metal table and put my feet in the stirrups, I discovered that even the ceiling was plastered in pictures. While the doctor brusquely tore away at my flesh (I was bedridden afterward for about two weeks), crushed the life of the tiny boy inside of me, and I cried out in abject pain, little toothless grins mocked me from above. Everything that could have been, but would never be, was right there in front of me, confronting me with joys I would never know.

I wanted to scream, “STOP! I want to keep him! Give him back to me!” but it was too late. My son was gone.

And every day since the deaths of my children, I have felt the two holes in my life where my son and daughter should be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your life will be more complete after an abortion, because it’s a lie. It will feel like something is missing for the rest of your life.

*             *             *

There are very few people in my life who know about this part of my past—at least there were before today. It’s something about which I am deeply ashamed. Abortion is, by far, the worst thing I ever did—and I did it twice. And it’s something I don’t just regret, because “regret” is not a strong enough word to even begin to describe my feelings about what I did. I rue it. I lament it. I mourn it. Every single day. I have built intricate psychological walls to protect me from the crushing pain of it all, just to enable me to function on a day-to-day basis.

It is not my aim to give a political lecture, or to give statistics about the emotional, social, and psychological damage wrought by abortion—there are people who are already doing a much better job of that than I could ever do.

No, all I hope to do by telling my story is add my voice to the chorus of people saying, “I did this, and it was horrible. I did this, and it was not a solution—all it did was create a larger problem that will never be solved, not in this lifetime. I did this, and I really wish I hadn’t. I did this, and I hope you won’t make the same mistake.” I’m telling my story with the hope that I might save even just one woman or girl the suffocating sorrow that I have felt all these years—and that I will continue to feel until the day I die.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that bringing a new life into the world will close doors for you, because it’s a lie—the birth of something new always represents the opening of a door. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that destroying a life through abortion will open doors for you, or that it will help you realize greater fulfillment, because those, too, are lies—the biggest ones of all. Pushing your child off the stage of your life closes the door between the two of you, but it doesn’t sever the bond. And you can knock on that door ’til the end of time—you can pound on it ‘til your fists are bloody, but abortion seals that door shut. The only thing that provides some hope and eases the pain is seeking, and finding, the mercy and grace of God, and the promise of a life to come. And yet, the void–the hollow space where your child should be–remains.

And inside that void, the longing whispers of what might have been will echo endlessly, inescapably, for the rest of your life.


Originally published at Watching the Whirlwind. Reprinted with permission. 

16 thoughts on “On Longings and Lies”

  1. Thank you for giving a public witness to the truth of abortion.. Remember, the sorrow you experience in this life can be offered in reparation for your sins and for others to receive actual graces to lead them away from committing those sins and others who have committed them to repentance.

    I will pray for you. Have you heard of Rachel’s Vineyard?

    • YES Bettina! Rachel’s Vineyard!! Wonderful, healing organization. Life saving for many. Many prayers for you and all those like you who are experiencing the same hell on earth. Offer it to the cross of Christ and He will save many souls with your pain.

      • You do not say whether you are still married or whether you have living children, or whether you still can conceive.
        The openness to have children is required for a valid marriage, so a Church annulment might be possible if you want one in order to re-marry. Adoption is still possible for couples past the age of fertility.

  2. First, I am faithful to the unchanging doctrine of the Church in regards to artificial contraception and, of course, abortion; however, if he was so rabid about not having any children, then he needed to take responsibility by getting a vasectomy. He apparently had no problem with his ‘woman’ taking a toxic drug to, hopefully, avoid pregnancy, or having a life-changing medical procedure done to rip out the baby that HE helped create. His “it’s all about ME” attitude is slimey. And since the ‘moment of pleasure’ would feel different, he sure as heck wasn’t going to take responsibility and compromise on HIS pleasure, no matter what his ‘woman’ needed to do. If you do not intend on trusting God to give you the number of children he desires you to have and that he knows you can care for, then don’t get married. Actually, don’t have sex.

  3. How very brave of you to tell this story! Hopefully some woman will read this and when her child needs her most, she will think of what you said here.
    The past is the past. Today, you have shared your story. Perhaps tomorrow a tiny life will be saved because of this. Lord Love you!

  4. Thank you for sharing! I hope many others will hear this so they don’t have to go through all you did or encourage others to realize there are other choices- choices for life. Yours and the child’s.

  5. Dear Bettina,

    Your sorrow and expressions of repentance humbles me.

    I am part of a lay apostolate that ministers 1:1 with women who have had abortions as well. St.John Eudes is our patron saint who had a great heart for Christ, priests, and women who found themselves destitute. He was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary and live around 1643. Perhaps our Lord may seek you to bring others to Him? You seem to have a heart for God.

    Magnificat of Saint John Eudes
    A Hymn of Praise and Thanksgiving to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
    and to the Holy Heart of Mary

    My soul doth magnify the admirable Heart of Jesus and Mary,
    And my spirit rejoices in my great Heart.
    Jesus and Mary have given me their Heart,
    This immense Heart in order that all in me
    May be performed in its love.

    Infinite thanks to them for their ineffable gift.
    This heart infinitely merciful has done great things for me;
    It has possessed me from the womb of my mother.

    Infinite thanks for His ineffable gifts.
    The abyss of my misery has called on the abyss of His Mercy.
    Infinite thanks for His ineffable gifts.
    This Hear infinitely meek has presented me
    With blessings of its sweetness.

    Infinite thanks for His ineffable gifts.

  6. Wouldn’t it be great if all the women who have had abortions and regret it, could give this kind of advice.. ? GOD BLESS YOU BETTINA.

    Cowardly “men” should also be called out here… I understand men are more prochoice than women. Very sad!

    • “Cowardly “men” should also be called out here… I understand men are more prochoice than women”

      So true! Most women are inherently maternal. Most men want the pleasures of sex without the consequences!

  7. Bettina,
    Your story has touched my heart. As a sister to you in the Body of Christ, I share in your grief. The Lord has called you to share this story to help save lives, as you have communicated the reality of abortion like I’ve never heard before. Remember, there is no sin too big for God’s forgiveness.

    Your children are now saints in heaven. They can pray for you and for others! Just think about that…you have two saints in heaven. And they have a mother who loves them! And our heavenly Mother understands your sorrow and is there to comfort you. Thank you for being a wonderful witness of the power of love.

    • Suzy: unfortunately, her two children are not saints in heaven. That is the true horror of abortion – it deprives these souls of the Beatific Vision. They will forever be in Limbo as they died without being baptized.

      • As people keep telling me, we are bound by God’s laws but God isn’t, so let us hope and pray that He will send His angel to baptize such babies so they may enter His presence. I also believe (correctly, i think) that Limbo is not a dogma so it is not binding to believe that God will not intervene here. I find myself wondering why the Holy Ghost didn’t enlighten the Church to this effect – before Vatican II, needless to say! – if He wanted it made a dogma of Faith.


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