I was asked to speak about the PACE program at the benefit dinner for Family Life. I immediately said yes, as the post abortion bible study had changed my life. I prayed with my friend Donna just prior to stumbling up to the stage and I’d asked God to just speak through me since I wasn’t that good at memorizing stuff. I opened my mouth and out came my story. In checking my script later that night, I don’t think that I forgot anything but I’m not totally sure. What follows are the notes I’d planned on saying:
Thank you Rhonda for inviting me to share my testimony for the PACE program at Family Life today. It is my honor to speak to you today.
I was born in 1954 . My Catholic father took us kids to church, my mom was not a church goer.
The summer between 6th and 7th grade, my parents announced that we were moving from NJ to CT. I had been looking forward to entering Junior High and was a good student. I boldly stated that if they made me move, I’d turn greaser. Low and behold, we moved anyway and we also stopped going to church. My grades dropped, I started smoking, drinking, experimenting with pot and lost my virginity at 15. After being in CT for a year, my parents announced that we were moving to Georgia.
I turned 16 in Georgia and I latched on to the first kids that said hi to me, which happened to be the hippy crowd. I started using LSD regularly and ramped up my rebellion. I had random sex, what they called Free Love back then. I finally told my mother that my period was late after my father commented on my newly developed potbelly. Mom asked me if I could be pregnant and I lied.
Mom took me to my first visit with a gynecologist. After the exam, the doctor called my mother into the room.
The doctor told me, “You’re five months pregnant.”
I said, “That’s impossible.”
The doctor turned and left the room.
My mother started to cry.
Finally she said, “You were a love child you know. When I was 19, I got pregnant with you and had to get married. I had to give up my dreams, and I resented it.”
I had always suspected that she really never wanted me, so I wasn’t surprised. I wondered what dreams she’d had that I’d ruined and I felt sort of satisfied.
My mother said, “I’m not going to let that happen to you. You’re going to get an abortion.”
I knew that was murder and was a mortal sin. I wondered who would the murderer be? Me? The doctor? My mother? Or would all 3 of us burn in Hell? Would the baby go to Purgatory? Or Limbo?
Abortion was not legal, so I was taken to two psychiatrists and a physician for interviews to declare me an unfit mother and rule out the possibility of adoption because LSD caused chromosomal damage. The label of unfit mother haunted me for the rest of my life.
The abortion was done in the hospital. No one asked me how I felt about it afterwards. No one discussed birth control with me either. My father stopped speaking to me.
A couple of months later we moved again, back to New Jersey, back to the same town we had lived in prior to all of our recent moves. Rejected by my old friends, I was miserable. My parents flew in my Georgia boyfriend, for Christmas break, in an effort to cheer me up. But they did nothing about getting me on the pill and I got pregnant again. Twice in one year, Happy Sweet Sixteen, I thought.
Once more, my mother took full control. This abortion was performed in a doctor’s office in a seedy neighborhood of Brooklyn. I’m not sure if this was a legal procedure or not, it was 1970, so probably not. I was fully awake this time. The doctor and nurse talked about the recent Yankee’s game as he worked between my legs. I felt humiliated and was in pain. When he was done, he pushed his stool back and said, “It was a boy,” the only words he’d said to me the entire time.
I failed every subject in school but Art. They let me graduated anyway, and I was accepted at an art college, where I majored in painting. Artists are notoriously tortured souls so drugs and free sex were totally accepted there and I fit right in. Painting became my passion and I did well in school but I suffered with severe anxiety and my senior year, I started therapy with a doctor that helped me gain self-confidence and stop using drugs.
After college I went to a technical school for printing and got into sales for a printing company, where I became quite successful. I bought a loft in NYC and was making an obscene amount of money. I drew my new sense of self from success and beauty. I swore that I was never getting married or having kids. I traveled extensively, dressed in designer clothes, frequented 5-star restaurants and trendy clubs downtown where people cut coke on the cocktail tables. After not doing any drugs for over ten years, I tried cocaineand fell in love with the high. When my live in boyfriend almost died in bed beside me, I recognized how dangerous it was and sought help. I successfully kicked my habit by attending daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings for a year. However, I didn’t relate to the Higher Power part of the 12-steps, I was sure that God was done with me and the mess of my life.
Shortly after that, I met Bill, who I thought was the perfect partner for me, he was just like me; young attractive and successful, also a runner and in the printing business. I fell in love. I was now 35 and changed my mind about wanting children. Two weeks before our wedding, I was diagnosed with cancer and told to have a hysterectomy. I was living on a large wooded property in New Jersey by then and ran out into the woods screaming. I dropped to my knees in the dirt and looked up at the sky, and prayed for the first time in twenty years. I was sure that God was punishing me for my abortions. I promised Him that if he let me have children, I would raise them in the church.
I sought five more medical opinions till I found a Christian oncologist that agreed to go along with my plan and I subsequently had 3 healthy babies, that he dubbed Miracle babies, and true to my word, I raised them Catholic. My guilt and shame of my abortions was now a daily conscious thought and I often thought about how old they would be if I had had them. When my youngest child was two, I went to confession, and confessed the abortions, and although the priest told me that God had forgiven me long ago, I didn’t feel any relief.
Our marriage was fraught with loud arguments and we sought counseling several times. One therapist told me that if I stayed with him that he would kill me. I ignored her warning and we moved to California in 2000. Our family lived an affluent life but none of us were happy. My sons both suffered with emotional problems and entered therapy. Their therapists told me that our home was toxic to them. My therapist told me that my husband was either a narcissist or a sociopath and that they rarely change. My internist told me that my husband was abusive and that I should leave him. But I couldn’t for some reason, perhaps I thought that it was my fault or that I deserved it. Or that I’d lose my children in a custody battle. I began questioning my sanity. Around 2006 I quit taking the kids to church. I was convinced that God had abandoned me.
By 2012 I was suicidal and somehow drummed up the courage, to file for divorce. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. By then I was a very broken person. I had PTSD, was unemployed and broke for the first time in my life and facing what I knew would be a long drawn out contentious divorce with a man that I now thought to be truly evil or just plain crazy. I didn’t think that I would survive it.
In an effort to find my sanity, I dreamed up a yearlong journey with my horses. My therapist endorsed my idea, saying that it would be therapeutic. I left a year after I’d moved out of the family home. Just before I left, my daughter invited me to her progressive Christian church. I was so moved by the music and message that I cried the entire service.
I left the Fall of 2013 with my two horses, my dog and cat. Camping in Missouri, I met 3 women that asked to pray for me, something that I’d never experienced before. They formed a prayer circle and each one spoke to my needs, I cried the entire time. State after state, I met women that talked about God to me, gave me devotionals, took me to bible study classes and their churches. I started listening to Christian music on the radio as I hauled between states. When I got to Florida where my father lived I decided to stay a few months with him as he fought stage 4 cancer. He’d been my rock most of my adult life and I dreaded losing him. I found a Christian church and began attending their services twice a week, and a few months later, was baptized. It was much more profound than I thought it would be. I felt hopeful that this would fix my brokenness and I felt washed of my past sins, as if I was going to get a do-over.
Back on the road, a few months later, my mother died. I was there by her side and I grappled with the ambivalent feelings I had about losing her. I completed the journey 3 months later, and my dad died the following month.
I spent the next 3 years in Pasadena trying to mend my relationships with my 3 grown children. I joined a church in Monrovia and started reading the bible for the first time in my life. I began writing a book about my journey; the horse camping part and the finding God part, which helped me start to make sense of the mess of my life. My divorce finally settled in 2016 and I felt God carry me out of the courtroom that day.
In 2017, I moved to Tehachapi, where I joined the Vineyard and began doing bible studies. My re-education of who God really was became my passion, God became my FATHER AND MY ROCK, and I began searching for my “purpose”.
I went to Family Life last summer to do the training to become a crisis pregnancy counselor. I thought that maybe giving back to pregnant young women would be my purpose. I wanted to help or support or warn young women about the shame and regret that would negatively affect the rest of their lives, as it had mine, if they chose abortion. Because I had gone through abortion myself, I had to also do a post abortion bible study called Forgiven and Set Free, which I did alongside two counselors, both of whom had gone the program themselves. I had been studying the bible for five years now, so I figured it would be pretty easy.
My counselors told me to expect the Devil to attack because I was doing this study. I’d never believed in the devil before. I told them about the nightmares that I’d been having and the disturbing circumstances of my oldest son who was overseas. I told them about my book and my fear of my ex-husband. They gave me supportive advice, specific verses to read in the Bible, they prayed for me and touched base on the days between our meetings.
We got to chapter 5 which was entitled, “The need to forgive”. It wasn’t a new subject for me as I’d already forgiven my mother and ex-husband. But I stopped in my tracks when reading about the “plank in my eye”. Judging was a fault that I struggled with. But I had never considered before, that I had been judging myself too. And I realized that there was someone else that I hadn’t thought to forgive, ME.
I looked back on my life with a set of new eyes. It was like watching all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. I realized that I had been punishing myself for the last 49 years! It hadn’t been God that was punishing me, it was me. I was self-destructive in so many ways:
- In trying to be a perfect mother, attempting to overcome that label of unfit mother that I’d been given at 16;
- In tolerating my abusive husband for 23 years,
- In risking the cancer killing me to bear my children;
- In pushed myself beyond exhaustion during my horse-camping journey,
- and most recently in “dig deeper” in the writing of my book to the point of having a nervous breakdown, staying holed up in my home for most of the winter.
Everything in the study was profound and revealed insights into why I was who I was and helped me heal my crippling wounds. In week seven, there was an assignment to thank the lord for caring for your child. I’d like to read it to you now.
“To thank the Lord for the care of your child, create something using your special talents. It may be a poem, a dance, a painting, a song, a piece of sculpture. You may plant a tree or a garden and nurture it in memory of your child and in gratitude to our Lord.”
Being an artist, I said that I would do a painting. It took me another six months to actually get it done, I kept procrastinating it, walking by my studio several times a day, glancing in at the blank canvas on my easel. I’d never done a religious painting before.
(Project image of painting)
I finally painted it last December and adding Jesus’ halo were my final brush strokes and I felt apeace wash over me that was overwhelming.
I am truly forgiven and set free.
Thank you. God bless you all.