I had a dream that I was in a room or a church that was full of people singing a hymn. I didn’t know the words but the melody was familiar . Because of my comfort with the music, I was able to learn the words easily and soon found I was singing along with the rest of the congregation. Then, the telephone rang and my dream was over. It was one of the Sisters calling to tell me about our next group “Gathering” for post abortion healing. This connection after my dream left me thinking about the last three years.
The “Entering Canaan” ministry was the vehicle that changed my life from despair to hope. This hope constantly amazes and sustains me. It keeps me from going back to that dark place that was home to me for such a long time.
After the birth of each of my sons, I experienced post-partum depression. It was especially bad after the birth of my second child. For almost three years, post partum depression crippled me , leaving me barely able to function as a wife and mother. It was a very trying time in our family that put a serious strain on my marriage,but, gradually, I came to see the light at the end of that dark tunnel.
By January of 1979, I found myself in a better place than I thought was possible. My spirits were lifting and I was beginning to feel like the old me again, then, I became pregnant. My husband was sure that I would develop post- partum depression again, so he threatened to leave me unless I terminated the pregnancy. There were serious misgivings on my part.
I truly believed that abortion was murder but he believed that it was just a “clump of cells”. I never told him I believed abortion was very wrong because the nagging fear of being left to raise my children alone was stronger than my fear of having an abortion.
We consulted with the obstetrician, who convinced us that abortion would be the simplest solution. I n my desperation, I believed him and aborted my child in March of 1979. The obstetrician was wrong. The depression I sought to avoid was soon worse than ever before, and added to that was the guilt and shame over having had an abortion. I soon became so overwhelmed, depressed and suicidal that the psychiatrist I went to suggested hospitalization. I was admitted to a psychiatric unit of a major New York hospital for three months.
Therapy, antidepressants, shock treatment and anti -psychotic drugs followed. None of it worked but somehow I functioned after being released from the hospital.
In December of that same year, around the time that my baby would have been born, my husband, died of a heart attack. It was almost eight months since he had threatened to leave me unless I terminated my pregnancy. Now he was gone , my unborn baby was gone, and I was left alone to raise our two children who were three and eight years old.
I was certain God was punishing me for what I had done. For the next 22 years I raised my two young sons using some very unorthodox methods. I self medicated with alcohol. I was angry and I yelled a lot.
Depression was always rearing its ugly head , and I isolated myself from both family and personal relationships. Alcohol became my only friend. Finally eight years ago, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I asked God to help me stop drinking for one day and at the end of that day, I thanked Him for the strength to have made it through. Every day after that, I did the same thing and each day, His help was unfailing. It still is. But there was one complication of abstaining from alcohol, the self-medicating for my ongoing depression was no longer an option.
Two years after I stopped drinking (the “terrible twos”), I again started obsessing about the abortion and sought psychiatric help. No one understood the depth of my feelings. My psychiatrist prescribed various medications, partial hospitalizations (four times) and in – hospital treatment when I became suicidal. Nothing helped. I thought the bottom line was that I was an aberration and a chronic depressive. I planned another suicide attempt. It seemed to be the only solution.
Getting ready for the end, I started going through my personal belongings. The last piece of paper in the first box of papers I went through was an old newspaper clipping from The Catholic New York . The heading read “Sisters of Life Aid in Post – Abortion Healing”. I couldn’t remember how I had received this clipping but there it was. There was a telephone number too and I called and asked the Sister who answered if they still had the post-abortion healing days described in the clipping. She said yes and that there was one planned for September, just two weeks away. Did I want to attend?
I was 60 years old when I “Entered Canaan”. I attended that Day of Prayer & Healing, a one day retreat dealing with post – abortion syndrome. I knew I had arrived there by means of a miracle, and when I was experiencing the day, I kept pinching myself to see if I was awake. There were 13 women there including Theresa, all of whom had abortions, and three Sisters of Life, loving us, affirming us, ministering to us, feeding us — spiritually and physically.
Learning that I was not alone in my struggles was the immediate benefit. But so many other graces have become evident in my life since that first meeting. I am learning that God has forgiven me and, more importantly, to forgive myself for the abortion. The learning process is slow but, just like my dream the melody is now familiar , giving me the comfort to learn and sing the words
“Jesus I trust in You.” – Mary