The story of how I came to a higher awareness of my aborted siblings feels like an unexpected one to write, but here goes.
While I was growing up, my mother used to tell me every once in a while that she had had multiple abortions before I was born. But she and my father were not practicing Catholics and we were not in the habit of going to weekly Mass. I really did not grasp the full meaning of a life and the spiritual depth of what she had shared with me. In fact, even after I became a practicing Catholic after college, I didn’t think about the four siblings I had lost to abortion, or even remember them.
Growing up in my family was very rough. There was domestic violence between my father and mother coupled with child abuse between my mother and my sister and I, and it lasted for many years. My mom was a real alpha-female and led our family in a very matriarchal way. She perpetually clashed with my father. I had trouble bonding with my mother all my life. When I was a little girl, I would want to kiss her goodnight, but she would just turn her cheek away. My aunt tells me that she witnessed my mother hitting me as early as when I was two years old. The police came to our home more than once because of the neighbors’ reports about the violence in our family.
When I was in 5th grade, a social worker was sent to my house, but nothing came of it, even though my sister and I desperately needed help at that time. Though my mom beat on the both of us a lot, I got the worst of it for reasons I’ll never totally understand (including my supposed “family resemblance” to my mother-in-law, who my mom seemed to hate). At times, I would find myself telling others that it was because I was the oldest child.
Sometimes, I outsmarted my mother, though, in my struggles to survive as a kid, but mostly my childhood was filled with lonely, harrowing days in which I waited to become an adult, and I was glad to leave home, go to college and be free of my mother when the time came. I remember that on that fateful day when I left for college, my mother hit me as I was getting dressed to leave home, almost in a last effort to exert her domineering will over me as she had always done, in denial of my maturity.
However, about a year ago, after many years of practicing my Catholic faith, I read an interview with Theresa in a newsletter written by the Sisters of Life, where she mentioned Lumina’s Sibling Day. I thought about my siblings deeply for the first time…ever. It hit me that had any of them been born, I would not have been “the eldest” but the second youngest. The more I thought about, the more I felt a certain identity crisis. Would my mother have treated me better if I were the second youngest child? (My mother oftentimes seemed to favor my sister, the younger sibling.) Would an older brother have defended me against abuse from my mother? In addition, since my mom used to say that she disliked large families and would speak of them demeaningly, I’ve mused that perhaps my sister and I would not have been born at all if she had had all the previous four children before me, because she would not have wanted an even larger family.
My mother says that she aborted those kids because she didn’t want them to grow up in South America, where life was even rougher for her dealing with the family politics of living near her in-laws there, since my father was sometimes violent with my mother during family quarrels. Still it would have been nice to have my siblings alive, and yet, I really don’t think I would be, if they had been born. It feels like a chicken-or-the-egg kind of mystery.
At the Lumina retreat, though, I feel I made peace with my siblings. In fact, I’ve sensed them as a benevolent presence in my life, as people whose souls were sent by God to our family and who are still linked to us. Sometimes when I imagine them, I see them as androgynous cherubs looking out for me and the family from wherever they are, perhaps even praying for us. I am thankful to Lumina for helping me to connect to them in a more spiritual way. A lot of people have lost siblings to abortion and we need to be aware of our invisible family on the other side. For me, it’s a comforting thought that no matter how broken my earthly family is, I still have more family members to relate to, somewhere! And, while I may never understand God’s will, that doesn’t seem to matter so much as the love that can still possibly exist between me and my siblings, born and unborn. ~IR