When Duane found out that I was pregnant he offered me marriage. He said I didn’t have to give up on my dreams, it would just be different then I planned. He could stay at home and take care of the baby while I finished college and launched my career in journalism.
I knew that Duane wasn’t the one for me. I wouldn’t admit it to myself then, but I didn’t even like him. I broke up with him at least 10 times in the four years that we had been together. But I didn’t want to hurt him, so I’d always take him back when he begged and vowed to change.
Marrying Duane didn’t fit into my life long dreams and neither did having a baby. As I considered his proposal, I looked into the future and saw that my greatest fear would come true; I was going to end up like the rest of the people all around me. That is unhappy, poor, and without hope for a better future. This was all a big mistake, and through my carnal perspective, there was only one way to fix it; terminate my pregnancy.
It was not until I made my “consultation” trip to Planned Parenthood that things began to sink in. I was driving to the appointment with Duane there beside me in the passenger seat. In one brief moment, I woke up from my dream of denial. “How could I let this happen?” I wondered. “I just wish it weren’t true.” Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I tried to keep my composure and stay calm. I didn’t want Duane to try to comfort me. After all, nothing that he could say would make me feel any better. It was just so sad that my life had come to this; that I had put myself in this horrible situation. The tears kept coming.
“Stop Crying Jenni.” Duane said emotionless. “Everything is going to be fine.”
Mostly I cried because there was a voice in the back of my mind that pleaded “Don’t do it!” I blamed that voice on my mother. It made me angry that she brainwashed me with religion when I was young. I knew she didn’t mean to deceive me. She really thought that she was teaching the right thing. I just considered myself lucky that I was smart enough to realize the truth. I knew that Religion was just a dream to comfort weak minded people who needed answers.
Nevertheless, I continued to fight with the voice and I had no peace. You can’t just erase things that you learn when you are young. They shape the way you think. My best friend Andrea continually reminded me. “Jenni, you know that it’s not alive yet. You learned it in school. It does not even become a fetus until the second trimester.”
The day of the procedure came, and Duane escorted me to the clinic. I was a bit nervous. I looked to the nurses and doctor to calm my nerves and to tell me that it was going to be okay. I didn’t receive that reassurance. The employees of the clinic appeared without emotion and detached from small talk. They weren’t there to offer me any comfort or counseling, just to perform the service and receive their payment.
I was given pain medication and don’t remember much about the procedure; just the exam table, the vacuum-like machine, and the TV monitor that was positioned so that I could not view what was on it. It was virtually painless aside from a little bit of cramping in my stomach.
Within minutes I was in the recovery chair, artificially happy from the drugs. I turned to Duane, took in a deep breath and proclaimed “It’s over.” I looked forward to tomorrow. Tomorrow it would all be behind me, and I would never have to think about it again.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I hoped. Weeks past and my life never went back to normal. I tried to go on like nothing ever happened, and sometimes I was convinced. When I kept busy with school work and friends, life wasn’t so bad. But when I was left all alone to my thoughts, I heard a different voice. I knew that it was the same voice that pleaded “don’t do it.” Clearly, I was able to ignore it before. But now the voice was louder. It screamed “you killed your baby!” It haunted me for days. I kept refusing it, saying, “It’s not true! It wasn’t alive!”
One night as I lay in bed next to Duane, I surrendered to the voice.
“Duane, I think we did the wrong thing.”
“What are you talking about?” He said half asleep.
“I shouldn’t have had the abortion.” He sat up in the bed.
“Jenni, don’t blame yourself for this. You know that you did what you had to do. You’ve still got to finish college. You can’t let anything stop you. You have a gift!”
“But I killed my baby!” I retorted, ignoring his rationalizations.
“No you didn’t kill your baby. It wasn’t even alive yet!” he dramatically fell back down into the bed, and yanked the blankets over himself, turning away from me.
“Then why can’t I escape this guilt that I feel?” I began to cry.
Duane took in a deep breath, attempting to release his obvious frustration. He rolled over to look into my eyes, but I could only see shadows on his face in the dark room. In a gentle voice he said,“You feel guilty because religious people have told you that abortion is a sin. You just need to realize that you didn’t do anything wrong. Then you won’t feel guilty anymore.”
“But I can’t! I have tried!” I sobbed.
“Well Jenni, you can believe whatever you want. But you’re not going to convince me that I’m a criminal!” Duane retorted angrily.
There was a cold moment of silence, and then he let out a sigh. Putting off his aggravation, he said in a coaxing voice, “What we did was perfectly legal and people do it everyday. Besides, it was the best thing to do. We couldn’t have given that baby a good life, living in this beat up old trailer, in this crumby old neighborhood, with me making ten bucks an hour working part-time under the table. If you think I’m wrong, think about other people in our country who are having babies because they don’t believe in abortion. Do you really think that those pregnant women on welfare who already have four children with different daddies should keep on having more babies? What kind of life are those kids going to have? Would you want your baby to grow up like you did?”
I heard this rationalization many times before, from Duane, from Andrea and I believed it myself. Even then it sounded good. But it simply could not silence the cries of mourning that I felt in my heart for my unborn child. I thought to myself, “If the child was never even alive, why do I feel this loss? Why does my heart grieve for it? If what I did was the right thing, then why am I haunted by shame?
I became overwhelmed. “Duane, I already know all that. I’m telling you I just can’t shake this feeling. You can’t convince me that everything is okay when I know that it’s not!”
“Well you can’t convince me that something is wrong when I know that it’s not!” Duane retorted furiously. “I don’t want to hear anymore about it. I’m going to sleep” He rolled over in the bed and pulled the covers over himself.
As Duane lay beside me, pretending to sleep, tears raced down my cheeks. I was both shocked and disgusted at his hard heart. How could he lie there motionless in total disregard to my feelings, as I experienced one of the biggest emotional breakdowns of my life? It retrospect, I’m glad that things worked out this way. It only made my feelings more real. It forced me to seek resolution for my distress from somewhere else.
I laid there in the dark, looking up at the ceiling through all of my tears, trying to find rest for my conscience. “I did what I had to do” I told myself. But even before I could finish my thought, I heard a louder voice say, “Your baby is dead!” My stomach tied in knots. Human reasoning was losing this war in my mind.
In the past, when I had a battle with my conscience, I could rationalize and justify my actions and make myself feel better. But it was so clear to me that night that this emotion was not going to be put under submission to rationalization. It demanded attention and I concluded that if I tried to ignore it any longer, I would be tormented. This conviction would linger in my heart, behind all of my thoughts for as long as it would take for me to face it.
I realized that if what I was feeling was truly guilt and shame, and I could not put it off, then that could only mean one thing. God was real. If God wasn’t real, then I wouldn’t have this inherent conscience. I knew what I had to do.
Still sobbing, I climbed out of bed, went into the bathroom and closed the door. In the dark, I got down on my knees and buried my face in the floor. I don’t know how long I cried before I felt brave enough to face God. Finally, in all of my misery I cried out to him and pleaded.
“Dear God, I am so sorry. What have I done? I’m so sorry!” I cried it over and over. Every tear was charged with the momentum of my unleashed regret.
“God, I confess to you, I took my baby’s life.” These words were both convicting and freeing at the same time. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I wasn’t sure what kind of revenge God had for me. I knew that I would deserve whatever sentence He gave. I waited there, full of fear… And then… For the first time in my life, I heard God’s voice.
He said. “Jenni, you are forgiven.” I felt a chill race over my body and warm tingle in my heart. He was there with me, comforting me. This touch that I felt, it was God’s love manifesting itself in me.
Why did He care about how I felt? When a murderer is given his sentence, does the jury take into account the killer’s remorse? In all of history, has a judge ever forgiven such charges, simply because he was sorry? But that’s what God did for me that night. As time passed, He even helped me forgive myself.
I do still think of my baby a lot. If he were alive today, he would be seven years old. I don’t know if I will ever stop wondering what he would have been like. I think that what I feel is similar to what any other mother who has lost a child must feel.
God has given me comfort though. I know that my child is not hurting and in fact, he is well taken care of. I’m sure he is having a great time hanging out with Jesus, celebrating with angels, and living it up in paradise. I look forward to the day that we will be reunited.