Her leg was withered and weak, a shadow of its twin. How many times had I massaged it with oil, willing muscles to relax, skin to smoothen, strength to flow?
I watched as she struggled onto the platform to receive her certificate. Today was a double celebration; her graduation from three years of medical school, and her 21st birthday. It was also the day I’d promised to tell her the truth.
Festivities followed as we joined my sisters and their families for lunch. Caroline was bubbling but my heart wasn’t in it. The veil of guilt clung like a cobweb, obscuring hope. What was she going to think of me?
I cooked lasagne for dinner. It was both our favourites and the warm aroma filled the kitchen. Caroline set the table with a gingham cloth and added a vase of white daisies with yellow centres. Then we sat and looked at each other across laden plates.
“So, Mom, tonight’s the night.” Caroline leaned forward and touched my arm. “I’m all grown up now. Time to tell me the truth about my birth.”
I felt nauseous. How foolish I’d been to make that promise. Caroline was five when she asked who her dad was and why she’d been born with a funny leg. I told her she would find out when she turned 21. At the time it had seemed an eternity away.
I gazed at her, trying to freeze the last cherished moments before she found out what an evil monster I was. “I love you, Caroline,” I said. “Never ever forget that.”
“Why so serious, Mom? It can’t be that bad.”
I sucked in a deep breath, thinking of the years of torment, the punishment I’d inflicted on myself, the guilt that still swirled like a vapour through my mind. “We were on a church youth camp,” I began, “And I was 16 and foolish. I had sex with a boy who was visiting from Switzerland and fell pregnant.”
Caroline soaked up every word, curiosity in her eyes.
“I only realised it weeks later and I was too scared to tell my parents. We lived out in the country and there were no abortion clinics nearby ... and I had no money anyway.” I paused trying to gauge her reaction.
“It was coming into winter so I managed to hide my bump for several months. I wore baggy sweats and as I was eating a lot more, my parents thought I was just getting fat.” I closed my eyes, knowing this was the moment of truth. “Before I go on, Caroline, I want you to know I was young and foolish and I’ll regret what I did until the day I die. It was so wrong.”
Caroline’s face creased in concern. “What happened, Mom?”
“I tried to get rid of you. I was afraid and selfish and I tried everything I could think of. Hot baths, tablespoons of castor oil, a bunch of pain killers, I punched my stomach repeatedly ...” A tear slipped down my cheek as I looked Caroline in the eye. “And I tried to abort you with a knitting needle.”
There was a long silence before Caroline spoke. “What happened next?” she asked.
“I started bleeding and I thought I’d succeeded. But I hadn’t. The only thing I did was to damage your leg.” The tears were flowing now. “If I could give you one of mine, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’m so sorry honey. It’s the most terrible thing I’ve ever done.”
A minute later a tissue was pressed into my hand and a soft hand tilted my chin up. “Look at me, Mom.”
I raised my face and glanced up, expecting to see condemnation and disgust. But my daughter was smiling, her eyes gentle and forgiving. “It doesn’t matter, Mom. You were young and scared ... and you’ve always taught me that God can use even our mistakes. Sure I can’t dance and run and jump. But there is so much I can do. I’ve never ever doubted your love for me and this doesn’t change anything.”
It was right then that I caught a glimpse of God’s mercy. Of how He forgives us when we don’t deserve it. The sense of joy and relief was overwhelming as the guilt of years rolled off my heart.
“Pinkie promise,” Caroline said hooking her baby finger around mine. “No more beating yourself up about this.”
I smiled through my tears. “Pinkie promise.”
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.