A Siblings Healing Journey
When I was a kid, my mom was very involved with the Right to Life movement. She volunteered with fundraisers, helped lead educational groups in our area, attended rallies, manned an educational booth at the county fair, and did other things I am unaware of because she didn’t really talk much about that work. What she did talk about was the value of human life, and the importance of protecting unborn babies, and I took her very seriously because she seemed to have a lot of knowledge through her work with Right to Life.
At the age of 12, my vision of my mom shattered. As she was driving me to a Bible club at our church, she brought up in conversation that she’d had an abortion at the age of 18 (before she was with my dad.) She gave me a brief bit of info on the abortion, including the fact that she had been told the gender (a boy) by a nurse, after he was born. I sat silent in the car, and had no idea how to respond to her.
I spent the rest of my teen years feeling incredibly angry at my mom. I felt like she had betrayed me. It seemed like she was trying to white-wash her abortion history by getting involved with the pro-life movement, only to later reveal that she had done the very thing she was speaking out against. I hated my mom for taking my brother away from me. I blamed her for the fact that I’d always longed for an older brother and felt a close bond with my cousins who would have been similar in age to my brother. I became obsessed with thinking about my brother. I wrote him letters, wrote poems about him, tried to draw out what I imagined he would look like, kept careful track (as best I could) of how old he would be, named him, and deeply grieved over all the things in my family that my brother hadn’t gotten to witness or be a part of. It was an intense grief process that took me years to walk through, and a very silent pain that no one, not even my own family knew about.
When I got into adulthood, my relationship with my mom slowly began to improve. I got married at the age of 21, and I had my husband to confide in about the pain and heartache I’d experienced in processing my mom’s abortion. He was very supportive and tenderhearted, and never told me I was stupid or over reactive in my struggle. He also didn’t demonize my mother, and he encouraged me to forgive her, as hard as that might be. The beginning of my marriage also included my husband’s struggle in freeing himself from a pornography addiction. As I worked to have a more empathetic approach to his porn addiction, I saw the need to approach my mom in a similar manner. And as I saw my husband gradually let go of porn, I saw hope for my mom if I could just work to have a kinder approach to her.
My husband later began a career in Youth Ministry, and I began seeing the horrible bias against teen parents, and the major push for them to abort their children, even in the church. My heart ached to see how people could instantly devalue a young person simply because of the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy. I felt overwhelmed with the reality that the same folks encouraging us to teach teens about the value of abstaining from sex until marriage seemed to suddenly lose that value for life and morality when it came to teens that had become pregnant. There was this underlying, unspoken theme of “teen sex is ok, as long as they don’t get caught and as long as they don’t show anyone evidence of having had sex, the worst of which is a baby.” My heart ached as I thought of my brother and imagined my mom as a teen, scared, unsupported in her pregnancy, single. I realized that she had been like the two teens we had worked with in youth group, only she hadn’t had the support to feel capable of choosing life for my brother. And the emotional scars of her “choice” still weigh on her today.
Last year, I went through training to become a volunteer with a Care Net Pregnancy Center. The information they went over in training was just incredible! I suddenly felt like, for the first time, my mom made sense. All the quirky things she did, like suddenly shutting down, not responding to things in emotionally appropriate ways, rejecting affection from myself and my dad and siblings, and many other things sounded like symptoms of PTSD from her abortion. I realized that she was like many other post-abortive women (and men) who tried to push the abortion aside and move on with life, and bore some incredible wounds as a result. That training prompted me to talk with my mom, for the first time since middle school, about her abortion. I learned some shocking details about what she experienced, and understood a little better why she was so quiet about it (to this day, even her siblings don’t all know that she aborted. And I accidentally broke the news to several of my siblings, because my mom didn’t have the courage to tell them after seeing the way I reacted.)
Today, I find myself in a really tough spot. I empathize greatly with those who have aborted, or been tempted to abort. I also feel almost a sense of desperation to help parents realize that they are capable, valuable, and necessary to their child and that abortion solves nothing, and only creates deep wounds that can never really be healed, while we’re here on earth. A lot of people have a harsh approach to abortion, and hassle women for not “using protection” or call names to those who made the decision to abort. This is not helpful! This creates deeper wounds. And those approaches may even drive women to abort. We have to be heartfelt and think about the level of desperation it takes to go through all the steps my mom did to have an abortion. I wish that people realized how much my mother’s decision to abort at age 18 affected my whole family, how every Mother’s Day was a day when my mom cried and cried and felt completely unworthy of affection, how the gentle touch of myself or any other family member would make her jump or even feel excruciating pain, and how my mom’s secret about her abortion became the secret my whole family was forced to carry. The abortion industry tells women that abortion will remove the embarrassment, shame, and worry of telling people that they are pregnant, and then having to go through the birth process and the process of raising a child. The reality is, abortion creates a world of hurt and pain, anxiety, shame, guilt, intimacy issues, and host of other difficulties. Those emotions don’t just belong to the woman who goes through the abortion, but her family as well. Choosing life saves a woman a world of heartache, and saves her family that heartache as well.
I know that if my mom had given birth to my brother, I would still be sad and long to know him. But the deep wall of sorrow that hits my family would not be as heavy as it is now if we were aware that he was placed in a home with parents to care for him, rather than the reality that he was aborted.
My mother is still a loving mom, despite the fact that she aborted. My heart hurts to see, however, that a piece of my mom died with my brother. She is not like other moms. She’s broken. And she will never get the piece back that left her on that fateful day. But my mom’s story can prevent others from enduring that heartache. Her story can echo through the ages as a reminder that abortion is a terribly tragic act, and something that can never be undone. And there are whole families like mine, quietly protecting these wounded women, while we grieve the loss of a family member as well. My prayer is that one day, I will be able to speak openly about my family’s abortion journey, and validate those who feel voiceless in this boat. Until then, I will speak privately or anonymously, with this important story. When we speak up, there is power there!
Over our years of doing post abortive work, we have been approached by many siblings of aborted babies, voicing their pain at the knowledge of the loss of a brother or sister. In fact, very often they have all voiced the same sentiment, “I knew someone was missing before I ever knew about the abortion.”
Knowing how difficult it is to deal with their isolation and many emotions, Theresa, along with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, began “Entering Canaan Days of Prayer & Healing” for siblings of aborted babies in 2010.
The first “Entering Canaan” weekend for siblings was held in DC in the spring of 2015.