Pregnant at 17

('Penny' dreaded the possibility of her parents finding out and was terrified of giving birth alone, so she had an abortion...)

My boyfriend wrote and said he was glad it was over. Perhaps it was, for him. As for me, it wasn't over. Not only was I having to cover up the situation, but I felt I was dying inside.

I felt guilty, tainted, unworthy and condemned. My sense of desperation grew to the point where I was suicidal.

I hated myself and drank to excess to cope with my emotions, but this provided only temporary relief. Images of dead babies haunted my sleep.

I started new, secret behaviours such as hunting out photographs of unborn children and reading about abortion.

I began to notice which mothers did and did not, wear wedding bands. I wanted to hug those who didn’t and thank them for having their babies.

How I felt about the abortion coloured my whole sense of identity. I wouldn’t let anyone close to me until they knew about it.

In accepting this, they accepted me, as in my eyes I had become a murderer and the other parts of my life and personality became inconsequential.

In desperation I went to counselling. For three years they tried to shrink my problem, blame it on someone else and make it nice. It didn’t work.

My GP referred me to a psychiatrist at the local hospital. I was awake for only about two hours a day while on medication. When the treatment stopped, nothing had changed.

I was then fobbed off to an assertiveness training course – to no avail. But now, feeling bad about myself had become a way of life and I had lost hope of any improvement.

I engaged in pre-marital sex for 13 years before I met someone who cared enough about me to tell me how to stop. It wasn’t easy, but I remained celibate for two years before I met and married my husband.

Not long after, I heard an ad on the radio about “…feeling ‘Yuk’ after an abortion…” and I made a phone call. It wasn’t until about two years later that I sought healing through their organization.

In the interim I miscarried a baby. My emotional response was overwhelming. I felt guilty and ashamed and almost hysterical. (“Well, what did you expect? Why should you think you should have a baby? This is what you deserve.”)

About a year ago I became pregnant again. At 19 weeks I threatened to lose the baby and the remainder of my pregnancy was punctuated by threatened preterm labour.

I felt guilty again – were these threatened labours a consequence of the abortion? I knew I was in a mess and needed help. I went back to the organization I had called before. 

For me the healing process was relatively quick, although I can appreciate this is not so for everyone. I was able to enjoy the remainder of my pregnancy with a growing assurance that all would be well. 

I believe the healing is complete because I no longer live in the past and I am not afraid of acknowledging it. I no longer feel guilty, ashamed and unlovable.

I don’t have nightmares any more. I am not suffering from depression, not taking medication. I have no need of counselling.

I see my sexuality and my body as wholesome. I don’t feel like I’m dying, in fact I am really enjoying life and have a real sense of vitality.

I have been set free to enjoy being a mother and I no longer have a desire to make up for what I did because, quite simply, I cannot.