Read an Excerpt
her choice to heal
Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion
By Sydna Massé
David C. CookCopyright © 2009 Sydna Massé
All rights reserved.
My Abortion Story
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." —Revelation 12:10–12 NKJV
No one experiences an abortion in a bubble. Most of us have a background of trauma that often leads to sexual activity outside of marriage and eventually an unwanted pregnancy. This unplanned pregnancy can occur within a marriage as well. In understanding this pain, you must begin to look at your life before and after the abortion. Choices others made for you or that you made yourself could have made you vulnerable to an abortion decision. Most of us did not make this choice in a "murderous" mind-set, but in a fearful state, not necessarily considering other choices.
God sees our lives as part of this huge incredible tapestry that is all woven together, from generation to generation. Our human eyes, however, often see only the messy backside of our own tiny piece of that tapestry, with its intermittent and jumbled threads. We concentrate on our pain and can't see how the Lord could take our tragedies and turn them for His good. You'll hear me say this several times, because I want you to remember it: God never wastes our pain and He will make good use of every past experience in your future life.
Post-Abortive Women Among Us
Since entering the field of unplanned pregnancy and post-abortion outreach in 1991, I have had the great blessing of working with multitudes of post-abortive individuals at all stages of healing. We are everywhere—in churches, shopping centers, grocery stores, daycare centers, high schools, pregnancy centers. We encompass all spectrums of the educational system, from high school dropouts to PhD holders. We often work well below our level of capacity or at the top levels of corporations, governments, and institutions.
Statistics from abortion providers say that if you look into any American audience, nearly one third of the women you see could have experienced an abortion.
Abortion is the most common form of surgical procedure in the United States, yet also the one that is rarely discussed in any setting. For most of us, abortion is a secret we dare not share. We think that if people—even loved ones—knew about our abortion decision, they would not like us, love us, or associate with us. In the unhealed heart of many post-abortive women, we have committed a sin that is so horrendous, we believe it to be unforgivable. This sin stamps a scarlet letter A on our foreheads and souls.
Society is not going to punish us. We punish ourselves with self-destructive behaviors: drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions, suicide attempts or completions, abusive relationships—often never associating this pain and behavior with our abortion decision. That memory is buried so deeply and covered with other dysfunctional activities in an attempt to distance our minds from the seemingly haunting presence of our lost children.
Somewhere along this road, though, something snaps, and we can no longer bear the burden of these memories. Perhaps the break is triggered on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, when abortion is often featured in media channels. Or it could be a Mother's Day celebration. Getting pregnant and giving birth is an overwhelming reminder. Or perhaps it is in a second, third, fourth unplanned pregnancy, where abortion is repeated. Hearing a song from that period or a fragrance can remind us of the moment when we lost so much. Yearly anniversary dates, such as the date of the abortion or the due date of the child, can also initiate this depression.
When these triggers of pain occur, some confess—perhaps quietly, discreetly, tentatively, or even angrily to a friend, loved one, or family member. The pain is obvious, and the relief in finally stepping out to recognize our lost children is the first step in the healing process.
But others dare not confess and further withdraw into themselves, trusting no one. They have overheard conversations portraying painful condemnations, such as "I don't know how anyone could ever choose abortion. They must be horrible people." Even in approaching the abortion clinic, some were branded and taunted by certain types of abortion opponents. Those voices propelled us into the apparently safe arms of those who assisted us in this choice we would come to regret so deeply.
In this book you will read my story of healing, wholeness, and the joy in Christ that came through mourning my child lost through abortion. You may recognize your own pain in these words. My prayer is that the Lord will use my typical story to comfort you, to help you realize that you are not alone in the emotions you experience, that you are not going crazy, and that you can be forgiven.
When I was a child, my father was a well-respected minister at a conservative, Bible-believing church. I was proud of him, especially when people would flock down the aisle after his sermons to find a new life in Christ.
I remember when a congregation member patted my head and said, "Someday you are going to be quite the wild young girl, Sydna." I was shocked at his conclusion and spoke in my own defense, relaying that I loved the Lord and would never be that way. He simply laughed and said, "Wait and see. All preachers' kids are wild. Your day will come."
My parents' marriage was never stable or obviously loving, but I had no idea that there was any sort of problem. My father was away conducting important church business—I never dreamed he was involved in extramarital affairs, including one with my best friend's mother. My mother realized the possibility but determined to ignore these "potential" infidelities for the sake of his ministry.
In 1972, I was eleven, and my father began to counsel a woman who began to develop a strong hold on him. When a bond between them grew obvious, my mother couldn't ignore the situation any more. She gave him an ultimatum: her or the other woman—my father chose the other woman. When my mother threatened divorce, which would have ended his career, my father had her quickly committed to a mental health facility due to a "nervous breakdown."
For that entire summer, I rarely saw my mother and lived with a friend because my father's attention to the new woman left him no time to care for me. My older brother had been sent away on a mission trip. The church took notice of my father's continuous absence from his pastoral duties, and he was forced to resign. Once free of the mental institution, my mother filed for divorce. My brother decided to live with our father, so my mother lost both her husband and son during that period—I lost a father and a brother.
Around this time, my best friend's mother came to help us move into our new home. I didn't yet know about her infidelity with my father.
This woman took me aside and said, "I need to ask for your forgiveness, Sydna." No adult was ever so serious with me, so I listened attentively. She went on to say, "I was sexually involved with your father and I need to confess that to you and ask for your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?"
Shock and embarrassment set into my heart immediately as I visually pictured them locked in a passionate embrace. All I could offer was a nod, which she interpreted as forgiveness. She hugged me and left me alone. I was changed in that moment and struggled to rid my mind of the horrendous thoughts of them together. Unsure whether my mother knew this truth about her friend and my father, I never mentioned the confession to her. This woman's burden of sin had just been transferred to my eleven-year-old shoulders.
Finally, the lie that had been my father's ministry life exploded into my world, tearing it to shreds. As understanding dawned with me, a scandal exploded when my father's sexual escapades became known in the community. My mother pretended not to be bothered by the scandal, often saying, "We'll show them all, Sydna. They'll know I'm a good mother because you are going to turn out wonderful." I was incredibly broken, but became my mother's emotional support, vowing to be perfect so that I would never hurt her.
My father never had any real sort of presence in my life after that. Over the years, he would see me only about once a month. I hated those visits because they often left me feeling empty and unloved, ugly and undesirable. Even if he had been more attentive, the damage was complete between us.
A few years later my mother married her boss, Bruce, who did not embrace her belief in Jesus. This stepfather, who would later legally adopt me, provided financial stability to our broken home. Bruce, whom we called "Mac," provided some magnificent strength to my mother's life and adored me. While he didn't initially share our faith, he would go to church each Sunday in an attempt to understand our spiritual perspective. Mac would help me with homework and defend me in all arguments. He never tried to replace my dad but just tried to be a "fatherly" friend. Nevertheless, as I approached the later stages of adolescence, the wildness predicted years before began....
End of Innocence
In a turn of irony, I lost my virginity while attending a conservative abstinence seminar. Clearly, I wasn't listening to any of the teachings but instead focusing on the boy who held my heart—I thought I was in love. I had just graduated high school and wanted my first time to be with someone special.
We had pushed all the limits of sexual activity for months until we finally determined to cross the line. After that one encounter, I endured my first real pregnancy scare. When my period finally arrived, the relationship ended.
During my second semester of college at a private Christian university, I found myself missing my ex-boyfriend, and I had yet to make any real friends among the girls in my dorm. I was miserable at school and desperately lonely. So when Alan began to pursue a relationship with me, he seemed like my knight in shining armor. He was the son of a minister as well and could understand my emotions as a preacher's kid. Alan was truly wild, smoking pot and drinking heavily.
I knew his attraction to me was primarily superficial. But then again, I was attracted to him for the escape he provided from my loneliness. His friends were very popular, and they became my friends as well. There was only one catch to the relationship—sex. Since I wasn't a virgin anyway, it didn't seem to be too high a price to pay to keep Alan around, despite the fact that I never enjoyed our physical encounters. Still, using birth control would have made the whole thing seem too deliberate ... and that summer, I found myself pregnant.
Alan was adamant that abortion was our only choice. Knowing my mother simply couldn't endure the agony of another public scandal, I had to agree with him. I wouldn't put her through that pain, I reasoned. Abortion was best for everyone.
Alan waited in the car when I went for the pregnancy test at the local family planning clinic. My whole world turned upside down when the woman confirmed that I was pregnant. Through tears, I told her that as a "good Christian girl" I had no other choice but abortion, and she helped me schedule an appointment at a clinic close to my school. I didn't know anything about abortion except that many of my girlfriends had made the choice. They came back seemingly fine, mostly relieved, and not obviously traumatized.
Deep inside, though, I was beginning to fall in love with my unborn baby, and as I left the office, I dared to hope Alan might support me in this pregnancy. When he saw my tear-stained face and realized I was indeed pregnant, he read my mind and quietly said, "If you are thinking of continuing this pregnancy, Sydna, let me lay out the situation for you. I will tell everyone it's not mine, and I will not allow my parents to help you. Your mother will have a nervous breakdown. The school doesn't allow pregnant unwed students, so you'll be kicked out. You'll be on your own! It doesn't look like you have much choice. Plus, I was on acid the night it was conceived, so it would probably come out handicapped anyway."
Once again, I felt hopelessly alone and backed into a corner. I also thought that if the father was so willing to reject his child, the baby would be better off not being brought into the world. I knew the pain of my own father's abandonment and didn't want that for any of my children. Never did I consider how much I would miss that child for the rest of my life.
I began to distance myself from any maternal feelings I might have toward my unborn child. Since I was only four weeks along, I was informed that I would have to wait three weeks to ensure that the procedure was "successful." As I waited, I forced myself to view this child as the enemy that would end my mother's sanity and my security. I also hoped that perhaps I would have a future with Alan; that this abortion would be something that might bring us closer together in future months—I didn't know that the majority of couples who choose abortion break up eventually. Around this time, I began to join him in smoking pot and drinking. I even tried LSD right before my abortion. These actions cemented the abortion decision because I knew the fetus could be harmed by my drug use—but since this child wasn't going to be born, my behavior didn't seem to matter.
I remember trying to get my mother's attention in those weeks, hoping she would ask me if something was wrong. My heart wanted to share the truth and have this child become part of our lives. Yet I was afraid she would withdraw her support for my education, send me away to avoid additional scandal, and force me to place my baby for adoption, which seemed far more brutal than abortion. Adoption had always horrified me. If I had the strength to parent, certainly I would never give my child away. Never once did I realize that adoption would mean my child could live. All these years later, to simply know he was alive would be quite a comfort. I never considered going to my father for help, either—he seemed to not want anything to do with me, let alone an out-of-wedlock grandchild.
That horrible Saturday in September of 1981, Alan once again waited in the car. He informed me that he didn't want to go inside and face a room full of weeping women. I felt his abandonment as I closed the car door behind me, and later I would realize that the anger against my father's similar rejection was triggered then as well. Deep loneliness overwhelmed me as I climbed the stairs to the abortion clinic, but I felt there was no turning back.
I remember my thoughts pivoting in two distinct directions. One side of my heart felt like I should run away and leave this place because I would certainly regret it forever. Another side relayed that this was the best decision I could make. The war between my thoughts made me even more confused, but I gathered my courage, knowing that Alan would abandon me if I didn't follow through with our decision. I believe now that the Holy Spirit was reaching my heart, but I was too scared to listen or comprehend it as a divine message.
The clinic waiting room was filled with weeping women—Alan had been exactly correct. I wondered if he had brought another girlfriend to have an abortion. It didn't matter. I paid the amount required and tried to stay calm. Quickly, my name was called and I was led to another room.
The attendant placed a piece of paper in front of me, instructing me to sign it. "What is it?" I asked. She responded, "It's your counseling."
As I signed the paper, I asked the attendant, "Will this affect me emotionally or psychologically?" I still don't know where that question came from as it flowed out of my mouth; I barely understood the definition of those terms. With a cruel smile, she responded, "Oh, no! It's just a blob of tissue. This will make your life better."
Then I followed her into another room, disrobed completely, donned a hospital gown, and greedily consumed the two Valium offered. Finally, I was ushered into a room where three other women waited quietly.
As the Valium began to take effect, I relaxed and spoke to the woman next to me. She was the mother of two children and didn't want a third. The woman across from me was sobbing quietly. The girl in the corner was no more than twelve years old, staring straight ahead like a zombie.
Excerpted from her choice to heal by Sydna Massé. Copyright © 2009 Sydna Massé. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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