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Forgiving Myself

I’ve changed my name because I want to keep my privacy. And I didn’t post a picture of myself because I don’t want anyone to recognize me. You see, many years ago I made a choice that I’ll always regret. It has taken years, but God has forgiven that mistake and made my life into something beautiful. Beautiful like a rose that grows in my garden….

The Wrong Choice

The choice was made in August of 1977. Well, maybe I should say June of 1977. It was the end of my freshman year of college. I had been flirting a lot with an older graduate student who I thought was very cute. We never really officially dated. We did make one date though—we planned on spending one full day–and night–together before I went home for the summer. I signed out of the dorm saying that I was spending the night with my grandparents who lived in town. Then I told my grandparents that I was spending the night with a girlfriend who had come to town for the weekend. I hated lying to them, but I did.

My plans for waiting until I was married to have sex crumbled that night. We didn’t use any protection. Driving back to the dorm the next morning, I had no idea that my life was about to change. Forever.

At the beginning of summer I went alone on vacation to Colorado to visit my cousin. When I got sick while watching a movie with her, she asked if I’d missed my period. Later she took me to a clinic where they told me that I was pregnant. Shortly after I found out, my parents came through Colorado and picked me up on their way to Nebraska to visit my grandparents. Mom and I went shopping downtown by bus one day, and on the way back I got sick again. I realized I needed to tell her I was pregnant. I asked her to go on a walk with me. We walked for a while and then sat down on a bench to talk, and I broke the news. She didn’t say much, except that she thought I was just carsick.

I don’t remember exactly when I told the father of the baby that I was pregnant. He did call me, though, when I was in Nebraska. He informed me that he had spoken with a pro-choice clinic and that they told him there was no way that I could take care of a baby by myself. They told him an abortion was the only way. He made it very clear that he definitely did not want to get married. In fact, he informed me that he was headed oversees for a year to teach school–but he would pay for an abortion.

I did not want an abortion. I seriously thought about just taking the money he sent and heading to Texas to get lost in Dallas or San Antonio. I had vowed I would never have an abortion. I believed it was taking a life.

One day, about half way through our stay in Nebraska, my mom came to me and said that the next day she, my cousin, my aunts and I were going to Omaha to shop. Well it turned out that everyone else was going shopping. Mom was taking me to get an abortion. I wasn’t given the choice. Sure, I was 20 years old then, but I was raised to never question my parents. If they told me to do something, I did it.

And so my baby died. 

Mom was terrified of what my dad might do if he found out I’d been pregnant. In order to keep the secret from him while I recuperated, she told Dad that I was still not feeling well from a strep throat infection I had earlier that summer.

Grieving the Choice

Afterward I cried a lot. I was angry with my mom, and my cousin. I was angry for a long, long time. I often woke in the night crying. I would cry when I saw Pro-Life and Anti-Abortion billboards and ads. I hated myself for not having the strength to stand up to Mom and to do what I knew was right and not take my baby’s life. The guilt and shame was so overwhelming that I had thoughts of suicide. Since I’d already given up on the commitment to wait until marriage to have sex, I had sexual relationships with several boyfriends after that. I just didn’t care anymore.

I started drinking and smoking pot—anything to try to numb the pain I was feeling. I began enjoying the alcohol and pot way too much. Then one night I drank too much and smoked too much. I would wake up and there were people in my apartment…then pass out and wake up and no one was there…then they were there again. The next morning I needed a drink. It was then that I realized I would be an addict if I continued drinking and smoking, so I stopped. But I traded that addiction for a food addiction.

I finally married, making sure my future husband knew what had happened. But the guilt was still there. I didn’t feel worthy of being loved. “How can someone love me, when I took my baby’s life?” I thought to myself. I felt that God hated me. I hated me. I didn’t want anyone to know my secret or judge me for what had happened.

Another Choice: Forgiveness

About 10 years later, when I was married with two wonderful children I had given birth to, I went to a Christian Woman’s Retreat sponsored by our church. I had gone to college with the speaker and she gave wonderful talks that touched my heart. On Saturday night, I asked to speak with her privately, and told her my story. I had forgiven my mom and cousin, but the speaker helped me realize that I had not forgiven myself. This was a totally new concept to me. I didn’t know I needed to, or even could, forgive myself. And I finally did believe that God could forgive me because He knows my heart.

The speaker told me something else that has helped me so much. She believes that when I get to Heaven, my angel or Jesus will bring that baby and place him or her in my arms. And I will be given a second chance to raise my baby in a perfect world where there is no sin! I hang on to that. It has given me so much peace.

I thank God for His love and forgiveness. My heart still twinges every March on my baby’s due date. I think about how old he or she would be. And all these years later, there are still days when the devil brings back the feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. On those days I struggle with ‘How can God love me?”  I know He has forgiven me, but I just have trouble accepting it some days. But when I do remember that God does love me and has forgiven me, I ask myself, “What makes me better than God, to not forgive myself?”

The phrase, “God is in control” has become my mantra. And when I can’t sleep, I sing the song “Amazing Grace” in my head. I especially like the new chorus that was added to Chris Tomlin’s version of the song:

“My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace”
I have experienced His grace. And yes, it is amazing!

The author’s name has been changed, and the author’s photo is a stock photo from Unsplash.

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About Phoebe Smiles

Phoebe Smiles

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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