My name is Marianne and I grew up in the sixties, a time when it was still more the parent’s than the school’s responsibility to educate their child about sexual relationships. As a rather rebellious child, I remember my mother saying to me again and again through my teenage years; “sex is not a game or something to play about with” but to be honest, the more she said it, the more curious I became. I had my first serious boyfriend when I was about seventeen but looking back on it now, I think I had totally confused sex with love.

My dad had walked out on my mother, brothers and I when I was just six years old.  He went to work one day and he just never came back. My father was my hero and I believe that feeling of rejection and abandonment stayed with me throughout my childhood and into my adult life. As a teenager, when I met my boyfriend, I see now that I was really looking for that unconditional fatherly love and I thought I had found it in that relationship.

At eighteen I became pregnant with this same boyfriend and we had a little girl and then, three years later I became pregnant again, this time with twin boys. It was a traumatic birth and I was rushed to hospital for a cesarean section. My boyfriend tried hard to help and care for me and for the children, but he was still living with his mother and I with mine. We spent time together at each other’s homes and did our best to look after our little ones but about six months after the birth of the twins, I suddenly realised I was pregnant again. I was still young and struggling to cope with the children I had, my boyfriend was upset and worried when he found out I was expecting another child, so I just told him I’d take care of it. I went to the doctor’s and told them I wanted an abortion – and it was just so easy . . .  I tried not to think too much about it. I had the abortion and put it behind me. For medical reasons I cannot take the normal contraceptive pill so my boyfriend was using contraception. Nevertheless, to my disbelief, I soon became pregnant again. I didn’t want more children. I actually felt angry and frustrated that I should fall pregnant so easily when other women, who desperately wanted children, struggled to conceive. 

On returning to the clinic to be checked, they found that there was another baby still inside me.

I went back to the abortion clinic, thinking it was the quickest and easiest way to solve my ‘problem’. After I had my second abortion I went home but became extremely unwell very soon after. On returning to the clinic to be checked, they found that there was another baby still inside me. I had been pregnant with twins. So they aborted that baby too. I was sent home, struggling to recover, never telling my mother about either abortion and just trying to carry on with my life as though nothing had happened.  

I got pregnant for the final time a few years later. This time I struggled on with the pregnancy. I didn’t abort the child but neither did I feel I really wanted it. Unknown to me at the time, it is not an uncommon problem that a mother struggles to bond with a baby after having had an abortion and I just couldn’t understand or believe the way my mind was working. There were times when I actually punched myself in the hope that I would miscarry the baby.  I had instantly felt a motherly bond with my other children when they were born, but for my last little girl, I felt nothing but resentment. As soon as she was born, I begged doctors to cut and tie my fallopian tubes in a procedure known as tubal ligation. Though hesitant at first because of my young age, they finally agreed. When I awoke from this procedure, my little girl was in a crib by my bed and a woman was staring at her. I found out later that this woman’s baby had died, a baby she desperately loved and wanted and I felt such shame and guilt about the negative feelings I had for my own child. I had to learn to love her and it was a gradual process that was hard and took time. 

I felt sure my boyfriend was hurt terribly by the abortions too. I remember him crying many times and I knew they had damaged us both.

After the tubal ligation I returned home but I was in tremendous pain. I have honestly never felt anything like it. The physical pain from the procedure was awful but I was also suffering emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It was a terrible experience, I had suicidal thoughts, was addicted to pills that would help me sleep and I kept asking myself why I was still alive. Everything became too much for me and I could no longer cope. I just started to scream and scream. My life at this point was an unbearable struggle.

When my daughter was about three months old, I started to bleed heavily. I was rushed to hospital and became convinced it was all my own fault and that I had done some sort of internal damage to myself when I had punched myself while I was pregnant. I felt terribly guilty and didn’t dare tell the doctors what I had done. That’s when I saw clearly the mistakes I’d made and the disrespect I had shown to my own body. Not just from this final pregnancy, but from the abortions I had had before it. I felt so low and desperate that in my misery I turned to God and told Him how sorry I was for everything. In my heart I gave myself to Him and shortly afterwards the bleeding stopped and I began to recover.  

I decided I had to turn my life in a new direction. I felt sure my boyfriend was hurt terribly by the abortions too. I remember him crying many times and I knew they had damaged us both. We had never married and our relationship was no longer right. I left him and eventually married another man. I went to university, took a degree and got myself a job in social work. I knew I needed to change myself spiritually too and although God and religion hadn’t meant a lot to me during my life, I remembered that as a child, while at a Catholic school run by nuns, I had always felt a great sense of peace in the school chapel. I decided to become a Catholic and it was with profound emotion I was baptised into the church that Easter with tears of joy. 

What I had thought was a quick and easy solution at the time had given me over forty years of heartache and pain.

It was actually over forty years since my first abortion that I attended a church prayer meeting one evening and a lady called Rachel was bravely talking about her own abortion experience. She ran a group called ‘Rachel’s Vineyard’ offering support to women and men who have experienced or been affected by abortion. I could hardly believe she dared stand up in front of a group of strangers and speak publicly about her abortion. My family, my children, my own mother, knew nothing of what I had done, but the more she spoke, the more I realised how deeply affected I still was and how much I was still struggling. What I had thought was a quick and easy solution at the time had given me over forty years of heartache and pain. I had locked everything far down inside me and I had not ever really dealt with my past.

I joined one of Rachel’s retreats and the experience was so healing. At last I got to talk everything through without feeling judged or condemned. I got the help and support I had needed for so long to enable me to deal with what I had done and all that I had internalised and struggled so intensely with for such a long time. It has made a huge difference to my life and finally I have been given back the peace that I lost so many years ago.

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