Classic southern coastal living is how I was raised. I spent most of my youth amongst the dunes, marsh grass, and boardwalks of southeastern North Carolina. It’s a place where old historic downtowns seamlessly unfold into timeless southern beach getaways, where family secrets stay buried, and old money is sacred.
My parents divorced when I was a baby. Both were high-capacity professionals, spending their days in high positions of power and prestige. My mom initially found her identity in her upper-class southern upbringing, then her education, and later my father. Down deep, her desire was simply to be a wife and mother. Her choice of a suitor robbed her of that privilege. My father’s unquenchable desire for younger, controllable women eventually stole that dream from her. On her birthday, when I was just five months old, he left with no warning. Her inability to grieve that loss eventually robbed her of more than a failed dream or ideal.
As a young tween, I always kept a boyfriend and a backup. I had a fondness for older men, and I was often told I was the life of the party. I lied about where I went and who went with me. There are months and even years I don't recall, just little glimpses here and there. The days of endless adrenaline rushes, men, parties, and deep family secrets have fogged over now. I pursued every desire. I thought that kind of freedom could fill me. I remember praying to a God I did not know, begging Him to make me good. One of my earliest memories was being hyper-aware that I was bad for people. I truly believed I was born bad. No matter what I was born to be, I fought hard to be approved by someone who wasn't as sick as me.
Out of the handful of memories I recall, my abortion stories remain vivid.
Shame is an addictive drug that hunts you down. There is always someone or something around the corner that offers you the opportunity to pick it up again.
I met a boy in my early junior year of high school. Our connection was magnetic. His approval of me undid us both, and I knew my power. I became pregnant, and fear strangled me. My imagination crippled me. The only thing I could think of doing was putting the whole thing behind me with several hundred dollars. I called the clinic, booked my appointment, and did not tell a soul.
Only my secrets had strength that day.
I was buzzed into the clinic, getting in line with the other women who were there to be freed that day. I knew who I was; the room of musical chairs fed into a smaller waiting room with three exam rooms to each side. There were a few women who experienced a change of heart and left. At one point, the nausea got the best of me. I waffled between feeling a primal desire to flee and feeling completely numb and frozen. The nurse called my name. I followed instructions and put on the hospital gown. I laid on the table and waited in silence. Soon, a nonchalant man in a white lab coat strolled in without discussion. He worked long and hard. He commanded instructions that demanded my cooperation. I heard the clanking of instruments, coded communication, and then nothing... only silence. When the abortion was complete, I was utterly numb, emotionally empty. I dressed, and the nurse walked me to the open back door leading to the parking lot. There were no protesters or anyone interested in those of us who were leaving the clinic that day. I was totally alone in my grief. I drove straight to school from the clinic wearing a shame like a tight lead jacket under my corduroy mini skirt, tights, and sweater. I was sitting in class less than an hour after my abortion. I never told a soul, not my boyfriend, family, or friends.
All the pain of my addictions didn’t compare to choosing to erase my child that day on that secret table.
That night I attended a bible study my boyfriend's mother led. I observed as she effortlessly recited doctrine to several hundred women. For me, doctrine seemed a way to keep the moral upper hand rather than to uphold the Spirit of the one true living God. She had no idea what I'd done that day. While she sat praying and preparing her lecture, I chose to erase part of her legacy that day. I married my boyfriend later that fall, never telling him about the decision to go to the clinic.
After 20 years of marriage, our ninth military move landed us on the sunny coast of Florida. In the spring of 2016, I became pregnant for the last time. My husband was overjoyed. He always wanted more children. There was no heartbeat at my second prenatal visit; it was a fetal demise. After several miscarriages, the grief undid me. I begged to die on that familiar table.
Certain seasons of life offer sudden shifts in identity. I was bone deep in decades of grief, heavy from the shame my secrets had provided me. In that moment, I did what any person at the
end of themselves do- I confessed to my husband. Forgiveness is giving up hope the past can be any different.
The tender grace extended to me from him that day was extraordinary.
My husband apologized for not being the man back then I felt I could’ve told. We were just teenagers, was my only reply.
What I remember of rebellion is so many of us never had a safe space through our difficult circumstances, no open places to process our pain or insecurities. We go along looking for freedom in our sexuality, substance, and social events. Back then, I cared so little for my body, and I definitely did not understand my worth.
I was told freedom was found in the knowledge of good and evil, in tasting both. Rebellion begins when we desire forbidden things. Let's all go easy on Eve if she had not eaten the fruit, I surely would have and given you a bite while I was at it! The culmination of all desire is not marriage, motherhood, or any personal kingdom we contrive. The Spirit of the Lord whispers in our empty places. We are loved. Though our paths are imperfect, they are lined with His grace freely given. Grace that leads us to true repentance, redemption - ultimate freedom! The choice is always ours.
If you need someone to talk to today, don’t wait. A team of supportive, loving women are here for you. Break the silence. Start the healing journey.