I have a small ghost who follows me everywhere. He changes. Sometimes he's an infant, sometimes a toddler, sometimes -- mostly now -- he's a teenage boy.
I was thirty-four when I killed my child. If I had allowed him to live, he would have been born in August, just like his mother. There is not a moment of my life that he is not with me. Our relationship has changed. In the past, I always saw him as my accuser or my judge. Today, my murdered child is no longer my judge, but a sad regretful ghost, whose smile I have never seen.
I was twenty-one weeks pregnant. I had felt movement. There is no easy "it was just a piece of tissue" argument for me. One more week, and I would have been beyond the legal limit for abortion in the state where I lived. There are many so-called "mitigating factors" that led to my killing my baby at twenty-one weeks of life.
Until three days before the abortion, I did not know I was pregnant. I had had three negative pregnancy tests and thought my growing stomach was a tumor similar to those that had killed several in my family. The movement I felt I dismissed as gas. Having no idea of my condition, I had continued to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and abuse alcohol and drugs mostly methamphetamines. I was in a dysfunctional abusive marriage and my baby was not conceived in love -- he was conceived in extreme violence.
I was going to leave out all three of the above, but I have told you about them for a very important reason: The abortion industry would cite any and all of the above as reason enough to kill my child, since they consider any "inconvenient" pregnancy abortable, and, although mine was not life threatening to me, it went far beyond "inconvenient." Those who practice abortion would have you believe that all three of these factors absolve me of guilt and make the murder of my child perfectly all right rather like the extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth, painful and regrettable and stressful, but totally necessary.
Well meaning friends have all at one time or another said things like this: "With all the nicotine, alcohol, and drugs, you would have had a seriously damaged child; abortion was the kind thing to do." "Considering who the father was, the child could've been a serial killer; better to abort." "It was the result of a near rape in a violent, abusive marriage; better to abort." "You were forced into it by your crazy ex when you were in a weakened condition; you're not responsible anyhow." "You did the best and only thing you could do; get on with your life."
I have to tell you my story, because if any case exemplifies a supposed guilt-free abortion, it is mine. I've heard every rationalization -- every single one. I have lived behind the feel good, warm and fuzzy walls of public opinion, political correctness, and conventional wisdom and I am here to tell you it is all unmitigated, absolute nonsense.
I believe that on [a] primal gut level we all know -- really know -- that abortion is murder at its most horrific. Telling ourselves that it is anything else is pure denial. All the careful layers of makeup we blend over it are for naught. We know it for what it is. And that pure soul knowledge cannot be erased or eradicated by all the feel good rationalizations on earth.
Self-hatred may be the worse sin? I know it is certainly the worst feeling. After I killed my baby, self-hatred became my whole life. Subconsciously I thought suicide to be too easy an out (much like the notion that lethal injection is too easy a punishment for many really brutal murderers). So I did not kill my physical body as I had killed my child; instead I committed emotional and spiritual suicide.
I created a whole new personality. Since then, I have had psychiatrists tell me that what I did was not unusual, very similar to child abuse victims, who "split-off," and become another personality in order to deal with the abuse. During the next seventeen years, there were many times when I literally did not know the person in the mirror. Self-hatred colored my every waking and sleeping moment. It was as if I had pushed an invisible self-destruct button.
I divorced my husband only to enter into a disastrous marriage with a man I did not love, whom I knew to be totally dependent and incapable of honest work, and proceeded to allow myself to be used by him and his family for thirteen years. Deep inside, I was convinced I deserved all of it. My self-worth had totally disappeared. All the things I had loved to do in my old life were now off-limits; I would not allow myself enjoyment. Dreamless sleep was my only respite, and it did not come often. When I did pray, it was a secret prayer: I prayed to die, to simply cease. I believed in an afterlife, and I knew that hell itself could not be any worse than the life I was experiencing.
The pain would lie in wait and ambush me at unexpected times. A scene on TV, a passage in a book -- always about someone's missed chance at being a mother. I would be overcome by the kind of racking sobs that are more like spasms than crying. I wanted to just lie down and go to sleep and never get up. I lived in this self-imposed hell for sixteen years. Then, in 1997, a heart condition I'd had since childhood became suddenly worse, and I decided to move back to the East Coast to die. As always, I was last on my own priority list. My main reason for the move was so that the leech I'd married would have a better chance at getting work after I was gone.
Living again on the East Coast and in the same state where I'd had a happy youth was like sprinkling water on a nearly dead plant. The total change in environment created the first crack in my shell of self-hatred. I slowly began to feel like me again.
In the fall of 1997 came the event that finally set me free. I was taken as a guest to the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church. Although in my youth I had studied nearly every major religion, I had never entered an Orthodox Christian church. Suddenly, I was home. All the pieces of my life fell into place. Although I really knew no one there except my host, it was undeniably my home. I took instruction with my spiritual father for the next ten months, and on August 28,1998, 1 was chrismated. At the confession before my chrismation, I finally, after nearly two decade of wandering in hell, laid down my burden. My spiritual father, an Orthodox priest who can trace his priesthood in a direct line to the Apostles, in much the same ceremony performed in the catacombs, laid his hand on my head and, in Christ's name, forgave me of the murder of my child. I was free.
Regaining my self-love has led to my regaining something else that I thought was lost forever. I have entered into a loving relationship with the most wonderful man in the world, and I am truly blessed: I am indeed free. Which brings me to the reason I am telling you my story. When I first began classes in the Orthodox religion, I read everything I could about Orthodox views on everything. All that I read said that Orthodox Christians were anti-abortion. I asked when and where does the local Orthodox Right-to-Life group meet. Huge faux pas, vaguely akin to a loud burp at a sophisticated cocktail party. I am a very fast learner; I never make the same social error twice.
I circled warily around the issue and, by bits and pieces, I learned that the charitable organizations, the food festival committees, the fund-raisers, were all politically correct. Even the occasional weekend retreat at the monastery, as I was in the habit of doing, was just fine. But abortion? "It's no one's business and each woman's private choice"; Now, tell me again, which food festival committee are you joining?
Excuse me, but it is my business. It is not your private choice to kill your baby, and, if I can persuade you not to commit the same, awful, life ruining act that I did, it is my duty to do so.
There is a huge echoing silence from the Orthodox Church on abortion. Strange, but everyone who tells me that "it's a woman's private choice" is a mother and/or grandmother. Perhaps they fear their daughters or granddaughters may be faced with a life disrupting pregnancy and want an escape hatch.
I'm not asking you to march in parades and wave placards and sign petitions or even to put a bumper sticker on your car. I can't do any of those things. I am not a placard-waving-in-your-face activist. Here it is: The next time anyone, even a dearly valued friend or family member tells you, "It's a woman's choice," don't say anything. Just give them a copy of this article. If reading this can make one person even just begin to reconsider their "Pro-Choice" position, I have succeeded.
I would give my own life to be able to go back in time and allow my child to live. I cannot. I pray that your showing someone -- just one person -- this story will cause someone to stop and reconsider before they perform the same horrible act that killed my child and nearly killed me.
I need no perfect, logical arguments. You know, in your soul, that abortion is the murder of your baby. In the name of 2,000 years of Orthodox Christianity, I say now, break your silence and speak, not in parades and demonstrations, but quietly, as you are reading this now, one child of God at a time.
Vera Faith Lord is director of the Pittsburgh Chapter of Orthodox Christians for Life.
To have Vera Lord speak to your group call the Pittsburgh OCL (412) 851-9310 or visit the Orthodox Christians for Life website.
Reprinted and slightly abridged from Rachel's Children, 1999, Vol. 12, No. 1. This article is reprinted with the permission of the author.