The Day I Considered Abortion

The Day I Considered Abortion May 10, 2019
Source: pexels.com

***TRIGGER WARNING: ABORTION***

A lot had been building up to that moment.

My mind was like a prisoner in a cage that refused to believe that it was imprisoned. My reality had been skewed, and I couldn’t see myself or my life situation clearly.

The suffocating darkness of depression had first begun creeping in right after that terrible night in the ER.

I had rolled my round, pregnant self out of bed at 2am after finding wet sheets all around me. Thinking I had wet the bed, I stumbled into the bathroom to find that I was actually bleeding uncontrollably. I woke my poor husband as calmly as I could before I got sick all over the floor, blood still soaking through my pajamas. My husband rushed to call our midwife while I tried to wrap my mind around the possibility that I was miscarrying in my third trimester.

At the hospital, we found out that my body was going into labor at 28 weeks. Our small Wisconsin hospital wasn’t equipped to care for preemies that small, so we were rushed by ambulance to another in the Twin Cities. Thankfully, the doctors were able to stop the contractions, but the bleeding persisted for another week, which was plenty of time for me to sit and worry. The next month was an endless whirlwind of doctor appointments, ultrasounds, tests, monitoring, ER visits, and dread that I was going to do something wrong and lose our baby. It didn’t help that the well-meaning nurses were constantly suggesting the possibility that I would develop blood clots and have a stroke.

Fear was an ever-present companion in the final stages of my pregnancy, even after my son was delivered by emergency c-section at 32 weeks.

He spent the next six weeks in the NICU an hour away from where we lived, so my husband and I drove to the hospital every night after work to hold our little boy and try to reestablish some semblance of normal. We had the option of staying in the NICU if we wanted; however, my sister’s battle with childhood cancer made me incredibly reluctant to stay in a hospital any longer than was necessary.

The next few months weren’t any easier.

The usual first time parent struggles were definitely factors: the sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the frustrations of breastfeeding and pumping. The fear and worry were still there, along with something new. So many other Catholic moms had told me not to worry about NFP after the baby was born.

“If you’re nursing, you may go a full year without getting your period,” they said, but that was not my lot in life. Like clockwork, my first postpartum period – signaling the return of my fertility – came the same week we brought our son home from the hospital. I was devastated. Here was something else to worry about; something that I could also potentially mess up. I was angry at God but tried to be positive, thinking that my knowledge of NFP was extensive enough from college and previous charting that I would be ok. We would all be ok.

Months later, I was not ok. My body’s signs were not making any sense to me, and my college notes had failed me. I couldn’t figure out when I was fertile or not fertile, so out of desperation, my husband and I abstained for months. I didn’t know what else to do.

I was absolutely terrified of getting pregnant again, especially so soon after a traumatic pregnancy and having a preemie to care for.

My body was not even close to being healed from the c-section. My mental health was even worse. I first started showing signs of postpartum depression in the NICU, but after a bad encounter with a nurse, I decided not to say any more. I admitted to my husband that I was feeling very low and didn’t want to eat, sleep, or hold our son. My husband panicked and told the nurse, who confronted me, asking if I wanted to hurt my baby.

I was able to hide the depression and anxiety for a while after that, though my husband did notice the increasing panic attacks and dark moods. It wouldn’t be until months later, when I began struggling with thoughts of self-harm and suicide, that my husband and I reached out together for support.

I was six months postpartum when I suspected I might be pregnant. It began as a passing thought and soon grew into a complete obsession.

Finally one afternoon I bought a pregnancy test from the local supermarket and drove to our parish. I don’t remember why I decided to take a pregnancy test in our dinky parish bathroom, but that’s where I found myself when I perched on the toilet seat, cooing to the baby in his carseat, willing myself not to cry. The wait for the results dragged on, and my ill mind became despondent:

What will my husband say if we’re pregnant?

I must have charted wrong. I’ve been trying so hard.

The stupid method doesn’t seem to be working.

I can’t have another baby right now.

I can barely handle the one I have.

I’m not a good mom.

Something is wrong with me.

I don’t feel like I can do anything right.

If I’m pregnant, I’ll just have to get rid of it as soon as possible. I don’t have any other option.

 

I looked down at the test, trying to catch my breath. The tiny words “NOT PREGNANT” had finally appeared.

It was only then I realized what I had considered. Waves of shame flooded over me.

How could I ever think something so awful?

In that moment, despite my postpartum depression, I understood something clearly: I had never imagined that I, a young faithful Catholic who had always wanted to be a mother, would consider abortion. And yet, here I was with those thoughts and that shame.

If I could consider abortion, was it so hard to imagine women in worse situations than me would consider it?

It was a humbling moment for me. I’ve never looked at the abortion debate the same way again. Do I want babies to be killed? Absolutely not.

But I have some perspective now. I understand that desperation and fear lead you to consider horrible things.

Please, fellow Catholics, as you debate with people about these new abortion bills in Georgia and elsewhere, consider how desperate women have to be to consider abortion. These aren’t murderous witches out for blood. They’re terrified women, like me.

Have mercy on our sisters who are faced with such circumstances. Be the person who can lead them toward the light of hope and healing, not condemnation.

Please be gentle.

 

 

 

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-black-cloak-with-fishing-pole-standing-in-beach-2174618/

About Veronica Roltgen
A budding writer in the Minnesotan north woods, Veronica Roltgen creates stories and poems when she isn’t chasing after her toddler. She enjoys passionate discussions of feminism, Catholic theology, Tolkien nerdom, Spanish mysticism, Star Wars, and cheese. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ame

    Fear and anxiety can do terrible things to our minds, and unfortunately, there are so many otherwise faithful Catholics who have not learned or understand the theology concerning thoughts and their relation to sin. For those of us, including my self, who are scrupulous, it is important to have a trusted advisor to help us learn to discern our thoughts. The first thoughts that arise out of emotions such as desperation are not necessarily sins, and usually at most are weaknesses or temptations. Temptations are not sins and are a part of life and we are powerless to go without them except by the grace we ask for in the Our Father. What we do have power to do is to reject them, firmly but gently (like calmly saying no to a child having a tantrum) when we finally realize the danger they pose. Sins are resolute decisions and actions that are opposed to that which is Good. Have I had similar temptations? Of course. But in learning about this theology, I have accepted my weakness but reject the idea that I’m as evil as my thoughts suggest. That moment is a grace that gives the person the humilty to turn to God as His child for the strength to say no to choices that bring death rather than life. We must be compassionate, be willing to suffer with, towards scared women, yes. We must not judge them but help them. But we cannot stand for laws that allow us to intentionally end the life of the innocent. These laws do not bring relief, but enslavement to fear.

  • fractal

    Paragraphs make your comment legible.
    But you gave us none.
    Homeschooled?

  • fractal

    I feel terrible that abortion has been built up to be this terrible thing, when it can be the very best outcome for many women.
    The most common feeling for women post-abortion, is profound relief.
    The women most likely to have regrets are women who have internalized the message that they are unholy if they abort—so perhaps they shouldn’t.

    But for the rest of us—
    It is pretty terrific that we have the option.
    Of course, even if it is made illegal, in this day and age, most women will find their way to an abortion if they want it.
    Only the very young and very poor will have to be forced to birth without their consent.

    I guess going thru the motions of making it illegal will give many a notch on the Jesus bedpost.
    That must feel good.

    But that 16 year old who will die on the bathroom floor with a knitting needle puncturing her uterus, isn’t going to be feeling the vast satisfaction you are.

  • Ame

    I went to public schools except for a year in kindergarten at a Catholic school. Would you now like to comment on the quality of my schools that happened to be located in minority-dominant, lower socioeconomic, Democrat-leaning urban areas just because I do not post in ways that please you?

  • ClanSutherland

    These laws don’t take into account the wide variety of ways women can experience their periods. My own cycle was 35-46 days, not a regular 28. In fact, all science seems to be out the window when the law reads disturbed “fetuses must be re-implanted in the uterus” which is not even a medical procedure, so literally no doctor can do that !! These Theocracy-minded folks seriously want men and women to only have sex if they want to conceive a child, maybe have sex 1-6 times in their lives. Yeah, that will work. /s

    Government cannot maintain that type of control, it is impossible. Keep abortion safe, legal, and rare, the way it is now.

  • fractal

    Fine.
    Look ignorant.
    Typical of your ilk.
    You are probably proud of it.

  • Ame

    Even better is that more and more minorities are choosing to homeschool to get out of the racist tracking pipeline to jail that so many public schools have become:
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/black-families-increasingly-choose-to-homeschool-kids

  • fractal

    I sent my very Scandinavian girl to inner-city schools where White kids were less than 3% of the school population.

    She certainly didn’t experience a “pipeline to jail”.
    What did happen is that she learned how to get along with EVERYONE.
    Now she is married to a Mexican immigrant, and has a great job working with “issue campaigns” for progressive causes—some day you might vote against her if she runs for office.

    She was instrumental in our state adopting a incremental increase in minimum wage—voted in by a large majority.
    Probably wouldn’t have happened if she had gone to nice suburban school—she quite likely would have become insufferably
    superficial and shallow.

    But what I want to know is, if you went to public schools—didn’t they teach you about paragraphs?

  • Lark62

    Yes. Yes. Trust women.

  • islandbrewer

    Congratulations on successfully raising a good kid.

    While not in the inner city, I live in the East Bay (of the SF Bay Area). My blond Scandahoovian-looking son’s school is about 20% white, and has the highest diversity index in the area. There are over 50 different languages spoken in the homes of the students.

    His best friends from elementary school were a boy from an Eritrean immigrant family, and a kid from a Farsi-speaking Afghani family. His favorite holiday is Diwali, because of the “freakin’ awesome food” at my friend’s Hindu Temple/Community center. His girlfriend (who I’m not supposed to talk about, because Middle School, duh!) is Korean American. His language choice for next year is Mandarin (he already speaks a little) because *eyeroll* “EVERYBODY already speaks Spanish, here” (including him).

    Currently he wants to be a lawyer (I try to dissuade him) and work for immigrant/civil rights. When I tell him there’s no money in it for “do-gooder” lawyers, his response is always “So what? Do I look like a Republican?”

  • Brandon Roberts

    ok.

  • fractal

    This new generation is really something!

  • Ame

    Um, you never read how this pipeline to jail isn’t occurring among white students, but minorities, especially African-American students? I provided a link to homeschooling among minorities. Here’s one for the pipeline:
    https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/spring-2013/the-school-to-prison-pipeline

    And in my experience as a biracial person of working class parents, almost a third of my first highschool class as had some form of incarceration. Despite being a bright student with high ambitions, my white highschool counselor wanted me to scale things down to more “realistic goals,” like going to a community college to become a nurse’s aide. That path in itself was a good and there is need for nurse’s aides, but I didn’t want to do that, and the only reason for her to suggest that was her prejudice against minorities. But my parents made the sacrifices to send me to a college prep school. So yes, I do know that not all schools are not like my first highschool, but you’re living in a privileged fairy tale if you think there is no pipeline to jail orchestrated by administrators at many public schools.

  • Sharon Diehl

    “Sin” is in the minds of the buybull, er, Bible impaired.

  • Ame

    And now the trolls are out.

  • Sharon Diehl

    *Pats On Head*

  • Jan

    Thank you for letting us walk a mile in your shoes. Your article provides an honest reminder of the fear and anxiety that can accompany a desperate situation, and of the connection between thought and action. May God bless you and keep you.

  • Elzbieta

    My heart truly breaks for you and hope that everyone in your family is in good health (especially the baby!).
    The desperation and depression you had is all too common and too often ignored by a society that wants to believe that “good” mothers don’t have these thoughts. Perhaps if there weren’t such a stigma against “imperfect” motherhood, more women would speak openly about their struggles and more who suffering silence would feel free to come forth.
    As for the abortion issue, this is exactly why the best way to stop/reduce abortion is to prevent unplanned and unwanted pregnancies through birth control. I know I’ll be blasted for this and it runs counter to official Catholic teachings, but so many of this young woman’s fears and anxieties about becoming pregnant during such a stressful period could have been alleviated had she been allowed to use effective birth control developed by scientists rather than to cross her fingers and hope that she read her mucus correctly. There is no Biblical basis for denying couples the use of birth control and allowing it would let couples be intimate without fear and allow them to plan their families for the children they want and can afford.
    Face it, birth control and Planned Parenthood have prevented far more abortions than any pro-life org. If a devout Catholic like the author considered having an abortion, just imagine the toll it takes on women whose tests don’t come back the “right” way and they can’t afford another child. Denying birth control to couples actually promotes abortion. Sorry, that’s the reality. If Pope Francis truly cares about women, the poor, and the environment, the best thing he could do for all groups would be to lift the ban on artificial birth control in the Catholic Church and save women the pain of having to choose between sinning and wisely planning their families.

  • LimeGecko

    NFP is really hard if you aren’t perfectly regular. Add in your body trying to recover from pregnancy, miscarriage, or even just a really bad UTI. This is why birth control is a blessing for people dealing with postpartum depression or health issues which doctors recommend they not get pregnant with or even a baby in NICU. I respect people’s beliefs if they don’t believe in birth control, but you have to acknowledge it leaves people and families in some very difficult situations.

    Regardless. I hope the author’s postpartum depression has faded or been treated.

  • Pennybird

    NFP is hypocritical. Is sex for procreation only or isn’t it? Are there any other modern medical treatments that are Biblically off limits? I don’t know of any (fill me in if you do), but if Jesus was okay with meds to control your cholesterol he’s probably okay with meds to control your fertility as well.

  • Pennybird

    Thank you for weighing in with your story and, intentionally or otherwise, outlining so much of what is wrong with the prolife movement. Pregnancy is dangerous and still life threatening. In fact, you could have had a stroke. It’s not for everybody, especially those not ready or willing to undergo such a profound experience.

    You also say “I couldn’t figure out when I was fertile or not fertile, so out of desperation, my husband and I abstained for months. I didn’t know what else to do.” You didn’t know what else to do? This is nonsense in a first world nation in the 21st century. You have options, good ones, and lots of information about them and you ignore them at your peril.

    Was the Bible written so that humanity wouldn’t advance beyond the first century? Of course not. That its writers didn’t anticipate the future doesn’t mean you can’t partake of the time period in which you live.

  • LimeGecko

    I think so too but others think differently

  • Pennybird

    A little consistency in the rule making helps us take them more seriously.

  • swbarnes2

    it is important to have a trusted advisor to help us learn to discern our thoughts.

    Uh huh. Thought police. Let me guess…when push comes to shove, the only acceptable adviser is the one who agrees with what a bunch of old priests declare to be correct.

    But we cannot stand for laws that allow us to intentionally end the life of the innocent

    Right. What matters is that a priest who tells a doctor to stand back and do nothing while a miscarrying woman dies of sepsis feels good about not harming a fetus. That the fetus was doomed no matter what, and that inaction damaged a sinful incubator beyond repair is morally irrelevant.

  • James

    Birth control is not 100% effective either. Quite a few unplanned pregnancies come from birth control not working the way it should.

  • Daniel Roberts
  • Sharon Diehl

    That’s Dr. Sharon Diehl, honey.

  • Daniel Roberts

    for rocks not the human body . How did that liberal school do for ya ? No kids ? You hate children and it shows . You hate G-d and it shows . Your just a dried up 68 year old cunt .

  • Daniel Roberts

    But not a medical doctor . Quit trying to make it sound like its much more than you collecting a bunch of rocks . Try getting the rocks out of your head .

  • Elzbieta

    Absolutely true. No form of birth control (save for hysterectomy, I suppose) is 100%. In my grandmother’s day, women used to beg their doctors for this operation because it was the only way to be certain that childbearing was done. Thankfully, medical science has progressed a bit.

    However, most are far more effective and easier to use than “natural” methods. For a woman already struggling with severe PPD, caring for an infant, and is scared to death of becoming pregnant, allowing her to use artificial birth control without the threat of hell is almost certain to relieve some of the crippling stress in her life which may contribute to her PPD.
    If using artificial birth control is wrong and “playing God,” so is vaccinating, using organ transplants, having one’s appendix removed, etc. The fact is that we humans have been “playing God” ever since we brewed the first herbal remedies. The only question is why it is acceptable to challenge the natural order in every other area of medicine except for the one which only directly affects women?

  • James

    According to the Church’s critics, millions suffer the choice of unwanted children or hellfire because of the Church’s prohibition of artificial birth control and nobody follows it anyway.

    The latter is probably the more accurate criticism. Those who do follow it and are suffering (not the ones who are happy with the method and/or want a large family) are a small number of people who probably have some sort of scrupulosity issue.

    The problem with birth control is that those who believe it is the solution to unplanned pregnancies don’t take risk compensation into account. When people use birth control, they tend to have more sex and are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors that lead to pregnancy. (No value judgment should be inferred from this statement.) The increased risk of pregnancy from more sex and riskier sex offsets the decreased risk of pregnancy from using birth control.

    In practice, condoms and birth control pills still lead to a high rate of unplanned pregnancy. Only set-it-and-forget-it methods like IUDs, implants, and permanent sterilization are effective enough under typical use to overcome risk compensation.

  • Pennybird

    Can you point to research (not from partisan sources) that back up your assertion that when people use birth control they have more sex? This sounds reasonable on the surface, especially when considering young people, but it doesn’t make sense across the board since pregnancy or preventing pregnancy isn’t the only issue that goes into a decision of whether or not to have sex.

    But to say that condoms and pills lead to a high rate of pregnancy is patently false. A low rate, perhaps, and that’s why doubling up is encouraged, but it’s definitely not a high rate.

  • James

    This study noted an increase in median frequency of intercourse in the past 30 days among young women who were given free LARCs, though no significant increase in the median number of partners.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4009508/

    While “doubling up” is recommended, it’s difficult enough to get people to use condoms at all and “doubling up” is even less common. If a woman goes on the pill, her male partner is less likely to use condoms, especially in a long-term relationship.

    A 2002 study gives failure rates of various forms of birth control. FABMs have a high rate of failure, but condoms and pills aren’t very good either. (Note that this study is from 2002 does not include subsequent improvements in FABMs or the possible impact of electronic charting on user effectiveness.)

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18082661/

  • San_Ban

    “The only question is why it is acceptable to challenge the natural order in every other area of medicine except for the one which only directly affects women?”

    THIS! Again, please. And louder for all those in the back!

  • San_Ban

    “The increased risk of pregnancy from more sex and riskier sex offsets the decreased risk of pregnancy from using birth control. In practice, condoms and birth control pills still lead to a high rate of unplanned pregnancy.” Evidence, please.

  • San_Ban

    “This study noted an increase in median frequency of intercourse in the past 30 days among young women who were given free LARCs…” which suggests that people are taking FEWER risks when they know their BC method is less reliable (more prone to failure). It contradicts your claim. I’ve also read studies that show couples who have had surgical sterilisations have more satisfying sex lives.

  • James

    Asked and answered. Read the second link.

  • James

    No, that is exactly my claim. The more confidence people have in their birth control, the more sex they have.

    Unfortunately, if people have more confidence in the method than is appropriate, like with withdrawal, they will end up with more unplanned pregnancies.

  • San_Ban

    Are you trying to claim that the most efficacious methods of birth control cause more unwanted pregnancies than not using any?

    Or is the point you’re trying to make is that people having fulfilling sex lives is a bad thing, or that using modern medical technology to enable them to have as much consensual sex as they and their partners want without suffering unwanted effects is a bad thing?

  • San_Ban

    Catholics aren’t big fans of palliative medicine nor medical assistance in dying, either. Suffering is seen as sacred.

  • James

    I am claiming less efficacious methods of birth control cause more unwanted pregnancies than not using any, because people are having more sex than they would if there were no birth control. This is classic risk compensation. “Less efficacious” includes condoms and pills under typical use, which surprises many.

    As for your second point, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Having as much consensual sex as one wants without children has social and relational consequences. This is neither good nor bad, but is rarely considered. Additionally, the more effective methods (IUD, implant, sterilization) are not suitable for everyone.