16 Apr 2018

Finding healing after abortion

Submitted by Galsuinda

Finding healing after abortion

Post-abortion stress syndrome is a controversial topic, but the complex emotions that can come after a crisis pregnancy are real

After experiencing abortion at age 20, Elizabeth Peters had nightmares for years. Now she is happily married and expecting her third child. The Stayton mother has taken maternity photos for other women experiencing crisis pregnancy. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
Sarah Wolf
1/23/2018 1:11 PM
STAYTON — Elizabeth Peters saw a counselor for years. She regularly had nightmares portraying someone getting murdered in front of her.
“It was always a man. I knew my son was a man, a boy,” she said.
As a 20-year-old, Peters, who is a cradle Catholic, had an abortion. She tells the story of her boyfriend saying that he was too young to be a father. “This is the only thing we can do,” she remembers him saying.
So he made an appointment and he paid the bill. When she tried to cancel the appointment, the abortion office said that the appointments were hard to come by and if she didn’t take this one she’d probably have to carry her pregnancy to term. When she walked into the appointment with her boyfriend and asked if the couple could get a refund if she decided not to go through with it, the receptionist said yes. But, the receptionist added, expenses accrue immediately after the appointment begins.
“It was just fear upon fear,” said Peters.
After seeing a still-life ultrasound, Peters didn’t want to take the abortion pill. The staff moved her out of the room so another abortion could be performed.
“It was three people pressuring me and in order to leave, I took the pill,” she said.
Then came the post-traumatic stress. Then came the nightmares. And they continued for years.
Post-abortive trauma, post-abortion syndrome: These aren’t conditions found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.
One report from 2014 entitled “Abortion and Mental Health: Findings from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication” found abortion was not a statically significant predictor of subsequent mental health conditions like anxiety and mood disorders.
“This does not mean that abortion care settings should ignore mental health risk,” the report added. “Women seeking abortions may be at higher risk of prior mental health disorders and the abortion care setting may be an important intervention point for mental health screening and referrals.”
Still, another study from 2011, “Abortion and Mental Health: Quantitative Synthesis and Analysis of Research Published 1995-2009,” did find women who experienced abortion are at a higher risk for mental health problems.
People who’ve experienced abortion can face post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, struggles with self-image, difficulties with attachment to subsequent children, anxiety or a number of other mood disorders that are a result of the abortion or whatever experiences or circumstances happened around the pregnancy, says Emily Noack, mental health clinician with Catholic Charities of Oregon, which oversees Project Rachael in the archdiocese. Everyone experiences grief in a unique way.
Noack and the team at the local Project Rachael have a dedicated phone line and email address that women and men can call for free counseling. The team are all licensed social workers providing standard grief support, but with the possibility of also connecting patients with spiritual support.
The team collaborates with parishes, finding the patients whatever kind of spiritual aid they would like: a prayer partner, a priest, a woman religious, etc.
“That collaboration with the parishes ... is key,” says Heather Zarrilli, director of Family Support and Counseling Services at Catholic Charities of Oregon. Men and women who have had this experience can face complex emotions like sadness, anger, resentment and sometimes relief, all at the same time.
“Priests don’t have the clinical counseling training and we don’t have the same spiritual counseling training. ... We can really provide the personal and more comprehensive support when we have both of those together.”
The more support women and men who’ve experienced abortion have, the easier it can be for them to heal.
“There are a lot of women who, if they are struggling after an abortion, need support,” adds Noack. “We want to be a place where people feel comfortable and can come and heal or just have the support of other women.
When Peters became pregnant again, she kept her daughter, despite being abandoned by the father.
“I just knew that I loved my daughter and no matter what happened, I wanted her to know how important she was,” said Peters. She kept her second son when he arrived unexpectedly as well.
A study by the Guttmacher Institute reported that most women receiving abortions have a religious affiliation. Thirty percent described themselves as Protestant, 24 percent as Roman Catholic and 8 percent identified another religion. Thirty-eight percent of patients didn’t identify with any religion.
“The abortion index for Catholic women showed that their relative abortion rate was nearly the same as that for all women,” read the report.
Though she feels welcomed now, Peters felt judgement from some in her family and Catholic community.
“Until there’s a face and a story to a sin, it’s easy to judge,” she says.
When Peters married, her husband adopted her two children and the couple are now expecting a third. Up until her latest pregnancy, she had been taking maternity photos for women in crisis pregnancies. It was a gift given to her when she was pregnant with her now 6-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
Mary McClusky is assistant director for Project Rachel Ministry Development and the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Forgiveness and healing are at the heart of what it means to be Catholic,” said McClusky. “Project Rachel Ministry is an extension of the healing ministry of Jesus.”
“Christ came to forgive our sins and calls upon the church to help be a bridge to his divine mercy,” she continued. “The U.S. bishops, as successors to the apostles, have long called upon all the resources of the church to serve those suffering after abortion. It is fitting for a bishop to lead efforts in a diocese to offer both spiritual and psychological help to those who suffer after abortion.”
Susanne Babbel, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explored the topic in an article in Psychology Today: “Feelings are complex, and sometimes a woman will need to seek out counseling to help her sort through her own emotions and reactions as well as any perceived or actual stigma she may be experiencing.”
29 Aug 2015
At the age of 16, just a few days before my 17th birthday, I went on my very first date.  I was thrilled. He played football and was popular. We ate and saw a movie. I still had some time left before my curfew, so we drove around our rural area for a little while. We went to some of his family's property and walked around looking at horses. My first date, which seemed like a total dream, soon turned into a nightmare when he forceably raped me in a barn.
I didn't tell anyone initially; after all, he threatened me immediately after, telling me that I would live to regret it if I told anyone, that he’d make my life miserable, and that nobody would believe me. A couple of weeks later, I told a friend. After talking with a few people, and finding out that he had already been spreading his version of what happened that night, no one believed me. People who I trusted and loved and who should have supported me did not.  I began to just deny the whole thing and started trying to block it from my memory. 
I didn’t think a lot about the possibility of being pregnant because I had a distorted view that because it was rape, then it was somehow less likely I’d become pregnant.  It wasn’t until I started having symptoms that I began to realize I might be pregnant.  I drove to a different town by myself to buy a pregnancy test kit, doing the test in the gas station bathroom so no one in my hometown would ever know.  Before I took the test, I had kind of already thought ahead of what I would do if it came back positive, and so, I had the name of a pregnancy center with their phone number because I thought they were an abortion clinic.  I felt extremely scared and angry there all alone in the gas station restroom.  I was angry at God, asking “How could you allow me to raped?”  I was angry at myself for putting myself in a position to allow this to happen.
From a pay phone, I called the pregnancy center and they said I could come in right then, which I did.  It was about an hour drive for me.  I trusted no one at this point and chose not to tell any friends or family. I felt like this would only confirm what people were already saying about me "making up the rape." I went to the crisis pregnancy center because I thought it was an abortion clinic, hoping to get one that day.
They were so nice to me and told me everything I already knew about the life inside me.  I didn’t feel like I was judged by them at all. They only had certain days of the week that they did ultrasounds, and I would have had to return two days later to get one.  Crying, I told them I was so scared and couldn't handle facing people with the pregnancy, and that I was still going to go to an abortion clinic when I left there.  The counselors told me that even if I did go through with an abortion, that I was still welcome to come back there and talk to them about it.  To this day, 17 years later, I still have a relationship with one of those counselors.
Scared out of my mind of facing ridicule, having to address the rumors the rapist was already spreading, already overwhelmed from my reputation being slandered, I drove to an abortion clinic that same day.  It was the opposite of the pregnancy center, which was warm and inviting, even though it still had the feel of a medical office.  But the abortion clinic was cold and sterile.  There were others in the waiting room, but no one would look at each other or acknowledge each other’s presence in any way.  There was no privacy speaking to the receptionist, telling her why I was there.  She they could see me, but I’d have to make an appointment to come back to get the procedure done the next day.  I told her I couldn’t skip school another day, so she said they would take me right away.
There was no waiting and no questions.  All they cared about was that I had the money to pay. They didn't even care that I was by myself. It was the absolute worst experience of my life -- even worse than the rape.  I kept telling myself that it was going to be okay, that I was raped, so this was justified, and I would get through this.  I didn’t believe any of it, so I just kept saying it to myself over and over again.  I told God that it was all his fault, and I was just so angry in the moment.  But I knew that there was a baby inside of me.  I knew that life begins at conception, but in my 17 year old mind, I just wasn’t making the connection. 
The abortion clinic estimated I was between 14 to 16 weeks pregnant, so they used ultrasound during the procedure.  The screen was turned so I couldn’t see it.  I don’t know if it malfunctioned, or if the nurse made a mistake,  but I heard my baby’s heartbeat, and that was when the connection finally happened.  I told the doctor that I wanted him to stop, but he said it was already too far along to stop.  I was out of it because they’d given me a Valium to relax.  The nurses helped me to get cleaned up and to get dressed.  They were rushing me because they needed the space.  I wasn’t ready to move or to go anywhere, but they didn’t care about hurting me or that I was upset.  They didn’t offer to walk me out to my car, or even ask if anyone was there to drive me.
I sat in my car in pain and crying for 2 hours before I could even think about driving home.  I really shouldn’t have been driving at all that day.  The problem had been taken care of according to society, and I should have been relieved and ready to go on about my life, but relief was the farthest thing from what I felt.  I remember having a dialogue myself, like a good vs. evil talk, first telling myself, “You did what you had to do.  Did you really have any other choice?  Most people would understand what you just did.”  But then I’d tell myself, “You know that was a baby.  How could you do that?  You’re a horrible person.”  I thought, I must not really be a Christian.
For many years, I did anything I could to numb my pain. I barely remember college because I drank all the time. I also struggled with an eating disorder and honestly don't know how I survived, but by the grace of God.  I was attending church this whole time, but part of me just felt dead and I still really questioned, “How could God love me?  How could He ever forgive me for killing my baby?”
With lots of counseling, I stopped drinking and I curtailed the eating disorder.  We focused on the rape for a certain period of time and worked through that, which was helpful, but we hardly ever touched on the abortion.  My therapist even told me, “You really did what you need to do in that situation because you were raped.”
I met a Christian guy through church, and we abstained from sex until our wedding night.  I felt like I’d have enough garbage in my life and I wanted to do things right and honor God.  But as time went on, I still suffered from depression and struggled with the eating disorder.
I’d always felt that because of the experience I had when I went to the pregnancy resource center, I knew that later in my life, I wanted to be involved in this kind of ministry.  We had just had Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at my church, and I told my pastor that the nearest center was about an hour away and that there’s a huge need for a center in our area.  He felt God had given me a vision, and encouraged me to start a local center.  So I got people together and we began to plan the opening of a pregnancy resource center.  During that process, I heard of post-abortion ministry for the very first time by visiting other centers and learning what services are offered.  I dove into reading about post-abortion syndrome, and I realized that this was my big issue, and that’s why I’ve suffered so much.  It just all clicked.
So a couple of years ago, I went through a post abortion bible study, finally understanding and accepting God’s forgiveness and grace.  I’ve finally overcome the eating disorder.  I still get depressed at times, but it’s manageable and no longer dictates my life.  I’ve now started a post-abortion ministry through our local pregnancy resource center and I’m guiding other women through the healing process.

I'm here to tell you that abortion is never the answer.  It will only cause an already painful and difficult situation to be even more hurtful. During my abortion procedure I was terrified. I kept asking questions about what was about to happen and no one seemed to want to answer me. Looking back, I think they wanted to hurry up before I had a chance to change my mind. For many years after, I would have terrible anxiety and even panic attacks at times any time I heard anything that remotely sounded like a heartbeat. For a long time I didn't know that's what I was reacting to and it wasn't until many years later when my husband and I were expecting our first child together that I connected the anxiety to certain sounds. 
I lived in my own private hell until I went through the post abortion Bible study and found healing. The pain I felt all those years literally felt like it would kill me at times. I was very depressed. There were times I cut myself thinking that it would release some of the pain I felt on the inside. There were many times I thought about ending my life and a couple of times I came close to trying. I honestly thought my eating disorder would eventually kill me and that actually became my intention with those behaviors. I felt like I deserved to suffer and not live any resemblance of a happy life because of what I did. 
I want people to hear my story. As hard as it is to tell, it it needs to be told. Something terrible happened to me on that date that night. Then I was betrayed by the people closest to me. All of that was extremely painful, but it doesn't come close to comparing to the pain, the guilt, the shame, the remorse, or the self hatred I heaped and Satan heaped upon me in the years following the abortion. I thought at the time that I was justified in what I was doing because I didn't choose to be in that situation -- I was pregnant by rape. I knew there was life inside me but I thought it wouldn't matter because of how that life got there. I've never been more wrong about something. Aborting a baby that's the result of a rape doesn't affect the woman any differently than under any other circumstance. I've talked with many post-abortive women over the years through working with a local pregnancy center and what I've learned is that we all share the same pain. It's absolutely no different. The end result is still the same.
My prayer is that through me telling my story, more rape victims will speak out about as well, so that we can put a stop to rape being an excuse for keeping abortion legal. I love and grieve for that baby's life, just like I would for either of my other children. I think about every day how old she would be and what she would be like. I don't know if I would have raised her or placed her for adoption, but it's terribly unfair that she never got a chance at life. Even though her life was cut short as a result of the abortion, that didn’t stop her life from having meaning and purpose, and through me telling our story, I’m ensuring her life was not in vain and that she will be remembered.
BIO: Tammy is a wife, mother of 2, post-abortive ministry coordinator, serving on the board of a pregnancy resource center, and is now a pro-life blogger for Save The 1.">Tammy is a wife, mother of 2, post-abortive ministry coordinator, serving on the board of a pregnancy resource center, and is now a pro-life blogger for Save The 1
6 Jun 2015
When Tina was 28, she was in a long-term committed relationship and building a career. Then, unexpectedly, she found herself pregnant. When she chose to have an abortion, a decision she regrets to this day, she learned, in her words, that “the pro-choice movement cares very little about the mother.”
31 Jan 2015
You’re talking to somebody who’s killed a lot of people
Dr. Bruchalski started performing abortions upon graduating from medical school. He was convinced he’d help people this way. But he saw that wasn’t true.
“Infections, depressions, broken families were all on the rise… I asked myself what was wrong, why antidepressants were the most prescribed drug in the world.”
Two consecutive mystic experiences unexpectedly placed him before a woman who introduced herself as the Mother of all mankind: “Why are you hurting me, John?”
“I immediately stopped performing abortions and started to work for the indigent. I try to help them be healthier, happier and holier, respecting the dignity of the human being.”
2 Jan 2015
by Steven Ertelt
Washington, DC | LifeNews.com 
Earlier this month, pop singer Nicki Minaj became the subject of news reports when a song of hers hinted at having an abortion. Assuming she was referencing her aborted baby in the tune, the song says the baby is an “angel looking over” her brother.
Now, Minaj has discussed her abortion further and says the abortion she had as a teenager has “haunted” her during her entire life.
In 2008, Minaj admitted to feeling guilt about having had an abortion in the single “Autobiography.” She was around 15 at the time she ended her pregnancy. Here’s an update from Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/nicki-minaj-is-hip-hops-killer-di...
Minaj’s first love was an older guy from Queens she dated while attending the prestigious Manhattan performing-arts high school LaGuardia. When she discovered she was pregnant, “I thought I was going to die,” she admits.
“I was a teenager. It was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through.” She ended up having an abortion, a decision she says has “haunted me all my life,” though it was the right choice for her at the time. “It’d be contradictory if I said I wasn’t pro-choice. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have anything to offer a child.”
13 Jun 2014

My life is deeply effected by this trauma I faced in my life. I honestly never wanted to have an abortion. I wanted my baby badly. But I was so scared that no one would help me. Taking care of a baby on my own would have been a big change. Everyone told me abortion is the best option. Feeling alone was the worst feeling ever. Now I am left with this hurt for the rest of my life.I feel regret and sadness. I wish I could go back and take my baby back. When I see other babies or children it reminds me of what I could of had. Finding out someone is pregnant hits me the most. I feel my baby would have been a girl. I gave her the name Kacey Hope

From the beginning of May 2010 I noticed I was gaining weight. I never wanted to believe of the possibility of being pregnant. On May 12, 2010 my life changed. I went to the Birth Control Clinic at the London-Middlesex Health Unit. I went for S.T.I Testing. During the testing they did a pregnancy test. I was waiting in a room. The doctor walked in and paused. He goes " You are pregnant". I was starting to cry and said "Are you sure that cant be wrong". He said "No, you are at least 4 weeks pregnant". I started crying a lot and said " I want an abortion right now". They said I couldn't unless I went to Toronto. So they gave me a phone number to call. That night I couldn't even sleep. I was so devastated that I had a little baby growing inside of me.

On May 13, 2010, I called the Woman's Health Clinic at Victoria Hospital to book an abortion. They said I had to wait until I was 8 weeks. They booked my ultrasound for June 4, 2010. During my wait the morning sickness started. It was horrible I was getting sick every day. I would go on the internet and look up week by week how big the baby got. I was very fascinated by it. There were times I really wanted to keep the baby. Fear took over though. The fear of giving birth, raising a baby, and adoption all scared me. I was so consumed in worry and there was no one to help me raise this child. So I went forward with the easy way out even though I really didn't want too.

On June 4, 2010 my friend picked me up from my place to take me to the ultrasound. I went in alone, I was in this alone. This lady put jelly on my belly and told me to just lay down. This was my very first and only ultrasound. I asked "Do you see it?" She said "Yes, do you want to see?" I agreed with some excitement. She turned the screen towards me and I could make out everything. I saw the shape of the babies face and head. She pointed to a little circle moving and said "Do you see that?" I said "Yes", She said "That is the beating heart". I asked her how far along I was. She told me I was 8 weeks and 4 days. When I got home I did a lot of thinking on way's I could possibly keep this baby. I came up with many, but fear would always make me think, abortion is probably the best thing. I even prayed to God and asked him to help me think of something before it was too late. I continued to look up on the computer how big the baby was. The morning sickness continued daily until the pregnancy was terminated. Every night, I would touch my belly, to see if I could feel anything moving. I started to feel love for this child.

June 18, 2010, would be the last day this baby had life in me. It was the worst feeling in my whole life. I wanted something or someone to stop me. I felt so alone. My friend and I went to Victoria Hospital at 7a.m. The appointment was at 7:30a.m. When I got there I was led into a room with a lot of people. They gave me a gown and slippers to put on. I was in bed for a half hour until they told me to take two white pills. Once you take these pills, you can't change your mind. Then they put an IV in my left hand. As I sat there with my friend, I noticed a lot of women, especially young, walking in. They where all crying. I could tell why, they where in there for the same reason I was. I asked my friend "How come I am not crying?", he told me it was because I was thinking more about myself instead of this little one inside of me. I didn't believe that though. I did care about this baby.

At 8 30am it was time for me to go to the operating room to have the abortion. They put some sleeping medicine in my IV and I made the doctors laugh when I said I feel funny. They held a breathing mask to my face and within 10 seconds I fell asleep. I woke up in the recovery room. I was only asleep for a half hour. I was no longer pregnant. My little one is no longer growing inside of me. I let my baby go to heaven. I let my baby go at 11 weeks. Kari Lynn

6 May 2014
Claire Culwell knows what it’s like to be a survivor. At the age of 13, her mother learned she was pregnant and decided to have an abortion, though she didn’t know she was pregnant with twins.
After she had an abortion of Claire’s brother, she returned to the abortion clinic after realizing she still had a growing and developing baby inside of her. Told she was too late to have a second abortion, she gave birth to Claire, who struggled on life support as she dealt with a myriad of medical issues following her birth.
Despite the obstacles she has had to overcome, Claire is actively sharing her story — urging people to choose life instead of abortion. And now, via the web site of pro-life activist Abby Johnson, Claire has written an incredible letter with an incredible message to the abortion doctor.
Here is that letter:
Dear Dr. Patel,
I am writing with a heavy heart. I recently discovered you in the news due to the violations your abortion clinic has made. I found that I have a closer connection to you than I thought.  In 1988, my 13-year-old birth mother placed herself in your care to perform her abortion…her 20-week abortion. She was assured that the abortion would fix her problem and that her life would return to normal but it didn’t.
When she returned to see you, she was informed that the abortion had been successful, in part, but she was still pregnant as she had actually been pregnant with twins but had been misinformed. She was also told that during the abortion the amniotic sac had been ruptured, thus leaking fluid for weeks. This proposed many complications for my birth mother. Due to the botched abortion, I was born 2.5 months premature with many lifelong complications.
30 Mar 2014

by Nancy Flanders

When Meg Perez was 18 years old and far from home with the military, she became pregnant. Having been raised Catholic and pro-life, she knew in her heart that abortion was not an option. So, she took an honorable discharge and made her way back home to be with her family for support. She decided that she would place her son for adoption and was blessed to find a Catholic adoption attorney who helped her find Catholic parents who would raise her child in the Church. The couple she chose were unable to have children, and Meg knew they were the right people to become her son’s parents. But letting go of her baby was extremely difficult.

“Looking back, during the pregnancy I really was kind of in denial,” says Meg, “I was just trying to get through it. I denied the fact that I really wanted to keep him because I knew in my heart I couldn’t be a good parent to him at 18. I knew that I would have to depend on my parents for help. There was a lot ahead of me and I was given the grace to be able to be mature beyond my years. I loved him more than I loved myself and that’s what adoption and being a parent is about.”

After she had her baby and he was with his adoptive parents, Meg decided she didn’t want more children. She continued on with her life, attending church weekly and working, but she wasn’t leading the life she felt God wanted her to. She drown her sorrows in alcohol and says she wasted a lot of years just lost, with no direction.  She tried to reach out to her son’s adoptive family through her attorney, but they denied the request.

“That was very hurtful to me,” she explains, “That fueled a lot of my anger and I floundered around for years. I suffered through an eating disorder. I had a very prayerful family and a good foundation of faith. It was a situation where I really suffered tremendously. It wasn’t a bad thing. It was redemptive pain. When you’re a confused young person and you have a hole in your heart, it’s tough to fill that.”

Meg went on to a career in TV news and eventually married. During her marriage she suffered four miscarriages, including one with twins. She now wanted children and she and her husband finally had a son, but their marriage ended abruptly after she discovered her husband’s lies and addictions. Meg and her son moved back to her hometown to start over, and a year later, at the age of 41, she became pregnant through a casual relationship. She was excited. She wanted her baby and her son wanted a sibling. But when she told the father, he said he wanted nothing to do with the child, would not stay with her, and would not help her financially or in any other way. Meg was devastated.

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