By Sarah Terzo
James McNeill married a woman who had 2 abortions in her past. He says:
“When I would bring up the idea of having children, Kathleen would say things like, “I don’t deserve to be a mother.” It started to dawn on me that unresolved pain, shame, and grief related to her abortions were at the heart of her reluctance to have children. It was difficult to know how to address what was clearly a painful and sensitive wound in a way that would be helpful.
One time I said, “You can’t sweep your abortions under the rug forever.”
She said, “If I didn’t sweep them under the rug, I couldn’t live with myself.” Kathleen had stuffed the pain and hurt deep down inside herself in order to cope, but in doing so she walled off an area of her heart that could’ve otherwise been used to love herself and me. The price of avoiding the issue was taking a terrible toll on Kathleen and our marriage.
As the years passed, she was increasingly unable to completely squelch the emotions that came from her post abortion pain and grief. She would occasionally freak out, scream at the top of her lungs, throw things, and break things. She told me she fantasized about cutting herself, and burning herself. I felt so powerless and confused, and I had no idea how to help her, except to calm and soothe her in the moment. I was unable by myself to help her face her abortions and embrace a future that included having children. No matter the tactics, or entry point to the discussion, we wound up at odds, and back to square one when it was over. It was like banging our heads against a brick wall.
One of the hardest things to live with was the fact that our relationship itself was held up as proof that the abortions had been the right thing to do. Kathleen would say to me, “I can’t imagine my life without you, and if I had had the two children, I wouldn’t have you, so the abortions must have been the right thing to do.”
What you say in response to statement like that? To have our love serve as justification for abortions hurt deeply, and I felt powerless to do anything to help her or us.”
As things became more difficult in the marriage, they went on a Marriage Encounter retreat to work on their differences:
“About a year after the Marriage Encounter retreat, Kathleen was experiencing some serious depression she could not explain. Her violent screaming and destructive outbursts were worse than ever. She started seeing a psychiatrist, but visit after visit seemed to go nowhere… It is worth noting that many therapists on both sides of the abortion issue are ill-equipped to treat postabortion women and men. Many psychiatrists – like the rest of society – do not even recognize postabortion trauma or grief. Even counselors who are willing to recognize abortion related symptoms often lack the knowledge and resources to offer practical, effective treatment of this trauma.”
James and Kathleen discovered Rachel’s Vineyard, an organization for postabortion women and men (and, increasingly, others affected by abortion) and Kathleen felt great healing at a retreat for postabortion women.
From Kevin Burke, David Wenhoff, Marvin Stockwell , Redeeming a Father’s Heart: Men Share Powerful Stories of Abortion Loss and Recovery (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2007).
Editor’s note. This appeared at Clinic Quotes and is reposted with permission.