A woman writes of her post-abortion trauma and how she found healing
In her memoir, Neva Ann Cairco described the painful aftermath of abortion.
A Pregnancy That Brought Joy
Cairco’s marriage was new when she became pregnant. She says, “All I felt was a delight in the thought of having a child.”
She couldn’t wait to tell her husband and friends. But Cairco was in for a rude awakening.
Bombarded with Discouragement
Her friends bombarded her with discouragement and pessimism. They said she couldn’t afford a baby and insisted abortion was her only choice. They even told her that having the baby might threaten her marriage. They also told her she wasn’t carrying a baby, just tissue.
Cairco was already attached to her child:
Over the past few days, I had unknowingly developed a longing to love this child, to give this child a life of love and acceptance…
But now people were saying that I had it all wrong…Clearly, having a baby now was not possible.
At the time, Cairco says that she was a “people pleaser.” The constant negativity around her made her “confused and scared.” She didn’t want to argue with all the people who insisted she abort.
Cairco still thinks some of her friends meant well. They may have been genuinely concerned about how she’d manage. But instead of offering support or asking Cairco what she wanted to do, they insisted on abortion, telling her repeatedly that there was no way she could cope.
Giving in to Abortion
Cairco says, “The only options that were considered were to remove the tissue or suffer a life of poverty and uncertainty.”
Cairco lost all hope and confidence in herself, and, finally convinced that her baby was just tissue, agreed to have an abortion. She even believed that by sacrificing her pregnancy, she was putting her marriage first and honoring her marriage vows.
Abortion’s Painful Aftermath
Cairco’s doctor assured her that the abortion wouldn’t be any more painful than menstrual cramps. She was put to sleep for her abortion, and when she woke up, she sobbed uncontrollably.
Cairco says, “I couldn’t control what sounded like the howling of an injured animal. The volume seemed to increase with each wail… I could scarcely breathe, much less speak.”
A nurse came to comfort her, and Cairco apologized for her tears. The nurse said to her:
Don’t worry, honey. It is just the hormones adjusting. You will be fine in a little bit…Most women experience what appears to be an emotional reaction. Let me reassure you, it is purely medical in nature. It will pass.
The nurse had clearly seen women react this way before. However, she dismissed Cairco’s pain as “hormones” and told her she’d be fine. The nurse seemed to be in denial of the obvious harm abortion was doing to the women in her care.
Although Cairco had clung to the belief that her baby was just tissue before her abortion, she says that as she sat there sobbing “the reality of the lie became crystal clear. This was not the removal of a tissue—this was the death of my baby.”
Cairco’s life would never be the same.
A New Baby and a New Choice
Two years later, Cairco was pregnant again. The same people encouraged her to abort, using the same arguments. But now Cairco knew how painful abortion was. She refused.
Cairco says, “Amazingly, the people who supported the abortion option backed down. They said that they were ‘just kidding.’”
This only added to Cairco’s grief. She says:
What if I had stood up to them two years ago? Were they just kidding then?
I spent years beating myself up, thinking that if I could have been stronger, maybe I wouldn’t have made that frightful decision.
She had a daughter. To her surprise, the financial crisis all her friends predicted never materialized. Although she had to leave her job, her husband’s wages and her unemployment covered all the expenses.
Cairco’s life seemed ideal on the outside, but inside, she was suffering. She says:
It felt like I was slowly dying inside. Even though all the outside activities looked normal—beautiful home, successful job, lovely daughter, and all the trappings of a beautiful, up-and-coming family—my life was a wreck.
Cairco deeply loved her living daughter. But she began having horrible nightmares that the child was trying to kill her. Every time she fell asleep, the nightmares started, and they came relentlessly every night.
She considered suicide. She says that the only thing that stopped her was concern for her daughter. Desperate, she started seeing a psychologist. The psychologist told her the abortion wasn’t her fault, that others had pressured her into it, and that she needed to forget about it. This advice didn’t help her.
She went on to have a son but was consumed by depression, grief, and guilt.
Cairco divorced her husband. She spent a year drinking heavily and having a string of relationships. She says, “None of them filled the hole that was left in my heart.”
Returning to Faith- But Still Struggling
Cairco returned to the Christian faith of her childhood. However, even being involved in the church didn’t take away her pain from the abortion. She says:
[T]here were times when I would think about my first baby. I couldn’t understand why I kept thinking about it. It was over and in my past, right?…
I knew [God] forgave me… The truth was I didn’t know if I could ever forgive myself…[T]here was this gnawing, painful heartache I had to keep inside.
Cairco lived this way, coping silently with her trauma, for 10 years.
Then she went to church on Sanctity of Life Sunday, a day when the church discussed abortion. The service brought up such intense guilt that Cairco finally broke her silence and talked to her pastor.
He recommended a Bible study for post-abortive women run by a pregnancy resource center. Through the Bible study, Cairco finally found peace.
What made the difference, Cairco says, was facing the reality of her abortion instead of running from it – acknowledging the abortion killed a baby, accepting responsibility, and allowing herself to mourn.
Source: Neva Ann Cairco Wonderfully Made: The Testimony of a Forgiven Woman (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2019) 69, 81, 87, 89, 100, 102, 119, 121, 131-132.
Editor’s note. This appears on Sarah’s substack and is reposted with permission.