My secret

In 1975, a 15-year-old girl walked into a Birmingham abortion clinic, pregnant and afraid. She had been sexually involved with two older men at the time and didn’t know which was the father. The decision haunted her for 42 years, she said, before she found healing through a Bible study called Surrendering the Secret offered by Sav-A-Life, an Anniston organization that provides assistance to women in crisis pregnancy situations.

Two years after completing the eight-week Bible study, the Anniston woman said her perspective has changed and that she no longer feels like she deserves the negative things that have happened in her life. She now volunteers to help other women in the group.

Kathy Poole, Sav-A-Life center director and group leader for Surrendering the Secret, said women are typically not ready to deal with their emotions about having an abortion until 20 or more years after the decision is made.

“The average timeframe in Anniston is closer to 30 years,” Poole said. “The younger women who come in are usually not ready to deal with it.”

That 15-year-old girl who walked into the abortion clinic is now 59 years old. She has a 26-year-old son who has never heard her story. Although she is not ready to tell him or other family members, she was willing to speak with The Star on the condition that her name not be published. The following is her story, in her own words:

•••

It was, according to everybody else that talked about it, the easiest thing to do. I didn’t talk to anybody about it. I made the decision on my own. It was an easy fix. Nobody had to find out what happened. Me getting to finish school, my dad not killing me because I felt like he would, that kind of stuff. So it was just an easy fix.

So, I arranged it. I had a friend who was old enough to drive me to Birmingham and have the procedure done. I was told it was just a lump of tissue, that it would be fine, that there would be no problems afterward. I could go on with my life and all that kind of stuff. But it didn’t. That day things really changed.

I think I sort of knew. I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to tell. So much of my life is a blur after that. But I remember just starting to feel guilty, depressed, ashamed. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. It was my secret. And it was going to be my secret. And the cost was a lot.

To deal with my feelings and emotions, I got into drugs and alcohol trying to numb that, severe depression, fear, anxiety all the time. I was afraid someone was gonna find out. Going to just regular doctor appointments was difficult when they ask those questions and you just don’t answer those questions.

As I got on and got married, I began to have issues with fertility. I could not have a child, so I went through fertility treatments for seven years, and then gave up on that. And probably 30 days after I quit, I became pregnant. So, I raised my child in fear because I always thought that God would take him away from me because of what I did with my first child. So, I don’t know how good my parenting skills were. I still think all the time, “Something’s gonna happen, something’s gonna happen.” Just constantly feeling like I’m being punished, just being punished in life.

Everything that’s happened in my life, I felt like I deserved it. I didn’t have a good marriage. I had a sick husband. I deserved it because of what I did. So, I handled it. It’s like this is my punishment, I deserved it.

And then, I lost my sister. I lost my mom. I lost my dad. And once again, I deserved it. God was taking everybody from me because of what I did. The depression and everything just got worse and worse and worse. I got on medication and that seemed to manage things, but the roots of things were always still there.

I lost my husband about five years ago. Once again, it was part of my punishment.

Then, about two years after he passed, I found out I had cancer. It devastated me. In the beginning, I was done with life so I wasn’t gonna fight. I was done. I had gone through everything I was gonna go through, and now was my time to just exit.

But God wasn’t through with me yet, because He woke me up. I had been telling myself that no one in my bloodline had ever survived cancer, so why would I? He woke me up one night and said, “You are in my bloodline.” So, I woke up and said “OK, Lord.” I don’t usually hear audible voices but I did hear an audible voice that night. So, I started my cancer journey, and in my cancer journey was the first time I became honest about everything.

•••

Shortly after her cancer diagnosis, the woman was introduced to Surrendering the Secret and said it changed her life. After 42 years of carrying around the guilt of her decision, she said the study helped heal her.

Since then, the woman said, she has learned to forgive herself, and has been able to grieve a child she never had. She named him Josiah.

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