48 || Forgiven and Freed
It was the first week of October 1985. I was sitting in a tiny waiting room on a hard plastic chair. The reality of the decision my fiancé and I had made was settling over me like an enormous weight.
A few short weeks earlier, we had visited an obstetrician fearing she was pregnant. After confirming the pregnancy, he informed us that he would like to do an ultrasound to estimate the approximate due date. The baby appeared to be growing well inside her womb; we saw the heartbeat as well as movement. The estimate was that she was in the late stages of her first trimester. We had already expressed to the doctor that we would like to terminate the pregnancy. He did his best to talk us out of it; he warned us the baby was growing at such a healthy rate that there could be complications if we went through with the abortion. But we had already made up our minds. The end of the first trimester was the latest we would be able to abort. Reluctantly, the doctor gave us the address of an abortion clinic in downtown Birmingham.
We were married a week later. Coming from conservative families and churches, we knew they would frown upon us for the pregnancy outside of marriage. We would be ostracized. We had seen this happen to other couples. It was yet another week before we were able to get time off work to go to the abortion clinic. It was a very quiet car ride as we navigated the downtown streets. Both of us knew we were doing the wrong thing. Had one of us said something—anything—we would have probably not continued on to the abortion clinic.
Upon arrival, we were not greeted warmly. I felt such coldness in the room. The coldness was not only from the insensitivity of the room. It was deeper than that. The coldness included the inner torture coming out of me—like a contagion permeating the air. We filled out some minimal paperwork. The clinic personnel didn’t want to know much about my new wife. Mainly, they just wanted to know her name and any medical conditions she might have. We were alone in the waiting room. In a matter of moments, someone called my wife to the procedure room. There was still time to change our minds, but neither of us did.
For the next hour or so, as I waited anxiously, I was lost in my thoughts. I tried every way I could to rationalize what we were doing, but it was no use. We both had grown up in church. We knew we shouldn’t have had sex before marriage. But we did—and the pregnancy could have proved it. Wanting to maintain our “perfect image,” we made the decision that took us to the abortion clinic. I knew that as the husband, I should have made a stand against this decision. I have no doubt that she would have gladly followed along with my decision to keep this baby. During the procedure, as I sat alone, I willingly waited as a doctor I had never met murdered my baby. My mind screamed out “I am as guilty as he is! I murdered my baby.” However, I said nothing.
The car ride home was agonizingly quiet. The only sounds were of the occasional sobs from my wife as she woke from the pain medication they had given her upon leaving. I couldn’t speak. The weight of what I had done was so heavy on my shoulders. I had tragically failed my wife and my baby. What could I say to her? “I’m sorry” did not come close to an appropriate response.
The next day when she was awake, she began to tell me about the abortion. She communicated her feelings as they probed her womb and killed our baby. My heart was broken, as was hers. She described how it felt as they pulled her insides out and “cleaned” our baby out of her womb. I apologized to her again and again, but I knew my words were inadequate. A month later, she began to hemorrhage. I rushed her to the hospital where they had to do a dilation and curettage procedure (D&C) to remove what was left of our baby. It took about two or three months before my wife was completely well. Only then were we able to begin the process of trying to forget what we had done. After her hospital stay, we never mentioned it to each other again. No one knew what we had done or so we thought. As far as we were concerned, no one would ever know.
We had been married for about a year when my mother approached me privately and asked me what had happened to the baby. I looked at her in shock and asked her what she was talking about. She told me that she and my dad knew that my fiancé was pregnant before we married. I poured out my heart to my mom in those next few minutes, and as tears spilled down her cheeks, she asked me, “Why would you think I would love you less because of the baby being conceived before the marriage?” Had I thought she and my dad would not love the baby? Tears began to stream down my own cheeks as I realized how easily I had succumbed to Satan’s lies, but it was too late. My baby was dead. My mom wrapped her arms around me, and we wept together. As she hugged me, she whispered in my ear, “I forgive you.” In those moments, for the first time, I asked God to forgive me for what I had done.
For many years, I carried the guilt of that day. My marriage dissolved some time later. In the back of my mind, I always wondered if that fateful decision back in 1985 was partly to blame for the divorce. I supposed I might never know if the abortion was one of the reasons our marriage ended.
Finally Forgiven and Freed
I remarried a wonderful godly woman seven years ago. This time I was determined to do it right. I was going to marry her and treat her like Christ treats His church. I would put her needs before mine. I would stand for what was right and be the front line of defense for her whenever I could. We made it a priority to have a quiet time and pray together each night before we went to sleep. One evening, I related my abortion story to her. With tears streaming down both of our faces, she kissed me, told me she loved me, and reminded me that Christ had already forgiven me. Now, I needed to forgive myself.
Those words “forgive yourself” burned their way into my soul. Another year passed before I was really able to wrap my heart and head around them. One day in my own quiet time with God—after I had received my annual reminder of the abortion during Sanctity of Life Sunday—I confessed my sin again to God. It was as if He whispered to me, “I’ve already forgiven you. You are holding yourself hostage with your own un-forgiveness.” In the quiet of that morning, I realized that God had been true to His word. He had forgiven me just as he did when I had asked Him many years ago. I was the one holding myself prisoner with my inability to truly forgive myself. I couldn’t change the past. It was time to let go of it and REALLY accept the forgiveness God had given me for eternity.
The world focuses on women who have had or are getting abortions – and rightfully so. However, we tend to forget about the men who are involved. As a man, I’ll be the first to tell you that some men don’t care; however, there are many of them who do. If someone were to reach out to them before the abortion, the outcome may be different and a life spared. Christian counseling—like what is offered at ChooseLife— is needed for men like me who carry this guilt for years. If you know a man suffering from aborting a baby or are one yourself, please talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor to help you through the stages of grief you are feeling. There is hope. Always remember, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (I John 1:9) – and you will be forgiven forever!
“The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:8-12