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Cindy's Story

When I was in third grade, for a reason that escapes me now, I was supposed to recite a poem in Spanish to the entire school auditorium.  Half way through the poem, I forgot some words, and just made up something that rhymed. I knew whoever knew Spanish would be aware of my mishap—but I didn’t count on their spreading the news throughout the entire school. My embarrassment now escalated to petrifying anxiety if I had to speak in front of an audience.

So, imagine my surprise when after completing the retreat and bible study, I enthusiastically told Mary Ann that if she ever needed someone to speak about PATH, I would!   No sooner had I said it, I thought -- “Are you crazy? How are you going to do that? You’re absolutely terrified of speaking in front of people!  “Nevertheless, I wanted everyone to know about how wonderful this ministry was. How could I keep this to myself,  and not tell everyone what God had done for me?   So I didn’t retract my offer.  I believe the only reason I no longer have this anxiety, is because He wants me to tell you about what this ministry has done for me.

It was 1973, I was 21 and during my annual checkup I found out I was pregnant.  I was in shock.  The Dr said, “Well, it’s legal now, but don’t take too long making the decision”.  I wasn’t even sure what he was referring to…then I remembered all the stuff that had been in the news…
 I walked out in a daze, feeling the world had ended.  The nurse said, “I’m sorry it’s not good news”.  I remember thinking, “It’s supposed to be, having a baby is supposed to be joyous.”

I only told the father.  I asked if he thought the church was right, that it was murder.  As separated from the church as I was, I knew what the Catholic Church said.  He said it’s nothing, it’s just a bunch of cells. That same week I found out he was seeing not one, but two other women.  I felt  so  alone.  It became obvious there was no future with him.

I didn’t feel I could disappoint my Mother;   I wasn’t raised to have sex out of marriage.   The situation at home was already so stressful, it would only add to her burdens.  She had been taking care of my father for several years after he suffered a very serious stroke.  He was bedridden and required her full care — everything, feeding, changing, cleaning.   My aunt’s husband had Parkinson’s, and at lunchtime my mother would go to her apt to prepare and feed him lunch.  My aunt’s children had begun using drugs —I couldn’t talk to her…My brother (who was only 20) had just eloped with a woman 12 years older, with serious mental disorders and 5 children.  I didn’t want to hurt my mother -- for me to disappoint her that way — I thought it could very well drive her over the edge.  So I felt the only answer was to have an abortion.  That way no one would know I was also a disappointment.

I went alone to the doctor’s office.  The anesthesia wore off before it was over.  I felt the nurse patting me on the arm and saying: “It’s O.K., it’s O.K., it’s almost over”.  I thought, “It’s not O.K., it’s not O.K.”  As I turned my head away from her, in the corner I saw a white bucket. I remember thinking, God is seeing this.   I felt so much shame, and disgust  that I immediately knew what I had done was terribly wrong. It didn’t matter if I thought a baby had a soul at 7 weeks; it didn’t matter what the church said, it didn’t matter what science said. I knew it was wrong.  But it was too late.  

I took a taxi to a motel and woke up at 4am with horrible cramps. I wondered what I would do if it got worse. I stood holding on to the dresser and thought –“What have I done?” But I couldn’t go back in time, the only thing I could do now, I told myself, was to get on with my life, try to forget it and put it in my past. I wasn’t prepared for how I felt.  No  one  had  told me… it was impossible to rip a child from it’s Mother’s womb, without taking a part of her too.   At 21, it never occurred to me it would be my only chance to be a mother.  My boyfriend didn’t even bother to call to see how I was.

I buried this awful memory so well, that I hardly ever thought about it.  I avoided anything that might surface the memory.  I wouldn’t discuss the “choice” issue. I wouldn’t see any TV program, read anything having to do with the subject.  I couldn’t-- because it hurt so much.   

My father died 5 years later and I began having horrible nightmares.  Every night, all through the night.  It got so bad I moved into my mother’s room and slept in the other twin bed so she could wake me if she heard me mumbling.  The frequency of the nightmares decreased slowly over the years, until I would have them only 2 or 3 times a year. I thought they were stress-related.

In 2001 my mother died and the nightmares came back in full force.  I also embarked on my journey back to the Catholic Church,  and while surfing the internet for answers to some spiritual questions, I saw something on a Catholic Ministry for post-abortive women.  I’ll never forget looking at the screen and thinking “The Catholic Church has something for us?  I thought they only cared about the babies.” But what also surprised me, was the fact,  that there were others like me. In 28 years, I had never heard anyone say they regretted their abortion, let alone suffered from their decision.

I considered calling, but thought, no, I don’t want to go there.  It was so painful to remember. If I couldn’t think about it for more than a few minutes, how could I possibly discuss it for months in a Bible Study?  Well, a few days later I ended up in the same place but this thought came into my head –For the path you’re on, you need to do this.  Now I know this thought wasn’t mine, because all of a sudden I had the strength to want to deal with it. I turned around and called the number.  

I was referred to a ministry called PATH.  I started the Bible Study. A few weeks after, I went to confession – my first since receiving First Communion.  I was very concerned the priest hearing my confession wouldn’t believe how contrite I really was – God could look into my heart – but he couldn’t.  

Halfway through the bible study I was encouraged to attend the retreat.  I really didn’t think it was necessary…I had experienced so much healing; I thought it would be superfluous.  And I was scared, but I did what I hadn’t done when I found out I was pregnant—  I stepped out in complete trust and attended the retreat.  Boy was I surprised!  

During the Retreat I saw things from another perspective, I felt Jesus was next to me and explaining that when this happened in my life, this is what was really going on.  I saw things much more clearly, I understood so much more!  
I sent Mary Ann an email after the retreat, this is what I wrote:  
This is by far the hardest thing I've ever done & the most rewarding.  I had no problem believing God forgives someone truly repentant.  So, let's say I expected being forgiven, and welcomed back.  I didn't expect a banquet, nor gifts...and I've received the most incredible one of all...I no longer feel shame.  This was unimaginable to me.  Before the retreat, I could envision the parable of the prodigal son; now, I have experienced it. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind, that all those involved in putting together the retreat, were led by the Holy Spirit.   I identify completely with a quote in one of the leaflets:  "No words can explain the healing that I experienced on this weekend retreat."    I cannot speak highly enough about Rachel's Vineyard.  Words fail to convey how wonderful the retreat was, not just for me, all of us felt the same way!  The visualizations and re-enactments were so powerful, and the Holy Spirit was there, Christ was with us; again, all of us felt His presence, no, experienced His presence.  Before the retreat, I wanted to prevent someone from making the same mistake, but didn't understand those that were dedicating themselves to the healing of women who've had abortions.  Now, I understand.”
I thought finishing the rest of the Bible study would be easy!  Again I was wrong, there was more to be dug up and cleansed.  I healed even more.  I hadn’t realized just how much every aspect of my life had been affected by my “choice”.  My poor choices in men, my intense need to please others, my workaholism…Even my avoiding baby showers, making excuses not to hold newborns… There was such an abrupt ceasing that I have no doubt they were related to my abortion experience. By the time I finished the Bible study another impossibility became reality, I no longer felt the intense pain I had repressed for 28 years.

It took me a year after completing the bible study before I figured out the nightmare that had haunted me for so long… They were horrible, full of anguish and always with the same theme:  death.  I was going to be killed and was helpless, I was alone, in a solitary place, and when I tried to yell for help, no voice would come out—I couldn’t be heard.  In one of my last nightmares, I was surrounded by water and it was dark.  You see, in my nightmare, I was my child, about to be murdered and completely helpless. The last time I had this dream was before I called PATH.

Saint Teresa of Avila said, "The memory of the favor God has granted does more to bring such a person back to God than all the infernal punishments imaginable."  I see now why Satan deluded me into believing I had “handled” my past, that there was no need of delving further into it.  It’s too powerful a witness, for this experience serves as undeniable testimony of God’s loving existence.  For love isn’t seen, it’s felt.  My relationship with God exists at a dimension I didn’t know was possible. I believe Satan keeps us crippled with fear, for he knows that once we experience God’s grace and forgiveness, he can no longer keep us from helping others.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen described the stance of Christ and Satan before and after sin.  Before sin,   Christ asks us to trust him and put our life under His control.  Satan, urges us to act now, to take control.  He says, “look at all you will lose – you got yourself into this problem, you must get yourself out. Do this & you’ll be back in control – things will be the way they used to be.”  After sin, however, Satan now accuses you – “Look what you’ve done! You are nothing – you’re beyond redemption – you’re the scum of the Earth, this is yours alone to bear.”  This is what is called The Devil’s Bargain.  The purpose is three-fold:  to generate misery, encourage more sin, and create doubt in the mercy of God.

PATH brings God’s mercy to all those women who are broken, and empty. I wonder how many more women are surfing the internet and being directed to this healing. I know from my own experience that it’s an integral part of my conversion. Necessary to bring us closer to God. We are called to tell others the good news, to help people know Christ.  I think we all want to do this.  We want to make a difference in someone’s life.