Emily’s words after having an abortion haunt me: “I loved my baby, Bo, dearly, and I hope in the coming years I will believe that this was the best decision for both of us. He will be in my heart and on my mind always.” Then she wrote another sentence, addressing the child she would not have. “I know you would’ve been a beautiful joy in my life, and I can only hope and strive one day to be the mother you deserve.”
You can read the entire story of her abortion at the Washington Post. I wept as I read it. I wept, not out of judgment, but out of compassion. I understood every fear, every regret, every heartache of her journey. I wanted to reach through the pages and hold her. I wanted to reach back in time and take her in my arms and tell her my story, give her hope, give her strength.
Of course, that’s impossible. That’s the past. She made her journey, with the death of her baby at the end of it—and that’s how Emily described it. She doesn’t pretend the baby was just a bunch of “goo.” She named her baby. She wrote to her baby that he will be in her heart always.
Dear Emily: I’m Sorry for Your Loss
I weep for Emily, for her loss and for her desperate need to believe that she did the right thing in killing her son so he wouldn’t have to live a difficult life. I’m sure there are moments when she is inconsolable. She knows the pain of her heart better than anyone, and I don’t want to heap more pain upon her. Still, I feel that another story must be told, not to shame Emily—that’s not for anyone to do—but to speak to the countless women who read her story and think this is the best choice she could have made. Emily’s journey is one of death. I would like to tell you of a journey of life.
Emily wrote, “Children deserve so much, and if you don’t start with a solid platform, how can you ever give them that? I’m sure I could have done fine, eventually….”
But she didn’t believe she would have done fine. She allowed fear to rob her of hope. She saw only darkness. She believed she couldn’t give her child a good life. She looked into the future and saw “a version of tenuous, exhausted motherhood stretched out in front of her, and it didn’t look anything like the one she’d always envisioned, with healthy meals, the right toys, two parents.”
She believed this, despite the fact that millions of children live happy lives every day with less. She speaks of children deserving so much. Yes, they do, and what they deserve most is to live. Life is more important than the right toys, the right food, or even two parents. Emily didn’t believe that.
So she aborted her baby. This, I believe, is often the motivation of many women who kill their children. They believe the life they’d always envisioned for their children—and for themselves—won’t be realized, so they choose to abort.
I Feel Your Pain
I understand this so well because I have been in this exact same situation. I wrote about my own journey, and I would ask you to please read it. It’s the back story to the one I’m about to tell, and it stands in stark contrast to the one Emily told. I don’t say that proudly. I say that simply because it’s true. I chose a different path. I can’t explain why—only that God’s grace gave me hope. For that, I give him glory, not myself. And that same grace can be given to everyone, even those who have aborted their children and still feel that pain. There is healing for the brokenhearted.
In 1999, I went to an abortion clinic to kill my daughter.
I sat in the hot car smelling old French fries. There were always some under the seat where the kids spilled them, but the kids were gone now. I didn’t know where. I looked through the grimy windshield at the building in front of me and read the words on the door over and over again: Planned Parenthood.
Sweat was running down the back of my neck, but I didn’t turn on the air conditioner. I wanted to feel the heat. I wanted the distraction from the pain. My hand strayed to my stomach. I was more than two months pregnant. Still time to kill the baby. And killing was what it was. No one could tell me otherwise. I’d had two children. I’d lost two others. I knew what it was like to feel a child grow inside of me. The little twitches of life, the turning of an elbow or a knee as it rolled across my stomach, the flutter of faint hiccups.
Because of my own choices, my life had unraveled. Just like Emily, but for different reasons, I, too, looked back at this period of my life as a nightmare. I thought aborting the baby would be best for myself, for my children, for the baby. “But my baby would be dead.” That’s what I knew as I sat in my car that day in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood, and I couldn’t escape it.
While I rationalized that killing my baby would be best for everyone, her included, I knew it was really about me, my disappointments, my feelings, my life that would suddenly be so hard. Like Emily, I looked to a future of exhaustion and brokenness. I didn’t want that.
But could I sacrifice my child on the altar of my own selfishness? I was concerned about the quality of my children’s lives, but really—when I was honest with myself—it was about the quality of my life, my expectations, my desires, my hopes, my dreams. I didn’t want to wade through a life of poverty, hardship, and dependence, not for myself, not for my children. That’s not the life I had planned, and I didn’t want to live it.
Death Solves Nothing
So there I sat, planning to kill my child to “save” her and me—and everyone—from a life of misery.
The car was like a furnace, and I looked at the door to Planned Parenthood through the haze of heat on the hood. The smell of stale fries brought back memories of my children laughing, of days when everything was good. Maybe not perfect. But good. It could be that way again. Just step out of the car, keep the appointment, lie down on the table, close my eyes, spread my legs, and let them cut out my mistake.
But I couldn’t do it.
I didn’t kill my daughter. I’m ashamed that I wanted to—even for a moment. In the end, though, I couldn’t do it. Her blood would not be spilled to make my life easier, no matter how right my motivations might have been when it came to my family.
Choosing life changed my world forever. It was never the same, and it has been difficult as I’ve struggled to navigate the waters of a broken life. Women who abort their children do it because they say they want a better life. But it’s not a better life they want—it’s an easier one. It’s a life without outward struggle, without the consequences of choices already made. It is easier. But it’s not better. It’s never better. Death is never better.
If I had chosen to abort my baby, I would have chosen death. Blood spilled to wash away my sins. Another’s life taken so I could have mine, so I could be free of the consequences of my choice to have sex. But the blood of a child can never fix what is broken. That sacrifice is a lie.
As I drove away from the abortion clinic that day, I began a new journey, a difficult journey of single motherhood, poverty, then the struggles and trials of remarriage.
Alone, Impoverished, and Pregnant
Once I decided to keep my baby, I eventually left Asheville after getting joint custody of my other two children. I packed up our things, left my newly built house in Asheville, and moved to Charlotte. It was early spring when I drove east along I-40. My two children sat in the backseat. My gentle son was grasping his polar bear that he’d had since he was a baby. My red-headed daughter was sleeping with her arms wrapped around her stuffed Pikachu. They were confused about why we were moving, but I told them not to worry. Everything would be all right. Parents say that a lot, don’t they? They have no idea if it’s true, but they say it anyway. They have to—and they do everything they can to keep the promise.
My parents helped a little with money, my former husband paid some child support, and the father of my unborn baby helped when he could. But it wasn’t enough. I was alone in a strange city. I couldn’t even get remarried, because in North Carolina, you have to be separated for a year to get a divorce. The future was unknown. Would I always be single? How was I going to raise three children alone? Would I ever have the career I’d trained for? Was my life destined to be one of isolation and drudgery? Unhappiness and fear filled me, and I knew it was my fault, my responsibility. But realizing that fact didn’t change the reality of the struggle. I was grasping for hope, for some ray of sunlight in the darkness, but I saw only shadows.
I went to social services to get help, but the Clinton welfare reform laws were still in place. They told me the state would help with the delivery of the baby, if I needed it, but they couldn’t give me food stamps or other welfare benefits. I was able-bodied. I could work.
I left the office distraught. What would I do? How was I going to get through the next year or two? Who would care for my children after I delivered the baby? But, more than the money, I was so alone. The father of my baby was nearby, but I didn’t know what our future held. I could feel my emotions, my mind, breaking apart. I had never been so isolated. So emotionally unstable. So afraid.
I moved into a small apartment that smelled of mold. Pill bugs infested the place. In the mornings, I’d wake up to find them covering the carpet in the living room. I’d have to vacuum them every day so the kids wouldn’t get into them. So often, my children would ask why mommy and daddy weren’t together. I never had a good answer, only reassurances that they were loved, and daddy would see them soon. “Everything would be all right. I promise.”
I remember sitting on the floor of my apartment one night, the baby keeping me awake with rolling back and forth. Bars of light from the street lamp outside my window pressed through the blinds onto the floor. My little prison. A cage I had built for myself. I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t stop the tears. I was feeling sorry for myself, giving in to despair.
I Needed Love More than Money
The next day, I went to a local church and asked for help. They gave it to me, no judgment, no condemnation. Only love. I sat in the pastor’s office and wept uncontrollably as I told him my story. He said it didn’t matter. God’s grace is sufficient. They would help me get through the next year or so until I was on my feet. They gave me counseling and accepted my daughter into their preschool so she could make friends. The women at the church took me under their wing, giving me clothes for my baby when she was born and encouraging me when I felt overwhelmed.
If the government had given me welfare, I doubt if I would have gone to the church for help. And if I hadn’t, I would never have benefited from their love and grace—and that’s what I needed most. I needed physical help, but I desperately needed spiritual, emotional help. And they were there for me. Loving me, supporting me, encouraging me, and counseling me. They saved me. They made those hard days of single motherhood bearable.
My daughter arrived in May. Her father was with us, giving love and support. His presence an undeniable strength. She came into this world perfectly formed with a head full of dark hair. When the nurse put her to my breast, I looked down at her beautiful, perfect face—her red little lips that curved up at the corners, her skin smooth and pink, her dark-grayish eyes that blinked to open, seeing the wonder of the world for the first time, seeing me, her mother. I was in love, and the tears that fell were tears of joy.
Life Means Hope
After a time of single motherhood, I eventually married my baby’s father, and we began a new life together. A hard one, but good. Divorce is difficult on everyone, but we did the best we could through it, loving one another, forgiving one another, bearing each other’s burdens. There have been scars, no doubt. It’s not the picture-perfect life I’d imagined. But life isn’t always perfect. But a life with love makes the imperfect beautiful.
My daughter is now 15. She’s a tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty with an artist’s soul. She has a talent for writing and drawing that leaves the rest of the family stunned. Mostly, she is a kind-hearted, sensitive young lady who has given our family such joy. When she was just two weeks old, she laughed for the first time. We thought it was gas, but then I realized she was actually laughing. I couldn’t believe it, and I considered her happiness a gift. All through her growing-up years, she’d dance and laugh and bring smiles to all of us, soothing our pain and drying our eyes. She has lived and loved according to the name we gave her: Grace.
To any woman who thinks death is the best choice so that life can be better, please know this isn’t true. Death is never best. Death is darkness. Death is the end. Death is hopelessness. Life is full of possibilities. Life offers hope. Life fosters love.
Does this mean it will be easy? No, it’s not easy. I can promise you that. Your life will never be the same again. The journey will be long and sometimes difficult, but if it is traveled with love, it will be a journey of hope and, yes, happiness.
Death is the end. There is no hope in death. There are no smiles at the end of the road, no arms to wrap around you, no words from your child that speak of love.
This morning, I woke up to flowers—lilies to celebrate Mother’s Day. Their sweet scent filled our home. My daughter walked into the room where I sat reading my Mother’s Day note. Her eyes lit up when she saw me. “I love you, Mommy.” She kissed me and held me as I wept, once again. “I love you, too, Grace. Always.”
Death speaks no words of love. There is only silence. Life sings of grace. And it is truly amazing.
Clarification: Planned Parenthood was affiliated with the abortion clinic but did not run it.