Death of a Secret
My name is Ellen Egge and I am very honored and blessed to share with you this evening my personal abortion experience including the gratitude I feel toward Project Rachel and the healing I am experiencing as a result of God's forgiveness of me and my forgiveness of myself.
I was raised in a strict Catholic family. My mother was a schoolteacher at our parish school. In fact, she was my schoolteacher in the 4th and 6th grades. Often throughout my school years, she would comment how helpful it had been for her that I had been in her classrooms as she had first hand knowledge that I was just not as smart as other students and so she just wouldn't expect as much from me.
With my Mother's stature in our parish community, my family had an image to maintain. Throughout my childhood and adulthood I felt the expectation that our family, me, had to be a model Catholic.
The God I grew up knowing was a God of fear not a God of love and I did fear Him, my Mother and most every aspect of my life.
The underlying message I learned while growing up was that I had better find a man to take care of me because I certainly wasn't going to be able to do it on my own.
I started working immediately after graduating from high school. My journey to prove to everyone that I could and would succeed at life had begun. I was quiet, shy and impressionable either ducking from friends and events out of fear or giving into the peer pressure. Within a short time I found myself associating and partying with people I did not have anything in common with and hardly knew. I stopped attending Mass. I was free from the watchful eye of my parents. Work was going well. People liked me. I could be successful! I was in charge of my destiny! But there was a huge void in my life. I did not have love, acceptance, security and certainly not a meaningful relationship with God.
It was during this time in my life that I had not one but two abortions. That was over thirty years ago. Both abortions I experienced alone. I was sleep walking through my life. Numb. Confused. Fearful. Petrified. What would my mother think? How could she, my family, friends or God love and respect me? I had failed! I just put one foot in front of the other. Don't think. Just act. The first abortion I found myself in a sterile, white, cold, mini-operating room looking into the faces of strangers but they were not looking back at me. I was shaking, chilled when the machine was turned on and quickly without any concern for life my baby was sucked from my body. I left the office as I had arrived, filled with guilt and shame. But there was something else much worse: regret and despair. I had just taken the life of a defenseless child. My child. I could not even begin to ask God for His mercy. I was alone, spiraling into darkness, my own personal hell.
My second abortion was at the hands of a very sympathetic doctor, sympathetic while performing the abortion. I believe he thought he was doing the best thing for me. We had both bought into the lie, the lie of choice. The lie that a woman has the right to choose whether her child will live or die. I was drained. Void of all thought and feeling. Extremely depressed. I isolated myself from the world.
For thirty years I buried these secrets deep within myself safe-guarding them from family, friends and me. I have spent a lifetime in denial. Although I attended Mass throughout the years, I spent much of my life estranged from God and my church. How would people and the church judge me if they knew?
Several years ago, as a result of a devastating marital crisis, I again found myself alone in utter despair and darkness. I was terrified, angry and resentful, paralyzed by confusion and that old familiar fear. I needed help. I needed God's help.
I began to pray. I bought books of prayer and highlighted those that resonated in my heart. I said the rosary, novenas and read the Bible. Ever so slowly the panic and fear lessened. I had moments of clarity and insight. The sermons at Mass spoke to my heart. How did Father know? I felt God's grace and forgiveness. It was during this time with the help of a therapist I was able to safely explore my past behavior and the resulting consequences. The darkness gave way to light. The enormity of these very grave sins was exposed. The horrible secrets were acknowledged. God's forgiveness had led me to this moment. I risked reconciliation. My God and my church forgave me.
Shortly thereafter I attended a Project Rachel retreat. Attending the retreat has been the most powerful, meaningful, most holy experience of my life. The women and priests facilitating were warm, loving, caring, Christ-like people. The warmth and safety of God's love and forgiveness was ever present. During the retreat, I felt such relief and gratitude when I realized, because of God's love for me, Jesus had kept my children safely with Him in heaven while waiting for me to claim them as mine and offer them to God out of joy and love rather than fear and abandonment. And I did just that. For the very first time in my life I allowed myself to grieve the loss of my children.
Also as a result of the retreat, I was able to forgive my mother and myself. Shortly after the retreat, I met a woman within the parish community of my childhood who had known my mother. This woman told me that whenever there had been an opportunity to offer a petition for prayer, my mother would pray that all women having had an abortion would seek forgiveness in order that they be spared a life of suffering as she was sure that would be the price one paid. Little did that woman know when she shared this story with me, nor did my mother know when she would offer that petition, that I was one of those women. I am sure that my mother's prayers contributed to my healing. My mother passed away ten years ago and I am comforted in knowing she was united with grandchildren she did not know she had.
I believe the weight and denial of my abortions has been at the root of life long anguish. I have had two failed marriages, worked in many unhealthy environments surrounded by addiction and abuse and nearly died from unexplained kidney failure. During my first marriage, my first pregnancy ended with a pre-mature delivery at seven months. I delivered my daughter at home without medical assistance. She did not survive the emergency response team's efforts to save her. I was filled with immeasurable grief, guilt and shame as I buried my little angel. I knew that I had not deserved her and that God was punishing me for taking the lives of my two other children.
For thirty years the tide of denial had washed over me. Now I am free. I choose to no longer suffer. I have stepped from the darkness of sin into the light of Christ. I am no longer living in chaos and despair but in serenity and joy. And because of God's grace and blessings, I am able to unconditionally love and fully participate in the lives of my two living sons.
I pray that by sharing my story, one woman or one man may seek healing sooner rather than later or not at all. I also pray that by sharing my story, one woman will not only choose the life of her child but her own. Our grieving must not stop at the lost children. We must grieve and pray for the mothers who, I feel, have condemned their own souls to a lifetime of suffering. She may be the real tragedy for her soul will surely die with her child that day but she will not be buried for years to come. Abortion sells our soul to the devil. And what a price we pay. Only through God's forgiveness, love and mercy can we break the bond of darkness.
Please embrace those suffering from the consequences of abortion with compassion. Please join me, and my mother before me, in praying for the pregnant, scared mother, and the confused, frightened father that they will have the courage to choose life for their child and themselves.
God bless you.
As a postscript, my father recently passed away. I had been able to share my experiences with him. He confided that for years he too had been saying a prayer every Sunday for abortion healing, and, like my mother, did not know I was one of those women. Now he is enjoying eternal peace and salvation, reunited with those who have gone before him including his grandchildren.
Related Links of Interest:
Project Rachel/Rachelís Vineyard
Lyrics to Rachel by Allison Kelly