I Can’t Do This
In 1947, I was born to a Mississippi missionary and his young, beautiful wife he’d met and married in El Salvador. There were seven of us children in the family, and I was the fifth one. The life of our parents was one of compassion and giving. They strove to provide for us while bringing God’s Word to Central America.
I remember our innocence as if it were yesterday. Being one of the many children in the house, I found my place and flourished in my role as an impetuous middle child and a rebel in my own cause.
When I was 13 years old, we moved to the United States as my father’s missionary work, in both El Salvador and Guatemala, had come to an end. We made our new home in a college town in Texas. Spanish was still the only language I truly knew. I believe my younger siblings had a leg up in our new world, being acclimated so young. Either way, it wasn’t long before we all (save my mother) spoke English fluently. We had such a great time in this town! It was a frequent destination spot for people who travelled the US, as it still features a river “tubing” experience of drifting through a mild river enjoying the sun, fun, laziness, and indigenous wildlife.
I enjoyed high school in Texas. There were pep rallies and football, done in the way only Texas does. I’d been raised knowing what was expected of me as a young lady of the south and a daughter of my missionary father, and not to mention, a child of God.
When I was 20, two years into college, I met a man who was several years older than me and worked at the establishment next door. For the first and only time, I thought I’d found a man I loved. I believed he loved me back. He was tall, dark and gorgeous. I fell foolishly for his charms. Many girls were interested in him, but it seemed like he only had eyes for me. He was Mr. Suave and treated me like a goddess.
He’d promised the undying love and commitment I believed I longed for. I embraced the fire of his love like a preverbal moth. I’d had boyfriends before, but never had I fallen so deeply in love. I gave myself to him. I was almost simultaneously filled with shame and regret as the intimacy was against my faith.
A few short weeks later, I realized my fate. I was pregnant! Scared, I shared my condition with my boyfriend. Yet, he instantly accused me of sleeping around and said, “You’re not going to try to pin this on me, are you?!” Perhaps he simply wasn’t ready for the responsibility of fatherhood and pushed me away harshly to ensure that I wouldn’t get any hopes of marriage or a happily-ever-after. I was shocked and heartbroken, but knew my heart was the least of my worries now.
I entrusted two of my sisters with the delicate news, hoping for their support. One of them immediately insisted that I get an abortion. She wanted to spare our family of the shame of having a pregnant unwed daughter/sister, and they knew all the hardships that would befall me as a single mother.
I had a friend who had gotten an abortion before and knew how to get me in with a doctor that performed them from his home on the sly. She assured me that it was the right thing to do. Between their strong influence and the fear in me of telling my mother and breaking her heart, I agreed, and the appointment was set.
I knew an abortion meant ending the life that had begun in my womb, but I rationalized my way around that fact. I knew doing this could spare my mother the pain I knew she’d have to endure if I carried my child to term.
I don’t recall my every thought as we made our way to the doctor’s home, but my mind raced. I went with my friend to the back door of his house. As she knocked on the door, a wave of fear, knowledge, love and sudden bravery welled in me. Before I knew it, I said, “I can’t do this. I’m sorry.” And I ran.
I knew I was getting my friend into a sizable amount of trouble because she’d assured the doctor she’d keep his illegal side-business in confidence and only tell women she was positive would go through with the procedure. I’m sure she got an earful from him. But my decision was made. At that moment, I knew, firmly, that I loved my child.
Around the time when I found out I was pregnant, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was only 54 years old. He was a slender man without unhealthy habits. It was a complete shock. While we were all still grieving, I met with my most pressing fear. My older sister who’d insisted I get an abortion told my mother, in the cruelest fashion, about my pregnancy on my mother’s birthday, and whether it was her intention or not, hurt as many people as she could with one blow that day.
At the time, I was walking down the stairs with a birthday gift in my hand and a smile on my face. I was the only daughter working and was proud to spend some money on my mom. My mother noticed me coming down with her gift and said, “You’ve already given me your gift.” My heart sank in despair. My shame was palpable.
I finished my second year of college before I began to really show. My mother had no idea how to deal with my situation, especially during such a trying time.
Home life was tense, so I decided to move away to spare my immediate family the pain and the struggle. I planned to put off getting my degree to focus on earning enough to support my unborn child and myself. I went to live with my two aunts in San Francisco. There, I did what was necessary to make it work for our life. I found a teaching hospital and signed up to be a guinea pig. Imagine a dozen plus people standing around watching as a doctor pointed out and explained to them what he was doing while your legs were in stirrups! It was strange, but it had to be done for the sake of my baby. I wasn’t going to be able to afford the care otherwise. Signing up got me the low price of $300 for the entire prenatal care and delivery.
I felt my first labor pain in the middle of the night. It wasn’t so excruciating that I panicked. It was more like a strong menstrual cramp. I got up, called a cab, and called the hospital. The woman on the phone asked how far apart my contractions were. I replied that I’d only had one. She laughed and said, “Oh, honey, you don’t need to come in yet.” I told her a cab was on the way and she continued, “Well, if you’re not dilated enough, we’re just going to send you home.”
By the time the cab was pulling up to the hospital, I was already feeling the urge to push. They examined me and determined I was fully dilated and had to skip some of the pre-birth prep work. It was less than one hour from my first contraction to his delivery! When the doctors placed my son in my arms, my heart fluttered, and I felt unconditional love for him. With all the tenderness a mother can have, I looked at this little creature who’d been created in me. He was beautiful. Holding my son reaffirmed my choice to run the day of the scheduled abortion.
With the grace of God and the help provided by my aunts, I landed a job in social work after my son was born. The position was advertised for bilingual applicants who could interpret Spanish to English. I remained in this field for the rest of my career.
A few years later, my mother, one of my sisters and her husband joined me in San Francisco. My mother had a somewhat limited relationship with my son as she never learned to speak English, but she loved him dearly. She cuddled, kissed and treasured him. She was near him as often as possible.
I wanted a father for my boy, and a husband for myself, so I found love again and got married. We had three more children and lived in Redwood City for seven years before moving to Washington. We raised our four children in a small town as I worked for the state and my husband, for the government. We made a comfortable living and enjoyed a close relationship with our church family. My son joined the army at 18 and used the GI Bill to get his degree when he got out of the military.
Today, my handsome boy is 49 years old, successful, happily married and a wonderful father to my two beloved granddaughters. I couldn’t be happier about the choice I made that many years ago. Every time I think of how close I was to getting rid of him, deep regret creeps into my heart. No, “I can’t do this.”
This story was told to us anonymously by a woman who almost got an abortion feeling ashamed of her premarital pregnancy in the 1960s. On the day of the procedure, she changed her mind. Today she feels grateful for the decision she made. She never reconnected with her son’s father. Her son found him on his own in his 20’s, but he turned out to be a total disappointment. Nevertheless, she and her son are peaceful in their world without him.
She has found her own experience useful when volunteering with Crisis Pregnancy Center as she counselled young women seeking a loving option. She is currently enjoying retirement and her grandchildren from a small island in Washington. She loves to read and spend time in devotionals with The Lord. She is in the choir at her church where she also teaches Sunday School. She gives to many charities she believes in and enjoys volunteering by leading a Bible study at a nearby jail.
Life Log #88
This story first touched our hearts on May 23, 2018.