26 years ago this fall, I had an abortion without anesthesia. I was 19 years old and it was the most physically painful and emotionally destructive day of my entire life.

It was the day I lost the only child I would ever carry, and it was my fault. It was my responsibility to acknowledge and protect my child and I, in my fear and insecurity, failed to do so. There is not a day that goes by it does not cross my mind. Healing is possible, but you do not get over it. It becomes a part of you, and despite the passage of time and your dedication to minding the wound, you cannot help but wonder how things might have turned out differently.

What if you had not been afraid to ask for help or tell your loved ones you didn’t know what to do? What if someone would have warned you about the damaging effects it would have on your psyche or how you might later suffer from depression or the feeling of unworthiness? What if you had been taught life is a precious gift and abundance is as abundance does? What if you listened to God’s still, small voice whispering into your heart, “Do not be afraid, I am with you?”

I so often daydream in fleeting moments about a different outcome. I wonder about who my boy or girl would have grown up to be. In my mind’s eye I see myself, all alone, walking into the dimly lit waiting room, the dark wood paneling and one too many chairs crowding the small space adding to the feeling it is the last place on earth any woman should be.

In my dream, I realize the enormity of my situation, the value of the life growing inside me, and the importance of protecting my human dignity and self-worth. I am brave enough in that moment to turn around — and I run. I never speak to the receptionist, and I never agree to have an abortion without anesthesia because I do not have a friend with me to give me a ride home.

I am protected from seeing the inside of the procedure room, and the humiliation of undressing and lying down on the cold examination table, only to place my feet into the stirrups and wait for a doctor I have never met before. This doctor never previously consulted with me or offered me alternatives to abortion which would protect my health and mental wellness from the long-term physical and emotional consequences of an abortion.

I am never embarrassed by what I perceive to be the judgmental glances of the doctor’s staff, or shamed by my own thoughts of what my deceased father would think of me if he could see me lying there in such a demoralized state.

When the hum of the machine in the corner begins, I am not racked with unimaginable pain, breaking into a cold sweat, and teetering on the edge of consciousness wondering how I got myself into such a horrific situation. It does not cross my mind I have forever destroyed the vision of who God created me to be, and I will never again be the person I once was. Instead, in my dream, I am still whole and my life is full of promise.

I never have to relive the memory of lying there, all alone, curled up in the fetal position crying, pleading for forgiveness, wide awake to every screaming nerve in my body. I do not have to hide my dark secret from my family or pretend I am pro-abortion for the sake of my fair-weather friends. No, in my daydream, even 26 years later, there is only love and a beautiful son or daughter my family and friends helped me to raise who is preparing to go off to graduate school or have a child of their own.

I had a very difficult childhood and I had experienced tremendous loss prior to my abortion, certainly more than most to be sure. Despite this, when I learned I was pregnant, I only created more loss. I never considered God sent me a baby because I needed a miracle which would bring more love into my life.

At 19 years old, I was far from mature and in no way did I carefully consider or weigh all the available options for myself and my child. My grief and the perception of scarcity I felt all around me definitely overshadowed my sense of what was possible. I needed help. I was in crisis and I failed to trust the community around me for support.

The short-sightedness I experienced at 19, my feelings of despair and abandonment given my previous circumstances, could befall any woman at any age if they alone believe they have no other options. There is nothing I can do now to change my past, but I can continue to learn from it and help change the lives of women and their children in the future.

I can share my story with others in hopes my speaking out will save the lives of other preborn children and protect the health and wellness of all women. I can choose hope and possibility.

Ten years ago, when I finally broke my silence and shared my broken heart with my mother, I found out she had a secret too. My mother had an unplanned pregnancy in college prior to meeting my father. The stigma of being an unwed mother was so great at the time she hid her pregnancy under A-line dresses and coats for 6 months.

Her pregnancy was only revealed to her parents when she was injured in a significant car accident. She gave my sister up for adoption upon her birth and never spoke of her again to anyone in our family before the moment of my confession. In speaking my painful truth, I found out I had a sister, set another woman’s healing in motion, and ended a legacy of lies and deception. Yet another miracle I never saw coming.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.

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J. C. Beichner is a post-abortive mother, pro-every life advocate and author of the award-winning book, Grace in Progress: Prayers for the Beautifully Broken.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.