May 11 2011
120

Her eyes were swollen. Sleepless nights for a week, and yet, here she was anyway. Hand grasping the handle of her car door, willing herself to open it. Convincing herself not to open it.
 

It was all so… what? Unexpected? No. She knew it was a possibility from the very moment she kissed him that night. She had smiled into his meltingly dark eyes and knew what would happen next. She knew, she knew, she knew.

The weeks were a blur and she had ignored the storm in the pit of her stomach and waited until that moment when reality became unavoidable. And there it was. The second line on the stick. She forgot how to breathe.
 

She was a stone. To feel was to despair and so she decided she simply… wouldn’t. But she woke to a damp pillow every morning that week.

The house was quiet. It usually is when one lives alone.
 

Motions. She went through the motions. There was work and church and music practice and herding a group of small children through the mid-week Bible club. She held a microphone on Sunday morning and sang words she couldn’t remember. Her eyes scanned the smiling crowd and the thoughts she couldn’t even begin to think grew, and grew, and grew.

So did the tiny one nestled deep inside of her.
 

Another hour, another day, another week. She swallowed hard and made it through another early morning service. She had even pasted a smile across her face.

But then she heard them.

They were talking about another her, another girl they all remembered. Everyone knew what had happened. She had moved away and now had a baby but no ring.

The voices hissed and amused disgust dripped from their lips, landing thud thud thud on the Bibles tucked under their arms.

She turned quickly and her purse knocked a stack of fliers from a low table. She bent to gather them. New Hope Pregnancy Center – Adoption, not Abortion. Choose Life.

She heard their words, sotto voce, following her out the door. “I just never thought it would happen to her, you know? She came from such a good family.

***

Her car door slammed, too hard, behind her. Her knuckles turned white around the strap of her purse. Her feet refused to obey the command to walk.

She fixed her eyes on the sign over the office door and let the letters bore deep into her mind.
 

She knew what they’d have said, those women, if she had asked them. She could picture their shock, but they’d tell her not to come here, that it would all work out, keep the baby, adoption was the way, that she had better options. They’d hold her hand for as long as it took them to pray for her and then they’d walk away. They’d glance back and remind her to consider the options and then they’d go find their seats.

Options.

Who, really, would want a baby from the church girl? Who did she know who had actually welcomed a baby from another mother’s arms?

What would it mean to walk into that building on a bright morning and show these people, the ones who thought they knew her, a rounding tummy? Would conversation halt and eyes turn away at her shame?

How would she feed and clothe and care for someone so small and helpless? The unwed mother, the outcast. She’d be that one, spoken of in hushed tones, the one causing the shaking heads and cloudy eyes.

Saint to sinner in the blink of an eye.

She’d be alone.

Options.

No, she didn’t have options. She didn’t have choices.
 

Ten steps and she was pulling open the cold, heavy glass door.

There was no other choice.
 

She stood inside the door and rested a hand lightly on her stomach.

She closed her eyes and mouthed the words silently.

I’m sorry.
 

The church girl wouldn’t be having a baby.
 

120 comments

  1. May we learn to embrace more than disapprove …. to extend the hand of kindness with compassion, grace and understanding. May we look to the One who wrote in the sand ….. and to Him who delivered no shame. For perhaps then we can see not what has been lost, but what still remains ….the meeting at heavens gates, the wandering of heavens halls ….life in the light of eternity.

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    • Beautifully stated. Thank you, thank you.

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  2. this is beautiful. i know this story all too well.

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  3. maybe beautiful isn’t the best word….beautifully written…beautiful portrayal of truth.
    it speaks volumes.

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    • I knew what you meant, friend. Thank you for understanding, feeling, pondering with us…

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  4. When I interact with a woman who has had an abortion, as a Christian, it is important that I react in love and compassion and this is no different. It would, however be a waste of a powerful and painful experience for any of us to see situations for what they are and learn from them so that we are all better prepared to live our Christian walk. To me, the above essay (be it fictional or biographical, I have no idea) illustrates powerfully how we – especially at times of crisis or indecision – can be deceived.

    Evil does its best to trick us into believing things that simply aren’t true then influences us to act on them. As maturing Christians we need to be keenly aware of them or were all liable to stumble and fall…and it has happened to the first and the best…from Adam and Eve, to Peter and Augustine to modern day…we’re ALL easy prey for this.

    Im very scared after reading this that our inclinations to just be loving and supportive will scare us away from the important but tough task of recognizing the deception.

    The hissing voices and disgust from fellow churchgoers…as in fellow sinners? People in this group have HAD sex…perhaps even inappropriate sex and if they choose to react with judgmental harshness then it is their sin…we cant make major life decisions in reaction to someone else’s weaknesses.

    There are 6 (count em SIX) homes for women in crisis pregnancies in my little city, they come from all over to live here in safety and acceptance. The internet/ newspapers are awash with couples begging to adopt…telling ones self that there is no home for a baby is simply a deception. The idea that there are no options is simply a deception.

    It is good for us to see what lies young women fall prey to so that we (as aging and maturing Christian women) know better what kind of environment we need to make our home churches into. Our Church (a conservative Catholic Church on the edge of the Bible Belt) has had so many out of wedlock parents (including my son) that I cant count them all. We have chosen to make life a higher priority than fake-pefection. Its not always easy either, a VERY conservative woman was so mortified over her daughters out-of-wedlock birth that she didnt go to the hospital…I made sure the little guy had warm clothes to go home in.

    There are moments of such Grace…when I sheepishly told the Deacons wife that my son (a Chastity speaker and head of Chastity Outreach at a very conservative school) was expecting a baby, she said “you will have to do worse than that to scandalize me” and congratulated me on being a grandmother.

    And while were being real here, Im just gonna put this out there. I spent yesterday from 3-430 meeting with a young, poor, unemployed, unmarried handicapped woman explaining in the detail she needed why her daughter would surely die at birth and nothing she can do now will fix it. She gets to choose between having her child die peacefully in her arms or demanding aggressive neonatal intervention which will take her child from her arms, cause pain and likely not increase her child’s chance at survival. THAT is what “no options” looks like and some people live it.

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    • Jamie

      I really liked reading this. because I am aware of my own whispering that I do in my head, and I am driven to beg God for repentance in this area–

      to Tammy, you made my eyes well up, because of what the young woman you spoke to is going through… I too had news to tell me that I was going to lose my first baby girl– in like manner to this young mom, I had to make a “choice” of keeping the pregnancy and holding Grace in my arms as she died, or to do (to me) the unspeakable— we chose the first… and while it will go down as one of the hardest days of my life, the Lord grew me from that moment, and here I am 4 years later reveling in having been used to further His good message…but had we gone ahead with the latter, no one would have witnessed God’s strength and power in our lives… This IS the kind of support that is necessary for all Christian’s on the path.. we should never be so haughty to act ask if we have it all “put together”. When a child is knit together in a mother’s womb, whether she likes it or not, God the Father has ordained that life to be— we should think nothing less! and by His Amighty grace He *does* have a plan.. even if that plan is short-lived (like my daughter) or a life lived with a family that accepted the child from outside of their own family– He’s got it covered, we ought to glorify and honor Him by seeing it as such.

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      • Jamie…bless you and your dear daughter, Im endlessly amazed at the transformations that occur when parents are called to experience such a sacrificial version of parenting…it often causes amazing growth…Im honored to be a part of thier journey. This model of care is called Perinatal Hospice but its not widely available…go to Perinatalhospice.org for info. The effect that these babies have on the world does not end when they die…it keeps going and going.

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    • Thank you for your thoughts, Tammy – I completely agree. While this isn’t my own personal story, a friend whose own story inspired this one told me again just yesterday that while, yes, these were similar to her own thoughts, she knew the “reasons” weren’t an excuse. Deception is so, so powerful.

      I was simply hoping to bring to light the fact that as Christians, we can often be personally “pro-life” for the two minutes it takes to tell a girl to keep her baby, or for the time it takes to picket an abortion clinic. But what are Christians, as a whole, actually *doing* to help? Are we making it nearly impossible for our girls to face life with a baby, especially our “respectable church girls?” And, as you pointed out, some of us may need to take a peek at our own hypocrisy when we’re shunning women because they’re the ones who got caught… when it could have just as easily been us.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you and your church do for unwed mothers. I think, on average, Catholic churches tend to put their pro-life stance to action more than some other Christians… sadly, many, many people and churches are far more concerned with that false perfection. We would all do well to take a lesson from you.

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      • Lynn

        The whispering and gossip and criticism seem to be some of those good ‘Christian’ sins we church people like to indulge in, don’t they? However, a Christian who truly wants to do the right thing might come away from your story with a false sense of guilt. While gossip and criticism are NEVER ok, and God has not given us the responsibility of judging others, it would be ridiculous to blame ourselves for the agony an unwed mother goes through, and the choices she might make.

        The story you shared speaks of people who would “hold her hand for as longs as it takes to pray with her, and then walk away” as if it is the Church’s fault that they cannot be there for the girl, through her pregnancy and the rearing of her child. As if it is their fault that she has no emotional support, no sufficient income for raising the baby, and that she feels so alone. The truth is, by her own choice, she has placed herself in a very difficult position, and no one can make that significantly easier for her, except the Lord. No one can take the supportive place that a husband would have taken, had he been in the picture, very few people could provide the financial support she might have had if there had been two parents instead of just one. And no one (except our merciful, ever-loving Lord) can wipe away the guilt she will feel because she knows she has done the wrong thing.

        Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not casting judgement on unwed mothers. Undoubtedly, they have a difficult road to walk, and those who choose to keep their baby are heroes. Surely, gossip and criticizm are just as wicked in God’s eyes as an immoral relationship. When it comes to sin, He sees no difference; we are all on level ground, so who are we to judge someone else? However, we cannot blame ourselves if it is, as you said, “nearly impossible for our girls to face life with a baby”. It is nearly impossible (although, praise God! with Him all things are possible, even those humanly-impossible ones!). God never intended for a woman to raise a child by herself. And while we should reach out to those in that situation, it has to be with the knowledge that there is only so much we can do to help. In the end, each of us will be forced to live with the consequences of our decisions, both good and bad. Any girl who has a physical relationship with a guy outside of marriage faces the possibility of being a single mother, just like anyone who indulges in juicy gossip faces the possibility of being the subject of that gossip someday, and proud people face the possibility of a humbling fall. It’s life. And sometimes, it’s hard, and there isn’t anything we can do to change it.

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        • Kristi

          From someone who became pregnant before I was married… Yes, I knew better and no, it was no one’s fault but mine. However, I quickly found out who my real friends in the church and community were. Until you have experienced the unforgiveness, you cannot fathom how it feels. I know my sin was wrong, but I also know God’s grace was sufficient to forgive me when I truly came to Him and asked for forgiveness. That any of us who have sinned and been forgiven could then withhold that same gift from someone else is unimaginable. It has taken me quite sometime to be able to forgive those who could not forgive me, but I have reached that point. I would challenge you to dig deep and to simply be available. The needs for women in these positions go far beyond the physical. If you asked and really listened, I am sure you would be amazed at what they might “need”.

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          • Lynn

            Very true. In reality, it is not our job as humans to ‘forgive’ someone for their sins. Hello??? Unless, of course, those sins were committed directly against us, but normally that is not the case. You had to forgive people for their mean spirit toward you, which was a direct offense against you. The fact that they thought could give or withhold forgiveness from YOU, when you had done nothing to directly offend them, is ridiculous – ‘unfathomable’, as you said. Sadly, it is also an easy attitude to fall into.

            In my first comment I was not advocating an unforgiving attitude. I was merely concerned that the article made premarital sex and abortion seem ‘ok’ and like an ‘accident’, a trick of fate, or perhaps a set of circumstances that ‘forced’ the girl to do wrong. Biblically speaking, none of that is true. Also, no matter how gracious and loving Church people may be, they cannot possibly remove some of the consequences of that young lady’s actions, no matter how much they may want to. No amount of love and compassion from me will replace what a godly, loving husband would have been to that girl, had she done the right thing. No amount of ‘digging deeper’, and trying to feel her pain will remove the agonizing life-long memory of what she had done. That is one of the biggest tragedies of sin. However, our loving Lord can work through the mistakes and wrong things we’ve done, and build something beautiful, where human efforts fail, so there is always hope, always redemption.

    • “The idea that there are no options is simply a deception.”

      So true.

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  5. This makes my heart sad…for so many reasons. :(

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  6. Choice isn’t always the freedom we think it is, is it? Thank you for writing compassion.

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    • This is one of the most simple and profound comment I have read.
      So true.

      And my heart aches with you, today. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    • This. Exactly this.

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    • Choice is freedom because freedom is a double edge sword, the other edge is responsibility. To truly embrace freedom, of any kind, is heart-wrenching because the responsibilities one must therefore also embrace are infinite and eternal. There are never easy answers when the questions cut so deeply into our souls.

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  7. KatR

    Thank you for sharing your story Ashleigh.

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  8. Tiffany

    So heartbreakingly sad…but the truth for so many. As a church we can tend to treat these young women as lepers with our whispering and gossip, even though the church provides a ministry for them. WE are the ones who ultimately help single pregnant women believe there is no other choice. That they don’t have options. Have the baby and be skewered by the church forever.

    That is not grace. That is not love. Thank you for writing this story.

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    • Exactly. Heck, we don’t embrace the married woman who has “too many” kids. Or the couple that needs state assistance to pay for the prenatal care. They don’t even need to be “sinners” – they can just be poor.

      When I announced my fourth pregnancy, one of the most adamantly pro-life people I know responded, “Congratulations…I guess.”

      If that’s our reaction to a person who is in a happy, stable marriage, how will that be perceived by the woman who is NOT in a marriage? When we complain about the poor who “just shouldn’t get pregnant” — how does that come across to the 20 year old who has no insurance and no way to pay for her care?

      When the people who call themselves pro-life don’t value life, how can we expect others to?

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      • I saw this as a young girl growing up around families who typically had many children. Pregnancies are welcomed as long as they’re convenient. For all involved.

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      • I hid my 4th pregnancy for 6 months because of all the flack I got for my 3rd (I had twins, so my 3rd meant 4th child). When someone guessed and caught me after church and asked when I was going to tell people, I burst into tears. I wasn’t ashamed of being pregnant, but I just didn’t want to deal with the yuckiness people can deliver.

        My 6th pregnancy was outed early by someone, can’t remember who… otherwise I don’t think I would’vet have told anyone until I was in the hospital delivering.

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    • “Have the baby and be skewered by the church forever.”

      Yes, exactly. I think many of us would be surprised (perhaps not?) to discover how many young women in our churches are choosing to deal with the pain and guilt of an abortion, privately, rather than face the end of the life they know, publicly.

      Personally, I’ve never been part of a church that has any sort of ministry or even offers basic emotional support for unwed mothers. And I’ve gone to some good churches. This absolutely breaks my heart.

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      • yes. this.

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        • Im honestly shocked by the comments that these punitive attitudes exist in our churches today…it is totally foreign to what I see around me. We do believe that a nuclear family is the best place to raise a child, but once the baby is coming, that point is moot and we move onto the next concern. I remember when I was in a Hospice nurse…a boy was dying and his mom refused to have his funeral at the local church because they shunned her when she was pregnant as a teen. I told her to come have the funeral at my church (next town over) only trouble was I didnt have time to tell the Priest I had offered his services. After the service I saw him and thanked him for not making a liar out of me. He said he was wondering what/who lead her to his church. The service was beautiful…I think that case was the only reason God lead me to work there…they treated me like crap and I had to quit right after that.

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  9. How very heartbreaking. My heart aches for that tiny little baby and that little girl who felt there were no other options. I wish I had something profound to say … I just have no idea what you’ve been through. It’s amazing though that He loves us just the way we are.

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    • Amen. While this isn’t actually my own story (sorry! perhaps I should have made that clearer?) it was inspired by people very close to me and told with their permission… hearing their own thoughts, their memories and their pain has completely wrecked me.

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  10. This story. This is why I can no longer affix the pro-life label to myself.

    Because too often we’re not pro-life. When we don’t celebrate life in non-ideal circumstances, we’re not pro-life.

    People need to know that their reactions to EVERY pregnancy matter. Especially because of the pregnancies that they don’t know about.

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    • A to the MEN. Those last two sentences pretty much sum it up.

      We ache and feel horrible when we hear of an ended pregnancy… but I can’t help but wonder if even we, the “Christian pro-lifers,” have a bit of blame in the decision?

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    • Great point, Alise. The way we react to EVERY pregnancy matters. ALL children are gifts–no matter when or where or how they arrive! I’m ALWAYS happy about new babies. Always. Always. Always.

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      • Yes, those preaching under the pro-life standard are generally only anti-abortion. When we live a genuinely pro-life value, we support ALL life–the physical life of the unborn, the physical/emotional/spiritual life of the mother (and father!), and the spiritual life of the community. I rarely see that. But I drive past anti-abortion picketers daily to take my children to school–interesting discussions provoked there.

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  11. Mae

    I know the feelings of the girl described in this story. Yet, I’m not single– I’m married. I became pregnant at a time when I already had 2 little ones and a busy life, and believed it irresponsible to have a baby just then. Even though I don’t have to deal with criticism from my church or peers (I AM married), I know the aloneness, the despair, the longing for options. I am about to give birth any day, and though I’ve been able to be excited and happy about this baby to some extent, I still have that sick, guilty, overwhelmed feeling at times. I have much more understanding for girls with unplanned pregnancies now than before.

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    • Thank you for sharing your story, Mae. The reality is always more complicated than the rhetoric would have it seem. I’m praying, right now, for peace as you anticipate holding your new baby.

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    • Mae, thank you for keeping your baby. I truly believe God honors that obedience. I became pregnant during a very difficult time of life and that baby has become the brightest sunshine in my life. Sometimes the greatest blessings come in the most unexpected ways. May God bless and keep you and your little one.

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  12. Debbie

    That could have been me but I miscarried. The Deacon’s Daughter, the Sunday School Teacher, the Pastor Search Committee member – a grown woman – living in fear of the judgement of my church. Fear enough that I considered abortion.

    What we as a church do to each other. The Lord would have held my hand and helped me through it all. I do not believe my church would have. I hope I was wrong.

    Thank you for sharing and thank you for your bravery. I wish I could give you a hug!

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    • This speaks volumes. I can’t help but think we who try to promote a false sense of perfection in our churches are somewhat to blame for “forcing” young women into considering abortion. I think, in some cases, it would be easier to be an outcast or someone already down and out and to ask for help from the church than to be part of the church and need support.

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  13. The lie “there are no options” is a strong one and I’m afraid we feed it by urging more compassion for the distraught pregnant mother while refraining from equal compassion for the innocent baby in her womb.

    Part of compassion is speaking truth and exposing the lie. It is important to feel compassion for BOTH people in this tragic story–and it is equally important to unequivocally state that abortion is NOT the only option. Choosing life is not always easy but ALL babies are gifts–no matter when or where or how they arrive. I feel a great grief for this young woman who believed she had no options because the TRUTH is: there ARE options!

    It’s a tragic commentary on the state of many churches that rejection, scorn and shunning are the first reactions instead of joy, gladness, happiness about a new, precious life! What a miraculous gift new life is!

    I will ALWAYS welcome new life no matter how “inconvenient” the timing or how difficult the circumstances. Let’s stop the cycle of scorn and embrace every new gift from God as the precious, priceless, miraculous gift it is!

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    • I absolutely agree… all life is precious and deception is strong. I have great compassion for unborn babies. I just wish the fear of judgment from the very Christians who tell girls to choose life wasn’t also so very strong. I wish girls knew they’d receive support, both emotional and physical, from their fellow church members, instead of being the newest outcast.

      I’m thankful for those, like you, who do extend grace, both to pregnant mothers in the church as well as those outside.

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  14. April

    …and there are those who have the heart and compassion of Jesus for these mamas and their babies…

    http://www.setapartgirl.com/kipling.html

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    • Made me cry. Yes, that is exactly it.

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  15. my heart aches.
    (i could have been that girl, trying to decide what to do)

    – and then, when the girl does have the baby…what then?
    i’m going to write a blog post on that soon.

    but my own sweet baby needs my attention first.

    Lord, help us to love.

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    • That’s what I was hoping to point out… the issue of what happens when the baby is coming, when it’s born. Where are the “church people” then?

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      • all too often, they are sitting and judging. it’s something i see with babies in general…but it hurts more when it’s a single mom. and that’s what my blog post is about.

        but there is hope. my church brings you food three times a week for four weeks no matter whether you were single, married, birthed the baby yourself, or adopted the baby. and i know a lady who took a couple’s adopted baby for the night so they could sleep.

        but then i have to look at myself – would *I* be willing to help that mother? would i be willing to inconvenience myself to assist someone else?

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  16. This post lands with a thud on my heart. I work with teen moms {and was one myself}. The reaction of the pastors and youth pastors of the “churched” girls that enter our program are often ghastly and cause me to be embarrassed to mention that I am a Christian too. So often our girls come into the program with huge chips on their shoulders because of the attitudes and judgment they have encountered from believers. Whatever they choose, they lose. and no one likes to acknowledge that or talk about it.

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    • KatR

      “Whatever they choose, they lose”.

      That phrase has been stuck in my head since I read it.

      The secret murderer, or the public whore.

      Those are the choices.

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      • yes. this.

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      • I hope everyone reads these two comments. This is the choice, the reason it seems so hopeless.

        I wasn’t saying, with this based-on-real-life story, that abortion IS the right option. I was simply hoping to suggest that perhaps the ones rightly saying to “choose life” need to remember the heart of the mother who is choosing. The hopelessness and loss can be crushing.

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  17. So well written and yet so painful to read. This is a sad reality for so many in this situation. Thank you fir the reminder to contend for those who may feel so isolated in unexpected pregnancies.

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  18. Thank you so much for posting this story.

    I know this story. I know feeling like you have no options. I knew I had “options” but I was so terrified of those options that I took the only way out I knew. I sent my baby to heaven.

    And thirteen years later I still live in shame and grief. I’m trying desperately to work through it but it is a very hard road.

    I hope to someday be the girl who can help. The Christian who can love. One who has been there. I hope to show girls that it is not an “easy” choice, it is not (as my ex husband stated at one point) “a step on the table and a step off – nothing more too it than that”. It hurts. Deeply. And, after living with hurt like this for so long, the “options” I was so terrified of, don’t look so terrifying after all.

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    • Tiffany, it means much that you shared this story here. You said it all, right there.

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  19. i love you, ashleigh.

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  20. I know this story all too well. I was the single 22 year-old church girl who was unwed and pregnant. i was the one from a good, godly family. the good girl who, unlike her cousins, had went to bible college and had been pure and holy. to then come home and have everyone see the “good girl” pregnant and unwed was unbearable. thankfully my parents were loving and supportive. i wish i could say my pastor was. i wish he could’ve called my baby just that–a baby and not a mistake.

    It’s so sad to me that the world –and church–sees babies the way they do. they have so many names for babies……mistakes. choices. unplanned. “another one?”, etc……

    i have never regretted keeping my baby….that baby is now almost 18 and has been such a joy to my life. she is also the big sister to 4 more siblings….

    not only can people be nasty about the “mistake” babies, but it sickens me when people look disgusted when they hear that i have 5. people have asked me if i know the “solution” to the “problem”.

    i have basically come to the conclusion that those people are ignorant and don’t know the facts behind the unplanned babies….BUT, let us remember that there are NO unplanned babies….

    God planned them.

    Before we were even formed in our mother’s womb, he knew us…….

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    • Love your reply, Patty. My dear friend had a little boy when we were in college and I couldn’t imagine doing anything but loving that little guy and her for being so brave. She wasn’t faced with love from everyone, but so many of us tried to trump that. I’m so thankful that she made the decision that she did (I have no idea what I would have done). You’re so right, these babies were planned by God. We have no right to decide what’s wrong or a ‘mistake’. I’m so grateful for her choice and that the little man turned 7 today!

      I’m sure your family wouldn’t be the same without your daughter and that you couldn’t imagine life any other way. You too are so brave!

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    • Thank you, Patty, for sharing this. You are so, so right. God plans each baby.

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    • Tara

      I can remember when I was a small child someone walked over to my dad who was holding me and said, “Looks like you would have learned how to prevent mistakes like that by now, after your first two.” I remember thinking then, “She must not go to Sunday school. I thought everybody knew God made me and He doesn’t make mistakes.” Sadly her way of thinking and regarding children is the norm among many of those who profess to be Christians. We should each ask ourselves, “Am I really Pro-life? In “The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality” Mary Pride writes, “Family planning is the mother of abortion. A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal conveniences before abortion could become popular. We Christians raise an outcry against abortion today, and rightly so. But the reason we have to fight those battles today is because we lost them thirty years ago. [This was written in 1985.] Once couples began to look upon children as creatures of their own making, who they could plan into their lives as they chose or not, all reverence for human life was lost. Children as God’s gifts whom we humbly receive are one thing; children as articles of our own manufacturing are another. You can do anything you like with what you yourself have made.” When children like me are looked upon as mistakes rather than blessings from God created with a special purpose, how are we likely to come to regard our own lives? Have the “Pro-lifers” saved us from abortion only to encourage some of us toward suicide because no one wants us? To be wholly Pro-life we must view all children as special blessings, regardless of how their lives came to be, or what their birth-orders may be. Comments such as the one I described are not the only things that provoke negative feelings in “unplanned” children–simply knowing that measures were taken to prevent us from being born does not communicate love toward us from our parents. And then, when we find out the health risks placed upon us, being conceived under the conditions meant to destroy us, it is only natural that we wonder, “Did my parents knowingly do that? and on purpose?” Our parents may love us now, but that does not stop us from thinking of a time when we were so unwanted that even our lives were placed in jeopardy.
      Ashleigh, you did a wonderful job writing this in a way to cause people to think how our actions and words may affect those around us. Thanks!

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  21. Samantha R

    I think that we, as Christians, are so quick to extend the hand of judgment before the hand of grace and mercy.
    When a young woman finds herself in this situation, what she really needs is love. Genuine love. A gentle voice, a helping hand, prayer and support.
    A lot of girls in this situation are incredibly scared and they don’t know where to turn or what to do. =/

    Reply
  22. I know this story, and you tell is so powerfully. On my post today I relate some of my story after I made this same choice, when I was sixteen. Thank you!

    Reply
  23. This perspective of the church girl who find herself in such a difficult situation is eye-opening.

    Of course there are girls and young women in our churches who have to make the grueling choice not only about the baby but about how to share their story with their brothers and sisters at church. Of course they fear how they’ll be judged and gossiped about. God forgive us for allowing such an environment of judgmentalism and self-righteousness to exist!

    My mom volunteered in a crisis pregnancy organization when I was growing up. She took hotline calls which were forwarded to our home number and we had pregnant girls and women live with us from time to time. I am grateful that I was taught to be compassionate to unwed pregnant women outside the church.

    But I wish I’d been taught to extend the same compassion to women within the church family. Rather, I think the unspoken expectation I learned was that it doesn’t happen to “good” girls.

    Reply
    • I’m so thankful for people like your mom… and that you were raised in an environment that fostered love and hope. And yes, it is an interesting thing, isn’t it, the way we can extend grace to those outside the church, but we beat down our own?

      Reply
  24. “It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish”. ~ Mother Theresa.

    Many others here more eloquently stated my thoughts on this…I find myself feeling compassion for the girl, and angry at the church who is caught up in image that they forget the Image. I think it’s good to realize that this is a real phenomenon, and we as a church need to do more to address it.

    That said, I’m frankly also disgusted. It’s completely monstrous, to me, to murder your child so that you don’t have to face the consequences of your sinful actions. To cover up your shame and guilt with innocent blood, to compound one sin with a far graver one, and this is a realistic choice?? By the way, there are tons of resources, online and otherwise, where women can find help and hope after abortion, and I hope that your friend has accessed them. It can’t be an easy thing to live with.

    Frankly, it sucks that unwed mothers face shame and guilt, and we should be accepting of pregnancies and babies no matter the circumstances. EVERY baby is a blessing!

    But…this is just the new version of “the devil made me do it!” It’s a flimsy excuse, and one I find disgusting personally, to justify taking a life just so you don’t have to hear the whispers or face judgmental people. I mean, if you steal someone’s computer, but then feel sorry about it, and then don’t give it back to the person you stole it from because you realize they’ll be upset about it…I mean, duh? It’s not the baby people are aghast at, it’s what produced said baby, and to punish the child by death so you don’t have to be reminded of your sinful actions is quite disturbing. The truth is, we are responsible for our actions, fully and solely, and regardless of how sinful people fall and act sinfully toward us, we still have a responsibility to do right.

    And we are held to a higher standard before God when we DO have knowledge of what’s right and wrong. To knowingly do so when you know what it is, wow. All based on feelings, too…robbing the church and the people around you of the opportunity to give grace to you, robbing yourself of an opportunity to grow and fall on the mercy of Christ, and robbing a child of life just because some gossips are beeyotches? Yikes. I’m glad that God is merciful, and that the Ultimate price for our sins is paid, but we STILL will stand before God and give an accounting for our actions. That’s not really one I’d want to stand for! “Why did you kill this blessing I sent to you?” “I didn’t want to feel bad about myself when people pointed a finger at me!” Yikes.

    Compassion and mercy don’t exclude people from having to deal with the consequences of our sins. When we fall, God is so gracious, but there are also consequences. You can’t jump off of a cliff, then decide you didn’t want to, repent, and figure that you won’t splat when you hit the bottom. THAT is reality. That’s not Reality, praise be, but here, that’s reality. Just because Ted Bundy became a Christian and Jesus forgave him, not to mention many of the victim’s families, did not get him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    So, while I totally think it’s a bummer that people are fallen and sinful and can act without understanding and compassion toward another, it also doesn’t surprise me, and when it’s directed at me because I messed up, it hurts, but I kind of asked for it.

    I say this as a person who HAS been called a whore, and excluded, and a lot worse, because of the choices I made.

    It hurts, it’s not fun, but who I am is not dependent on them. It’s dependent on Him.

    So to me, the responsibility for that act is not us as a church who is doing a sucky job of being compassionate and understanding for people’s mistakes. It’s on the person committing the act. And I don’t find productiveness in condoning it, or on blaming the body of Christ for it. People aren’t having abortions because the church has a double standard about compassion and pro-life attitudes; people are having abortions because THEY have a double standard of morality, and have either deceived themselves or been deceived. I know this because I’ve been there, and so have many others, and have managed to make a different choice.

    I say all this because, as others seem to be above, I don’t want to validate this as a reason to choose abortion. Because it’s not a good or even logical reason. It’s not a reason at all.

    That said, as I said in the beginning, we could do a lot to grease the wheels as a church, and I agree that how we react to pregnancies in general, and especially in ones where there is a non-ideal circumstance would make it easier for people to make the right decisions.

    I’m totally on board with the idea that we as the church should up our game and put our money where our mouth is when it comes to babies and pro-life stances. It’s not an either/or, though. We need to have compassion for the mothers but also stand in truth in regards to abortion. Swinging too far to one side or the other won’t help anyone in the long run.

    We NEED to embrace Christlikeness when it comes to these matters, and refrain from the sin of gossip or passing judgment that isn’t ours to pass. Let’s embrace the sinners, because frankly, that’s all of us.

    Reply
    • i don’t think anyone is validating abortion. i think people are acknowledging that women are hurting and need tangible help and support to see past lies and embrace life.

      Reply
      • And I think that we should offer what help we can, and not be a hindrance besides.

        I just also think we should take responsibility for our actions, and not blame them on fears of how people might react. Grace is a difficult, thin line to walk, and falling on either side is unhelpful… neither being a stumbling block by enabling and validating sin and being a stumbling block by legalistic application and judgment are good things for anyone involved. I am just concerned that the essay seemed to place all the blame on other people, and it grieves me to think that women stuck in that situation might find a false sense of hope through it, thus perpetuating the lie.

        I know it sounds callous, but lives are at stake. That’s why it concerns me. And it’s a very personal thing, because I can very very much relate. I know that pain, and that hurt, but I also know God’s sufficient grace–when I gave Him the chance to give it to me. No one else could make me choose one way or another, it was my choice to make.

        Reply
        • How do you believe a woman could derive any sense of “hope” (false though it might be) through this essay? Where is the validation that abortion is the right choice? That is not the issue being written about. And how do you know the woman in the essay hasn’t already taken responsibility for her actions and accepted forgiveness–at the foot of the Cross?

          Your response does sound callous. You are right–lives are at stake and abortion is a very serious matter, with huge and lasting consequences. And any woman who has gone through it can attest to that truth. You say God’s grace is sufficient. It is, indeed. And it’s loving. And it seeks to reconcile the sinner unto Him. Your words do not seem loving–especially in the context here where women who read this have gone through an abortion and live with the awful choice they made.

          Reply
          • I don’t believe true love and grace ignores the realities of sin and consequence. I also don’t believe it’s unloving to grieve for the unborn baby, and acknowledge the awfulness of it. And that is what I was emoting about. We can’t have a ‘deeper’ discussion if the nitty gritty, the reality, the difficulty cannot be discussed and must only be whispered over.

            I am a pretty off-the-cuff person, so I knew that my words could be misconstrued or taken in the wrong way, especially here. But my love for the murdered unborn child does not negate my love for the wayward mother, and vice versa. We’ve all sinned and made mistakes, sometimes terrible mistakes, but if we can’t acknowledge the reality of it we cannot truly move forward. I’d rather get a deep healing than a bandaid that can be easily ripped off, and that only comes through honesty and humility. Either way, Elizabeth Esther a few comments down captured better what I was trying to communicate.

          • Leah

            Mrs. Taft, I can believe that despite what you have said here, you do still love unwed mothers, including unwed mothers that have considered abortion, and young women who have had abortions. But if I were pregnant and unwed, and heard you saying this or read this post, I would not consider asking you for help. I have friends who have had children out of wedlock, and who have had abortions and if you and they were in the same room, I would feel the need to protect them from you.

            If you’re looking for deep healing, it might be worth making the effort to not be misconstrued. I’m a pretty blunt type by nature, but on sensitive subjects, I choose my words carefully, because no good intentions or attitude will undo the harm careless words can do.

        • grace is certainly a difficult thing to offer (because of my pride, mostly), but it’s not a line to walk that we can get wrong. the only failure in grace is our withholding it. Jesus’ bold love didn’t give anyone permission to sin but rather the courage to change.

          Reply
          • Amen.

          • I agree with you in principle; in theory that sounds all nice and Christian-y and wonderful. But I was speaking of practicalities…actually walking out that grace doesn’t always look like fuzzy rainbows and lemonade. And if you think it does, you’ve clearly never had to extend grace to a drug addict. Because extending grace and love to someone who is desperate for a fix is loving them enough to not aid them in their self-destruction. Love isn’t about making people feel good about their choices no matter what they are, love is about validating who they are despite them.

          • grace isn’t a theory, and no one said anything about fuzzy rainbows.

            i understand you grief for aborted lives–we all share that. abortion is an awful thing with myriad terrible consequences that no one is disputing. ashleigh’s post is one woman’s story–not The Story or All Stories or the Final Truth. i get that you are frustrated at what it didn’t say, but it was not written to be a treatise on the morality of abortion; it’s a tiny glimpse at one woman’s struggle and circumstance–and yes, sin. but for her sin Christ died, too.

            i think i hear your concerns, but i don’t share your fear that the telling of one story negates or threatens others stories or the truth. Jesus is Truth and he can’t be shut down–even if we reveal the ways in which we’ve been deceived.

    • Nish

      Mrs. Taft – I have two points regarding your response.

      The first being, I’m not entirely sure I understand your argument or the point you’re trying to make. Nowhere in the post did Ashleigh suggest that people should not be held accountable for their actions, nor did she suggest that abortion should ever be an appropriate action. Her post touched the surface of the question, “What are some of the driving forces behind women having abortions, particularly women who follow Christ?” among other issues regarding the Christian pro-life stance. But, this question was certainly in the forefront of this story.

      Which leads me to my next question. You stated, “People aren’t having abortions because the church has a double standard about compassion and pro-life attitudes; people are having abortions because THEY have a double standard of morality, and have either deceived themselves or been deceived.”

      That’s a pretty wide-spread blanket statement. I, for one, cannot unequivocally state why women are choosing the route of abortion, specifically within the Church. If you have substantive research on this issue, I, and I’m sure many others, would love to see it and read it for ourselves. I respectfully ask, are you able to substantiate that response? Because what’s true for you may not be true en masse. And in regards to being deceived by others – is it possible that the deception could have been perpetrated by the very people within the Body of Christ? My fervent prayer is that this is never the case, but the story that Ashleigh tells here certainly suggests that, yes, indeed it was.

      Reply
      • I actually understand Mrs. Taft’s frustration. Her point is: fear of people gossiping about you and judging you is NOT justification for abortion. In other words, we don’t need “substantive research” to recognize the deception and double standard of morality that would cause a Christian woman to have an abortion. Additionally, it doesn’t matter where the deception comes from (family, friends, church members, Planned Parenthood pamphlets), it is still deception and as such must be exposed.

        Yes, we can have compassion and grace for this distraught mother while also still stating that what she did was morally wrong. Yes, we can state that the church is not functioning as it should–while also stating that abortion is never justified. That’s what Mrs. Taft is saying.

        I also find it ironic that just recently, Deeper Story had a post about why Christians shouldn’t be celebrating the death of bin Laden. There was a whole discussion about how there is never justification for killing another human being.

        Where is that discussion now? Is Mrs. Taft not allowed to feel outrage for a murdered baby? Is she not allowed to say that difficult circumstances do not justify killing an unborn child?

        Reply
        • Thank you, I’m glad someone understood where I was coming from, as it seems several people clearly did not.

          Reply
        • Where are you getting in the essay or in the comments *anyone* stating that difficult circumstances justify having an abortion? Maybe I am totally missing something, but I don’t see it.

          I believe you and Mrs. Taft are entitled to feel outrage at whatever you want. But where is the grace Mrs Taft speaks of, in her comment? I don’t believe abortion is ever the “right choice”–the consequences are lasting and grievous. But I don’t think, in the context of *this* discussion (which again, I don’t see as being a justification for abortion), your choice of words such as “murdered baby” and “killing” are helpful or gracious. I understand your outrage at the act that was committed towards an innocent baby. I understand it very well–from BOTH sides of the issue. But when does that outrage ever justify being just plain hurtful? What about the woman who had the abortion? Is she now destined to be called a “murderer” for the rest of her life–especially by other Christians? Isn’t THAT really what this discussion is about?

          Reply
          • Labeling the act for what it is does not automatically label the person. If that were true, I’d have an awful lot of labels. I don’t think it’s helpful or gracious and most certainly it’s not loving to sugarcoat difficult things of grave consequence.

            It’s true we may be seeing different things in the article, as we are different people with different perspectives and I think that’s just fine. I’m sorry you don’t see the value in my voice and perspective, but I respect that you wish to discuss something else, and hope you are able to.

          • p.s., I’m honestly not trying to be hurtful, and I totally agree that labeling people with their mistakes is unhelpful and ungracious. I’ve been labeled for some of mine, and it’s definitely not helpful! I’m not trying to hurt or label anyone.

          • Mrs. Taft,

            Twenty-eight years ago next month, I had an abortion when I was 16 years old.

            I use the term “abortion” because I believe that in the context of those who read Deeper Story, there is no need to use words like “murder” and “kill”. We all know what the act of abortion does to the unborn child. I *know* what I did to my baby. Believe me, I know. And I would never “sugarcoat” the consequences of what I did. I have lived with it for 28 years and would gladly tell any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering an abortion about the consequences–emotionally, physically and spiritually.

            I cannot change the fact that I chose to have an abortion. But I thank God that I am forgiven. I thank God for His grace that covered this and many other sins in my life. I thank God that HE does not call me a murderer or baby killer.

            You say you do not mean to be hurtful, but I am telling you–that your choice to use words such as “murder” and “kill” in the context of this discussion, are indeed very hurtful. You are a sister-in-Christ. You know by the comments that some of the women reading this particular essay have had an abortion.

            This has nothing to do with me not valuing your perspective or voice. As I said, on perspective regarding abortion, we agree. But your “voice” does come across calloused (as you stated earlier that you knew it would) to those who have sadly, made a choice they cannot reverse.

            And I don’t see how that helps anyone.

          • Mishel, I understand, and that you are personally uncomfortable with those terms in context of this discussion, and why. This is my first time commenting here, so I’m not as familiar with the community as you are. But, I did not affix a label to you or anyone else, so please don’t take it on or assume that I am attempting to do so. Please try to understand where I am coming from, and why I used the language I did. It was not meant to hurt you or anyone else, and I’m sorry that it did. It only came from a place of grief over the unborn, not from a place of shaming or judgment for those who have made that choice. My husband drove his girlfriend to the clinic and paid for it, I know what it is to live with that kind of choice. Of course it is a very personal thing, but his experience colors my terminology since that is how he refers to it. He does not find it helpful when people use a more PC term, and is bold in his speech about it these days.

            For my part, I was a good Christian pastor’s kid who was about to go to Bible college and nursing school to be a missionary, involved in church and respected. I was 19, and he was a short fling in which I sinned, but broke up with him because I had fooled myself into thinking he was the person he initially portrayed (good Christian boy who wanted to be a worship leader, but it was a total lie. He just wanted to get into my pants, I was a conquest, the good girl gone bad. He was a drug-dealing agnostic in actuality), dusted myself off, repented, and began to heal.

            A week later I found out I was pregnant.

            When I told him, he initially told me that he’d take care of me and let’s get back together and everything was fine. Turned out he only wanted close access to me to convince me to abort the baby. And when his intense pressure was not met with instant obedience, he raped me and beat me in an attempt to force a miscarriage, and when that didn’t work he threatened my life. He told me that I’d never be rid of him, and he would send people to deal with me. He would wait until I had the baby, and then he’d make me watch while he killed the baby and then killed me.

            So here I was, my parents pastoring a church, of good standing in the community with seven godly kids of which I was the oldest, and I had pretty much every reason in the world to choose an abortion. If I didn’t, I was risking my life. If I didn’t, I’d have to give up on my dreams. If I didn’t, my family would be disappointed and shamed, and I’d carry that ‘scarlet letter’ forever. If I didn’t, what Christian godly man would want me? What would my church do? I was 19, homeless, jobless, completely dependent on my parents with not enough school for a job but enough to have school loan debt and no job prospects.

            I didn’t choose to abort, but I had every reason and temptation to do so, and I fully understand why and how people make that choice.

            My story has a mostly happy ending. Incredibly, and by the grace of God, both of my parents were disappointed but thrilled to have a grandchild. Most of my family, who happen to be very conservative, embraced me and the baby with joy. The only difficulty I had was one sister who railed at me and didn’t speak to me for months because I had “shamed the whole family” and now everyone knew how much of a whore I was and she was so embarrassed to be my sister. Even years later, after I was married to a godly man, she was in a relationship that appeared to be veering into inappropriate land physically so as a concerned sister I tried to explain how I ended up on the road I traveled and her response was “I’d never do that because I’m not a whore like you are.”

            But even that aspect has a happy ending, because years later, at 25, she had a one-night stand with a boyfriend who had just broken up with her in a desperate bid to get him back, and that one-night stand produced my niece. And there was redemption for our relationship, because I COULD have pointed that finger right back at her, now that she had fallen in the way I had, but instead I was able to embrace her with grace and understanding and it healed things between us.

            Ok, family down. Now what about the church?

            It was complicated because my dad was pastoring a ‘daughter’ church, a church plant. So our home church, which I attended, he broke the news to the pastor and I was called to the office. There he told me that the best way forward was for me to prepare a letter of apology and repentance and read it to the church.

            SAY WHAT.

            His reasoning was, which I understood and somewhat agreed with, is that in order to ‘shut down’ the gossip train I should let myself be as vulnerable as possible and just get it out into the open as quickly as possible so people could react and get it over with, since there was a baby coming who needed to be embraced and it would enable my dad to save face.

            I didn’t have a choice.

            I can’t tell you how horrible that sounded, and how very very hard it was to write that letter. I can’t tell you how I even made it to the Wednesday night service and walked all the way to the front to read my shame and regret into a microphone in front of a hundred plus people. That is what I was subjected to, that is the prospect I faced.

            I remember so vividly how much I wanted to vomit, how much I wanted to hide. I stood up there, and with shaky, teary voice, read the letter. When I was finished, my head was hung, and there was a moment of silence. The pastor put his arm around my shoulder and declared that he was excited about the new life on the way, and if anyone wanted to come up and love on me and pray for me, to please do so. I caught my breath. Surely I could feel their disgust and judgment, surely I would be alone.

            Instead, the whole church stood up, and came forward, and the next half hour of service was stories of this type of thing touching their own life and thanking me for my courage and humility. Praying for me, that I would not feel shame but only feel love. Hugs and tears and love and beauty, promises to help me in whatever way I could.

            How blessed I became when I gave people the chance to bless me.

            I share this because you so bravely shared your story, and while our stories are different, I am certain they share some elements. We were both once faced with a choice, and it was a lonely and painful one. I have been there, at the brink, hesitating and devastated and confused. I know that pain. And while my story turned out differently, I know that it was by but a breath. And that is why I use the language I use. To remind me that when I look at my little girl, she is a person, a whole and beautiful person, and that I might always remember what I almost lost.

          • Mrs. Taft,

            Thank you for sharing your story. And what an amazing story it is. I was angry when I read of your boyfriend’s response and horrific treatment of you when he learned of your pregnancy. I teared up when I read of your church’s love shown to you when they too, learned of the baby growing in your womb. I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to write that letter–and later get up in front of the congregation. I truly think anyone reading would be encouraged, even through the extreme difficulties you faced.

            I still think we will just have to ‘agree to disagree’ though on the issue of terminology when discussing abortion in a context where women who have had abortions could be reading. (And in fact, I have been told that the woman in the story was indeed reading.) This was not a discussion or debate on whether abortion is right or wrong. No one said abortion was a viable solution to an unexpected pregnancy. In the essay the choice had already been made. My concern was for the already wounded, broken heart that made the awful choice. It was not about using terms to be PC. I could care less about being PC.

            I also appreciate your desire to protect the unborn and to encourage women facing an unplanned pregnancy to choose life. We can absolutely agree on that! In fact, I am the product of an unplanned pregnancy. My birth mother chose to go through with her pregnancy even though she was an alone, scared 18 year old young woman in the 60’s. I have thanked her for choosing to give me life.

            And finally, as an epilogue to my own story–2 years after I chose to have an abortion, I found myself pregnant again. I was 18 and unmarried. This time I chose LIFE–and that beautiful, precious girl who has given me so much joy (and a few tears!) happens to be the author of the essay we have been discussing.

            Blessings to you Mrs. Taft…

          • Thank you for your kind response. It’s not a story I often share, or share lightly, but I felt I needed to so I could better explain where I was coming from. I especially thought of the woman reading, or women like you reading, who have made that choice and how those terms can feel so accusing, so attacking. So I wanted to explain why I used them and that it didn’t have to do with trying to hurt or shame anyone, but rather, it comes out of my own personal story. It’s how I honor what almost was, and honor the lives lost. It’s not meant to be condemnation. :) I’m perfectly fine to refrain from using them from now on in the context of this discussion or elsewhere here when the discussion isn’t the morality of it, because I think you have a point and I think I’ve explained myself.

  25. Abortion happens. To church girls. Many of the comments here attest to that. We have to stop fooling ourselves that our judgment and our rhetoric and hatefulness are only for that world ‘out there.’ In reality, it falls on the ears of the girl sitting in the pew behind us. I love watching the dialogue that is unfolding in these comments – there’s a lot of love, and respect, and true solutions being spoken here. That’s why this forum is so needed. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  26. I went on a summer mission trip to Europe during my college years. We held street-corner rallies with music, skits, and personal testimonies to attract people to the local church plants. Several people–Americans and Europeans–told moving stories of their sinful pasts from which they had been saved and for which they had accepted God’s forgiveness. The other missionaries and the church people made much of those who testified–made them rock stars for a day. My best friend asked to testify. She told how she had become pregnant as a teen and saw no way to continue in community and continue the pregnancy. She told how she terminated the pregnancy without telling anyone but then became consumed with guilt over having done so. She testified how she herself felt reborn when she finally came to realize that to God there is no deed so heinous that he cannot forgive the contrite heart. I saw the church people and the missionaries literally turn their backs on her and walk away until she was left alone standing on the corner with only her translator standing as far away from her as he could and pointedly not looking at her. The small crowd that had gathered looked around in confusion and drifted away.

    Reply
  27. I don’t quite know what to say…it’s sad that so many have a false view of grace and make a hierarchy of sin that doesn’t exist. I’d love if the whole church fully embraced the deliverance of the Gospel: we are forgiven, redeemed, and a new creation.

    Another part of me wants to say, don’t let the prospect of shame or being an outcast propel you to do something so drastic.

    And this is why I say that…I’m that baby. My mom was a 19-year-old, unwed Marine when she got pregnant with me. Her mom suggested she have an abortion. I’m the living evidence she did not and my parents married.

    But I’ve grown-up with this shame hanging over her head and subsequently mine…hearing her round up how old she is and the number of years she’s been married, so people don’t figure out that I was born 5 months after the wedding. I know the shame because I’ve had to battle with myself wondering, Is my mom ashamed of me? Am I a mistake? As a child, it was much harder to decipher the truth–that even though I wasn’t planned, I was loved. But even as an adult it still stings when I hear her round up.

    One of my grandma’s doesn’t mention her first child who was stillborn in part because of the shame involved. She was an unwed teenager in the 50’s.

    I know the church has done evil in its execution of pro-life agenda, but I still hope that women who find themselves in this position look to Jesus instead of the shamers…in Him there is no condemnation.

    I can’t help but think of Mary, mother of Jesus, and how we’ve romanticized her story. She was an engaged women, pregnant with a child not her fiancée’s, whose options in the eyes of the people were stoning or divorce. Yet God had a plan. He orchestrated it as he does with each knitting of the womb.

    Reply
  28. i seem to always bring up the rear (so to speak) when i want to comment. mainly its because i try not to spend too much time on line when my little boy is home from school or inside even if he is watching cartoons. so much for late night chatting:)

    i never know if anyone ever reads my comment. but, what the heck, here i go…

    i am 50yo and my husband (he’s 58) and i have a 5yo little boy. he’s beautiful. his daddy is beautiful. they are both so sensitive. they cry easy. well, i cry easy too, but i suppose i’ve cried more than i’ve laughed. at least it feels that way some times.

    when i was 18 my mother took me to have an abortion. although she made it seem as if it was my decision it really wasn’t. i blame her for it. i remember crying because i felt like my very soul had been ripped out of me. i hated her for what she made me do. at the time i didn’t have the stigma attached to me of being labeled “a church girl” because we didn’t go to church. and nobody knew i was pregnant. it was all nice and tidy. for her.

    from that moment, that day, every time i went to the doctor whether it was for my yearly exam or because i was pregnant, there was always that one particular question that got asked… “and how many times have you been pregnant?”…. to have to sit and remember it all over again was, and still is, mental torture.

    i look back and remember having to answer, squirming in the chair, like i was 15 and should be ashamed of myself because that question didn’t end there. after that question came “and how many children have you delivered?”… more squirming in that chair. remembering back to that day when i felt my life had ended.

    today, in our church, we have at least 5 unwed mothers and/or fathers. they are all high school graduates “from such good families…” i have watched the parents of these young women and men sit and squirm in their seats while others turn and look and turn back again to someone sitting next to them hearing the latest on “so and so.” and i see the looks on those parents’ faces. they are mortified. they are hurt. they are angry. and one day i decided to tell my story to one of those parents. and it changed their life.

    you see, i wasn’t wanted. i didn’t tell you that part in the beginning. i am a love child. a product of a triangle of a man and his deceit with two different women. he didn’t marry my mama. and it changed her life forever. back in 1960 she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. she wrote letters to her sweetheart begging for his help. to please come and get “us.” and he never did. her parents made her give me up for adoption. and she did. but she went back and got me. and i don’t know why. because for the rest of her life she was hurt and angry and scorned. and she took it all out on me.

    and then one day i was pregnant and she made me have an abortion.

    Reply
    • {{hug}}My heart aches for you. Please know I’ve prayed.

      Reply
  29. I think I’m the only guy here…but I truly appreciate your thoughts and writings, Ash. Causes me to think (again) about how I interact or think about other Christians and their lives versus my own. I apologize if my post was not sensitive enough (coming from a male/husband’s standpoint) for all readers :)

    Reply
  30. Sarah

    Some stories are best left to the heart that bled it. Who can comprehend what they have gone through? Only they know the pain. Not you, not anyone. Only they know. And only they can express it in words that grasp their realness – their reality – their story! Your post was well written but lacked the deeper story!

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  31. Thank you for writing this. for expressing what so many young women in the church go through. One in four women in the evangelical church have had abortions. This story is one I have lived, and have written about on my blog in both story and poetry. God has used my story for good a few times, and I am humbled and grateful.

    I appreciate Deeper Story being willing to publish this discussion and for so many to read it through the eyes of a christian woman. The comments are by turns enlightening and inspiring. I am glad for the telling anyway. Much love to you, Ashleigh, and to the Deeper Story team.

    Reply
  32. My stomach is in a tight ball and a lump in my throat. While reading this post and the comments I feel the urge to scream & cry at the same time.

    I can’t formulate the words I need right now to respond to this post and a few of the comments, but I DO want to say to Ashleigh– very well written. Thank you for sharing your friend’s story.

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  33. As I leave this blog post today my heart is sad and irritated. I see here that a women wrote the story of a dear family. No it is not her personal story, but it is a real story. Yet I see someone criticizing her for writing about someone other than herself. Seriously??? I see people speaking of their experiences with pregnancy in the “church”…. the gathering where “the church” (we are the church) could gather, break bread, worship the One true God, live life together… I hear how their BEHAVIOR was under scrutiny while their HEARTS were mishandled. Then I see a couple of people come to fight for the CHURCH by stating that “it” shouldn’t be blamed for the woman’s choice but that the woman should take responsibility for her actions… Seriously???? How does anyone but the woman or God know if she has taken responsibility for her actions? It is a story written by a woman about a woman. It’s not about the church being the reason the woman chose abortion. It’s about the judgement that the woman felt from “the church”… you know the people that gather to live out Jesus. The bottom line is that in this “gathering” of “the church” it doesn’t always represent the heart of the One that lives have been devoted to. Friendly fire is the worst.
    When I read this article and in some of the comments, what I see is that love gets lost. People have to focus on the behavior and the sin after all. That’s not Jesus. He doesn’t focus on our sin. He focuses on His love for us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Before we even knew we had sin, He died for us. Sin wasn’t His focus. We were. The gathering of “the church” has gotten it backwards. It’s sad but true. Is this gathering a place where people can come as they are and be loved into who they were made to be? If not, then something’s gotten lost. Because that is the heart of the One who gave His life so that we might walk in freedom and new life, to be loved into who we were made to be.

    I’m sorry for this young woman in this story. I’m sad that she did not feel her gathering of the church to be a safe place to come as she was to be loved into who she was made to be.

    The gathering of “the church” is meant to be a safe place….

    Reply
  34. John

    I find it terribly sad that the ones above who are being so condemning and mean (intentionally or not) are exemplifying the exact same judgement and condemnation that causes the story in the first place, and then call themselves “Christian” and justify their behavior. This story’s point was not that abortion is ever right. It is about the judgement of the person. We, in our corrupted state, have no right to pass that judgement. It is not our business how that person stands before God. It is our business to love them and help them however we can. It is about the church “Putting it’s money where it’s mouth is”. Hopefully in showing the love of Christ, we can prevent the abortion in the first place.

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  35. Nish

    Commenters: PLEASE be mindful of your tone and rhetoric. I don’t want to close comments on a post (it would be the first time ever for Deeper Story). I understand this is a sensitive issue for many… but please be mindful that the discussion needs to stay civil, graceful and accommodating.

    Thanks.

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  36. Mandy

    I’m reminded of the word “timshel” which I learned from Steinbeck’s book East of Eden. Here’s an excerpt:

    “The Hebrew word timshel—’Thou mayest’—that gives a CHOICE. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

    So though we might wish with all that is in us that a woman would not choose abortion, God does grant choice to her. And while one moment the choice might be what we view as the end of life, in the very next moment always hovers for her the choice of the beginning of life. And women may choose both. Anne Lamott herself found Jesus hovering in the blood of her abortion. And both choices were hers.

    We are pained with some of the choices that we and others make, but the beauty is we can always redeem with a new choice because “Thou mayest.” Thank God.

    Reply
    • God did not make is robots, this is true but claiming that our freewill justifies any choice just because we HAVE choice does not make sense. If you follow that logic, then any of us have the freewill to become serial killers or ax murderers. We CAN do lots and lots of things that we ought not do.

      “And while one moment the choice might be what we view as the end of life, in the very next moment always hovers for her the choice of the beginning of life.” I find your sentence really worrisome…it is creative and eloquent and seems to acknowledge the concerns we are expressing here but makes a sudden shift to justify the ending of a life to allow some unnamed “beginning”. You write very well and could likely be very persuasive but if you propose Christians base their moral decisions on the thoughts of secular writers rather than scriptural standards, you could quickly misguide people.

      “And women may choose both. Anne Lamott herself found Jesus hovering in the blood of her abortion. And both choices were hers.” God reaching out to someone in the midst of sin does not justify the sin.
      Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

      Reply
      • KatR

        You said “God reaching out to someone in the midst of sin does not justify sin”.

        I’ve read Mandy’s comment several times, and I don’t see where she says that. Anne Lamott says that she came to know Jesus after an abortion. That’s not a justification, that’s the truth of her story.

        Reply
        • I know nothing of the writings of Anne Lamott, only what Mandy included. Mandy is free to think and say whatever she likes, but I think that her ability to use flowy words and literary references to make abortion sound like a religious experience is dangerous and could mislead a young, confused girl in the wrong direction.

          “in the very next moment always hovers for her the choice of the beginning of life ” and “Jesus hovering int he blood of her abortion” interesting phrases but I have no idea what she is talking about in terms of real experiences of real people.

          Mandy uses the word(s) choose/choice 11 times in a relatively short comment and discusses how choice is given from God. The original post was not about free will and gift of choice but whether or not the church is so strict in its condemnation of crisis pregnancy that it might actually unwittingly promote the very abortion it claims to abhor.

          Mandy seems to me to be a well read person with a gift for writing, but that gift comes with a huge responsibility…there is power in persuasion and if she uses Christian words and references to justify “choice” to people who are looking for any reason to do what their consciences tell them is wrong, then much pain could come.

          As I typed this, my son came into the room and plopped my new grandson in my lap. 4 months old and the product of a crisis pregnancy. Loved, beautiful, treasured…Im glad that no one with a gift of describing abortion in flowery etherial terms had a chance to use their influence on his mother …all the pretty words in the world dont change the fact that for him “choice” would have been his end.

          Reply
          • Tammy,
            I got some time this morning to read through some of the comments and thought I would respond. I think it’s wonderful that you were able to encourage your own son, like it sounds like you have. And was touched by the response the elders wife had to you. What a blessing to be holding your grandson despite the many emotional battles your family has probably had to face. What a joy that there is a church and town like yours to support those with unplanned pregnancies.

            I was triggered to write my response about “choice” based on the title of the blog post. And I just recently read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies book, so her story was fresh in my mind. Her story is interesting to me because I believe she a pro-choice Christian. I honestly didn’t know such a thing existed. I am going through a time in my own faith where I am trying to deal with a lot of te messy gray that co-exists between the black and the white of so many of the moral battles we as humanity fight over. I’m trying to see faces (not just the right answers) on both sides. It’s hard. It rips at me, if you know what I mean.

            Thank you for the compliment with my writing. You know I just felt a couple of weeks ago that God was telling me words are a gift and I should use them carefully and wisely. Thank you for that reminder. That being said, I read back through my comment, and I still believe in it fully. My heart hurts for the babies, but my heart hurts for the mommas too. And so what does one do when the hurt falls on both sides?

            So counsel and love and extend grace pre-abortion, absolutely. But if the abortive choice has been made, which is ultimately up to the woman, then what are we to do but to extend the messy hands of counsel and love and grace to the hurting on the other side of the choice.

            The whole discussion leaves me reeling. I know there is no easy blanket answer. I won’t pretend to have one.

  37. I think the best sign I ever saw was “If you care about me, care about my mum.”

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  38. nakiru

    Thank you. May I have the grace and courage to reach out and live like my Saviour. He ate with tax collectors and had His feet washed with the hair of a “woman who was a sinner”. How little a thing would it be for me to extend grace to a woman who, like that woman and like me, is a sinner.

    Reply
  39. How many times I have seen the condemnation. Over anything. Everything. It is so easy to see our worth through how “Christians” perceive us. It is a deeply rooted problem that I have seen again and again (sadly I am just as swayed as the next person). IF ONLY we would stop the gossip, the judging, the accusations. If only we’d actually ACT like a true church body…I doubt these stories would exist. But, they do.

    When the woman was caught in sin, His response was “go and sin no more”. Grace, compassion, love, and forgiveness. That should be the only response we ever give to anyone–about anything.

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  40. Very, very interesting comments here. Ashleigh, first of all, it is gut wrenching and hard to read. You really stirred up our hearts, our minds, our judgement and our mercy. Thank you for that.

    I have to admit that I’m wondering if the “subject” of this essay is reading these comments. Because if so, luv, I’m sorry.

    I think what I carry most from this is how strongly we as Christian use fear and shame as motivators – both for our tragic or sinful decisions (like this girl who decided to have the abortion based on her fear and her shame) or for us wanting to motivate the decisions of others (i.e. we shame them or use fear into making the decisions we want them to make) towards the “ultimate good.” Fear and shame are terrible chains to wear and terrible foundations for any decision. They are also a terrible thing to put onto another human being.

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  41. Lynn

    How many times in Scripture does it say, “Fear the Lord”? In the Old Testament, there is chapter after chapter of detailed laws, dealing with every kind of sin out there, and God took those sins VERY seriously. The fact that His own Son died – I’m saying DIED – to pay the price for our sins is pretty powerful, and proves to me that God always has and always will take sin seriously. He is a God of love, yes. He loved our helpless souls enough to sacrifice His Son for them, but He was (and is) also just and holy. He didn’t just say, “Well, since you’re sorry, and I love you so much, we’ll just wipe your sins away.” No, His holiness could not look on sin, no matter how much He loved us, and He could not ‘wipe away’ our sins, until the debt had been paid through Christ.

    I’m not suggesting we still have to pay a debt for our sins (because, obviously, He already did that). What I am saying is, if God hates sin so much, we need to be very careful how lightly we view it. Does the unwed mother feel ashamed? She should. So should the gossip. So should the complainer, and the holier-than-thou person, and the one with the lazy habit, and the one who told a lie, etc…. If we take away the shame of sin, we ignore a huge part of who God is. Sin is ALWAYS shameful, whether it is a ‘big’ moral sin, or a ‘little,white lie’, and we should both ashamed and afraid of it. I think ‘Church girls’ SHOULD be afraid of getting pregnant out of wedlock, just like they should be afraid of gossiping. Jesus took the eternal consequences for our sins, but He does not always remove the earthly consequences. Something like sex-outside-of-marriage can have huge consequences, and however compassionate and loving the church body may be, they can’t take away some of those things – like, pregnancy, raising a child in a single parent home, having an abortion…and that doesn’t even touch the emotional and spiritual consequences.

    We need to stop fooling ourselves into believing that we can ‘say sorry’ and move on. Saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t bring a dead baby back to life. Saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t take away the hurt that our critical and back-biting words cause. We NEED to take these things – all of these things… the gossip, the abortion, the pride, all of it! – SERIOUSLY.

    Reply
    • once we receive God’s forgiveness–paid for by the blood of Christ–there is no reason to feel ashamed (or make others feel that way). the shame and guilt that linger, weighing like chains upon the person whose sins have been washed, forgiven, and forgotten are not of God: they are lies and burdens forged in hell that we need no longer wear.

      shame and guilt need never be the end of the story, and we should be shouting from the rooftops that there is forgiveness, freedom, and a new identity found in Christ alone. God’s kindness–not social shame–leads us to repentance.

      Reply
  42. brandie

    grace.

    we believe it. we fall in supreme gratitude under its eternal weight.

    but, sometimes it’s really hard to flesh it out. to know what to do. to know what to say. we do hate sin when we love our Holy God. our hearts ache for the sinner because we know that earthly consequences are very real, very painful.

    we feel inept…..mostly because we are……at loving. we shouldn’t be, but we are.

    Reply
    • Lynn

      Thank you, Brandie, you said that very well. Sometimes, it is hard to express the difficult balance between living righteously as God would have us do, and realizing and accepting how short we fall of His righteousness.

      In my other comment, I was not suggesting we should feel shame, as if we need to atone for what we have done. It would be unspeakably wrong to make an unwed mother, or a girl who has had an abortion, feel as if Christ’s forgiveness is not enough. As a Christian, our sins have already been paid for, and for the person who is not a child of God, Christ stands with open arms, ready to forgive, ready to love. However, being saved and forgiven isn’t a ticket to sin. Paul discussed that very issue in Romans 6. Grace IS available, but it is never an excuse to sin, and my concern here is that we might make the abortion in the story – and even the pregnancy out of wedlock – seem ‘excusable’ and ‘ok’ when it’s not. The shame I spoke of was the realistic understanding of sin, recognizing that, though paid for, it is still disgusting to God, and still has earthly consequences.

      As you said, Brandi, we do hate sin because we love a holy God, and our hearts ache for the sinner because….we are one, too. If we could only see both of those truths all the time, we would have the compassion it takes to reach out to hurting people, as well as the strength to tell them the truth when they need it most.

      Reply
  43. Oh I love this beautiful story. I write at imperfectpeople.net where I love hearing stories of imperfect people in love with a perfect God. Is this your story? You wrote it so beautifully!

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  44. I wanted to write this comment yesterday, but my daughter kicked me off the computer. :)

    I’m late to the party, having read this article only yesterday. Yet yesterday was especially poignant as it was my daughter’s eighth birthday. When she was born, I was 21 and although her daddy was still in the picture, he had abandoned me weeks before for another woman. I had grown up in the church, but had walked away from God. I was in the process of walking back when I found out I was pregnant. At the time, it seemed like a cruel joke.

    When I read this story yesterday, I completely understood why she had the abortion. Although I was fortunate to have been in a very graceful church, I suffered a lot especially at the hands of my Christian family. Their words and actions still haunt me.

    Yet God used this extremely painful time to bring about amazing change in my life. I turned my life completely over to Him, especially during the last several months of my pregnancy after I had been kicked out of my house, abandoned by my boyfriend and unable to work or even walk. Some amazing people came around me covering me with love and prayer. When my daughter was 4 months old, I met a wonderful man of God. When she was 14 months old, we were married. My daughter now proudly states that she has two daddies. :)

    All this to say, much grace has been showered upon me and so now I in turn have much grace for those in similar situations. I am so thankful that we serve a God who restores and redeems.

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  45. This story is me 20 years ago! Yes, I was and am a sinner saved by grace and I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I was too scared to tell anybody at church or ask for help. Suffering by myself I think was the hardest part of it all.

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  46. My husband and I often discuss that the real cause of abortion isn’t the woman who chooses to go to the clinic but rather the public at large who fail to embrace the woman WITHOUT JUDGMENT. THIS is what needs to be talked about more. Not choices and all that. It’s all about embracing and accepting and above all that, loving. Prayers for you, my dear.

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  47. You gave me goosebumps, Ashleigh.

    You certainly have a way with words. Thank you for using them to begin this important conversation.

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  48. lynda

    I’m not even sure how to feel this made me cry. Different circumstances yet similar painful results. I love reading everything you write.

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  49. It’s been a hectic few months and I only just read this (thanks Young Mom). I missed it when it was posted or I would have commented then. The story brought tears to my eyes.

    I met my first wife at a strange time in my life. (Heck my whole childhood was strange by most people’s standards, but 9th grade and the following summer had been particularly odd even by the standards to which I had become accustomed.) She had a number of issues as well that I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to share. Neither of us had what anyone would call a “christian” background. Mine had been deeply pluralistic, hers at best agnostic.

    I had connected to some extent with a local Baptist youth group (as much from the need for something to connect with after having moved from Houston to very rural, small-town, Arkansas Ozarks). When we started dating, she started attending as well. (How much on both our parts for “genuine” reasons and how much for the additional opportunities to be together, I honestly couldn’t even say today. People who claim to understand their own motivations in all situations I tend to think are lying to themselves.)

    To make a long story short, we became pregnant. People centrally connected to the church actually even advised abortion over everything we would otherwise experience. But neither of us could stand that idea. It had nothing to do with Christianity. Neither of us were “Christian” enough to care about that. But we had both suffered and despite suffering appreciated our lives. However hard it might be for (as it turned out) her, we couldn’t imagine denying our child that same opportunity. Life, however painful and however hard, is still sweet. (I tell people that from a personal perspective, I’m absolutely certain I’m pro-life in a way few do. But it has nothing to do with Christianity for me, though it does converge nicely. And at the same time, I remain unconvinced that trying to make abortion illegal is the best or even viable approach to this issue.)

    If we had grown up in the church, as the girl in your story had, we would have known what to expect. As it was, we were not prepared for the whispers and the rejection. (Honestly, even those who aren’t Christian tend to look down on teen parents and they aren’t subtle about it. But for some reason, that hurts less than the Christian reaction. I’m not sure why.) It ended one day when I was not willing to take our daughter to the church nursery. She had had pneumonia, which had terrified me, and I wanted her with me. So I took her to the church service with me. Shortly after the service began, the pastor went to the pulpit and told us that our daughter was “disturbing” the service and we needed to take her to the nursery or step outside. I looked down at the beautiful little girl *sleeping* in my arms and was filled with more hurt and rage than I can express.

    We left. I didn’t cross the threshold of a christian church for twelve years other than for family events. (And even that was a minor miracle, but a completely different story.) I don’t think my ex-wife ever has. The girl in your story almost certainly correctly analyzed her situation.

    Frederica Matthewes-Green has spoken and written a fair amount on this topic. The main reason women have abortions? Someone they love and trust tell them it’s the right thing to do and they don’t see any other option. Every alternative looks worse.

    Peace. And thanks for the opportunity to pour my heart out. I assume you’ll be notified of the comment, even on a long-dead thread.

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  50. shan k

    Even if you’ve been there, you haven’t been there – everyone’s moments of pain and struggle are their own. With or without faith, family, church, we all pick our way over stoney ground with our own tender feet. When we forget that we start making “I would never..” pronouncements about the bleeding feet choices of those around us.

    This story is beautiful to me because it begs that we try to feel the rocks under another’s feet instead of waiting a couple years and hoping to tsk tsk the scars.

    If you could see the scars on my feet, you might want to throw more rocks in my path. But even if you’ve ‘been there’, you haven’t been there. I do not ask license to collectively pretend there are no scars, but God in Heaven, how the heart does long for tender glances at lanced toes.

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  51. I was only halfway through this before the tears were stinging my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your story, baring your soul. I became pregnant at the age of 16. I chose to have my son, now 20. That was the choice that I made. But, it wasn’t until he was about 16 or 17 that I could let go of the shame and guilt I felt because of it. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally was able to let go of the guilt I felt for what I put my parents through.

    It is so important that all of us share our stories. I think the reason the word Christian leaves a bad tastes in many people’s mouths is because we often don’t share the “bad” stuff. Society, the church, expects us to display ourselves as perfect when we are anything but. Until the world sees that we aren’t exempt from making mistakes,that we are no where near perfect, but yet there is something different about us, something that comes from within, something that they can’t quite touch but want to know. Until we show our true selves and how Jesus blesses us, the world will continue to spit the word Christian out of their mouths.

    My blessing was my son. I know without a doubt that having my son saved me from following a path of destruction. Your blessing, being able to stand up and share your story knowing that someone out there read this and realized that they too are worthy of God’s love and grace.

    “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Gensis 50:20

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  52. Alli

    This is hauntingly painful. Two of my close friends, both barely out of high school, – she, an elder’s daughter, the good girl with a purity ring, and he, the struggling christian fighting to find truth – came to me a few months ago and told me they’re expecting a baby. Knowing them, knowing the struggles they would face, I couldn’t imagine any other response than “Congratulations”, however, they are facing down spiteful family members, nosy strangers, and judging church goers and it breaks my heart for them. They are trying to do the right thing by bringing a beautiful baby into the world and giving him/her the best life they can, but the lack of support does not make it easy. I wish people could see how everything from their sneers to their words tortures young mothers and fathers every day. They have it hard enough as it is, why do the self-righteous feel the need to remind them at every turn that they messed up, that they are not perfect? These unwed parents need to see God’s unconditional love in us, not our own human pride and arrogance.

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