Jeannette (not her real name) called the crises pregnancy center. Making this phone call wasn’t what she wanted to do but her sister told her how much “post-abortion” counseling would help. Her sister had just completed post-abortion counseling herself.
“You know, I don’t really have time,” Jeanette said. “And I don’t drive at night.”
“Don’t worry,” said the gal on the phone. “We can arrange for to you to carpool with another client.”
“But I don’t really even have the money for this,” Jeannette debated.
“No problem, we’ll put you on scholarship….now let’s get you signed up.”
As part of my clinical training, I worked at a crises pregnancy center and I was trained in post-abortion counseling. This phone call is typical. The woman is reaching out for help, but has so much shame that she doesn’t want to admit what she’s done.
Women who have had an abortion often suffer with Post-abortion Syndrome. It may start immediately after the abortion, or years down the road. Questions haunt the woman: “Was it a boy or a girl?” “How old would she be today?” Sometimes the woman will get pregnant again – counselors call this an “atonement baby.” That’s why you often encounter women who have had multiple abortions. It doesn’t make sense, but in essence she is re-enacting her trauma.
Post-abortion Syndrome victims often deny having abortions due to the shame. Symptoms range from “blue” days every now and then, to self-injurious behavior, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Men too can experience Post-abortion syndrome.
What I didn’t realize before going through my training is that there often is a certain type of person who gets an abortion:
She is shame-based, comes from a rigid family that is more into rules than compassion. This is typically the family that is “closed” – it looks good on the outside but keeps many secrets on the inside.
This is the family where children are pressured to carry on the legacy. Having a baby outside of wedlock certainly doesn’t further the perfect family image, so the pregnant girl is forced to get rid of the problem, despite all consequences to her desires or emotional health.
In families where shame, secrecy, and rigidity are not the norm, a pregnant girl feels safe coming to her parents, even if she is scared and embarrassed. She feels safe allowing others to help her wrestle with lots of options.
If you’ve had an abortion, I encourage you to consider post-abortion counseling.
Typically classes are 8 weeks long. You share your abortion story (this is probably the most difficult part). You talk about families of origin. You talk about secrets and shame. You talk about your dilemma in having no other choice but abortion.
You learn, read, cry, journal, and you get mad. And at the very end you have bonded with the other women in the group. Of course. Because you have all been through the same pain and remorse.
Finally, you write a letter to your baby. And then you (and often the other participants) have some sort of ceremony to mark your children’s lives. It is oh-so-painful.
And then you walk out into the world a new woman. A whole lot lighter and a whole lot more healthy. To hear my friend Tiffany Stuart talk about her experience click here.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness”