Julie Desjardins joins us for part 2 of her interview. Today she’ll talk about her post-abortive recovery and healing, and what she would share with women considering abortion. Check out part 1 here.
Faye: Thanks for joining us again, Julie. Let’s pick back up where we left off yesterday. I understand from reading your blog that you regret the abortion. Is this something you felt immediately after undergoing the procedure? Or was it sometime later? How did you process the abortion?
Julie: Immediately after the abortion I was desperate to become pregnant again. I remember thinking how strange that was but as I already mentioned, I wasn’t thinking very rationally at that time. My boyfriend however did everything he could to prevent me from becoming pregnant again.
I remember shortly after the abortion a maternity shop calling to say an order I had placed previously had come in. The recollection of how I felt is indescribable. How can I describe what it is like to grapple with the reality that you deliberately paid for someone to suck your baby out of you. The mind cannot handle that kind of torture.
I don’t think I consciously dealt with it for very long before I had to suppress the memory. No one other than my boyfriend and his mother knew about the abortion and I was living overseas in a country with no family or deep friendships. I stayed for another 18 months but ultimately the relationship ended and I returned to Canada.
Faye: You’ve since come to a place of healing and restoration. Can you share how that happened?
Julie: Not long after coming back to Canada I started going to church again and I re-dedicated my life to following Jesus Christ. For over a decade I had done everything I could in my own strength to feel loved. At the end of it all I was left sobbing my heart out, cold and alone in a bathtub, having committed many shameful acts in order to fill a void in my life that only God could fill. The amazing thing about God’s grace is this: it allows me – a girl who knew who God was but yet basically gave Him the finger and walked out the door to do my own thing – the audacity to ask for forgiveness and receive it. It is still a journey though. I didn’t get to the place of having an abortion overnight and I didn’t come to a place of healing overnight either.
When I had to start counseling women seeking an abortion in a provincially run institution that supports abortion, all the things that I had never dealt with about my own abortion started rising up in me. It didn’t matter that it was almost ten years ago, it felt like yesterday. With each new woman seeking an abortion the emotions were so painful that they threatened to overwhelm me. I fervently pleaded with God to heal me and He did. There is a verse in the Bible that says God casts our sins as far away as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). When I received His forgiveness and grace for the abortion, in that moment I actually felt as though I had never had an abortion! It was like it had never happened. I had known about God’s grace but now I was experiencing His grace. And out of His superabundant grace, God also spoke into my heart that not only was my child with Him but that she was waiting for me and longing to tell me how much she loves me. Now that is grace. That is love. And I couldn’t do anything to make it happen. God’s grace is unmerited favour and it was waiting for me; I just had to receive it.
Faye: You now speak to groups about your abortion, as well as your healing journey. How has speaking about your experience affected you and those you speak to? Is it healing? How are your talks received?
Julie: You know right after I started living as a Christian again, I had this desire to tell people about how God’s grace can save and change a sinner like me. But even though Christ was my Saviour, there was still a lot of healing and changing God had to do before I was ready to start speaking. I know there are still many areas of my life that need changing but it seems like God is beginning to open doors for me to tell about His grace through my story.
I have shared my story informally with many friends over the years but it is really just in these past few months that the doors have opened for me to start writing and speaking. Sharing my story with ProWomanProLife is a great honour and actually only the fourth time that I will have publicly shared this story. So I do not really know how it has or will affect people other than to say that so far the comments I have received have been encouraging. I am praying that more and more doors will open for me to write and speak as I would love to encourage and bring hope to other women and men who are suffering under shame and condemnation.
Faye: Given your personal experience, what thoughts would you share with a woman who was considering having abortion?
Julie: Abortion is not a private choice; it affects more than just you. My ex-boyfriend is a father with a child he will never know. My father won’t know his grandchild; my son is an only child who won’t know his brother or sister; my sisters are missing out on a relationship with their nephew or niece. And that is just my family. There is a whole other family overseas who will never know their cousin, nephew/niece or grandchild. My child will never have the opportunity to choose for herself.
Sometimes women say, “I’m not ready to be a mother” but when you are pregnant, you are a mother and after an abortion, you are still a mother but now your arms and your heart are empty.
Sadly, not once have I been in a situation where a woman who is pregnant wants to consider adoption. If the subject of adoption is raised, the inevitable response is, “I couldn’t give my baby up”. I really think that as women we do not understand that abortion is giving up your baby. But it is more than giving up your baby; it is having your baby dismembered as she is being sucked out of your womb through a tube. The reality is very violent. But we hide behind false pretenses; false pretenses that are fed to us in the ill-conceived guise of support, understanding and choice. We hide behind ideas and words that sound nice but that lead to death; death of a child and death in our hearts and lives. We don’t talk to a pregnant woman about her “baby”, or tell her what her “fetus” can do, or feel or hear because we don’t want to make anyone “feel bad”.
Years after my abortion, around the time that I began to battle with what I had done, I read an excerpt about former Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson. Abby walked out of the clinic and became a pro-life advocate after watching an ultrasound guided abortion where she saw the baby struggle to get away from the suction tube that took its life. That is violent. That is reality. That makes me feel bad. I cannot hide from that reality in my own life. All the reasons that seemed so compelling, so real, so insurmountable at the time I made my decision, have long faded into the background and have been replaced with the knowledge that I could have made another choice and it would have been ok, I would have made it through; perhaps not without a struggle or without challenges but I would have made it through. Usually life is like that. And I would imagine that for most women considering abortion, choosing the road that is today less travelled – the road of life, would make all the difference.
Faye: Some pro-choice advocates state that there is no such thing as Post-Abortive Syndrome. Definitions of PAS vary, but common symptoms associated it with it include guilt, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, preoccupations with become pregnant again, psychological numbing and self-punishing behaviours. Based on your experience, how would you respond to those that say that any negative reactions post-abortion are simply part of coping with normal, everyday stressors?
Julie: First of all, God help us if abortion is a normal, everyday stressor.
Part of the problem is the assumptions that are inherent in the question. We assume that everyday life is supposed to be full of stress. We assume abortion is normal. “That’s just life”, we say and shrug our shoulders.
Even as a Christian I forget to look to the Bible for my worldview, my understanding of what is normal. In the Bible we are told to cast all our cares on God because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7 and Psalm 55:22). Yes, this world has stress and trouble but when we give it to Jesus, our burdens are lifted and our load lightened because He carries it for us. We are going to make mistakes in our lives, sometimes even costly, enormous mistakes with consequences that seem like they are going to crush us underneath their weight of guilt, shame and condemnation. But God already knew that when He sent Christ to the cross for us. That sacrifice was not made for good, perfect and lovely people but for those of us, who make bad choices, are imperfect and unlovely. That sacrifice was made so that we might enjoy everyday life (John 10:10).
So when we stop and begin to question these assumptions, when we realize that abortion is not normal, we no longer try to minimize or dismiss the very real and very normal reactions experienced by those who are post-abortive. Instead we will help each other move from shame to grace, from brokenness to healing, and from death to life.
Faye: Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us. We’re already hearing feedback from readers regarding yesterday’s interview. Your story is one of hope and healing, and I do hope you have further opportunities to share your heart like this.
For more information on Julie, check out her blog here.by