An Open Letter to a Woman Considering an Abortion

Dear Friend,

When the home pregnancy test was positive, I was numb with disbelief. Surely another test would yield a different result. Again, I peered into that prophetic window hoping that the pink would not come, but the lines materialized, taunting me to deny them. I needed to find help, so I looked in the yellow pages and I saw that downtown Minneapolis had a Birthright crisis pregnancy center. On the drive to Birthright, I recall idling at a stoplight shaking and sick with the fear that was consuming me. I was terrified of the unknown; I particularly feared how my deeply religious parents would react to my news and the prospect of raising a baby alone. Only hours before I discovered I was pregnant, my boyfriend of 16 months had told me through a rush of guilty tears that he didn’t want to be with me anymore. I felt betrayed because he had promised me marriage. 

Waiting at that stoplight, I had a moment where, for the first time in my life, I could empathize with a woman who would choose abortion; I understood the sheer terror one could feel about being found out. I felt the full weight of the realization that I was now responsible for a

Ellasmall person who would be completely reliant on me even though I was unprepared for this kind of commitment. But I ask you to ask yourself, “How can a decision to abort your baby based on fear or shame be a good one?” 

At Birthright, I met the loveliest, soft-spoken woman named Bernadette; her Irish brogue calmed me. Tearfully, I told her that I thought I was pregnant and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t afford to have a baby. I was barely supporting myself waiting tables and working at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and I had no health insurance. She asked if I wanted to take another pregnancy test. I did. I smile to think of it now; I was so much in denial that I was sure this time the test would say that I was not pregnant.

One of the smartest things that I did was go to a crisis pregnancy center as soon as I thought I was pregnant. I had so many questions. I had heard that it cost thousands of dollars to deliver a baby, and money was a big concern for me because my roommate was moving out to get married; I would have to find a less expensive apartment. All of my concerns about having a baby poured out of me, and Bernadette calmed me by having the answers. She explained to me how I could have my prenatal care and delivery through Catholic Charities. She said not to worry about finding an apartment; there were families that took in pregnant moms, and she would make the arrangements. We talked about my own family and about telling my parents. I told her that I was waiting until I could go home to Iowa to tell them face-to-face. She advised me not to wait and to call them.

I understand that telling your parents is weighing on your mind; you’re wondering and imagining how they will take the news. The fact that I was 25-years-old did not make breaking the pregnancy to them any easier. I was especially close to my mom, and I dreaded hurting and disappointing her. When I called to tell her, she was furious with me; she felt betrayed, because she had thought I was the kind of young woman that would save myself for marriage.

Mom's disappointment and coldness cut me like a knife. My phone would ring, but I wouldn’t answer it because I knew it was she. A wedge had been driven between us, and it was extremely painful for me. I tell you about this painful rift because I don’t want to soft-pedal this difficult task of telling your parents. I want you to know that sometimes mothers and fathers need time to digest this life-changing news. You see, part of the anger she felt against me was because she felt shut out. In our phone conversation, I had told her that I wouldn’t be coming home because I didn’t want to be a constant reminder of how big of a disappointment I was. Once I came to my senses and I realized that I could not raise a baby without her help, it didn’t take long for our relationship to mend.

Another difficult aspect of my pregnancy was the knowledge that I was bringing my baby into the world without a father. I longed for my boyfriemd to come to me—for him to tell me he wanted to marry me. I still loved him; and I deeply desired us to be a family. Even so, I wanted him only if he came to me of his own free will. He stayed away; and I taught my heart to move on without him. Maturity has taught me that it was for the better that we did not marry.

Something else I want to tell you is that an unplanned pregnancy, like a planned pregnancy, brings a woman incredible inner strength. I never realized how strong I was physically and mentally before my daughter came along.

She arrived as the first snowflakes of winter danced to the earth, swirling up the inaugural blizzard of November. I named her Ella Philomena; Ella, after my maternal great grandmother, and Philomena, because it meant full of light—a name that represented what my daughter was bringing to my life. While the world slept, I fumbled to figure out how to be a mother to Ella. Before Ella, my experience of love had been superficial—more lust than love. Now I was discovering that true love is intertwined with sacrifice, but it is also real and rewarding.

Because of Ella, I left my life in the city so I could be near my parents for support. I missed my job and my old life terribly, but all I had to do was look at her sweet face to know that she was the best thing that ever happened to me. In choosing to raise Ella, a whole chain of events were set off that made my life develop into something much more wonderful than it had been. I had long had a rocky relationship with my father. The day I called him at his office to tell him I was pregnant, he surprised me; I had expected him to be furious with me. Instead, he was compassionate. That phone call was the salve that began the healing of a long-open wound that had prevented me from loving my father as he deserved. Before that day, I had doubted his love for me.

For five years, Ella and I lived with my parents and two younger brothers. You might cringe at the thought of an adult returning home to live with her family. Yes, it was humbling, but it also was a time that I cherish like no other. Unlike my teen years, this period of living with my parents was peaceful. I got to know them more deeply and understand them more fully. In return, they loved Ella like she was their own child.

Having my daughter also made me strive to be a better person. I had graduated from art school, but I was floundering without a set career path. Ella's existence was the catalyst for a series of events that made me realize my vocation as a writer.

Unexpectedly, choosing to have Ella brought me another grace—true friendship. Since childhood I had longed for a kindred spirit. I would mourn the loss of friends who would come and go in my life. I sometimes wondered what was wrong with me that I could not maintain friendships. I often felt a deep and sorrowful loneliness. After Ella came into my life, I have never felt lonely. God not only gave me a baby but also gifted me with a best friend who understands me like no other person.

If I could have glimpsed 22 years into the future while sitting at that stoplight sick and trembling with fear, I would have seen a visage of a young woman who resembled me. I would have seen a girl who loved to laugh and spend time with her mother—a daughter who would be a rock during her mother’s most vulnerable times—her steadfast friend and companion. I would not have been afraid. I tell you that your fear will also pass, and by giving your baby life, new and unexpected doors will open.

Twelve years ago I married a wonderful man. Ella now has three siblings to love her. 

A plea from Ella,

If my mom had not had the courage to weather this trial, I would not be alive today. I would not have known her love and dedication—the comfort of her embrace. I would never have known my two brothers and sister. I would have never felt the unconditional love of my grandparents.

Like her, I know that you can be brave for your baby. The good news is that you do not have to do it alone. There are so many people from Birthright and from the surrounding community that are waiting and willing help you. No problem is insurmountable. My mom and I are living witnesses to this. Love, Ella