My oldest daughter had been asking me since she was 2 ½ years old, ever since her little sister was born, if she was the first baby in my belly. Actually, she didn’t ask it in true question form, it was more of a confirmation request, like, “I was the first baby in your belly, right Mom?” I could tell that she took pride in this false rank. When she first asked me this question all those years ago I was dumbstruck. I reacted instinctively and quickly lied, “Yes, honey. You were the first baby in my belly.” And then I quickly tried to change the subject. I didn’t know what else to say at the time. Then when my son was born, she began asking the question again. And again, I hadn’t yet resolved a way to tell her the truth without crushing her pride, so I continued to lie to her.
Telling my children about my abortion was definitely one of the more difficult phases of my healing journey. There’s no rule that says you need to tell your children, I just felt over the course of several years and after much prayer, that it was the right thing for me personally to do.
When I attended my first post-abortion retreat my youngest child was 2 years old. About 2 more years after that, I had joined the retreat team as a volunteer, and I was beginning to feel ready to finally tell my daughter the truth. I had been telling my children simply that I was attending “women’s retreats” without giving more information than that. I didn’t want to hide my healing as I had been hiding my abortion all those years. This secret was different, it was something I didn’t want to keep a secret. This was something I actually desired to tell people about. When you learn something that brings so much relief, you don’t want to keep it to yourself, you want to tell the world.
So I decided to make this a special time for the two of us. I brought her to the retreat center when no one else was there. It’s located on a beautiful lakefront, and I took her down to the water where there’s a hiking trail and the trees were gorgeous in full fall color. As we began to walk I told her that I needed to confess something to her, that I had lied to her about something very important.
I was very nervous and a little worried that her spirit would be hurt learning not only that I had lied to her, but that she was not the first baby in my belly, and worst of all, that I had purposely ended her brother’s life. I stopped walking and turned to face her. I wanted to see her face and be able to gauge her reaction. After I explained each of these points and what exactly abortion is, I asked for her forgiveness. Her eyes watered just a little, and she said that she forgave me, that she still loved me, and she was ok to learn that she was not the first baby in my belly. She was not crushed. Instead, she was softened. She was interested about her brother. When I explained that her brother is in heaven and that she will meet him some day her eyes watered even more, but she never cried. I could tell that she loved him instantly, I could see it in her eyes and in her sweet wonderings about him. We hugged and walked a little more. I gave her permission to let this news sit with her for a few days and come back to me if she ever had any questions.
I believe our conversation has strengthened our relationship and provided room for more openness in general. I have continued to try to teach my children from my mistakes in all kinds of areas, not just abortion. Now my daughter shares with me the times that the topic of abortion is discussed in school and at church. She has asked me to share my story with some of her friends, and she has also chosen the topic in some of her writing assignments.
If you have ever had or been involved in an abortion, I would not suggest confiding in your children until you have gone through some type of healing journey. It’s important to work through issues like anger, forgiveness and regret to prevent “dumping” on or burdening your kids. They are not ample counselors for such a heavy topic. Even after going through healing, it’s important to pray and prepare for such a conversation. My daughter was 12 years old at the time that I told her, and I feel that the timing was right.
Even though there is no rule anywhere that says you must to tell your children, I believe that openness and education about abortion, and any issue really, is the biggest key to ending the cycle of generations following after each other and repeating painful behaviors. First, second, third, it doesn’t matter the order that our children appear in our bellies. They are all precious and deserving of life.