8 years ago I made a decision that would forever alter my life. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do or where to go.

I had just relocated to a new state and city, feeling completely alone and vulnerable. A few days before, I had mustered up the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship. We had been together on and off for a year. I desperately wanted it to work out, but I knew deep down I needed to move on.

Some might think leaving a bad relationship should be an easy decision, but at the time I felt trapped and leaving that relationship was one of the hardest things I had ever done.

There had been a few indicators that I might be pregnant, but I wanted to be sure. I didn’t know where to go. My relationship with God felt strained, but I begged him to spare me. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I had just left a toxic relationship and everything in me just wanted to move on. In sheer panic, I started bargaining with God, saying, “I will never make a mistake again. Please have mercy on me. If you get me out of this, I will do anything.”

I pulled up to Walgreens. I was broke and used the last couple dollars in my bank account to buy myself a pregnancy test. I was so ashamed that I wore a hat and tried to hide my identity, even though I didn’t know anyone in the town.

I went home and took the test by myself. It came back positive. I screamed, “No, God. No! This can’t be happening!” I was yelling at the ceiling, trying to reach God and convince him to somehow change my circumstances. Everything was closing in on me.

I wasn’t thinking about whether it was a life or not, I just didn’t know how I could go through with this pregnancy. 

My mom and I weren’t very close, but I thought, I just want my mom. I wanted her to wrap her arms around me, give me a big hug and tell me everything would be okay. I needed to hear that I could do this and that she believed in me.

She rushed over and when I told her the news she too, was scared and didn’t know how I could do this. I called my ex-boyfriend and it was no better. He laughed and accused me of lying. I was without support and bound by fear.

And these are the messages I heard:

How are you going to do this? How will this work? You have no support. You are single and broke. Have you considered all of your options? What about your life? What about your rights? Please just think about what’s best for you and your future. 

The fear was paralyzing. I was in shock and I had never felt so alone.

I didn’t have insurance and didn’t know what to do, so we went to Planned Parenthood. They are supposed to help women like me, right?

I knew the appointment had already been made, but I was still longing for someone to speak some sense into all of this and help me see how this could work out.

Maybe someone at the clinic would offer some alternative options and help me see a way that this could work and that I could do it. Maybe a nice staff member would see that I was braver than I thought I was. Maybe they would see beyond my fear. Maybe they would look into my eyes and see that I was, in fact, a strong woman, able to be a mother.

Maybe they would offer some hope, smile and say, “I know this is hard, but you can do this. I believe in you.” 

I have often thought back and contemplated that if I had heard just one person say they believed in me and could see deeper than the fear I was bound by, it would have changed everything.  I wish I had known about PRC and the encouragement and support they offer women facing an unplanned pregnancy.

But I didn’t know about PRC and I never got the chance to hear what my heart so desperately longed for.

When I went to the clinic, they didn’t give me a pregnancy test, offer peer counseling, or provide emotional support. Instead they took took me into a room and gave me an ultrasound scan, but they said I wasn’t allowed to see my baby on the screen. The nurse said that I was the perfect client for an abortion. They said it wouldn’t hurt, that it would be quick and fast and that it would all be over soon.

I woke up, immediately regretted my decision, and wanted to take it all back. The abortion didn’t fix anything, instead it only complicated my already broken life. I have never felt loss like that. The next few days, weeks, and months are a blur.  I felt robbed, violated and stolen from. I knew someone had taken something from me that wasn’t theirs to take.

I felt so much agony and torment that I would lie in bed at night and beg God to kill me. I felt like I needed to punish myself for what I had done. I deeply missed the child that I never met and it wasn’t fair that I was here and she wasn’t. The darkness and pain that had been lingering since I was a little girl were now completely consuming me. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was alive and my baby wasn’t.

The burden of unprocessed grief created a constant state of instability. And because I couldn’t undo or control what had been done, nor did I have the skills to deal with the trauma, I forced myself to just move on. The pain was left untouched, unhealed, and unprocessed for many years. I tried to punish myself for what I had done and lived in survival for years, affected in every way: emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually.

Life was very dark at that time, but something inside of me knew that Jesus was the answer. I ended up getting connected to a church, but for the next year or so, I went on with my life avoiding the shame that was under the surface.

One night I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The pain came flooding out of me. I knew it was time to open my heart, surrender and let go.  I told my friends at church about my abortion. I was expecting judgment and shame. Instead, they met me right where I was, with grace, and without judgment, sharing the goods of Christ and the gospel. That night, the Lord began to unravel the shame and secret I had protected, and bring forgiveness and reveal His powerful mercy and love to me in profound ways. That experience, along with growth in community and my new found relationship with God, carried me for the next couple of years.

When I got married several years later, a new layer of pain began to emerge. I had no idea what to do. I remember being so upset and thinking, I have already dealt with this! What is this, Lord?

I had just moved to the Portland area with my husband and knew we couldn’t battle this alone. I wondered if all of this might be connected to my past abortion and I wanted help. I randomly Googled “Post-abortion support” and that is when I discovered First Image’s Heart program.

When I went through Heart, it changed my life.

I went in knowing about God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin but was completely unaware of how marginalized grief can affect our lives. I learned that healing is not a onetime occurrence, but is like peeling an onion or taking a very long journey.  Heart gave me permission to grieve the many, many layers of loss surrounding my abortion experience and walk through the feelings and emotions that I had been avoiding and running from for many years.

In Heart, I began to see that I couldn’t undo what I had done. It was time to face everything. I needed to grieve and process all the pain I had been running from for so long. So I began to let myself slow down, cry, and connect to the feelings that were still there. I realized that no amount of self-hatred or punishment could ever bring her back or undo what I had done. It was a terrifyingly vulnerable thing to do, to really let my walls down and invite Jesus into those rooms that I had locked my pain in, but it was worth it. Through Heart, Jesus walked with me to each of those rooms and truly set me free. He rescued me from all the lies, darkness and cycle of pain that I had been bound by for so long.

Through the Heart group, the Lord set parts of my heart free that I didn’t even know needed freedom and I began to experience healing in the arms of a Loving Forgiving Father.

Today, I can truly say with all of me that I believe God is good and that no one is beyond his reach. He has taken my shame, my secret, and my sin and nailed them to the cross, inviting me to new life and new hope.

I have seen firsthand how the Lord can bring life from death, joy from grief, peace from pain, and wholeness from brokenness. The very real cost of surrendering and grieving is always worth it and leads us to new hope. 

Facing pain, loss and death is never easy. Life still has its challenges and some days the wound is still tender, but I know that God is with me and it’s okay to feel and be in that place. I don’t have to be afraid anymore. More than that, I came out with new hope. Heart gave me a greater sense of certainty that one day I will get to see my beautiful little daughter, Zoe (meaning life) in a heaven dancing with Jesus in a meadow.

There is hope. There is forgiveness. There is healing. There is life after abortion.

-Written by, Rachel Boyd. Rachel is now working full time with First Image on the Development Team. Her role is to help others get involved in the work that so significantly changed her own life.