I have a little girl on my mind today, my daughter. None of you have ever met her. She lives in heaven with Jesus where I know I will see her again someday. If she had been born on this earth, she would be 20 years old this month. It's amazing to think I would have a child of that age. Ashley Hope is my baby's name and I would like to share our story with you.
I was 17 and up until then, I had been a pretty good kid. I was obedient, got good grades and didn't give my parents much trouble. But, as I got older, things changed and my desire to be liked and have friends led me to a group of older people that accepted me gladly. They were nice, so I thought, but they were also involved in things I had no business doing; drinking, doing drugs and partying. I ended up liking a man ten years older than me and we began having a relationship. I look back now and feel so bad for the things I put my parents through. They weren't stupid. They knew I came home drunk more than once. They knew who I was hanging out with and they didn't like it, but the rebellion in me was growing larger and stronger and I didn't care. I was almost 18 and I was in charge of my life, I thought.
I was foolish and I began sharing myself physically with this man that I thought I loved. I didn't think about being "careful" because nothing bad could ever happen to me. I threw caution to the wind and did whatever felt good at the time, no matter what I had been taught.
I discovered I was pregnant in the summer of '89, not long after graduation from high school. I had no job, still lived at home. I was still a kid. The thought of this happening was unreal. THIS COULDN'T HAPPEN TO ME! But, it had. Now, what was I going to do? My head spun, I was in denial. Maybe if I ignored it, it would go away, I would wake up from the nightmare. How could I tell my parents? Surely, I would be put out on the street. My family's religious beliefs told me I would be shunned, ostricized and shamed.
What I needed to do was get rid of the problem. Just make it go away. So, I did. With the help of a friend who lied for me, I got an abortion at the age of 17. I did the unspeakable, the unthinkable. I can still remember every detail. The waiting room, the nurse, the room with the poster on the ceiling. And the noise, the noise that will never leave my head.
I left the office thinking it was done, problem solved. I could put this incident in my life in a little box and put it on the shelf. I'd never have to think of it again. I had avoided an even bigger disaster. Somehow my perception of the experience and the reality came to be two VERY different things.
My parents found out, of course. Their reaction was the complete opposite of the one I expected. How could I have been so wrong about them? Would it have been ok to tell them? Would the outcome have been different? Oh, if I could only go back and find out.
Well, that box on the shelf didn't stay there for long. The feelings were too big for it to contain, too explosive and emotional to be locked inside. The box spilled open and the things inside consumed me, as if they were a whirlpool surrounding me and sucking me in. There was no running, no hiding, no getting away from it. It followed me everywhere, even in my sleep, my dreams. The guilt over what I had done grew to a point of making me physically sick. I couldn't function. What had I done?
It is 20 years later and I have found hope and healing in my Lord Jesus Christ. It took many years to sort through all my anger, hurt and guilt. It wasn't until I accepted Christ that I was actually able to forgive myself for my selfish actions. He has showed me that He has forgiven me and He loves me even though I made such a foolish choice. Ashley is part of my life, He planned it that way. Why He allowed my story to take this shape, I don't know. But, her life had a purpose. I choose to believe that by allowing this in my life, He has prepared me to help minister to others who also chose this path. How can you help someone hurting when you have no idea of the level of pain and hurt that they are dealing with? Well, I know it. I have felt it and I still feel it, even now. I cry on the anniversary of her death. I miss her when I go through the box filled with things that remind me of her. I ache over her absence. I miss my daughter.
But, she is a part of my life. I share her whenever I can. My children know they have a big sister in heaven. They don't know the details, but when they are old enough, I will tell them. I want them to know there are better choices out there. Even when you think things are impossible, there is a way out, a better way. My passion is help others who are still hurting from their choice of abortion. There are so many out there, even in the Christian community. There are followers of Christ that walk around with this burden when they could be feeling the freedom that Christ wants for them. That's what I want for them.
So, you can judge me or not, the choice is yours. But, I love my daughter and I long for the day when I see her for the first time and she runs into my arms and says my name, Mommy. She is mine and I am hers and no one can take that away from me. Thank you Jesus, for loving me and for loving my baby.