As published on MSN.com June 25th, 2007
A young woman, pregnant by a stranger’s rape, chooses adoption over abortion.
By Donna Lewis
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It was January, and cold. I sat in the frigid car, my insides twisting in fear, tears streaming down my face. It was an ugly cry. I sobbed out loud, and pounded my head on the steering wheel. What now? I was at a complete loss. I prayed for an earthquake that would make the brick building in front of me crumble and crush my car—with me in it. I just wanted to be dead.
This was my second abortion appointment. The first was canceled because I had to pay for the abortion up front, and all I had was a check. They didn’t take checks. I had to make another appointment. This was it.
I took a deep breath and started the car. Frosty air blasted from the vents and kicked me out of my hysteria and into a dull, nearly comatose state. My nose was completely plugged, and my eyes were swollen and felt like gravel. I should have headed back to school, but I didn’t want to. All I knew was the overwhelming need to flee the clinic parking lot.
It had all started four months before with a group of friends out to have a good time downtown. Since there were so many of us, we all agreed that if we got separated, we would meet back at a particular building whose lobby was usually open after hours, and where we liked to hang out on the roof and talk about everything and nothing. Forget getting in touch by cell phone—at the time, only CEOs and high-ranking government officials had them.
We did get separated along the way, when I had to go to the restroom and my friends took off. I couldn’t find them, so I decided to go to the roof of our building and wait.
I waited for a few minutes. Since it was October and somewhat chilly, I decided to wait in the lobby instead. I got in the elevator, and a man entered a few floors down. This man pressed the emergency stop button and coldly raped me as I struggled in vain to fight him off. He got off at the next floor and left me a crumpled mess on the elevator floor.
My mind was in chaos. What had just happened? I could make no sense of it whatsoever. My brain cells slowly reorganized themselves in an attempt to deny the incident. I left without meeting my friends and simply went home, took a shower and went to bed.
I am not sure I would have ever mentally revisited that night again. But I was pregnant.
Initially I would not even entertain the idea. I was stressed. Finals were around the corner. My dad was let go from his job. There were plenty of things that could cause stress and mess with my system. I even refused to acknowledge the vague nausea I felt every night. Nerves, I supposed.
But after three months, I could not deny it much longer. I told a friend of mine who worked with me at the library, and she took me to her OB/GYN. I had never been to one before. I gazed at the diagrams of unborn babies on the wall, used so that women who were excited about their babies could see exactly what was going on inside their bodies. I couldn’t stop staring at the tiny little toes on the picture of the four-month pre-developed baby. Ten tiny toes. Perfect.
The doctor didn’t notice my gaze when he came back with my test results. Even though I knew it already, it still felt like I’d been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat when I heard, “Well, the test is positive. What would you like to do?”
After collecting my breath, I asked for clarification. “Do? What should I do?” He looked right into my eyes and said, “I can schedule an abortion for you if you like.”
Likely knowing that I would have sat there in his office in a stupor all afternoon, he gave me a card with a phone number for the clinic down the street, wished me luck, and ushered me out.
I grew up in a home that followed the teachings of Jesus Christ. I had dedicated myself to that relationship years earlier. It was expected that I would graduate from college, have a wonderful career, marry and have a bunch of children. This horrible event was not part of the plan; I had never discussed with anyone, investigated for myself, or even really heard in passing, what a woman’s pregnancy options were.
Interestingly enough, my faith simultaneously drew me toward and away from an abortion.
The word “abortion” meant nothing to me. What had profound meaning was the phrase “pregnant out of wedlock.” This phrase reverberated through my life, sending feelings of doom. I felt intense shame and embarrassment. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. It did not matter how it happened. I was, effectively, a statistic. Another black girl pregnant out of wedlock.
God set up some teachings that He knew we would need in order to be happiest and healthiest. It pleases God to see us live according to design. This includes the ideal of having children inside the protection of a good marriage. However, because of this principle, some Christians show disdain, even revulsion, toward women whose sexual lives are made public through pregnancy. That anticipation of judgment, pity, and being shunned as an “outsider” in my own church drew me toward an abortion. I did not anticipate grace from people.
But at the same time, that very same faith drew me away from the abortion. I knew of God’s great affection for children, and His fierce desire to protect them. The Bible repeatedly speaks of how God wants us all to be like children. I knew He would not be thrilled if I decided to abort. I anticipated God’s anger, which drew me away from an abortion. I did not anticipate grace from God either.
The fact is that I did receive grace. But I had to take a risk to receive it.
A few days later I called the number on the card I got from the OB/GYN and made an appointment for an abortion. When I tried to pay with a check, I was told I had to come back later. So two weeks later I did.
But the day I returned, hoping for a compassionate face, a smile, something, all I got was a cold question: “Do you have proper payment?” She didn’t even look up. Something happened in that moment. Something broke inside me and I turned around and left without a word. There I sat sobbing in my car out in the cold. Lost.
After that I slowly changed my mind. I felt incapable of parenting, but I wanted this baby to live and decided to take a personal risk on her behalf and face whatever came my way. I told my parents. I told people in my church. And to my great surprise, I received grace. I was treated with such love, affection, compassion, and acceptance, it still amazes me. I couldn’t even absorb it all at the time, but later the realization of it brought me to my knees in grateful tears for those people who demonstrated real grace to me—the kind of grace that God wanted to show, no matter what I might have decided.
Many have asked me why I decided to make an adoption plan for my daughter Vanessa, when some people would have understood if I aborted. I don’t think there was any one reason—so many things merged into the eventual decision. I think my choice had four components:
Truth: I saw the truth of what was happening inside me. When I saw the medical pictures of fetal development, I couldn’t deny that she was human.
Love: I secretly loved that baby. It seemed to me then that I wasn’t supposed to love her because of the way she was conceived. I came to realize later that the love a woman has for her child has incredible strength—no matter what the child looks like, what handicap he may have, or the way he was conceived. I also wanted this child to have one thing I could not provide—the love of a daddy who had been waiting for her.
Vision: I had a vision of what I wanted. I wanted to be a mother someday. The conflict that went on in my head was this: How I could be a good mother later if I aborted my first child? I struggled with the knowledge that the value of a child is constant. My circumstances would continuously change. Should one of my children live or not live, depending on my changing circumstances? Or should I protect my children in the face of unpredictable circumstances? My desire became to protect this child, even though I couldn’t figure out how to protect myself.
Belief: Even in my numb state, I believed that doing the right thing would benefit me at some point. The right thing was to let this child live. It did not feel good. I knew I would have to walk through five more months of stares, questions, and self-perception struggles. But I believed, and it turned out to be true.
The process of my pregnancy was the most painful, difficult, and frightfully emotional thing I have ever gone through. The healing process was not easy either.
However, I am now much stronger having fought my way through it, and I have been able to incorporate my experience into my life, and my career as a life coach. I believe that most women can choose to use similarly difficult experiences to become stronger, more self-aware, and more compassionate human beings.
Seeing my beautiful daughter has been a huge factor in helping to heal my wounded spirit from the violence of the rape. Beauty was brought from ashes. The world now has this incredible person with potential to give back in ways I cannot foresee. She, too, has brought grace into my life.
In the years since we’ve been in contact, I am increasingly proud of the decision I made. I am also proud of my daughter, a fabulous addition to the world. She is a happy, intelligent, centered, socially aware human being, preparing to be launched into young adulthood and make her mark in the world.
Take a risk to receive grace into your life. You might be surprised where you find it.
Donna Lewis is a wife, mother, and personal coach (www.lewiscoaching.com). She and her husband Gerald live in Washington with their two toddler girls, Kathryn and Stephanie, who are getting to know and love their birth sister, Vanessa.