In all my prayer requests to friends for my physical healing from advanced Lyme Disease and gallbladder surgery earlier this year, I forgot to ask for prayer for my emotional healing.
What made me remember?
It was January 22nd and I had just finished speaking with a priest friend who understood that despite my need to recover from my physical ills, I'd rather be at D.C.’s March For Life. So, instead of being at the March, I was finishing a Rosary I'd started.
And then I just lost it. It all just welled up inside me at that moment, and again later that night at a parish Rosary. I thought I was weeping because of the words, “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” I thought my tears meant that God was there with us (I had heard that once). I thought it was because I never got to know my daughter and I miss her. I thought it was because of the pain I feel for the horror of abortion; the sheer, crushing enormity of it — 43 million babies, moms and dads. I just sat stupefied as I realized what we’ve done — as a nation, a people, a world.
Perhaps that’s why I hadn’t written a column about this year’s March for Life events yet.
It never hit me like this before, not on last year’s March or even prior. Sure, I would get emotional at press conferences, but I also felt like a soldier. Something concrete occupied my mind, hands and voice.
But this time as I prayed, I felt so sad — for myself and everyone ever involved. One friend thought it might be because I couldn't forgive myself for my abortion, but it isn’t that.
It just still hurts. I know God forgives me. I know Erin Madeline forgives me. I believe I have forgiven myself, but it still hurts to miss her.
This time, I couldn't help but feel the pain of my daughter, all the other babies who lost their lives and all the women and men who regret that choice. Perhaps it just built up inside me all year. Perhaps I write this column as a way to heal — to help save others from this pain.
Many people have written, applauding my courage and ability to focus on this, to persevere despite the weight of the memory and the pain. They said they couldn’t do what I do; it would be too much for them.
Well, in the weeks since this 31st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it was too much for me.
I know the healing process can't happen in a weekend. I just felt so overwhelmed, and I’m grateful to God for His forgiveness. Sitting near the tabernacle that night, being in Jesus’ presence, perhaps it all hit me because here is where I’m most reminded of His unconditional love and this is what I need most when the sorrow seems too much.
It was easy to be strong among 100,000 last year. I knew I made a difference to at least a few people who saw my “I Regret My Abortion” sign, who asked me if that was my story, and thanked me with their hugs and tears. Maybe I do all this because helping to ease someone else's pain, makes both of us feel their pain a little less.
I've read countless stories about “anniversary reactions” happening to women on the dates of their abortions. I have never experienced that, but on this January 22, I could only think, “If it only hadn’t been made legal, I would never have done it.”
My priest friend said, “Without taking away anything from what you said about crying because of the immensity of your pain and the blindness of those who don’t see it yet, is there any possibility that there is a gift hidden in these tears? Can you be crying because, at last, you can cry? You can speak openly and honestly, however deaf the ears around you. Tears are sometimes desperation, sometimes liberation. At last, you can offer to Erin Madeleine what she deserves…a love that moves you to tears.”
And I thought, Just like our Lord’s (John 11:35).
(Annie Banno is the Connecticut State Leader of OPERATION OUTCRY: SILENT NO MORE, and one of three post-abortive women writing on the blog After Abortion. To contact her or sign up to receive her free newsletter, e-mail [email protected].)