From Darkness into Light: Finding My Way to the Father’s Merciful Love
The story of my journey from abuse and abortion to grace – by Shawna Arnold
“Shawna Arnold has been graced by God the Father to share her remarkable story of post-abortion healing. This testimony will bless many readers who struggle interiorly with guilt and depression issues. It is a passageway into the healing arms of the Father of us all.”
– Fr Denis Phaneuf
It seems like such a simple thing to say. A simple thing to believe.
And yet, somehow there are times that the things you once fiercely believed, things that seemed easy enough to live by – are just not so simple anymore.
You feel like you’re losing control.
How could this happen? How can I be pregnant?
You may be a mother of four who had decided she was finished having kids. You may be a young woman who is in love with her boyfriend but not ready for marriage. You may be just a girl – who has been raped. You might even be a happily married woman who thought she was ready to start a family, and now you’re not so sure.
Circumstances can change a lot about how a woman feels. And even in the best of situations, pregnancy can be terrifying.
Why should I go through all of this if I’m not ready? What is going to happen to my body? How much is this going to hurt? How can I possibly have a baby right now?
What if most of the fears – well what if what they really boil down to – is the fear of the unknown? Heap on top of these typical worries a pile of hormones, coupled with bouts of uncontrollable nausea, and you’ve got a recipe for extreme emotional distress.
There’s the fear that your body is doing something against your will. It is building tissue and creating a place that nourishes a tiny human being – and all without your consent.
It’s my body. I control what happens to it.
If you think about it, your body does a lot of things without your direction. You breathe. You digest. You ovulate. You dream. Involuntarily. It may not be ‘fair’, but it’s none-the-less amazing. Can you take control of these things? Sometimes. But pregnancy is different. For there is now more than your body.
There’s the fear that the people around you will be disappointed, and maybe even disgusted when they find out. They might reject you.
How can I face anyone ever again?
You may find that when your reputation is at stake, you are suddenly very willing to hide – actually – to do almost anything to put things back to the way they were. The way people expect. Yet you need to know that reputation is not the same as character. People don’t love reputations. People love people. And if they don’t, it says more about them than it does about you. You can’t control how people will treat you. There’s that loss of control again. The unknown.
And so, all of these fears, all of this loss of control – how can you get it back?
Dear one, you never really had control. It never really left. It was never really there. It just… felt like it was there.
You will never have complete control of your circumstances. Yet you can always exhibit amazing self-control. You can choose to see this child through to his first breath even though you can’t control how it will happen. Deep down, you are braver than you know. You have 9 months (give or take) ahead of you that are going to be uncomfortable. It’s not that long when you consider that it will give a child the chance at an entire lifetime. This baby has no control either. She did not will herself into being. She doesn’t want to hurt you. She needs you.
There may have been times when life seemed so horrible – so dark – that you felt like it would never change. But then, it did. You grew. You made it. It was worth it. I guarantee there were times when your own mother wasn’t so sure she could do this. But, thank God she did. Because you were worth it.
Life isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it. Believe it. Live it.
The Real Choices of Pregnancy
An unplanned pregnancy can be a difficult and confusing situation, especially outside of marriage. We want you to know that you are not alone, and there are many others out there who have experienced similar circumstances and want to help.
We firmly believe that life is precious, and you need to understand the value of your choices from this point on. Below are excerpts from the stories of others who faced the decision you may be facing right now.
I had an abortion in 1995. I experienced the deep shame, guilt, anger, and depression that came with it. I grew up in a dysfunctional home and experienced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. My mom was severely depressed and addicted to prescription pills. My father was a workaholic and never spent much time with his children. At an early age, I had to take care of my siblings. I worried constantly about my home life and what was going to happen on a day-to-day basis. I remember as a child having anger towards God as to why I had the life I had. I had a grandmother who was always there for me. Her home was a place of safety, and I would go to visit her quite often. My grandfather was a war veteran, and even though he was angry a lot of the time, it was still a safer environment than my own home.
I started to get in with the wrong crowd when I was a young teen. I began using alcohol, which led to drugs. I avoided going home, and no one seemed to notice. I dropped out of school in grade 9 and found a family amongst other friends who were experiencing similar problems. I later found out that my parents had separated. My mom had moved out without telling me, and took my younger brother with her. My father and my other brother stayed together and later moved into an apartment. My grandmother had died shortly after this and that was very hard for me to take. It was like losing my mother. To deal with my hurt, I began to drink more heavily and use more drugs. I stayed with my mom off and on because I felt she needed someone to be there for her after losing her mother. I never saw my brother and dad for years. For some reason, his absence seemed normal to me. I kept drinking and partying and started to get in trouble with the law. I ended up in jail as a minor. But even when I got out of juvenile jail, I continued with the same old habits.
My mom met another man and decided to marry him. He started to physically abuse her and my younger brother. I would run away from home and then feel guilty for leaving my brother behind. I drank to numb the pain, and then at the age of 19, I became pregnant. My mother told me to have an abortion, and so I set up an appointment with the doctor myself. I was so addicted to alcohol and drugs that I thought this was the right decision. A friend drove me there and I was left alone in the hospital to have the abortion.
When it was over, all I remember was waking up and feeling extremely weak. I was white as a ghost. I was given a snack and drink and left the hospital. My friend picked me up and I was in extreme pain and cramping the whole way home.
After the abortion, my life went from bad to worse. I did more drinking and harder drugs to mask my guilt and shame. I was hurting beyond belief. I kept getting in trouble with the law, and I pretended that the abortion had been a good choice for me.
I got pregnant again a year after my abortion, which I later realized was an atonement pregnancy. I wanted to replace the baby I lost. I told my mom I was pregnant and she said I couldn’t keep this baby and should have another abortion. I told her, “No, I am keeping my baby.” I could not go through that hurt again. I quit drinking and doing drugs cold-turkey, and was eager to have my baby. When I was 4 months pregnant, my mom died of an overdose. I thought my life would only bring never-ending pain. I had a baby boy who I believe is the angel who saved me. I married the father of my son and ended up having my marriage annulled 2 years later. My husband didn’t want to quit drinking and doing drugs, but I wanted to grow up and have a family. It had always been the desire of my heart to have a family. I needed something he couldn’t give me, a life without addiction.
Shortly after that, I was led back to the Lord. I attended a youth retreat and experienced a deep healing. God had spoken to me and said “I am your father, and I love you”. During adoration God had pulled something out of my heart, and I felt love and joy beyond belief. My shirt was soaked from the tears I cried during that adoration. I was on fire after that and kept seeking the Lord. Yet I kept feeling the guilt and shame of my abortion, haunting my mind. I would cry out for forgiveness. I felt I had committed the most unforgivable sin. I went to reconciliation several times about my abortion and would cry my eyes out in shame, guilt, and fear that I was going to hell. I had thoughts about my aborted baby hating me for what I had done to him. I could sense him wondering “Why me mom? Why am I the one you killed?”
As my relationship with God strengthened, I was led to speak to someone at my church about my hidden secret. She informed me that there was a retreat for abortive woman coming to Saskatchewan. I never knew these types of retreats existed. I went to a retreat called Rachel’s Vineyard, and received a huge healing from God. He showed me that He had forgiven me, and why I had done this sin. Before this retreat I could not forgive myself. But God made it clear to me that I needed to do that, and accept the gift of His forgiveness. I named my aborted son Michael, and had a memorial service for him.
When I got home I knew both God and my aborted son Michael had forgiven me, and wanted me to move on with my life. I let go of the guilt, shame, and unforgiveness I had carried for years. I was a single mother for 7 years before I knew what real love was and what a marriage truly is and means. God has blessed me with another son and a loving husband; the family I’d always longed for.
God has placed a compassion and understanding on my heart for the women and children affected by abortion, and for those who are broken-hearted. Currently I am speaking in schools and telling my testimony to teenagers, in the hope that an abortion can be prevented. I also tell them about some of my post-abortive symptoms and how an abortion doesn’t instantly make your life go back to what it was before your pregnancy. I also participate in Silent No More Awareness activities in my area. If it wasn’t for God, I would not be able to do what I am doing. Truly, He has shown me His mercy and forgiveness.
Have you had an abortion? Are you hurting?
As women who have experienced abortion firsthand, we’re here to offer support to anyone who is suffering after this decision. No one can share the truth about the trauma of abortion more effectively than someone who has been there.
The abortion experience is significantly traumatic and the symptoms have been collectively known as Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS).
PAS is a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
|| a psychological reaction occurring after experiencing a highly stressing event that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event || – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Click here to read more about PAS, or to receive support from Fountain of Hope women, please visit our speakers page and email one of us. We would love to share with you and help you on your healing journey! As well, check out the many other resources available to you – you are not alone!