The first time I walked through the door of the abortion clinic was for an appointment to confirm I was pregnant. In my mind, there was no need for confirmation. Since I’d taken the test, the subtle changes in my body were haunting reminders of the secret I was hiding. A sudden thirst for soft drink, cravings for ice cream and a distaste for coffee, which had generally sustained me each day during university and long hours at work.
As I lay down on the bed for the first ultrasound, I looked away from the screen and avoided eye contact with the woman conducting the check-up. As she rubbed the cold gel on my stomach and began moving the probe around on my skin, I did my best to remain disconnected from the moment.
In a matter-of-fact way, she shared the news as though it might be a surprise to me:
“Yes, you are pregnant. Still very early. Perhaps only six or seven weeks.”
It was no surprise. But hearing the truth confirmed what had been burning a hole in my soul since that day in the public toilet.
The small talk that happened next is a blur. I recall declining the offer to discuss my options with someone and instead methodically made my way to the administration desk to book an appointment for the abortion. The rest of that day and several more days passed as though I were watching a movie with the sound on mute.
The day came when I was to have the abortion.
I wanted the mistake to be over and forgotten. Flashes of memories come to my mind from that day despite my best efforts to bury them. Some have etched themselves into the corners my mind, and no amount of painting over them or attempts to sand them down can remove their imprint.
When I walked into the room that day I saw a bed with two stirrups hanging at the end. My mind raced forward glimpsing what I knew would be happening in a matter of minutes; my legs strapped in, my body vulnerable, so the abortion could take place.
This image continued to haunt me in the coming years. Choosing to allow a life to be ripped from your body in such a humiliating way is not something your soul moves on from quickly.
Waking up in the bed after the procedure was surreal. There was no going back. I had gone through with a decision I’d frowned on others for making. There were layers of feelings. Relief, fear, regret, and numbness, as well as a determination to move on and be brave.
As I walked out of the clinic that afternoon, I went into autopilot. I met a friend for lunch and it was as though nothing had happened. We ate lunch, engaged in chit chat and I ordered dessert—a dark chocolate basket with Cointreau cream and fresh berries. The sweet deliciousness was so ill-fitting for the day, although no meal would have felt right. Nothing seemed to feel right any more. I was an actor in my own life. University classes resumed as normal. Work was the same, everything externally remained the same, but inside I was gravely different.
Subconsciously I believed if I could cover up my mistake for a while, then I could face the consequences and deal with my heart later. But once I had done my best to ‘sort it out’ nothing could prepare me for the change that took place on a soul level.
The shame, guilt and horror of what I’d done were so deep that I couldn’t deal with being present in my own life. I just watched it from a distance. I wasn’t me. To this day there are large portions of time where I have no memory of events.
Life was a blur.
At times, truckloads of emotions boiled up, and I exploded in uncontrollable crying, screaming and shouting. The outbursts lasted for hours. I was an intelligent and capable young woman yet the way I was living was incongruent with what my heart knew to be true, and it caused extreme conflict within. [Section removed]
It was a vicious cycle. I was trapped in the reality I’d build for myself under the illusion we should stay together and work it out. If I stayed, I could at least say I had only slept with one man in my life. Surely that would count towards my integrity somehow. So, I continued to stay and things continued to get worse. I could never go back to church now.
Sex before marriage is one thing, but abortion is a whole different level. People in church believe in no sex before marriage, but outside the walls of the church, sex before marriage in this day and age is accepted as the norm.
Abortion on the other hand, is one subject that people from all walks of life have strong views about. When the issue of abortion came up in conversation, I no longer had an opinion. I remained silent.
My sin was too deep for forgiveness. It made sense that God would give me unconditional grace, but only before I knew Him. Surely there were different rules for bad things done intentionally, after knowing Him then deliberately turning my back on Him.
My self-esteem plummeted. I didn’t have the strength to leave. It was a dead end. What happened next could only be described as the gracious hand of God. [Section removed]
With my weekends now free, mostly I found myself back at church. Going to church had been such a pattern in my life before I was ‘too busy dating’ so with nothing else to do, I went. I’d avoid the part of the service where the congregation would turn and greet each other. I hated being there for that part—I wanted to be left alone. I was there for God, not people and I didn’t want their pity, their kindness, their time or conversation. The goal was to remain unseen. As soon as the end of the service was drawing near, I’d head straight for the door.
During worship, I couldn’t help but throw my arms up in surrender. Despite being far from Him in this season, as the songs played, my arms would go up, an outward indication of my soul yearning for God. Inside I still felt the heavy weight of my sin. I knew my relationship with God would never be the same after the things I’d done.
Externally I assumed the stance of surrender; a sign of submission, respect and authority. But inwardly there was no love, no relationship, no trust or intimacy. I feared God and knew I didn’t belong in Church. I had knowingly chased a boy my leaders advised me not to, slept with him and then done the unspeakable—aborted our unborn baby.
In a world where people desperately desire to fall pregnant I had taken that opportunity and, because of my pride, thrown it away in a despicable act.
My head, a ball of emotions and overactive thoughts, imagined people at church thinking;
‘There’s Carly, she used to show such promise. She’s the girl who left to go out with that guy. She probably ended up sleeping with him, such a shame. What a waste.’
I was thankful God let me come back to church, but I believed He would always have to hold me at arm’s length. Maybe one day I would get to the point where I deserved an average life—this would still be a good exchange for the hellish life I’d been living—so I chose to accept it gratefully. I did my best to bury the past and dismiss the pain and regret that hounded my heart. If I didn’t acknowledge it then perhaps God would forget about it too.
They’d never know what I had been through.
For months I’d tried to set my mind to normal, everyday living, fake it ’til I made it, but inevitably I would be rudely interrupted with accusations.
‘If they knew what you did, what would they think of you?’
Fear kept me paralysed. I couldn’t be totally honest with anyone for fear of rejection. So I held others at arm’s length the same way God was holding me. But it was fear that eventually worked in my favour. I was afraid of owning up to what I had done, but I was even more afraid of returning to my old life. If I didn’t let someone in, I knew that’s where I would end up.
I was visiting church sporadically, just enough to replenish my starved soul but infrequently enough to keep my distance. Maybe once a month if I was lucky. And so, for this sporadic attender, it came as a total surprise to everyone (including me) when out of the blue I booked a ticket for the upcoming Women’s Conference ‘Colour’ hosted by Hillsong Church in Sydney…
Excerpt From: Carly Riordan. “Daughter Wait! Chapter 6, Numb”
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About Daughter Wait!
Daughter Wait! is an invitation to consider a different approach to dating and relationships.
If you’ve ever wondered: How do I know if he is the one? How do I move on from a broken heart? What are realistic boundaries in a relationship? What can I do while I am waiting?
Then this book is for you.
Within these pages are some of Carly’s most vulnerable and heartbreaking moments, along with the powerful revelations and realizations that set her heart on a new course. Daughter Wait! is a warning of the perils of dating and a reminder of the promises of a Heaven-sent relationship.
Written in Carly’s unique conversational style, you’ll cry, laugh and cheer as you follow her story of life, loss and love. Daughter Wait! is a timeless reminder that regardless of your past, God has the best for your future.
Carly lives on the Gold Coast, Australia with her husband Joe and their two girls: Beni and Selah. She is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, a lover of His Church, people and life in general.
She has served in her local church for over 15 years as a worship leader, pastor and church builder. Carly has lectured on the Theology of Worship at Bible College but gravitates towards a style of writing and speaking that has her telling endless stories infused with the grace and truth of Jesus. You’ll find yourself in her stories and be inspired to live more intentionally and passionately for God.