Life After a Choice

By Shannon Toller

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One Woman’s Abortion Story

It's no secret to this faith blogger's audience that I am a woman who has had not one, not two, but three, abortions.

Before I became a Christian and became a girl mama to three audacious little ladies, I had three abortions at Planned Parenthood. Three abortions before I turned 22.

I never thought that would be a part of my story, but God promises to make beauty out of ashes. And He has, continuing to redeem and restore all of the broken pieces of my heart and soul. But, I cannot call myself a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, and stay silent any longer. It's a hard story to tell, but I know full well that God is most glorified in the hard stories.

I was eighteen. It was the summer after I graduated high school, and I had an addiction of the boy-crazy kind. I was head over heels for a guy who was the furthest thing from Prince Charming.

I gave up everything for my relationship with him. My grades tanked so bad that I didn't even graduate on time. I walked the stage at graduation and donned my cap and gown, but I took my grad photo without a diploma in my hands. It was the most soul-crushing moment of my life. (But now I am taking undergraduate classes at Colorado Christian University for Biblical Studies, so even Satan doesn't get that one any longer.)

We were all kinds of wrong for one another, but for some reason, that is so alluring when you are eighteen. Being with the "bad boy" has such an appeal when you are the "goody-two-shoes." I felt like we were Bender and Claire from The Breakfast Club. I envisioned us walking off into the sunset together, fists toward the sky. But that didn't happen. We were off again, on again so many times that I wasn't even sure what we called one another. We were in that dreaded "friends with benefits" zone, and I didn't realize the game of Russian Roulette I was playing. Until I found myself in a Family Planning aisle of my local grocery store, buying a pregnancy test, fearing as I had never feared before.

The next thing I knew, I was banging my head against a bathroom wall, freaking out that there was a plus sign where I was supposed to be seeing a minus. We weren't even a couple anymore, and here we were: in this weird in-between world of being almost parents and nowhere near married. Neither of us wanted anything to do with one another anymore, and when the first words out of his mouth were "I'll pay for you to get it taken care of," I knew we would never be getting back together.

A couple of weeks later, I walked into a Planned Parenthood: the day before Thanksgiving, and two days before my 19th birthday.

Of course, the protester I encountered told me I had already killed a turkey for dinner tomorrow, and I should probably not kill my baby, too. Not saying he was wrong, but if I would have been approached by a warm-hearted, kind Christian who just wanted to tell me the truth, I can't say I wouldn't have taken that brochure.

Instead, I was hustled into a building with bars on the windows and an armed security guard—not exactly a warm and inviting atmosphere intent on helping women. Every single person in the waiting room was terrified. We all had pale white faces like we'd just seen a ghost. Each one of us was a walking, talking zombie. I know now why I shut my mind off when I walked in: I wouldn't have been able to walk into that facility any other way.

There was a moment of clarity right before the doctor walked in. I knew I wasn't terminating a sack of cells. Sure, I may not have had a full-term baby in there, but he or she was still a baby. But I was too scared to walk out of the room. I was too afraid of what my life would be like if I walked out without having an abortion. So, I got on the table and put my feet in stirrups and quietly sobbed myself into numbness. I walked out of that clinic a shell of the girl who walked in.

Two years later, I found myself doing the same walk of shame into a Planned Parenthood. Protesters were yelling, and the same bars on the windows, but a much bigger facility. This one was a multi-level monstrosity that looked more like a prison than a doctor's office.

This time, I had an escort in a neon vest instead of an armed guard. But the entire scenario was the same. The same pale white faces in the waiting room, the momentary glimpse of clarity, and the quiet sobs into numbness. The same kind of guy making promises but not delivering on them. The same broken-hearted feeling as I walked out a shell of the girl who walked in.

This time, though, I was of legal drinking age, so I preceded to get rip-roaring drunk while on heavy narcotics. I didn't care about the outcome anymore. I was damaged and broken goods, who would care if I became a full-blown alcoholic to boot? I was miserable and jaded, but I convinced myself that all women feel like this after two abortions. I mean, it's kind of impossible to feel like a moral and responsible person after you do something like that. Imagine how reprehensible and vile you would have to be to do it again. I didn't have to imagine, unfortunately.

The third time was an absolute secret. I didn't even tell my mom. I couldn't tell a soul that I was going through this yet again. The shame and condemnation I would receive this time would surely be enough to do me in. I felt like such a loser. I wasn't even walking in there a shell anymore. I was just a busted-up bag of bones with a pulse.

Yet again, I found myself with my feet in stirrups, but this time, the pain meds didn't kick in quite as rapidly, and I felt everything. It was the most excruciating thing I had ever experienced. I don't remember screaming, but the nurses said I did. I just remember feeling like death in a post-op chair, knowing that I wasn't going to hide the pain I was in from everyone. I didn't know how I could keep such a life-altering secret. I didn't know how I was even allowed to keep making these mistakes.

God’s Redeeming Love

Hindsight is 20/20, and we've all heard that. And it's true; if I knew then what I knew now, I would have been on the side with the "Turkey Punisher" protester, praying that the girl walking into that clinic would see the truth about what was going to happen to her.

But, I know that God wanted me to experience that so that I could share my story with you, in this way, in the hopes that you choose life. In the hopes that you know your worth in Christ and that you know He knew you before He formed you in your mother's womb. You were never just a "sack of cells" to Him, and your babies aren't either.

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My sweet girls are walking, talking representations of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. He took my mess and restored it. He took my mistakes and made them messages. He took my hollow shell and did a complete metamorphosis. God is and will forever be in the restoration business. I have a sneaky suspicion that's why He came to work on earth as a carpenter.

I have the beautiful life and family I have today because our God is a God of miracles. Our God is a God of restoration and hope. Our God never wants us to be shells of who we once were; He wants us to be vessels for His Glory.

He doesn't want us to condemn ourselves any longer. He has thrown our sins as far as the east is from the west. He doesn't even think about all of the bad things we have done or will do. He loves us, unconditionally. He cares for us, wholeheartedly. And He is the ultimate plan-maker when everything seems broken and unplanned.

If you are that girl, I love you, and I know exactly what you are going through.

Please know that there are other options, and there are other people who are going to prove you wrong about "crazy pro-life" people. I plan on being one of them. Jesus loves you, and He will love you no matter what choice you make.