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Forgiving Yourself

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ImageThe early morning phone call was confirmation for the uneasiness he felt the night before.  Everyone knew that he was not a morning person and his close friends knew his schedule well enough to consider he was still asleep on this morning and at this hour.  He knew, eventually, this call was coming, so he might as well face it now.  After picking up the receiver and beginning with “What’s up?” he heard an all too familiar expression, “We need to talk.”   This was definitely confirmation of what he felt in his spirit.

Cheryl Pepsii Riley’s, “Thanks for My Child” was still playing in his head after only hearing it a couple days earlier in a friend’s car.  Considering all of the young women that he had shared intimate moments with, in that year alone, the song only brought her to mind.  He thought of the one girl that would never take no for an answer; would show up at his apartment with her overnight bag and barge her way in.  This was the girl that declared after finding out he was involved in a long distance relationship, “I do not care if you have one, two, or three other women, as long as I can be in your life.” He agreed that she could come over later that morning, but he already knew what the conversation was about.

At least four months passed since these two last saw each other.   The last time they were together he was celebrating his 21st birthday.  She made it memorable by giving him everything he desired: clothes, shoes, cologne, money, and her body.  For her, it was an opportunity to show him just how much he meant to her and win his commitment.  She loved him. For him, it was purely selfish.  There was no guilt or shame for him – ‘She offered and I accepted.’  After the celebration ended, he rudely demanded that they never see each other again.  Wondering what could I have done differently or better to gain his affection, she obliged his request and did not try to contact him anymore after that night.

Four months later, the night before the phone call, they passed each other on campus and he realized that her journey continued beyond that birthday evening.  She looked different and it was clear she was uncomfortable around him.   Her appearance, her demeanor, and that darn song were all the evidence he needed.  Therefore, he was pregnant with anticipation as he answered the phone the next morning and agreed to meet with her.    As soon as she entered the room the words flew out of her mouth, “I am pregnant.”

The words hit him like a straight-forward punch. Although he did not turn around to greet her, he could hear a hint of joy in her voice as the words landed with brute force.  ‘What does she expect from me?  Does she expect me to be ecstatic about this news?’ He had not seen or touched her in four months.  ‘That child could belong to anyone.’  He would never say these things out loud, but these were his thoughts.  “Does she expect me to be that gullible? How could I be so careless to sleep with her, especially how aggressive she was, and not use protection?’

She sat on the edge of a chair facing his back; he never turned away from the television.  His words were still ringing in her ear, “Why are you telling me? It’s not mine.”  It took every ounce of her strength not to give into either of the emotions that were competing inside her.  She felt enough rage to kill him in that instance, and so much heartbreak that she could have easily hurt herself.  The coldwater reality that he wanted nothing to do with her, or any child she carried, was not the way she hoped this morning would end.

The pregnancy was obviously not planned, but far from a mistake in her eyes.  This was her first year of college.  She was her parents’ eldest child and the hope of her community.  As a very bright young lady who earned a full academic scholarship to college this was not the hope of those who supported her.  But, this pregnancy could never be viewed as a mistake, because she loved him more than he could realize, and she would love this child even more.

It took less than a week on campus for her to meet this guy.  He stole her attention, distracted her from the dream, and redirected her desires.  She could remember every moment they spent together from the first time he said, “Hello.”  Yet, in that moment of rejection she thought, ‘How could I be so stupid to think that he would ever love me, even if I was carrying his first born child?’ The silent mental conversation ended as she realized that he was not going to acknowledge her or the pregnancy.

Surprisingly, both reached out to their parents for guidance that morning.  Regretfully, each set of parents responded differently.  His parents showed concern and support.  They were willing to provide emotional and financial support for both. Her parents were not as receptive or supportive.

From their perspective, the burden would fall on them as their daughter would have to carry the child and stigma of a teen-aged pregnancy.  Their 18 year old daughter left home as a heroine.   She was the high school valedictorian, a youth leader in her local church, the protector and advisor to many young girls in her neighborhood, and an idol for her much younger brother.  Her parents would not risk her or their reputation with an out-of-wedlock teen-aged pregnancy. Particularly her father, who was a deacon in his church and one of the first Blacks to hold a position of authority in law enforcement for their county, stood adamant against the pregnancy.  Her family did not have the luxury of waiting for a paternity test.  They would endure the hardship immediately.

Her father offered three options, “He can marry you; go straight to jail; or you will get an abortion.”  She did not like any of those options.  Despite her love and desire to share this child with him, marriage seemed too drastic.  Jail also seemed extreme and improbable considering their encounter was consensual and both were “of consenting age” at the time. Her father assured her, “I will call in every favor I have in this state, and tell any lie that I have to in order to make sure he goes to jail for what he has done to our family’s name.”

“Abortion,” the last of the ultimatums was the worst option, but the only one she could control.  She attempted reason. “It is too late for a normal abortion, and even if it were not too late I want to keep my child.”  But she knew that her father did not make empty threats.  She knew that he would follow through on his promise, even if it meant ruining his career and their family’s financial status.  Marriage was not an option considering the father of her child went into hiding after her licensed-to-kill father sent word that he was looking for revenge.  Al though the situation was unfair, no one deserved jail time.  Regretfully, she resolved that abortion was her only option.

Her father escorted her to a facility that was far from their hometown.  Anonymity was important.  He had already devised a story for the inquiring neighbors and church members. “She came home from college to help care for her little brother, so that my wife and I could continue our careers.”  This was just another lie to add to the many that this family carried for the sake of prestige.  He was not prepared for the words of his only daughter and first born child, “I hate you with everything in me and I hope you DIE!”  She exclaimed these words as she awoke from the anesthetics used for the surgical procedure.  She was stubborn like him and he knew she meant every word.  He thought briefly, ‘What have I done?  Could there have been another way?  Were our family’s reputation and my pride that important to sacrifice my first grandchild’s life? Did I just sacrifice a relationship with my daughter?’

The abortion ended three relationships.  The blood stain was on three lives.  There was no turning back and the only things that grew were tension, resentment and guilt.  Each person voiced forgiveness for the other, and each internalize their role in the saga.

Less than a year after the incident, she forgave the father of her aborted child.  He called randomly to apologize.  It was too late to save their son -the surgeon told her the sex of their child -but it felt good to know that he cared enough to find her, risk the wrath of her father, and apologize.  He, too, moved on after that conversation and forgave her for whatever means of persuasion used on him during their relationship.  Yet, she had not shared any of the details of the pregnancy, so for nearly 25 years he wondered what really happened to their child. Imagine how wide the roots of un-forgiveness can spread in a 25 year span.

It was her father’s cancer that finally broke the silence.  The cancer was rare and aggressive.  He was not a candidate for any of the routine treatments.  The doctors advised that he, “Go home and live out the best quality of life that you can.”  He had been so harsh on the people in his life that not many would offer to care for him in these difficult times.  It surprised everyone when his daughter volunteered to be his caretaker.

She was a trauma nurse by profession, but it was her compassion for life in general that would not allow her to abandon her father in this moment.  She still hated him for pressuring her.  Yet, it was the guilt of agreeing to the abortion that held her most captive.  She discussed her feelings with her father first, and they shared an emotional moment.  He shared his fears, which did not ease her anger, but she could see his fear in her own concerns for her daughters.  Their new relationship helped him forgive himself allowing him to approach his remaining time with the liberty offered through forgiveness.

As she finally shared the events that led to the abortion with the child’s father, he could not speak or stop the tears.  After 25 years, she broke the silence and to open up to him.  He had no idea that she endured such a great trauma in order to save his life.   A son and a friendship were sacrificed for what?  His college career?  His reputation?  To keep him out of jail?  It all had the potential to increase the guilt that he carried for 25 years.  However, her words were liberating and infused with forgiveness.  She talked about the freedom that came with being able to care for her father without malice, and how she was able to forgive herself.  Her bravery was inspiring.

Narrow views make things appear isolated or independent.  We see events and activities from the perspective of how it affects self. When we magnify our perspectives, we begin to see the interconnectedness of our journeys.  Like a map of roadways that cross our nation, or the blood transport system of our bodies – the passages of freedom are intertwined in the various degrees of forgiveness.  The route that is just as important, but often overlooked, is forgiving oneself.  Live Free.

1 Comment

  1. […] information on this topic can be found on blogs by Clarence White and Tracie […]

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