I also remember seeing my mother with a somber expression. She went upstairs to the master’s bedroom but before she did, instructed me to follow her after a couple of minutes. I did as I was told. I entered the room having no idea that my life was about to change. My mom smiled at me but I noticed the smile did not reach her eyes. I smiled back and tried to cheer her up with a tight hug. It was then that I realized she was crying. “What’s the matter?” I asked her. “Anak (child), do sit with me on the bed.” I obeyed. She took a deep breath and looking into my eyes started to say: “Do you remember the story we used to tell you about our friend’s daughter?” “Which one?” “Our friend who adopted a baby who survived abortion. And then the baby grew up to be a bright young woman.” “Oh, that story!” I smiled a bit, remembering the story I’ve heard a number of times from both my parents. I always loved that story and admired the strong young woman who survived abortion. With another deep breath, my mom continued. “Dona that is your story. You are that bright young girl.” I thought I must have misunderstood my mom. “I beg your pardon?” I asked, my voice just barely over a whisper. “Dona you are the abortion survivor. Your biological mother had an abortion but you survived. And then God gave you to us. And now you’ve grown into a bright young woman.” There was a lump in my throat. I lost my voice. My mind was reeling to process everything. This means I am not my parents’ daughter. This means my whole life has been a joke… everything’s make-believe. Oh, God the times I disobeyed my parents! How could I disobey them when I owe them so much! My thoughts went haywire. “Dona are you okay? Please be okay. Remember that we love you very much. It doesn’t matter if you are adopted. We love you just the same. Nothing will change.” I heard my mom say but she seemed far away because I could barely hear her. She was wrong. Everything has changed. I have changed. I felt like a different person. I looked at my hands. It was strange that I felt like I was another person. But I knew I needed to say something. “I’m okay.” I said trying to convince both my mom and myself that I was. My mom hugged me. I realized I was crying albeit silently. Tears were flowing down my cheeks. I asked my mom for details. I wanted to know what happened. She said that she didn’t know my biological mother. But according to the birth attendant/abortionist (not a medical professional, traditionally called hilot in the Philippines), my biological mother was a young woman, some weeks pregnant. “I want to have an abortion,” she said and the hilot obliged for this was her “job” (abortions are done secretly because it is illegal in the Philippines). It was not specified what specific type of abortion method was used but whatever it was, my biological mother bled and they thought the abortion was a success. But after a while, my biological mother realized she still felt the symptoms of pregnancy --- body malaise, nausea and vomiting. At last she obtained a pregnancy test kit and was shocked to learn that she was, after all, still pregnant! She went back to the abortionist and demanded to have another abortion. By this time, I was already a five-month-old fetus in my mother’s womb. “That would already look like a baby (not a fetus) when I do the abortion now. I cannot do it. Let’s just have a compromise. Wait until you are to give birth. I will deliver the baby and you can just leave it here. Anyway I am sure it will die soon,” was what the abortionist said. My biological mother agreed. Nine months is considered the full term for pregnancy. But the odds had always been against me from the very start. I was born prematurely at seven months. I weighed only three lbs. and was covered with wounds all over my body. The abortionist seemed to be right. I looked like I was going to die soon. But then again, I seemed to have been beating the odds ever since. As agreed, my biological mother left me to the abortionist. The abortionist really did not have any intention of caring for me. She was just waiting for me expire. Surely such a frail and sickly child would not survive longer than a few hours. But a day after, I was still alive. Frail and weak, I survived for three days without the proper care and medical attention that I so badly needed. On the third day, my adoptive parents came to see me. At that time, my parents had been married for four years and still they were childless. They decided to adopt. My maternal grandmother’s brother happened to be an acquaintance of the abortionist’s relative. He told my parents about an abandoned baby in Manila. My parents wasted no time and went to see me. However when my mom first saw me, she told my dad she didn’t want me. I don’t blame her. If you are going to adopt, you would normally choose a healthy baby. My mom was even scared to touch me because I looked so fragile that she felt one touch could break me. But my dad, being very compassionate, urged my mom to just hold me for a bit and see what she felt. Reluctantly and with tears of pity in her eyes, she carefully lifted me in her palm. She placed a finger on top of my chest to try to feel my heartbeat. Suddenly I caught her finger. She tried gently yanking it free but my grip was so tight she could not free her finger. My mom said she was touched by my will to live. She turned to my dad and said “She’s the one. Let’s adopt her.” And so I became their eldest daughter. Before my first birthday, my mom had to bring me to the pediatrician everyday just to make sure I stayed alive and well. During one such visit to the clinic, the doctor examined the baby, and seeing the worry in the young mother’s eyes, said “Don’t worry. Your baby is a survivor. She will get through this.” And I did survive. The physical wounds healed. But the emotional wounds were not as easy to heal. Deep inside I was struggling. My first defense mechanism was denial. I tried to “forget” I was adopted. I tried to make myself believe my biological mother did not exist. But one can only pretend.
Deep inside I was a scared child --- terrified to be rejected. I was so afraid to be rejected that I found myself sacrificing so that I could cater to other people’s needs. I became a people pleaser even at my own expense. I especially tried to please my parents because I felt I was indebted to them for taking me in and caring for me even if I wasn’t their “real” daughter. It became so bad that I even developed a co-dependent relationship with my domineering mother. I was also afraid to relate with other people. It was difficult for me to be friends with anybody. I was so scared of rejection that I would rather not make friends with anyone. I only had one best friend in high school. My other school mates thought I was weird. I tried to excel in school, wanting to compensate for what I “lack” (There must be something wrong with me because my biological mother didn’t want me).
Growing up, I thought I was able to handle it quite well. But in reality, I was still wounded and broken (I still am). I hated my biological mother. I remember rehearsing what I would say when I meet her. I would tell her she’s an evil person because she wanted to kill me. I wanted to show her that I achieved a lot of things even without her. I wanted to slap her. I wanted to hurt her because she hurt me. But God is always generous and loving. He sent me people and circumstances who helped me to heal. I remember watching an episode in EWTN where women who had abortions were interviewed.
There was this woman who had an abortion 40 years ago. And she was crying and said that every single day since the day she had an abortion, her life has been a “living hell”. The thought that she killed her own baby was torturing her. She said “The pain does not go away with time. As time passes, the hurt grows bigger and bigger until it swallows you whole.”
The interviewer asked her what made her have an abortion. She said she was young and naïve and had pre-marital sex with her equally young and naïve boyfriend. She got pregnant. Her boyfriend didn’t want anything to do with the baby and her parents were furious because she was a disgrace to the family. She felt she had no choice but to have an abortion. After watching this, I realized one important fact. I wasn’t the only victim. My mother was also a victim of circumstance. She must have been in a very difficult situation for her to feel that abortion was her only option. I mean a normal woman with a loving husband and supportive family would not have thought of abortion. Yes, perhaps she made a mistake. But who doesn’t make mistakes?
If only someone listened to her and supported her and encouraged her to have me and perhaps just put me up for adoption… And that was the start of my healing. I was finally able to forgive my biological mother. I also stared forgiving myself. I realized there was nothing wrong with me. My biological mother aborted me not because I lacked something. She did so because she was in a terrible situation at that time and she felt she didn’t have a choice.
Today, I am almost thirty years old. My healing still isn’t complete. I’m not even sure if I will ever heal totally. But what I try to do is to use my brokenness to bring God’s love to others. I am both a registered nurse and a licensed teacher. I sing and play music. I love to write and speak in public. I don’t own these gifts. These are God’s gift bestowed upon me so that I can inspire others. I was afraid to share my story to the public for fear of being judged. I was also concerned that sharing this would mean opening my wounds. But if it means that my story could inspire others and educate people of the horrors of abortion thereby saving the lives of many unborn children, then I am willing to tell you my story. This is my story. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s a story of survival. But most of all, it is a beautiful story of a woman who almost lost her life to the silent holocaust that is abortion --- now ready to speak up for those yet to be born.
Dona Marie made the video below to show her support for Ireland's 8th Amendment. [Courtesy of Life Institute.] Not sure what 'Save the 8th' is all about? Then check out the interview with Richard Casey which explains what the referendum means to Ireland.