Editor’s Note: The following article is adapted from a speech Barr gave to the Watertown, New York Right to Life, in October 2011.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story with all of you today. As difficult as it is, I know that God is with me and that sharing my testimony is exactly what He wants me to do.
I was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario and that is where I continue to reside. I am married and have four children (three sons aged 20, 19 and 13 and one daughter who is 16) and I have worked as a nurse for the past 28 years.
My childhood was unremarkable, growing up with Dad, Mom, two brothers and two sisters. I became sexually active early on in my teen years and became pregnant when I was 16. A female friend of my brother’s at the time, arranged for me to see her family doctor. My first pelvic exam was performed by some strange doctor whom I did not know and I remember him telling me that day that I was definitely pregnant. He asked me how I thought my parents would react to the news and told me I had to tell them as soon as possible.
I have vague memories of everything that happened after that appointment. I remember running away down the road and my brother taking me back to the car and then home to break the news to my Mom. I remember standing in the living room with my older brother and sister but I don’t remember who told my Mom. All I know is, there was a lot of crying and yelling.
My next memory after the night we told my Mom, is the day of the abortion, which was Nov. 27, 1979. I have since retrieved my health records of the abortion (I guess that’s the nurse in me) because I had a lot of unanswered questions. I figure there was approximately two weeks between the night we told my Mom and the day of the abortion and I have absolutely no recollection of how my parents and I interacted in those two weeks. According to my records, a panel of doctors called a “therapeautic abortion committee” convinced my parents that an abortion was the right choice.
It will be 32 years next month since the abortion and I still have repressed memories, memories too painful to bear, so they’ve been pushed down into the unconsciousness.
My abortion was performed at the Cornwall General Hospital. Prior to the abortion, I remember laying on a stretcher in the hallway. I could hear the nurses talking about me. I felt helpless, afraid, confused and alone.
The abortion was performed under a general anaesthetic and when I came to, I was back in my room. Still in a fog from the anaesthetic, I heard the nurse say, “it’s all over.” I remember feeling a profound sense of loss and sadness. I was comforted by the presence of my Dad but at the same time, I was heartbroken that my Mom wasn’t there with me.
We went home that evening and I was sworn to secrecy by my parents. I buried my secret deep down inside, where it would stay locked up for the next nine years. It was hard work to keep the secret from resurfacing and to numb the pain. I found solace in alcohol, drugs and sex, but it was always a temporary fix. It was a constant battle, attempting to cover up the immense pain I was feeling.
I married at 25 and my husband and I decided to start a family right away, however we encountered many difficulties. I miscarried four times in the first few years of our marriage and I believe the miscarriages were a result of having the abortion. At first I thought I was being punished by God, but eventually I came to the awareness that God is not a punishing God but a merciful and forgiving God. After much perseverance and faith, we were blessed with four beautiful children.
I have suffered bouts of depression for 30 years and have had trouble with relationships, especially the relationship between my Mom and I. For 28 years after the abortion, I longed to talk with my Mom about our secret but I was forbidden. The few times I attempted to bring up the subject, I was told to “leave the past in the past.” I longed to hear her say she loved me, regardless of what had happened.
I never did hear her say those words and there won’t be an opportunity, as she passed away from lung cancer on Nov. 17, 2006.
There are many details of my abortion experience that I do not recall and amnesia is just one of the possible after-effects. I often wonder if I will ever remember all of the details. In August 2011, I started a new job at the very hospital where the abortion took place. In the first few weeks of my new job, I did not think about the abortion but in the weeks following, I found myself thinking about it more and more. I’m telling you this part of my story because women are told that the abortion will not affect you afterwards and that everything will return to normal. That is a lie. It’s been 32 years and because I now work in the hospital where the abortion was performed, I suddenly start wondering what room I was in and about the operating room. It frustrated me that I couldn’t remember the room and I felt defeated.
One night, I was wakened out of a deep sleep with the idea to go check my hospital record. I got out of bed and dug out the chart. I was almost through the whole chart and didn’t see any room number, just the words day surgery on every page until I got to one of the last few pages. On the OR record, it had the room # 214 and the OR suite was # 2. Wow, I was nervous and excited at the same time. I couldn’t wait ‘til my next shift which was a night shift. I told my co-workers that for my break I was going to check out second floor where I used to be a student nurse, which was true but not the real reason that I was going. The second floor is now all day clinics, so I knew there wouldn’t be anyone down there. I got there only to find the door to the room locked. Again I felt frustrated. What I did find out that night was that room 214 was hidden in a back hallway, just two doors down from the operating room. My immediate thought was “they put me in that room so that no one would hear me,” because I suddenly remembered that after the abortion, I was crying uncontrollably, “my baby’s dead, my baby’s dead.”
I went back to the floor where I work and I was quite preoccupied the rest of the shift. The next night, a security guard appeared, who I had not seen in the several weeks since I had started the job. He was very friendly and he told me that he would only be on this one night because of some schedule change. He said “if there is anything I can do for you, just let me know.” I became very bold and courageous and asked him if he would be able to show me a room, that I had had a traumatic surgery in many years ago. He said no problem and we went to second floor. He opened the door to the room 214 for me and I stepped in. I imagined where the bed had been and I entered the very tiny bathroom where I recalled losing a large amount of blood, like I was hemorrhaging and I remembered I had almost passed out.
I just stayed for a brief moment because I didn’t want to inconvenience him. Then he asked me if I wanted to see the OR suites, to which I responded “yes.” He opened the big automatic doors of the OR and he took me to one room, unlocked it and said, come check this one out. I looked up at the big bold number above the door which was the # 2. My heart was racing as I stepped inside the very room where my abortion took place.
The room was empty and very cold and I found myself thinking, “that’s exactly how I felt on that day.” We left and went back to my unit and I thanked him. He was so nice and he said “no problem.” He then said, “if I’m ever on again and you want to go back, just let me know.” The way it all happened was very strange and the other strange thing was that his name was Grant, which is the name of my second son. I have a feeling that this is not the end of the story but the beginning of yet another chapter. This story is to be continued.
So you see, having the abortion continues to affect my life, even 32 years later. For 20 plus years it caused many damaging effects but for the past several years God has transformed it into something good.
I have found love and forgiveness through the Church and through organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More.
Many amazing things have happened in my life since I myself attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in Saranac Lake in the fall of 2008. At the retreat I met many wonderful people and I have been privileged to be part of the team for the past three years. Through the couple who organize the retreats, I have been able to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the past two years and in January 2010 I gave my testimony to a crowd of 400,000 people.
I have also had many opportunities to share my testimony in and around my hometown, for the past eight years. I have shared with students from Grades 8 through to university, church groups and annually at our National March for Life in Ottawa. As well, I recently became a regional coordinator for Eastern Ontario for Silent No More.
My passion for the pro-life cause has been passed on to all four of my children and I am so very proud of them all. My oldest son, Dillon, who has always had a more difficult time expressing his love for his Mom verbally, shows his Mom his love and support by wearing a bracelet that says “Abortion Kills A Human Life.” Grant is always telling me stories about something he has read or heard that relates to the abortion issue. One time, he posted an abortion story on Facebook and within minutes, young people were reposting the story, which spread like wildfire. Jessie, my daughter, has come to marches in D.C. and Ottawa for the past two years and has joined her high school pro-life club and my youngest, Isaac, who came to the march in Ottawa in May and held my sign with me as we marched, now wants to go to D.C. All four of them are not afraid to talk about abortion and it’s having a positive effect on all of their friends as well.
I am constantly amazed at how much good continues to come out of this tragic event that took place so many years ago, which reminds me of Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I am passionate about telling my story because I want to reach out to people who are hurting after abortion, to love and encourage them.
I am passionate about telling my story because I want to educate the public that abortion is harmful emotionally, physically and spiritually to women, men and families.
I am passionate about telling my story because I want to help others avoid the pain of abortion.
Finally, I am passionate about telling my story because I regret my abortion and I will be silent no more.
Dale Barr is the regional coordinator for Silent No More Awareness for Eastern Ontario, president Pro-Life Cornwall, and helps facilitate Rachels Vineyard retreats twice a year in Saranac Lake, N.Y. She has shared her testimony at both the National March for Life in Ottawa and March for Life in Washington.