The word that comes to mind to describe my childhood and my abortions is obliterated. There are troubling similarities between the way I was treated as a child and the way I treated my unborn children.
I believe that women who were maltreated are predisposed to have abortions. As I was looking for studies to corroborate this theory, a friend told me about this article in the American Thinker. They raise interesting points about the role of self-image and self-worth in the decision to abort.
With the decolonization of Africa, my father’s family was forced to move from Algeria to France. It caused grief and anger that he expressed through drinking and abuse. Also, my father is mentally ill and refuses treatment. His mother was schizophrenic and he was maltreated as a child. Whether he is responsible for his actions, I leave to God and I refuse to judge and hate. It is hard to love him but my faith and 4500 miles between us have helped me to move forward.
As a child, I always felt that I shouldn’t have been born. My father wanted sons and he had four daughters. He was unemployed most of the time and was telling us how he hated to work to feed us. He crushed any attempt to express personal interests and to have friends. He despised my good marks and inquisitive mind.
He didn’t want my mom and us girls to go anywhere outside the house. He built concrete pathways and walls all around it, “his ivory tower” as we called it. He left two untrained dogs in the yard to keep the rest of the world out. When we dared to walk to the village or worse, take the bus to the city, we knew there would be consequences. Sometimes, he locked the five of us out to teach us a lesson.
He would never speak but yell; a dirty look was the only eye contact he would make. He would never call my name but refer to me as “the other one”. One of his favorite beating techniques was to smack my face with both hands to leave his fingers marks. He was scraping me against the walls of his ivory tower, physically and mentally. Strangely, I liked the beatings because at last, his hands were touching me.
I was bullied in school for my awkward appearance and sometimes it was because of my father. He would get drunk in a bar, insult and punch other men. Then, these men’s children would beat me and my sister to avenge their fathers. He was jailed for a sexual crime, and it was another excuse for the bullying. I had to pay for my father’s sin.
At age sixteen, I developed anorexia nervosa. I would inflict myself starvation for about two weeks and then stuff myself non-stop for 24 hours and vomit. For the first time, I was “in control”: I could eliminate all the unwanted calories and pounds and secretly shape my body into my ideal “ivory tower”.
I was dying little by little and at times, I wanted my life back but I couldn’t stop the machine. Somehow, God kept me alive. I was 80 pounds for 5’ 5” when my high school counselor found me, holding on to the walls to be able to walk. She called my parents and sent us to the doctor’s office. They had not noticed seven months of extreme weight loss and strange behavior.
Isolation from my father was necessary for healing. I didn’t finish my sophomore year and was sent to a mental health clinic. I also spent a few weeks in an outpatient center. With medication, psychotherapy, ergotherapy and art therapy, thank God, my eating disorder was cured twenty years ago. For the record, my abortions didn’t cause a relapse in anorexia but they created new issues.
In College, I had sex with a biracial student to provoke my father (even though he never found out). When this boyfriend told me to abort our baby, I was crushed but I obeyed. The male authority had spoken and my provocation was punished with an abortion. I was feeling trapped in one more situation of abuse and Alicia was taking my place as the victim no one was defending.
Later, I aborted my son to protect him from his abusive father. He was scraped out of the walls of my uterus to give him a chance to “escape his destiny”. Lying on the table, I was extremely conflicted but I couldn’t stop the machine. Gabriel paid for the sin of his father and the foolish choice of his mother.
The way we were treated as children influences the way we treat our children. What a horrible temptation abortion is for those who were abused. (And how convenient for boyfriends who don’t want to take responsibility).
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, abused women need to heal from the past, to find support for the present and hope for the future. Abortion does exactly the opposite by adding a trauma, disrupting motherhood and darkening the future.
Breaking the cycle of violence and abuse includes saying no to abortion and restoring parenthood. Abortion is a destructive response to a situation perceived as a crisis. By its very nature, it can never be the loving answer. Just like this bumper sticker says: “abortion is the ultimate child abuse”.