From my heart to yours
By Shari Richard
"She's such a tomboy!" Yep. That was me! During my childhood years and into adolescence, I was always determined to be the "best" at every sport I would try and I boldly competed against any boy.
Then came the summer of my sixteenth year. A year that would have a profound effect on my life. It was while spending a peaceful day at the beach that my girlfriend and I met two boys, oh, I suppose about eighteen years old. They invited us onto their boat and, since I still viewed those of the male gender as my "rivals" rather than objects of affection, I saw no harm in accepting. An innocent boat ride turned into a waking nightmare. I was physically attacked. Although I managed to escape, the attack was just short of rape and my struggle resulted in his hand tearing me.
In tears, I told my mother what had happened. Severe bladder infection developed from the physical damage and, since my mother was filled with concern, she arranged for me to see a doctor. He performed a pregnancy test to verify my story. The doctor informed my mother that the test was positive. I was still a virgin! How could it be? I begged mom to believe me, but she did not think that the doctor, or the test would lie. A week later I started my menstrual cycle. "I knew I couldn't be pregnant!" I told my mother. "Now do you believe I'm still a virgin?" But the doctor told my mother that I had suffered a miscarriage.
Desperate to be trusted, understood and loved, I pleaded with my parents to believe me. Feeling totally broken and rejected, I began to build a wall around me. I was determined never to risk exposing my real self to the hostility and rejection of the world. Jesus had to go, too. He had let me down. And if I couldn't trust God, there would never be anyone to trust.
My life changed. I no longer felt like the sweet, innocent Shari, always ready to love and trust. Instead I vowed only to care about myself and to forbid the feeling or showing of emotions. I rebelled against my parents and any rules. The new me was in complete control and I would never be hurt again.
In 1972 I left home for college. Unloading myself of the burden of my parents and religious education, I was free to continue my rebellious lifestyle and noncaring attitude. I became sexually active while going to school for radiologic technology. It was 1974 when I first thought I might be pregnant. It was convenient for me to seek the attention of an OB physician who worked in the same building where I attended classes. When I told him I thought I might be pregnant, he said it was too early to know for sure but, just in case, be offered to "clean out" my uterus. He assured me that it would be a safe and painless procedure. (Much later I would learn that this doctor had performed illegal abortions behind closed doors. Now he was legally using the same technique.)
During lunch hour, this doctor proceeded to suck out the contents of my uterus. No anesthetic was administered. When I cried out in pain, he yelled at me and called three nurses to hold me down. To this day it is the most painful experience I can remember. In my apartment a few hours later, I began to suffer severe abdominal pain, high fever and hemorrhaging. My roommate rushed me to the emergency room where I was greeted by the same doctor. He informed me that the uterus was not cleaned out properly and that he would have to do the same procedure all over again. Weeks passed before I recovered from the severe infection and physical complications, but in my mind, I felt no guilt. After all, it was only a blob of tissue that interfered with my chosen lifestyle. I was definitely not ready to be a mother!
I lived with a hardened heart. Because I was without emotion, I was the one chosen to work with the trauma cases in emergency. I was proud of my "strength" and considered each patient as just another challenge.
Two years later I became pregnant again. This time I sought a "professional abortionist" who agreed to use an anesthetic. There was no pain and the procedure was free of physical complications. Best of all, I continued to be strong and in control of my emotions.
The Wall Crumbles
The wall of denial that I had so valiantly built around me began to crumble in 1978. When I experienced bleeding, a physician and an ultrasound confirmed that I was pregnant. This time it wasn't a baby but a large tumor of blood growing at three times the rate of a normal pregnancy. As soon as my doctor returned from vacation, I was to be admitted for surgery. But before his return, the tumor ruptured. A blood transfusion saved my life, but the tumor was cancerous. A hysterectomy was advised. I could not hold back the emotions any longer and I began to cry what must have been buckets of tears.
"Will you forgive me?" I asked my mother. "Will I ever be able to have a baby? Am I going to die?"
Once again, my mother became my best friend and together we searched for other medical options. A second opinion proved that the initial surgery had successfully removed the cancer, but with my history of abortions and complications, there was little chance that I would conceive again. In order to protect myself from the inner pain, I rebuilt the wall of denial and tried to go on with my life.
Nowhere to Hide
But God didn't want me to live in denial any longer. In 1979, I began ultrasound training. As I performed my first ultrasound exam on a 9-week pregnant woman, the screen revealed an image of a fully-formed, active, tiny human baby. The fetus jumped and I could identify the beating heart, fingers, toes and eyes. My instructor informed me that the fetus measured approximately one inch and that every organ was present.
This day of revelation was like a slap in the face. In that ultrasound image of a 9-week-old baby I saw a reflection of my past. The "blobs of tissue" that I thought I had aborted were actually my own tiny living babies. No longer could I hide behind my wall of denial because I had seen the truth. It was then that I had to admit that I killed my babies. My emotions of shame and guilt turned to anger and rage over the lies that had been callously fed to me for so many years.
As I continued my medical career in ultrasonography, I was surprised that I was instructed to turn the ultrasound monitor away from women considering an abortion. I was told that the moving image of the fetus should not influence her choice. So many people had lied to me and now they were asking me to lie as well. They wanted me to hide the truth just as they had.
My heart would not allow this. I could not become just another instrument of deception. I ignored the "orders" of my instructors. In an effort to save the babies and prevent mothers from experiencing the pain I knew, I let each woman see her child on the ultrasound screen. Time after time, a woman who was considering an abortion changed her mind.
I was daily reminded of my own abortions as I watched the preborn babies living in their mother's wombs. I tried to rebuild my wall of denial to relieve my pain, but the truth prevented me from going back to that secret hiding place. I was angry at the people who encouraged my abortions. I was angry at those in the medical profession who were deliberately deceiving women. My only sense of comfort was found in introducing unborn babies to their mother.
I married Michael in 1982. It was a stressful marriage because I felt unable to love myself, let alone my husband. My nights were filled with haunting dreams. During waking hours, I would fluctuate between fits of rage, grief and hostility. I wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go.
Then I remembered the day I told Jesus to get out of my life. I wondered if He could ever forgive me for denying Him and destroying my babies. I went from church to church, exposing my sin and seeking forgiveness. Sadly, these churches didn't know how to counsel women suffering from what we know today as post-abortion syndrome. Blank looks and silence gave me the impression that I had either made the "right choice" or committed the "unforgivable sin."
One day I found myself on a quiet beach. It was there that I opened my heart to Jesus. I gave Him the pain. I prayed for the children I had aborted, asking Jesus to take care of them. I prayed for peace and comfort. During those private moments, I realized that I had been seeking love in all the wrong places. Jesus loved me unconditionally. His Spirit led me to a friend whom I could trust.
While sitting on that beach, I laid before Jesus my greatest desire-a baby. I asked, "Jesus, can you heal me? Will you give me a baby? I will do anything for You! I want to help the unborn babies and their mothers. I want to help prevent women from going down the road of hopelessness and remorse that I've traveled for five years."
It was that month that I conceived the first of my three beautiful boys. Today, Matthew, Jeff and Danny are living proof that God hears and answers prayer. God is good. And He shows His love through my dear husband, "Saint" Michael, who is ever faithful.
Telling the truth
How exciting it is to tell the truth! Prior to the decision of Roe v. Wade, the most commonly used ultrasound equipment was in its most primitive form. The fetuses we monitored did indeed look like blobs of tissue. But now we can clearly identify features common only to humans, thus nullifying the subhuman status of a human fetus.
God called me to use my knowledge as a positive force in the lives of women who are considering abortion. And He empowered me with one of the mightiest tools of all: ultrasound truth. Many ultrasonographers may turn the monitor away from the woman who is considering an abortion, but I believe that these women deserve the facts, complete and unaltered. That's why I offer free ultrasound exams, complete with videotape of what appears on the monitor, to women in crisis situations. I am not surprised that most women who see their babies choose to carry their child to term.
But thousands of unsuspecting victims never see an ultrasound and are left open to deceit and hurt. So, with the help and encouragement of an established pro-life group, I compiled the ultrasound footage and produced two videos, one for secular use and the other for pregnancy centers and churches. What a joy it is to watch the expressions of awe on the faces of both women and men, girls and boys as I introduce them to my ultrasound babies.
God has blessed me beyond measure with the gifts of our sons. I know I can never repay Him, but I also know that all He expects is for me to take the truth as He's shown it to be and share it with others. I had hoped that that didn't mean exposing the truth of my own abortions. I didn't want anyone to know about the dark side of my life.
But God reminded me that greater than the gift of my precious sons is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for my sins -yes, even my abortions. I am a redeemed Child of God!
Families in America are in need of healing, just as I was. I see tears and pain, not unlike my own, in the eyes of both women and men as they are confronted with the truth. When the wall of denial is broken, grief, shame, anger and self-hatred overwhelm them. Jesus Christ is the only Way to complete healing. We desperately need to see ourselves through His eyes. Pitiful as we are, He accepts us and loves us. As Christians we must be sensitive, allowing Jesus to fill our own hearts with His love and compassion. It is this love that will break down the prison walls.
Shari's website: http://www.unborn.com/