Sense of Life. Articles in English. Haunted by Guilt.
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Haunted by Guilt


I am 49 years old, married, and a mother of 4 daughters. My husband is a very good man and a practicing Catholic. Our daughters have also been raised in the Catholic faith. One by one, they are spreading their wings and leaving the nest. You might say I had everything I could wish for: a good husband, children with all the necessary qualities. What more could you want? And yet I cannot say I am happy. I destroyed my happiness many years ago. The older I get, the more I realize this.

I was raised in a religious family. My parents made sure we learned all our prayers, knew the Bible, and followed their good example. Hardworking, considerate, quick to help others, they went out of their way to provide each of their children with a good education. I also went to university. At the student residence I met young women from a variety of backgrounds, but not one who went to church, or who was not embarrassed to pray. By now I was an adult and knew right from wrong. Yet I stopped going to Mass, and sought out no religious contacts. Gradually, my conscience went to sleep. I became deeply involved in student life and events. The experiences of my more street-wise girlfriends fascinated me.

Before long I met my first “great love”. He was a student from another town, and we met rather infrequently. His intellect impressed me to no end. I was ready to do anything for him. Finally, three years into our relationship, I became pregnant. We were not married, and for the last several months we had had less and less to talk about. I was still a student, half way through my master’s thesis, and had no idea what to do. Going home was out of the question. I couldn’t bring myself to disappoint and shame my parents. I wrote to my boyfriend, telling him I did not want to see him again. He never replied or came to see me. Fearing what my girlfriends might think, I avoided discussing the matter. And so I was left all alone with my problem. The decision to terminate my pregnancy – it was an obstacle to my uncertain future – was my own. Naturally, the thought that it was a sin did cross my mind, but at the time it was more important that I not disappoint my family. So what if I was damned to hell!

I went to the local clinic. Asking no questions, making no attempt to counsel me, or to deter me from this crime, the doctor referred me to a hospital. I took a book with me so as not to have to talk to anyone. I will never forget the sound of the gynecological instruments, and that wet, sucking sound. I did not cry, or even think. I was totally empty. I resigned myself to my lot. An earlier issue of your magazine (Milujcie sie! 4/2002) has a photograph of an aborted child’s head. The sight of it brings tears to my eyes. It could have been my child! Why was I so indifferent to this then?

Afterwards, my life resumed its normal course. I defended my thesis, found a job, an apartment… New responsibilities absorbed me. I was full of ideas and energy. No time for scruples! My boyfriend disappeared from my life. We had nothing to say to each other. I never informed him of what I had done. In fact, I have never told anyone until now.

Two years later I met my husband. I was very fortunate to meet such a good and understanding man. He did not pry into my past. Soon we were married. We became an exemplary family. We were happy with each other and our successive children. Both of us had jobs and shared our household duties. As a mother I wished very much to set my children a good example. Their religious education was very important to me. We took them to church, and we prayed with them.

I confessed my great sin several times, but it was only when I became unexpectedly pregnant with our fourth child that real sorrow overtook me. I began experiencing heart trouble. The doctor suspected I had had a mild heart attack. I began wondering what lay in store. My husband feared for my safety. According to our doctor, both the pregnancy and the birth placed me at risk. It was only then that I realized I might die, and have to answer for my life to God. I began praying earnestly for my unborn child. I begged forgiveness for my terrible sin. Convinced that I was going to die, and that my husband would be left alone with four children, we decided to move to Germany where my husband’s family lived. We left home in the summer of 1990. That was a very difficult time for us: a new country, a strange language, cramped living quarters, and, in my own case, a severely troubled conscience.

In December I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter. She was alive, and so was I! Lying in hospital, I wept tears of sorrow and gratitude. God had answered my prayers. Looking at my little child, it occurred to me how easy it would be to harm such a little being. How could I have been so heartless toward my first child! From that day on I began saying the rosary every day. On Sundays I prayed the chaplet of divine mercy.

I cannot go back and relive my life. I know that God is merciful, and forgives all, yet I feel that my offense will remain with me to the day I die. My child would now be 25 years old. There is not a day that I can say I feel completely at ease. Guilt overshadows my every joy. I cannot smile spontaneously. Having lost confidence in myself, I tend to avoid people. I feel I am so much worse than they are. I have become a recluse. I cannot talk openly with other people. Two years ago I suffered a mental breakdown, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

My confessor tells me I am not to think about these things anymore. But the thoughts keep coming back – day and night. I try to be a good wife and mother to my family, but often I feel sad and alone.

If my story has a purpose it is to beg would-be mothers to defend life always. I broke God’s fifth commandment: You shall not kill! I killed my own child, and in so doing I have ruined my own life, since the weight of my sin allows me no freedom. Guilt haunts me like a shadow. My one hope is in the mercy of God. Please pray for me.

Janina

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!"

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