This is, I hope, the first of several posts from Sofia. Our friendship goes back a couple of decades and we’ve kept in touch for much of the time. We were invited to her wedding, although we’d been out of the country for several years and so had never met her husband. But we were excited for her.
We had no idea, of course, not least because we lived 100s of miles apart, what was happening and so never saw them interact. It wasn’t until many years later that she was able to start talking more openly about what she was going through. But I’ll let her take over from here, not least because she writes so powerfully.
Sofia’s story will speak for itself.
That was the day that God started to fade. The whitewashed walls of the church began to crack, revealing their unflinching impersonal phrases of religiosity. For she had thought the unthinkable.
But she knew how the discussions would go if she said anything: the clear doctrinal teaching that would expose her and the desperately eager church members who would check that she had clearly heard the message. That much she understood. They were the ones who didn’t get it. They neither understood nor saw. They had nothing to offer.
So that day her allegiance shifted, subtly but with certainty, towards those in the real world: the world that the church barely touched nor really liked but merely sought to assimilate. Her idealistic notions of learning the truth and obeying teaching evaporated as she identified with ‘them’.
It had been 16 weeks so far carrying the little one inside–a secret now kept from him for one week–for he did not want her to confirm the suspicion initially. He did not want to know. But she had tested in secret and destroyed the evidence. She held the memory of that blue line in trepidation, with an excited sinking feeling, worried about how he would react. A week later, he still did not want to know, but she got permission to test anyway and show him the result.
‘Congratulations,’ he said. ‘It’s early though – you could still miscarry. But, then, I don’t suppose I would be that lucky, would I?’
His words stung, but his actions hurt more. She had to work harder, however, to ensure that her physical state never interrupted his grandiose plans, to prevent his feeling usurped by the unwanted bump. Mostly though, to begin with at least, he ignored it … if she performed well enough for him. She met the midwife alone, waited for the blood test results alone, sat outside the scan room alone, saw the 12-week scan alone. She was amazed at the appearance on the screen of this moving 2-dimensional outline of a real tiny human, yet feeling hollow and lonely for she had no one to share it with. She hid the picture in her bag but would take it out from time to time. And she wondered.
As weeks went by, the evidence visibly grew and the arguments escalated. She was forced to start declaring how she was going to pay him back for the fact of her pregnancy. He demanded much. Apparently, she had everything she ever wanted and she was ruining his life.
One day, she found herself driving to work, screaming tears after surviving another intense weekend in his presence, trying hard to please to deflect his wrath. She wanted to love him and be the wife he wanted, to make him happy. But how was that possible, when she was the perpetrator of his ruin? So the thought, like a poisoned dart, crossed her mind, an option she would have never previously considered.
Lose the baby.
She knew she couldn’t, yet she wished she could. For she feared for both herself and the babe inside. What life awaited them? She was condemning him to 18 years of being child-shackled.
It was then that she identified with ‘the world’, those that lived the rough, hard thorny existence where decisions were made, some in ignorance, some in clear disregard, but all in recognition that we are all alone.
The church stood in opposition, sick of such talk or action. They called for more debate about how abortion had crept into society as an accepted practice, they organised more petitions needing signatures from upstanding, never-wronging church-goers wielding their plastic biros in protest; they encouraged more home group discussions with scriptural cross-references. This was how they knew they had done good, as they set forth God’s standards clearly to the surrounding sinful nation.
But they did not help.
In due time, this Christian woman–for yes, she still clung to belief in God–gave birth. She would not take life, regardless of religion. But it was no victory. The pregnancy was straight forward medically but emotionally traumatic. There was no anticipatory joy, just uncertainty and dread of a future she didn’t know how to handle.
That day, the world gained a life. But the church lost two. For God had left her alone. There was no one to turn to. The church, reflecting God’s understanding and love spewed forth the Christian values which strangely devalue the very people God created.