The youngest of three and the only girl, my life was anything but dull. Because both my parents worked, most of the time I was left in the charge of my two older brothers. Both resented my presence and tried to ditch me whenever and wherever they could. One of their favoured little tricks to get me out of their hair, was to tell me that they were playing Jap’s and commandos, or cowboys and indians. I was always the first to be captured and tied to a tree; it never occurred to me that they had gone off to play with their friends and when they came to ‘rescue’ me hours later, I was just pleased to be set free so that I could go home; either to use the loo, or change my wet knickers, depending on how long I’d been left.
I was in no doubt that the boys loved me, they just didn’t always want a silly little girl tagging along. They also didn’t want me to see what they got up to incase I grassed on them to daddy.
My oldest brother was given an air pistol for his birthday. I can’t remember which birthday he got the pistol for, but I imagine that I would have been about five, so that would have made my brother a teenager. My parents were once again out at work and my brother asked me to get something out of the cupboard for him. I had to stand on a chair to reach the handle; I climbed up and started searching in the cupboard, when I heard the air pistol go off. I felt a sharp prick in my backside, and screamed — more in shock than anything else.
“You’ve shot me, you’ve shot me in my bottom,” I screamed, pulling the dart out of the lace on my dress.
My brother jumped up and ran over to the chair that I was still standing on.
“Don’t be so soft, the dart hasn’t even broken the skin, it got caught in your dress.”
I couldn’t tell if it had punctured the skin, because the dart had hit me on a massive scab I had acquired days earlier when I was out playing with my other brother on his go-cart. My father had made the cart out of a plank and four pram wheels, omitting any form of brake. We were travelling at what seemed like a tremendous speed down our cobbled street, when we hit a larger than usual cobble, and it bounced me onto the back wheel. The wheel hub snagged my knickers, wrenching the material from my body and dragging my now bare bottom onto the wheel. I screamed; my brother just laughed, thinking that it was because we were heading towards a brick wall at breakneck speed. The material from my underpants eventually locked the back wheel and somehow with a little help from my brother (scraping his ‘Tuff’ shoed clad feet on the cobbles), we came to a halt. I was inconsolable, blooded and knickerless. I never went on that go-cart again and it wasn’t long before my brother sold it to one of his unsuspecting friends.
Anyway, back to the shooting. “I’m telling daddy that you have shot me,” I screamed.
Of course I didn’t tell, I never told; I loved my brothers too much to get them into trouble with my father. As a child, and even to this day, I couldn’t stand confrontation. I never told father about the things my brothers did to me.
Mother owned an antique shop. (It was a junk shop really, but she did sell a lot of furniture to America), and father was a driver for British rail. As well as running the shop, mother would work in one of the local mills as a weaver two or three evenings a week. “Just until the shop takes off,” she would say. If the boys were unable to look after me, mother sometimes took me to work with her. I can still remember the smell of that mill. The noise was deafening, the glitter-clack of the looms and the shuttles shooting back and forth was mesmerising to a small child.
I remember once sitting on the bedroom steps and earwigging in on my parent’s conversation, something that I did quite often. Mother had arrived home late from work, and father was asking her where she had been.
“I had to stay with her until the ambulance arrived,” I heard mother saying. “She was completely scalped, Walter. Not a hair left on her head.”
The term ‘scalped’ wasn’t new in our house. My father loved to watch cowboy films and ‘Bonanza’, the weekly TV western, was never to be missed. We all had our favourite characters. Mother liked the silver haired Ben Cartwright, father loved Big Hoss, and me — well I was in love with Little Joe. I’ve loved dark haired, brown eyed men ever since, but the least said about that the better, since D.H is blue eyed and blonde.
Anyway back to mother, it turned out that one of the workers at the mill had dropped a bobbin and it had rolled under her loom. She had crawled under to find it and her hair had got caught in the mechanism. Her screams had alerted my mother on the next loom, but by the time the machinery had come to a halt, the woman was completely scalped and lucky to be alive. After months in hospital and extensive plastic surgery, she was back in the mill, sporting a new NHS wig.
One of mother’s friends used to take me to Sunday Mass at the local Catholic church. I loved it, and I can still remember to this day the feeling of joy that it brought. This all came to an abrupt halt when mother’s friend became pregnant. Single mothers in the early sixties were frowned upon, inside and outside of the church. I have to say, that thankfully the church is now sensitive to issues such as this. Although I stopped attending church, I knew that God existed and that He loved me.
When mother’s shop took off, she packed in the mill and expanded by opening two more shops. This meant that she was always working, and if she wasn’t working, she was out drinking with my father. With the shops came lots of surplus cash, and mother compensated for her absence by buying me toys, clothes, sweets and everything money could buy a little girl; everything except time and nurturing. Consequently I was left more and more in the hands of my two unscrupulous brothers. Being brought up by two adolescent boys left me with few social skills and incredibly lonely. Also the abundance of clothes and toys alienated me from the children at school, adding to my loneliness.
I would do anything for attention, and skipping forward to my own adolescence, this manifested itself as sexual promiscuity.
At the tender age of fifteen I found myself pregnant, scared and very alone. I’d overheard somewhere that if you sat in a boiling hot bath and drank a bottle of gin, it would bring on a miscarriage. It didn’t, neither did a hand full of laxatives, a bottle of cod-liver oil or thumping myself in the stomach until I was covered in bruises, and physically sick. I had no choice, I had to tell my parents.
I’d never seen my father cry, until that day. A picture that hunted me for years, but nothing could prepare me for the horror of things to come. I was taken to Birmingham by both parents and booked into a private clinic, where the abortion was performed. We traveled back home a few days later in silence. It was never mentioned again, but it hung like a black cloud over the family, like a dirty secret just waiting to come to light, and from that day on I could never look my father in the eye without feeling deep regret and shame.
If there was any relief that the pregnancy was no longer, it was short lived. There wasn’t a day went by that I didn’t regret it, or feel like I’d murdered my baby. I thought that there was only one way to make things right in my daddies’ eyes, and that was to get married. It didn’t matter to whom I got married, just as long as I was out from under my father’s roof and his soul-destroying eyes.
So a few days after my seventeenth birthday I was walking down the aisle, into a disastrous, painful, loveless marriage. It wasn’t long before I became pregnant. I prayed every day that God would let my child live and not punish me for my past. That baby is now in his forties, and every time it’s his birthday I think about his brother or sister that never made it into this world.
Marriage and children didn’t help with the guilt I felt, and as the years went by it got harder and harder to deal with. When I made a commitment to God in my forties, the abortion hung heavily on my mind. I couldn’t believe that God could forgive me, and I certainly couldn’t forgive myself. Church, and a relationship with Christ Jesus helped me to come to terms with the break up of my first marriage. He healed me of a multitude of mental health problems brought on by the abortion, a miscarriage, two ectopic pregnancies plus a million and one other things that life threw at me.
I’m always in awe at how God can get a message across to us. This one particular time I was on holiday with my mum and I’d just finished reading a book by Adrian Plass. If I remember correctly it was one of a series of three or four.
“Can we call into the Christian book shop tomorrow and pick up the next book in this series? I’ve really enjoyed reading it,” I asked mum.
When we got to the book shop I felt really lead to buy the third book and not the second in the series. Reading books out of sequence isn’t something I would usually do. But, I’d learnt by now not to argue with God and go where I felt He was leading. About half way through the book a story came up that could have been written about me. Basically, it said that sometimes in our lives things are taken out of our hands, and that although they may be bad decisions, they are not in our control. Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t my fault that I got pregnant, it was. But, what I am saying is that I didn’t have a say in whether or not I had an abortion. Nobody asked me what I wanted to do, they made the decision for me. From that moment on I was set free to forgive myself, but more importantly, I realised that God had not only forgiven me, but He no longer remembered my sin. “As far as the East is from the West, that’s how far He’s removed our transgressions from us!” (Psalm 103:12)
I’d stood before God time and time again asking for forgiveness for something that He no longer remembered, plus He give His assurance that one day I would meet that baby (and the other three) because, he or she is waiting with Jesus in Heaven ready to hold me and tell me that I’m forgiven. AMEN.
Can I just finish by saying that although I’ve been forgiven & God tells me that He has forgotten, I’ll never forget. My past regrets will always live on in my heart, not in condemnation, but in love for the child I never had.
If you are considering having a termination, please think long and hard before you do. It might seen like a quick fix to your ‘Problem’, but that, ‘Problem’ will be with you for the rest of your days.
Why are you telling us this Annie? You may well be saying. Because The Lord told me to!
If you’d like to talk about forgiveness, or any of the other issues raised in my blogs, drop me a line. I’m no expert, but we might be able to help each other.
P.S There are organisations all over the country that deal with unforeseen pregnancies. Just google Pregnancy Crisis Centre and one should come up in your area.