Written by: Josh Faltot, CPC board of directors, writer and host of The Writers Lens Podcast
It was 2009 and I was single. I was only a few years removed from college but I was working a decent in the area of my major. It’s the one thing most parents would want for their college graduate - to be working in their chosen field of study. Not only that, I was living on my own, paying my own bills, and making my own way.
This was the way it was always supposed to be: a good job; a good path ahead; a million and one opportunities resting at my fingertips. The only thing I had to do was keep my head low, work hard, and reap what I sowed. Because that’s how the world works. You get what you put in. That’s what I always knew to be true. That so long as I did what I was told, then I’d be in the right. Not just with my career, but with God - if He existed at all.
Then I got involved with a girl. And we got pregnant after a night of poor decision-making. I knew she was even before she told me about it several weeks later. I knew when she told me that she had “something important to tell me but couldn’t over the phone”. I knew I’d gotten her pregnant and every thought associated with a future that was wide open was suddenly thrown to the wayside.
That’s when the troubleshooting began. I’ll have to quit my job and move. Should I move in with her in which case? Is that the right thing to do? I’ll have to get married in less than nine months. That way we can cover it up. That way my good reputation won’t be crushed - and neither will hers. Our parents will understand. After all, these things happen and even though I didn’t mean for this to occur, I’m willing to take responsibility. That’s not only the right thing to do, it’s what man would do, right?
But then I got an email from this girl several days later as I was driving to my parents. She told me how scared she was. She told me how she didn’t want to finish school like this (she was still in college getting her master’s). And she told me, much to my shock, that she didn’t want to be a mother. Not yet anyway. She wasn’t intending to keep the baby. She wanted an abortion and she wanted to make sure I’d be okay with her decision.
If I’m honest, I felt a swell of relief when I read those words. I had been mulling over all the changes I was going to have to make, all the sacrifices, before I read that message. I was ready to be a man and do the right thing. But then, suddenly, all of my previous convictions changed. What if I didn’t have to be a dad yet? What if we could put this whole mess behind us and act like it never happened? That’s what the abortion could do for us. For me. I wouldn’t have to endure the shame of looking like an irresponsible dog; the type of guy who went around bedding girls and not thinking twice about the consequences of his actions. My reputation was anything but. As for her, she was a respectable girl in her own right, attending a prestigious school and set to graduate with honors. The thought of telling her parents was mortifying.
The more I thought about it on that long drive home, the more I came to the conclusion that the abortion was the right choice. She didn’t need my stamp of approval to go through with it, but seeing as how I had contributed to this situation, I knew I needed to encourage her. Together we could handle it. That was my resolve.
So I called her and told her that I supported her decision. And through tears and several “I’m sorry’s”, I went to bed that night thinking that this would all be over soon. It’s not a person yet, I told myself. It’s not even a child. It can’t walk and it can’t talk. It has no idea what day it is. It’s like a seed right now and a seed is not a fully grown plant. Just like an embryo or a fetus isn’t a fully grown person. I rationalized the thought over and over in my head until I could sleep and when I awoke, I was prepared to follow through the next phase: paying for the abortion.
Since I had agreed to take equal responsibility, I told her I’d pay for half of the procedure. So when I went back to my apartment just outside of Cleveland, I found myself writing out a check that would stop the heart of my unborn child (the fact that the pregnancy was far enough along to have a beating heart was something I didn’t discover until much later). Only after we had decided to stay together did she reveal to me what she had seen - and heard - at the ultrasound. I don’t share that detail as a way to demonize her. I just want you, the reader, to know what we were in agreement about doing.
When it was over, I did my best to bury everything. I figured that’s what anybody with a strong will and a sober mind would do. You admit that you made a mistake, but then you acknowledge that the mistake has been corrected. My slate was clean again, so to speak.
But as time went on, I couldn’t shake any of my previous thoughts. Nor could I escape everything that was happening around me. As if the devil himself knew what to do, I became a witness to numerous baby announcements all over social media. Two of my closest friends had just finished celebrating their newfound pregnancy. But when they learned the baby had miscarried not a week or two later, it sent disappointment through our small community. The likes of which had me divided on the inside. Their heartbreak felt like a slap in the face. They, the ones who actually wanted a child, couldn’t have one. Meanwhile I, who could have been a father before anyone else, willingly chose another path.
The universe felt cruel. The image of myself - the one I’d built within my own mind for years - was falling apart. I had always said I wanted to do what was right. But this act changed everything I believed about myself. I researched abortion endlessly. I memorized statistics on the likelihood of miscarry in first-time pregnancies and I tried to find the most current information on when (and if) an unborn fetus can feel pain. I recall spending hours doing this on my own time. Rather than enjoying a book or hanging with friends, I became obsessed with finding a silver bullet that would alleviate my conscience forever.
Much to my disappointment, nothing I found could vindicate me completely.
Panic and anxiety settled in - two things I was not at all familiar with. Both came on suddenly one afternoon while I was at work. I was sitting in a meeting with some vendors when the room began to spin. I heard a blast of trumpets (Lord knows where from) and I snapped back to the moment. When it was over, my hands were sweating as was my back and forehead. I had to wait for the meeting to adjourn before I could rush to the bathroom and wipe myself clean.
No big deal, I thought. That was nothing. Just some unwanted nerves. Turns out, it wasn’t just nothing. The attacks returned. And every time they did, they felt worse than the last. I began to fear driving in my car alone. I began to fear being at meetings. I began to fear just being around lots of people; a reality that struck me as inconceivable due to my sociable personality. Yet it was happening anyway. I got headaches every day. I’d wake up and my head would start to throb. I started taking aspirin, tylenol, motrin - anything to relieve them but nothing seemed to work. I recall thinking I had a brain tumor so I went to get an X-ray just to put my mind at ease. The scans came back negative and for a brief time, I was at peace. But as you can imagine, that didn’t last very long. The head and body aches continued. I felt like I was losing control over my own mind and now my own body. My father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was around my age. Was I next? Was this the precursor and soon-to-be punishment for what I’d done?
All the while, I pushed the girl I was with away from me. She was hurting too, but she was handling it in her own way. I considered going to counseling, which I ended up doing and not telling her about either. A fact that only compounded my ever-growing anxiety. I found myself lying to other people about when I planned to get married and how fun being a dad would be someday. After all, I came from a big family and everyone knew I wanted kids. Because that’s what I always told everyone - how badly I wanted to be a dad. Oh, how I hated pretending. The hypocrisy of my words split me in two. In one world, I was Josh the Family Man: good job, good family, good friends, the works. In another, more private world, I was Josh the Impostor: scared to go to work, afraid to tell his family and friends about his anxiety, and filled with guilt and shame about the abortion. I’d stay up at night, crying or punching my pillow about the headaches and anxiety. I refused to get medicated. I could do this on my own, right? I still had some semblance of self-will left in me. I decided not to let these demons rule me. I was going to fight even if it felt like I was losing momentarily.
After more than a year of emotional and physical torment, I decided that a break up was the only way I’d move on. So I parted ways with this young woman and waited for the anxiety to stop. It didn’t, however, so I did everything else I could to distract myself. That was my solution. I drank more than I used to, I dated incessantly to keep my libido high and my depressing thoughts at bay, and I jumped from job to job with the mindset that a change in scenery would eventually change my outlook on things.
But of course nothing changed. Not on the inside. No matter how much I altered my environment, my insides were knotted and strangling me from the inside out. What had started out as a single misstep had ballooned and bled into every area of my life. There was no going back or even forward, for that matter. I was going to be like this until the day I die. That is what I told myself. Maybe I need to accept that I’m messed up and need heavy meds to dull the pain. Let the world know how much of a fraud I am. How I’ve been pretending all this time.
Finally, I had a breakdown. After my counseling was over and I left the insurance industry, I fell on my knees to pray. Only I didn’t pray like I normally did. I didn’t say the same old words that I used to out of habit. Instead, I cried and asked for God - if He was real and could hear me - to please send somebody into my life. A real, tangible person. Somebody that could help me in this journey. Because I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no clue where I was going and I couldn’t solve this mess on my own. I just wanted the pain to stop. I’d do anything, I said. Just please...make the pain stop.
For many nights I prayed this prayer and at one point, I wondered if God was ever going to show up. Until, at last, He did. He came in the form of a man old enough to be my father. A man I’d never met before, but took an interest in me as I stood in line at a coffee shop. His invitation to talk with me about what I was doing on my laptop - to which I said I was writing a book - sparked his interest. So much so that when we finally sat down to chat, I learned he was a former pastor and wanted to know if there was something missing in my life.
Was this an actual prayer being answered? I don’t know if I’d ever experienced that before. I can’t say that anything this real h ad ever transpired in my life like this. Normally, I’d pray for strength to play a great baseball game. Or to score well on a test. Or to get the new account I was working on at my job. This was different. The things I had asked for, they were right here. And as the weeks went on and I spilled my life’s story and feelings of shame and guilt to this gentleman, I knew someone had heard my prayer. I didn’t know who at the time, I just knew someone had. This was more than counseling, there was a restorative work being done in my soul.
This revelation threw me aback. Everything I thought I knew about life, about Christ, about myself - everything w as turned around on me. The false image of myself - the Impostor - didn’t have a place inside of me anymore. And what’s more, it was replaced with a new narrative: one that said yes, what I had done and taken part in was wrong, but that didn’t have to be my life’s story. There was an opportunity for restoration - true restoration. The kind you can only find in knowing Christ. So when I prayed to know this healer more intimately - convinced that my prayer had been answered and my experience had been genuine - I asked that this healing be made available to me.
And it was. The panic attacks began to cease. The inmost guilt and shame was no longer an unending cycle. Those patterns began to break. And though I would still find doubt and anxiety creeping up on me at times, I knew I wasn’t facing them alone. I was no longer afraid of being exposed. I was no longer fearful of being in large rooms. I was no longer afraid of answering to God for what had transpired. I was welcomed into something that was interested in taking me somewhere new, not dragging back to where I’d already been.
This story - the story of my testimony coming to know God personally - is why I feel so strongly about being pro-life. I have seen and witnessed the trauma an abortion can cause for those who go through with one. From those who have regrets to those who are convinced that the choice is theirs and theirs alone, I have heard and seen the aches of the ones torn by their decisions. Decisions which can haunt a person for a lifetime if we allow those demons to live within us.
Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you believe in something else (or maybe you don’t even know what you believe), but I want you to know that if you are hurting or have been affected by an abortion (man or woman), my encouragement to you is that there is forgiveness and healing available. I want people to know about what can happen after an abortion and that you can heal if you are feeling regret. But I also want people to know my story so they might avoid living out a similar tale.
And what’s more, Christ is not only interested in restoration, He’s also interested in redemption. I have three children now. By God’s grace, I have three children. Each of whom I was able to hear their little heartbeats before they were born. You can imagine the change in perspective I have now. I didn’t think I deserved this, and I don’t, but I am grateful for it. It’s a testament to that redemptive power only Christ can bring.
Thank you for listening and look forward to sharing more with you here at CPC in future posts.