In the dream there is a glass house, and inside, a baby. The interior of the house is on fire, and there is no way in. The baby will surely die.
This recurring nightmare so tortured Claudette Breton in the days immediately following her abortion in 1975 that she stopped going to bed at night.
“In my heart, I knew what I had done was wrong,” said Ms. Breton, who will take part in her second National March for Life tomorrow in Ottawa with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign Canada.
The resident of Sault St. Marie, Ontario, was 21 years old when she confided to her mother that she was pregnant. Finding no support for continuing her pregnancy, she decided on abortion. The laws in Canada then were a bit stricter than today’s no-holds-barred policy, so Ms. Breton prepared to meet with three doctors who would determine her fate. But there was only one doctor in the office whose décor she remembers in minute detail, and he asked only two questions before sending her on her way: Did she know who the father was, and what did her parents think? A week later, she was informed that her “procedure” had been approved.
She felt empty when she got the news, but that emptiness soon was momentarily replaced by the first movements of the child in her womb. “I knew I was pretty far along to have felt that flutter.”
Unlike her crystal clear memories of her interview with the doctor who would approve her abortion, she has very few memories of the procedure itself. She does remember a nurse telling her not to cry, that it would be over soon.
“Thirty-eight years later,” she said, “it still wasn’t over. I felt like a totally different person. I had such a cold heart.”
Years of self-destructive behaviors followed, but she never linked her behavior to her abortion.
“I never talked about it and I never acknowledged it,” Ms. Breton said. “My mother was the only other person who knew.” She had never even told the baby’s father, or her own.
She was drinking heavily after the abortion and finally reached a point where she knew she had to get sober or die. Soon after that she met her future husband, Yvan Breton. A year after their wedding, she suffered a miscarriage and then began years of fertility treatments that were complicated by an uncommon uterine condition. Finally, five years after her marriage, she found out she was pregnant.
“When I saw the baby on the ultrasound, it didn’t stir up any emotion. ” she recalled. When her son Julien, now 18, was born, she had no feelings at all when they put him in my arms.
Ms. Breton’s experience is not unique. Of the thousands of testimonies shared by post-abortive women at the Silent No More Awareness Campaign website, many touch on these same themes: destructive behaviors, bonding difficulties with future children, feelings of disconnection.
Her journey to healing began when she went back to church and confessed her abortion to a priest. She felt an enormous weight falling away when she was granted absolution, and when the priest suggested she name her baby. “The name Melissa popped into my head. That was the first step.”
She had not planned to become a pro-life activist, but step by step, that’s the road she’s been on since 2011. First she had to tell her husband about the abortion, and then she had to tell Julien about the sister he would never know, and of her plans to speak at the National March for Life in Ottawa last year.
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“He told me he was very proud.”
This year, Ms. Breton will march with Julien, and while she will not be sharing her testimony with the other women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, she will be there with a message:
“You can get forgiveness from God, but you’ve got to forgive yourself. I made a choice when I was 21 years old and I aborted my baby. Her name was Melissa. Facing that is what enables me to speak openly about my choice, and to forgive myself.”