My daughter is now thirty-six years old, but in 1998, when she was fifteen, she became pregnant. Both my wife and I felt blindsided. We were still working, and abortion was legal; it would cost just $250. That was a small price to pay for the years of hardship we all could avoid—or so we thought.
I hadn’t given much thought to abortion before then. I didn’t know what to do in this situation. No one had ever educated me about being pro-life: not family or friends, not coworkers, not even fellow parishioners at our Catholic parish. If they had tried, I probably wasn’t listening.
I drove my daughter to get the abortion. To my surprise, the moment it happened, I felt as if a hand had reached inside me and ripped my heart out. From that point on, our lives completely changed. My daughter went into months of depression and started taking medication. Every time I heard or saw someone discussing abortion, I automatically turned and walked away. I felt as if they knew what I had done.
“Time to Come Home.” I knew I had sinned. And even though I asked God for forgiveness every day, I couldn’t believe that he would forgive me. For the next twelve years, even though I was a weekly Mass attendee and Eucharistic minister, I could not bring myself to face the Sacrament of Confession.
One day, purely by accident, I arrived early for Mass. I was standing in the church vestibule and saw a pamphlet entitled An Imaginary Confession on top of a book stand. It was a story about a married woman with three daughters who had gotten an abortion many years earlier. After more than a decade, she was telling her story to the priest in Confession. Short of actually having an abortion, I could feel her pain. The pain of causing my grandchild’s abortion had built up into a great weight of guilt and shame inside me.
When I finished reading the pamphlet, I put it down and saw another brochure entitled How to Give a Good Confession. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It was God telling me, “Michael, it’s time to come home.”
“Not Here to Condemn.” It had been such a long time that I couldn’t even remember the whole Act of Contrition. But I had no excuse; our priest was sitting in the confessional, and there was nobody waiting in line. I took a deep breath and went in, mostly to seek forgiveness for bringing my daughter to get an abortion. I remember clearly how the priest responded. He said, “God is not here to condemn you but to forgive you.” He reminded me how much God loves me and granted absolution.
As I walked out of the confessional, I felt relief and peace wash over me. I finished my prayer of penance, walked out of the church, and right there was a table advertising the Walk for Life West Coast. In disbelief, I pondered it for a minute before heading over sheepishly to sign up.
Some months later, our daughter informed my wife and I that she was getting married. The next year, she and her husband bought us a book about grandparenting. It was her way of telling us that she was pregnant. I knew I should be excited, but all I could think about was the grandchild that had been aborted years earlier. Could I really have been forgiven for my selfishness?
A New Wave of Healing. When it came time for my daughter to give birth, her husband was working out of town. While my wife stayed home watching another grandchild, I brought our daughter to the hospital and waited with her.
After the delivery, they called me into the hospital room, and the nurse asked my daughter if she wanted to cut her baby boy’s umbilical cord. Too exhausted, she said, “No; do you want to do it, Dad?” I was stunned. I stared at my daughter and she nodded her head as if to say, “It’s okay.” When I cut the umbilical cord and held my grandson, I felt this wave go through me, and for the first time, I believed that I was truly forgiven.
In that quiet moment in the hospital, a voice inside me asked, “What are you prepared to do?” I thought about it for a few weeks. Finally, an answer came to me, and I approached our daughter, who was on maternity leave, and her husband. “If you need a babysitter, I’m available,” I told them. And they said yes. My two-year retirement was about to come to an end.
Saved by a Life. I have been caring for my grandson five days a week since he was three months old—and I, sixty years old! A second grandson arrived two years later, and I started watching him too. Full-time daycare is exhausting, but it has drawn me closer to God. Every time I look at my grandsons, I think about how they have saved my life with their lives, and I am thankful.
Michael Rivera lives in West Sacramento, California.
Share the Blessing of Healing
Women troubled about a pregnancy often feel frightened and alone. When family and friends don’t know what to do, abortion can seem like the best solution. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can extend arms of mercy to people like Michael and his daughter and say, “Don’t be afraid. We will help you with your baby.”
At Partners, we pray for an end to abortion. Through your generous support, we also provide The Word Among Us and After Abortion/Después del Aborto booklets for men and women to pregnancy centers and postabortion ministries. We need your help to continue sending these life-changing materials to 122,000 people in challenging circumstances: in prison, in high poverty parishes, in the military, and on college campuses. Will you help?
This Christmas, please consider becoming a Partner. Tax-deductible donations of $25, $50, or $100 can be made online at our secure website, waupartners.org, or by calling 1-800-775-9673. Checks can be mailed to The Word Among Us Partners, 7115 Guilford Drive, Suite 100, Frederick, MD 21704. Canadian donations are tax deductible only if mailed to Metanoia Outreach, Attn: The Word Among Us Partners, Box 1107, Station F, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2T8.