Testimony of Sandy Arenaby Sandy Arena on 04/03/14
This is just one chapter in the hundreds of chapters that make up my life. But it is one that I care deeply about and one that changed everything in my life. This story matters so much to me that I wrote a show about it and started an organization devoted to helping men and women heal from grief in the aftermath of choice and advocating for children's health from conception to birth and beyond. The organization is called The Life Ballet. My family and I and others have traveled with our show around the country and into Canada to share truth and hope to the next generation and to those who suffer after abortion, as I silently suffered for so many years. One in three women will have an abortion by age 45, so I know I'm not alone. But because of guilt and shame, you may not hear of such a story. Thank you for reading it and for treating my heart with kindness. It's not easy to bare such a tale, but I do so so others may choose differently.
I had an abortion when I was 18 years old when I found myself in crisis pregnancy and rejected by my first love. Well-meaning adults scheduled my appointment and assured me it was not my baby that I would be killing, but rather was "just a blob of flesh". I was told I would forget about my child and that college was the next important goal on the agenda of a "successful" woman's life.
The abortion clinic was crowded and cold, and a giant cattle call of death. I was driven to the clinic by a high school friend who was as frightened and bewildered as I was. I waited in the lobby with all the other women, and I cried and cried and cried. Deep in my heart, I knew what was happening was very evil and very wrong. I was harshly scolded by a Planned Parenthood worker who barked at me to stop crying. Although this horrible organization lies to say they care about women's healthcare, their actions indicate otherwise. They care about making money off abortions and exploiting women and their unborn children in the name of greed and profit. Not one staff member there offered a kind word, a tissue, a shoulder to cry on, or most importantly another option. I was treated like a piece of meat, and my child, even worse, was killed and dissected all for a fee. It was the worst day of my life. I felt trapped, unloved and deeply rejected. I remember speaking with another woman in the waiting room who was hysterically crying too. She was already a mother and her husband was forcing her to abort their child. I will never forget her tear-stained face, as we both sat in that room our chests heaving with grief waiting for our turn to kill our babies.
After that abortion, all my dreams and self esteem were shattered. It was not the fairy tale life of which I had dreamed. I compensated and survived what had happened by acting out in rebellion and extreme defiance, drinking and partying. I self destructed and had another abortion a few years later. I rarely spoke about what had occurred in my life, and I pretended I didn't care. But deep inside I was scarred and broken. I felt worthless and alone.
I gave birth to my oldest child at the age of 26 and I had never been so in love in my life. I held her in my arms and I was completely in awe. I would walk through fire for her and it was at this point I truly realized what had happened in my life. I was wrecked in my every fiber of my being to know I had killed my children. I was mad at the world. I was mad at the adults. I was mad at the people who had lied to me and told me my babies were "blobs of flesh".
My oldest daughter Alexis is a performer in our show and dances, sings and acts the part of "Sarah" - a woman who regrettably suffers through abortion and then finds healing and forgiveness after a long and painful journey.
I held onto my secret for years, particularly when I was in church. If someone said the word "abortion", I would run to the bathroom to silently sob, just like I had done so many years ago in the abortion clinic. I was a mother now, afterall, happily married with three beautiful children. And I was a Christian. I thought, what kind of mother does this? I was so deeply ashamed. Of all my accomplishments - educationally and work-wise - motherhood and family was my greatest, and I could not wrap my head around the fact that I had killed my children for something as comparatively meaningless as a "career" and other things set before me in the name of sacrificing the lives of my children. I knew in my heart that I could have written those kids into my life with a little creativity and hard work, and that we would have been okay, whether I had raised them or someone else had through the loving option of adoption.
I finally came public with my story a few years ago when I was in my early forties when I found myself in a very unique situation in a public identity mix up when a woman with my same name who lives in my city was accused of murder. Everyone thought it was me when the story of this other "Sandy Arena" hit the news. I initially set myself apart from her in self-righteousness and claimed to be the "good" Sandy Arena, not the one accused of murder and who was all over the news. That was my initial reaction, until I honestly looked deep inside my heart and I knew this was not true. I knew that I had taken the lives of others - my children - even though society did not call it as such and that I had no right to set myself apart in righteousness. I shared my heart, my thoughts and my sympathies for the other parties involved in this situation in an opinion essay in our daily newspaper and my abortion story was out. It was terrifying, but I was free.
I was so impacted by
this very unexpected and public abortion confession, that I founded The Life Ballet. It has become my life work. Our show has been performed over the years by the ballet company my husband and I founded in 2006. The live
production is written in the form of a letter of regret to my unborn children where we share a message of life, hope and healing to the people suffering as I
had suffered in the aftermath of the "choice" of abortion for so many
dark and horrible years. Although it is based upon many of my own personal experiences, we have collaborated with, combined and changed many of the details of my story to protect the identities of those involved and to also, most importantly, let the world know this is NOT just my story, but every woman's story who has had an abortion, even if she is still in a place of denial. In addition to our live performances, we also dance in silence and in intercession in front of abortion clinics (Silent Dancers for Life) and most recently signed with the record label Verb Records to create a film adaptation of the live show called "Arise Sweet Sarah". This incredible film took a year and a half to complete. Not quite a Hollywood blockbuster in its budget, it was a $40,000 expense which has been a tough mountain for us to climb. Arise Sweet Sarah will be released September 12 in Rochester, NY at the beautiful Dryden Theater at the Eastman House, and hopefully at other locations across the country. It is my art and my heart and the best way I know
to tell my story of regret and hope in the wake of abortion. It is one way I
can honor my children's lives and the lives of millions of other children who never had the chance to dance.
As noted above, my oldest daughter plays the lead character in the show whose name is
"Sarah" and for this I am humbled and grateful. My youngest daughter
Annaliese dances the part of "young Sarah" (see first photo below). My husband and my son are also very involved in the show serving as extras, crew, travel agents, therapists and much more. We all travel together when we perform.
My mourning has indeed
turned to dancing and I can only hope my story and our show will continue to
lead others impacted by abortion towards a lighted path of forgiveness and
healing. I often say that to remove from society a child deemed unwanted or
inconvenient, is to release back into that same society a woman marred and
scarred by the choice of abortion. I believe there is a better way for women in
the great land of America. Killing children to get what you want out of life only teaches us that the worst kind of violence comprehensible is good and acceptable, which it is NOT. Our country was built by courageous and strong men
and women who were fearless and creative and who were pioneers. I know my
fore-sisters were birthing babies in covered wagons. We can certainly do better
for women than killing our children when faced with fear or uncertainty in the
event of an unplanned pregnancy. America needs to wake up the atrocities and horror of abortion and the basic human denial of life and liberty for children in the womb who have hearts, livers, brains, arms, legs and DNA, what is basic to all of humanity.
Children are the greatest blessing and are our future.I will end my story to say that abortion has far reaching consequences not just to women, but to men, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and the whole community. In a mother/son bonding moment I had with my son who is now 13 years old, I asked him how he knew I loved him. He answered without blinking an eye, "Because you didn't abort me." This unexpected moment in time broke my heart into pieces. It was certainly not a moment I ever dreamed I would have one day with my "wanted child" when I was 18 years old living out a lie in an abortion clinic.
I don't always enjoy baring my soul and sharing these dark events in the history of my life, but I do it so others may choose differently and with the hope that one day legalized abortion in America will end.
Learn more about The Life Ballet at www.thelifeballet.org.
Read more about our family and our expressive arts ministry at www.sandyarena.com.