Martha's story was originally posted on the Daily Nation. We have Martha's permission to share her story here.
When I was 40, I heard a voice calling my name and telling me to go to church. I had been feeling out of sorts for a while. When I walked into the church, I went straight to the altar and just started crying. I got born again that day and soon after became totally involved in church.
I had had a dark past. Between the age of 18 and 31, I had procured several abortions. One day a lady who was working at Crisis Pregnancy Ministries, a centre that counsels against procuring abortions, asked whether I would visit them. I agreed and immediately started volunteering and making crafts with the girls, eventually becoming head of the crafts’ project and later the centre’s coordinator.
I also became very close with the director and as I shared my story with her, she encouraged me to attend a post-abortion counselling programme. But I resisted. I would say; ‘Why would I go air my dirty laundry in public?' But the more I bonded with the girls at the centre, the more I felt like a fraud. I needed to heal. But I was fighting it. One day I listened to a lady who had gone through the Pearls & Treasures post abortion programme talking about her trauma and I realised I needed the same help. I joined the programme, although reluctantly.
Here I was at 50, sitting with girls in their 20s. I was embarrassed. But the facilitator assured me and said; “You are here to show these girls that if they don’t heal in their 20s, they will carry the baggage the rest of their lives. You are also here so that you can reach out to women who had abortions but kept it hidden.” I was undertaking this counselling 20-plus years after procuring the abortions. I was retrieving files that my brain had sealed to protect me.
When I got my first pregnancy, I was aged 17 years. I was in a college in India. One day I started bleeding profusely. When I went to hospital, the doctor said I was a having a spontaneous abortion — my body had rejected the pregnancy. At 19, I was pregnant, again. This one was ectopic and so they decided to abort it because of the risk. The third time I got pregnant, I really wanted the baby. I was worried about what I’d tell my parents but I said I would just appear with a baby when I went back home. I went all the way to five months. My boyfriend, who lived in a different town, came to visit me. When he found out that I was pregnant, he panicked. Eventually, I caved in to his demands and procured an abortion. The funny thing is that they talk you into it yet you go through it all alone.
Once you have one abortion, the others become easier. I went back and found the same doctor who had done the previous one. She scolded me, saying: 'When will you girls understand that abortion is not a family planning method?! You are messing up your wombs!' Something went wrong during the procedure so they had to stop and look for another way to do it. In the meantime, I was sent for a sonogram and the guy doing it asked, 'Why do you want to kill these babies?' It turned out they were twins.
This was the hardest one. Afterwards, I saw them in a dish and they were holding each other. I touched them and they were still warm. I’ll never forget that. After that I just lay there and cried! I told God I would never do that again.
I went home and continued with my life and school. This time I decided I wanted a baby. So I got pregnant and I didn’t tell anyone about it, including my then boyfriend. They just thought I was getting bigger. The night I went into labour I had sat an exam earlier in the day. I took myself to hospital. When my daughter was born, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I stayed in India until she was 18 months, finished school and came back home. After some time, I left her with my mum and went to Nairobi to start a new job. I tell girls; when you have a crisis pregnancy you worry about your parents but when you give birth, trust me, it will be hard taking that child away from them!
I was making good money and having a lot of fun. Soon I started dating again and after six months, I was pregnant again. I was afraid of being passed up for a promotion because I was pregnant. The man said he would support the decision I would make. In the end my fears won and I had an abortion. Two years later I got pregnant again. I was 33. This time I decided to keep the baby. He is now 22.
Fast forward to when I did the Pearls and Treasures programme; it was a lot of work but in the end I experienced a gentle deliverance and healing. My life has taken turns that I never expected. Today I am a crisis pregnancy coach. I am a member of the pro-life movement. I believe that life starts at conception. You might say ‘My body, my choice’, but when a life begins in your body, it supersedes your rights.
There is no such thing as a safe abortion because a child dies. We think abortion is the solution to the problem but it is actually the beginning. I have talked to older women who have said, 'I had an abortion, now I am married. I have children but I am still not fine'. In the process of healing, their husbands will say, 'I have always suspected there is a part of her she keeps buried.' Abortion is an industry and most women who seek the services are married, middle class professionals and young girls.
When I first told my story, I worried that I would be christened ‘the abortion lady’. But someone reminded me that now, I am helping children live. I know I am forgiven and free. I also practise secondary virginity. I am waiting. God said it is not right for man to be alone. I am trusting for a relationship that will lead to marriage. In the meantime, I am loving and celebrating myself.