Regrets

Sally Straub is the only lawyer in town. Her father was the town lawyer before her. He went on to become a judge. Retired from the bench, sharp as ever at 78, he is still “of counsel” with his daughter’s law practice.

Sally is a sympathetic, no-nonsense woman with a big heart in a petite body. She is involved with every imaginable charity and public service organization in our community. Her husband, Jack, is a retired professor from the college up the road.

After knowing her for years, I learned that Sally was battling chronic anxiety and insomnia. To most people, she seemed to be the personification of self-confidence, but she constantly doubted her abilities, even though her social and professional accomplishments were remarkable by anyone’s standards.

“I’ve been in therapy on and off for most of my life, and I’m still not any closer to peace of mind,” she said the other day, adding, “and I don’t want drugs for this!”

I didn’t know quite what to say at first. I only had a few minutes scheduled with her, but she seemed to be at a point where she needed me to help move her forward, somehow.

Guided by a gut feeling, I asked:

“Do you have any regrets in your life?”

She seemed frozen for a few moments. Suddenly, tears welled up and she leaned forward, staring at her hands, which were now folded in her lap. She began:

“You know, Jack and I never had any children.”

I nodded. “I know.”

“Well, you don’t know this, but I was married once before, when I was in college. He was also a pre-law. My parents never liked him. I got pregnant and he didn’t want children. I didn’t feel I could tell my parents, and all the people who knew me told me to just have an abortion. I was scared.”

“So, that’s what you did…” I asked.

“Yes. They offered me counseling and everyone said it was just like having a tooth extraction. I knew right there on the operating table that I had made the wrong decision. I can still hear the sound of the suction device. I hear it every night, echoing in my head when I try to go to sleep. I imagine my daughter – I’m sure it was a girl…”

“And you never told your therapists?”

“They never asked. Or they didn’t seem ready to hear what I felt inside.” She wiped her eyes. “Paul’s and my marriage fell apart and we both moved on. I got busy with law school and my career.”

“Did your parents ever find out?”

“I never told them.”

“Does Jack know?”

“Yes, I told him when we first got together and he’s so sad, because he’s sterile.”

“Do you still blame yourself for making the choice you made back then?”

“Terribly.”

“You and I are about the same age. I know what many people said back then, but that probably wasn’t at all consistent with your values, and people didn’t know then what kind of grief reactions abortions created. Let me get a book I’d like for you to read,” I said. “I’ll be right back, okay?”

She blew her nose and nodded.

I quickly found the thin, blue volume in my office bookshelf and brought it back to Sally.

She took the book from my hand.

The Four Steps to Healing,” she read out loud.

“It was written by a psychiatrist. It will help you get started. But you’ll need a therapist who understands and respects your values without trying to be politically correct. I know someone who might be able to help you.”

“I feel silly, fifty-eight years old and falling apart over something that happened almost forty years ago.”

I reached both my hands out toward her and she grabbed hold of them and squeezed them briefly.

I wrote the phone number on the back of one of my business cards. “Promise me to call Diane Fehrer soon.”

She nodded. “I will. Thanks.”

1 Response to “Regrets”


  1. 1 FNP Student April 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Very few pro-choice people ever consider this aspect of abortion. Thanks for the post.


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