Julie Coulson is a wife (recently married to Steve), a mother of five with two living adult children and three in heaven. She is a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunty, a cousin and a friend. She’s also a step-mum to Steve’s adult children and a recent grandmother. Julie also counts herself a passionate advocate for life and her story reveals some of the “why” behind that proud title. Here she shares in her own words.
“How did this happen?”
I was on the pill, taking precautions. Not ready for children. Only 19.
“What are people going to think? Say?”
It started with a feeling, then a thought, then denial, then a checking of the calendar…
When was my last period? Perhaps I counted wrong. I am pretty regular, I’ve ticked off the right days on the contraceptive pill packet.
Surely not, I could not be pregnant, could I?
I am bloated, breasts sore, lower back pain. All the PMS hormonal signs. Of course, my period is on its way…. Phew.
Checking the calendar…. D Day? A day either side usually.
We’ve only been seeing each other six months, I cannot be pregnant. What will he say? We have not talked about children, we have not even talked about marriage. This cannot be happening!
But it was. The late-night drive to the chemist to buy a pregnancy test confirmed the worst. The Truth – I was pregnant.
It was March 17, 1991 – St Patricks Day… one day I will never forget.
I tell him, the father… awaiting his response, and I’m surprised. He is tender, excited even. He has always wanted more children, he said. I’m in shock for at least a week. It was exciting thinking about having a baby, bringing a new life into the world. We kept it a secret as it was very early days…
I still hadn’t processed our news. The father was living 2-3 hours’ drive away after taking a promotion. He was living on the Sunshine Coast and commuting weekends to visit me and his son from his first marriage. It was a mess.
An unplanned pregnancy becomes an unwanted pregnancy
I can’t remember the exact moment, but somewhere around eight weeks, it all changed. The father changed his mind, concerned with what others would think or say. I remember a seemingly gentle conversation about considering a termination due to my age, our situation, the age difference. Gentle as it was, I had an overwhelming feeling of grief and loss already building. I had started to get excited about having a baby!
A simple conversation really, but it appeared a decision was already made. The investigation had been done – location, cost, time of the appointment already made. The appointment had been made for my RDO and a long weekend – extra time to rest and recover, but it was just a day procedure, no big deal. That’s what I was told and by then the decision was taken out of my hands. This way no one needed to ever know about it and life could go on as normal.
The truth was far different.
This is what it feels like to be one of the 70% of women who feel like they have no alternative and no support. The shame and guilt that comes crushing in and isolates you from seeking support.
I was dropped off at a building that had no signage, over the border in New South Wales because it was illegal in Queensland. I was scared of being caught and sent to jail. I was handed my $150 and reminded to grab my Medicare card.
I pressed a bell and a lady opened the door. It was dark and quiet as I passed the empty reception desk into a dimly lit room. A lady in a purple surgical gown sat down with me and filled out some paperwork. I didn’t have time to read it, so I just signed where she told me to and handed over the Medicare card and money.
I was told to undress and put on a gown. No counselling, no explanation, no options, no support, no questions. Just, “put on this gown.”
I am in the gown tied at the back and wearing paper underwear, and am ushered into a sterile room. A cold metal contraption with stirrups is my fate. I was told it’s a simple D&C, the same as a miscarriage, like a little vacuum cleaner just cleaning the lining, like having a period. “You’ll have a little discomfort and some light spotting, but nothing to worry about really.”
They gave me an injection and I faded out, fearing I might not wake up at all. Who knows how long I was out. My next memory was of being in a wheelchair next to two other girls and about four women of various ages across the room. There is groaning and sobbing. I imagined I was in hell. I felt so much grief and loss. I was exhausted, uncomfortable, cramping and bleeding. We were just left there to recover from the anaesthetic and wait for our lift.
We didn’t have mobile phones back then, so there was no contact with anyone. I wondered if the father would even come back and get me. It seemed forever. I sat there in this sad, sad place. White faced, ashen. We were the ghosts of girls that hours earlier were young, fresh, blooming and carrying life. No doubt all of us were feeling the painful truth about abortion… it is not an easy solution.
Since seeing the movie Unplanned, I am now fully aware of what it looks like from the inside and I have been processing the grim and horrible truth of abortion. Perhaps I had complications, a large volume of blood loss, perhaps the anaemia I had was related, who knows? I wasn’t told anything. What I do remember is this – I was not happy with the “choice”. I was not supported before, during or after the abortion. Shame, guilt and unforgiveness kept me quiet and captive.
My partner was angry when I was finally released, so I assume it took longer than expected and he didn’t like to be kept waiting. I remember being berated for three hours on the way home to the Sunshine Coast and spending a weekend feeling I would rather be dead. I was taken back to my home on the Gold Coast on Sunday night, ready for work on Monday morning.
Life after abortion
Everything was different on the other side of the abortion. Unresolved pain, grief, anger, loss – all were great big stones in a wall we built between us, but that also tied us to each other forever.
We never talked about it, or the second one I had before we were married or the third one as our marriage was crumbling and we already had two children … and until now and preparing this story, I have never really processed the actual events, nor revisited the memories in this way. One thing I have learnt in my life of overcoming trauma is there is only one way to deal with it properly and completely, and that is head on. Seek help and work through it.
The years after the first abortion, I very nearly became a statistic of Post abortion trauma and attempted to take my life. Fortunately, that was thwarted, and I survived by a miracle. But the depression, and self-loathing did not disappear. Relationships with people were different. I was no longer the same and I felt my ability to trust irrevocably changed. My first marriage was the result of a deep grief over the second forced termination and intense desire to find out if I could even have children after submitting to two terminations.
After we were married in November 1996, we immediately started to try for a family, and my daughter was born nearly six weeks early by Emergency C-Section in October 1997 and my son unexpectedly some 14 months later in December 1998. Our marriage was already on the rocks and the pressure of another pregnancy so soon and many other external issues at the time, led to a complete breakdown over the next few years and in 2004 after increased domestic violence, we were separated.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after that decision and felt pressured into a third termination. That was the end of my marriage.
Sadly, just over three years later, my estranged husband passed away suddenly, leaving me with two children and a whole lot of unresolved pain, grief and secrets. This event was shattering and eventually brought me to my knees in prayer, asking God to forgive me and help me take care of my kids. Here the faith journey really began, and the healing started, but the brokenness in the three of us made life very hard.
The healing process
It was only a couple of years ago that I realised that even though with my faith in God I was forgiven and had forgiven myself and those directly involved, that there was still unresolved feelings and things to process. It was at a women’s conference that I met a lady who was talking about counselling for post abortion trauma. Something she mentioned triggered me and I had a classic PTSD moment and realised there was more to be dealt with.
After talking with this beautiful lady who shared her story of amazing support and healing, I was offered a sponsorship to attend the next course. The three-day retreat was one of the most profound healing and restorative processes I have encountered in any type of counselling. That is a whole story in itself. From here I realised that there were so many people affected in all the many and varied ways that someone arrives at the abortion clinic and makes a life changing decision. And yes, the pun is intended.
One life is taken away forever… but many lives can be affected in the process. It affects men, women, children (born and unborn). Many never know what they lost. It affects parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles, sisters and brothers and the mothers and the fathers. In fact, this loss affects the entire world. A future generation is being stolen, and we are being robbed of the unique contribution of each child that should have been born.
After the weekend retreat and the revelation and healing I received, I have been fired up to do more and find a way to educate and empower women and men, to actively promote life, to find ways to make a change that is needed for the benefit of all our futures.
For more information on pursuing healing go to https://notbornyet.com/essential-resources/ – scroll down to Grief Support at the bottom of the page.
If you would like to know how you too can join the Movement for Life and join us to help Australians fall in love with mums and their unborn babies, just click on the link.