God made us all to be relational. At the core of our being we want to belong. To be loved. To be accepted. We look first to our parents. If you are blessed to have been born into a loving marriage, then you were probably considered a blessing—an extension of the love of the two people who came together to be the conduit for your existence.
However, many of us never experience that. I didn’t. I was born into a marriage based on power, domination, and anything but unconditional love. The news of my coming was a hindrance, a problem. My father actually set up an appointment for my mother with an illegal “back alley” abortionist when she told him she was pregnant. Mom was too afraid to keep the appointment; and by the time I was two, my parents were divorced and Mom had moved us in with her mother and uncommunicative, alcoholic, ornery father. He was my first male role model. He rarely spoke to anyone and certainly took no interest in me.
“ My father actually set up an appointment for my mother with an illegal “back alley” abortionist when she told him she was pregnant. ”
It’s easy for me to see now that Mom never had the experience of being in a loving and supportive father-daughter relationship. She never had known, nor had her mother before her, just what the God-intended role of a father was. When her own mother had enough of her “ornery” husband and moved to New York City without him, he followed.
At the age of 22, Mom married my father, maybe looking for love and acceptance. At any rate, it was soon apparent that it was a loveless marriage. My father never wanted children, so when I came along, his first reaction was to have me aborted. When that didn’t happen, Mom said he simply ignored me. The marriage didn’t last. Maybe because of his attitude regarding children, Mom never accepted assistance from my father, nor did she require him to participate in my life. However, I often spent weekends with my paternal grandma, although I never saw any other extended family. No one mentioned my father. Ever.
“ When that didn’t happen, Mom said he simply ignored me. ”
At first, Mom told me my father had died. Knowing that his name was Harvey, I sometimes fantasized that the Harvey from Harvey cartoons was my father. He had run away to Hollywood and didn’t know about me. Maybe I was a twin, like he had been, and mom took me and he took the other. There might even be an inheritance waiting for me to claim!
Finally, Mom acknowledged that some of the pictures I saw were of my father and that he wasn’t dead. Mom shared with me all of my father’s failings. He was still married to wife number two when they got married. He embezzled, drank, and marital rape was the norm. She even told me that I was named after his girlfriend. Mom had another name chosen that became my middle name. In my mind, he quickly became the villain and I had no reason to question Mom.
My father’s mother died when I was ten. Days before the funeral, at my grandparents’ home, for the first time in my memory, I was introduced to my father. Saundra, this is your father, Harvey. Harvey, this is your daughter, Saundra. I remember shaking his hand and spending the rest of the afternoon studying his face, trying to understand the term “father” as it pertained to this total stranger. I wondered why he was such a horrible man. My mother hated my father, and it showed. Why should I even want to know this person? After my grandmother’s funeral, it would be 20 years before I saw my father again.
“ I was always taught to be self-sufficient. To never need a man. ”
Fathers were rare in my world. Even the neighborhood dads were not ideal. I didn’t know any happy two-parent families. Mom never remarried and never allowed anyone to even get close enough to be a surrogate father. Mom feared a step-father who might see me as easy prey. I was always taught to be self-sufficient. To never need a man. I don’t think I was supposed to even want a husband—because to her, all men were bad and untrustworthy.
Nevertheless, when I was quite young, I unknowingly began searching for love even without a definitive picture of what that looked like. I remember always being taller and looking older than my peers. My first “boyfriend” was the son of one of my mother’s co-workers. I was about ten and he was maybe 14 or 15. He taught me how to French kiss. I thought, as any little girl would, that he was going to be my husband! He was not.
“ The look on her face said it all. I was garbage. ”
At age 13, I lost my innocence to a 20 something hotel worker in St. Thomas where my mother had taken me as an eighth grade graduation present. When she found out, she wanted to kill him and probably me as well. The look on her face said it all. I was garbage. She looked at me with such disdain that I still can see her face almost 50 years later. Our relationship went from okay to very distant. Mom watched me like a hawk to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. When I finally knew I wasn’t, the suspicions continued every time I left the house.
I began high school as a “mature” woman and quickly found that I was giving away what men wanted. There was a string of “boyfriends” that were no more than sexual partners that made me feel special, loved. Did they say they loved me? No. But the look in their eyes when they saw me had to be love! Right? I was only an ignorant little girl who had been protected from the realities of the world. All that changed my junior year in high school. I finally had an age-appropriate boyfriend who was a year ahead of me at school and co-captain of the basketball team. And we were in love!
“ ...we accepted the “fact” that our “problem” was merely a clump of cells. A non-human. ”
By my senior year with him at a nearby college, I began to cut class more often. We spent many afternoons and evenings in his dorm room. I became pregnant in the fall of 1975. New York was full of abortion clinics and the largest one at that time was highly publicized. The Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health. CRASH for short! We felt we were doing the best thing. After all, my mother would have “killed” me and him. He had big plans for becoming an NBA star and an attorney. God was the furthest thing from our minds; so we accepted the “fact” that our “problem” was merely a clump of cells. A non-human.
College began for me, and although we were in the same city, I quickly found that other young men were attracted to me. And I became pregnant again. I lied to my NBA-hopeful boyfriend and told him it was his. I didn’t see it at the time, but our relationship was on the way out. The caring boyfriend he was with the first abortion became the annoyed, just-get-it-over-with boyfriend with this second pregnancy. It was an inconvenience that interrupted his studying for finals that spring and he looked at me the same way my mother had when I was 13.
“ Even when he became physically abusive, I stayed. I needed his love. ”
I was convinced that we were meant to be together, and although we both were unfaithful to one another, we stayed together. I cherished the attention. Other girls would look at him and see me on his arm and I relished the jealous stares. I convinced myself that I gave him what he needed and wanted and so we could fix any problems. Even when he became physically abusive, I stayed. I needed his love. I had none for myself. And none from anywhere else.
When we finally parted, my quest for love continued. Unconsciously, my heart desired a man who would see my value and cherish me. It never occurred to me that this might have some relation to the fact that for as long as I could remember, no man took an interest in who I was, let alone loved me. I became pregnant two more times and returned to CRASH for my fourth and final abortion in 1984. A year or so later they closed because a young 19-year-old girl died due to inadequate administering of anesthesia. That girl could just as easily have been me.
“ I told him I felt like there was a party going on, and I was invited, but I didn’t know how to get in. ”
But unbeknownst to me, God had spared me from death and was calling me to Himself. Because of His workings in my life, things took a turn for the better. I met a good and godly man and we married in 1986. When I told him of my past, he gladly accepted me and loved me. For who I was. When we became pregnant with our first son, I worried that damage had been caused by “my choice” to eradicate the lives given to me. By God’s grace, that son, and a second, were born healthy. Also, by God’s grace they had something I had not known. The gift of a dad, who has loved them and cared for them and helped them, in turn, to become godly men.
As a young mother wanting to get things right as I raised my children, I began seeking truth. I started by finding a church. Within a few months I asked my pastor a question. I told him I felt like there was a party going on, and I was invited, but I didn’t know how to get in. What was I missing? He led me to the scriptures and a book, More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. On Friday, November 13, 1998 at about 11:45 PM, I became a child of God. I finally understood just what Jesus had accomplished on the cross and through His resurrection. I wanted a relationship with Him! I confessed my sin—my many sins—including four lives that I had ended. I cried out my need for Him and professed Him as my Lord and Savior. Now I have an Abba Father. I have learned that I was loved all along! That God, the Creator of everything, knew me, and loved ME!
“ His plan for a family—a father and mother who walk with Him and raise their children to know Him, just as he designed it from the beginning—well, by God’s grace, that is the legacy I am passing on. ”
His plan for a family—a father and mother who walk with Him and raise their children to know Him, just as he designed it from the beginning—well, by God’s grace, that is the legacy I am passing on. Unlike the one I received at birth. I like to say, “but God,” and for me, that refers not only to how God changed my life, but also for how he intervened in my family. My past, my sin, my inherited sin—all of it has been redeemed through the blood of Jesus, my Savior, and it is remembered no more by my Heavenly Father. Now He is using me to tell others.
As for my mother…in her last years, my mother accepted Christ as her Savior and finally experienced the love of a father, our ABBA Father. She is now enjoying Him in person and for all eternity.
Saundra Woods is a speaker and the founder of SonLitWoods Ministries. Her desire is to help women fully embrace and accept the love God has for them. No matter the circumstances in which a woman may find herself, Saundra wants her to know how she can be a part of the family of God. Saundra’s heart especially reaches out to post-abortive women who often feel the weight of shame, guilt, and unworthiness that abortion can bring. For more information or to invite her to speak to your group, visit her website: www.SonLitWoodsMinistries.com or email her at Saundra@sonlitwoodsministries.com.