Submitted by Natalie Kehn and Gloria Garcia
My 17th birthday had just passed, and as a junior in high school, I was looking forward to my boyfriend’s senior prom. All I could think about was the dress I bought the month before and how it made my stomach look big. I was living in denial up to that point of the possibility of being pregnant, but the reality really registered during those weeks. I found myself at a Planned Parenthood office, listening to a woman explain that I had only two weeks left to take care of my “problem” or I would have to live with it. That was the moment I accepted the first of many twisted beliefs on the value of life.
My boyfriend’s solution was one given by a priest from his Catholic school. He explained that I could finish my pregnancy at a home for unwed mothers through his church. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went to my mother and simply told her I was pregnant and had only two weeks to take care of the “problem.”
Her reaction was a sigh. I recall driving up to a large hospital in New York City with my parents. The staff there escorted me into a very bright room where they had me lie on a table. Someone rolled an IV pole holding fluids to my bedside, and a doctor pushed on my stomach, explaining that he needed to inject a needle into my uterus and fill it with the fluid from the bags. They said that I would be staying in the hospital for a few days and could ask for pain medicine when needed.
My bed was one of several separated only by curtains. I could hear the groaning of women in pain and the haunting sound sent chills through my young body. I remember wanting nothing more than to run, but I knew those I trusted and loved told me this was for the best. So, I had to be doing the right thing, right? When the pain started, I silently endured it, believing it would be over very soon and I could leave. To this day, I have never felt more alone and scared.
I was devastated by the experience. No one prepared me to expect that I would deliver a lifeless fully formed beautiful baby. I was shocked! It wasn’t supposed to be a recognizable form of anything. What had I done? At that moment, I built a mirrored wall around my heart where I could see out but no one could see in. Something died in me that day both physically and emotionally.
That night, the only sounds I heard in the hospital ward were the sobs of women brokenhearted over their decision to end life. No crying baby. No congratulations. Just regrets and deep physical and emotional pain. Let me tell you, there is a very distinct difference between weeping for joy and anguished sobbing because of death. As bright as the hospital lights were, there has never been a darker moment in my life to this day.
I rarely mentioned my experience for the next 28 years. To avoid getting hurt, I would not allow myself to love or anyone to love me. I would play it safe from now on. I defended a woman’s right to choose abortion, even though I knew I would never have one again. I assumed that anyone who claimed to be “pro-life” was “religious.”
When I would see them on TV or read about them, they all seemed radical and judgmental. They always seemed to be angry, screaming, and calling women murderers. No one ever asked or considered the fact that maybe some of these women had just been pressured into it, even against the desires of their own heart. Even though I defended a woman’s right to choose, every time I heard the word abortion, I would suppress my emotions, trying to desensitize my feelings.
My life changed when, through a series of events, I became a born-again Christian. I had visited a church that put on a skit of a woman expressing how God loved those who had chosen abortion. That was the first time I even thought of the decision as wrong! From the world’s point of view, my choice of abortion was not only permissible, but also considered to be the responsible thing to do. I didn’t know what to expect if I dared to share my story with other Christians, so I kept it a secret in order to be accepted. I feared the judgment. I had already been wearing masks to cover my real self, so this was just one more in my collection.
I was baptized in 1996, and I began participating in Bible studies, developing relationships with Christians for the first time. I was invited to attend a fundraising dinner by my attorney who served as the President of the Board to the local pregnancy center in Brandon at that time. This was my first introduction to a faith-based, pro-life organization! Other than the one skit at church, I never heard abortion discussed by Christians. For the first time in my life, I heard a woman’s testimony about healing through a post-abortion, grief-support Bible study group. I felt a strong stirring inside and felt God say, “Welcome to your future!” I answered back, “Really? I am not even sure I agree with everything I am hearing!”
At the same time, they also presented the new abstinence program they planned to offer to the high schools in the county (which became the Impact program). I thought back on the inadequate sex education I received in my high school years and realized how it had actually led to destructive behavior with lifetime consequences. I decided it was safe to start volunteering in this area because it was my hope that I could help prevent a teen from going through what I had faced. Maybe I could help some other young girl avoid an unplanned pregnancy or even contracting an STD.
For the next seven years, I volunteered as a speaker for Impact, serving both as an abstinence speaker and parent educator. In 2000, I moved to Tampa and transitioned my volunteering to A Woman’s Place pregnancy center. I continued as an Abstinence Educator with Impact and volunteered part-time as a Client Advocate for A Woman’s Place.
I eventually went through the “Surrendering the Secret” Bible study. After years of thinking I didn’t need post-abortion healing, I was finally set free and continue to live free. I now experience what true intimacy is, both spiritually and relationally. Today, I have two grown children, a son-in-law, and the most supportive and godly husband, Michael. God’s love healed me and melted the barriers I once had around my heart! Through Jesus, I am able to freely give His love to others.
I now serve full-time as the Director of Client Services at A Woman’s Place. I have the privilege to work alongside an incredible team of staff and volunteers! I am continually amazed about how I ever got here. I can never be fully prepared in my own strength to deal with the circumstances a client may be calling about or walking in with. I continually need God’s help—for the baby whose life depends on the timing of conception, for the life that will depend on whether or not the father will go to jail, for the child who was a product of date rape, and even for the pregnant teenage daughter of a pastor. These are all real lives that have hung in the balance at our centers.
We hear these ladies’ stories without judgment or criticism and try to help them overcome their struggles with life-giving solutions from God’s Word. We want to help them choose God’s plan for their lives and the lives of their children. We must draw from the intimacy we have with our Lord during these divine appointments so we can be a light to these girls. Working at A Woman’s Place, I have seen hundreds of hearts turned from death to life and transformed by the love of Christ. Every life saved reminds me of why God has called me to help these women.
One woman, in particular, has had a tremendous impact on my life and her name is Gloria Garcia. The following is her story.
When I first came through the doors of A Woman’s Place, I was pregnant, terrified, alone, and devastated. I came desperate for help and a change in my life. The consequences from the life I had chosen were almost too hard for me to bear.
Growing up, my very legalistic church taught me that God hated and despised me. As a people pleaser by nature, it hurt me very much to hear these words, and no matter how hard I tried to be good or accepted, I could never measure up. So one day, I just gave up and embraced myself as a failure, and that is where the destructive choices began.
Even though I had already let my first child go to abortion and barely survived the guilty horrors of my decision, I was right back in a similar situation. I still believed the lies of my past—that I was an unfit mom and it was best to save my baby from a terrible life. I believed that all I could offer my baby was a life of pain and dysfunction. I had never experienced love, so I did not know how to love my baby. I did not even know how to love myself.
At A Woman’s Place, I saw my son for the first time on ultrasound. I fell so in love with him that I chose to keep him. While that decision felt right, I had a long road ahead to escape an abusive environment and find forgiveness for myself. Natalie opened my eyes to how God sees me and what genuine kindness, mercy, love, and grace truly looked like. I was very confused that a woman I didn’t even know could have so much compassion and love for me, but she gave it genuinely and without hesitation.
If it wasn’t for her gracious kindness and compassion, I would never have been able to experience the greatest blessing of my life. I would have never known the truth about God and how much He loves the lost and unwanted like me. I am so grateful that God put Natalie in my life. She saw me for who I was, loved me, adopted me, inspired positive change in me with so much love and grace, and guided me towards God.
Now, she is the godmother to my son, Ethan. Without her, I would have missed out on the best thing in my life. I love the wisdom and insight she gives and the gracious manner in which she guides me to make the right decisions. It means so much to me to have someone like her take an interest in me and mentor me. I cannot express in words how much I appreciate, love, and respect Natalie.
The wonderful women at A Woman’s Place created a safe place for both my son and me. It was awkward at first to experience so much kindness and love. They cared for our physical needs like diapers, clothes, and toys for my son—even food during the holidays. I would never have survived the first year and a half of my son’s life if it weren’t for Natalie and the women at A Woman’s Place.
Since then, I have attended classes that helped me to heal and forgive myself from aborting my first child. It was one of the hardest and most amazing experiences I had ever gone through. The healing and grace that I experienced from “Surrendering the Secret” was more than I could ever ask for. It changed the way I saw myself. For the first time, I saw myself how God saw me, and I learned how to love and forgive myself. I was given peace to know that my daughter is safe and is waiting for me with Jesus.
Today, my passion for God overflows into teaching my son about the Lord, serving the homeless, attending Bible studies, and sharing my testimony whenever I can.
This is what A Woman’s Place does! Clients come in for information and go out with the hope of Christ! A Woman’s Place transforms and saves lives—and Natalie, Gloria, and Ethan are living proof of God’s love coming full term.
For more information about the ministries of Life Impact Network in Tampa, including A Woman’s Place and Surrendering the Secret, go to www.lifeimpactnetwork.org or call 813-931-1804.