One summer during my university years, through a set of tragic circumstances, I found myself alone, in England, far from family and friends. In my loneliness and hurt I sought comfort in the arms of a man who refused to wear protection.

A few weeks later I found out that I was pregnant and was in turmoil. I had been brought up Roman Catholic and believed that life begins at conception. The father of our baby wanted me to have an abortion and made it very clear that he would not support me in any other decision.

Silenced by my shame, far from family and friends, I contacted a family member for advice.

She flew to visit me and was clearly concerned about me, and about my situation and the impact that it would have on our family. We talked about the family secret’ of a child conceived outside wedlock, the ramifications of which had impacted the parents of the couple concerned and the generations to follow. We weren’t sure how our family would cope with this latest news and thought it might be more than some could bear. She agreed with the advice of the father, for the sake of our family, and for my future career. With the shame of my situation ringing in my ears, I made an appointment at the nearest Brook Clinic.

It was far, far, far too easy.

As I was so clearly distressed at the appointment, the medical staff advised that the foetus’ be terminated for the sake of my mental health. When I went into the hospital for the abortion, my body broke out in a rash all over, responding to the terrible thing that I was about to do. As if in a trance, I just kept going, thinking that somehow it would rewind my story and let me return to my final year at university, as if nothing had gone wrong.

There were years of guilt and denial. One of my biggest regrets is that I even advised a friend to do what I had done. To this day I thank God that she didn’t listen to me. When her beautiful son was born, my heart broke in pieces. How could I have ever suggested it, how could I ever live with myself for what I had done?

I went to mass so many times, hoping to hear that I could be forgiven, but heard only the condemnation of my sin. I walked my life down a dark, dark path as I continued to look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places.

"One of my biggest regrets is that I even advised a friend to do what I had done. To this day I thank God that she didn’t listen to me."

Still silenced by my shame, I spoke mostly to those who I knew would support my decision; to counsellors and therapists who helped me draw pie charts of responsibility, thinking it would help me diminish my own, but it didn’t.

I married in my 30s and my husband and I have two wonderful sons together. I had always wanted three children, but we met too late in life for that to happen. Before I became a Christian, I had been convinced God would take one of my sons from me, in punishment for my sin.

It took over 20 years for me to hear the good news. I no longer needed to bear the burden of my guilt and shame. I heard that, at the cross, Jesus paid the price for all my sins, and the sins of all the world, and that if I believed in Him, I could be set free from the punishment I deserved, to flourish into the woman He created me to be. I became a Christian there and then and felt a peace that I had never known before.

My longing for love and acceptance was a dangerous thing.

In fear of an earthly family’s wrath and shame, I made the worst decision of my life. But graciously Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour, took the only wrath I ever really needed to fear, and bore the shame that I could not bear, on Himself, at the cross. He alone has set me free from the shame that silenced me, set me free to flourish in His love and acceptance. The very love and acceptance I craved my whole life.

I pray that my story will help encourage someone to mirror the Father’s everlasting arms, by encircling a hurting woman in pregnancy crisis. I pray that it may encourage a woman in such a crisis to remember our heavenly Father’s love for her. The One who knit each woman together in their own mother’s womb. The One who sent an angel to Mary to ask her to bear His only begotten Son incarnate, unborn in her womb. This Jesus, who would not break a bruised reed, and gathered infants in His arms, when all around Him thought them worthless.

If this is you, or someone you love, please know that there is hope, there is a future, even if it is not the one you thought it would be.

If it’s not too late you can make a different choice than I did and meet your little one in this life. But even if you have passed that point, you too can be set free from any shame you may feel, set free to flourish in the love and acceptance of the One who came to seek and save the lost.

I believe in a loving, merciful and gracious God, who gave me the three children that I longed for. I like to think my first baby was a girl, I would have named her Sarah. My heartfelt prayer is that in the next life, He will let me hold her (or him if I have got that wrong!) in my arms and tell them how much I love them, how very sorry I am for not trusting our heavenly Father enough to walk the path I chose, upheld by Him.

"I believe in a loving, merciful and gracious God, who gave me the three children that I longed for."