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New Beginnings by Courtney Weaver

Hi, my name is Courtney. I am 24 and the mother of an incredibly chubby miracle baby named Penny Grace.

As I read through the stories posted here, stories written from the heart and often places of deep brokenness, I became overwhelmed with anger at the kind of world we are living in where women have been abused, abandoned, and filled with such loneliness and fear that abortion would appear as a friend and source of hope. From what I’ve read here, abortion is not something girls dream of getting when they grow up, but is rather a last resort when all other hope of survival (be it physical or psychological) has faded away and it has come down to life or death.

I’ve never been faced with the decision to abort, because when I hit absolute rock bottom, when death looked like a friend compared to the life that loomed in front of me, I was not pregnant or even capable of becoming pregnant because I had shut off my body’s cycle of ovulation with extreme exercise and food restriction. I was 17, anorexic and paralyzed by two opposing fears: gaining the weight I needed in order to survive, or losing my life because I could not let go of my need to always be one pound thinner. I hated myself and all the people around me who kept telling me that what I was doing was wrong, that I was killing myself for some false dream I had made up in which I could only be happy if I was thin. I knew it was wrong and I would have done anything to be free, but I couldn’t stop. That’s what no one understood. Because I believed life wouldn’t be worth living if I gained even an ounce of weight, all their arguments made no difference to me; I would have rather died than dealt with the shame and hardship choosing life would mean for me.

At some point I believe we all have to choose what really matters to us, what we will live or die for no matter what. Not all of us will come to the same conclusions or have the strength to follow through on the conclusions we’ve drawn, for I know of many women who never planned to become anorexic, but became enslaved to it anyway when feelings of worthlessness could no longer be kept at bay, and I know of many women who opposed abortion until their conviction was challenged by the reality of their own unplanned pregnancy. Whatever we may cognitively believe about something, the moment of choice will always reveal to us who we really are. Whatever pain and hurt brings us to this place and however much we want to wake up from the nightmare, we are here nonetheless, forced to find out what many others will never know until the day they die.

What I knew when I was faced with the choice to give up the thinness I had sacrificed so much to achieve was that 60-70% of anorexics never recover, no matter how hard they fight. So I had no assurance that if I chose life I would actually be able to live it; I had no true hope that if I chose life I could finally move away from the past into a new and better future. And I wonder if that is in some way how the women faced with the decision to choose life or to abort feel too…defeated before you’ve even begun. Why keep the baby if it will almost certainly be doomed to experience the same abandonment, trauma or shame that you have undergone? If you choose life for her, what odds will you and the baby have of surviving in this bleeding and broken world? Such fearful odds mean some of us will choose abortion because we believe that whatever kind of life we want to gain or avoid for ourselves or our child is worth the cost of our unborn baby’s life, however much we hate the fact that it has come to this.

They also mean that many of us will never break free of our eating disorders because the deadly comfort of thinness seems more certain than the life we may or may not be able to live if we give it up.

One of the reasons Penny is a miracle baby is because the doctors couldn’t guarantee that I would be able to have children after what I did to my body through my eating disorder. But the other reason is the fact that I am here, that I chose life instead of death when everything in me revolted against it. And it isn’t because I had what it takes, or because someone shouted the truth at me and presented me with arguments about how I was killing myself, but because Love, in the form of a letter from God, found me and gave me a way out.

In the end gaining weight was not the true battle that I had to fight against anorexia, but rather the belief that I was worthless and unlovable apart from my thinness. No matter how much weight I gained, until I began placing my hope and value somewhere other than in the number on the scale, I was not truly free. What I found in God’s letter – the Bible – was the promise that God loves me simply because He made me and that He chose to love me even before I was born. His love for me is so strong He was willing to die so that I could be with Him. This kind of radical love gave me hope to believe that my value is not determined by my ability to be flawlessly thin or good or smart, but simply by the fact that the God who created me was willing to die for me, even though I have never been a perfect person.

This is the hope that I clung to as I fought against anorexia and that I still cling to every day. When I discovered that I was pregnant with Penny I had been married to my husband for just over a month and my anorexia had been in remission for nearly four years. We had prayed that God would be gracious enough to give us children and I was overjoyed to discover that there was a little life growing inside of me, yet along with the joy was mixed the creeping fear that I was not truly ready to have a baby. I had finally learned to accept my body as it was and was afraid that I would not be able to force myself to gain the weight I needed to keep my baby alive and wondered how I could possibly live with the weight if I did gain it. As the weeks went by I battled every day against the lie that because of my pregnancy I had become fat, ugly and worthless and there were times when I would get on the scale and cry, promising myself that I would never eat again, but those would be the times when I had lost sight of God’s selfless love for me and the hope that He had poured into my life. To have refused to give up my body for the sake of my unborn child would have been to deny the very hope that had freed me from anorexia and that gives me a reason to live each day: the hope that every human life has value independent of human opinion. Holding onto that hope is what allowed me to choose to love my daughter before she was born and I prayed daily that through my sacrifice she would grow up to know the selfless love of God that had saved my life.

Knowing that in choosing life for my baby I was affirming God’s unconditional love for me gave me courage to accept each of the 32 pounds I gained carrying my baby and I believe that the Lord used my pregnancy to grant me even greater freedom from my eating disorder and distorted body image than I had ever known before. As Penny grew inside me I began to view my body not as an enemy, but as a home and place of safety for this new little life. There are still days when I am tempted to resent the sacrifice I made, days when I look in the mirror and cringe at the stretch marks that are still there, but in those moments I am reminded that Christ also still bears on His body the marks of the sacrifice He made for me allowing His hands to be nailed to the cross. Instead of focusing on what I have given up, I now bring Penny to the mirror with me, hold her close against my chest, and force myself to remember that it is because I let go of my need to be thin that she is here. The joy of knowing I can raise my daughter to find her value in nothing less than the steadfast love of the God who made her is more valuable than any of the things I have sacrificed for her and I will never cease to be thankful for this child God has given me.

You who are reading this may also have a life-or-death decision to make now or soon. I don’t want to shout at you; you have been shouted at enough. And I don’t want to tell you that I know the hurt, pain, and loneliness you have faced, because I don’t. But I want to tell you that the letter I read was also written to you by a God who knows and loves you unconditionally, and in that letter it says this: We do not have a Savior “who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our great need” Hebrews 4:15-16. God understands your situation; He knows how hard it is to choose life and that it’s not a choice you can make on your own. But He promises that if you make that choice, He will give you the strength and courage needed to face the consequences.

What any truly hurting person needs is not an external and temporary solution, and especially not one that promises us life as it takes life away from another, but rather love, support and a hope that will not disappoint. That hope is Jesus Christ. He will not let us choose death for ourselves, for our unborn children, or for anyone else, because Death is what He came to conquer through His own life, death, and resurrection. But neither will He allow us to face alone the very real hardship that choosing life in this messed up world may bring upon those who choose it.

God’s forgiveness and healing from sin (that is, our captivity to choices that lead to death) are available to anyone who asks. He made this possible by becoming a man (Jesus Christ) while still being fully God, and taking the consequences of our sin upon Himself on the cross. I happened to grow up going to church and hearing the Bible’s message, but anyone can understand it if they are willing to entrust their whole lives to it. God will adopt us as His own sons and daughters if only we will allow Him, the loving Father, to direct our lives according to His law of love. His forgiveness means that we no longer need to be defined by what we have done or who we have been and can leave behind labels like anorexic or experiences like abortion, for He calls those who turn to Him beautiful and beloved. This is the hope I have found and that I want to share with you.

Biblical References:

Psalm 139:13-18

Romans 5:6-8 and 8:14-16

Ephesians 1:3-6

1 John (the whole letter)

My name is Courtney Weaver and I live in Venetia, PA with my husband
Sam and our six-month-old daughter Penny Grace. Sam and I graduated
together from Geneva College and got married in August 2012. Penny and
I spend our says at home together playing, baking, singing, and
getting to know other new moms in the neighborhood.

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