By Marina Young
Some passions are born out of life experiences and others just by wanting to make a positive difference in the world. For me it’s both. In my life, I have made bad choices and I have craved love and acceptance. But I came to realise that it is never too late to start to make good decisions for the future.
Why? Because of certain experiences in my own life and family and one significant choice I made in October 1986. I had an abortion.
If I knew back then what I would go through, I would have chosen life for my baby, and a life free from the consequences of health and relationship problems.
The abortion experience has never left me, and for years I wondered how to give other women like myself a safe place to grieve; how to give them a way to commemorate the babies lost. For there is no grave we can visit, no place to lay flowers, no tangible way of remembering them.
My husband Peter and I were able to come to a point where we grieved together, found forgiveness and healing, and this enabled us to move forward. In June 2008, the Buttons Project was born to help towards healing from abortion.
I named our aborted baby, “Hope”. Hope for the future; hope to be a good mum, wife and friend; hope to make a positive difference in this world. And so I started the project by giving a button. It is for my baby, Hope, and for me. It is for hope in the future and peace with the past.
In a nutshell, the Buttons Project aims to collect buttons – thousands of buttons – to commemorate the babies we never met. It enables not only women who have been affected by abortion, but also the fathers, grandparents, sisters or brothers to “do something when there is nothing you can do.”
Why a button? It is easy to find and easy to send. It can be unique – representing a personal loss. It can symbolise closure, or security. Buttons are long-lasting, though fabric may fade or tear. Buttons join; buttons bring together. We are not alone.
Sending in a button or a story won’t heal anyone in and of itself. But it is a place to start, or one of many steps for someone already on the journey of healing. When a story or secret is shared, it is not forgotten. It becomes something else, a memory of who we were, and allows us to start moving forward in hope, love and forgiveness.
Some buttons come with their story, some in an unmarked envelope. All the buttons are catalogued and are being sewn on giant wall hangings. We have well over 20,000 buttons and these will eventually be displayed in an appropriate place of remembrance, a safe place to visit without judgement. A collective statement which simply says, “What happened mattered. A way to remember, to grieve and to love.” It is also a reminder that we are not alone.
The Buttons Project has been significant for many people in their journey of healing and remembrance. Abortion is often a deep private grief and regret that is not generally talked about. I continue to be deeply moved and humbled by the stories and comments I receive. I am not a counsellor but someone with lived experience, a passion to help others, and a trained mental health worker.
Often after an abortion there can be feelings of an emptiness, loss, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, and for some, suicide ideation. Myself and many other women I have had contact with share a deep regret for a decision made under pressure in the heat of the moment – to go through with the supposed ‘quick fix’, ‘choice’ of abortion. But over time, we realised it was not the ‘quick fix’ we were led to believe.
To help others and to educate, Peter and I published an A5 booklet The Unforgotten Babies – The inspiration behind the Buttons Project, which is part of my abortion story and journey of healing. Peter also shares from his perspective, because men are often the forgotten fathers and voices not heard. It is a great resource for all those that work in the community sector, churches, schools, and for people personally affected by abortion.
Our hope is that by sharing some of our story, we will not only help others on their journey of healing, but also help those that find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy to be fully informed and know of all support options available to them.
The Buttons Project works with a variety of organisations to help with post-abortion recovery and crisis pregnancy centres. It continues to gain momentum, not only in NZ but internationally, with the Buttons Project Singapore launched in June 2017.
Many post-abortive women and men, are often struggling alone with their pain and just waiting for the right person to hear their story. Someone who will not condemn them or minimise what has happened. If you have been affected by abortion or have any questions, I would love to hear from you: www.buttonsproject.org
Marina Young is the Founder of the Buttons Project in New Zealand.
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