— Relationships —

Murder Among the Ruins

Photo by Brenda Coffee
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The first time I had sex, I got pregnant. People say you always remember your first time, but I remember nothing. I do remember the day I had an abortion.

It happened in one of those motels that screamed low-class, low-rent and illegal. Matchbox bungalows separated by carports, window air conditioners and patches of unpulled weeds. A clandestine structure, lurking in the afternoon shadows of an old Spanish mission. The Mexican bruha who knocked on the motel door was part midwife, part healer, who used herbs and witchcraft. My boyfriend had gotten her number from a fraternity brother. Her instructions were that I was to be alone, or she wouldn’t come inside.

The bruha spoke little English, and my high school French was of no help, but I understood her instructions. I lay down on the thin motel mattress, bare-assed, legs spread wide. I’m not sure what she used, but she prodded me with something sharp. I remember wincing in pain and turning my head toward the water-stained wall, feeling more alone than I thought possible. She packed me with cloths and sanitary napkins, then slapped my thigh and instructed me to get up.


The bruha handed me an envelope full of pills, then waved me into the bathroom. With sign language and broken English, I understood I was to spend the day walking, and when “it was over,” I was to leave things in the toilet and call her. Since there was no phone in the room I would have to walk to a pay phone a block away. She would then come back to make sure everything was there, but again, I must be alone. At that moment I realized that sad, sleazy room could have been filled with everyone I knew, and still, I would’ve been alone.

After she left I went outside and followed a Mexican man in faded pants and dusty work boots into the old stone church of Mission San Jose. I watched as he settled into a plain wooden pew and bowed his head in prayer. He made it look so easy. I stood in the shadows and scanned the frescoed faces of cherubs and saints, searching for a sign. No tears flowed from the Virgin Mary. No leather books full of answers and too-late alternatives.

Over the years I keep returning to Mission San Jose. I remember exactly where I was when the priest joined me in my walk and began telling me about the history of the old mission. I don’t know whether there were any tells in my behavior, but I imagine he already knew why 17-year-old anglo girls visited his mission in the middle of the day… alone.

Now as a woman of faith, I believe life is sacred. A gift from God not to be squandered or taken lightly. I also know what it’s like to be a 17-year-old girl, who got pregnant the first time she had sex; whose mother was mentally ill and would have made matters worse in exponential ways I couldn’t have imagined. Don’t ask me to come down hard on either side, because I can’t.

Love, Brenda


  • Mamavalveeta03 October 25, 2014 at 11:57 am

    My heart aches for you, Brenda. No one should ever judge you…you did what you felt you had to do at that time, and with the resources you had. But I can picture that 17-yr old girl, all alone, and scared. Thanks for being so honest with us. ❤️

    • 1010ParkPlace.com October 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Hi Mammaval,
      Thank you for the support. I wasn’t sure how this post would be received.

      BTW, I clicked on your name, which took me to some of your comments on other sites. I like you! You’re my kind of woman! If we didn’t have to curate our fashion choices for this coming week, I’d still be there, reading. 🙂
      xoxoxo, Brenda

      • Mamavalveeta03 October 29, 2014 at 10:18 pm

        Gee, thanks, Brenda! I tend to speak my mind, and try to do that through eyes of faith and many years of life experience.
        Your bravery struck a chord with me…I look forward to reading more from you. And thank you for this blog!

  • EAK October 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Reading this was difficult & painful ..

    • 1010ParkPlace.com October 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Alli,
      Great to see you here, again:) My abortion story is nothing compared to yours. I ache for the 18-year-old girl who’s mother turned on her, regularly, with such anger and violent fury. Oh, my dear… I know what it’s like to have an unstable mother, but mine was emotionally unavailable, or she was like KK’s pinball analogy: I never knew what complications would occur when she randomly plugged into my life. But your mother was something else!

      It sounds like your mother had serious issues she needed to deal with… Did she, or you, ever figure out what those issues were? I hope you know her wrath was not about you. You weren’t the problem. You weren’t the terrible words she called you. They were only words. They had nothing to do with the girl you were or the woman you are now. You were her target, her outlet for her rage. How did you cope with that? Did you shutdown?

      For a long time, I cut off my highs and lows and lived somewhere in the middle. As long as I didn’t let myself get too excited, or too down, my feelings were more manageable. Seventeen years with my second husband, my darling James, allowed me to feel valued and appreciated and plug back in to my feelings. He changed my life in every way that counts. I hope you’ve had someone in your life who’s validated you and made you feel loved and appreciated. Thank God, your stepfather was there for you. Oh, I’m full of so many questions…

      I’m sending you the hugs I wish I could give you in person, and I send my love and my appreciation for you as a woman.
      xoxoxo, Brenda

  • Kissin' Kousin October 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Brenda, no mature woman who has lived through life’s pinball machine of experiences would dare to judge another woman’s personal decisions. I too got pregnant the first time I had sex at 18, but was forced to marry. Four and a half years later, after being abused, humiliated too many times, and abandoned on three occasions, I left him and took my child. I know my life would have been completely different if I had been aware that there could be other choices. At the time, I saw none. It must have been necessary for me to learn the life lessons that ensued due to my decisions. I certainly learned a lot, although it took me too long to lose my naivete and to build the faith in myself that was necessary to live a more adult life. (not sure I’m completely adult yet!). Thank you for sharing your story with us–that took courage.

    • 1010ParkPlace.com October 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      KK, “Life’s pinball machine of experiences… ” So true! It sometimes feels like we’re bounced from one bad choice to another. Both of us didn’t think we had any choices. Your choice, or the one that was made for you, wasn’t any easier for you than the one I made. Both choices changed our lives. As I was writing this week’s blog, I let myself go there… wondering what would my life have been like if I’d told my mother; kept the baby, or married the father?

      It’s too late for us to second guess our decisions, or the ones our parent’s made for us, but either way, we’re stronger women. I do know I’m glad I wasn’t one of those girls who’s life was a storybook princess, although I’m happy there are girls and women who’ve not known abuse, abandonment, humiliation and terror. Those words remind me… In next week’s blog, I talk about something that’s helped get through some recent tough times. Watch for it as you may find something there that speaks to you.

      Thank you for sharing as well. That also took courage. xoxoxo, Brenda

  • Kalola16 November 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Brenda: I’ve never had to make that choice. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to make it. I too believe that life is a sacred gift from God, but I also believe that I have no business making decisions for another woman. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes.

  • Terri September 5, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Dear Brenda, I have no words. I can close my eyes and feel the warmth of the stones, and even though we have not met, I feel like I am standing in the mission with you. Thank you for sharing your heart. I have struggled with my faith since the death of my son, but I felt a peace and a presence in those mission walls, almost an embrace. I am honored to know you. Wishing you gentle and peace filled moments.

    • 1010 Park Place September 20, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      I can only imagine how your son’s death rocked your faith and nearly torn your world apart. I don’t believe God micro manages our lives, so while you’ve probably felt anger toward Him and doubted His love and wishes for us, I hope you can find peace in the knowledge that your son is with God. I believe he is surrounded by love and a joy of a magnitude he’s never known. I hope you take comfort for that. I encourage your to reach out and find your faith so you can begin to heal and find some of that peace. I use Belleruth Naperstek’s Guided Imagery audios to meditate, heal, deal with anxiety and depression. I suffered all of those things after my husband died, unexpectedly, on Christmas Day four years ago. His son went over the edge, and I lost him as well. Counseling, prayer… while they helped me, it was Belleruth’s audio on grief that helped me let go of my grief, anger and profound sense of loss. She is so very well respected. I listed to one of her many audios this morning. http://www.healthjourneys.com/Store?s=grief


  • 1010 Park Place September 20, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    I don’t wish this decision on anyone. At the time, in light of my mother’s mental struggles, I felt it was the best thing for me to do. I have asked God for His forgiveness. Thank you for your support.

  • Jen June 19, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    What a brave piece. I know your words will give many women such comfort. I’ve not walked in your shoes but can only imagine the isolation. Through your words, someone else may feel less alone. Xo

    • Brenda Coffee June 20, 2017 at 8:15 am

      Thanks Jen. It was a scary situation. I was only 17. When I think of all the terrible things that could have happened to me in that seedy motel room like hemorrhaging or having a bad reaction to the pills she gave me…. I feel so bad for all the women who’ve died from illegal abortions or were left with an inability to have children. I will always stand with a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of how God feels about it. Until someone’s in that position, they don’t have the right to choose. xoxox, Brenda

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