“When he fell silent in my womb, my spirit died too”: Pressured to abort her baby, she tells her story to remember her son
by Christine Leow // July 25, 2022, 5:01 pm
After a long journey shrouded in guilt and shame, Jean Toh found healing from the trauma of abortion and now ministers to women who are hurting in the same way. All photos courtesy of Jean Toh.
When Jean Toh found out she was pregnant, she was already three months along.
Then only in her 20s, she was far from home in South America and had just escaped an abusive relationship with the father of her baby.
“I definitely didn’t think there would be such strong rejection. I was in deep pain.”
She had not suspected anything at first because she had always been “quite careful about not conceiving” and her period had not always been regular.
When the pregnancy was confirmed, those around her were accepting and even tried to persuade her to have her baby in the country. But Jean felt compelled to return to Singapore.
“That good girl in me felt that I had to be with my family because they are my family. I need to get their support and do things right.”
Looking back, Jean admitted that she had hoped, unrealistically, that her parents would welcome her and her baby. The opposite happened.
“They told me that no one in my family would love the child or support me.
“I realise now that was what the enemy wanted to do to make me feel completely isolated and scared, as if there was no way out.
“I definitely didn’t expect such strong rejection. I was in deep pain.”
God drew near
Jean described her childhood as one with “quite a lot of darkness”.
“I saw evil spirits around the house and I was frightened. I didn’t feel it was a safe place.
“I would cry out that there must be a light, there must be some good. And God found me. He revealed Himself to me in small things as I was growing up.”
Jean had a fear of the dark as a pre-schooler and her mother bought her a night light. In that little light, God spoke to her: “This is Me. I am that little light that will light up your room, light up the whole of the darkness. Just that teeny, weeny light is all you need.”
“Boyfriends, sex outside marriage, the whole lifestyle was taking over me.”
Though her parents were not Christians then, Jean always felt “so close to God”. As a child walking to kindergarten, she would always lift her head towards the sun and “see Him giving me that warmth in my heart”.
“His Holy Spirit has always been so present with me. The Lord really set me apart since I was young.”
When she was about 13, she “gave her life to the Lord”. She was in a convent school then and went to church. But Jean admitted that it was “all very spiritual but there was not enough Biblical teaching and foundation”.
“I kind of muddled through.”
As Jean moved into her mid- to late teens, a bit of rebellion started to seep in. Feeling restricted in church, she became determined to “find my own way”. By then, she was heavily involved in the arts scene which introduced her to a different lifestyle.
“Boyfriends, sex outside marriage, the whole lifestyle was taking over me where you are just open to the enemy and the lies.”
At 15, Jean moved out of her home to live with her boyfriend. By 19, she had graduated from school and was supporting herself with freelance work in the performing arts.
“I bought into the lie that if there is love, there needs to be sex. I had that twisted sense of love because I wasn’t grounded in the Word of God.”
Struggle to survive
Soon, Jean was working in theatre and television, acting and dancing. But after a decade, she asked for a sabbatical from her theatre company.
“I needed to take a break. I was running on empty”
She had been in a series of abusive relationships, the last of which caused her to descend into depression.
“It was just a very dark stage of my life. But the sabbatical was just an extension of that darkness where I was doing all that I could to survive, to find life.
“But when you don’t find it in God, you’ll find that you’re even worse off.”
“No one told me to choose life. I wanted to look forward but my faith was weak.”
She left to travel the world where there was “false comfort in drugs, addiction, partying, men and self-philosophy”.
While in North Africa, she met the man who would get her pregnant.
By the time Jean returned to Singapore, she was already into her second trimester. Her parents encouraged her to abort her baby.
Abortion is legal in Singapore up to 24 weeks. With the deadline looming, Jean spent the initial weeks of her homecoming mulling over the decision to terminate her pregnancy.
“I thought about it: Will bringing a child up in a single mum environment, in such hostility that was painted, really be best for the child?”
At the time, the fear of a lack of finances and doubt about her own readiness for motherhood clouded her decision. “It was the lies of the enemy. These are issues for any mother however many children she has.”
Added Jean with a tremor in her voice: “I bought into the lie that it is best for my family, my relationship with my family that I get rid of this problem.”
Her relationship with the child’s father also cast a long shadow. Jean was plagued by the thought that a child conceived from such an abusive relationship would be “a curse, not of God” and that her child might grow up to be “violent and depressive”.
The friends I grew up with who called themselves Christians were all pro-abortion.
In her search for an answer, Jean returned to church. She even went to the altar for prayers.
“They were like, ‘Can I get your phone number? I’ll contact you.’ Then, they prayed a nice blessing over me. But they didn’t say, ‘Don’t go for an abortion. Let me open this Book and show you the truth and you can trust God.’”
Jean sought help from a faith-based counsellor as well.
“But nobody spoke the Truth to me. No one told me to choose life. I wanted to look forward but my faith was weak.
“Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you.’ But all I could ask was, ‘What future, God? What plans have I got ahead of me?’
“There wasn’t one person who went, ‘Jean, go for this life.’ The friends I grew up with were all pro-abortion. If there was that one person who had stood for the Truth, for Jesus, it would have made the difference.”
His name means “God hears”
Yet, Jean maintained that from the moment she knew she was pregnant, she had felt nothing but joy.
“After the initial surprise and tears, I was not fearful. I had joy. There was a lot of what’s going to happen but there was deep joy that I had life in me. I was a mother.”
While in South America, she had even gone for an ultrasound.
“I got to see his face, his arms, his legs.”
Every night, she would pray and talk and sing to her baby, imagining he was lying next to her.
“I would feel his response and know that he had heard me, that he was really together with me.”
Jean named him Ishmael: “God hears.”
That strong connection was what made the abortion all the more traumatic.
“On the day of the abortion, I was speaking to him. He always responds. He was kicking a lot.”
When the pill to induce the birth failed to bring about strong enough contractions even after hours, Jean broke down and cried out to God.
“He passed in the womb. It was silent … that moment, my spirit, my body, my mind, it was just … I died.”
“My experience was absolutely painful. I was weeping. For a moment, I felt the absence of God’s presence. I felt Him almost turn away, then I wept even harder.
“Then there was revelation that God had been there in my life all the time, every moment of it. And that was important for me to receive that for myself.”
With that, Jean apologised to God and to her son for not being strong enough to be a mother to him.
“After the prayer, the contractions came back. It was like him saying ‘goodbye’.”
At six months in utero, her baby would have been developed enough to cry at birth.
“To my shame, I was fearful of hearing him for real. But he passed in the womb. It was silent.
“And that moment, I was dead as well. My spirit, my body, my mind, it was just … I died.”
The trauma after
As excruciating as the physical recovery was – “I would be fainting, not even able to go to pee and poo because the bowels were just not functioning” – the emotional recovery was tougher.
Jean found work in Malaysia, hoping that dance and singing would help her heal.
“I missed my child so much.”
Immersing herself in the performing arts did not bring the healing Jean sought but she believed it was God’s way of moving her to a place where she could experience real healing from Him.
In Malaysia, Jean met a fellow dancer who confided in her that she had attempted to abort her baby.
“I missed my child so much.”
That shared confidence gave Jean the courage to tell her story. Until then, her parents had not allowed her to speak to anyone about her pregnancy or the abortion.
“There was such healing to break my silence and share with her.”
Yet, a year-and-a-half after the abortion, Jean was still feeling the physical effects of the procedure. The technically challenging dance moves she had to perform caused her tremendous pain. On the outside, her career was thriving. But Jean was hurting physically and emotionally.
“God showed me a dream at 3am of Jacob fighting with God and I read on about how he was fearful about meeting his brother, about the confrontation.
“I knew I had to confront my theatre company that I just could not go on that technical path with them anymore after this trauma of abortion.”
Road to healing
Jean left the theatre company and the stellar career it promised. Instead, she applied for a grant that would allow her to go to Poland to be part of a movement workshop.
She only found out about the grant 20 minutes before applications closed. Even though she completed the online form 10 minutes late, she still managed to get the grant.
“God knew my heart, how I was now going to seek Him since the death of my child.”
“I believe that was God opening doors.”
While in Poland, Jean had to do plenty of runs as part of the programme. During one night run, she was particularly fearful and started to pray to God.
“As I looked up, I saw a star on top of my head and felt the presence of God. I lay on the grass and said, ‘May this be another chance for You to be the Lord of my body.’”
The next day, Jean realised that the pain – abdominal cramps, migraines – that had wracked her body post abortion was gone. It was the start of her complete healing.
“I always tell my abortion story with how I boast of being strong physically, mentally. But the brokenness after that is irreparable apart from Jesus.”
That stint in Poland also paved the way for Jean to apply for a Masters programme in healing arts in Prague.
“In a matter of less than three months, I moved to Prague, got an apartment I liked. It was all God moving things for me.”
In Prague, Jean had the freedom she never did back home to read His Word, pray and seek God daily.
“God knew my heart, how I was now going to seek Him since the death of my child.”
In 2018, two years after the abortion, Jean was given the chance to be baptised. During the baptism, Jean shared her abortion story.
“The Holy Spirit moved the whole church. There were tears and songs were released over me and over the congregation. It was a powerful time.”
After that, Jean decided to let God heal her instead of looking for solace in dance.
“I told God, ‘I’m going to put all of the arts down as Moses did with his staff and I’ll take it up again when you say so, only when you say so.’”
A new life
Six months later, Jean received the call to go into full-time work for God. This would later turn into a ministry in the area of bringing worship, prayer and healing on the topic of abortion as God healed her of her shame and pain.
“Praying for the unborn children is a start. Working towards receiving healing from post abortion is another thing.”
In 2019, Jean went to the United Kingdom to train under the Ellel Ministries. The ministry provided her with the deep healing that she had sought but never quite found in the arts.
“It was also at one of the prayer ministries at Ellel where I was given the space to listen to God, where God really spoke to me. He told me, ‘I forgive you. You are loved.’
“I received that in my spirit and suddenly I broke free of that deeper level of guilt and condemnation. That we are not counted for our sins but are seen as righteous before God. That was really a breakthrough.”
In another prayer ministry, a man came to her and began weeping.
“I had a huge cry. I was so ministered to to have this man cry with me. After that, he said, ‘Jean, on behalf of the men who had abused you, can I ask for forgiveness?’”
“I had blood on my hands. But it is through this that the saving grace of God, the reality of our faith, comes forth.”
She added: “I had been prostituting my spirit; my perceived lack of Fatherly love from God caused me to abuse my soul in all of these ways. It was very cleansing to receive God’s healing and love.”
During the two years that she was part of the Ellel Ministries, Jean spent every day in prayer as she dealt with the deep issues in her heart. The friendships forged through the ministry also helped to heal a soul that had long been ravaged by hurtful, violent relationships.
In that time, Jean learnt to forgive her family and herself as well. “I really do love my family and look forward to seeing them.
“If we believe in a God who creates life, to kill, to murder is actually turning away from our destinies, what we were intended to do for God.
“When the life is in the woman’s body herself, she is killing her own life in a way.”
“The enemy has deceived women that this is a good option. All the women I’ve met who have gone through abortion – it is a tragedy for them. When the life is in the woman’s body herself, she is killing her own life in a way.
“We are meant to celebrate life and enjoy life. Jesus came to give us life (John 10:10). The repercussions of an abortion are spiritual and mental as well.”
Jean is now stationed in Prague and involved in bringing deep healing and deliverance to those who are hurting, especially the ones who have experienced abortion. She has had many opportunities to pray for and minister to pregnant women, mothers and children.
“I am the worst of sinners. So, I can relate to people struggling with their addiction or their feeling of not being worthy of Christ.
“I have murdered, I had blood on my hands. But it is through this that the saving grace of God, the reality of our faith, comes forth.
“The abortion changed my relationship with the Lord. I’ve always called myself a Christian but I wasn’t really a believer.
“It was only after the abortion that heaven and eternal life became real for me.”
Meanwhile, with healing, hope has been restored as well.
“I am hopeful of being in a healthy relationship and marriage with children.”
Salt&Light Family Night: How do I talk to my kids about sex and abortion?
In a 2019 national survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), a third of Christians aged 18 to 35 said that abortion was acceptable if the family has very low income. Another one third said that abortion was not wrong at all and not wrong most of the time.
They were among 1,800 respondents who were asked on issues relating to religious beliefs and practices, and the role of religion in the public sphere.
What can Christians parents do to disciple their children about sex and abortion? How can they approach these topics that seem too taboo?
Join our panellists as they share their thoughts and experience on this:
- Founders of Heartbeart Project, Pastors Norman and Debbie Ng
- Singer-songwriter and content creator Sarah Cheng-De Winne, who also goes by Sarah X. Miracle, and her husband Mark De Winne, a communications director
- Anne Ng, a third-year polytechnic student representing the voice of youths
Date: July 26, 2022
Register at: https://bit.ly/familynightjul2022. Pre-registration is required.
About the hosts:
Carol Loi is a digital literacy educator, and leadership and family coach. A John Maxwell Certified Trainer for leadership and communication skills, she is also the founder of Village Consultancy, an organisation dedicated to equipping families, educators and children to be leaders and influencers both online and offline.
Alex Tee is a former banker turned home-schooling father and impact investor. He has been married to Channy for over 12 years and they have three children aged ten, nine and seven. The deepest desire of their hearts is to prayerfully raise children to be part of a family who seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Besides the passion to raise strong children, he also loves connecting the rich and the poor through impact investing.
About the organiser:
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