Story One: My Name is Cherri Lou Schnautz

Note: The Exhale Pro-Voice After-Abortion Stories Hub includes people’s stories of their experiences and emotions, exactly as they have written them in. We do not edit these stories at all, and the content that follows this message is exactly as we received it. We know that people’s experiences are complex, and these stories reflect the many emotions they may be feeling after their abortions. From relief to grief, and everything in between, and all at the same time, we’re here for you.

Cherri Lou Schnautz has spent four decades studying whole health with an emphasis in athletics, exercise, and functional movement. Her formal academic background is comprised of a master’s degree in education, a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health, a registered nurse degree, a board certified Holistic RN, certifications in pilates, yoga, barre, bone health exercise, Duke University trained Integrative Health Coach, and an educator for the American Bone Health organization. She volunteers as a Mindfulness Mentor for women.

Cherri presently teaches pilates and exercise methods using current research to best facilitate movement for men and women. For the past nine years, Cherri has had formal education in mindfulness and meditation. She has developed a daily practice in mindful living. Cherri believes the benefits of her practice are many including personal changes in mind, brain and body.

She pursues efforts in teaching and supporting women to develop self-compassion, and likewise, guide women to learn and give compassion to others.

Cherri has been profoundly affected by the experience of motherhood. She faithfully devoted herself to the vocation of motherhood raising three children. Cherri discovered over time that motherhood, a care-giving vocation, is a meaningful contribution to our society. She learned the meaning of selflessness and whole hearted love which is the greatest gift in her life thus far.

In September of 2017, I was on my daily walk with my dog Mr. Watkins listening to the Ted Talk podcasts and came upon the talk of Aspen Baker, the former director of Exhale. My interest and curiosity was sparked, I needed to learn more. As soon as I finished my walk, I called the Exhale organization that afternoon to inquire about their mission and services. Thereafter, I knew that I wanted to contribute in some way to this organization. It was gently suggested to write my story and I agreed without hesitation. In the days, weeks, and months following, I wrote and rewrote almost daily; Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter passed, all personal deadlines that I made to complete the story. I found myself writing details and pages after pages that attempted to relay my past emotions, experiences, and reasons for the choices that I had made in my life. Nine months have passed since I first started this story. I did not realize how difficult it would be to write a story on a very personal sensitive issue. I was mindful that other people were involved which only intensified the matter. The time has come to release this story with an awareness that not-so-nice thoughts or judgments may arise with whoever reads this. I am flawed, like most people, far from the sinless woman I aspired to be when I was a young girl.

The following story is not a bounded book with a beautiful cover but loose pages that fit inside a container labeled Handle With Care. There are no instructions inside except a note that says: story takes place 31 years ago – woman betrays her moral values – lives life with a wounded soul.

The foundational years are relevant to life experiences. My story will begin with a brief history of those years. I was born 64 years ago into the Roman Catholic religion, raised in a strict devout Catholic family, the 2nd of 6 children, attended a Catholic elementary and high school, confessed sins once a week, recited prayers before each subject taught, and required to write JMJ (Jesus Mary Joseph) on each homework paper. My teachers were the Benedictine nuns and priests and they did not sway from the historical traditions and doctrine of 60 years ago. There were no-questions-asked religion classes every day. I accepted the teachings as a little girl because I wanted to be good.

The Roman Catholic doctrine categorized sins; the venial sins were small sins and the moral sins were big and serious. The church placed abortion as equal to the act of murder. Having an abortion was considered evil and one of the worst sins if you believed the doctrine of the Roman Catholic religion. In 1987, I became pregnant and had dated my boyfriend for 4 years. He had completed his Masters degree, was entering medical school, and did not want a child at this time. He had firm words on what I needed to do for the future of his career. I ended the life, the pregnancy, which left me empty. I was this murderer according to the church and sentenced to a lifetime of guilt. I married my boyfriend two years after the abortion, enduring with him four years of medical school, five years of residency, and one year of fellowship, each in different states. I conceived and birthed three children in three years during this time. Entering the fellowship, I became pregnant. My husband did not want a fourth child at this time. He had firm words on what I needed to do for the future of his career. I ended the life, the pregnancy, which not only left me empty but traumatized. It was mentally unbearable to end this pregnancy, the sibling of my children. Over the next 25 years, I devoted myself to the vocation of motherhood and supported my husband in his pursuit to be a talented surgeon.

I did not take the time to examine my mind or the choices I made throughout those 25 years. I was solely responsible for the duties as a stay-at-home mother. My body and mind were overwhelmed and exhausted. From the beginning of medical school to the final move to settle down, I lived in four states. There was no Exhale organization during this period but if so, I would have called frequently to relieve the isolation of my mind and spirit.

The result of making a decision with an unexamined mind entangled with strong emotions is a regretted response. The decision to have two abortions disrupted my physical body, mind, spirit, and soul.

I betrayed the well-learned Roman Catholic code of conduct but most importantly, my personal moral values. The leaders and services of the church were unsupportive. I attempted to seek a shoulder to lean on from my husband, he was occupied with the rigors of surgery, rarely at home. I did not tell my parents or siblings. I was mute, alone with a wounded soul and only parts of my whole being belonged in a few places.

I learned that each life has meaning, and that my two unborn babies taught me more than I could have imagined.

In memory of my first unborn and second unborn:

Basil and Josephina.

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4 responses to “Story One: My Name is Cherri Lou Schnautz”

  1. margaret

    thanks for sharing

    1. David W Gaunt

      So sorry for your pain and suffering, Cherri my shoulder is available now. Dave

  2. Andrea

    Thank you for the courage to share your experience and pain. It is healing for me to know that making the “responsible” decision is heartbreaking for a lot of us, not just me. Your situation and era are very different than mine, but we share that heartbreak…

    1. Anonymous

      Your story is so poignant. Thank you for sharing. It resonates with me.

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