Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Healing Through "October Baby"

Although Shari Rigby was a seasoned actress, she was unprepared for the October Baby movie script. The movie is a story about Hannah, a college freshman who learns she was adopted and born premature as a result of an attempted abortion. She is shattered and embarks on a journey to find her birth mother. The quest ends in rejection and self-loathing for Hannah until she ultimately learns a lesson in forgiveness.   

Shaking as she read the role being offered to her—birth mother to Hannah--tears poured from Shari’s eyes. “I had to put the script down,” she said. “I sat on the couch and cried for a long time.”  

Although Shari thought she had dealt with her own abortion many years earlier, the script opened up that wound. The pain that had been stuffed, came pouring out of her heart.  After awhile, she walked into the kitchen where her husband Matt was.  “What’s wrong!” he asked, alarmed when he saw Shari’s puffy eyes and still wet face. She showed him the script.  

“Do they know?” he asked, referring to brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin, the directors offering Shari the role. She had worked with them previously on a music video and had a professional friendship with them. The role of Hannah would be played by Rachel Hendrix, who bore a striking resemblance to Shari. The Erwins told Shari that the role was hers if she wanted it.

“No, they don’t know,” Shari answered her husband. Only her mother and a couple friends knew of her pain--the pain of aborting her baby many years earlier at a time when it seemed the only option.  Shari thought she had moved on and her secret was buried in the past. But now it was unearthed in a powerful way.

Shari called Jon Erwin and told him her story—much of which paralleled the movie character.  He was amazed. This role really was for her—they both felt it.

The Past
Shari was in her early twenties working as a paralegal.  She had an associate’s degree and planned to get a bachelor and law degree. The pieces of her life were just starting to fit together after a teen marriage ended in abandonment of her and their  son. 

“I was told by many that I was a statistic; that as a single mom, I was destined for a life of struggle,” Shari recalled. “There were people who seemed not to want to put in the time to help me because they did not believe I could overcome the odds.” But the negative opinions of others only made her even more determined. “I went into overdrive to show them I could do this,” she said. 

Then, came the pregnancy, the result of a poorly chosen relationship. “I don’t think he ever wanted to have children,” Shari said.  She already had a four-year-old son and was struggling to make a better life for the two of them. An out of wedlock pregnancy felt overwhelming. “I did not want to look like a failure again,” she explained. 

The decision was mutual and made quickly—an abortion. “I shut the door to my heart,” Shari said. “I was not walking with the Lord then.” There was no thought as to how the decision would affect her in the future, only that it would interfere with her well-planned life. 

“I went in and only remember being handed a pill, going to sleep, waking up, and going home and resting. I had no desire to speak to anyone about it,” she said. The only time Shari thought about it again was on the anniversary date every year, but she’d push it out of her mind.

The relationship soon ended and Shari expected to move on. Only her mother and a couple friends knew, but it was not something she or anyone else ever wanted to discuss. It was immediately buried.  She got to the point where she didn’t want to date anymore. But then a good friend’s younger brother, Matt, whom Shari had known from high school, called her. He was back in town and just wanted to catch up on old times, but romance sparked.  On their second date, they went to church together.

A New Start
“Within a short time after that, I rededicated my life to Christ,” she said.  Matt and Shari became engaged within six months. They’ve been married now for fifteen years and have a twelve-year old son together.  But Shari did not share her abortion story with Matt until six years into the marriage.

They wanted more children but Shari’s endometriosis made that impossible. She secretly carried the guilt of her abortion and wondered if it had caused the disease since statistically there is an increased likelihood of it in women who have had abortions.  When Shari filled out the paperwork for doctor’s exams, she always lied about number of pregnancies to keep her abortion secret. 

“When Matt came into my life, I felt ordained to spend the rest of my life with him,” she said. “I did not want to risk telling him that part of my past.”  But unable to give him any more children, she did not want to carry the burden alone any longer.  Shari said he was sad and wished she had shared it with him sooner, but he understood.  

Still, she had not yet grieved.  Shari said, “At the point I got the script, it felt like it was time to deal with this. All the grief I had stuffed and did not even know I had, came pouring out at that moment.”  

Through her role in October Baby, Shari found healing. “God walked me through this,” she stated. “Acting is very personal for me. One scene in particular felt like it was just between God and me.” 

Shari’s life has been changed through this movie.  The first time she gave her testimony publically was after the first pilot screening.  “It has been a release,” she said. “I don’t have to hide and feel ashamed anymore.” It is her desire to share with other women so that they don’t have to hide and keep secrets. “I want them to know they can focus on being truthful and don’t have to be kept in slavery to sin,” she said.  “It’s very freeing and peaceful.”

In spite of the fact that October Baby has a lightening rod message that even faith-based films have avoided, it is doing amazingly well at the box office. After opening to 390 theaters on March 23, it is expanding to another 201 screens on April 13.  October Baby was #8 at the box office opening weekend, up against much bigger budgeted films. Within the second week, it has made $2.8 million, more than three times its production budget.

Although many liberal critics have attacked it, some notables such as the LA Times, are giving it due praise and acknowledging that this movie, that took Shari by surprise, is taking the movie industry by surprise too. 



  1. I hope this movie is seen by many.

    One clarification is in order:

    Those who hire surgical hitmen are co-conspirators, not victims.

  2. Anthony, I share your hope that many see this movie. It is really an incredibly moving story but also has humor and a love story with it. As for the surgical hitmen, I know what you are saying. However, I have interviewed girls (one in high school) and women who were coerced by parents and threatened by boyfriends to have abortions. It's a sad state the world is in. Yet, there are many stories of triumph, repentance, and forgiveness in the pro life movement.

  3. Great post Patti as my husband and I will watch the movie for the first time in our local theater this Friday! What a powerful story about the actress! Thank you!

  4. It is well past the time people faced the truth about abortion and its malicious effects on women and on balanced demographics. We need more testimonials against it and what better medium than the cinema?


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