Efrain Barreiro left his native Puerto Rico at the age of 19 to play baseball on a full-ride scholarship at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green in 1986.
As a child, Barreiro felt close to the Lord, growing up in a religious family with a strong sense of morals. However, by 15 his priorities shifted to baseball and other pursuits
“The moment I started putting God second — or third — in my life, it didn’t take long before I lost my spiritual focus,” says Barreiro. “Although I still loved God, my faith foundation was not as strong as it should have been.”
The deterioration accelerated once Barreiro moved to the mainland, away from all the restraints of home.
“It’s not that hard to lose sight of what’s important,” says Barreiro, a popular athlete who partied regularly at the school.
In 1990, he married his girlfriend Tracy, a Tennessee native enrolled at Western Kentucky, in a dental hygienist degree program. The same year, Efrain graduated from school and signed a minor league pitching contract with the Houston Astros. For nine months of the year, Efrain traveled as a player, leaving a pregnant Tracy at home.
Newborn daughter Elise developed a strep infection in her lungs and had difficulty breathing due to severe asthma. Ten weeks after being born, Elise developed respiratory syncytial virus infection and spent 10 days in a hospital oxygen tent.
The birth and hospital stays left the uninsured Barreiros with $60,000 in medical debt.
“This was in the day before they wrote debt off,” Tracy remembers. “We had to pay it all back.”
Tracy sank into post-partum depression, home alone with her baby and the bills, feeling isolated and with no church connections.
A year later, Tracy, who didn’t grow up in a Christian home, became pregnant. Fearing a repeat of the medical catastrophe, the couple reached a fateful conclusion: to obtain an abortion.
“I had no idea my baby had a heartbeat,” Tracy says of the 9-week-old fetus. “If I had an ultrasound, if I’d been educated, I would have walked out.”
“We believed lies, that it really wasn’t a baby yet, just a clump of cells,” Efrain says.
Efrain also relinquished his dream of pitching in the big leagues in order to find a steady, good-paying job that didn’t require travel.
“We didn’t see a path forward for us if we were going to stay married,” he says. “It was either going to be baseball or my marriage.”
But after the abortion, the couple suppressed talking about it. They had no idea of the fallout that would follow.
“We started disconnecting emotionally and physically from each other,” Efrain says. “We stuffed all our feelings.”
“We just lived separate lives for the next 20 years,” Tracy says.
The couple visited a series of counselors, who provided short-term relief. But soon they returned to a regular pattern of heated arguments.
Efrain fell into an internet porn addiction and became a workaholic. Tracy became a shopaholic, sustained by the income Efrain made as a certified public accountant. In 1996, Tracy gave birth to second daughter, Anna, five years after Elise.
Tracy again suffered with postpartum depression after Anna’s birth. This time, in retrospect, she says she suffered a nervous breakdown because of the memory of the abortion.
In 1997, she accepted a friend’s invitation to attend Cornerstone, an Assemblies of God megachurch in Madison, Tennessee.
Tracy committed her life to Christ and she and her husband became involved in ministry at the church. Nevertheless, strife remained at home.
“We were able to help other couples, we just couldn’t help ourselves,” Efrain says.
As their girls grew up and prepared to leave home, Tracy says the Lord impressed upon her the need to focus on her marriage.
“My whole identity was in my kids, which was wrong,” Tracy says.
But while attending Cornerstone, Sheila Harper befriended Tracy. Harper founded an abortion-recovery ministry called SaveOne. Tracy began watching videos posted on the SaveOne website of couples sharing their abortion experience.
“I cried for two days straight,” Tracy says. “I realized abortion was the problem in my life that had caused the wedge between my husband and me.”
Tracy went through a 10-week session with Harper to find forgiveness and healing.
“Week after week, the scales fell from my eyes,” Tracy says. She realized how she mistreated her husband, and how her bad moods and high anxiety impacted Elise and Anna. “I regret that my daughters didn’t see a loving relationship between their parents that they should have.”
“Only a few weeks into the study, I saw change in Tracy,” Efrain recalls. “She became affectionate again, she told me she loved me again. The whole relationship shifted.”
The Barreiros, now married 31 years, live in Gallatin, Tennessee, northeast of Nashville. Efrain is chief information officer for Elan-Polo International, a global footwear company. Daughter Elise — who had severe asthma as a baby — served as worship leader for six years at Connect Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and is married to Caleb Miller. Anna is an interior designer with a college degree in international business.
Tracy stepped down from being a SaveOne chapter leader because of her ongoing battle with relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis.
However, Tracy, 52, and Efrain, 54, look forward to someday in joint sessions being able to help other couples heal from hurts. Tracy is proud of Efrain for having the courage to share his testimony recently on the SaveOne website.
“Through all of our struggles, God kept us together,” Efrain says.