Manifesting Miracles

Twenty four years ago today, I married the man I thought I would love for the rest of my life. A cradle Catholic, it never ocurred to me at that time that one day we might not make it.
Only five years ago, as my third child turned four, I was a far cry away from that icy December day in 1989. I was in the midst of an extraordinarily contentious divorce, trapped in my job as a business owner, and taking multiple medications to cope with the stress. Life in every aspect weighed heavily on me, and I wondered if I would ever be happy again. It truly would take a miracle.

Yet miracles do happen, and I’ve come to believe in them like never before. This New Year I am divorced and living on the West Coast with my kids, three thousand miles away from the New England town I called home most of my adult life, I write a blog that is read across six continents, I’ve published my first book and I’m halfway finished with my second book. 

This has been the first Christmas in my life that I not only believe in miracles, but I feel blessed to have been on the receiving end of more of them with every passing year. 

Marci Shimoff, The New York Times bestselling author and Transformational Leader, has observed that miracles cannot happen if you do not believe in your own worthiness to receive them. Lights went off in my head when I heard that. Of course that would be true – if we do not believe in ourselves, why would the universe put miracles in our paths?

Ten years ago I was struggling to overcome the guilt, shame and sadness of an abortion. Catholic and living in a society that values life in all forms from conception until the end of life, the complexity of emotions I felt were difficult and confusing to navigate. Forgiving myself and finding my own worthiness despite the messages in the world around me that spoke otherwise, was a big job. 

I hope that my blog has helped women who have struggled in the past or are struggling now, as I was, to see not only their inherent worthiness, but also their inherent strength and beauty. If Marci is right — and based on my own experience, I believe that she is — as we heal what holds us back and rediscover our innate worthiness, beauty and strength, our world will be full of miracles in a way we have never seen before.

In the years to come, I believe we will see a world where women who have had abortions know in the core of their being - in their hearts and as well as in their heads - that they are whole and perfect just as they are. The world is filled with more miracles than you can possibly imagine and they are ready to happen as soon as you’re ready to receive.


Zoe, A Prayer Answered

Shortly after my husband and I separated in 2007, a close friend of my son’s gave us a priceless gift – a sweet little dog named Zoe.

We had lost our black lab of fourteen years months earlier and I felt like my heart would be broken forever after her passing. My children had been bucking for a new dog for some time, but knowing more change was coming and still feeling heartbroken over the loss of our dog, Allie, I stood firmly against it. 

And then Zoe came along. 
Zoe was a Christmas gift that year to my son’s friend’s family. They had never owned a dog before and with two active boys, found it difficult to be available for Zoe as much as she needed. They were contemplating the best solution for Zoe, while my family’s life was changing dramatically. 

Although she was a gift to my son, a second grader, Zoe quickly became “my” dog, following me everywhere and leaving behind her nights in a crate for the warmth of my bed. One of her places was burrowed under the covers at the bottom of the bed. And one of her favorite things to do when she got there was to lick my feet. 

I was just a little put off by this behavior. It felt weird. It tickled. I started to put socks on at night, to stop the licking. It worked.

Six-plus years later, Zoe still wants to “clean my feet.” I have been building a daily yoga practice, and she has been on the mat every morning with me, faithfully licking my feet whenever she can. This week, in a lightbulb moment, I realized, she has been licking my feet in answer to a prayer from many years ago.

When I was a practicing Catholic, one of the annual rituals involved our parish pastor washing the feet of twelve parishioners, a “reenactment” of the last supper, where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. For many years, I wanted to be one of those twelve chosen to have my feet washed. In the beginning, the pastor invited people to serve this role, but as the years went by he began asking for volunteers. I wanted so badly to be one of those people! And yet every time I imagined being there and having him wash my feet, I saw myself dissolving into wrenching sobs. I did not understand why, but that certainly wasn’t the experience I wanted to have in front of my fellow parishioners!

I was taught since I was old enough to remember that I was born with something called “original sin.” Every week as we prepared for Communion, we were reminded of this with the words “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.” This teaching that I was inherently sinful, separate and unworthy, combined with my experience of choosing to have an abortion, informed my subconscious mind week after week of my unworthiness. So even when my pastor asked for volunteers, and even though in my heart I desperately wanted that healing, I did not speak. The words “I am not worthy to receive you” reverberated over and again in my head. 

For many reasons, including this one, I no longer subscribe to the traditions of the Catholic Church. But the feeling I had, that desire to receive that healing gesture, remained. Just this week my sweet little Zoe reminded of the prayer I once felt so strongly in my body — the desire to have my feet washed by Jesus. And as I look at her now, persistent in her desire to wash my feet, I realize she is answering that prayer I made so many years ago. She tells me that I am loved and worthy. And now, I am finally ready to accept and allow that into my life.

Animals have so much to teach us. I am thankful to have received one of Zoe’s lessons this week. I hope you readers of this blog are content today in knowing that you, too, are worthy and you are loved, no matter what your past. I believe Jesus lived to teach us about love and forgiveness and would be the first person to remind us all that we are inherently good.



Protecting the Children


My report cards when I was a kid are pretty consistent – I was quiet, reserved, smart, and helpful. I was not a drama queen, nor did I take risks. So I think I surprised myself, as well as those who knew me, in December 1985 when I had my first real experience of being courageous. It was the first time I felt the protectiveness of a lioness.

I was an accountant for a CPA firm in Boston. My boyfriend had taken the day off work with three of his buddies and they had been holiday shopping. They decided to stop at Clark’s, a bar around the corner from my office, before heading home. The bar was loud as I wended my way through the crowd to meet them after work.  

Mark was excited to show me his purchases. He was particularly pleased with a sweater he had chosen for his sister, his eyes dancing with delight as he showed it to me. As we were looking through the rest of his gifts, three women came over, flirting with his friends. They did not stay long and we laughed when they left about the guys getting “hit on.” Not much later, we put on our coats and reached for our belongings. Mark, however, couldn’t find several of his bags, including the one containing the sweater for his sister. We searched and searched, but the bags were gone. It seemed clear that the young women who stopped to flirt were probably not flirting at all, they were setting us up to pilfer the packages. John remembered they had said they were going to Houlihan’s at the other end of Faneuil Hall next. Mark wasn’t too happy thinking about giving up that sweater, and we were both on tight budgets.

It seemed clear: we had to go after them.

Mark, not one to be confrontational, was not excited about tracking the thieves down. His buddies were embarrassed to have been so easily deceived and they were not anxious to meet up with the women again either. But I persisted, and off we went. 

When we got to Houlihan’s, the women were nowhere in sight. We spoke with the hostess, and learned they were in the ladies’ room. Where the guys had hesitated before, I knew they were certainly not going in with me now. I marched into the bathroom. There they were, primping in front of the mirror when I burst in. 

Somehow, it came naturally to me to stand in front of the door, blocking the women’s exit until I had all Mark’s gifts back. I am 5’2” and not a physically dominating presence by any means. But the women handed over the bags.

When I came out carrying Mark’s bags, I am not sure who was more surprised by my actions, them or me. 

I have thought about this encounter many times over the years. It seems symbolic of a protective fierceness I did not know I had. I believe most women have this lioness instinct when it comes to protecting our loved ones. Our bodies were made to create life, and it is natural for us to want to protect life.

So how, then, do we come to have abortions? For myself and for many of the women I have spoken to over the years, we believe we are protecting our children when we choose to have an abortion. I remember for myself feeling that both my baby's life and my own would be dramatically different in a very hard way if I continued with the pregnancy. I foresaw divorce and hard work to make ends meet for myself. I envisioned poverty for both of us.

Was it instinct, intuition, or fear?  Our past ( or present ( experiences might have informed us that it is not safe to bring a child into the world and we believe we are protecting our children in making a choice to abort. I wonder, if I had such a strong instinct to protect my boyfriend's sweater, that maybe my instinct to choose an abortion was also a protective mechanism.

When I think back on my grandmother's situation, knowing she chose an abortion at a time when it was not only illegal, but when she could have lost her life (during the Great Depression), I see a woman of great courage. I imagine that with a frail baby and small income already, her choice was made not just to protect her unborn child, but the child she already in her arms. As I wonder about her state of mind some eighty years ago when she made her choice, I find myself awed by her courage.

As I contemplate my situation and that of the many women I have known who have made the same choice, I believe we are each doing what we feel is right to protect the our unborn, and sometimes already born, children. It is not an easy choice, but it is often the most courageous one.


The Perfect Mother

The instant my daughter was born I made a promise to myself and to her that I would be the best mother ever. It didn’t take too much sleep deprivation to remind me I was human!

And yet, for years I continued on my mission to prove myself as a mother. I had to prove I was a good mom — to myself and to the world. I had such deep shame over the abortion I’d had years earlier that aspiring to sainthood seemed the best way to hide my secret. Afterall, if I was an impeccable mother, no questions would ever come up to suggest that an abortion was part of my past. I wondered, how could a “good” mother choose an abortion?

Shame is often referred to as the secret emotion because of the intense need the person feeling it has to conceal it. For me, the longer I buried the experience and tried to hide it from even myself, the harder it became to live my life authentically. I wasn’t living for me or for my daughter, I was living in fear and shame.

I have no doubt that my Catholic faith had a lot to do with these feelings of shame. Sermons about the evils of abortion, combined with teachings on original sin, reminded me regularly of what I had done and how mortally I had sinned. 

It took many years and many hurts to realize that my religion did not need to define my spirituality and that the Church was made up of human beings just like me. None of us, not even our priests, are exempt from the imperfections of humanity. I watched the clergy-abuse crisis unfold in my own backyard in Boston, and realized that my “sins” were no worse than many of the clergy who espoused a life’s vocation of following Jesus. 

As I learned to open up to other viewpoints, my spirituality evolved to where I could begin to think for myself, not simply as I was instructed to think by my religion. I began to see myself and my abortion in a whole different light. I wasn’t a sinner, I was a human being made in the image and likeness of God. And abortion wasn’t a sin, it was one possible answer in a world where both options were painful.  

Today, I strive to be the best mother I can be to my three kids. It isn’t easy to do as a single parent, but I no longer do it out of fear for being discovered, going to hell, or finding myself otherwise unworthy. I do it because I was chosen by them to be their mom for all the gifts I have to offer them. I make mistakes just like everyone, but I no longer berate myself afterwards for long periods of time. I take a deep breath, think about what I can do better next time, reminding myself this is where I was born to be and what I was born to do. 

For anyone still trying to reach sainthood, attain perfection in parenting or otherwise hide behind the mask of shame, I hope you find peace one day knowing that you are whole and perfect just the way you are.


Shining Light on Our Unborn

My 16 year old daughter surprised me this year with one of the people she chose to remember this year on Day of the Dead. This Mexican holiday to honor family and friends who have died, is one my kids have celebrated since they were in pre-school. It is observed annually on October 31, November 1 and November 2.

My daughter was 13 years old when I told her about my abortion. She already knew about the mechanics of sex and was dancing with the possibility of dating. Not one to shy away from the tough conversations with my kids (you should be a fly on the wall during some of our dinner conversations!), and knowing she was well aware of my human imperfections, I shared with her part of my history she did not know. 

She was compassionate listener. Our discussion about sex and dating suddenly rose to a whole new level. Most likely in shock over what I had shared, she was extraordinarily kind, loving and careful in her responses. 

Over the years as she has processed what my experience meant to her, it became obvious that my choice deeply affected her as well. She does not have the “big sister” she says she always wanted. I hope one day she will share in her words the emotions she felt as she matured with this knowledge. There have been times when she was angry with me and has said so. Other times she has felt sad and incomplete. The range of emotions for her in losing someone she never knew has been complicated and complex. In a day and age where people have difficulty sharing grief for any reason, let alone from having an abortion, how does a child express their feelings over a sibling lost that way?

Many would say that I should not have told my young daughter about my experience – there are some things that we should just keep to ourselves. And while I would agree there are some things we should feel permitted to hold onto, for me, this was not one of them. 

My grandmother did not tell me about her abortion until she was 93 years old ( ). I suffered many years in isolation about my own abortion, and all along I shared this experience with one of my most beloved family members. If I had known about her abortion, would I have handled that pregnancy any differently? Perhaps, although I doubt it. However, I do believe my response to my experience would have been far different. 

Will my admission help my daughter? Having been on the other side, it seems it’s worth a shot to have shared this with her and to find out what it means to her. If nothing else, I hope I have given her reason to honor her body in relationship and to honor her inner guidance in her choices. Maybe in time, she will be able to feel her sister’s loving presence the same way I do.

I am sure you can guess by now who my daughter chose to remember during the Day of the Dead ceremony this year. She spoke of Mary’s existence in her circle of friends and by doing so honored her presence in our lives and in the world.

Hearing that she honored Mary's existence in a public way was a bittersweet, and beautiful moment. It fills me with hope to see her shine light on her sister's life, and to be brave enough to publicly share her feelings.

I have been blessed with two amazing daughters.


A Ten Year Anniversary

It was ten years ago this past week that I started my healing journey with abortion. I was at my wit’s end and knew if I didn’t deal with my complex feelings from over eleven years earlier, I would probably end up institutionalized.

There were many factors contributing to my suppressed feelings of grief and shame. The biggest factor, by far, was my Catholic upbringing. While it gave me a deep faith in God, it also informed me I had committed a mortal sin. 

My Catholic roots went deep. I attended a Catholic girls’ school for four years before high school, and a Catholic college. To make matters worse, by the time I finally fell apart, my husband was enrolled in the seminary to become a deacon. Soon there would be many more eyes upon us both, looking to our family as model Catholics. After the years of parochial education, Sunday sermons and deaconate formation training, I felt like a failure as a human being. The pressure to live up to these standards was unbearable. 

Thankfully, there is a program for healing in the Catholic Church called Project Rachel. Project Rachel changed the course of my life.

Project Rachel helped me to understand the weight I had borne for over a decade. They helped me grieve and stood with me as I released my grief and asked God and my unborn daughter for forgiveness.

As with many retreats, the confidentiality of the group was a requirement of participation. Given our purpose for being together, that made absolute sense. Unlike other retreats, however, the Project Rachel retreat required secrecy in other facets of the weekend as well. Our location was secret. No one knew where we were meeting and we were advised not to share that information, except with our spouses. Also unusual was our final instruction - not to share with family or friends anything about our abortions or our weekend together. It might not be safe, and therefore was something we should keep to ourselves. For me, there was continued fear and shame as I listened to this final counsel. 

The one thing I was not able to release, my shame, stayed with me far longer than any other difficult emotion. Even Project Rachel’s Christ-like leadership and its generous love and compassion could not do for me what I so sorely needed. They could not change the language of the Catholic leadership and populace to remove condemnation or judgment. In the end, I was able to release the shame and find freedom only by looking outside the Church.
Since my retreat, as I listen to discussions between so-called pro-lifers and pro-choicers, I continue to wonder why the Church uses the language they do. Sinful, wrong, unthinkable, senseless murder – these are all words used in Catholic sermons and dialogs about abortion. The judgment these words evoke made it very difficult for me to release the shame of my abortion and I am certain make it difficult for most others. 

It’s unusual to talk about abortion. And while it isn’t everyone’s thing to share their story with the world, I do believe it is important that we share our stories with someone. One of the most productive things we did in the Project Rachel retreat weekend was to share our stories with each other. Sharing stories healed us because as we listened, we forgave. As we forgave and understood our sisters’ pain, we were able to access and release our own pain, and begin the process of forgiving ourselves. With greater support from Church leadership, women would be able to leave Project Rachel feeling more supported in their healing and fully releasing the shame - the contradiction and tension between emotional freedom and faith tradition would dissolve.

I hope and pray that one day soon Catholic leadership will really listen to the stories the women of the church have to tell and comprehend the compassion of the Project Rachel ministry who allowed us voice to tell them. I hope they will begin to understand and accept the experience of women that compels them to make this choice. Until we are able to speak without fear or secrecy, the road to full healing will be longer than it needs to be. 

As I reflect on my ten-year anniversary this week, I realize how lucky I am to be able to share my story today feeling strong and secure in who I really am – a woman of light and love who knows all is very well with her soul.


Common Ground?

Last week, I got a glimpse of what the world might look like if the opposing sides of the abortion debate were able to truly come together - not judging or labeling - and listen to each other.

My daughter’s soccer team played their last game of the season. It was a night game, the first night game I can remember in the two years she has been playing soccer. Making it more unusual, they were playing a parochial school in our neighborhood, less than a mile from our house. 

The evening started off with a good part of the girls’ soccer team congregating at our house for pizza before the game. The girls’ laughter filled not just our yard but our neighborhood as they climbed into their cars to head over to the game. The neighbors smiled, remembering their high school days, and waved good-bye and good luck as they drove down the street. 

I gathered my boys and our dog and we made our way through the neighborhood on foot to the game. It was a gorgeous fall evening. 

I had never been on the campus of this school before that night. I was surprised to see so many families at the game. I go to as many of my daughter’s soccer games as I can, but I had never seen a crowd like this before. It was like a huge tailgate party. 

My daughter’s team (the Mustangs) had played this particular team earlier in the season. It was a highly competitive team and the coach for their opposing team was especially loud in his coaching. As soon as I heard his thundering voice, I remembered the last game we played against them. Oh yeah, I thought, I remember THAT team.

The game started and I found myself feeling very alone in a sea of home team parents. My little dog didn’t know the difference between the home team supporters or the other side, though, and it wasn’t long before we made friends with the families seated on either side of us. 

Both sides played hard. At some point during the first half, I noticed that the home team’s parents would cheer for our Mustangs when they made a good effort. “Great job, Keeper” or “Nice pass, Red” were common praise that night. When the girls collided or knocked each other down, more than once I saw an opponent help her up and back to her feet. 

We lost the game by a score of 4-1. But that didn’t matter when it was all over. Photographs taken of the team that night after the game show that spirits were high, smiles beaming broadly. We were the opposing team on foreign soil, but what the girls and those Mustang parents on the sidelines supporting them felt was not separateness but togetherness. There was richness in the spirit of the event that night that brought the community of ALL observers together I have not felt in other games before.

That night left me with a feeling of hope for what we can achieve in a world where we give support to those around us, where we don’t cut someone down because they oppose us, but where we appreciate and accept them for who they are. I believe there is common ground for both sides in the abortion debate. Maybe one day we will be able to come together, without judgment or righteousness and truly make some progress for women and children in the world.  


Homemade Applesauce and Festering Secrets

Yesterday morning I cleaned out my refrigerator. Lurking in the back was a Tupperware container filled with homemade applesauce from several months ago. Mold was growing all over it. 

I knew the applesauce was there, I noticed it at least a month ago. But every time I came back from the grocery store, instead of taking out that tub of applesauce, I squeezed in all my new food around it, pushing it deeper into the refrigerator so I could get everything else in. 

How long did I push it back, cover it up, pretend it was not there, letting it grow mold?  If I waited, perhaps one of my kids would discover it and squeal, grossed out.  Perhaps a girlfriend might stop in and find it as she reached in for a cold drink. How much longer did I think I could put off the inevitable?

I finally decided this morning that it was time to take out the applesauce and throw it away. It’s not salvageable now, not one bit of it. It’s toxic. It’s time to go. 

Secrets are a lot like that, too. We hold onto them, keep them hidden, cover them up with our “new purchases,” pretend that a new outfit, a new friend or a new neighborhood will mask the past.  

In my experience, eventually a secret becomes toxic too, like my applesauce. 

Before I was ready to release it, my own secret, held tight for eleven years, began to fester, just like the applesauce.  

The release of my darkest secret – having an abortion – went through much the same progression. Initially, I stuffed it down deep, tried to build my life up around it, pretended I was okay, that my life was perfect. Everything looked pretty good from the outside. But when I could hide no longer, when it was too hard to get up in the morning, or I couldn’t fall asleep at night, or my nerves triggered stomach pains, I couldn’t ignore the secret any longer. 

It wasn’t pretty in the beginning (and neither was cleaning out my Tupperware!). In fact, I had let it sit there so long it festered and had gotten downright ugly. If I had dealt with my angst about it sooner, it would have been a lot prettier when I released the guilt, shame and pain I had been carrying around for eleven years. 

Once the floodgates opened, the rest of the job was so much easier. After that, it took a good scrubbing, some patience and time to forgive myself. I was determined not to let this part of my life define me. Today I am like that Tupperware container, squeaky clean and with plenty of room for more goodness in my life. 

This morning as I look into my refrigerator, I see a beautiful open space where yesterday there was no room for anything new. I remind myself that with courage and determination, we can do anything, be anyone we set our minds to. Truly, life is good! (And my refrigerator is clean and spacious, too!)


I Love You - More

I believe our children have messages and things to teach us. I can tell you stories from each of my kids. My youngest son, Ryan, has given me one of the simplest, yet one of the most profound messages.

Since he was a baby, our bedtime ritual has involved reading stories and snuggling. At the end of our cuddling, I tell him I love him as I leave his room. Since he was four years old, he has been telling me in response, “I love you more!"

I remember debating him over this thought for at least a year. I told him it was not possible for him to love me more than I loved him. Until I had children, I had no idea how all encompassing, consuming and pervasive a mother’s love was. I hear many other mothers say the same thing about their children – their lives and priorities changed the moment they had children. They had no idea they could love someone as much as they now loved this new little human. I felt the same thing with the birth of each of my children.

So, how could my four year old son possibly understand that? How could he know the depth of a mother’s love at a mere four years old?


Our bedtime ritual, including our “I love you’s” continued. At some point I gave up trying to explain the depth of my love for him. Maybe he had reached the ripe old age of five by then. I decided he would understand sometime in the future, but for now, we would say the words we each felt in our hearts, and I would simply allow them to be. 

During the next few years, I would begin a process of personal transformation. My marriage ended, and I would leave my long-term job and profession in accounting, and my small town of twenty plus years, as well as the state of Massachusetts, for a cross country move to California.

As I shed each layer of who I had been, I found parts of myself that I long ago forgot. Throughout this time, my little guy would continue to tell me he loved me “more”. But now there was another voice echoing his, one I couldn’t hear in the chaos of my old life. It was my daughter, Mary, whom I had aborted almost twenty years earlier. Her presence would come at the most unexpected times, but her message was always the same. I am here and I love you. 
The messages from Ryan and Mary came full circle in 2012 when I read James Van Praagh’s book Growing Up in Heaven. He writes that our children chose us to be their parents, even children who are miscarried or aborted. These children know that they will not be born, but choose to come into the mother’s life to help them learn lessons of self-worth and self-love. 

As I read those words, I sobbed. Suddenly, I knew Ryan was right. He did love me more. And so did my daughter Mary. They are in my life to help me learn a lesson in love and self-worth. There was nothing more I needed to do to deserve that love, I was enough just as I was. 

Now, when Ryan says to me “I love you more Mommy”, I say “I know Ryan, I know”. 


Who Gets the Lifesaver?

When my grandmother told me that she had an abortion back in 2003 (Mor-Mor's story ), I was still too caught up in my own shame to think much about her experience. As I have studied abortion and learned just how many women are already mothers when they have an abortion, I began to think more about this fact (abortion statistics). Why is it that a mother would choose to terminate a pregnancy?

One possible answer comes from understanding my grandmother’s life experience. Shortly after she died, my mom wrote all of her grandchildren a letter, telling us the few details of Mor-Mor’s life that she knew. My grandmother was very private and quiet about her life, and none of us really knew much about her past. 

What I knew already was that Mor-Mor’s father died of pneumonia when she was nine years old. From reading my mother’s letter, I learned how hard her life had been after that. Her mother, a first generation Swedish immigrant, worked as a housekeeper, had many jobs and moved frequently. Sometimes, Mor-Mor would be left with cousins for periods of time while her mother sought work without the encumbrance of a child. She became a nanny at age thirteen, working for a family on Long Island, while also holding down a job as a waitress. She never finished high school, instead taking secretarial courses during her sophomore year so that she could develop business skills to help provide for the family. She began working for the New York Telephone Co. when she was just fifteen years old, although she claimed she was really seventeen in order to get the job.

Her childhood was fraught with hardship, loneliness and scarcity.

My grandfather emigrated from Sweden also, and they met shortly after he arrived in America. They married young and had my aunt during the Depression. My aunt was often sick, afflicted with asthma and other medical problems. As I think about what it might have been like for her to live, how her own childhood experiences informed her decision-making, I feel deeply for her.
It must have felt a lot like watching two kids drowning and having only one lifesaver. Who can she save? 

I have met many women over the years who have also had childhoods filled with scarcity, others with abuse (Childhood Experiences ). I suspect they feel a lot like my grandmother must have felt – tired, fearful, overwhelmed and alone. No woman wants to have an abortion. It feels like a choice born of necessity. 

I hope that the stories I share will help other women know that they are not alone and there is no shame in their choice of an abortion. As we bring our stories to the light, forgive and heal ourselves, maybe we can change the experience of the generations of women to come.
Maybe we can change the question from “who gets the lifesaver?” to “how can we support the life we that already exists?”



Who REALLY has Abortions?

I was 29 years old, married and using birth control when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. 

For several reasons, my husband and I quickly decided to have an abortion. Although I did not already have children, I had some idea of what it would take to raise a child, and I knew, given the circumstances of my life, I was not ready to be a parent.

At the time, I thought most people who had abortions were teenagers. I would find out that teenagers are NOT the majority that chooses abortion. Surprised? I know I was. Research by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that in 2008, some 61% of abortions were performed on women who already had at least one child. In 2009, presumably due to the recession it is projected (numbers are not yet final) that the number of abortions performed on women who already had at least one child rose to 72%. (Guttmacher Statistics

And it makes some sense that women with a child already would be the larger percentage of women who choose abortion. Those of us who are older and/or more experienced with the realities of daily life know that life may have romance in it, but it is far from romantic on a daily basis.

What is unromantic about having a baby with the person you love? For me, it revolved around financial practicalities. I had married a man I adored (romantic) who was carrying high levels of credit card debt (unromantic). For the first two and a half years of our marriage, daily life involved constant sacrifices at a time that should have been the happiest years of my life. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon (unromantic), we rarely went on dates (unromantic) and we spent a great deal of time negotiating how to spend our money (super unromantic!). To top it off, there were familial stresses that included caring for a parent with a serious illness. 

Then I found out I was pregnant.

What to do? I was tired, stressed and to top it off, I was vomiting every day. I had been using birth control, so it never crossed my mind that I might be pregnant. After several successive days of tossing my cookies, I found myself in the hospital receiving forced hydration through an IV. That’s when I got the news of my pregnancy. 

I considered my circumstances. After 30 months of marriage, I knew life could be harder than I’d imagined not very long ago. Add a child to the mix and I couldn’t see an up side for anyone. I terminated the pregnancy as I was entering my eighth week.

This past week on the hit CBS show “The Good Wife,” the episode “A Precious Commodity,” included a storyline with a young woman hired as a surrogate for a couple who had found out their fetus has fatal birth defects (The Good Wife on CBS). The couple already had experience with loss: their first child had died at six months old after suffering a congenital heart defect. That experience informed their wish to terminate the surrogate’s pregnancy. The young surrogate, however, finds their choice untenable, despite the certainty of two doctors’ conclusions. In many ways, the conflict between the two women comes down to innocent/romantic versus practicality/familiarity. Very much like my own observations, experience, and the statistics. 

Who is it who really has abortions? It could be any of us . . . . the girl next door or the MOM next door. We may be your grocery store clerk, your tax accountant, your child’s favorite teacher. . We are mothers, daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters ( are sisters and BFF’s. Who are we? You might be surprised.



An Unexpected Moment of Connection

In June 2013 I attended a writer’s conference that featured a speaker who was a well-known female memoirist, and most of the attendees were female. I sat at a table with an exceptional group of women, our ages spanning four decades.

Through writing prompts and group exercises, we got to know each other in personal ways very quickly. I shared my purpose in helping women heal from abortion, explaining that I knew from experience how needed this work was. The responses around the table were positive. 

Until Kathleen spoke. 

Kathleen told her story of being a pregnant teen. Her parents had taken her baby away from her and put it up for adoption, deciding for her that she was not capable of being a mother. She was devastated. She vented anger at them and her sister, who also became pregnant as a teen, but who had made a different choice. She exclaimed both angrily and proudly, “Well, at least I had my baby. My sister aborted hers!”

No sooner had she said the words when she realized it and shot a look across the table at me. She didn’t want to hurt my feelings, and she apologized. 

I understood, and I told her so. Before my abortion I had always sworn I’d never have one either. And I’m used to negative reactions around this issue. When I tell people my experience, I hear things like, “I have nothing against abortion, but I would never choose it.”
It’s funny how God likes to teach us humility. 

We were not in a position to speak privately, but at the end of the workshop we ended up next to each other in line for the author’s autograph. It was a long line and we had over thirty minutes together. She apologized again, opening the door to more conversation on the subject. In the past, her words would have triggered me into a downward spiral of negativity. But having worked on my own feelings of self-judgment and self-worth over the years, I was able to step back from her comment and not feel it personally. As it turned out, I was able to provide a safe place for her to share deeply her buried feelings of loss and sadness. She had felt shame over her pregnancy and the loss of her child.
She, like myself, had lived much of her life feeling isolated.

Despite the noise and commotion around us we forged a special bond in those thirty minutes. By the time our books were autographed, we did not want to say good-bye. We realized we shared the same experience — having an unplanned pregnancy — no matter how different the outcome. After living in shame and self-loathing for many years with our buried secrets, we discovered that we were more connected than we could have dreamed at first meeting. We lingered a little longer before exchanging contact information and finally releasing each other.  

I believe it is these baby steps, taken one person at a time, that will change the world perspective on abortion. Kathleen and I discovered how much more we had in common than we’d thought. Once we were able to set aside our judgments, a beautiful moment of grace and connection unfolded for us. 

I wish you a moment of unexpected grace and connection in your life today too. And a loving release from judgment, of yourself and others.


Why I Write About Abortion - My Inspiration, My Confession

I was pregnant with my youngest child in the summer of 2004 when my grandmother died.

The hard, personal truth she revealed the last time I saw her changed the course of my life completely.

I doubt either of us knew how those few moments laid the foundation for who I am and what I do now. We shared a moment of grace that I did not recognize at the time, but which now gives me great strength of purpose.

Mor-Mor, Swedish for mother of mother, was 93 years old that summer when she fell, knocked unconscious. When we heard about this fall, my sister and I - the East Coast contingent of our family -  drove the five or so hours from Massachusetts to New Jersey as quickly as possible.  

We must have been a sight to behold waddling in to her hospital room to visit her. My sister and I were both pregnant, her second child, my third, and due with our babies in just a few months.

The news was good: Mor-Mor was resting comfortably.  She looked well, spoke clearly and intelligently. As relief settled in, we began playing gin rummy and chatted.

As I sat on the bed snuggling with her, my grandmother started to rub my pregnant belly. My baby boy did not disappoint. He gave little kicks here and there to let us know he was indeed present.

Without a change in tone or demeanor, Mor-Mor then shared with us a story I had never heard from her before.

"I want to tell you girls something," she began, still stroking my tight belly. "It was a long time ago, before your mother was born. It was after your aunt was born, and I found myself pregnant. Times were hard. It was the Depression, you know. Your aunt was sick a lot, and well, I had to make a choice.. . . . . " Her eyes were dimmed as her voice faded and she stared into the corner of the room. She seemed distant, removed, alone.

I did not know what to say. I felt her sadness, fear and anxiety. I did my best not to show the surprise I was feeling. I snuggled tighter and tried to reassure her. "It's okay Mor-Mor, it's okay." I hoped my words made a difference for her these seventy years later. I knew she needed to tell her story as she prepared for the end of her life. It never crossed my mind to share with her my own experience - I was still stuck in my own shame and fear. And then, I never had the chance to.
My grandmother died three weeks later. That hospital visit was the last time I saw her.
Years later, I would realize that moment changed my life.

My grandmother was probably reaching out for assurance in part because she was afraid of death, afraid of what awaited her on the other side now that she was so close to being there. And I, rather than tell her about my abortion, rather than tell her she was not alone, had chosen to hold tight to my truth and merely mumbled words that at the time, I myself did not believe. How was having an abortion ever okay? Still deep in denial about the truth of my own experience, I failed miserably at helping a woman I dearly treasured.

How did my life change? I do everything I can to let other women know what I never told my grandmother, what I wished I had told her. I shared my story in the anthology Pebbles on the Pond Wave 2 ( I write this blog. I want to let women know they are not alone. There are millions of us who, for different reasons and at different ages in our lives, have had abortions. As we grow older and review our lives, we may have new questions, as I suspect my grandmother had. Did I make the right choice? What will happen to me when I die? Can I be at peace with the choice I made?

I write about living well after abortion to honor my grandmother and to remind women that one moment from our past does not define who we are and what our life means. My grandmother lived a hard life, but she showed strength and courage in living it and loving those around her. Her sharing that painful part of her past only deepened my love for this woman I will always cherish.

Why do I write about abortion? Mor-Mor.


Cracked Open – Again

Have you ever been at a place where you thought you had freed yourself of all the baggage from the past? Cleaned all those skeletons out of the closet, only to find there was yet another piece to be cleared?

Well, that was my experience this past week. And boy, was it a doozy!
I thought I had done all my clearing of the past. However, last week, at a family reunion, I discovered another deep wound needing to be healed and brought into the light.   

This was not your ordinary family reunion. This was a “soul” family reunion, many of us meeting for the first time. As those of us who already knew each other hugged, one of my sisters greeted me, telling me how relaxed and beautiful I looked. Yes, beautiful. 

“Me?” I questioned. “Really?”

“Yes you," she replied adamantly. “Don’t you see it?”

I was definitely feeling more relaxed since the last time we were together, that was true, but beautiful? I wasn’t feeling THAT. As she persisted, I finally said I was flattered, but just did not see what she saw. On the verge of tears, I tried to change the subject. 

She was one of three people that day who told me how beautiful I looked. Yet I was not able to own that compliment. 

Serendipitously, through a series of God-incidences the next day, I realized that my feelings of unworthiness stemmed from the need to shine light on one of my oldest relationships. My relationship with my father. 

I sat down and wrote my dad a letter – a letter that would never be mailed - pouring out all of the hurts, all of the anguish. Decades of unprocessed memories of not feeling accepted or loved filled the page as I let the pain out, flowing like white waters in a turbulent river, unable to stop until they were completely emptied onto the page. Before now, I believed because I had intellectually processed my hurt, I was done with that work. But until my heart was cracked wide open, the way it was then and there, no mental justification was going to make me whole.

The details of my experience with my dad do not matter here. What does matter and bear sharing, is that the things that hurt, the things we hide and hold deep in our hearts, are the things that hold us back and keep us from shining our true beauty and light. Allowing the sadness to come out, to feel the hurt and pain, was necessary in order to embrace my authentic self.  

The next and last day of our reunion, I had made some new, intimate friends. As I walked towards my seat on that final day, one of them stopped me and said “Do you know how pretty you are? And you are not wearing any make-up either, are you?”

“Thank you.” I replied. I paused and looked her in the eyes. “You have no idea how meaningful those words are to me right now.” 

As I walked back to my seat, another woman stopped me with a similar compliment. 

Another illusion had been shattered. And miraculously, embracing the reality of all of it felt liberating and wonderful!

Just then, the music started to play again. As Abba’s Dancing Queen started to play, I grabbed my new friend’s hands and said “let’s go!” I was ready to own who I was, all of it, and it felt great.

Am I there yet? Time will tell. But for now, I am ready to shine a whole lot brighter!


Our Unborn Children's Souls Speak to Us

I will remember this day as long as I live. November 22, 2003. This was the day I first glimpsed my daughter, whom I chose to abort in July 1992.

I was at a retreat, trying to heal myself of the deep wounds still within me from the abortion I’d had over a decade earlier. Our first task was to carry a heavy rock everywhere we went, even the toilet and shower, to get the physical sensation of the emotional burden we were suffering.

I woke that November morning, in tears, determined to move forward. I carried my rock with me to breakfast and decided then and there that I would not succumb to this heaviness any longer. I went to the chapel in the retreat house, put my rock on the altar and fell to my knees.

“Dear God!” I cried. “I am so, so sorry for what I’ve done. I am so sorry.” And I burst into tears, my body heaving with each sob.

Almost instantly, in my mind’s eye I saw my little girl. She was about three years old. I saw her laughing and playing in a beautiful sunlit meadow with other children. I knew she was my daughter, with the same color of dark blond hair and same light blue eyes. She was skipping and dancing in nature. She was happy!

In those moments of releasing my pent-up emotions, the liberation of my spirit began.

Later that day, our retreat leaders led us through a guided visualization where we walked into a meadow — the same meadow I had seen in my earlier vision — to meet our children. What a gift I was given to have “seen” her before this group exercise. It allowed me to trust myself and to know that all was well for us both.

It has been many years since that first experience of meeting my unborn daughter. I named her Mary for the purity, innocence and love I saw and felt from her. I take a retreat once a year or so, and every time I do, she shows up for me. I no longer feel sadness, pain or angst when I think of her, I feel her spirit with me as one of love and tenderness.

As I reflect upon James Van Praagh’s theory that our unborn children are here to help us with our soul’s lessons, I feel Mary’s presence around me, urging me forward. I know that she was willing to delay her entrance on earth so I could learn my lessons. It was, and is, a gift of love.

In a world where abortion is so greatly stigmatized and death is so abhorrent to us, this transformation has been truly miraculous.

This perspective is a gift. I can see my abortion in a different light, one that makes perfect sense and is good for all. And I can pay forward this love best by allowing in the lessons she is teaching me as every year goes by.  

Mary’s soul has been speaking to mine for a long time.

Can you hear your children whispering to you? Can you open yourself to their love? What are your children’s souls saying to you? Take a moment to remember your experience, step back and observe your true feelings. Once you open your heart to your authentic feelings, the listening becomes easier.





Safety, Not Secrets

Do you have secrets? Most of us do. We keep secrets for a variety of reasons. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. We don’t want to open ourselves up to criticism or judgment. Sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge the shadow part of ourselves. For me, the secret I kept of my abortion falls into those last two categories.

Our world is full of judgment of others. We judge the way people dress, their mannerisms, the jobs they have, their friends and family dynamics.  Many of us were raised in personally limiting environments, taught to believe the only way to have it all is to be the best in a world of scarcity. In that paradigm, nobody wins. With that message, we lean towards judgment as a way of feeling better about ourselves.

I read about caring for children who have suffered from trauma. One of the best things adults can do for these children is give them a safe place, a place where they know they are protected. Without that safe place, they will stay afraid and be unable to heal.

How that resonated with me! I stayed in fear - lived in fear - for over ten years, unable to find support to help me heal from my choice of abortion when I was 29 years old. How many of us could have benefitted from having a safe place to heal from abortion?

It's confusing really - there are judgments from all sides, from people who are "pro-life" and people who are "pro-choice". Whether it is because of judgmental attitudes or actual violence, there are few safe places for a woman who needs to release her feelings, whatever they may be. 

It happened to me many years ago, in my gynecologist's office. I decided to talk to her about my abortion. She was pro-choice and made it very clear to me that she thought I had made a perfectly legitimate choice and I should simply put it behind me and try to forget it. Why should I think any more about it? By the time I left her office, I felt like an overly sensitive adolescent girl.  She must be right! I was determined to “just get over it” and not look back.

The problem was, in a world that seeks to preserve life at all costs and is more frightened by death that anything else, how could I “just get over it”?  

Over time, physical and emotional symptoms became chronic conditions. I built up quite a medical file over those years. Until I allowed my grief, shame and sadness out, I could not be a healthy and whole person. 

I have done years of work to come to a feeling of peace and freedom about my choice to have an abortion. But something that helped me the most is knowing that I am not alone. In sharing our stories, we not only give each other community, but we allow each other to be our authentic selves, and by doing that, we create a safe place.  

We are one in every three women you meet. Chances are good you know many of us already. We may be your girlfriends, your best friend, your mother or your daughter. Let's create a safe place for healing, where we can end the isolation and open the door to peace and freedom.

"It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” St. Francis of Assisi.





The Twins, A Lesson in Ackowledging Repressed Feelings

I do not remember birthdays very well. Anniversaries even less. But there is one birthday/anniversary that I always remember.

The twins across the street were born five months after my husband and I moved into our first home. We left a gift on their doorstep shortly after their birth, but since it was January, snowy, and both parents worked, we rationalized that a visit should wait. It did not occur to me at the time that my baby would have been born that same month, if I had not had an abortion seven months earlier.

I had repressed my experience immediately. But somewhere in my mind I knew, because I put off meeting the twins for a number of months. It was virtually unavoidable come spring, when everyone was outside, anxious to be in the fresh air after the harsh, cold winter. 

For the next four years, my husband and I were cordial, but not much more. These same neighbors invited us over for drinks and dessert upon occasion, doing their best to build community in the neighborhood. It wasn’t until we decided to have our own children that I finally opened up to the friendship offered by our neighbors.

In 1997, I had a daughter, then in 1998, a son, four and six years younger, respectively, than the twins. But the age difference did not matter. The twins were like siblings to my kids and we became very close over the grade school years. 

A beautiful relationship evolved between our families, and one that would become bittersweet for me over time as I began to allow the repressed pieces of my life to come into the light.

A miscarriage in 2003 rocked my world, reminding me of the abortion I had eleven years earlier, before I was a friend to the twins and a mother to my own children. As a devout Catholic, I was shaken to my core thinking about what I had done. And looking at my own children, knowing the miracle and beauty of them did not make it any easier. In acknowledging the totality of that choice, I realized for the first time that the twins were born in the same month as my baby would have been born. 

I wondered at the coincidence of being neighbors with these children, who were living and breathing in this physical world the way my own daughter might have been if she had been born. This knowledge was tremendously painful, and the following two years, especially, on the twins’ birthdays, it was hard to accept. 

The third year, something shifted.
Instead of living in the past, wondering what my own child might be doing, my perspective changed. I saw that God in His truly infinite wisdom had given me a chance to know extraordinary young people at a time I did not believe I deserved it, while simultaneously allowing my children to know the love of “older siblings”. 

It blows my mind to see how something once so painful to me could be made right, all the while, unbeknownst to those taking part.

The twins are at college, and we have moved away. But their family will always hold a special place in my heart and the hearts of my children. 

That is the miracle that I live with now.

Women who have chosen abortions are as worthy of these miracles as anyone else. All it takes is a step back to look at life through a new lense.

Do you have an annviersary story? Or a new perspective? Where are the miracles in your life that you have missed?


Abortion Can Be the Consequence of Other Problems in Our Society (updated 9/9/13)

My children and I moved to California from Massachusetts when my youngest son was in first grade. He was new and very shy, so every day before school, I would wait with him for the first bell to ring. The school yard opened at 7:45, and the bell rang for first period at 8:07. His classmate Sierra and I became buddies that year. I could not tell you why, but we simply connected.

As it got closer to winter, Sierra would often come to school without a jacket. In Northern California where we now lived, it could be cold in the mornings, sometimes in the 40’s. Most kids had a jacket of some sort, even if it was just a sweatshirt, but not Sierra. Many days she would come to school with a cute little sundress on, bare legs and sandals on her feet, despite the low morning temperatures.

She shivered, whimpered and sometimes cried from the cold.

It pained me to see her some days. Often I would lend her my sweatshirt or simply wrap my arms around her to warm her up. I felt sad for her and wondered what her home life was like. 

Then winter came, and still, seldom a coat on Sierra. Or hat. Or mittens. While it wasn’t the cold winters I was used to from back east, the temperatures could drop into the high 20’s first thing in the morning. I continued to lend her my sweatshirt, and we would shiver together as we waited for school to begin.

I did not meet Sierra’s mom until the end of the school year. I learned then that she, like me, was a single mom of three. She worked nights as a nurse and came home to get the kids off to school before crashing to sleep herself. She had no other support system, from parents or an ex-husband. She did it all on her own.

In the United States, there are millions of mothers like her who raise their kids without any support from a father. I am grateful to have child support payments. But there are many, many others who do not have that assistance.

In addition to the number of single moms trying to make it on their own, the United States has the second highest child poverty rate of all developed nations in the world. Recent statistics indicate that 23% of our nation’s children, or approximately 16.4 million kids, live below the poverty line of $22,000 income per year.

Millions of our nation’s and the world’s children are born into a world of scarcity. 

Child abuse statistics are equally sobering. According to statistics put out by Child Help, the United States has the worst record of any industrialized nation in the area of child abuse – every day five children are lost to abuse-related deaths. Every year, there are 3.3 million reports of child abuse involving 6 million children in our country.

Many of our nation’s children do not grow up feeling safe. 

Given these statistics that indicate we cannot adequately care for human life already in existence, it is astounding that we are so quick to judge women who choose abortion.

Raising a child today is very hard. Many women know by experience. 

Maybe the choice to abort is not just for self-preservation of the mother, but one we believe will be the best protection for a child in a world that is far from perfect. 

Until we have been on the other side, who are we to say? 





Transcending Religious and Political Issues with Spirituality

As a woman who has had an abortion, for many years I struggled with who I was and what I had done. I believe in the sacredness of life, yet I also believe that life can be very hard. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, yet I have a hard time killing a bee. Am I pro-choice or pro-life? Am I both or neither? And how can that be?

Having been a devout Catholic, as well as businesswoman, I can relate to and understand both sides. As a woman who had an abortion, neither side gives me solace about my choice. It is virtually impossible to feel secure in a world where so much hatred exists with regard to this issue.

Despite the contradictions, I have discovered a place of safety, freedom and serenity from my past.

Dr. Brian Weiss wrote in Messages From the Masters that we choose our parents. When I first read that almost two years ago, something shifted in me. Does this mean that my children, even my unborn children, chose me to be their mother?

I have had one abortion and one miscarriage, so I have two babies living in spirit. It was one thing to think philosophically about my three living children and this teaching, but what about my unborn?

Six months after reading every one of Dr. Weiss’ books searching for more answers, through a serendipitous encounter with a former high school classmate, I was led to James Van Praagh’s book, Growing Up in Heaven. Mr. Van Praagh must have heard my question, for he answers it in this book. Although there are less than two pages in it devoted to abortions and miscarriages, he writes that “both souls (the unborn and the mother’s) have agreed that they will go through this experience for growth.” He also writes in the case of abortions that they “are lessons for the mother to learn self-love and self-worth”. 

My life took new meaning and required more and different exploration when I came to consider these principles. I believe we are indeed souls occupying a physical body. With this basic premise in mind, it is obvious that there is a whole other world outside of the physical reality we live in that transcends the limitations of our third dimensional living. 

It seems impossible that the struggle between the political and the religious will ever end. But in my own life, the war is over. The struggle in my human consciousness no longer holds sway over me. In my moments of connectedness with the Divine, I am grateful that I have been able to receive the gift of these lessons marked by an infusion of deep and profound love. I hope that as I share my story, others who struggle will come to find peace in knowing they are deeply loved as well. 




How Childhood Experiences Can Cause Us to be Fearful

The New York Times bestseller, Waking Up in Heaven, chronicles the life of Crystal McVea, a Christian wife and mother from Oklahoma. Her book reminds us yet again that EVERYONE has a story.

Her story confirms my observation that our childhood experiences can deeply impact our choices as adults. Those experiences can make us feel worthless and unlovable. So many times, we do not realize that we feel this way, because this was our normal. It may have been very dysfunctional. Yet it is the only “normal” we know.

Will my child be ok? 

As I have gotten to know other women who have chosen abortion, I have found with those that I have had substantive conversations, fears stemming from childhood experiences, giving rise to feelings of panic in having their own child. Will my child be abused, despite my best intentions? Will he or she live in poverty? Will they know authentic, expressive love?

Several women I have met were abused as children, physically and/or emotionally. Others were raised in extreme poverty. Still others experienced unusual loss, illness or death of a parent, sibling or close friend. My grandmother, for instance, lost her father when she was nine years old, and lived most of her childhood not knowing where she might have to move to next to find food and work. When I thought about her life experience, was it really so surprising that she had an abortion during the Great Depression?

We all have a story. 

Our world is still an imperfect place. Children are still abused and live in poverty. Women are still not in equal standing with men in positions of leadership. And when it comes to having families, whether you are a man or a woman, there is still lack of legislation (in the US) that adequately protects family life.

I believe the pro-life and pro-choice movements ultimately want the same thing – a reduction in the need for and rate of abortion. Certainly, I think this is what women want. I have yet to meet a woman who wanted to have an abortion. Perhaps if we were able to address more of the basic needs of children and families, abortion (along with a myriad of other social issues), might be greatly reduced.

And then, perhaps, both sides might get what they really want in the first place.

Everyone has a story. It’s time to make those stories better for our kids and future generations.