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?