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.


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