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Why We Need to Own Our Greatness

I had been swimming for 10 minutes in the pool when a woman ten or perhaps fifteen years my senior asked if she could share my lane with me. There were at least three other lanes with a single swimmer in them, so she had other options to choose from. When I answered that yes, of course I’d be happy to share my space with her, she explained that she was a very slow swimmer and hoped I wouldn’t be bothered by how slow she was. In that moment, I suddenly felt sorry for her.

It took less than two laps for me to turn that feeling into a pity party for myself.


She was actually quite a good swimmer. She was clearly faster and more expert at swimming than I. Within a couple of laps she had caught up to me. Another lap later, she had passed me.

Every four to five laps after that, she was passing me again.

What was my problem? How could a woman who was noticeably older and in her own words, "very slow", crushing me in the pool?


I have always loved to swim, but it’s only been in the last four months that I have made time in my weekly routine to do this past-time. I have been super proud of myself for slowly increasing my swim distance over the last four months to what is now just over a mile in one session.

I have shared lanes with other swimmers as I have progressed in my journey: some have been faster and others slower. Knowing I was a beginner going for endurance and distance, I didn’t mind sharing a lane. I managed to stay competitive with myself and was proud of how I was advancing.

Until today.

What made the difference on this day?

This woman’s self-declared diminishing of her talent triggered my own insecurities. If she was as very slow as she said, why was she swimming circles around me? If she was “very slow”, what the heck was I? Downright sluggish was one of the first things to come to mind. Slower than a turtle quickly followed that thought!


It takes me a good forty-five minutes to swim my mile and an eighth. Instead of relaxing into the meditative state that I normally sink into with each lap, my monkey brain was working overtime that day, berating me for not moving faster.

It took me all of that time to realize that her declaration was her “stuff” that she was dealing with and not something that was a reflection of me at all. But as I was showering and getting dressed after finishing my swim, the real “aha” moment occurred.

How many times I have done just the same thing as she did?

How many times have I not owned my greatness or talents for something I did, and in return made someone else feel diminished or less than?

When we own our greatness, we give others permission to own theirs.


We all shine brighter when we own our gifts. We are happier, more connected and more accepting of others when we acknowledge the truth of whom we are.

Let me ask you this: who would you want to hang out with more? Someone who beats themselves up all the time and lives in a state of “I am not enough”, or someone who lives from a place having a heart full of joy and gratitude for who they are?

I have lived in both worlds – in fact, most of my life was spent in the world of “I am not enough.” I had some wonderful friends, some of whom lived in the same state of not feeling enough on their own too. You know the saying, misery loves company? Well, that can be very true and I had quite a full “house” of people who thoroughly enjoyed sharing their woes.

Now, that I have put the past, including my pregnancy losses and those woebegone friends behind me, I have found a place of being where not only am I enough, but where I am pretty darn excellent at a number of things. I would rather live in this place of excellence and teach my children to reside in this same place of knowing that they are pretty freaking awesome too, than that place of feeling “less than” where I spent a good part of my life.


How about you? What are your gifts? Where is your greatness? And are you hiding those amazing talents?

Maybe it is in your smile, your laugh, or a twinkle in your eyes. Maybe it is a talent for acting, for being smart, for athletic prowess or sense of humor.

Whatever it is, will you take that in? Will you give your children, your friends, your partner, and your family permission to shine brightly too?


Take my word for it – standing firmly in the knowledge of your own greatness is THE best place in the world to live!


Namaste.

 

Are You Ready for Rebirth?


“Where is the man with the drugs?” I demanded. “You are all lying to me aren’t you? You say he’s coming, but he’s not, is he? You’re all full of it!”

I should state here that this was not one of my finest moments during the delivery of my second child and biggest baby. This week he will be sixteen. If you read last week’s blog, you know his younger brother was also born in October, so January seems to have been a particularly fertile month for me!


Born on October 17, 1998, he was 8 pounds 11 ½ ounces when he made his way into the world three days past his due date. Even though he took his time deciding when he was ready to be born, once he made the choice, he was here faster than you say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Well, almost.

Just before he was born, I remember screaming, “Get it out, get it out now!” as I pushed him through the birth canal. I had not been prepared for a natural birth, or such a large baby. I had never felt such excruciating pain before in my life.

Moments later I was holding a beautiful, healthy baby boy in my arms. From extraordinary pain to utter bliss in an instant!


As I look back on the last sixteen years with my oldest son, and especially his birth, I can see how so much of my transformation after my pregnancy losses required a similar dedication and desire. One of my book mentors talks about how writing a book is like birthing a baby. Transforming your pain into love after a pregnancy loss is not much different.

First, it’s important to consciously choose to heal the pain, numbness or isolation that you are living with, just like it’s important to consciously choose to have a baby when you are ready. I was most conscious of my choice to have this child, as I knew what parenting was like already from having a daughter. My son was conceived during the week of his grandmother's death - another example of pain and grief being transformed into love. Making the decision, myself, whether choosing to have a baby or anything else that requires effort, is a critical part of a successful outcome. Choosing to heal and to move on is not for the faint of heart. You have to really want to move forward for your feelings of forgiveness to take root. No one can make this choice for you.

Secondly, it does take time. Just like having a baby or writing a book, transforming your way of living with loss requires a different way of being and one that takes time to learn. It’s a special kind of journey: one where we need to be gentle and patient with ourselves. Some things need to marinate a bit before they are ready to be felt, seen or talked about. There were moments when I was pregnant, I couldn't wait to see my baby boy. But we both needed the time we had to prepare not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. There's no hurry.

Thirdly, it’s important to know that there will be moments when it’s hard to stay the course, and you will want and need support. There were moments of extreme morning sickness, and then of course, wanting drugs at his birth. There is a sisterhood of women out there who have been through pregnancy loss and can help others get through this often emotionally difficult path. One in every three women will have had an abortion in their lifetime. One in every two women will experience a miscarriage. There are lots of women who can help you navigate the current and stay the course to achieve wholeness. We are here for you.

Lastly, it’s vital to see a vision of what can be once the grieving and healing has taken place. I held a vision of my new baby and my new family in my heart and my mind during the tough times of pregnancy. For healing after pregnancy loss, it's a little harder, but based on the statistics, there are a ton of us at some point in the cycle. I’ve met a few women in my life who were willing to talk about this and show me the end game after going through all the shame, guilt, and pain. However, I have found many who were willing to live a half-hearted life afterwards because it was far easier to live in a way that was known and comfortable than to take the risk to release the grief. When we share with each other, we help ourselves AND our sisters on the path.

I want for you what I have found for myself – a whole hearted, joy-filled life complete with meaning and intention.

Who is ready to rebirth themselves?

Who wants to live boldly, love joyfully, and be loved fully?

I hope everyone reading this post raised their hand and shouted out loud “ME!”


Namaste.

By the way, here is the link to tonight's show with Mama Char. I hope you enjoy the show!

My Miracle Baby (edited 10/8/14)

Have you heard the famous Eleanor Roosevelt phrase, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do?” There is one time in particular in my life when I felt that thought run through me in a terrifyingly “I can’t survive this” kind of way.

Well, let me tell you, there is a BIG upside to doing the thing you think you cannot do.


Before I share what that was, I need to give you a little history…


A month earlier I had had a miscarriage. It was my fourth pregnancy and would have been my third child. As if the miscarriage itself, which took over a week to complete, was not painful enough, when I woke up in the recovery room at the end of that long week, I was suddenly transported back in my mind to the clinic where I’d had an abortion eleven years earlier.

At that time of my miscarriage, my husband was going to seminary school at nights to become a Catholic deacon, and the pressure I felt from my religious upbringing and his new vocation created incredible tension and anxiety in me and between us, to keep my secret. Although I did not know it at the time, our abortion was a reason that could have precluded his ordination. He was disconnected from our marriage in every way. I was in overwhelm and alone in parenting our two young children and now I had two dead babies I needed to grieve for, but could not. When I left for a healing retreat a month after my miscarriage, my husband sent me off with very clear instructions – “Do whatever you need to do to fix yourself and pull this family back together.” I was breathing and barely alive, but spiritually and energetically I was close to dying. 

At that retreat, I had to acknowledge that if I was going to survive, I would need to tell my story. I would need to say what I did out loud. And then, when that was done, I would need to acknowledge my unborn children and bring closure in a ritual similar to a funeral.

I had to choose. It was my life or death. Could I do the thing that I thought I could not do? 


To my great surprise and utter relief, I discovered that releasing the story and its attendant emotions brought me peace, relief and a new support network I never knew existed. My shadow side was exposed; my dark side was bared for the other women at our retreat to see. This opened a door to a non-judgmental love I had not experienced in a long time. Contrary to my thinking, my vulnerability and full disclosure did not make them hate me – just the opposite. I was welcomed into a hospitable and loving community unlike any I had ever known.

Two and a half months later, after doing these things I did not think I could do, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. 

At age 41, he was my miracle baby and a symbol of healing for all the inner work I had done at that retreat. I learned that good things have room to grow when the toxic emotions are released. I had created space for a new beginning, for both of my baby and myself. 


That little guy was born on October 12, 2004. In five days, he will be ten years old. Thank you my “I love you more” guy for all the lessons you have brought to me. Mama Chop loves you to the moon and back again.


Namaste.

 

PS: Next Tuesday at 6 pm PST I have the honor and privilege of being interviewed by Mama Char on her show, The Quirky World of Mama Char on Blog Talk radio. I will post the link on when it will air.


And…my new website is almost complete! Hurray! I hope you will catch my blog next week at www.unborn angels.com/blog.


Thank you!



 

What We Resist Does Indeed Persist


Do you experience struggle in your life?

And how does that affect your children?
This past weekend, Oprah had clinical psychologist and conscious parenting expert Dr. Shefali Tsabary as her guest on her popular TV show, Lifeclass. In a segment on sibling rivalry, Dr. Shefali asked one of the parents who complained about the arguments between her boys what battles she had in her own life. Talk about cutting to the chase! This mother knew right away exactly what she meant. Instantly, we learned about her recent life and death battle with metastatic breast cancer. Her inner struggles were being reflected outwardly through the sibling rivalry between her children.

As Carl C. Jung says “What you resist, persists”, and those hurdles tend to show up in the lives of the people and environment closest to us.

Last December a study on the relationship between traumatic events and inheritance was reported by the BBC. The findings provide evidence of "transgenerational epigenetic inheritance" which means that the environment can affect an individual's genetics, which can in turn be passed on.” Now science is beginning to see that our unhealed wounds may be showing up in the future generations that are born from our genetic inheritance. Now that’s an eye-opener to me!

There is another scientific phenomenon that I have recently learned about called microchimerism. Microchimerism is when two genetically distinct cell populations are found in the same individual. It happens most often from pregnancy. Scientists have found that fetal cells can linger in the uterus years after the pregnancy is over, whether by pregnancy loss or birth. These cells can be found in the mothers, twins, or even siblings born many years later.  
To apply that theory into perspective to my life, my grandmother had an abortion prior to the birth of my mother. It is very possible that the cells from the aborted pregnancy were not only in my grandmother, but also shared with my mother, her next child. I have recently learned that I may have had a missing twin in utero that miscarried early in my mother’s pregnancy with me. Do I carry cells from my lost sister in my body? The possibilities are incredible to think about. This is a different situation than transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, but both ideas raise the same questions:
  • How much awareness do we have of our ancestors’ lives on a physical level?
  • Is it an accident that my grandmother had an abortion and I, her grandchild, did also?
  • Is there healing that I can do to minimize this possibility happening in my daughter or granddaughter or great grand-daughter's life down the road?

  • Plus how much of my ancestors’ stress and trauma do I carry in my body and how much of that, plus my own, am I passing down to my own children?  

I don’t know the answer to these questions… yet. But I do know that what I take charge of and heal myself from not only helps me be a happier and aligned human being, it also has the potential to do that for my descendents as well.
Wherever our pain lies, in secrets or shame from our past, I believe the greatest hope for the future lies in healing ourselves first. And then, finally, what does not persist, cannot exist.
 
Namaste.

Desperately Seeking Acceptance

 

My upcoming book, How My Unborn Children Saved My Life, is a spiritual story of my journey to wholeness. It navigates the terrain of abortion and narcissism and how my unborn children led me to find my way out of a world of unhealthy behaviors.

Often we do not realize how broken we are and it takes an earth-shattering event to shake us from the world of illusion that we live in. 

We are born and raised into a world that over time becomes our “normal” way of living. Yet we can become so disconnected from the truth of who we are that we have little hope of discovering who we truly are without a crisis to ignite our transformation. 

I recently met two women who grew up in a household where narcissism was their mothers’ defining character trait. Both of these women were givers and both of them wanted more than anything else to be loved and acknowledged by their parents. And yet their mothers were so self-centered that it was impossible for them to clearly see their daughters and recognize their needs. I understood their stories well. Their stories were so similar to my own. 

I realize as I come full circle in my own life and understand why I made certain choices, why my life brought me in the directions it did. I understand that as human beings we all have one thing in common:

We desire acknowledgment and love from our parents. 

Our unborn children are no different.

I believe whether we have had an abortion or we have lost children through miscarriage, they are spiritual beings who chose us as their parents. They saw a beauty and light in us that made them want to be a part of our lives. 

Part of the healing journey from our pregnancy losses is their healing journey as well. They desire what we also desire – acknowledgement and love from their parents. 

It makes sense, doesn’t it? How many of us strived for a good part of our lives wanting to be seen and cherished by our parents? How many of us studied to get straight A’s or perhaps even developed a negative behavior just to get our parents’ attention? I think it is an unusual human being who has not been caught up in wanting such recognition. 

Why would our spirit children, our unborn angels, be any different?

The moment I connected with my unborn children, my life began to change. The heaviness in my being lifted and my transformational journey began.  

In fact, opening up to the bond of my unborn has led me to a deeper connection with my embodied children. Both my born and unborn children have taught me so much. The very least I can do is acknowledge and thank them for it.


Namaste.

Why We Really Need to Tell Our Stories


My good friend and author Susan Westbrook, of the extraordinary new book The Five TibetansYoga Workshop, believes that “We tell our story so others will tell theirs.” It is in telling our story that we give others permission not only to tell theirs, but if we do it right, sharing with an open heart and deep vulnerability, then they will share their story the same way.

But sharing our stories honestly and with integrity isn’t always easy to do.

Last week, at a conference of transformational leaders and visionaries from around the globe, I had the opportunity to speak to the concern of being vulnerable and authentic in storytelling.

I shared with the audience how difficult that experience was for me. I wrote no less than six drafts of my story for the Amazon bestseller, Pebbles in the Pond –Wave 2. I think the actual number was eight, with the final version coming out in draft nine. Each draft took me deeper into the land of vulnerability and opening my heart. Each draft brought me closer to the truth of who I was. You see, by committing to writing this story, I had also made a commitment to myself. Sharing my story has certainly given others a place of comfort in sharing theirs, but it also gave me a chance to know myself better; to take responsibility for my life, and to finally begin to live as an empowered woman, not a victim.

Writing and sharing my story was a spiritual practice; one that brought me profound inner healing. 

What I didn’t share at the conference last week was that writing my story was not something I consciously chose to do. Just like being awoken from the repressed feelings of my abortion when I had a miscarriage, the sharing of my story was something that chose me.

I spent years doing the inner work I needed to do to heal from my abortion. And yet each time I thought I was done with it, I received a message from the Universe gently letting me know that there was still much more work around this subject that needed to be addressed. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t escape it. My grandmother’s confession was my first realization of that, but over time the message was felt in other ways as well.

Never in a million years did I imagine I would write about pregnancy loss, abortion and our unborn children – definitely all of them suppressed, stigmatized and “woo woo” subjects. I was forty years old before I knew that my life’s work would include a significant component of energy around these experiences. Even then I did not envision that I would be writing about them for the whole world to read.

But this thing that I did not imagine, it kept coming back to me. Just when I thought I was done dealing with my abortion, my unborn daughter, or my grandmother’s startling news she shared with me, these events would weave their way into my prayers and dreams and remind me of their presence, of their stories and of their love.

Yes, it is true that I tell my story so others can more easily tell theirs. I also tell my story as a conduit so that my grandmother’s story and my unborn daughter’s presence can be acknowledged and appreciated. You see, for in doing so, in listening to the inner promptings to open my heart and let out the good, the bad, and the ugly, I find I am transformed as well.

Thank you Mor-Mor and Mary, for reminding me of this fact last week.

Namaste.

 

Why Take Sides?


It was on my mind for years. Literally. Am I pro-choice or pro-life? I used to wonder what was wrong with me that I couldn’t pick a side and stay with it.
 
And you know what was wrong with me?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

When it comes to the topic of choice where life is concerned, taking a side seems like the only way to go. Abortion isn’t the only part of life where this decision comes up. What about euthanasia or doctor assisted suicide? Are these issues really so straightforward and uncomplicated?

Before I had an abortion, I was pro-choice, although with the stipulation that it was something I believed in for other people and it was not something I would ever do. Can you feel my judgment oozing out of those words?


Even after my abortion, it made me feel better to believe that I had a right to choose what to do with my body. It validated the experience for me. My choice – my responsibility, but also my justification.

But then a miscarriage activated memories from the abortion that I couldn’t escape and I found myself beginning the process of healing from my abortion.  

At this point, I made a 180 degree turn around from my previous pro-choice stance and became pro-life. Healing was hard work and I had repressed a lot of negative emotions. Releasing all that toxicity was excruciating. I wanted to save anyone else from the trauma I experienced. At the time, a devout Roman Catholic, I confessed and repented my choice. In many ways, becoming pro-life was a way of restitution for me.


But atoning for my choice didn’t open me up to the whole story of my life and why I made that choice in the first place. It blinded me to the deeper parts of my story and kept me in shame – for I was continuing to judge myself.

The truth is I had my own issues to resolve around worthiness and self-esteem. And I am finding that so do many, many others, both men and women.

I met a woman the other day who told me she moved to California from New York forty years ago. When I asked her what brought her out here, she shared in lengthy detail the traumas of her childhood, still fresh in her mind like they had happened yesterday. The anger, bitterness, and resentment after all this time were still raw for her. Most of us aren’t that expressive, especially to a complete stranger, yet many of us hold onto some very deep childhood hurts for far too long.

Am I pro-life? You bet. I believe most of us believe in the sanctity of life. It is sacred and beautiful and miraculous. Just think about how any of us came to be here – who could ever have imagined an egg and a sperm united to create each one of us?

Am I pro-choice? You bet. We all deserve the right to choose what to do with our bodies and our lives are precious too. Do I have any less right to live my life on my terms than anyone else?

In the over two decades since my abortion, I have been on both sides of this conversation. What I have found after being in both places is that I actually am in reality in both places. I value life AND I believe in a person’s right to choose.
 
I have been studying abortion for over a decade and what I have concluded is that there isn’t a person I have yet to meet who isn’t both pro-life and pro-choice. We think that abortion, like euthanasia, war, poverty, and violence, is a black and white issue… but it’s not. It’s full of story, nuance and lots of gray areas. Maybe the real story behind this question is not which side we are on, but what we do to honor the life that is here already.

Namaste.

 

PS: Here is a link to a short movie (21 minutes) with actor James Cromwell that I saw this week about taking sides. It’s current and powerful. Can you imagine a world where we lived in unity instead of separation? http://bit.ly/1vT5Jcu

 

Lessons From A Flat Tire On The Streets of San Francisco

Do you ever feel like life is handing you one batch of lemons after another? Last week, was one of those weeks in my house.

It began with our cars. My teenagers have fourteen year old cars. They are meant to get them back and forth to school and don’t get too many miles put on them. Because insurance for teenagers costs an arm and a leg, rating them on older cars with minimal coverage was a whole lot cheaper than rating them on my car and juggling everyone’s logistical needs.

Last week, what seemed like a minor repair to my son’s car, took over a week of waiting for a part, while at the same time my daughter’s car was waiting (and she, not so patiently) to get into the shop to be fixed. The ongoing pod racer sounds emitting from its engine were one thing, but the grinding noises every time she made a turn were becoming a more serious cause for concern. Just as we seemed to be getting their cars all figured out, I had my own little “situation!”

One of my former neighbors from Massachusetts was on the west coast visiting San Francisco and had called a few days earlier to let us know she was in town. About to enter her senior year of college, she has been an important and pivotal person in my life for many years, and I really wanted to see her. Unfortunately, I had to cancel an appointment I had made weeks earlier with very little notice in order to make this visit happen. There was no question that I wouldn’t find a way to see her. My seventeen year old daughter and I were driving through San Francisco that morning to rendezvous with my friend when I made a tactical driving error, blowing out my front passenger side tire.


Damn!

The road had forked into two pieces and I was in the right lane, not sure of where to be at the divide. As I stayed right, it looked as if the road was going to take me off course, so I looked in my mirror, saw I had room to turn left, not noticing that there was precious little space to make the move without hitting the beginning of the curb dividing the two parts of the road. Sure enough, I hit the curb in that perfect sweet spot and immediately heard the telltale pop release of air from the tire upon impact.

I knew I couldn’t make it far without damaging the tire rims, so I took the first turn off the busy road that was available to me… which happened to be up a hill. But what else is there in San Francisco, but hills?

It was obvious that I wasn’t going to easily find flat ground anywhere. Inwardly I cursed myself out for making such a stupid mistake, while outwardly I struggled to put on an optimistic face for my daughter.

As we were stopped at the side of the road, I found a garage with tenant parking in a driveway and backed up into it. After calling our roadside service and learning it might take 45 minutes or so to be back on the road, and knowing we only had only a short window of time to see our friend, I said to my daughter, “Let’s do this ourselves.”

She hesitated as I pulled out the equipment and spare tire. When she saw me reach for the car manual with directions, I am not sure what she thought!

Half paralyzed with thoughts of “Is this safe? What if the person who lives here needs to get their car out to go to work?”, I realized that I was only wasting time – time that could be much better spent doing something other than being stuck in my head worrying about what “might” happen. 

Car manual in one hand, jack in the other, we figured it out.

Just as we finished installing the spare tire, the roadside service arrived, checked our work, gave us a big thumbs up and we were back on track. We managed to make our breakfast reservation about 25 minutes late, and enjoyed well over an hour catching up with our dear friend. Just like old times (minus the flat tire part).

The old me was lurking in the back of my mind that day, wanting to feel sorry for herself and say it was all her own damn fault for getting the flat tire. I felt her there. I knew, too, that there was a stronger and wiser woman in this body – one that knew she could change a tire, knew that she could create a more desirable outcome, not only for myself but as an example to my daughter.

I have beaten myself up over so many things in my life, and have wasted so much time while doing this damaging practice. Living in a space of negativity and bashing myself, I can’t possibly find a creative solution to my problem: I am too busy whacking myself upside the head! The flat tire last week was a reminder to me that I can course correct. There is nothing to be gained by self-flagellation, but everything to be gained by positive thinking.

And who is to say if I really made a mistake in the first place? Perhaps learning to change a flat tire will serve my daughter or myself well in another situation in the future, maybe in a time of more crisis than just being late for breakfast.

It’s amazing how your perspective and your thoughts can make all the difference in the world, even if it’s just dealing with a flat tire.

Namaste. 

A Missing Link in Women's Sexuality


Do you read self-help or self-empowerment books? A lot of women do and there are some great titles and subject matter to choose from in the marketplace. Some of my favorites from the past year are Patricia Davis’ book The Diva Doctrine, wake-up call life coach Amy Ahler’s Big Fat Lies Women Tell Themselves, and Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts by Regina Thomashauer. Not only are these books incredibly useful, but each author is simultaneously entertaining and vulnerable – a necessary and winning mix.
I recently finished reading Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. It was published in 2002 and was ahead of its time in what she had to share with the readers about how to live a rich and joy-filled life. In her chapter on Sensual Pleasure, she writes “Women are taught to have a lot of shame about their sensuality. Sensuality and pleasure are areas that most women don’t talk about, don’t feel comfortable with.”

As a former Catholic, I was taught that my female body was created for only one purpose – to procreate. I learned about how it worked in fourth grade health class and that was the extent of most of my sexual education. I love reading these types of books and discovering new insights from other women’s experience, because they are so different than my own.  
And yet there is another huge part of almost every woman’s experience that I still don’t read about – how to handle unplanned pregnancy. Statistics estimate that approximately half of all pregnancies today are unintended. In a recent conversation with a friend, I commented about this and she replied, “Christina, I don’t know a woman in my circles who hasn’t had to face this situation.” Wow. That’s a big elephant to have sitting smack dab in the middle of any room!



Have you ever had a “pregnancy scare?” A deeply rooted fear or anxiety that you might be pregnant at a time when you were not at all prepared for that possibility?
After telling my story to a group of women recently, one woman came up to me afterward and shared how sexually active she had been in high school and how she had not used birth control at all. She was blown away by the possibility of how different her life would have been if she had not been so “lucky” and had gotten pregnant during those years. There were tears in her eyes as she began to understand the different path her life could have taken.

I am grateful for the plethora of books out there today that help women know and love themselves better. These books open up topics and share stories that are intimate, vulnerable and tender for many of us. I continue to look for books that include a discussion on unplanned pregnancy, including the possibility of abortion. I am not talking about a pro-life or pro-choice book that supports a political or religious position concerning this issue, but a book that is raw, honest, and clear about the effects of facing this dilemma. If we have shame about our sensuality, imagine the shame around experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, particularly one that results with an abortion. We still have a lot of ground to cover girlfriends, and it’s time to get going!

My current project, my book How My Unborn Children Saved My Life, is an answer that I can offer to bridge this gap in today’s popular self-help literature, which challenges our beliefs around self-love and self-worth. I faced this situation three times in my life, each with different consequences, and all are a significant part of the larger tapestry of my life.
As I write, I will keep reading, trying to find a book that is not afraid to tackle this difficult, but virtually universal conversation as I evolve deeper into my own experience.

Namaste.

 

 

Ritual and Remembrance


Today marks the first day of the 2014-2015 school year for the elementary school children of Santa Rosa, California! Woo hoo! Many parents will breathe a sigh of relief that they can now (hopefully) find a little more sanity in their daily routines, especially those who are working, while the kids get back to the job of expanding their brains. This shift in energy in my city will be palpable, as it always is, but it didn’t happen without some preparation.


Many families have a ritual of doing back-to-school shopping before school starts. A typical shopping spree will likely include new shoes, new jeans, a few shirts, notebooks and pencils, maybe a new lunchbox or backpack. This ritual helps to prepare our children for that first day with more readiness and sparkle. It also helps to ground our kids and ourselves in the experience that is to come. 

The day before school starts, my youngest son’s school posts the classroom listing, the big reveal telling the kids who their teacher will be and who will be in their class, at 4:00 pm on the outside of the main office. It is mayhem, in an exciting way, this congregation of children and parents itching to see where our kids have been placed for the year. It is another step in this ritual of going back to school that moves the experience even closer into reality. Being back on campus, seeing friends again, imagining this new classroom of students brings everyone another step closer to the next day, the first day, of school. 

Rituals have the power to assist us in so many ways when we are in transition. I have discovered it is one of the biggest ways we boost our healing after a pregnancy loss.


I remember thinking it seemed unnecessary to memorialize my unborn children. I did not want to be reminded of their existence. This was true for both of my unborn – the baby I aborted and the one I miscarried. I just wanted to snap my eyes shut and have any thoughts of either of them be gone and buried… without any heavy lifting on my part. 

Our western culture makes non-recognition rather easy, doesn’t it? How often have you heard of an unborn child being remembered in a ceremony? I can only recall hearing about it one other time in my life. 

As part of my Project Rachel retreat, remembering them in a ceremony with several other mothers many years ago was a part of the process that I did because I had to. I did not want to do this as I knew it would hurt. I won’t lie to you. It hurt like nothing I had ever experienced before. But it created one of the biggest shifts for me, bringing me out of the hell I was living in and into a place of peace. It was hands down the hardest thing I have ever done, because I needed to not only acknowledge their existence, but in the case of my aborted daughter, my role in terminating the pregnancy. It was also the most powerful transformational experience I have ever had.

There are many different ways to memorialize our children. An anonymous guest blogger earlier this spring wrote about her ritual at the top of a mountain. I have known several women to find their rituals in nature, in the woods or at the ocean. My guest blogger from last week, Garet Bedrosian, wrote about helping one of her clients to ritualize her baby’s life. The key is to find time and space to do this. Whether we realize it or not, our unborn children are part of our lessons here on earth and their presence in our lives has not been by accident. I believe they want us to acknowledge their existence in our lives. The gift we get in return for that acknowledgement is a peace that is pure, sweet and lasting.

Today, I remember my unborn when their birthdays approach. My neighbors’ birthdays remind me of my daughter and my sons October birthdays remind me of my unborn son’s life. My daughter remembers and acknowledges her siblings during the Day of the Dead celebrations at school now. Like a soldier in a war does not want to be forgotten by his or her family, neither do our unborn. For you and for them, please acknowledge and remember. It can be a beautiful way to heal and to transition into a new place of peace in your life.


Namaste.

 


 

Freeing Your Energy For Love



My guest blogger today is Garet Bedrosian. She is a body oriented psychotherapist whose life mission has been to understand the ways we come to know ourselves through the relationships we form with one another. She believes that our minds and bodies are inextricably linked and healing requires we address both. She is a certified IMAGO relationship therapist and workshop presenter for Getting the Love You Want for couples’, Keeping the Love You Find for individuals and Recovering Our Connection for recovering couples. She is an international speaker and trainer and teaches around the world. www.garetbedrosian.com


As Katie sat on the sofa in my office, she dropped her head and said she needed to tell me something she’d never told anyone before. Katie’s bowed head and collapsed torso told me she was struggling with something about which she felt shame and possibly regret. She was energetically holding against emotional pain therefore causing physical constrictions. This chronic constriction was depleting her vitality.

I waited quietly and held a space of compassion while she found the courage to speak the unspeakable. The next words out of Katie’s mouth were, “I had an abortion. I am so ashamed and I think God is punishing me by not letting me get pregnant now.”


When Katie was 20 and in college she had gotten swept away by a handsome student who pursued her with promises of eternal love. She could imagine a future with him. Unfortunately, a pregnancy did not fit into his plans so he disappeared and left her alone to figure it out.

Although she believed she had come to terms with her decision, 10 years later she was still struggling with the mental, emotional and physical affects of this experience. Speaking her secret to a safe witness was the beginning. Healing the bodily held constrictions gave her peace.

I have countless examples of women and couples that have had to come to terms with a past or present abortion. Most believe their choice was the right one for their situation and have come to terms with it yet are reluctant to share their stories because they are ashamed or afraid of being judged. Holding on to shame, fear or self-judgement is akin to swallowing poison. That toxicity needs to be released from the body to allow the energetic life force to flow freely which is vital to living a life of joy and passion.


Jane came to therapy because she was feeling stuck and was missing those feelings of aliveness. Nothing she did seemed to bring her joy so she typically avoided new experiences or quit most things she started. After a year of therapy she told me about the three abortions she had, two before they started a family and one after her second child was born. Jane believed they were the right choices.

After some talking and body movement she realized she had never had closure. We created a ritual with candles and sea shells she brought to represent each unborn child. She read a poem she had written and through this meaningful process said good-bye. When Jane was done she breathed more deeply and felt a sense of peace she didn’t know she was missing.

No one wants to have an abortion. Some believe they would never get themselves into a situation where they would have to make that decision. Some think they can have an abortion and go on with life as if it never happened. Whether you have come to terms with your choice or the circumstances involved in this decision it will always be a part of your life tapestry. Denying or suppressing the experience only serves to compound the after effects.


As a body-oriented psychotherapist, I believe all of our life experiences are stored in body memory. Not having a safe place to share, grieve, forgive and find closure can contribute to physical, emotional, relational or sexual disharmony. Like Jane who believed she had come to terms with her abortions, there are residual emotions that linger in the recesses of the psyche as well as in the cells and muscles of the body.

To suppress those unwanted feelings the ego makes up negative, sabotaging stories about our worth, our loveability or sometimes even our sanity. The primitive, reptilian brain, concerned only with survival, would rather tell us that no one can be trusted, we are worthless and plague us with shame rather than go through the uncomfortable process of grief.

We have a limited amount of energy in our bodies, and trying to avoid our feelings is a waste of that precious energy. Finding a compassionate person who can help us heal from this plethora of emotions can free the energy needed to suppress them. That energy can then be available for living a more vibrant, authentically expressive life—open and ready to give and receive love. We deserve it.


Finding a safe place to heal your heart, particularly after an abortion can be difficult. If you'd like to know more about Garet, sign up for her mailing list or hear more about her latest upcoming program, Sex, Love and Your Heart, please check out her website.

Letting Go of Control and Trusting the Universe

Letting go of control and relinquishing the need to do it “my way” is not easy for me. As a reformed “type A”, my youngest son, who loves me MORE, gave me another gentle reminder of that last week.

For the last two weeks, I was working on a writing deadline. I had signed up my youngest son, who is entering fourth grade in two weeks, for a summer sports camp so that I could work without interruption. That is a luxury for a work at home parent. The first day of camp, he was sick. He literally began running to the bathroom with an intestinal bug at 3:00 in the morning that first day of camp. There was not much I could do about that, other than reason that he must have needed some “mommy time”, or possibly I needed to relax a little bit before I got started on my project. We snuggled and cuddled and played board games that day. He was good to go by that evening and made it to camp the rest of that first week.

Wouldn’t you know, the date my project was due, he was sick again. This time his illness was less defined. A headache, he complained. I reminded him that I needed to finish my work that day, and that there were no extensions, no exceptions: I had to complete it by midnight. As I prodded him to eat, very little food made its way off the plate and into his mouth. My suspicions, and frustrations, were now raised. Even though I had only an hour or two of work left to do to finish the project, I was freaking out inside. 


We got to camp, and as I looked over at him, all I could see was a pale little face looking back at me like a little bobble head as it swayed on his neck. He said simply, “I think I am going to throw up now.” 

“Shit”, I muttered to myself. Back home we go. 

It didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on. I had pulled a Zen Tarot card earlier that morning. The card I drew was Trust. Duh! I was so focused on my writing project that I lost sight of one of the most important life projects in my world – on that specific day, my young son. I had not trusted that I had everything I needed in me to get my work done and to do first things first, namely love my child. 

I apologized to him and told him how sorry I was that I had made him feel my anxieties. That my deadline was not his worry. My job is to love and nurture him – to let him know that he matters. Instead I did just the opposite. In all my own angst of getting the job done, I made him feel “less than.” 

We played a game of chess that morning, followed by some snuggles and a nap. By noon he was feeling better and asked if he could still go to camp. He made it there a few minutes after noon and by 12:30 pm, I was back at my desk putting the finishing touches on my piece, finally trusting that all was once again well in my world.

And for my son, what would I say makes him tingle all over? Besides giving him carte blanche in a candy store (never going to happen!), it seems pretty obvious now that it is as simple as knowing he matters by the amount of time we spend together. 

It doesn’t take much to show someone you love them and that they matter – a loving glance, a note tucked into a lunch box, or setting aside time without a device in hand to check in. As I watch my two teenagers take some big steps into the world, I know how precious the time is with my little guy. It will be gone all too quickly, in the blink of an eye. 

Thank you, Ryan, for reminding me once again, just how precious and beautiful each moment with you is. 

Namaste.

What I Know For Sure Too


Last week I promised you that I would reveal how Oprah is helping me to share the transformational journey that I have discovered in my healing from abortion. I am so excited to share my “aha” breakthrough with you today!

My favorite part of her magazine, O, is the last page entitled What I Know For Sure. This feature is generally about an awareness that she has personally discovered in the course of living her own life. In the August 2014 issue, she shares her revelations from the loss of her dear friend, Maya Angelou. The lessons she learned and the experiences that she has had from this tremendous loss in her life are shockingly similar to the experiences I have more recently felt over the loss of my daughter after my abortion. 

Oprah writes that although “The sense of physical loss is deep and real”…“I cannot tell you what a breakthrough it has been to open myself up to her spiritual presence. I feel her everywhere. In the breeze, in my voice, in every encounter, her spirit abides in me.”

 How stunningly beautiful!

And I know exactly how she feels. 

When I stopped denying my abortion and opened up to the possibility that my daughter (subsequently named Mary) had chosen me as her mother and knew that she would not be born at that time, I felt her presence almost immediately. I still remember being on my Project Rachel retreat, laying down a heavy rock that symbolized my deep desire to let go of the burden I was carrying from that experience. Within minutes of making the choice to lighten my load, Mary appeared to me in prayer – sweet, happy and loving with curly, dirty blond hair and deep blue eyes. I knew immediately that she was my child.


That was just the beginning of my transformation. After that day, I began to feel her presence at other retreats and quiet spaces. Even though I thought I was “done” with my abortion healing work, she made it clear that there was more to do. As time went on, her presence became more and more recognizable in my life. As I work and as I write, it is she and my grandmother who I feel so often by my side, giving me encouragement, wisdom and strength. 

Oprah writes next in that same article that “For years I’ve told people, ‘When someone you love dies, you now have an angel you can call by name.’” And she lets us into the story of her grandmother Hattie Mae, who she believes is the “head of her angel team.”

I believe we all have an angel team with us, guiding us along our path. How brave and bold of Oprah to reveal her belief in the same!

For myself, my angelic daughter Mary and my grandmother, Pauline, have helped me to transform my life from being spiritually and energetically dead to finding joy and freedom in life again. I would not have awoken from the life I was living without them. I also believe I would not be here today without them. I needed something big: "a neon sign so big and bold it couldn’t be ignored” type of deal, to be woken up from the numbness I was in and into the truth of who I could be. My angel team instigated an impressive sequence of events to bring me back to life.

In closing her lesson for this month, Oprah writes “I’ve always believed that death shows up to remind us to live more fully. Now I know it for sure.” 


As do I Oprah, as do I.

Namaste.

 

What's in a Dream?


“Dream mode – Activate!” my nine year old exclaimed at bedtime the other night. Ahh, the sweet innocence of children!

His words, as they often do, made me think, what do I dream about?

When I was a kid, I dreamt about what I would be when I grew up. My kids inspire me with their dreams of who they want to be. So far I have a budding scientist/astronomer in my house, a future soccer star, and perhaps the first female president living under my roof! I love how bright and big their dreams are!


My dreams are still pretty big too. Where I once used to dream about what I would be, now I dream about how I can bring the gifts I have inside of me to others. How can I bring everything that I have learned about freedom, joy and community from my experience of abortion to those who still struggle with shame, regret and guilt? How can I help others, women and men, to transform their lives from one of constant pain into a life that is more emotionally rich and meaningful?

I dream of a world where everyone gets to choose what they do with their bodies. The right to choose isn’t just about abortion, although it is certainly one of the main experiences where we see extreme polarization. What about countries that draft men and women into military service? What about religions that require surgical procedures on the bodies of its believers? I am sure you can think of many other instances where people are not able to choose for themselves. 

In the United States recently, a new court decision was passed that allows closely-held corporations to decide whether or not to offer contraception as a healthcare choice to their employees. Referred to as the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court in making their decision wrote, "Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them." This decision appears to be saying that one person’s religious liberties, through ownership of a business, can dictate to someone else what choices they can make about their body. Puritanical beliefs permitted the execution of women determined to be witches years ago. Is this case in the broader sense any different? As far as we seem to have come over the years with women’s rights, this decision makes it seem as if we haven’t made any clear advances, and if anything, are taking more than the two proverbial steps backwards in our fight for equality. This decision is not a dream that I hold for myself, for my daughter, or for anyone else who lives and breathes on this planet.  


Are we, as a society, so unhappy with our lives that we have let go of our own dreams only to go on to control others’ dreams instead? 

I think Marianne Williamson was right when she said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” If we lived in the light, if we lived in our power, if we lived in love, we would not feel the need to control others. We would live in the perfection of our own being without needing to control anyone else’s body or anyone else’s dreams.

So what do I dream of these days? 

I dream of a world where we are all living in our light and in our highest potential. I dream of a world where my daughter can choose if or when she wants to have a child and where she can also be the President of our country if she so desires. I dream of a world where we see our own greatness reflected in the eyes of each other, where we love and appreciate the gifts and uniqueness we each bring to this planet. 

In the words of my nine year old son, “Dream mode – activate!” It's time to leave behind our fears and bring love, peace and harmony into the world in a much bigger way!


Namaste.


PS: I can’t wait to share with you next week how Oprah is helping to make my dream about abortion being an experience of transformation come true!

The Best Day of My Life


Have you heard the hit song by the group, American Authors, The Best Day of My Life? This song makes me want to dance and sing every time I hear it. Instead of nestling in bed with my usual morning prayer, today I woke up with this song stuck in my head. “OO-o-o-o-o-o, today is gonna be the best day of my life!”

But you know what? I didn’t always wake up humming an upbeat tune, jumping out of my bed before the alarm went off, excited to greet the day. In fact, most of my life was spent doing exactly the opposite. I thought if I pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed just a little while longer, maybe when I got up, my life wouldn’t be so bad. Oy!

It was almost eleven years ago, in the fall of 2003, that I found myself miscarrying an unexpected pregnancy, which in turn rocketed me back mentally to eleven years before that when I had chosen an abortion from my first pregnancy. Because of my Catholic upbringing, which was further intensified by my husband’s studies to become a Catholic Deacon, the repressed shame, fear, guilt, and regret within me imploded with this second pregnancy loss. At the time I was a mother to two young children, aged 4 and 6, working full-time, and overwhelmed with my life. Now I had two dead babies to grieve over. I was alive physically, but spiritually and energetically I was dead.


I believe I would have died after that loss if I did not have my two living children.

But I did have them and they needed me to take care of and protect them.

As much as I loved them, it was not inspired motivation that kept me going. It was more like a solid knowing such as one gets when you know you need a root canal and just have to suck it up and get it done. You’re positive in the knowledge that if you don’t take care of that tooth right now, life can only get worse. It was that kind of motivation.

And so I cracked opened the door to healing. It began with a Catholic retreat, Project Rachel and continued for many years afterwards with much more soul searching. My grandmother’s death in 2004, my embodied children’s sweet love, and finally surrendering to the Universe to teach me the rest, has brought me to a place today where not only am I alive, but I am joyfully so.

Last spring, my daughter was learning how to drive and we decided to go through the drive-through window at …”somewhere.” As she was rounding the first curve of the building, she took it too tightly and the whole back end of the car scraped the concrete post that protected the corner of the building from cars doing exactly what she was doing – cutting their car wheels too closely. Sadly for her, I was not only the only one in the car with her; so were her brothers and another friend.

We made it out of the drive-through holding our breath, and she stayed focused enough to do her best driving back to our house. It turned out when we got home and were brave enough to look at the car, the indentation was easily popped back into place, and the neon orange color from the pole was easily rubbed off the side of my car. In the end, it was a lesson not just for her, but for the other kids in the car who would soon be learning to drive as well. Her experience gave everyone an opportunity for growth.

That is how I now choose to look at my abortion – not as a mistake, but as an opportunity for something more. You see, I was miserable in my marriage, and in fact, was living most of my life even prior to that from a place of disconnection and numbness. Once I really came to terms with my life, I realized I had to make the losses in my life mean something. I wasn’t going to let them define me or my path, but just the opposite. I was determined to use those losses to learn, to be a better person. As with Uma Girish’s loss shared a few weeks ago, deep pain and despair can be a catalyst for incredible transformation.

I am happy to say that I am no longer in an oppressive marriage or doing a job that I despise. I am the writer and published author I always wanted to be. I am also a coach and advocate for women who have had abortions. Like my daughter’s “scraping of the pole at the drive-through” experience, I hope that I can bring awareness and learning for other women so that their experience with abortion does not have to be as debilitating as mine was. As the guy in the above video clip for my current “favorite” song dances with the monster, we too, can dance with our own gremlins and find the best day of our lives is right here and right now too.


Namaste.

Congrats to a Bestie!

Dear Girlfriend,

I am so excited for you! It’s time to celebrate!

For over twenty years you’ve done what so many women do after an abortion – you decided that taking a stand for yourself hurt too much, caused too much harm and therefore withdrew from life and taking a stand for yourself (or anyone else for that matter) ever again. In my case, for so many years, it was impossible for me to see what I was doing with regards to dealing with my abortion. Now that I understand, I can see so clearly and identify with many other women who have made this choice.

But this weekend, you stood up for yourself and put your foot down! No more! No more allowing people to walk all over you as if you are a doormat! No more treating yourself like a servant and a slave! No more abdicating your power to someone else! Dear girlfriend, I love it!

I did not take a stand for myself until I was spiritually and energetically dead. I had nothing left to give. Even then, I have to admit, I stood up for myself only because of my children. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today. Literally, they saved my life – both my born and unborn.

I am so happy that I could walk through the flames with you out to the other side, to have the honor and privilege of seeing you standing up for yourself the way you did this weekend. You are choosing life – YOUR life – and that’s what this after abortion journey is all about. Choosing, honoring and loving you!

It will take effort to continue this journey. Change doesn’t usually happen overnight. You have taken a huge first step. If I could offer only one nugget of advice to you, it would be to see the little girl inside of yourself and take care of her. In every moment where you have to make a choice between yourself and someone else’s happiness, look at your little girl self and ask her who needs you most. She is still inside you and is part of who you are. When you are conflicted, remember her. It may be easier to stand up for her than for your adult self.

I love you so, so much! And I am so happy to sit beside you on this journey of realignment and transformation! You are an amazingly beautiful human being!

It’s time to celebrate a brand new world opening up for you.

Namaste.