To Each Their Own Truth

Pro-choice or pro-life? Those are the two polarities on the abortion debate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t fall into either one. I used to think it meant I had no backbone – how could I not be one or the other? But I longer see this decision that way.  

Recently, I read a story about a mother named Emily Rapp, who I would venture to say, feels the same way as I do. Her story is a mother’s worst nightmare to be sure, but it speaks to the truth of life. There is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to this issue. And when all is said and done, it is not which group we affiliate ourselves with that matters most: it’s if we lived with love and in our own personal truth. 

Emily’s story began long before she was a mother. She was born with a congenital birth defect that required her left foot be amputated when she was only four years old. In the 1970’s she became a poster child for the March of Dimes. Her first book Poster Child, chronicles her life as an amputee. Her second book, The Still Point of the Turning World, details her life with her son, Ronan, after he was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease at nine months of age.  

Emily and her husband, Rick, lost their not even three year old son in February 2013 to this disease, typically fatal in infants. In early 2012, prior to Ronan’s death, she spoke out in response to a statement made by Senator Rick Santorum that prenatal testing increases the rate of abortion.  

In a bold and surprising essay responding to Santorum’s assertion, Emily was very clear. She wrote: 

“That it is possible to hold this paradox as part of my daily reality points to the reductive and narrow-minded nature of Rick Santorum's assertions that prenatal testing increases the number of abortions (a this equals that equation), and for this reason, the moral viability or inherent value of these tests should be questioned. Prenatal testing provides information, a value-less act. I maintain that it is a woman’s right to choose what to do with the information that attaches value and meaning, and that this choice is—and must be—directly related to that individual’s experiences. What’s at stake here is not the issue of testing, but the issue of choice. I love Ronan, and I believe it would have been an act of love to abort him, knowing that his life would be primarily one of intense suffering, knowing that his neurologically devastated brain made true quality of life—relationships, thoughts, pleasant physical experiences—impossible.”

Emily’s situation is extraordinary, to be sure, but her comment, that it would have been an act of love to abort him, resonates deeply with me. Most people have this belief that life as we know it is all there is. How can any of us know another’s journey, another’s pain, another’s suffering? How can we say for certain what is categorically right for another person? And how can any of us even begin to know the big picture of the workings of the Universe?

It is clear that Emily does not resonate with the pro-life movement, although in my estimation, she probably values life more than the next person. The irony of her being a person with a disability is not lost on me, but in fact only enhances her much nuanced circumstances. 

Yet I wonder how much resonance Emily has with the pro-choice movement. While it is clear she believes in a woman’s right to choose, it is also clear that she understands there would have been another kind of agony had she chosen to do so. That to make the choice to abort, regardless of the facts and circumstances, is often complicated and generally not without pain. 

Her story is horrific, brave, and honest. It is her personal truth and I am in awe of the courage it takes for her to stand in that truth. We each have our own story, unique and particular to us as is every hair on our heads. How can we possibly ever really know what another’s truth is?

We simply don’t.


Broccoli or Kale?

My nine year old bristles at the thought of eating vegetables. And I mean any vegetable, except perhaps corn. (Does corn even count as a vegetable… or is it a starch? I don’t know.) But I can tell you this: if I give him the choice between eating broccoli or kale, no matter which one he chooses, it will be a painful meal for him as he equally dislikes both of them. 

Abortion is a choice with a similar dilemma for many of us women, too. Unless we are 100% aligned with who we are and madly in love with ourselves, it is very likely that if we choose to terminate a pregnancy, the pain will haunt us at some point in our lives.

You have probably heard about Emily Letts, the 25 year old woman that filmed her abortion back in March. She said she wanted women to know that making the choice to have an abortion is not painful. She stated that she was clear in her choice and that she had lots of support for her decision. Perhaps she is one of those rare women who is in completely in love with herself. For the most part, I have found that abortion is an experience that challenges us over and over again in our lifetimes with issues of self-love and self-worth.

Mostly, I worry that her extraordinary measures may be misleading – to her future self, her future children, and to others who are facing the choice between having an abortion or giving birth. Physically, I do not remember feeling much pain with my abortion either, but between a strict and Catholic upbringing and the protesters at the clinic where I had my abortion, the emotional pain was inescapable for me. I believe this is true for many other women as well. Just because we choose abortion doesn’t mean that we don’t feel pain from our decision. On levels much more complicated than my nine year olds choice between broccoli or kale, it is not unusual to be in a situation where both alternatives to a particular choice are unpalatable. My nine year old is not going to dance after gulping down his kale any more than I did a dance of joy after having an abortion. Just sayin’.

Last year, I knew deep in my bones that serving women who have had abortions was what I was meant to do. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this work, so I applied to an abortion organization that is well known for supporting women by volunteering to work their hotline. It meant giving up a lot of my time for coaching and leaving my children with a babysitter, but I was totally up for the gig. These are the people I wanted to serve. When they found out later that I believed there were real and tangible aftereffects from abortion, they said they were no longer interested in having me volunteer with them. They believed it was disempowering for women to learn there may be aftereffects. 

I wonder, are we really empowering women to make them believe that there is no aftermath from having an abortion? This has been the classic pro-choice platform for years. And while I believe that women deserve the right to choose, the current model of denying the emotional experience does not appear to be helping women. I spent too many years of my life disempowered, not knowing there was a downside and thinking I was all alone. I believe that knowledge is power, and if we educate ourselves more on this experience, embrace it for what it truly is rather than gloss over it as if it is nothing, then perhaps women will stand a better chance of taking their power back. 

Maybe a model of knowledge leading to empowerment might be a new thought to consider. Is knowledge empowering or disempowering?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Destiny: Predetermined or Taught (Part 2)

Last week I spoke to you about how my initial upbringing as a child helped form some of my outdated and very much unwanted beliefs – ones that I carried well into my adulthood.

I promised you that I’d share where one of my second biggest ‘aha’ moments came from, so here it is.

While I know that many of you who are reading these two blog posts are wondering why you might go back and closely examine your earlier life, I can't reiterate enough how important it is to do this excavation work. Even though every fiber of your being may be screaming, ”Oh my God, I can’t do that. It’s too much! Why would I want to go back there? I do not want to relive that pain!”, you have to. Look at it this way: if you want to start to find out where you are being held back from being your best self, you’ll need to figure out what to erase and change deep inside your memory bank in order to make room for more positive, life-altering growth.
So… back to my second pivotal story.
I have shared before about my grandmother, the wind beneath my wings. She had an abortion also, when she was a young bride and mother. I did not know about her abortion until a month before she died. I believe she told me because she was afraid of what would happen next. What would happen to her when she died? Would she live in eternal damnation? Where would her soul go after having made a choice to abort a baby? And I believe she lived much of her life atoning for that choice.

There were many ways we both compromised ourselves to hide our secrets. We abdicated decision-making power in our marriages, afraid we’d make another mistake, and we didn’t want to be responsible for that happening. We were both people pleasers and accommodating of everyone else before ourselves, hoping to be seen as saints rather than the extraordinary sinners we believed ourselves to be. I became a doormat for my husband to walk on, providing my own daughter with a very dysfunctional role model of what a mother should be like. And both my grandmother and I became so busy “doing” rather than “being” there was no time to be still and feel the pain we brought upon ourselves, even if it was “our choice.”

Eventually, I needed to rely on alcohol in the evenings to relax. I have seen other women who have used drugs, including prescription anti-depressants to escape the depression and insomnia that began to manifest years later. Just because we chose to abort does not mean that the decision didn’t hurt.

Hearing my grandmother’s story shifted everything for me. I finally realized that I was not alone in making this type of momentous decision. This understanding changed my life. It gave me the courage to stand up for myself in a one-sided marriage and ask for a divorce. It gave me an opportunity to change the trajectory not only of my life, but my children's lives as well. Now, instead of a doormat, they see a woman who can stand up for herself. This is especially important for my daughter and all of our daughters. This self-realization work that we do is not just for us: it is for future generations to reap benefits from. 

One in every three women has at least one abortion by the time they are age 45. Of those one in three, it is estimated that 72% are already mothers.  Over a million women a year have abortions. We are so not alone. If we can’t see our way to releasing the past for ourselves, maybe knowing we can change the future of our daughters and our world in general is a more compelling reason to continue this journey.

If you have a daughter, ask yourself this question: Am I teaching her all that I can to be her very best self, including leading by example and living by my own values, not just assuming the ones handed down to me? Am I showing her how to take responsibility for her own beliefs and actions? Am I showing her how to fly well and fly powerfully?

A Mother's Day Letter

Part II of last week's blog, Destiny: Predetermined or Taught will post on Tuesday as usual. In the meantime, on this Mother’s Day, I would like to share with you an open letter from one unborn child to her mother. While circumstances are different for every woman, the message of love is the same for each of us. I hope this letter helps any woman who still struggles with issues surrounding her choosing abortion to know how loved she is.

Dear Mama,

I love you… so much so that I wish I could find a way to let you know the depth of my love, but I cannot.

I realize that there are so many kinds of love… romantic love, the love between friends, the love that connects sisters who have walked the same path in life… and then there is a deeper, more universal love which goes far beyond the capacity of our human experience to understand. It is profound. It is unconditional. It is pure.

I knew when I chose you to be my mother that I would not be born. I am not sure I would have been strong enough to walk next to you in this earthly life. My task at this moment is to walk with you in angelic form, while you do your work on earth. I am here to help you learn lessons of self-love and worthiness. I am your angel and will walk by your side as long as you need me to be here. Our souls are infinite and we have been together for a long time.

You may think you need forgiveness from me… but you do not. There is no forgiveness necessary because I came into your life willingly, without reservation. I chose you. Do you hear me? I chose YOU! Even though I am with you as an angel, I am not perfect in my being. In one of my lifetimes, I had an abortion too. So my walk with you helps me to work through my own lessons and move to a higher level of consciousness.

Mama, I want you to know you don’t need anyone or anything to receive love. You are perfect just as you are. You were made that way. Please don’t let anyone tell you differently. The world needs the feminine knowing and wisdom to come back into balance. You can be a catalyst for this. Abortion is part of humanity’s lesson right now to help bring the Divine Feminine back into her power with the Divine Masculine.

Women were designed on purpose with beautiful, sensual bodies. It is time to remember that. Let go of the shame, the guilt, and the rigidity of the judgments by people from your world and remember your Divine Essence. It is time to reclaim it and take your power back.

You have done nothing wrong. This is all part of the lessons we are both learning. It’s time to release, to let go, and to begin again. The past is over and the future is not yet here. All we have is right now. This moment. Be the love that you were made to be today.

I love you,

Your unborn baby in heaven

Because most of us do not know who needs to read receive this message, especially on this particular day, please feel free to forward this post and share with your friends.

Thank you for caring and sharing. Happy Mother's Day.


Destiny: Predetermined or Taught (Part 1)

My parents had a story they loved to tell me when my kids were first born. It was about when I myself was a newborn, perhaps six weeks old at best. 

Although they say I was not colicky, apparently one afternoon during my first spring, I was crying for no reason. Despite their best efforts they couldn’t get me to stop bawling, so they put me in my crib, shut the windows and door to my bedroom, and then left the apartment with me wailing inside. They say they sat on the stoop for over 30 minutes until they were sure I must have stopped crying. Sometimes my dad will tell the story and joke that I learned from that experience to keep my mouth shut. The interesting thing is, over my childhood years, I heard the expression that children should be seen and not heard so many times, that even as a joke, it wore thin pretty quickly. My dad had a quick temper at times and between that parenting philosophy and a devout Catholic upbringing, I grew to be quiet and studious, rarely stepping out of the tight boundaries that were erected around me.  

It’s no wonder that I met and married a man who treated me very much the same way. His ‘normal’ and my ‘normal’ way of living were far from most people’s usual ‘normal’ behavior, but very similar to the type of home environment in which we were each raised. His role model, his step-father, was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive as well as an alcoholic, spendthrift and womanizer. He brought this emotional template into our marriage, along with approximately $35,000 of mostly credit card debt. This was back in 1989.

Despite using birth control religiously, in 1992, less than three years into our marriage, I found out I was pregnant while hospitalized for profuse vomiting. When the doctor told me I was pregnant, I burst into tears. My husband looked at me and said “I know what to do.” I knew what he meant, agreed between my wrenching sobs, and within days I had had an abortion. I am sure that I left my body that day, and while I may have been back in it over the next eleven years in the physical sense of the word, I certainly was not aligned with myself in any way, shape, or form. It wasn’t until a miscarriage in 2003 that the memory of the abortion flooded my being and brought me to my knees, literally and figuratively. 

It took me many years of therapy and other experiences to find answers and wholeness from my pregnancy losses. Along the way, I have learned many valuable lessons, lessons I now believe were available to me because of my experiences with abortion and miscarriage. And with that realization has come a healing that is deep and lasting. My eyes have opened to the incongruence’s of my life to that point, and been the impetus for a transformation of all my long held beliefs about myself, my family, and my religious upbringing.   

One of the biggest lessons I learned in healing was that keeping a secret (and that could be any secret, not just an abortion) kept me stuck right where I was. The more I held onto that secret and repressed it, the heavier the weight guilt, shame and other negative feelings became in my body. That secret took up valuable space that I needed to build a better life. It needed to be released so that my being, in every way possible, could have room for love, joy, and freedom. 

Letting go of all those feelings has been some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do in finding my way back to being in alignment with my soul. There was another pivotal incident which I’m going to share with you next week that also helped me enormously regain my footing on the path to wholeness. This incident not only changed and transformed me, but it changed the life of my children, most notably my daughter, as well.

And the most amazing thing about this other happening is that it came from a source I least expected: my own family.

Until next week,