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.




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.




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.

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.