“Live your life from truth and you will survive everything. Everything. Even death.”
– Oprah Winfrey
“The woman who survives intact and happy must be at once tender and tough. She must have convinced herself . . . that she, her values, and her choices are important.”
“If you haven’t found a cause worth dying for, you don’t have a life worth living.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is the first part of a longer series, # I Had An Abortion, that I will be hosting here and on my podcast over the next several weeks.
To start, I’m sharing my story. And it’s a very long, complex story. To distill it, I omitted many facets I would have liked to have included. Last: the names herein and all identifying characteristics, save my and my son’s, have been changed.
Katabas. It’s a Greek word that means: a blow that sets your life spinning in an entirely new direction. One year ago this past April, my katabas struck.
As my black, ballet flats touched down onto the blue carpet of the two-story building, climbing one stair at a time– my mother and younger sister behind me, one of my girlfriends in front of me– I told myself, I can stop this. I can turn around right now.
But I knew, whether I kept moving forward or turned back, there was no escaping the katabas. It had come for me. No matter what.
“Keep going, Mom. You’re doing the right thing,” my son encouraged, “We’re in this together.”
So I kept walking up the stairs. So I didn’t turn back.
Exactly two weeks earlier, I was leading a Women’s Yoga & Meditation Teacher Training at a retreat center just outside of Calistoga, California.
At five o’clock, I finished teaching day two (of seven). I headed out of the practice hall into the late afternoon mist and drizzle and started walking back to the teacher’s cottage where I was staying.
Twenty-two women from as far away as Australia had flown in for the training. Under the best of circumstances, leading a week-long event demands my full energy and focus. Even more so at that particular training, for I was test-driving a new curriculum and didn’t have the luxury of tried-and-true lesson plans to lean on.
Plus, I had just entered the second trimester of my first pregnancy, which I had announced publicly five days earlier.
After suffering from debilitating, round-the-clock nausea throughout my first trimester, I was starting to feel a little bit better. Still, I was only operating at around 50% of my usual capacity.
On top of that, I had moved into a new home with my then-partner, Jack, and his child only a few days earlier. I felt tired and stretched thinner than I ever had in my life.
Simultaneously, I felt like I was rounding a corner. After the training, I would return to Boulder and settle into my new home, family, and life. For the first time, I could start enjoying my pregnancy. I could finally celebrate the blessings I’d been calling in so fervently, for so long.
When I arrived at my cottage, I slipped my feet out of my flip-flops, leaving them on the rain-soaked deck. Then I opened the screen door and stepped inside. Laying my bag on the red loveseat in the sitting area, I took my iPhone out of my bag and switched it out of airplane mode so I could communicate with my on-site teaching assistant.
That’s when I saw it– an iMessage from my business manager.
It read: “There’s a sensitive email that came in today. I know you’re teaching, but you’re going to want to take a look at it right away. XO”
My intestines knotted. A slick layer of sweat coated my palms.
She never texts me. She knows I stay off email when I’m teaching.
This must be really bad.
I sat down on the loveseat, pulled my computer off the side table and onto my lap, flipped open the screen and, heart racing, logged into my gmail.
The email was at the top of my inbox. The subject line read: “Personal message for Sara about Jack”
I opened the email, forwarded to me by my customer care assistant from our company inbox.
At the top, she wrote: “Sara– this came in today and I wanted to get it to you right away. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to support you.”
FUCK. FUCK. FUCK.
My eyes raced over her words and down to the forwarded email:
We’ve never met, but when I saw the recent article you wrote about your pregnancy, I knew I had to reach out to you.
I’ve been sexually involved with Jack since last September. I had no idea that he was with you. I have evidence if you want it. He’s the true definition of a misogynist.
Inside, humiliation scorched me. Hands trembling and heart pounding, I grabbed my purse and the keys to my rental car. I jumped in the car, drove past the women who were absorbed in a walking meditation on the front lawn, and sped out the front gate, onto the wet, windy road to town.
The voice inside of me said:
This is another one of those moments. Your life won’t ever be what it was fifteen minutes ago. You are forever changed.
I knew exactly what that voice meant. I had just had one of those rug-pulled-out-from-underneath-me-life-shattering moments only fifteen months earlier. I had just faced my biggest fears and deepest pain. I thought I was finally coming through to the other side.
How could this be happening to me again…so soon?
Only this time, I knew it was worse. Far worse. I looked down at my belly. Now it wasn’t just me. It was me…and my baby.
I put in my earbuds and called Jack.
“Hey babe!” he exclaimed. “How’s California?”
“I got an email today from Amanda Stevens,” I cut in, my voice sharp, like a dart.
“It’s not true. I promise you it’s not true,” Jack replied calmly–his words so smooth and sure, luring me towards him.
“Sara: listen to me. It’s NOT true.”
His child, whom he had just picked up at school, was in the car. Jack told me he’d call me back once they got home.
“Do you swear on your child’s life that it’s not true?” I implored.
“Yes,” he answered, before hanging up.
I kept driving. Abuzz with shock, Mother Nature’s morphine, my body grew numb while my mind raced. I needed to talk. To someone. Anyone.
I called my former spiritual teacher. I called my mom. I left a voicemail for my on-site assistant, Liz, who is also a close friend, telling her what happened. She texted me right back, saying she could meet me in my cottage in ten minutes. So I pulled over to the side of the road, turned the car around, and headed back.
Once inside on the red loveseat with Liz beside me, I texted Amanda, requesting her evidence.
Amanda texted right back. She said she didn’t feel comfortable sharing it anymore. Since children were involved, she didn’t want to get tangled in any legal battles.
He must have just called her.
“How about FaceTime?” I texted back, “Then I can still see the evidence without leaving a record. I need to know who’s telling the truth here.”
We FaceTimed a couple of hours later, and I saw everything I needed to. Jack was, in fact, the one who was lying.
Amanda had no idea I even existed, much less that I was pregnant, until she saw a picture of me on Jack’s Facebook page, Googled my name, and saw my recent blog post announcing my pregnancy.
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Amanda admitted, “but when I saw you were pregnant, I felt you deserved to know.”
When we hung up, I knew there was no point in calling Jack back. Everything that came out of his mouth was a lie.
Several weeks earlier, I almost had an abortion.
It was a cold, February night, and I couldn’t sleep. Since Jack and I hadn’t yet moved into our new home, we were both sleeping in my apartment.
Instead of tossing and turning and keeping him up, I made a bed for myself on the couch in the living room. Hours passed. I couldn’t fall asleep there, either. Alertness hummed through my body.
It was a familiar hum. I had had it sometimes during sleepless nights with my former fiance, Matt, where I’d stare, wide-eyed into the blackness of the bedroom.
My heart pounding. My body screaming, Something is VERY WRONG here!– although there was nothing specific I could point to as the source of my uneasiness.
I must be overly tired. Anxious. Stressed.
Nearly one year prior to that sleepless night on the couch, my and Matt’s five-year relationship ended very explosively and very publicly. Evidence had leaked amongst his friends that he was cheating on me. The next day, Matt broke the news to me.
For a couple of years, starting before we got engaged, Matt had been sleeping with multiple women– one of whom was a friend and freelancer with my company, The Way of the Happy Woman.
Even though Matt promised me he had disclosed the full truth at the time we separated, in the years since then, more women have come forward. Their confessions shone more light on my time with Matt, as well as the fact that he had misrepresented himself to me from the very start. I still don’t have a coherent narrative for that chapter of my life.
Upon receiving Matt’s news, I was completely blindsided. We had always had an agreement that if either one of us ever wanted to be with someone else, we would talk about it and decide on a course of action, together.
I have my own dark side, am certainly not perfect, and, like any relationship, Matt and I had our challenges; but it never once crossed my mind that he was cheating on me. I’d heard of that happening to other women. I’d seen it in movies. But I never thought it could happen to me.
While that will probably always remain the biggest shock of my life (I’m still trying to wrap my head around it), I now recognize that a very subtle part of me did know what was happening: my subconscious.
It was the part that spoke to me in nightmares, which Matt dismissed. It was the part that he led me to believe was eye-rollingly jealous, insecure, selfish, and always the one at fault. That part was buried under hundreds, if not thousands, of Matt’s lies. Lies that put my mind and gut at war with one another. Lies that made me question my sanity.
I now know that there’s a psychological term for this: gaslighting. A covert manipulation technique that creates cognitive dissonance by telling a person that her experience of reality is wrong, gaslighting is one of the most damaging and insidious forms of emotional and psychological abuse there is.
When I began putting the pieces together, all the strange occurrences from my time with Matt started to make sense.
When we first met, I felt bright, healthy, engaged with the world, and confident. By the time we separated, I felt dimmed-down and drained. I hardly recognized myself.
I was always exhausted. I hid behind black sunglasses for a few years. I stopped socializing because I felt so unsafe going out with Matt. My hair started falling out and I developed mysterious illnesses, including, towards the end, type 2 diabetes. Rebuilding my health is still my top priority.
Meanwhile, I was juicing, practicing yoga, meditating, eating a paleo and sugar-free diet, exercising, journaling, going to therapy, seeing functional medicine doctors, sleeping a lot, getting acupuncture, taking all the right supplements. No matter how much time and money I invested in myself, my health only got worse.
Neither I nor anyone I sought help from thought to look at the energetics of my home environment or relationship as key contributors to my distress. I thought it was just me.
Likewise, despite my significant investments in our relationship, that continued to deteriorate. I viewed my relationship with Matt as a primary part of my spiritual path, so I was willing to stay in the fire in order to learn and grow through our union.
Matt and I were in couple’s therapy for two years with one of the most sought-after therapists in Boulder. The therapist never once caught a whiff of what was really going on, and our couples therapy only spawned more conflict.
After the truth came out, I started working with both my mentor and therapist more intensively. When I shared with them the full picture of what had happened, they both said the exact same thing: “That’s classic, axis 2 Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”
For several months after my and Matt’s separation, I read books, took online courses, and attended weekly therapy sessions to help me heal from this dynamic.
My studies showed me that everything I had just lived, including how I felt unrecognizable to myself by the end of the relationship, was textbook for a person who suffers from narcissistic abuse.
(For more information about this, read an article about it here.)
Knowing full well that there are no victims, only volunteers, I was committed to learning from my mistakes and taking 100% responsibility for my life. I was the one who chose Matt as a partner. I was the one who mismanaged my energy. I was the one with weak boundaries. I was the one who betrayed and abandoned myself. I was the one who gave my power away. I was the one who stayed.
Determined to move on with my life and become the kind of woman who would never even be with a man like that, I devoted myself to creating a new life. I envisioned my future partner and a family rooted in integrity, security, and wellbeing. Every day I worked to become the woman I would need to be to live that life.
My support team celebrated how well I was doing. They shared how impressed they were with my progress. I, too, was proud of how far I felt I had come. My only frame of reference, however, was past breakups.
My separation from Matt was so much more than just a breakup. The cognitive dissonance and PTSD needed more support than I realized. Old wounds of abandonment, shame, humiliation, and worthlessness were right on the surface. And my dominant emotional state was fear–bordering on paranoia– of future betrayal.
In light of all this, I wish I had taken more time to heal and learn to trust myself again before I started dating. When these factors are present, I now know it’s very common for women to enter into another relationship with a narcissist.
But I felt I had already lost enough time with Matt. I was determined not to allow my past to prevent me from living the life I wanted.
In early August, six months after Matt and I separated, I met Jack. I felt instant chemistry with him, and it was game on after our first date.
With Jack, I approached the dating process with more maturity and scrutiny than I ever had before. I vetted him by bringing him around friends and family early on. I met with mutual acquaintances to ask them about him. I even ran a criminal background check on him!
I was upfront with Jack about my broken engagement and desires for marriage, family, and monogamy. Since Matt’s dishonesty robbed me of the ability to make emotionally mature decisions for my life and to have a genuine voice in our relationship, I was committed to enforcing my needs and boundaries going forward.
Jack’s life vision mirrored mine. With his divorce finalized several months earlier, he shared his conviction to have a new beginning.
Within our first month together, he told me he wanted to marry me and have a family together. After a rough stretch of loneliness and grief, Jack’s fun-loving nature made me smile, laugh, and feel sexy and beautiful in ways I hadn’t in years. His effusive affection felt like the sun was shining on me again and that my prayers had been answered.
I continued speaking up with Jack about things that, in the past, I would have ignored because I wanted to give my partner the benefit of the doubt. I spoke up about red flags, even yellow ones. Jack always had a very logical, plausible explanation for my concerns.
(Now I know: never give these individuals the benefit of the doubt. Only believe their actions, not their words.)
While driving me home from one of our early dates, I told Jack that he reminded me a lot of Matt and that that scared me. All the books that I had read warned me that the qualities they had in common were classic markers of a dangerous man.
Jack began to cry and had to pull over to the side of the highway. He shared how hurt he was that I would even think something like that. He vowed to help me heal from my past so I could learn to trust again.
On another car ride, he grabbed my right index finger, pressed it onto the home button on his iPhone, and gave me full access to his phone. Whenever I started to feel anxious, he said, I could look through it.
“I know time is the only non-renewable resource,” Jack told me, “and I know you lost years of your life with Matt. I’ll never waste your time and I promise you only a whole-hearted, adventurous life. We’re going to be epic.”
Then, there I was, several weeks pregnant with Jack’s child. Sleepless on the couch, in the middle of the night.
I’d gotten what I’d been envisioning– a healthy baby in my belly. A sexy man in my bed. Yet it didn’t feel right.
My subconscious mind, which is more accessible in the middle of the night, was trying to get my attention.
I need to see his phone again, I thought as I leaped off the couch.
He had his phone with him in the bedroom. I couldn’t sneak it away from him. I couldn’t wake him up to ask to see it, either.
During our early months together, Jack didn’t mind if I woke him up when I felt uneasy about being with him. He was happy to help me on my healing journey, he said.
Now he just got annoyed.
“You’re carrying my child, when are you going to finally trust me? This is getting old, Sara.”
So I went into my office. He had his own account on my iMac, but I didn’t know the password. I looked down. His child’s iPad was plugged in on the floor.
I do know the password to that.
I looked through the iMessages. Blank. The FaceTime recents– just numbers, no names. Then I looked through the browser history.
A series of Tinder Flame windows: Maria- 17, Tonya- 56, and on the list went. I tried to open each profile but needed a password.
WHAT THE FUCK.
I Googled Tinder Flame, trying to figure out what it even was. Then I wondered what he was still doing on Tinder in the first place. We had met on an online dating app, and once we agreed to become exclusive, we both deleted our profiles. Or so I thought.
Now it was 4 am. I sent an SOS text to my girlfriend, Clarke, who is often up early. Even though I hadn’t slept that night, the lantern of clarity began to shine throughout my body.
While I’d been praying for a baby and had been in deep communication with the soul of a child for years, I didn’t feel excited when I found out I was pregnant. Instead, I felt disbelief, tinged with terror.
Once I don’t get my period and the pregnancy is confirmed, I assured myself, I will feel excited.
Then, Once I go to the doctor and the pregnancy is officially confirmed, I will feel excited.
Then, Once my nausea passes…Once I tell my family…Once I announce it to the public.
But the excitement never came.
From the beginning, I kept teetering back-and-forth between continuing on with the pregnancy and terminating it. And, that night, the evidence I found tipped the scale towards termination.
Clarke was, in fact, awake. She called right after she got my text.
After ten minutes of whispering back-and-forth in the dark, I confirmed that I was going to meet with a counselor at the women’s health center that afternoon to make an appointment to get an abortion. I had her number, for we’d already played voicemail tag when I first found out I was pregnant.
When Jack woke up a few hours later, I confronted him about what I had found. We went in circles about it for an hour. His excuse was plausible, but I still ordered him to pack up his things and leave.
My pre-dawn clarity started to evaporate. He seemed both icy and devastated. After he drove away, I began to feel guilty for taking such extreme action.
Am I being unreasonable?
Somehow, I ended up feeling like I was the one who had done something wrong.
(As an outsider, I’d always been able to spot dynamics like this from a mile away. In fact, I’ve mentored women to leave similar situations. But being inside one was an entirely different experience. It felt like being under a spell.)
Shortly after that, I drove to meet with the abortion counselor, Skyler.
I don’t remember what she looked like, but I do remember how she felt– sturdy and smooth, like a stone at the bottom of a stream bed.
We talked about my relationship with Jack, why I wanted an abortion, and what the process would be like.
As Skyler explained the difference between a medical and surgical abortion, the room started spinning, my nausea returned in full force, and I asked her to pause so I could eat a few Saltines and regroup.
Abortion had always scared me. I secretly felt relieved that, unlike most of my friends, I had never needed to have one.
“It’s intense, I know,” Skyler soothed, “I actually think the easier option is a surgical abortion.”
I agreed; and, since they only perform surgical abortions on Friday mornings, we scheduled it for that week. Three days away.
At that time, only a few people knew I was pregnant: my mom, my former spiritual teacher, and closest girlfriends.
On my drive home from meeting with Skyler, I called my spiritual teacher. I still wasn’t positive I wanted an abortion, but I at least wanted to get it scheduled. Then I had three days to do some serious soul-searching. Skyler told me that I literally had up until the very last minute to change my mind.
Having always had a very strong connection with Mother Mary, my teacher encouraged me to find a chapel where I could feel Her presence and pray.
During those few days, I went to a small chapel each day, kneeled, prayed, and cried. With my nausea and all the pregnancy hormones flooding my body, I had a hard time feeling myself and my inner guidance in the ways I’d always been used to. My usual roads into myself were closed. I quite literally couldn’t feel my center.
How am I supposed to make the biggest decision of my life when I don’t even feel like myself?
That Thursday, as I was driving home from the chapel, my phone rang. It was the receptionist at the abortion clinic.
“This is very unusual. We’re so sorry to do this,” she said, “but we need to reschedule your appointment. The doctor had her own medical emergency, and we need to postpone your appointment to next Friday.”
I wasn’t sure whether that was a sign to keep the baby or simply the gift of more time to reach clarity.
The following week I was going to be ten weeks. Nearing the point when I wasn’t comfortable getting an abortion. That was when I could get the blood work drawn for genetic testing and find out the sex of my baby.
How could I get an abortion once I knew all that?
When I got home, I called a local shamanic healer whom I trusted and had worked with at other major crossroads. I told her my situation and she agreed to see me that Saturday morning. Up until my appointment, she encouraged me to let myself fall apart.
“Don’t be afraid to get really messy,” she advised.
“Play out every possible outcome in your mind: having the baby, having an abortion, raising the baby on your own, raising your baby with other single moms, raising the baby with your partner. Notice how each one of those scenarios feels in your body.”
“It’s important that you don’t try to find the answer. Just let yourself be in the muck,” she said.
“You’re already a mother. These are the kinds of decisions that only mothers can make. Trust that you’re on a journey with the Mother Goddess that is unique to you and that She is guiding you.”
I cleared my calendar for the next few days to devote myself fully to my process.
Maybe because of the nausea, maybe because of the cold that forced me back into bed that day, I still couldn’t feel a direct connection to my inner guidance or the soul of my baby. Despite my attempts, I wasn’t picking up a clear signal. If I got an abortion without that, I didn’t think I could live with myself afterward.
On Saturday, after my session with the shaman, I sat with her drinking tea and talking about our insights.
I decided I wanted to keep going.
I decided to trust that my prayers had been answered.
I decided to believe that my future could be different from my past.
I decided to keep the baby.
The shaman said that she felt all of my spirit guides giving me the green light and that, while the red carpet beneath me currently felt threadbare, it was going to get plumper and fuller very soon. She also confirmed what I felt, that the baby’s soul wasn’t yet in its body.
“It knows you’ve been undecided,” she said, “so it hasn’t fully come in. That’s why you haven’t been able to connect with it.”
Last, she advised me to not put Jack’s name on the birth certificate and to get a legal document between the two of us stating that I had full custody.
“I’ve advised other women to do this in the past,” she said, “hopefully you won’t end up needing it. But those that did were grateful they had it.”
I agreed to follow her advice. By then, I had little faith in the potential for long-term success in my and Jack’s relationship. It was becoming clear to me that he was going to slip at some point, it was just a matter of when. I thought we could make it work–at least for the first few years of our baby’s life when we would need all hands on deck.
A few days later I went to the hospital to have my blood drawn.
If it’s a girl, I thought, then I know for sure this is my child, for I had been connecting to the soul of a little girl for the past fifteen years.
When the doctor’s office called the following week, they shared that all the genetic tests had come back clear.
Then: “Congratulations! It’s a boy!”
Several weeks later, back in Calistoga, we were on day three of the training. I was able to channel my intensity into leading the twice-daily sessions. During breaks, I stayed in my cottage, gathering information.
I knew I had two choices: get full, legal custody and raise the baby on my own or terminate the pregnancy.
I emailed my family to fill them in on what was happening. I made an appointment to meet with my mentor, doctor, and a family lawyer when I got home.
I spoke to a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who had supported other women through second-trimester abortions and in getting pregnant again afterward. I researched possible complications with fertility and future pregnancies if I chose termination.
I told Jack our relationship was over and asked him to stay somewhere else when I came home. Then I asked him for custody of the baby.
With shock and disgust, he replied: Absolutely not.
Paternity rights in Colorado are some of the most progressive in the country. Courts don’t care about character disorders or infidelity. Unless there’s concrete evidence of physical or drug abuse, a father gets a minimum of 50% custody.
I’d learned that through witnessing Jack’s ex-wife trying to get full custody of their child. I’d also learned firsthand, through watching Jack’s exchanges with his ex-wife, how challenging it was for them to co-parent their young child together.
Could I convince him to give me full custody?
If I have a mediator help, Jack’ll dupe them, too.
Should I give him an ultimatum: full custody or I’m getting an abortion?
Then he won’t leave me alone when I get home.
Even if he says he’ll give me custody, I can’t believe him.
If I don’t get custody, my child would be raised by other women 50% of the time.
Would I need to move to Chicago to get help from my family?
Can I even leave Colorado if I can’t get full custody?
I told myself I didn’t need to decide anything until I returned to Boulder the following week.
I woke up on the last day of the training–a sunny, Sunday morning–feeling both relief and dread. Relief because I would soon no longer be holding space for others and could turn my attention fully to me and my baby. Dread because I knew that, whatever my final choice ended up being, unimaginable difficulty loomed before me.
After posing with a fake smile for the final, group photo, I hugged women goodbye, graciously receiving their baby gifts and congratulatory well-wishes. Inside, I suffocated a raging, restless howl.
Since my flight wasn’t until that evening, I stopped in San Francisco to visit with my friend, Larissa, on the way to the airport. Larissa and her husband had supported me through my betrayal and breakup the previous winter and were giddy with excitement over my new partnership and pregnancy.
To prevent them from welcoming me with new-baby exuberance, I texted Larissa en route.
“Something has happened with my pregnancy. Please don’t greet me with congratulations. I’ll share more with you when I see you.”
After I arrived, Larissa and I sat down on her sage green couch, steaming cups of herbal chai on the coffee table beside us. Then I filled her in.
Tears glossed over her blue eyes and she reached over to hold my hands. Twenty years my senior, Larissa has always been both a sister and a maternal figure in my life. I always value her wisdom.
“It’s like your own Sophie’s Choice,” she sighed. “Have you seen that movie?”
“Uh, uh,” I uttered, shaking my head back and forth.
“It stars Meryl Streep. She plays a Holocaust survivor,” Larissa continued.
“The night she arrived at Auschwitz with her two children, a Nazi officer forced her to choose life for one child, and death for the other.”
“It’s an impossibly difficult choice between two unbearable options. A no-win situation,” she finished.
Larissa told me of three women she knew who had had second-trimester abortions. Two of them, she said, had connected with the souls of their children in order to make their decisions. The third did not.
The latter ended up regretting her decision. The former re-conceived and gave birth to their aborted children when the time was right to bring them into the world.
Still safely inside the matter-of-fact, emotionless zone of shock, I told Larissa that I hadn’t yet been able to connect with my son.
“While I was initially surprised that I’m not having a girl,” I confessed, “now I’m genuinely really happy to be having a boy.”
I continued, “but it’s so weird. I felt deeply connected to my sisters’ children when they were in the womb. I’ve led prenatal yoga teacher trainings around the world, guiding women to connect with the souls of their children. Now, my own child is a complete mystery to me. Honestly, he feels like a stranger.”
Still, the stories from other women that Larissa shared reinforced my conviction that I would not– I could not– make a decision until I connected with my son.
Several hours later, just after midnight, I returned to my and Jack’s new home in Boulder.
I walked in to find the living room, littered with U-Haul boxes and crumpled newspaper when I had left, fully organized and arranged.
My heart ached for the sanctuary I had just moved out of. The new living room felt like it belonged to a stranger, save my dog, Sadie, who leaped from her bed in the corner to greet me with whimpers and wiggles.
Rolling my suitcases across the dark, wooden floorboards, I set them at the foot of the stairs and headed into the kitchen for a glass of water.
Swallowing my first gulp, I felt fatigue sting my eyes. My bare feet throbbed on the white tiles beneath them. I looked around again and felt all the effort it had taken to actualize this new home. Now so ordered. So settled. Feelings of nostalgia and doubt started to swell inside me.
Maybe things aren’t really as bad I think. Maybe there’s a way we can make this work.
Then I looked down. On the gray-and-white speckled, granite countertop sat Jack’s black iPad, along with a handwritten note.
“Welcome home! Press play on the iPad to watch a video tour to help you find everything.”
My tiredness lifted as my heart started racing. I willed myself not to watch the video, for I’d witnessed the power of Jack’s silver tongue.
Instead, my intuition guided me to swipe my finger across the screen from right to left, bypassing the video and flipping over to the second page of the home screen. To the iMessage icon.
There, I saw a list of messages–some with just phone numbers, a couple with names–of women he’d been sexting with over the past few weeks, some while I’d been asleep in the other room. The texts were even more disturbing than what Amanda had shared.
One was with a married woman in Boulder, whom he invited to our new home for wine and lingerie while I was in California.
Another was with a woman he had picked up, in my car, the night that he had dropped me off at the airport.
There must have been a tech glitch when syncing his phone. The rest of the iPad had been wiped completely clean.
On a hunt, I looked through the app purchase history and saw dozens and dozens of secret messaging apps. Apps where messages disappear, apps for hooking up with married women, apps that I never even knew exist, much less would have thought to look for when exploring his phone before.
(Now I know: when you need to play detective, you’re in the wrong relationship.)
Cold tingles of fear ran down my arms and legs.
Who the hell is this person?
I had feared that Jack might cheat on me in the future, but the new evidence pointed towards a reality that was far worse than I could have ever imagined.
I double checked that all the doors were locked, even though he had a key. I grabbed a kitchen knife to keep beside me on the nightstand, willed myself to shower, locked the bedroom door, and got in bed. I knew I needed to at least try to rest.
I laid in bed alert, exhausted, and terrified until the sun and cold, dawn breeze filtered in through the white curtains.
At 6:30, I got out of bed and headed down to the kitchen. After making a french press of coffee, I took my first sip and began checking items off my list.
My sisters were concerned for my safety, urging me to call the courthouse to see if I could get a restraining order (no).
I began my search for a new home. I wanted to move out by the end of the week, so I emailed the landlord of my old apartment to see if there was any way I could move back in (yes!).
I emailed my new landlord to see if there was any way I could get out of my current lease with Jack (no).
Next, I texted Jack’s ex-wife, letting her know that I feared for the well-being of her child, based on all the evidence that had recently come to light.
After a couple of phone conversations and a series of text exchanges, she fleshed out even more shocking and disturbing truths about Jack– including a history of drug abuse and financial exploitation.
The worst part: he’d been trying to win his ex-wife back, suggesting (on the day he and I moved in together) that the two of them could raise our child together.
“I tried to warn you,” she said, “but I don’t blame you. I didn’t believe the crazy ex, either.”
“You’re lucky you’re finding this all out now. I didn’t find any evidence until after I divorced him.”
Next, I met with my mentor on Skype. She confirmed my suspicion.
“He’s not only a narcissist. He’s a sociopath.”
(At that time I didn’t really know what a sociopath was. Now I know: a sociopath has no conscience. Because they feel no shame, remorse, or empathy, behavior that most people would never think of doing is fair game for them.)
An hour later, the doorbell rang. Unlocking and pulling open the red, front door, I welcomed the innocence of the day outside. The smell of freshly cut grass, daffodils splayed open, a bird singing.
And then there was Michael, standing on the welcome mat, smiling from his heart. A family lawyer whom I had known socially for several years, Michael had come over to talk me through my options. I invited him in an led him to a seat at the kitchen table.
“It’s good to see you, Sara,” Michael greeted, “and, I don’t know exactly why we’re meeting, but I assume the circumstances aren’t good, given that you’re pregnant.”
“It’s good to see you, too. And you’re right, it’s not good.”
He pulled out a yellow, legal pad and a silver pen from his briefcase and pushed his glasses higher up on his nose.
“Ready?” I asked him.
“You bet,” he answered.
After I filled him in, Michael outlined my three options: abortion, adoption, and having the baby. I ruled out adoption. If I was going to birth the baby, I was going to mother it.
Then he started walking me through abortion.
“Have you heard of quickening?” he asked me.
I shook my head, so Michael continued.
“It’s when the baby’s development really shifts, around the middle of the second trimester, and you can start to feel him moving inside of you,” he explained.
“If you’re going to terminate this pregnancy, you will need to do it within the next week. If you wait any longer than that, it will be much harder on a number of levels.”
I was too far along to be able to still get an abortion at the women’s clinic.
“I’m pretty sure you can still get an abortion at Planned Parenthood; but, when you meet with your doctor tomorrow, she’ll be able to tell you more.”
Then, Michael talked me through having the baby.
“Even if you’re not married and don’t put Jack’s name on the birth certificate, he still has 50% custody, since he’s the biological father,” Michael explained.
He talked me through different scenarios: going to court over the next several months to try for full custody.
“That would be an expensive and stressful process with no guarantees,” he continued.
“Even if you did manage to get full custody, Jack could still come back at any time in the child’s life, up until he turns 18, to demand custody again.”
Should that happen, he then explained what it would be like to have Child Protection Services come into my home and inspect every nook and cranny of my life.
Then he asked me the hardest questions I’ve ever been faced with:
“What would you do if your child looked like Jack? And acted like him? What if, he too, had this character disorder? What if Jack turned the child against you? Are you prepared to stay in the state of Colorado to raise this child?”
He talked me through scenarios of a colicky baby, a child with disabilities, a child with a challenging temperament– and asked me if I was ready to take that on, in addition to co-parenting with Jack.
“What is most important to you in your life? What are your career goals? What kind of parent do you want to be? Will you really have the bandwidth to do your current work and take all of this on?”
“What if you have a challenging birth? Postpartum depression or anxiety? What kind of support system would you have? Why do you want to have a child?”
After sweating and squirming through answering his series of rapid-fire questions about my deepest fears, weaknesses, values, and desires, I realized out loud, “If I knew for sure that I could have a child later on– either on my own, or with the right partner– then I would terminate this pregnancy. I’m going to be forty in six months, and I’m now single.”
“I have a healthy baby growing inside me right now,” I continued, “It’s my fear that I won’t be able to get pregnant again and fulfill my dream of being a mother that is holding me back the most. But I don’t want to make the biggest decision of my life from fear.”
As we neared the end of our two hours together, Michael took a sip of water and put his pen down.
His eyes softened, and he said, “You know, Sara, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you reached out to me.”
Pausing to catch my gaze, he continued, “I know Jack’s personality type all too well. Many years ago, I also had a run-in with a sociopath. Mine was in a different context and I ended up far worse than you, if you can believe it. But that’s a story I can share with you another time.”
“For now, I want you to know that I get how magnetic these men are. They’re larger than life. And I understand what an expensive life lesson this is for you, on a number of levels.”
“I know what it’s like to get in so deep with a person like this, in such a short amount of time. They operate really quickly. It’s quite a quagmire you’re in after only knowing this person for eight months. I’m really sorry that this is happening.”
When we hugged goodbye, Michael advised me to sit with everything we had talked about.
“No matter what,” he urged, “you need to make this decision in the next day or two.”
Later that evening, he sent me this email:
It was a privilege to share this moment in your life, and I hope you find the clarity to make the best choice.
In reflecting a bit more on it this afternoon, I could not see/feel the right path forward. Often times I can.
What I do for a living involves helping people in highly conflicted situations find a path to settle the matter and move on. I often get a clear sense of the right path pretty early on, which the folks themselves sometimes can’t see due to the overburden of emotion that surrounds the situation.
But this is a picture with a bunch of lines at odd angles, presenting no clear image. And to wait for clarity—which is usually the right thing to do in such situations— is not really an option, as to do nothing and let nature take its course is itself a high-consequence decision that will take over your life.
So there may not be a clear and wonderful choice in any direction. You may have to just do the best you can in this odd situation, and pick the best of several flawed answers.
The recurring image I got this afternoon was that Jack is a man who will get some woman pregnant as an inevitable result of who he is and that you happened to be an open boxcar on a long train of women stretching into the past and future. This long train is his life.
The takeaway for me was that you are carrying his child—the child he needs— and perhaps not yours, which could be the reason why you can’t feel the baby.
So the central question is whether you want to give birth to his child or pass that role to another woman who will likely appear as the next boxcar in the train.
These intuitions are just that—so take whatever benefits you and leave the rest.
I hope this helps Sara. Peace and Blessings to you.
The next morning, Tuesday, marked one week since I had seen Amanda’s email.
I met with my doctor to discuss my abortion options. She too said I needed to act quickly.
“We can do it here, but it would be in the surgery center. Your insurance won’t cover it, so it would cost about eight to ten thousand dollars,” she said, “but my colleague knows of a good clinic in Denver we often refer women to. It would cost less there. I’ll have her call you this afternoon.”
“Also, if it helps,” she added, “since you don’t need the father’s permission to have an abortion in the state of Colorado, women in your position often tell their partners that they miscarried.”
Last, she asked, “Do you have a spiritual counselor in your life?”
“You’re going to need one. Good luck.”
A few hours later, her colleague called with the contact information for the clinic in Denver.
I called them and they walked me, step-by-step, through what would be a two-day procedure.
Their next opening wasn’t until the following Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
“You’re getting in right under the wire,” the clinic receptionist said, “starting on Tuesday afternoon you’d be in a whole new category, with a higher risk of complications.”
I booked the appointment, once again knowing I could always cancel if I changed my mind.
I headed to bed that night, relieved that I could take the next morning to rest and connect with my baby before I started preparing to move again.
With my head propped up against a mound of pillows and my journal in my lap, I closed my eyes.
The rinse of relief when every part of me harmonizes and knows. The clarity I always wait for before making any big decision. The full-body certainty that led me to move to Thailand, leave past relationships, become a yoga teacher.
A warm, powerful peace surrounded me. My son, greeting me for the first time.
He declared: “Mom, I’m not supposed to be born. You’re meant to terminate this pregnancy. I came into your life to teach you some big lessons. I love you. It’s okay.”
His voice boomed down into my guts and through my bones. Tears began to roll down my face, as they do now, writing these words just over one year later.
Tears of relief. Tears of gratitude for being in the presence of such a great being. Tears for my and my son’s fate.
Tears for ignoring red flags. Tears for meeting Jack. For getting pregnant. For not getting an abortion sooner.
Tears for the tragedy I felt my life had become. Tears for the knowing that things can never be other than exactly as they are.
Tears calling me to trust the perfection of it all.
On my nightstand sat the small painting of Mother Mary that I received for my First Communion and have kept close by ever since. The lesson of the Mother Goddess that the shaman had pointed me towards several weeks prior started to crystallize.
From the strength that only a mother’s love holds, it was time to break my own heart and end my son’s life.
I invited my son to stay with me in spirit and to come back in a way that was best for him– whether that was to his father through another woman, to me at a time when we could have a happy life together, or to another family.
As I cried myself to sleep, I set my son free, knowing he didn’t need it. He was already Freedom itself.
A couple of days later, I moved back into my old apartment. The following Monday, I headed to Denver for day one of the abortion process.
The clinic was indistinct, tucked in a corner on the second floor of an office building. Inside were only women. Each exuded professionalism, compassion, and non-judgment.
The most trusted and well-known clinic in Colorado for second-trimester abortions, my doctor said they treated on average 5-20 women each week.
She inserted laminaria, a thin strip of seaweed, into my cervix to relax and widen it, an uncomfortable procedure, similar to a Pap smear, that lasted about 30 minutes. Then she instructed me to go home and rest with a hot water bottle on my womb.
She gave me pain pills that would also help me sleep and talked me through all possible complications (hemorrhaging and going into labor). Then I headed to my sister’s house nearby, in case I needed to return to their hospital in the middle of the night.
I consciously dissociated that evening. I neither looked at my reflection in the mirror nor down at my belly. I didn’t try to connect with my son. I knew my sanity rested on my ability to stay focused on each step, one step at a time.
My sister and I ate my last pregnancy meal together– Thai green curry and chocolate ice cream. And, miraculously, I slept through the night.
When I woke up the next morning, the sweet, powdery smell of lilacs, which rested in a Mason jar on the windowsill, wafted into my sister’s guest room. Birds sang me awake to a sunny morning.
I felt my son was already gone. Already a part of the lilacs, the birdsong, the light. Now, every time a bird visits me, I know it’s him. My heart swelled with joy in feeling his release, and in realizing that I had made it safely through the night.
About an hour later, my sister drove me to the clinic. My friend Cleo, who offered to serve as my abortion doula by supporting me in the room during the procedure, met us there. My mom had also flown in that morning from Chicago and was on her way from the airport.
During the D&C, Cleo stood beside me, holding my hand and stroking my head, telling me what a good job I was doing. I was under medication while the doctor and nurses worked quickly and gently. There were no complications, a relief for us all.
I spent the next couple of days resting at home. My mom was there to help, and girlfriends came by each day to visit and bring food.
The evening that I said goodbye to my Mom, I stood at my bathroom sink, about to brush my teeth. I felt the empty space inside where my son no longer was and where my organs hadn’t yet reinhabited.
Behind me, I saw my son being sucked down a black spiral into an abyss. Up until then, I’d felt sadness, but mostly relief. In an instant, the wild hand of grief whacked me behind my heart, pummelling me to the floor.
With my cheek pressed to the bathroom rug, fists beating the linoleum, I sobbed and screamed into my eerily empty apartment, “My baby…my baby…WHERE IS MY BABY?!”– an occurrence that would happen many times over the next few months.
When that first wave of grief abated a bit, I crawled to my bedroom like a wild, wounded animal and called my friend Kate. The pain was unbearable. Far too big for me. Kate stayed quiet on the other end of the line as I howled myself into hyperventilation.
“Breathe, Sara,” she instructed, “Please, just try to take a breath. Okay, good. Keep breathing. Deep breaths.”
“Sara, this is going to be a really hard journey,” she acknowledged. “It’s going to take time. If it means anything, I would have done the same thing. I am here.”
Throughout my entire decision-making process, my family and close friends gave me space to come to my own truth. They knew that no one could make that decision but me.
And, when I did finally reach clarity, they all affirmed that they thought I was doing the right thing. Not one of them questioned me or tried to talk me out of it. They knew I’d need to make it through the short-term pain, for at least the next year, in order to have a chance at long-term happiness.
Over the next couple of weeks I rode the roller coaster of the baby blues, faced the physical pain and emotional horror of my breasts swelling with milk, and began the long road of healing that continues to this day.
I had many layers of loss to work through: the loss of my baby, the fact that I chose that loss, the loss of a partner, the loss of being a stepmother to his child, the loss of my vision for the future, the loss of my innocence, and the loss of my former self.
In addition, I was managing the nearly-paralyzing fear that I wouldn’t be able to conceive again while also processing another massive betrayal (and how I could let that happen again when I been so determined not to).
Before the abortion, I thought that, at least at some level, I would be able to go back to being who I was before I got pregnant. Now, when I look back on my old self, I see a girl.
Everything about me– even my body– is irrevocably changed.
I passed through a particularly dark time last summer when I didn’t want to keep living. I was depressed, exhausted beyond measure, and in over my head in every area of my life. The challenges wouldn’t stop coming.
If life is this hard, what’s the point in even living it?
How many hits can one person take before giving up?
When I started thinking thoughts like that, I knew I needed to get even more support. I needed to talk to someone specifically trained in post-abortion counseling, so I returned to Skyler’s office at the women’s health clinic.
When I sat down in a chair across from her, I said, “I just need to tell you my story. I need to say it out loud so I can start to try and understand what just happened.”
“There’s no right or wrong way to do this,” she encouraged.
At the end of my story, she asked, “Have you wailed? Have you raged? Have you been fantasizing about your baby?”
When I answered “Yes” to all of those things, Skyler replied, “That’s really good. You’re doing a really good job.”
“A lot of women who come here just stuff their experiences. They’re afraid to feel it all, so they keep themselves busy by jumping right back into their work and their relationships. The problem with that is that it all comes back to them later on. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you’re in a good place.”
“The more you can allow yourself to think all the thoughts and feel all the feelings, the more you are allowing yourself to heal. You understand your decision intellectually, and now you’re in the long process of making peace with your decision by letting the other parts of you catch up.”
“I had my abortion twenty years ago,” she continued, “and I just shared my story publicly for the first time at a conference last month. Each year I learn more about myself and the experience. Over time you’ll find that this decision, more than anything else in your life, will define who you are.”
While the pain of losing my son will never go away, I am now at peace with my decision. I feel relief in the path I chose and have faith that every day I’m moving closer to the light at the end of this very long, very dark tunnel.
The day after my abortion, I emailed Jack to tell him. Since my life had been ripped apart by lies, I wanted to tell him the truth.
After he called me names, ridiculed me for giving our son the final say in his fate, and placed all the blame in my lap, I blocked him from my life and have had no contact with him since.
I considered sharing my story publicly one day, most likely in a memoir some years down the road. But, in the meantime, since tens of thousands of people around the world still thought I was pregnant, I wanted to save myself the pain of countless, individual encounters. I needed to make a public statement.
I announced that “there were complications with my pregnancy and I lost my baby,” which was vague and honest, affording me the privacy I needed to heal. I never said I had a miscarriage, although that is what everyone naturally assumed.
If you are one of the people that my family and friends shared this with, please do not fault them. They were acting on my wishes and protecting me so that I could recover. They knew that this was my story to tell, when and if I was ready.
If you were one of the friends I told this to, please know that I was not ready to share the full picture. Telling such a complex story over and over again, while taking on others’ reactions, would have been far too much for me.
I often regretted announcing my pregnancy publicly; yet I know that if I hadn’t, Amanda wouldn’t have reached out and who knows where I’d be right now.
I also want to express that I’m putting myself at risk by sharing some of my experiences with these two men, yet my story would be incomplete without at least thumbnail sketches of those relationships. Remaining silent out of fear would only perpetuate the problem.
I’m not sharing this story to prove or defend myself. I don’t want to debate, answer questions, or receive advice or opinions. At the end of this article, I share some constructive ways in which I do want to connect around all of this.
If you were one of the women involved with either of these men, do not contact me. I’ve moved on with my life and will no longer discuss my past. Going forward, I will only refer to this story in service of helping women in similar situations.
I’m sharing this because healing from my abortion has been the hardest, most profound experience of my life. While I’ve come a long way, I am still healing.
I feel a great urgency to share this now given that a woman’s right to chose is in jeopardy here in the U.S. Prior today’s headlines, last July, as I looked out from my healing cocoon at all the beautiful work that’s flourishing in the field of women’s empowerment, I noticed a big, black hole.
No one is talking about abortion. Not a single one of us.
Yet, each year, 75% of the women who attend my retreats share, via confidential applications, that they’re still carrying unresolved trauma from abortions they had 5, 10, 20, 30 years ago.
1 in 3 women in the United States and the United Kingdom will have at least one abortion by the age of 45. Worldwide, nearly 60 million abortions occur annually, and 25 million of these are performed under unsafe circumstances.
I knew I needed to share my story in service of helping to heal this enormous wound that the collective feminine is silently carrying. I vowed to give myself a full year to mourn. After that, I would speak out.
In the several months since then, as I watched the emergence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, I knew that my vision fits into something much larger that we’re all a part of.
My lifelong commitment is to use my experiences and gifts to empower women and uplift the feminine.
After all I’ve learned this past year, I’d be out of integrity if I didn’t use my position, platform, and newly claimed wisdom and empathy to help transform our relationship to abortion.
I’m blessed to live in a state with progressive abortion laws, to have had the financial resources to obtain an abortion and to have received the full support of my friends and family. I had access to what most women do not–quality support before, during, and after my abortion.
Still, recovering from my abortion was confusing and isolating. While I received compassionate care, it was very bare-bones. I was sent home with a printed handout that listed basic instructions: wear pads until the bleeding stops, rest the first couple of days, avoid abdominal exercises, call the hotline if you need to.
This wasn’t enough. I wanted concrete information about natural ways to balance my hormones, rebuild my body from the ravages of grief, heal my womb, and release the deep pain and trauma that my abortion scarred me with.
I also wanted to learn rituals to honor my son’s passing and the death of the person I was. I wanted to hear stories of women who’d been through something similar, but I couldn’t find them anywhere.
So I found/find myself in a strange no-woman’s land. Books about abortion don’t quite fit, nor do books about miscarriage or stillbirth. I, along with many others, are in the taboo, in-between place of later-term abortions that no one dares speak about. Doing so could cost a woman her reputation, even her life.
While solitude is essential for one’s Heroine’s Journey and I value my time alone, I also longed for more connection and community. I wanted to sit in a sacred circle with others who knew what I was going through. I wanted to engage in integrated practices to heal, both alone and together.
I pieced together a recovery strategy by seeking out experts in myriad fields, coupled with my own knowledge that has come from twenty years of study and practice in the fields of yoga, meditation, and psychology. Nonetheless, I still struggled. Enormously.
That level of struggle simply isn’t necessary.
Now the tremendous we’ve made on access to abortion is at risk. And, still, the cycle of legitimacy is incomplete without this aftercare support network and process. To really make abortion a legitimate choice for women and for us to be able to own the destiny of our bodies and lives, we need and deserve the kind of support all difficult life experiences require.
For example, cancer, addiction, and divorce have myriad support groups, books, and resources. Abortion is still in the shadows and women are suffering as a result.
Recovering from an abortion is complicated, and the current resources available are grossly inadequate. A doctor doesn’t even ask to see a woman several weeks after an abortion to see how her body is recovering and how she’s doing. She’s left completely on her own.
We love telling one another about the cool, new lipgloss we discovered or how to make an amazing Insta-pot stew. But what would happen if we finally started talking to one another about our abortions? Not in the dark, but out in broad daylight?
Women’s postpartum care has historically been ignored. Luckily, that’s shifting. When a woman has a baby, she now has more and more resources educating her and her loved ones in the long term boons of getting adequate rest, nutrition, and support during those precious first forty days.
When a woman miscarries or has a stillbirth, she still suffers tremendously in the shadows, but she can be more open about her loss and therefore be cared for by her partner (if she has one), friends, neighbors, and community.
What about when a woman has an abortion? Afraid of being judged and condemned, many of these women don’t even tell their family and friends.
This secrecy generally isn’t a problem for the many women who feel immediate peace and relief after their abortions, but it is for the many others who feel profound anguish and regret. The reality is, most experience something in between. Few women can walk away from the experience without some level of emotional dis-ease.
If those women who struggle after their abortions don’t have access to the resources they need, unresolved feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, and depression may not surface until months–more often years–later.
From the outside, they seem to go on to lead normal lives. Over time, their unresolved wounds fester, negatively impacting everything. When ignored, these feelings can contribute to self-destructive and addictive behaviors, unstable relationships, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Some women also harbor post-abortion syndrome (PAS), a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the voicelessness that results from keeping these secrets, women then endure these long-lasting effects in isolation. As recent epigenetic research shows us, if we don’t heal trauma ourselves, we pass it on to our children in our DNA. The chain of pain continues.
We can do so much better than this.
Our first step is to replace shame and secrecy with empathy and sharing. Shame researcher and bestselling author Brené Brown teaches that shame cannot survive in the light of sharing and empathy.
Shame, she also says, is highly correlated with repression and violence. All three of these things characterize the current abortion climate.
When we relegate abortion solely to the religious and political spheres, we ignore it because the whole topic just feels too scary and controversial. We bury our heads in the sand and ignore the tens of millions of women who need our help.
Abortion is our great equalizer. It’s an initiation experienced by women of all ages, income brackets, religions, and ethnicities. Our grandmothers faced abortion. Our mothers faced abortions. Our daughters and granddaughters will, too.
Abortion is one of the most important rites of passage a woman will ever go through. It points to a power, a spiritual power, that only women possess– the power to grow new life, the power to connect with the souls of our unborn children, and the power to know what is most loving for them, and for us.
Yet, since abortion is so taboo, we have no social structures to support women through these life-and-death initiations.
Because there’s so much social stigma around abortion, those of us who have had them feel excluded from support groups for grief, bereavement, and baby loss.
On top of this, we’re excluded from conversations– even amongst women – about maternal health, baby loss, and postpartum care.
There are only a couple of quality books about post-abortion recovery, compared to countless books for women who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)– even though there are far more women who have had abortions.
Why? There’s a silent, all-pervasive, and sometimes unconscious, discrimination against women who’ve had abortions. We’re immediately “othered” and put into a separate box from the rest of the world. Over the past year, I’ve experienced this first hand.
The isolation that results is an antiquated tool of the patriarchy used to disempower women. It’s time to dismantle this, giving women who’ve had abortions both a network to connect with one another and a more visible, vocal, respected place in society.
Effective post-abortion healing requires a visible, widely-available, and affordable (no cost/donation based) global support network.
Similar to the accessibility and all-inclusivity of 12-step programs, this network needs to combine sisterhood, integrated healing modalities that blend ancient wisdom with modern science to address all dimensions of a woman’s being (physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual), and empathic, nonjudgmental environments.
Sharing our stories within these “redemptive” circles will allow us to transform pain into power, shame into self-worth, and sadness into joy. We’ll be able to grow stronger, not weaker, because of our challenges. We’ll go on to be greater assets to our communities through accessing new levels of authenticity and empowerment.
In order for us to actualize this vision, we must first implore the world to face this truth: abortion happens. It has always happened. It will always happen. Regardless of where it stands politically and legally.
A woman cannot step into her wholeness and strength if she hasn’t made peace with her past– and neither can the Feminine at-large.
We know: THE FEMININE IS RISING.
But SHE cannot fully soar if we do not heal this global wound that afflicts at least 30% of women.
Abortion is a major women’s health crisis that we aren’t dealing with!
We’ll only rise when ALL of us rise. With the courage and fierce compassion of AWAKE women. With the critical mass of a global sisterhood, united.
I know it’s scary. I know it feels dangerous. I know how hard it is to think outside the prevailing context.
But we have to.
The women on whose shoulders we stand prepared us for this moment.
They’re whispering in our ears: This is a woman’s work. You have the power to change this.
We need to question our relationship with authority by remembering our real authority, the loving truth that breathes us and beats our hearts.
Healing requires a paradigm shift from fear to love.
We must slough off our sleepiness, victimization, cynicism, and resignation.
We need to wake up out of the trance that we don’t have the power to create a new reality for ourselves.
We’re the ones who can give our world the medicine it truly needs: love, respect, support, and empathy.
If not now, when?
If not us, then who?
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We’re ready for this. We can do this. We need to do this.
Not next month. Not next year. NOW.
Let’s come together to birth a world where women everywhere can flourish in health, wholeness, and redemption during all seasons life….even after their abortions.
This movement requires your participation!
TO JOIN THIS MOVEMENT, PLEASE MOVE WITH ME THROUGH THIS FIVE-PART RITUAL:
1) SHARE YOUR STORY WITH THE HASHTAG #IHADANABORTION.
As I once heard Marianne Williamson say, “You can shoot a soloist, but you can’t shoot a song.”
This is the era of WE.
Our voices raised together, in love, can lead to systemic changes.
We need to see the names and faces of women we can relate to coming forward about their abortions to know that we’re not alone.
Please ignite your courage and speak your truth. Share your story in a way that feels authentic to you.
The more of us that speak up, the stronger we will be together, and the more we can show the world just how normal and common abortion actually is.
This is a reckoning. Our reckoning. May our vows of silence end here and now.
You can also download this image to share with your story:
(To download right click on the link and select “Save file as…” to save the image to your computer.)
2) SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON YOUR WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA.
Email it friends, family, or those who need to read it. Knowledge is the precursor to change.
3) LIGHT A CANDLE FOR EVERY CHILD YOU’VE LOST THROUGH ABORTION.
If you haven’t had an abortion, light a candle for the women who’ve died because they didn’t have access to safe abortions or those who lost their lives defending a woman’s right to choose.
4) Sign up to be notified when registration for the online course, “Redemption,” opens later this year.
Join the first online course I’m creating to help women– at any stage after an abortion– return to wholeness physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
With the help of your participation and feedback, this will later serve as the prototype for future in-person circles, led by trained facilitators, around the world.
5) Donate to Redemption Circle, the 501(c)(3) I founded to build this vision.
Redemption Circle: A global movement and 501(c)(3) to heal the stigma of abortion and create a support network that empowers women to claim wholeness physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually after an abortion.
In addition to donors, I’m also looking for individuals to: facilitate Redemption Circles around the world, serve on the Board of Directors, and train to be post-abortion doulas.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Sisters, this matters. Today, our collective silence must end.
Stand with me.
Let’s join hands in this Redemption Circle.
Doing this will heal the women who came before us and those who will come after us.
My son’s name is Zane. It means “God’s gracious gift.”
Zane guided me to share my story and to create Redemption Circle.
He’s not only my son but also my greatest teacher.
Without him, I never would have had the courage to do this.
This is Zane’s legacy.
This is our truth
Now it’s your turn.