“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.
A couple of years ago, I had an abortion. And healing from it one of the hardest, most profound experience of my life.
I feel it’s important to share this piece of my history, for, with all the beautiful work that’s flourishing in the field of women’s empowerment, I see 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) Join our online course Redemption Circle: A Woman’s Return to Wholeness After Abortion. Learn more & register here.
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.