Sunday, May 13, 2012

Silent No More


. For the past eleven years, my own Mother's Day has become a day of silence, a day of hidden secret grief. I'm sick of silence. I sick of feeling like I have to remain silent because what I have to say goes against my liberal upbringing. So, today, I'm opening my mouth.

On Mother's Day, eleven years ago when I was a junior in college, I peed on a stick. The two lines turned bright pink: I was pregnant. I told my boyfriend, who held me kindly. Then I told my mother, who immediately insisted I have an abortion. A couple of weeks later, I went home to Wisconsin and had, what my therapist later told me, felt like a backroom abortion. They forced me to stare at the ultrasound. Then, after waiting twenty-four hours, I was completely awake with no pain meds.

For as long as I can remember, I've been taught by my mother that abortion is a right that we should fight tooth and nail for. It's my body; it's not a baby, and it certainly doesn't make me a mother.


There was nothing and no one to prepare me for the aftermath. I don't just mean the physical pain of the actual abortion. The aftermath of guilt, regret, sadness, depression, thoughts of suicide, and, worst of all, grief.


No one warned me about grief. Why would there be grief? I'd been taught that it wasn't a real baby. It was a foreign entity easily expelled from my body. Worse, how could I grieve for something that I made the conscious choice to get rid of? It's not like I had a miscarriage.


As time went on, my grief clung to me, tackling me to the ground and leaving me spent and breathless.  When I wasn't hearing the cries of an unborn daughter waking me at night, I heard the whispers of "murderer, murderer." Neither the cries nor the whispers ever go away. I knew when that baby would have turned one. I knew when she would have started kindergarten. Every December, a deep depression takes hold of me.

I gained 50 pounds in the month before my abortion. It's stayed with me all these years. When I look in the mirror, a chubby stranger stares back at me. When I look in the mirror, I'm reminded of my baby.

After I got married and before I had my son, I started searching for answers.  I wanted to find a support community that got where I was coming from. More than anything, I wanted to find Jewish support. With every search, I came up with the same answer: Pro-Life evangelical Christianity. So, I decided to go the secular route. Again, nothing. So, I went the therapy route. But, my search left me angry. I'm not looking for the forgiveness of Jesus. I'm not looking for the light of the Lord. While therapy is great, I'm looking for like-minded women who feel lost like I do. I want a safe place to grieve.

A couple months ago, I read an article about an abortion campaign. Women were wearing t-shirts that read: I had an abortion! T-shirts! This seemed equally unholy. Isn't there something between Jesus and a t-shirt? I had an abortion and all I got was a lousy t-shirt.

I still have no real answers. At one point, I thought having children was the answer. While I'm madly in love with my children, I thought once they were born, my grief would disappear.  It hasn't. Now, I look at them, and think, "you had a sibling, but I wanted to finish college and your father wanted to finish law school, so I got rid of it."


Wow, I sound really fucked up when I say that out loud.

I don't know if anything will completely help. But now, instead of suffering in silence, on this Mother's day, this liberal Jewish mother will no longer be silent. My baby meant something and I'm sure yours did too...






read to be read at yeahwrite.me

65 comments:

  1. I fall in love with you more everyday my kindred spirit. I am so so so so sorry for your loss. I hope you find peace.

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    1. Thank you for your words. Peace is important. I'm delighted to have found you.

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  2. Good lord, how you have suffered. You didn't "get rid of it." You were uninformed, ill-advised, medically neglected, and unsupported. And this is coming from a fellow liberal Jew who has written a great deal about the reasons abortion should be legal. Either choice (to have an abortion or to have a baby) comes with potentially devastating consequences, and it makes me furious when it is so oversimplified by EITHER the left or the right.

    I hope to god you find peace. You are entitled to it. Please accept my condolences. My heart hurts for you and your loss.

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    1. The support I've received tonight has completely overwhelmed me. My life in my little shtetl makes me worry about sharing too much, but I realize now that it is important to share. Maybe I can help give a voice to others.

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  3. Hugs! I'm so sorry for your loss and the pressure you were put under. While I fiercely defend women's right to choose, it is clear to me that you did not choose to do this. Of course you are grieving - it was a terrible violation of your body. You did not get to choose.

    I wish you strength and, somehow, peace.

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    1. Thank you for the hugs. The support is amazing. It's out there. I guess it's time for me to bring it to others.

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  4. I'm so sad that you've suffered silently for so long. It's terrible that you weren't given the emotional support you desperately needed. But understand this, you didn't "get rid of" your baby. You did the best you could at the time, with the information and options you had.

    I am pretty liberal. I'm Jewish. And I know other Jewish women who have had abortions. What you did is nothing to be ashamed of. For anyone to judge you, that's their issue and they suck!

    Grieve, but don't beat yourself up. Stop thinking you did something so horrible. Never again berate yourself for feeling sad because you had an abortion. Hashem never judged you. Forgive yourself at once! What you see when you look in a mirror is NOT what Hashem sees when looking upon you - all HE sees is perfection.

    Even though you don't know me, please accept a virtual hug.

    (Sara H, from the BlogMitzvah group)

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  5. I don't even know where to start. I think I've kept much of this in because I worried about hurting my husband. It's not just my story to tell. It's not just my own pain. It's interesting, I lost G-d after this experience and I've found G-d again after I was pregnant with my daughter (she's four months old). Part of the reason I lost G-d was because I thought my actions were worthy of punishment. Wow, I've never written that down before. I'm already amazed by all of these women who are reaching out.

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  6. There are no words adequate to describe how proud I am of you. My little sister who has struggled in silence, in sadness, in loss. You and I were not as close as we are now when you went through this experience. I was a bit kept out of the loop but you and I spoke and I felt you were being pressured. I called mom and her words were "it's done." I cried. I cried for you. I cried for your loss, your pain, the struggle you would and have faced. I cried for all of us who would never have a chance to love your little girl.

    You have blossomed into an amazing woman. Strong and outspoken. Beautiful and full of life. I wish we had been closer then; though we cannot hold onto regret.

    By sharing your story you are reaching out to the millions of women who have had to make the same life changing decision. To the women who have kept their pain to themselves because society told them they should be ashamed.

    You are an incredible mother. You have incredible kids. There are traumas in our life that leave wounds that may never fully heal. But perhaps this is a beginning for you. A chance to forgive yourself for having to make a devastating choice.

    To my sister for whom my love knows no bounds (within reason of course) I wish you always Strength to accept the things we cannot change; the Courage to change the things we can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.

    I love you. Today tomorrow and always.
    Your big sister Rebecca

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  7. Breaking silence is such an important step in healing. And a way to find support and the stories of others...in fact, there was a powerful piece about the experience of grief,loss and recovery after abortion by a reader in the NYC LTYM Show that you might find connection in when the videos are released. Mostly just wanted you to know that I heard you, with tenderness and wishes for your peace.

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    1. Thanks. One of the reasons I put it out there was because I was encouraged by Liz's bravery at our own LTYM and kept thinking, I should write about my abortion experience next year. However, I didn't want to wait until next year. I am looking forward to the video. It's healing to hear other voices besides my own.

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  8. Thank you Shoshana for writing this and finding strength to share your secret. Two years ago I had an abortion. My experience was completely different than yours: I feel no sadness, no regret, etc. This is because I wholeheartedly chose to have an abortion. I, so-to-speak, was choosing to take my life back. I did not want to have another child for many reasons (the top one being: I didn't want to have another child).

    I'm sorry that you continue to deal with such a painful loss and one that it may feel like you were pressured into. I can't imagine what that's like even though I know what both giving up a child and having an abortion are like: those were options that I made myself without anyone trying to push me in one direction.

    Have you ever heard of Exhale? They do incredibly important after abortion counseling work. Perhaps it is something you can look into. They also partner with an online zine that shares stories of women who have had abortions: http://exhaleprovoice.org/

    Finally, I'm very familiar with the abortions shirt and have a slightly different view, but I completely understand where you're coming from. As a birth mother and as a mother who also had an abortion, it's not something we wear on our sleeve. We all want to know that we are not alone because it lightens our load, makes us feel less alone. This was the purpose of the shirts. To show that women from all walks of life too have been there.

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    1. I have not heard of exhale. I'm going to have to look them up now. It's heartening to hear stories of women who don't feel regret. It makes me feel more comfortable being pro-choice. Everyone has their own version of hell and I can't be the judge.

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  9. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. SO much. You tell your truth so eloquently and boldly - thank you.
    And I am so sorry you went through this.
    xo

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    1. I've been given a new boost to feel confident in my voice. I appreciate it and I love you for it!

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  10. Wow, this is powerful and sad. I'm sorry for your loss, your experience, and the lack of support you have received. It breaks my heart to know there are plenty of people out there that struggle with the same experience. One of my best friends from high school actually does. There is so much more I could say but I'm not going There. This is about you and I'm sorry you have to deal with it.

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    1. Maybe this is something that could help her.

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  11. YOu are brave and amazing and strong. I found you through a tweet via @sixyearitch. And am so glad I did. Thank you for sharing this. You will surely be helping others who have gone through similar situations. Be proud of yourself!

    Hugs!
    @erinmargolin

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    1. I'm so appreciative for your kind words. I'm glad Liz tweeted me. It's been so nice to hear everyone's comments!

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  12. Shosh, you are so brave for sharing this story. I can only imagine the pain has followed you ever since and I applaud your mother (religious?) for guiding you through it. I am sure it's hard to talk about with her, but have you ever mentioned it or has it gone into a deep hole in the earth? I hope that your husband read this so he can understand what you have been through. B'ahavah.

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  13. Beautifully written - Thank you for sharing this post.

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  14. Just by telling your story, you have no doubt given support to countless other women who've gone through the same thing. ((Hugs)) to you and thank you for sharing the depths of your heart.

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  15. i loved this post when i first read it and love it/you even more now that we're getting to know each other. so happy you chose this one to link up!!!

    xoxoxo

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    1. I'm so happy to be introduced to you through all of this. It's a blessing.

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  16. No, it doesn't sound fucked up. Sometimes in life we have to make painful choices. Maybe it's not the decision you make today, but it was the choice you had to make eleven years ago. We live; we learn; we regret; we move on with life. What other choice do we have.

    (Kellie's World)

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    1. It is true. We have only this one life.

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  17. I hurt for you. I hope you can find peace. I think the biggest hurtle you will have to jump is learning how to forgive yourself and how to cope with your grief. No one's judgement truly matters - just your own. No one has any right to tell you how to feel or what to believe or even if what you did was wrong. Not one person on this earth is qualified to judge another. I hope one day you can live with the regret and honor everything you have today.

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    1. What I have now means more to me than anything. Although, I do wish I was allowed to say that what I did wasn't right. Or maybe I don't...

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  18. I'm sorry you're suffering with this guilt... I hope you find a way to let it go.

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  19. You know what, you shared. And someone, somewhere was freed, too. Even if she never says the words out loud or puts them on a blog herself, she is no longer alone...because of you. Wear that proudly, even if it is just on your heart and in your mind. Bravo.

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    1. I love the idea of freeing someone else.

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  20. Wow. This is powerful. I will say a prayer right now that you find the answers and the peace you are looking for. I'm glad that you are getting support from some of the other commenters, and I want to thank you for tackling such an important subject.

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    1. Thank you for the prayer. Maybe it will bring someone else peace too.

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  21. I'm so sorry for your loss. You are courageous for speaking about this, regardless if you actually feel it. I pray you find what you are looking for, and peace comes to you. You are beautiful and strong, and I know you will overcome. Hugs to you.

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  22. I feel your grief and I hope that sharing it brings you a measure of peace.

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  23. When I first found out I was pregnant I thought to myself, "Never ever could I possibly have an abortion. This is so amazing!" When I had my son, deep in the throes of postpartum depression I made my best friend promise me if I inadvertently got pregnant she absolutely HAD to take me to the clinic.

    But I never thought about how it would feel. Back to being pregnant again, my heart hurts for your story. I'm so sorry you had to go through that and you coulnd't find the right support to help you with your pain.

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    1. I always thought being pregnant again would make it easier, but both times, when I went for the ultrasound, i couldn't help but wonder, "How come this baby is a baby to me and the other one is supposed to be seen as a nothing or as they spell it in England a Foetus."
      I am also terribly fearful of getting pregnant again right now. While I know, I would never ever have another abortion, I almost get women now who do. Everyone has their own version of hell. For some women it's getting rid of the baby and for some women it's keeping it.

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  24. We beat ourselves up more than anyone else would even imagine. Toughest critics. I hope you find peace in your past so you can fully enjoy the present. I know how hard that can be.

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  25. I hope that talking about it and not being silent any longer is a step in the right direction for you. Closure to begin the healing.
    And I sure hope that there is something between Jesus and a t-shirt and I hope you find it soon!

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  26. I think it's wonderful how you shared your feelings and emotions. Hopefully it will help.

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  27. Shosh, my first comment didn't make it, but your piece was so important to me that I am back and trying again. Really. Wow. "I had an abortion and all I got was a lousy t-shirt." Wow. "My baby meant something and I bet yours did too." This is some powerful, honest stuff and I am being for real when I tell you that this piece affected me in ways that I didn't expect it too (I have read a lot of writing from both sides of the issue). Your real, clear voice is very powerful. You got me thinking and that is a wonderful thing. Thank you for writing this brave piece, Erin

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    1. Thank you for reading it Erin. It's been so long to finally put it out there means more than I could have ever imagined.

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  28. I can't even imagine how much strength it took to write this, and it's only the smallest fraction of the strength it takes to shoulder the grief itself. I hope sharing is a step towards healing, and I hope you feel safe in continuing to talk about it. You made a terribly difficult decision, a decision that lives with you, no matter whether you believe you made the best choice or not.

    You are strong, incredibly strong, and brave and - this I mean the most - and obviously good, kind and caring person to have space in your heart for this grief. May you find your path to peace.

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    1. Thank you. I had no idea how hard it would be to answer these comments and yet, I feel stronger...

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  29. You should be proud of yourself for posting this. It's something that nobody talks about - and they should. Just remember, you did the best you could.

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  30. This was very brave of you to post this.

    Please don't beat yourself up over this. You were young and you were not informed when you made that decision. I am pro-choice, but I'm also pro-informed choice. While I believe it's the woman's right to make this decision, I also believe that nobody has the right to push her in one direction or another. The decision has to be hers and it has to come from her heart and her gut and it has to be one that she knows can live with.

    You did the best you could with what you had. That's all you could do at the time. I'm not saying this to diminish what your baby meant to you. Someday, I know that you will be able to forgive yourself. But I also know that it can take awhile to get to that point. So keep trying. :)

    (((Hugs)))

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    1. it doesn't diminish it at all. The writing makes her more alive.

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  31. Oh I'm so sorry. This brought tears. We all make the decisions we think are best at the time but we judge ourselves with 20/20 hindsight that wasn't available to us.

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    1. We all must keep reminding ourselves of 20/20 hindsight. I could write a whole post about that...

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  32. Wow. An amazing story. None of us hasn't done something we regret. The true healing starts when we can forgive ourselves. Hopefully giving a voice to your story will start you on the process of making peace.

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  33. these types of stories? these strong voices rising up with their truth? if there wasn't a place inbetween jesus and t-shirts, you're creating it.

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    1. ah, you are such a beautiful writer, I think I may have to steal your line. It makes me tear up, in a really good way.

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  34. You are very brave for sharing your story. I imagine that there must be a bit of healing in claiming your story out loud. I truly hope you find peace and treat yourself with grace.

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    1. It has been empowering. Very empowering.

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  35. What an honest and brave post. I'm so sorry for what you've gone through and what you continue to go through. I hope you find peace with this.

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    1. It's funny, I almost feel less sad that I got it out there in the world. I like knowing there are others and it means something.

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  36. Pro-choice is meant to give you the option to have an abortion...or NOT. It sounds like you weren't ready to choose yet. If you had gotten counseling, a proper procedure, and support afterward, perhaps you would have felt differently. There's logic and there's emotion, and you can't really use one to help with the other. Hopefully you're finding a path to peace. It looks like lots of people appreciate your story.

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  37. I've never had an abortion, so I can't say that I understand. But I have certainly felt more ambivalent about abortion since having a baby. I got my positive pregnancy test at five weeks and from that very moment I felt that I had my baby inside of me. If I had miscarried I would have certainly felt grief. Just because you chose to terminate your pregnancy doesn't make that reality go away. Thank you for sharing this and being so open and honest.

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  38. I'm sorry for your loss. And I admire your courage to share this. I know how hard it is to recollect and write this post, as if living the day that happened 11 years ago. I hope after sharing out loud, you'll look forward to a hopeful future :) xx

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  39. I admire you so very much for sharing your feelings about this. I've been through it too and as the years pass - and especially after having children - my position on it changed enormously. Not for others - for me. I wish I hadn't done it. I am full of horrible grief that no therapy has been able to help. In fact it gets worse as the years pass and I become wiser. For me abortion was just a terrible, terrible thing. Thank you for writing about this.

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    1. Seeing this made writing this post so worth it. Thank you for sharing. I wish i could do more to help. Although, I have to say, writing it down was cathartic. Sharing was cathartic. Maybe it's something you want to try, when you're ready.

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  40. Thank you for such a brave offering. This subject is rarely discussed and your honesty was insightful and real.

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