The summer of my 16th year was a blackout that only in recent years has begun to resurface for me.
Three things happened that summer:
I lost my virginity and became pregnant
I was confirmed into the Catholic Church
I had my first abortion
In that order.
These things did not belong together. I cannot be Catholic AND be a teen mom. I cannot be Catholic AND be a girl who had an abortion.
I do not get to be both, and I HAD to be Catholic to belong to my family, and I HAD to belong to my family.
There was no other way, so half of me was left behind. 16 and pregnant. 16 and a childless mother.
I disconnected from myself so hard that I lost my memories. This is a skill I learned in childhood. I have talked before about our magnificent minds and the lengths they will go to in order to protect us from painful, frightening, devastating realities.
I told myself; This is not part of my story. This never happened. The level of disconnection I experienced was severe, complete-loss-of-self severe. I was lost for a long time, and I only became more lost in my twenties.
I remember sitting in the gymnasium of my church the summer of my 16th year, unaware of the change likely already taking place in my body. I was sitting on a metal folding chair between two girlfriends from my CCD class, we were listening to a guest speaker. This speaker was warning us of the danger of premarital sex. This speaker was impressing upon us the importance of abstinence.
This speaker was not telling us about consent, or affirming our rights to our bodies, or empowering us to make choices with our bodies from a place of being informed and connected. Our bodies did not belong to us, they belonged to God or the Church or our parents or our future husband’s or something?
It was clear that sex was dangerous. I remember the speaker recited a statistic meant to scare us, something about 1 in 3 of you girls will end up pregnant out of wedlock or something. The statistic is not what stands out, what I really remember was looking to my right at my friend Megan, then to my left at my friend LeeAnn, and thinking Well I know it won’t be me.
It already was.
My patron saint was Mary Magdalene. It was my way of thumbing my nose at the church. I had always felt other-than, their rules had always chafed me, felt like nonsense. I had questions that could not be answered. I had questions no one appreciated me asking. I always felt wrong.
I chose Mary Magdalene because my Catholic brain saw her as the persecuted whore, I felt sisterhood with her. I was struggling with the fact that only weeks before I had lost my virginity, I needed someone in my corner and she seemed like a good someone to me. I liked that no matter what society said about Mary Magdalene, she and Jesus knew she was inherently worthy; that she was part of the divine, that we all are. On some level, even in my darkest corners, I have always known too.
This truth is why I did not stay lost. In my Found place I know I am worthy, I am whole, I am enough. I know this because of my connection to the divine.
This part of my long walk home is not just about picking up that mother and her babies and welcoming them all back in love; it is about the repair of my connection with my own sacred holiness.
I have to unravel from the untruths I learned about belonging and worthiness. The Church does not get to define these things for me just as they do not get to withhold them.