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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.

 

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Mother and Child, Together We Go

I am in the middle of major healing right now. This statement has been true for years, and every shift I experience feels like THE shift. I do not want to minimize one ounce of the growth I have experienced, it is all sacred. With each rescue mission I perform, inviting another abandoned part of my soul home, I feel closer to my source, to who I am and why I am here. I now understand how important it was for me to learn how to hold myself in love. I had to know how to do this before I could perform the rescue mission I have been working towards for years; the mother.

The mother I was, and never got to be, at 16 and 19 years old. This rescue mission is not just about the mother, it is the mother and her babies. They were all left behind. They had to be. There was no room in the small existence that was my life for this mother and her babies. This truth was too big and I was too small.

No more.

I am not small.

I am not small and I am a mother and I have been a mother and these are my babies and I will no longer stand outside of these sacred truths for anyone else’s comfort.

As I get closer to holding these truths and these abandons parts, I have been feeling the pain. It has been slow, I have been peeling back the lid ever so slightly, trying not to overwhelm myself with the power of the grief that was never allowed to be felt. To grieve would have been to admit a loss, that was not allowed.

In my crying an image keeps surfacing; the me that I was 19 years old, a mother for the second time. Devastated in her reality. The image is of my ex-boyfriend’s closet, me laying half in and half out, on my stomach crying. I never wanted to be there; once I was, I thought I would never be able to surface again and rise.

I am a woman rising.

This is why this rescue is so important. That girl is still back there, laying half in and half out of her shattered life. I have to show her there is light and love for her here, she can rise, resurface, she belongs here in this love, not back there forever tortured by loss.

In that place she was never truly feeling the loss, just the fear. In this place it is safe to feel the truth. There is room for love, AND grief, AND connection, AND anger, AND disappointment.. There is room for all of it and more, everything is allowed to be here, it all belongs.

The days of unbelonging are over.

This girl who was told the lie of being unlovable, now gets to experience truth in the form of love, connection, and sacred belonging.

I am all of those things for myself. It has always been an inside job. I am done being a part from myself, I want to be whole. I need her for that. I need my babies, all of them.

Forward we go, together.

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Home in My Truth

I want to share with you one of my most sacred stories.

 

It is a story of pain. of grief. of fear. of shame. AND it is a story of love.

It is time. Time to LOVE myself openly. Time to feel any and all things that I feel about this OPENLY, FREELY, PUBLICLY, TRUTHFULLY.

With my hand at my heart I share with you something precious.

I was sixteen years old when my relationship with motherhood began.

I was afraid.

I wanted to be small. I remember that specifically.

I wanted to be small, a child, innocent, not capable of creation. I wanted to hide, I wanted to be saved, I wanted to disappear.

I was afraid.

I told my mother. I stared at the blue of my bed, tears in my eyes, and I slipped away.

She told my father.. I am not mad, I am disappointed.

They made the decision for me. I was a child, their child. They were saving me, I was letting them. I said nothing.

I was not saved.

My father was noticeably absent. He dropped my mother and I at the clinic and left. My mother dressed me that day. Like a child, she picked out my denim overalls and pale pink shirt, and my hat. It was important that I wear a hat so she could hide my face from the protesters. She was saving me.

I was not saved.

A woman took me into an office and talked to me about sex, how the female body works. My mother asked if the talk was necessary, she thought I was too young to be hearing it.

Years later looking back at the parts of this story I consciously remember, it amazes me how powerful denial can be.

If I treat her like a child and dress her like a child, she will be a child again and we will make this go away and she can be my baby again.

I am sorry Mom. I am sorry we had to experience this together. I am also sorry that I can no longer carry the burden of these untruths for you.

THIS HAPPENED.

I was not given anything for pain or comfort.

I know that I felt everything but I remember almost nothing.

I remember feeling empty.

An indescribable emptiness. The floor opened up and ate me up whole. This is where my largest void was created – in this room with my feet in stirrups where I was made empty.

This is where I became hard, rigid, AFRAID. This is where I was made empty.

I could not love myself anymore. The darkness enveloped me. It did not creep in slowly, it swallowed me whole in one gulp. Then I was gone, all that was left was empty.

Empty and shame and fear.

There are so many stories in this story. This pain is so layered there were times I never thought I would be able to unravel enough to tell any part of this story with clarity. I will start here, with this truth; when I was sixteen I became a mother, a mother who would never hold her baby.

This is my start. My BIGGEST moment. I am allowing YOU to see me in my most naked state of truth and love and pain. I do not know who you are, I do not know if you are safe.

What I do know is that I AM SAFE. I am safety.

I am no longer empty. I went so deep into myself to rescue this mother who was abandoned. I love her without exception. Without fear, without shame. I am in love with her and this is not dangerous, it is one of my most sacred truths; I love my darkness.

Nikoli