8 years ago I had an abortion.
It has taken me quite some time to actually sit down and write this piece. I honestly thought for years that I would never let this admission escape my mouth, let alone write a piece for God only knows how many people to see. There were many questions that crossed my mind.
Was it necessary to share?
What would my mother think?
What would my church family say?
How many people would look at me differently?
How would this impact the way that my customers looked at me and my business?
These questions and their very existence was even more evidence that I needed to speak.
Time and time again I recognized that I was carrying around an immense amount of shame about choosing to end my pregnancy and I was/am ready to let it go. I know from connecting with my own friends and those who have come to my Woman Untamed sensuality classes over the last eight years, that many of us have struggled with the choices that we needed to make for our own bodies and lives. That struggle turns into guilt and guilt into shame and shame into being emotionally paralyzed or numb. It’s from this place that I have witnessed myself and many other women die. Our bodies still physically here but our spirits standing somewhere on the outside waiting for an invitation back home. We’d become Zombies. And piece by piece in our classes through the dancing, the sisterhood and raw discussion we have made space for each other to tell our stories and witness ourselves come back to life. It it my hope that in sharing this reflection and film with you that you will see that there is hope if you are struggling and you will see that it is possible to come back to life.
I do want to acknowledge that there are equally just as many women who don’t feel grief or shame after choosing to end a pregnancy. I believe that these stories have been told with such ferocious courage and wisdom. I am so grateful for each and every one of my sisters who have been willing to trailblaze this path so that myself and other women who have experienced the grief and shame can have space to speak up. I rest in this comfort of knowing that there is a circle of sisters emanating a vibration of grace and love waiting to wrap their arms around us even as some of our voices are trembling and hesitant.
Why am I sharing this? With the pending Presidential Election I probably see “abortion” or horrific pictures of abortion procedures in my timeline more than five times a day. When the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion started I was triggered into rage and in many ways imploding in on myself. I read the stories, I saw women rallying together, I saw some women I know disgusted by the bold act. I’ve heard prayers petitioning God to change women’s hearts about choosing abortions. I’ve gotten into long quarrels with people I love about a woman’s right to choose. After every encounter I just felt more and more defeated, tired and broken down. I was angry that I kept holding myself back from speaking up especially when I had such a strong urge to help others. I look back now knowing that it was all divine timing and you can't rush the process of finding the courage to tell your story. I know that if I was experiencing this I could not possibly be alone. All the while I acknowledge that there are women who need this but might not have the desire or aren’t ready to speak up about their experience. I am creating it so that it exist for them whenever they need it and for any other woman or young woman in the future who is grappling her grief.
I’m not here to justify or explain my reasoning for choosing to end my pregnancy. That is a story that I do want to keep close to my heart. I am hear to talk about what happened after choosing. Something that doesn't get talked about often. I fell into a deep depression. I couldn’t do much of anything other than what was critical at the time. I was in the middle of theatre production opening in college which counted towards graduation. I didn’t have much of a choice other than to push through. I spent my days in class, my evenings in performance and any other time outside of that I was lying on my naked mattress with the ultrasound picture underneath my pillow for what felt like months. My bedroom felt to isolating and dark, I lived alone so I moved my bed from dark bedroom into my kitchen where there was a ton of light. I remember having a follow up appointment with my doctor at the time. She saw the dark and heavy circles developing around my eyes, my faded demeanor and suggested that I schedule an emergency appointment with the in house therapist.
For months I sat on this woman’s couch pouring out every detail of my life and trying to get to the bottom of this pain. It seemed like for every step I took forward I took ten thousand steps back. I was in this constant push and pull with my own spirit. All I could think about was how disappointed people would be if they knew what I had done. I felt unworthy of still being here each day and my depression continued to spiral.
It wasn’t until Halloween of that year that things began to shift for me. I was having a party with some friends. That night I had drank way too much and then some. The night as you can imagine took a huge left turn. That night I attempted to take my own life. This came after years of off and on self-harming from other other untreated traumas. It was that night and the months following that I knew it was time to get serious about facing my depression and turning my life around.
I think I did what many women coming out of stressful situations have done. I stuffed it down, buried it really far and I kept going. I finished school, I started really developing my business and I tried my best to just stop thinking about it all. On top of experiencing the depression I didn’t even feel the right to be sad because I made a choice. In my heart I knew that I still struggled with whether I had made the right choice and actually longed for the experience of meeting + mothering this child.
Two really defining moments happened in my spiritual life helped propel me forward. I had done two study abroads to Brazil by this time and was fascinated with Lukumi & Santeria. As the Universe and God would have it I was led to the Shamabalah meditation center in Rogers Park but that day no classes were being held due to a silent retreat. I was directed to a class the following day happening in Hyde Park not too far from where I live at the time. I attended the class and met a beautiful friend who shared with me that they were also starting their initiation process in the Lukumi religion. Outside of my experiences in Brazil with Santeria I never knew that people intentionally practiced here within the states, let alone in Chicago down the street from my house. I had the opportunity to meet with one of the head Godmother’s in the house for a shell reading. In that reading, for those of you that are familiar with the Orisha lineage, Elegba had many messages for me. Now, I want to remind you that I had never met this woman giving me the reading and I had never shared my experiences with my friend. The first message that showed up in my reading was that I needed to forgive myself for the abortion. Verbatim. Here I was a few years past the experience, believing that I had effectively shielded anyone from seeing that far into my past and it was laid out right in front of me.
Fast forward to 2015 after I met my now girlfriend. I was starting to attend her church more frequently after having been out of church for almost four years consistently. Now, Pastor Lewis is a phenomenal woman. I was told that she was a Seer and Prophet. I had no idea what that really meant within the realm of a Christian experience. Growing up Christian it wasn’t something that I had ever experienced. During the beginning of service there is a ritual entitled “First Fruit”. It’s during this time that the Pastor names signs and delivers messages. I had seen others raise their hands when she would say for example “I see someone dropping a glass and it shattering this morning”. Whomever had that experience would raise their hand and she had a message for them completely unrelated to the glass shattering. The ‘sign’ is a less intimidating way for people to open up and I believe it also keeps the mystery of God present because you aren’t being led by a series of questions like you imagine with a psychic. On one summer day in particular she called out someone who is worried about the backdoor being open. I raised my hand. Rushing out of the house the morning after taking out the trash I couldn’t remember whether or not I had actually locked the door. She called me forward towards the pulpit to ask me something privately. She whispered to me did you lose a child? In that moment the grief, the rage, the heartbreak emerged forward and I said “Well… I had an abortion in college”. Seeing me crumbling under the weight of my words she gave me the message that I needed to hear. She shared with me that she saw the spirit of a child standing near me and that I needed to forgive myself and stop beating myself up.
She didn’t know me. She didn’t know my story. My girlfriend didn’t know the story. I could only take it as Divine intervention. Here we were nearly seven years later and I was still unwilling to forgive myself. I still thought that I needed to be ashamed. I cried a cry that I had never heard come from my body before.
It was in church that day that I wrote the outline for my second film “Let Go & Let God”.
I wanted to document a woman’s journey of battling the grief and depression after burying the pain for so long. We come in on the time period where everything explodes and she chooses to rise.
I know that many women who have had this experience don’t want to or aren’t ready to share their stories even with just their close families.
I know that there is a young woman wrestling with the idea of whether God still loves her.
I know that when Mother’s or Father’s Day rolls around there’s a woman who feels guilty.
I know there’s a woman who has contemplated taking her own life.
I know there’s a woman who has given up after seeing hundreds of images of mutilated infant bodies shoved in her face.
I know there is a teen girl scared to death to talk to her family.
I know there is a woman who feels that she is struggling in this experience alone.
I wrote this piece and created this film to tell you that you are not alone.
There is hope. There is healing. There is a life afterwads. If you need help please don't be afraid to reach out and get the help that you need. Over on the website I have listed several resources + links that have been helpful in my own journey. I will continue to update this list over the coming weeks as I find more pro-choice leaders and organizations.
With that I want to share with you all the short film that we created "Let Go & Let God" in partnership with Open-TV (Beta) I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments over on the blog. If you would prefer to share your thoughts privately please don't hesitate to email me at email@example.com
This film is dedicated to people who are struggling with the grips of depression and wondering if there is a way out. In Let Go and Let God she finds her release through dance. The movement stirs her soul to the point where it brings her back to life and she makes a commitment to live again, to take back her power and move forward walking in the joy that God intended her to have for her life. -- Rashida KhanBey
// CAST AND CREW //
Rashida KhanBey // Creator, Writer, Producer, Star
Zarinah Ali // Director
Zakkiyyah Dumas // Director of Photography
Kamal Williams // Editor
Alexa Grae // Composer
Aymar Jean Christian // Executive Producer
Stephanie Jeter // Co-Producer
// TEAM @WeAreOpenTV //
Aymar Jean Christian // Head of Development
Stephanie Jeter // Head of Production
Elijah McKinnon // Head of Communication and Design
Resources For Healing + Support.
This list is not exhaustive by any means but it is a start. I will continue to add links and posts to from leaders and organizations that are pro-choice.