There is a void felt these days by women and men— who suspect that their feminine nature, like Persephone, has gone to hell. Wherever there is such a void, such a gap or wound agape, healing must be sought in the blood of the wound itself. It is another of the old alchemical truths that “no solution should be made except in its own blood.” So the female void cannot be cured by conjunction with the male, but rather by an internal conjunction, by an integration of its own parts, by a remembering or a putting back together of the mother-daughter body.
- Nor Hall
5 years ago, I had an abortion. I wanted to write about it then, but couldn’t. Not because I was ashamed, but because I was buried.
I am still digging myself out.
No one talks about what to expect after an abortion. And while I know that like anything, there are infinite ways it can be experienced, all equally valid and valuable, I want to share my experience. When I researched abortions back then, searching for understanding and comfort, what I found was an endless stream of fear mongering and hate speech. I want to be clear that despite my experience I do not regret making the decision and I am passionate about preserving the rights of women to make these decisions for themselves.
Becoming pregnant is the most leveling experience I have had. It is a mighty filter. EVERYTHING goes through it. What was left after that sifting was my becoming as a woman. I understand more now why thousands of years have been spent trying to keep us small and silent. We are HUGE. Our song is the very reminder of life and death, we are terrifying in our truth.
After my abortion, everything collapsed around me. Everything. I was a woman on fire. A building engulfed in flames. I burned and burned and burned until all that I was was burning, Until all that I was had turned to ash. I recently read that a phoenix sets themselves on fire. That’s how their transformation begins, the striking of the match in their own hands.
After I emerged, I weighed myself in a gas station bathroom in northern Nevada. One of those scales you put a quarter in in exchange for your weight. 112 pounds it told me. I went home to find an old 7th grade basketball photo of myself, the kind that printed your stats on the back. 112 pounds. 12 years old. The year I started my period. The year I sucked at basketball but played it because that's how you fit in. The year I resisted the insistence of my classmates that I kiss Jake at recess. The year I knew how to touch myself to find the potential joy that existed in the space that would remain private for a couple more years, until I would let the awkward hands of a boy try to find that joy.
So I had reduced myself to the size I was when all of this begin. The year I began bleeding. Possessing the potential to create life. The potential to hold death. I was just beginning to understand that I held a power. I felt it in the uneasiness I felt around grown men who started to notice I was becoming a woman. I noticed it when I stood naked before a mirror. I was forming into something dangerous, and I was scared. I started working out at the gym. I started lifting weights. They could try and have me, but I would find the strength to fight back. That is how I thought of it then. I needed to be strong enough to protect this thing inside of me.
After my abortion I was so frail. I had lost over 20 pounds in less than three weeks. I was barely able to sleep or eat. It still makes me feel sick to remember that time. That utter and complete dislocation from life. I was drowning in darkness. My slow quiet dying. But my undoing became my saving grace. My hipbones announced a state of emergency. Strangers offered to feed me, recognizing that need. I was starting over. Learning how to be a human again. How to sleep. How to eat. How to be me. I was awkward and unsure, but I was grateful that my body was saying what I could not. I was grateful for the sandwiches friends made me. I was grateful that people cared. That care is what cured me. That care was the light that helped me find myself again.
What followed was a patient and steady return to myself. I started doing the things I had always wanted to but never had. I started therapy. I began meditating. I reached out to friends for support. And slowly I reemerged. I started to enjoy the taste of food again. I started to dance when I heard music. I heard my laughter after what had been months and it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I was learning how to live again. Who says we are supposed to learn that only once in infancy? We are always just beginning to learn what is an eternally unfolding new world. My pain just made every cell of me aware of this process.
During this time, I didn’t have my period for months. An absence of blood. It is not lost on me, the months of praying for the red to signal it was all going to be ok, and now the months of praying for the red to stop. Perhaps I am now bleeding out that wound. I wasn’t able to then. I am now. Redemption in the blood. I have been bleeding for months. A reminder of the loss, this time one I did not will to happen— no less humbling, but its humility has new perimeters I am learning. the abortion happened to my body unconscious. I woke up hollowed out. This time I was a witness to every drop of blood. Every piece of that life that began and then ended. My wound is in the witnessing. My healing is in knowing now what I lost then.
Then I didn’t take the time to consider the pregnancy beyond something I needed to “fix” as soon as possible. A problem I needed to solve so the relationship I was in and desperate to preserve could remain intact. It didn’t work. The relationship ended, he left, and I was stranded. It wasn’t until almost exactly nine months later when I lay sobbing on the floor that I realized, I would have been having a child that week, and to my own astonishment and devastation, wished that I was. The void was my labor that day. I gave birth to an emptiness, an absence. I gave birth to a denial of my own body truth.
And this time, desperate to race the clock that was ticking so loudly I'd sometimes have to ask others to repeat what they were saying, so lost in the thought of what if? What if there isn’t enough time? What if it is already too late? What if I will never find the right one? What if I am not the right one? I got lost in the frantic wondering, I became pregnant too soon to even know what it meant. I joined heart body and mind with a stranger. It felt so right, but it was too soon to tell how having his DNA rearrange my very own would pan out.
Alone with new DNA, new information. Part of that information is the agonizing full body feeling that I need him by my side. But why need a thing that is unable or unwilling? Why bear that pain, shocked awake in the still dark morning, suffocated by the silence and the space? What to do with the feeling that you have no other option but to want a thing you cannot have until one beautiful morning you wake and it’s light outside and you are free of this chest crushing ache. I made it there before. I will make it there again.
I have a dull pain on my lower left side. The space between my belly button and my left thigh. Draw a diagonal line between the two points. Find the spot halfway between. Right there. You found it. Some invisible finger is poking me there, as if trying to get my attention. As if wanting to ask a question. But I don’t have the answer. I close my eyes and wait. Eventually it will come, or, the pain will go away. Which will come first?
This body, this fierce messenger. Always telling me the things the discomfort of life makes me want to forget. The body doesn’t forget, it won’t let you, and I am grateful for that. I have struggled with this sensitive vessel for most of my life. It wasn’t until my 20’s when in one of my first yoga classes I realized my body wasn’t just some torture device I was forced to endure life in. I was bent backwards in bridge pose, tears of revelation streaming down my face. My body becoming the bridge. My body was me. I was my body. We could work together, not against one another. I could tend to it and in turn, it was always tending to me.
Pain is what gets me here, to this place, writing it all down in the dark. Unable to sleep, desperate to still my mind. Surrounded by books meant to illuminate and sooth. Surrounded by magical stones meant to heal and invite spiritual truth. Surrounded with friends and family all on my side, all longing to help. And yet, I am the only way out. Through me is how I get to the other side of this hurt. I did this to myself. I hoped for something and had the courage to risk everything thinking I might get it. A family. A place where I could finally belong, truly belong, in blood.
Now I am bleeding and being daily reminded of what I lost, of what I hoped for. When even the doctors are mystified and can’t explain what is happening in your body, you know it isn’t something to be healed with surgery or pills. My heart is bleeding and it is coming out from between my thighs. The blood has to go somewhere. I started bleeding this red a long time ago. I am glad it is finally coming out. I will let it continue until I am emptied out, ready to be filled with something new, or perhaps just the space to feel what remains.
I feel let down, by men, some specific ones and then men in general. The men who have all gained access to my existential portal. The men who have gotten there with charm or promise of security. The men who have gotten there wearing white coats and stethoscopes. The men who were simply something other than nothing at the moment. The men who were lying and the men who were telling the truth. All of them, granted entrance to the deepest part of me. The part of me that hopes to feel pleasure and yet so often has felt excruciating pain.
Am I to forgive them all? Or need I only forgive myself? Did these men abandon me? Or did I simply abandon myself? I cry to write that. There’s the body again, giving me my answers. Tears are a message writing invisible lessons on the paper of your skin. Look in the mirror and read them. Learn about yourself. Your inner wound that only hopes to be healed with enough time and enough truth. Truth is the only thing that will cure a broken heart, even when it is truth that has broken it. Only with the blood of the wound can we heal.
All this blood I have spilled, gone, flushed down. Over and over and over again. Every time I go to the bathroom, or shower, or simply change my clothes. A forced confrontation. Something is in need of healing. I have no choice. Sometimes it gets so bad, the body gives you no choice.
This morning I googled "healing in the blood" and found my way to the bible story of "The Bleeding Woman". I watched some Youtube videos, all of men with southern accents talking about this woman who had suffered for 12 years. Bleeding (from where they do not say), but we know. Where else can a woman bleed from for 12 years without dying? This woman, weary and “unclean”, braved the crowd and snuck up behind Jesus, certain she would be healed if she could just touch him. She reached out and touched his robe, and instantly, the bleeding stopped. She was healed. But even Jesus, who instantly knew he had been touched, knew it wasn’t him that had healed her. Her courage, her determination to reach him, her faith in her healing, that is what healed her. She had healed herself. Being willing to brave the judgement of others. Being willing to make yourself level with those you worship. Being willing to believe that you deserve that healing. Knowing your one task is the journey towards wholeness, which is actually just a constant reminder that you are already there, no matter how much life may challenge you to remember. There's no quick fix or easy solution. There's only the willingness to love yourself enough to keep trying, to keep going. To continue reaching out for what you know will be your healing.