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Why I Named The Children I Aborted

Abortion recovery comes in different forms for different people.

Her Voice

Recently, I read something that, on many levels, I can personally relate to. The title of the article was "This Is What No One Tells You About Being Child-Free In Your 40s". Like the author, I'm also in my 40s and I don't have children. But if I were to alter the title to fit my own situation, it would probably be something along the lines of "This Is What No One Warns You About Before You Get on an Abortion Table".

From 1993-1999, I had a total of four abortions. One day, I'll share what I believe led me to make those decisions. For now, I'll just say that obviously, I'm no poster child for the pro-life movement. However, I can provide some "hindsight wisdom" and regrets, so if you're considering having an abortion (especially if you're a woman of color), I would encourage you to first read think pieces like Abortion as Black Genocide: Inside the Black Anti-Abortion Movement and What Margaret Sanger Really Said About Eugenics and Race.

Abortion is a multi-layered issue. And no matter what political side of it you might be on, I think we can all agree that there is so much more to the topic than what meets the eye.

Anyway, what I want to share with you today isn't about getting into if abortion is right or wrong. Personally, I will say that even when I was getting mine, I never believed it was a wise or even good thing to do. But when you come from childhood abuse and you compound that with allowing fear—and really bad advice from so-called friends and sex partners—to motivate your decisions, you can end up doing things that you don't truly see the magnitude of until many years later.

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Take my final abortion (which happened on December 4, 1999), for example. I know I heard God say, "I promise you don't want to do this," yet in my mind I thought, I'm 25 and healthy. I've got time to have more children.

Hmph. Life comes at you fast. Although I'm not officially perimenopause yet, what I am is 44 and not in a serious relationship or sexually active. Yep…it's looking like I won't be having any children, at least from my own womb. God gave me the heads up that this could be my reality almost 20 years ago.

How do I feel about that?

I feel a lot of things. Something that immediately comes to mind is, how I felt about my pregnancies when I was in my 20s is very different from how I feel about them now. Personally, I always find it interesting that when someone wants to get pregnant and their pregnancy test has a positive result, they immediately say "I'm having a baby!" yet somehow if someone doesn't want a child and they find out they're pregnant, suddenly there's a debate on whether the embryo is truly a baby or not. Things that make you go hmm…

Personally, what I know for sure is that when you do get pregnant, it changes your life forever, no matter what ends up happening (you keep the baby, you miscarry, you give the child up for adoption, or you have an abortion). I also believe that when you choose to abort, you oftentimes only think about your present life, not your—or your child's—future. And when the future finally arrives, if you're not careful, or emotionally prepared, it can hit you hard. Really hard.

I know this for a fact because I know women who had abortions decades ago who still cry at diaper commercials, carry a sense of guilt now that they are now raising children, or they have a cryptic undercurrent of shame or anger; not just because of their decision to terminate their pregnancy, but because they've never really known how to heal from it. Fully heal from it.

Me? I think a part of the reason why I am able to speak so freely and open about my experiences is because I have found a way to heal that has worked for me. It's unconventional, no doubt. But it's brought me peace of mind.

What do I do? I wear a hoodie.

OK, it's a little bit deeper than that. I wear a hoodie that has a "4" in the middle of it and the words "tamer", "life", "miracle of life" and "peaceful" around it. What is that about? Those are the meanings of the names I gave my four aborted children—Damien, Ava, Nasya, and Solomon (in that order).

Again, I don't expect everyone to agree with how I view aborted children, but the reason why I decided to name mine is connected to a scripture in the Bible: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward (Psalm 127:3—NKJV) and I couple that with, For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well (Psalm 139:13-14—NKJV).

Given the kind of men I conceived with (not perfect, but smart and ambitious individuals), on this side of life, it's hard for me to not think of what my children could've accomplished on this earth, had I chosen to carry them to term. And the thoughts of that? That reality hits me like a ton of bricks—at times.

And so, I figured that since I will never see their purpose manifested, the least I could do is give them names that speak to purpose and life and then commit to living those words out in their honor. In other words, since I kept them from living out their purpose, I commit to trying to do it for them.

Every day, on some level, I say to myself, "I need to tame any 'crazy' down a bit. I need to embrace life and the miracle of it. And I need to strive for inner peace." And you know what? It's amazing. Although it's not the same thing as having a (now) 25, 24, 22, and almost 20-year-old in my life, it does make me feel like I learned some life-altering lessons from my abortions—and that I am doing what I can to make an amends.

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I know not everyone feels like I do about their past abortion(s) or abortions, in general. I get that. However, if you are a woman who's had one and you can't seem to get past it, maybe doing what I did can help.

Terminating a pregnancy doesn't have to ruin your life. Find some purpose in the experience.

I did.

I live it out every single day.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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