Nineteen years ago today, I lost a son. Bearing a child is a thing sacred in womanhood, it touches the core of who we are, links us to the women in all the generations and ages before us.
Since then, nearing the end of August, I find myself entering a time of mourning in my spirit. After the first decade had passed in which I inexplicably found myself fighting to crawl out of the black hole of depression, I finally made the association: "Mum gets a little wonky nearing October."
I'm fascinated -- and at times horrified -- by a contemporary society that seems to place acceptance and open-mindedness above other economies of character. Recovering addicts of all flavors, serial philanders, and those who abandon their gender are embraced for their courage in overcoming what must surely be heart-wrenching obstacles. The fair-haired darling of the "I've Got You, Babe" generation grows up and changes her gender? By all means, let him dance!
But we mustn't talk about our abortions.
In a small town, it's really no secret that I've had one. In the late 1990s, I became an early volunteer for the local crisis pregnancy center. In my training to be a counselor, and through the love and prayers of some extraordinary women, I began a healing journey and accepted as my own the forgiveness which had been granted me two thousand years before.
My story was published nationally and later internationally, and I began to share my testimony in local churches. It took every ounce of courage and obedience I had to stand before my own congregation and share my story for the first time.
An extraordinary thing happened. For weeks afterward, women came to me by the dozens. They'd stop me in a parking lot, or in the grocery aisle. They'd thank me for my words, give me a hug and hold me long enough to whisper, "You told my story. Thank you." Sometimes they would show up on my doorstep, with tears in their eyes to ask if they could sit and talk awhile.
Our stories, our memories and our grief are all remarkably the same.
Those in recovery in all forms, those seeking a healing truth know this to be true: You have to acknowledge an issue, seek help and bring it out into the open so that healing and health may begin.
My close friends know that I am fond of saying, "Sometimes you have an opinion. Sometimes you've earned the right to that opinion." Here's mine: When do we get to rip away this taboo, or at least peel back the edges of it enough so that women who have clutched the secret tightly for so many years can take it out of the dusty box, confront the contents -- admit that doggone it, this still hurts -- and then somehow put it to rest?
Each year I believe in my heart that enough time has passed -- that this year it will be different. A few weeks ago I was in high spirits; home to Tennessee finally, and blessedly happy in a church home, feeling stronger and more confident than I have in a great long while.
One day the chatter and laughter at the office, the squeal of the police scanner, the sound of the presses rolling out the day's news had me flinching, almost literally, "'bout to jump out of my skin."
I knew it was back, and for the past eight weeks the very act of appearing outwardly functional has been the emotional equivalent of walking on a bed of broken glass.
In psychology circles, there is a class of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with women who are post-abortive, and with that often comes an anniversary syndrome like mine.
Some years, I've pre-emptively taken advantage of pharmaceuticals. This year, I made a leap of faith, chose to feel everything head-on, and prayed for the words to come to the page. They have, and they've culminated in a collection of essays, "Eight Weeks in October," which I hope to self -publish early next year.
Being transparent (and public) about your choices isn't for everyone, but what I've learned on this journey is the reason for the hope that lives within me. I have no choice but to speak.
When you're ready to talk about your abortion experience, call First Choice Pregnancy Counseling Center. I'll be there -- as will those very same ladies who loved me until I got better. .
-- Tracy Simmons is a features writer for the Times-Gazette. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.