Like so many other women, I have stored hurt, pain, disappointment, guilt, shame and trauma within the confines of this vessel called “my body” and my womb has been the space where the darkest of these experiences have been held. When I was three years old; before I knew what a womb was or that I even had one, it became a dumping ground for the toxic energy of others. This pattern started with me being molested by an adult friend of the family, which triggered a great deal of confusion and imbalance in my life, that I now realize, is part of the backdrop for my abortion story.
As I came of age and fumbled into puberty, I had already experienced things that were too complex for me to navigate or comprehend. I had been prematurely exposed to sex, which catapulted me into a realm designed for adults. Yes, I was maturing psychosexually and intellectually but my emotional and spiritual maturation was stunted by the abuse and the secrets that I was harboring inside. This was the foundation on which my relationships and interactions with the opposite sex were built, and thus, more pain and confusion ensued. Because I was barely an adolescent when I became sexually active, the behaviors that I was engaging in and what they produced, quickly spiraled out of control and collapsed in on me like an avalanche. A part of me was shut off and I was functioning more on autopilot than from a feeling space. I was having unprotected sex on a regular basis and had little to no education about sex and relationships. My thoughts and beliefs about sex and intimate partnerships were skewed by the sexual abuse that I had experienced and I was relying on the information that I garnered from friends, television, racy novels, magazines and a great deal of trial and error; mostly error. It was just a matter of time before my behaviors caught up with me and after several scares and near misses, I got pregnant. So at the age of 15, I was pregnant and petrified, but I was also very clear about the fact that I did not want to have a baby. I was a good student and had aspirations to attend college and I knew that having a baby would decrease or erase my chances to realize this dream. I was also plagued by the thought of repeating a generational pattern of teenage pregnancy and dreaded the thought of having a baby at the same age that my mother had given birth to me. Unfortunately, my ignorance, lack of financial resources and my refusal to tell my family, caused me to enter the second trimester of the pregnancy before my secret was revealed. Because I was so far along in the pregnancy, I had to be admitted into a hospital to have a late term abortion; an experience that is forever etched into my memory and remained hidden in the depths of my womb until a spiritual experience and epiphany activated my voice and lead me to share this story OUT LOUD and ON PURPOSE.
It has been these experiences and countless others that led to my unconscious gravitation towards the helping and healing profession. I became a social worker, therapist, advocate, healer, performance artist, spiritual counselor, psychodramatist and coach because something deep within me had a thirst for healing. When I finally gained the courage to quench that thirst, I discovered that there were opportunities for healing everywhere. I healed as I educated myself about myself. I healed as I shared my stories. I healed as I forgave others. I healed as I shared my heart and my hurts. I healed as I engaged in spiritual processes and discovered my higher self and my true purpose. I healed as I watched others heal and I healed as I produced and designed programs, workshops and groups that ignited healing in others. Through these myriad experiences, I discovered that the only thing that had prevented me from transforming my stories and my relationship to them was my resistance to releasing the attachment that I had to them. They, after all, had been with me since my formative years and I knew them and their energy well. They protected me and covered me when others did not and they provided me with fuel to move things in the world around me. They also blocked me from seeing the beauty of life; created imbalance and toxicity in my intimate partnerships and an emotional disconnect between my authentic self and my ego. My stories, combined with the pain, shame, guilt, blame and anger had generated a life for me and I found comfort in dwelling in that space despite the toxicity until one day I woke up and could no longer breathe in it or wade through it.
Sisters, I am sharing this with you because I am committed to the continued growth and evolution of women, families and communities. I am sharing this because I know that our experiences as human beings do not define us; but inform and transform us. That is why I have entitled this post “DELIVERANCE: The Rebirth of a Womb”. My abortion story is one of the passageways that have led to my rebirth and delivery; however, this type of birthing has nothing to do with the sperm meeting the egg, or fetuses, or childbirth or any of the niceties of motherhood. We can give birth to ourselves again and again when we allow ourselves to be delivered from the darkness into the light. Sharing my abortion story in this forum and format has allowed me to bring light to dark places and experience love and liberation in their highest forms. Sharing my abortion story is not about pro-choice, but is about me “choosing LIFE” over death; the death of my spirit, of my dreams and of my childhood.
Beloved, we are all griots’ (storytellers) with something power-full to share, but we must also be willing to listen and hear the messages that are contained in the stories of others. As a healer and griot I choose to use my gifts to support myself and others to review their past, reflect on its impact, release the parts that impede their growth and block their vision and restore that which is destined for them to “be” and “do” in the world. It is my vision that each of us will continue to access our power so that we can experience catharsis in our own way, in our own time and on our own terms.
For everyone who reads this post and is courageous enough to share your story; thank you for taking the journey. It is my belief that it takes a lot of courage and a little bit of crazy to bare your soul and share your secrets. And I also believe, that we must expose ourselves to expand ourselves; so tell it like it is and GROW.
On-Ward, Up-Ward & For-Ward In the name of healing, Shawnee
Listen to Shawnee’s story here.
Shawnee Benton-Gibson is the Founder & Executive Director of The Griots’ Healing Circle and Co-Founder & Co-Director of Spirit of A Woman (S.O.W.) Rites of Passage & Leadership Development Institute.