Kirsten: Hey everybody! You're listening to the Girl Talk podcast and I am Kirsten Helgeson. So we're starting this really fantastic ongoing series right now and it's super relevant and timely because some big things have been happening in our country here in the U.S. around women's bodies and states trying to regulate how our bodies function and the choices that we can make. And so we're kicking off an ongoing series on abortion. And I've invited women anywhere in this world, particularly in the U.S. to like jump into a dialogue, and for many of these women, for the first time ever to actually have an opportunity to tell their stories. And my hope is that with these kinds of conversations and hearing the stories of women out there, that we can actually start to kind of break down some of the stigma around abortion and to put real people to a big concept that we're kind of misunderstanding at this point. So I'm really excited because I have a good friend of mine here who is kind of jumping into this whole conversation with me. So, hey friend! Want to say hi to everybody?
Warrior: Hello, everybody!
Kirsten: Want to introduce yourself a little too?
Warrior: So yeah, known Kirsten for almost six, seven years-ish, about that, and just had an instant connection. Just felt like we had, you know, common energies and really wanted to see each other do well and just good old fashioned solid heart hugs whenever we see each other. So when the opportunity came to share my piece, share my reality, my experience about it. I thought, you know it's not that it's about time, but this is something that I can share that maybe would help somebody else. And also, you know, help me to get it off. Something that I've maybe been holding onto and not letting it define me.
Kirsten: Have you talked about this much with other people?
Warrior: No. No. Some friends of mine that are still friends nowadays, we've had random conversations talking about pregnancy and they were going through pregnancy at the same time and they're like, oh, you know, if I didn't have that abortion, I would have had two kids or three kids by now. And I'm like, I would have had four and I have two living ones right now that are like eight and nine. But yeah, you think about it like what could have been or what would my reality look like differently if I had gone through with those, you know, um, pregnancies earlier on in life. But yeah, it's not anything that I shout from the rooftops by any means, you know, because the majority of my family doesn't even know. And when my mom found out it was by happenstance because I was having a surgery and they asked and I had to own up to it, then and there, in that moment in that check in room, prior to going under that I had abortions before, and she kind of had to digest insta-moment. You know, and I was like, this is what's happening. This is it!
Kirsten: We're going to do this right now!
Warrior: Ok! I'm like, wait, what was the question? And then I had to, you know, kind of like - ok! - you know. She was there during the relationship when I chose to have these and she didn't know a lot of about the relationship because within that relationship that I was in, they were very, very good highs and very, very bottom lows. Right. And it was not healthy for either of us. And she always saw the happy highs, right. When we broke up or when I broke up with him, she felt like he was leaving the relationship with nothing. So she offered him like a couch or all this stuff and I'm like, I'm not going to fight it. I'm not going to kind of open up the hornet's nest and give you all of the jazz that occurred in the relationship. I'm just going to move on and close that door. And I still don't really talk about all of, like the emotional, verbal abuse that took place. So yeah, to think too, I was going to have potentially two children with this man. That was why I'm like, no, this is not going to be my life. So that's why I chose not to pursue those pregnancies because it was not a healthy relationship that I wanted to see my life move into.
Kirsten: How old were you?
Warrior: How old was I? Um, like 20. It was between a three year span that we were together. It happened twice. So I think I was from 22 to 24, 25, something like that.
Kirsten: One of my questions is how did you actually get to a place where you were like, yes, I'm going to have an abortion. Like this can't be my future. Like, how long did it take you to get to that point?
Warrior: It was within the first trimester, because I came to the situation or the decision pretty quickly to be quite honest. Just because, the first year that we were together was fine. And then the second and third years where everything kind of started to be super roller coastery, if you will. Just the experiences, I think, it was not something that took a lot of thought, you know. Maybe a moment like, oh this could be something that could help or what have you. And I just didn't see a positive outcome really from it. Granted, personally as a potential mom, definitely that took a toll, but not wanting to raise a child in that unhealthy environment trumped that decision.
Kirsten: Do you feel like it was the most responsible decision you can make at the time for yourself?
Kirsten: And for your unborn children?
Warrior: Yeah, I still think about that once in a while. About what that could have been, what they would look like now, you know? But in meeting my current husband, he essentially told me later on that if I was a mom of two kids, he wouldn't have been interested in me. So my current reality would not be what it is if I had had those children.
Kirsten: Really? So you're two current babies that are so wonderful and sweet would not be here.
Warrior: My little crazies? Yes, definitely. Yes. But no doubt, my life right now, my reality would be a totally other, you know, break off point. If you were think about, you know, the movies that are out there and you have those streams of timelines, it would have totally taken a 90 degree angle. So I'm like, what could have been? What would my life had looked like differently? And then just looking at the landscape and how he's moved on with his life, just kind of being curious and not anything about that. I still don't see that there could have been a long conducive future with that person.
Kirsten: And especially with the kind of relationship, having those really volatile lows like that and verbal abuse, emotional abuse like that. That's not something any child should ever be exposed to.
Warrior: No. And after a while, my friends and my friend’s mom actually said, "I saw your light leave your eyes." I always find that I like to see myself as a strong individual. I will share my voice, I will stand up for what I believe is right. But after a while, it's just kind of the constancy of that. You become conditioned to it, right? You just find yourself moving into that track where you're kind of just like, hmm, okay, this is my life right now. You know? And trying to rationalize it to some degree, but knowing in your mind this isn't right. But it's exhausting to the point to try and fight your way out of it. So after we broke up, then my friends and my friend's mom, even, who I don't see all the time, she's like, "I saw the light leave your eyes." I'm like, ehhhh...that just broke my heart. You don't think that this is happening because you try to put the facade, you play the part. But people can see through it no matter how much you may try. So that was something that kind of reaffirmed that decision that I made.
Kirsten: Well, especially being a strong woman. Like, I know you. You are a tough cookie! (laughing)
Warrior: Hopefully not too tough! (laughing) Where people are like, daaang! (laughing)
Kirsten: But you can when you need to. And I would never think that you would take shit from anyone. And I think that speaks to the fact that us as women, we give people benefits of the doubt quite a lot, right? And that we can all, no matter how strong we are and determined, we can still find ourselves in very difficult situations.
Warrior: Truly. Yeah. That was the last place I ever thought I would see myself, right? I'm good going to Madison for the day by myself. I don't need to be with anybody. I've been the person that my friends call to when they are having difficulty with a significant other, right? I'm the one to stand up in different situations and I was then the one that was in the position to be helped or protected or stood next to for a minute, right. And that's not always something that I thought I would be in a position to be in, but it was my life for three years. Like I said, when it was the highs, we would see each other getting married. And in the lows it's just like "say what again?" You know? I mean, we brought out the worst in each other. And no matter how much you fall in love or idealize the idea of a family and a future, and this is my plan, you really have to kind of come to terms with what is my standard? What am I going to accept? What is my standard of excellence? Who's going to respect me and how I'm going to respect myself? And that took time. It took time to come back to that. And there's still latent things that come about, you know, from that experience that still get to my gooey center core. Do I speak up to this? Is it going to be okay? What's the reaction going to be? Because a lot of the times it was the reaction and the jealousy that was causing the problems.
Kirsten: So did you go to Planned Parenthood? Or where did you actually go?
Warrior: So, I went to two different places on the two different occasions. The one that I can remember vividly is the one over by Prospect and North Avenue, I think. I can't remember the exact place, but it was a clinic like that. And I remember the one time I went in there was, like, protesters or picketer people in front with those crazy pictures that are like, eeeeehhhh. And someone from inside the facility had to come out and help usher me in. And they apologized, like, you're okay, you still want to do this? I'm like, "yes." But it's scary. You have people in your face, even though this is your decision for whatever rationale, they may choose not to understand or care to. This is your decision that you've come to and you have to be fine with it, right? You have to be all in or not. And so that was somewhat unsettling. You're like, holy hell! People are so devoted to this understanding or this choice that they've made that they're trying to push that onto other people, which is something that is conflicting for me, that causes me to be unsettled. But regardless. It was within the first trimester, both times, because it was not an easy decision, but a decision needed to be made nonetheless. And I didn't want to hold on, longer than necessary.
Kirsten: You said that a woman had to come out there and get you and bring you in?
Warrior: I don't know if it was a woman, to be honest. I remember someone. I don't remember exactly. It's been about 15 years. I remember someone from within the facility had to come out and put me under their arm and bring me in.
Kirsten: That just makes my heart break for you having to go through, with people screaming and yelling in your face like that. And that was something that was, I would imagine, a very emotional situation. Not just an emotional situation, but a very emotional moment.
Warrior: You're walking in by yourself and you have people confront you. You're like, "huh, is this right?" You kind of start to have these reflections. But then you have to kind of stick to your heart of like, really, why am I here? And then really follow through with that decision.
Kirsten: Well that's great that actually someone from inside the facility came to bring you in because, from some of the stuff that I'm hearing from other women, that was not the case. That they had to break down the door to get in there themselves.
Warrior: And that's crazy! To have the need of someone knowing to go outside, you know, then it's not like the first time. I would assume that this is kind of like a, "okay, go get her!" type of thing. Maybe that's kind of the practice that they were accustomed to. So I don't know how it is now, but I would probably guess it's not so different.
Kirsten: So then was the experience within the clinic a nice one for you? Like A, at least a welcoming, safe space?
Warrior: They were very welcoming. They were very kind, very informative. So there wasn't anything that really I was unclear about. This was not their first rodeo, you know. They understood that this is the service and the support that they provided. So they were very welcoming and accommodating. I went by myself both times, even though they're both from the same father. But I didn't want to get him involved really, even though we were still together after they both happened for some time. I still handled it all on my own.
Kirsten: Going back, if you had to talk to your younger self or another girl in that same situation, would you tell her to go alone or would you have her bring someone with her?
Warrior: I would probably tell her to bring someone with, like a girlfriend, right. To have that support system. Thinking back, I don't know necessarily what my reason was to go by myself. I think, I'm just going to own it. I'm going to handle it, I'm going to get it done and move on. So bringing maybe somebody along with me...I don't know what they would've said, even though they understood my position and my rationale, I don't know what they would've said. So I just made the appointment or made the phone call and followed the steps and moved on from there.
Kirsten: Well, it's a very vulnerable moment, right?
Warrior: Yeah. And I'm not very apt to show my gooey center all the time.
Kirsten: And that's okay! It happens.
Warrior: Yeah! Especially in a situation like that. Especially if you're walking into a place where you kind of have to be on guard a little bit. Maybe putting somebody else in that situation versus you just owning it. Something that you can control.
Kirsten: Yep, you have to put the armor on. It's like you're going to battle, a little bit.
Warrior: Exactly. Exactly.
Kirsten: It's hard to know who you can trust to go into that kind of battle with.
Warrior: Yeah. Even for friends that I've been there in different capacities, where they felt they were vulnerable or they were scared for whatever reason, I'm happy to be that person for them. I kind of relish in it, like, let me help you. I can do this. I'm going to speak up for you when you can't. But to allow other people to do that for me, I don't know necessarily I'm the easiest to allow that to happen.
Kirsten: I'm the same way. That moment where you have to let someone actually in to care for you in a very vulnerable situation or place. It's hard.
Warrior: Yeah. Because I'm used to being a hard ass, in some regards. Because then you can't hurt me unless I allow you to. Like, not waiting for the other shoe to fall type of thing.
Kirsten: How does it feel talking about all of this now?
Warrior: I'm trying to recollect and, visually in my head, what's gone on with it. My husband knows. Really close friends of mine that I've known them for 20 years, you know, they know. But it's not anything that's front of mind on the regular. It's just different. I don't know what it is, but sometimes I just get those "what if?" thoughts and reflections about it. It's fine talking about it and it's making it real even more so, like of different situations that have happened in my life that I don't freely talk about. But, it's something that I chose to do. I still agree with the choice that I made because it's valid. And just seeing how things have played out, I love the life that I have now and my crazies that are in my life. And I don't want to play the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda or the What If game because then you're just going to cycle and go bonkers. If this can help someone else make that decision of really playing the long game, and choosing: is the situation that you're in within your relationship, the one that you really see long-term? Is it for the betterment of the child? Is it running through the full length of the pregnancy and giving it up for adoption? Like, all of that stuff. You have to understand the emotional toil that it will take and how much can you handle. People have to think about and really have a hard look in the mirror about what they want to do. Because the thought of having them long-term until birth and then giving them up, that didn't even enter my mind.
Kirsten: So you have a daughter?
Warrior: I do.
Kirsten: We started this conversation, talking about when your mom found out. And you have a daughter of your own who might someday find herself in a similar situation. How would you want her to respond to you in that place?
Warrior: I would want her to understand. She may not agree, but I want her to at least understand why I made the choice that I made. Where I was in my life was not where I wanted to be or wanted to see myself long-term and knowing I could be happier if I made changes. So if she was in the same position, I would have her make her own decision. I would share with her my experience, but in no way, shape or form, make her choose my choice. But ultimately I would be there to be a support for her, answer any questions, go with her if she wanted me to. But ultimately, it's her body. It's her choice. I try to help her prevent from getting to that position, first of all. But if the cards fell where they fell and she came to that point in the road or she had to decide, to try to get all the information as possible so you can make that decision, that best suits where she is in her life and where she wants to be long-term.
Kirsten: What do you have to say to all of the volatility out there right now around the discussion and the regulation of abortion?
Warrior: Oh my gosh! That's a whole other...we need a day! But honestly, in what world (I guess the one that we're living in, honestly) but in what world is it okay for some other person to tell me how to regulate and make decisions about my body? Only I can do that because I know my experiences, my attitudes, my beliefs. And you're sitting somewhere in a room telling me how I should operate within my body is in no way, shape or form appropriate. Extenuating circumstances occur where there's medical issues with the child or if someone was raped or attacked and having to keep the baby. And then the father having access or rights to that said child. In Nowhere Land in any universe is that okay ever to be born into a traumatic experience, and then having to live with the perpetrator. It's just wrong. So if you're looking at one side of the coin with women, then you have to look on the other side of the coin with the man or whomever conducted the issue. It's bonkers. To me it makes no sense. I just read something other day, how are we still having all of these gun-related deaths and there's still so much argument about "you can't take away my guns." But yet you're telling me, if I was a victim of rape, that I have to keep my child because of some traumatic experience? Where are you looking in the constitution about that? I mean, the constitution was written however many years ago in a different reality. Things don't necessarily stay the same. You have to review what the current world is about. What the climate's about. It's like weather. Like, they wrote that constitution like weather. They're taking the current climate, the climate has changed and you need to think differently about how those choices affect people. Do the best you can on a broad scale. But in no way, shape or form can you make a decision about a woman's body or anyone else's body for that matter from sitting up on a hill somewhere, in a room. You need to have the right people around the table to make those choices and make those decisions. The right to choose for your own body, I would say is square one. Point one.
Kirsten: It's like pursuit of life, liberty and happiness...
Kirsten: Life for yourself.
Warrior: To have the choice, right. At least have the choice. Because free will, right. There is one choice that you may not want to make, but there is definitely a choice regardless.
Kirsten: Where does spirituality fit into this whole thing for you? I know that's a real tough one.
Warrior: Yeah, that's a deep one. Well I'm not, I would say, a very religious person. I create my own relationship with whatever higher faith I have. And it's just being honest, really. I would hope that if and when I ascend to those pearly gates or whatever you have or whatever there is that they understand why. My why, in making those decisions. And that it was the best for me, in that position. And not as a means to cause any harm to anyone, for a nonissue or for no reason. Was I planning on getting pregnant? No. Was it something that just happened? Yeah. And so then when you're faced with that, you have to make the best decisions based on the information that you have. And the information that I had was I wasn't in a healthy relationship. I was still figuring myself out. I wasn't solid within a career. A lot of variables that I had in my plan were not checked off. You know, you have to kind of pitch and pivot based on how your life plans out. Isn't it "God laughs when you try to have a plan," something like that. But regardless, even though how much I want to try and control things, that was one thing that I knew would change the course of my life forever. And if I was in a healthier relationship then it probably wouldn't have been the decision I made. But just because of the relationship I was in and the recurrence of the roller coaster. And I think the bad outweighed the good. Those are the decisions I ended up coming out to be with.
Kirsten: So we've talked over all these years about allies, right? Advocating for the rights and the opportunities of other people. And you also have a son. So especially in this kind of a space, how would you want all of our sons to start responding to these kinds of regulations upon women's bodies?
Warrior: I would want him to have an informed viewpoint, right? Especially with me being his mom, he's going to know to respect a woman bar none, first. We were at my mom's the other day and talking with a neighbor. And the neighbors like, "Ooh, you're going to be a man killer" or something like that to my daughter, kind of jokingly. And they're talking to my son, like, "Ooh, you're going to be good with the ladies. Are you going to ask somebody out soon?" I'm like with respect! There was no pause, it's just a continuation of their sentence. And my aunt's giggling, but she knew, like, yep. That going to happen. With me as your mom, you are first and foremost going to treat women with respect. You're going to treat people how they want to be treated. You are going to be mindful about how your choices and actions affect others. It's just the constant. I can just state the first part of a Maya Angelou quote and they know how to finish it. "Once I know better, I do better." So we constantly talk about that because if you have more information, you have more experience, you are more educated to make a better decision and behave better. So it's a constant conversation in different ways. You know, it can't necessarily be talking about abortion, front out. But, are there words out there that you don't understand? Let's talk about it, right? How's it going on at school or if someone's treating somebody else poorly, you need to stand up for them and not allow that to continue. Because other people have hurt themselves because of how people have been treated, you know. So it's being honest and not trying to overwhelm but have them understand brass tacks about how to treat other people with respect and kindness and being thoughtful. So that's my hope and my commitment to him.
Kirsten: This is a big wound for women right now, this subject. So many women are reaching out and it's like this gaping hole inside of them that they've never been able to talk about. So what would you have to say to other women who have been through a similar situation that are figuring out how to start talking about this? Or processing this, in this collective way?
Warrior: I would say: own your truth. It's a decision that you made for whatever reason. If it's the fetus or the baby wasn't viable or...you really have to look at your situation and what happened and what kind of life do you want to create? And I would say, find someone within your group that you trust and can start to build that sense of confidence around. Or just kind of speaking it into reality for yourself first. And foremost, to own it and be honest. And more times than not, I would care to say that people would appreciate the honesty and the experience versus the decision or the choice that was made. And people, I think, would care more about you as an individual versus just the choice that you made. And if it comes down to that they don't agree on the choice, but they can understand, then that's a step in the right direction. And you don't necessarily have to defend your answer or your choice for having an abortion. It was a choice that you made for the right reasons at that time. And you can't change the past. And if there's going to be a hole, you have to find a way to try and fill that hole. Forgive yourself, if anything, but speak your truth. And some people sometimes may not be ready to hear that, to have their heart open and to receive that. And then that's on them. But you first and foremost have to be good with yourself in that space and know you made the right decision or come to terms with that, however you need to. If you need to pray, if you to meditate, if you need to write it down in a journal and reflect on it. But not to keep that wound open. Not let it have power over you, but be a part of you. Not let it be your identity that you lead with. But be something that is part of your life experience and speak truth to it, how you can.
Kirsten: So are there any other last words that you would want to put out there? It's totally open. You can say whatever you'd like at this point.
Warrior: Try not to do it by yourself. I would say one of the learnings, I would say, is try not to do it by yourself. It's a lot to carry and you don't necessarily want to keep those wounds semi-open or scarred. You can lean on people when you need to, that have maybe gone through it with you during that time or that you've opened up with. But don't be ashamed or embarrassed by the decision. Like I said, it's been 15 years for me. It's something I still live with, of course. Like, what could have been my life? But, it's a decision I made nonetheless twice and I didn't want to be in that position twice, right.
Kirsten: Yeah, you didn't ever plan that...like...
Warrior: No! God, no. It was a brutal 24 hours because it was within the first three months. So there is a pill, whatever you need to do. But yeah, it was brutal. And to not feel necessarily supported physically and emotionally for both of those times, and not speak truth to it with my family at the time and kind of just do it, behind closed doors. It takes a toll. And a lot of people - most people - still don't know. So it's not allowing it to fester in. But by doing this today allows me to share my experience with it. Maybe it helps others. But if it's a decision that you are wrestling with, if you like lists, write lists. If you like to pray, pray. If you need to meditate, meditate. But find an outlet of some sort to express and speak to it so that you're not doing it alone.
Kirsten: I think that's the most important thing. That you don't have to be alone in this process. We put so much stigma around the fear of even asking for help overall with stupid things like fixing something at your house, let alone something that's so personal, like needing to go and have an abortion. And so, no. Reach out. Trust people.
Warrior: Trust people! And more times than not, people are good for the most part. Right? And you have to trust that, right? You can't go in expecting everyone to criticize or judge, because then you're projecting that vibe and that energy and you're creating that, potentially. But truly going in there honestly and vulnerably will help. I can't speak to that necessarily, that experience, for myself. But I would say if you have the opportunity to do that, try and do that. And whatever their circumstances, you can be however you decide. It's really up to you how you want to steer your life.
Kirsten: Do you think that this whole experience has made you softer? Learn to put your armor down a little bit, sometimes?
Warrior: Sometimes, but I still find that I'm a hard ass in other regards. (laughing) It's a lifelong journey! Because you worry about the reaction, right? And if you try to project that reaction, then you're preventing yourself from living truly what could be. But yeah, I find myself that I try to take a pause or a beat or a breath and be present and try to be softer in some ways. And I think through that experience though too, I always want to hear other people's stories before I ever make any sort of an opinion, just because I know all of my experiences. I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me. So I always try to live with the platinum rule of treating others how they want to be treated and really being genuinely interested in their journey. Just because mine has been crazy. So it's meeting people where they're at really, and giving them the grace and the space to live that.
Kirsten: I think you've probably created grace and space for lots of people today by talking about all of this.
Warrior: Thank you. Hope so.
Kirsten: Any other last words at all?
Warrior: Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to share my experience and hopefully it may help others to find their way through it.
Kirsten: I'm sure it will. Thank you for being so brave to share your experiences too. One of the women that I was talking to, she was really excited that we were starting to have these kinds of conversations and she called all of the women that are leaning in to have this kind of dialogue warriors.
Warrior: Nice! Shine on!
Kirsten: Shine on warriors! So I hope your armor now has a new definition because it's about creating this safe space through vulnerability and being super warrior-like.
Warrior: Put armor around the tribe. So you have the inner sanctum of the tribe and the armor is on the outside of the tribe.
Kirsten: Exactly. So thank you for being a warrior. And for opening up. And for being brave enough to choose yourself at a really difficult time period.
Warrior: Thank you.
Kirsten: I love you, girl!
Warrior: Love you!
Kirsten: Thanks everybody for joining this special, special podcast. And if you have questions or anything like that, please feel free to shoot them over onto the Forum on justagirl.co. Other than that, stay tuned for the next special chat with our next new friend. Thanks, all. Have a good day.