It’s been raining all day, as if a river was pouring from the sky, a perfect day to write about release and letting go, fertility and rebirth. If I had not had an abortion, I would be 40 weeks pregnant now. My due date would’ve be this Sunday, a sunny day in May with wildflowers blooming in California where I live.
If someone had told me I’d have an abortion at 40, I’d never have believed them, yet this is my journey. This is my choice. It’s cathartic to reveal a personal story like this, one that exposes a topic we’ve been conditioned to feel ashamed of. I informed my mother I’d be sharing this story publicly and she said, “do you really need to tell everyone?” My answer is “yes.” For my own healing, and for the liberation of all women–all the more so in our current political environment that’s nurturing anti-abortion extremism and writing the removal women’s rights into the law–this is a story I must tell.
How it happened is full of poetry and poignancy.
I’d been recently reunited with my divine husband, after a summer apart. Gleefully, we set off Burning Man in our RV called “Dustiny,” to make art and wild love together, at the most magical festival on the planet.
Let this be known—I would love to have a child with him—my greatest lover, the living god to my goddess. I’m a romantic, and I believe in true love, and I love him with every fiber of my being. My conscious prayer to the Universe—in the cauldron of dreams that is Burning Man—was for fertility for years to come, to give us time, without rushing, to be ready to fuse DNA and create consciousness together. A consciousness that’s half him and half me—the most romantic project of all. As relative newlyweds, I figured it would take us a couple of years to get settled and prepared for an undertaking as grand as having a child.
I had just turned 40, that age by which I thought I’d surely have a child. I’d always been drawn to having a child later in the game, as I’m such a lover of the freedom of childless living, and imagined 39 would be my year to conceive. However, for a year my period had reduced to only 2 days of flow. I’d begun to fear that my fertility might be waning. I didn’t feel ready, but how much longer could I wait?
Concerned, I consulted my acupuncturist who told me I was plenty fertile, and just needed to drink bone broth every day to build my blood to make my period longer. I believed her, but didn’t see any harm in praying for a long and luscious window of fertility.
Little did I realize in the moment, that the night I was praying intently for my fertility, was the night I got pregnant. They say prayers are answered, and it’s true I was praying for a child…just not now! I was practicing Fertility Awareness Method, tracking my cycle as I have reliably for many years. Yet, as the story goes, there at Burning Man, unplugged from my calendar, I made a mistake in my tracking. Basically my mind was on holiday and my body took over, and so I conceived, all the while thinking I was playing it safe.
When my period was late, I was in absolute denial that I could be pregnant. I consider myself excellent at tracking my cycle–this could never happen to me! A few days later, there was a super full moon, and I bled a small amount. I thought it was my period, just mysteriously light. I rationalized, I must have exhausted myself in the desert, or be stressed out. I must be drinking too much caffeine, or maybe I’m low in magnesium.
I went to an acupuncturist about my missing period. She told me liver stagnation can cause these symptoms. It’s definitely my liver, I thought. I really need to do a cleanse. Meanwhile, in the morning I would wake up exhausted, and my breasts were swollen and sensitive. It’s probably a sign that my period is just about to come, I convinced myself.
We’d just moved into a home shared with three women, and I wondered was my cycle simply recalibrating itself with theirs? Curious, I asked one of my roommates when she last got her cycle, and she handed me a pregnancy test. “Here, try this.”
“There’s no way I’m pregnant, and this will prove it,” I thought to myself, still fully in denial. My roommate ran into the bathroom when she heard me gasp. The stick read pregnant. Oh my gosh. I smiled and shook my head at the same time.
Smiling for the beauty of a life growing in my womb, created by my husband and I, and shaking my head, because I knew I was not ready.
I kept my mouth shut for a few hours until my husband and I were alone in our bedroom. I lit candles, and incense, put on some soft music, and got into bed, naked. “I have something to tell you…I’m pregnant.” His reaction was priceless, his body responded with a full body yes. Joy filled his face. He kissed me and we made passionate love. We didn’t talk much, but it was clear he was a yes to the child.
That night my sleep was troubled. My psyche could not rest, I was so busy processing this information. I woke early with these words on my mind, “enslavement and suffering.” Upon waking I told him, “I can’t have this child. You need to be in Europe. I don’t want to move there. And I won’t do it alone.”
The heart of the story of this abortion—circumstances, timing and geography. We love each other. We want a child, but for now, life requires him to be in Europe, and it’s my preference to live in California. Our home bases are not in sync.
I called my mother-in-love, Patricia Ellsberg, to seek her counsel. “I just found out I’m pregnant, but I’m not ready for this, so I think I’ll have an abortion.” Her 89-year old sister, Barbara Marx Hubbard, joined us on the phone. “I’m thinking of having an abortion, Barbara, what do you think?”
“Given the circumstances, Jena, I recommend you have an abortion,” she told me. “You are on a mission, and the baby doesn’t give a shit about your purpose.”
The baby doesn’t give a shit about your purpose. Her words echoed through my ears. My fear of enslavement and suffering felt validated. I imagined being all-consumed by a baby. I imagined my dream of studying dance and Portuguese for a month in Brazil never coming to fruition. Nor studying temple dance in South India. I imagined the pressure to pay babysitters, even to be able to work, and the near-endless responsibility of a child. “I’m not ready for a surprise,” were the words in my head.
“I do want a child, but not like this. I want to plan and prepare, and call in a soul when the time is right.”
I’d heard of conscious conception in my 20s and was fascinated by it. Prior, I thought that babies just come along at some point, sometimes planned, sometimes a surprise. Then I learned from a couple—her in her early-40s, him in his mid-50s—that they had consciously decided they were ready, and conducted a ritual during her ovulation to call in their child spirit. She conceived and the child was born. “I want it to be that way for me,” I told myself.
“There’s never a right time for a child,” several people told me. “It’s always an adaptation, and you have nine months to get ready, that’s plenty of time.” It would have been seven months for us at that point, because I was already 8 weeks pregnant when I found out.
I searched my soul. Is this pregnancy a sign to surrender to the flow of life? I was praying for my future fertility when it happened after all. Is it a sign? Did my prayer accelerate the future to now? I’d previously contemplated that if I became accidentally pregnant with my husband, that I would embrace it, but when the time came, my answer was a resounding no. Having a baby felt like losing control to a degree that I was not willing to let go.
In my head I heard the words of Regena Thomashaeur (a.k.a. Mama Gena) who I’ve heard say regarding having children, “unless you must, don’t.” I felt the resonant truth in this blunt statement. Ever since I’ve wondered, “must I have a child? Or must I not?
My thoughts traveled to numerous of my friends who have willfully, joyfully chosen to not be mothers—Monika Nataraj, Saida Desilets, Cristabel Zamor. They are all creators in other ways, birthing new life in other forms. One—Laura Hollick—has the nickname “Giant Womb,” because she is an artist and entrepreneur with a global reach, who births a prolific amount of work. I admire these women.
Another conversation with Barbara Marx Hubbard came to mind, that arose the first time we had dinner together. She said to me, “Jena, if you want to have a child then go for it, but if you are on the fence, it’s more life-giving for you to be a teacher than to be a mother.” This also stopped me in my tracks and gave me a deep permission to see my impact on the planet as my “baby.”
With all these influences in my head, and a child in my womb, my conclusion kept returning to, “I want a child, but not now, and not like this.” Less than 48 hours had passed since finding out, but I was clear. I dialed my local Planned Parenthood, an easy 25-minute drive from my house, to find out my options.
“You can have the medical procedure, or the abortion pill, your choice,” they informed me.
“Which do you recommend?” I asked.
“If you’d like to be in a clinic, the procedure is best. If you want be at home, the pill is best.”
“I’d like the pill. How does it work?”
“You come in for an appointment as soon as the day after tomorrow, and then you come back in a week.”
I asked a few more questions to understand what happened in these two appointments. The response was confusing and I got the impression that they give the abortion pill in the second appointment, with a week-long cooling-off period in between, in case you change your mind. It sounded simple enough. I booked the first available appointment.
On the day, my husband asked would I like him to accompany me. Because I thought it was just an informational meeting, and he was booked to work, I said, no worries, I’ll go alone. But when I got there, I realized that with my consent they would give me the abortion pill to take there on the spot, to terminate the pregnancy, and then another one to take home, to pass the pregnancy from my body, like a heavy period.
All of a sudden I was signing the papers, and they were asking was I ready? I started to panic. My answer was no. I needed to be with my partner. I didn’t want to be doing this alone in a doctor’s office. I asked the doctor for 30 minutes to ground myself before making the move. She was very kind about it. I went outside and called my partner, asking could he come immediately. But he was tied up in work, and the answer was no, he could not. However, we could delay it, and come together the following week.
Sitting in the sun in the Planned Parenthood parking lot contemplating my options, I let my hands rest on my womb. For the first time, I started to really talk with the child. “Hello, I know we’ve barely had the time to say hello, and I’m here to soon say goodbye, but I want you to know I love you. I really do. I want you, it’s just not the time.” I wept. I howled. I danced to let the intensity move through me. In the parking lot, in broad daylight.
I made my decision. Delaying in inevitable doesn’t make sense. My husband is flying back to Europe next week, and that can’t be changed, so I’m going to do it now while he’s here to support me. I went back into the clinic, but still, taking the pill in that moment didn’t feel right. Canceling the appointment didn’t feel right either. So, I did what any self-respecting pirate would do. I accepted the pill from the doctor, and when she turned her eye I pretended to swallow it, and hid it in my handbag instead. She gave me the follow up medication that I would need to take 6 — 9 hours later, and off I went.
I was emotionally exhausted by the time I got home. “I sneaked the abortion pill out of the clinic so that we could say our final goodbyes and make peace with our decision together,” I confided in my husband. “It’s late now, let’s sleep and deal with it tomorrow.”
That was my last night with my baby. I kept my hands on my womb the entire night, saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” I tried to listen. I tried to feel.
For the first three days after finding out, I felt in such shock I was numb. “Talk with the baby,” my friends told me, but I couldn’t. Now was my last chance. Less with words, and more with feeling, I did all I could to commune with the soul in my womb.
The next day I woke feeling ready and courageous. “I want to make this a beautiful ceremony,” I told myself. I washed my hair, did my makeup, and put on my favorite, glamorous gold dress. I gathered a picnic blanket, and packed sacred items for an altar—symbols of the divine feminine and divine masculine, incense, oracle cards, shamanic drum, rattles, and other sacred items. I wanted to commemorate this choice with the deepest respect.
After lunch, my husband and I went for a walk into the forest, to a beautiful grove of redwoods, next to a tree with a womb-like recess created by lightning. We laid out the altar, sang some songs, and said our prayers. I prayed to the Life force that animates all, to the trees, and to the soul itself. “It’s not the right time to bring you in now, baby. I hope you come back in the future, but I’m not ready for you now. Thank you for showing me I’m fertile. Thank you for all the lessons. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
He asked, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?’
“It’s a bit late for that question!” I retorted.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
He was right. Until I swallowed the pill, I could change my mind. I paused. The romantic beauty of the forest swayed me momentarily. But no, the abortion was the right thing for me to do.
“Yes, I’m sure this is what I want to do.”
The abortion pill was on the altar. One small, harmless looking pill, with so much power within it. “Shall we split it?” he joked, bringing his playful humor to the moment. I chuckled, “Nope, this one is all for me.”
And so, with a prayer and the deepest intention, I took the pill.
I played a song, “In my womb” by the band Scarlet Crow:
“I’m holding these keys, in my womb, in my womb, in my womb, and I let them go.”
“I’m holding these seeds, in my womb, in my womb, in my womb, and I let them go.”
“I’m holding these dreams, in my womb, in my womb, in my womb, and I let them go.”
What perfect lyrics for this moment! I felt like the song was written for me.
I drummed, rattled, danced and sang, relishing the quiet presence of beautiful forest around us.
Eventually we headed home. The process had just begun. Several hours later, according to the instructions, I took the other pill. We watched a movie and cuddled, and waited. Later, womb’s contractions began. Even with the recommended painkillers in my system, the pain was intense. I took a hot bath to try to relax. The contractions subsided. It was after midnight and I wanted to sleep. I fell into slumber and woke early in the morning. I knew it was complete.
I wanted to catch the fetal tissue in a bowl to be able to bury it, but I needed to pee. I went to the toilet, and it all came out. I fished the tissue out of the toilet bowl and put it in my bowl. I wept. It was done. Later that day, we ritually planted an aloe vera with the fetal tissue. A neighbor had been throwing away the aloe in their green bin, and I’d rescued it, so there was poetry to one life being saved, as another was let go.
What unfolded after that was an avalanche of emotions. Hormonally, being plunged from pregnancy to non-pregnancy is a huge shift. Even though my mind was clear, my body was in shock. A lot of anger rose to the surface, and grief and sadness. I felt awful, exhausted, and at a loss for what to do with myself. All I could do was rest, cry, and try to be gentle with myself.
That night a friend was having a clothing exchange party and I went, with my face painted with my own abortion blood, a radical expression of my warrior nature. It felt good to be seen and held by beloved women who supported me, judgment-free. I went home with a bag full of new clothes, symbolizing a new beginning.
After that, I simply felt sorry for myself. I felt like a victim of my own doing. Why, at 40, did I not have my life in better order so that I was ready for a child? I asked myself with contempt. Why did I feel in capable, when other women power through and do it all?
I called a friend for comfort and her response floored me. “How could you have an abortion? Especially after conceiving at Burning Man, the place of magic. Your man loves you, what else do you need?” I could barely breathe. I got off the phone, shell-shocked, as I’d been expecting a compassionate reaction. Her words seeded doubt in me. Did I make the wrong choice?
For a month, I’d been absolutely sure, but now I lost my center. Guilt and shame crept in. Two friends told me of their efforts and investments to conceive a child via IVF. One has spent one hundred thousand dollars so far to no avail, and was still trying. Was I being selfish to say the cost of a child was too great to me?
I oscillated from feeling good about my choice, to feeling awful. I was a wreck. Crying every day, and feeling absolutely lost in life. I could barely work. I could barely leave the house.
Desperate, I sought guidance from wise women. I spoke with sexuality expert, Pamela Madsen, telling her, “I’m worried my heart was closed, and that I made the choice with my mind.”
Her response reframed everything for me, “No, your heart was not closed. Your heart was acting like a fire detector. How fire detectors work is that they detect a fire before there is smoke. Your heart was detecting danger. Having a baby in your circumstances would have been death to life as you know it. So many things you love would have been lost to you. Your heart was sensing this and protecting you. Jena, your choice is a victory.”
Her words went all the way in to my tender heart, giving me comfort. I felt the truth of what she said. I was protecting my life. My abortion was a victory, not a defeat. I let out a deep sigh of relief. I felt guilt and shame ebbing away.
Next I spoke with expert “baby whisperer,” Cecily Miller. She guided me through a process of communicating with the child spirit. “Ask the child spirit for a sign that it is present,” she instructed me. I felt an immediate sharp sensation in my womb. “Yes, I got a sign.”
She guided me through a conversation with the child spirit. The narrative that emerged was one of protection. I was protecting myself, by not bringing the child in before I was ready. And I was protecting the child by not birthing it into unstable circumstances. I felt proud to be a protector of us both.
She continued, “I want you to know that you were a mother to that child for the eight weeks it was in your womb. You had a child and were a mother, albeit for a short amount of time.” I let that sink in.
I was a mother. I have a child with my husband. It was a child that only existed for eight weeks, but a child nonetheless. I was a mother!
I can’t properly explain how or why this helped me so profoundly, but this insight was the major turning point in my grief process. Giving dignity to the life I had carried, having it not be just a cluster of cells that never made it anywhere, but an actual child that lived for a brief lifespan, created a deep internal shift. I had a child. We had a child. And that spirit will always be with us.
After that, things started to improve. I stopped feeling so victimized by my circumstances and my choices. I was able to re-engage with my work. I started to make future plans. In addition to my professional coaching practice, I am a passionate dancer, musician, and DJ. I heard about a training for female DJs and music producer called Shakti Sound Camp and I signed up, giving me something to look forward to.
My shamanic teacher and friend, Javier Reguiero, shared his perspective that women who don’t have children are “giving birth to themselves.” As the veil of the grief lifted, I embraced giving birth to myself. “What am I creating?” I investigated within. “What will birthing a new me deliver?”
As time went by, I tracked the pregnancy as if it was still happening. I’d use the internet to see what a baby of 20 weeks would look like, and so on, right up until this week, when I’d be 40 weeks pregnant and about to burst! I still get teary when I see a pregnant woman, or a couple with a newborn. Just because it was the right decision for me, doesn’t mean it’s not painful, or that waves of grief will revisit me. But there’s no guilt and there’s no shame. I’m proud that I took my life in my own hands, and when I didn’t feel ready to be a mother, that I followed my instincts.
Presently, my desire for a child fluctuates. Some days I feel an indelibly clear desire to have a child, (or adopt if necessary.) It’s as if I can hear a child spirit whispering in my ear, saying “I want you to give me life!” It tends to happen when I am dancing, my most joyful state. Other days I have an alternate feeling that motherhood may not be my destiny. When I look in an imaginary crystal ball, I simply don’t know. Only time will tell.
I admire mothers for their endless stamina and capacity to seemingly “do it all.” And I admire women who have consciously chosen to not be mothers, and the contribution they are making to the planet.
If you are a mother, I bow to you. If you are not a mother, I bow to you too.
I planned to release this article in the week that I would be due to give birth, had I kept the child. Little did I know that this would coincide with historic legislative attacks on abortion rights in the U.S. I have been glued to the news, witnessing with horror, the insanity of the policies being instated in states including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio. If I’d been in one of those states, because I only realized I was pregnant at 8 weeks, I would have had to break the law in order to ensure my own self-preservation. Absolutely outrageous laws that incriminate women for having abortions, and doctors for safely performing them, and allow a man to sue a woman if she has an abortion, even if the pregnancy came from rape or incest, are being proposed and legislated. How is this happening?!
Of course, it’s white men, and sadly also white women at the helm of these misogynistic and racist bills. I’m appalled. As a first-generation immigrant to America (from Australia and Ireland,) I am disgusted at the power that backwards conservatives have over the laws of this country. Thankfully, some states like Colorado and Vermont are swinging the other way, beefing up their protection of abortion rights. My story is intended to awaken the pro-choice activist within you. It is a woman’s right to choose, and nobody should be forced to have a baby they are not ready to have. Can you imagine being that baby?
Fortunately, I was in the right state at the right time, and I was supported to make the right choice for me. The staff at Planned Parenthood were grounded, caring and kind. The abortion pill gave me a safe option I could fulfill in the privacy of my home, with the support of my loved ones. I had access to wise women to help me through the grief process, which was absolutely real even though this had been my conscious choice.
At the time of publishing this article, it’s two days from my due date. How will I spend the day? Well, as it turns out, the Shakti Sound Camp I enrolled in as I was emerging from my dark night is happening right now. I’m immersed in a group of 50 female musicians, DJs, and music producers. We are at a hot springs retreat in the Sierra Nevada mountains, pouring our hearts into learning our crafts.
It’s exciting, challenging, nurturing, and loving to be among these female curators and composers of sound. There’s no place I’d rather be! There are at least two pregnant women in the group, and I’m happy for them. They’re ready for the transition to motherhood, and the baby will not stop their careers as professional artists and performers. They will persist to give their musical gifts to audiences far and wide. These women are my role models.
Furthermore, I’m preparing to launch another baby, my Sensuous Goddess Pleasure School. This is the first time I’m mentioning it publicly!
Coming from hating my body and being disconnected from my capacity for orgasm, to being a woman who respects and adores her body, and has access to immense orgasmic pleasure, I’m here to show other women that they can too.
We all deserve to inhabit nature’s design–loving ourselves, loving our bodies, and living our pleasure, without shame.
This is how it’s meant to be, and I offer myself, my example, and my teachings, in service of this vision.
So there is my tale that I share with my head held high, knowing that stories like these have the power to heal, transform and liberate. You are a free being on this planet. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your desires are yours to freely fulfill. There are many ways to birth, so go forth and be fertile in exactly the ways you want to. You’re a natural born creatrix and nothing—NOTHING—can stop you when you truly remember who you are.
Lastly, I planned to give Barbara Marx Hubbard a call to update her with how I was doing after the abortion, but sadly, before I got around to it, she passed away. Our last conversation was the one described above. I recently listened to her final interview before she died in which she talks about going beyond identifying with our reproductive capacity. Instead she says, “You are the egg.” I thank her for this motto that I have embraced. Baby or not, “I am the egg. I am the egg. I am the egg.”