This week we speak with Julia Santana Parrilla, a 28 year old Public Health Masters student. Julia shares her experience of loss and grief surrounding abortion - an important and fundamental right.
Through her project "so...I had an abortion" Julia helps to destigmatize abortions and the shame and fear around them through the art of storytelling. Julia's story is below and we hope it will help shed love and light on the topic for women (and humans) everywhere.
What is one of the most significant losses you've endured, and what made it so significant?
Loss is something we all encounter to different orders of magnitude recurrently in our lives. Life ebbs and flows, weaving people and experiences in and out. It’s a mess! Sometimes the mess is horrible. Sometimes the mess is beautiful. Whatever the mess, life’s about owning it. Honestly, I feel as though that is our life’s work. It’s taken me ages to be OK with living with my anxieties about what in tarnation this life is all about. Now, I try to stay conscious of my two pseudo-mantras: you’re the person you’re going to spend the rest of yourlife with (love is me); vulnerability unites us all (love is us).
Last year I underwent two procedures that I consider acts of love. I’ve decided to share my story in hopes that others may find solace in it. Here goes: Early last year, I went to a fertility clinic. I was not looking to get pregnant, I’d just always assumed I was infertile and wanted to spare ‘future me’ the devastation. After taking my weight, height, and sexual history, they assured me I was fine. I didn’t even need to take my pants off! By the end of the summer, I’d had two medical abortions.
What did you learn from your loss?
Each abortion was impactful for different reasons. Abortion #1 surprised me, not only because I was previously convinced I couldn’t make babies, but also because the entire procedure was so seamless, I didn’t feel any of the psychological distress I had anticipated. I went in, met with 3 health professionals, one of them stuck a needle in my arm, and I was sent home to spend the day sitting on my couch, sticking hexagonal-shaped pills up my vagina every 6 hours or so. That was that.
Abortion #2 failed and I had to go through two cycles of Misoprostol (the hexagonal vag pills) and the next-level cramps they subject you to. After all that, I met my embryo on the toilet. I marveled at it and decided to bury it in the soil of my apple tree to honour what my body had started putting together with the promise to be the best mother I can be when the time is right.
My coping with each of them was different, too. I told all my closest people about abortion #1: gave them the ‘5 W’s’ (who, what…). One of my friends expressed gratitude to me for speaking so innocuously about a subject that is either not spoken about, or catastrophized. At the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with that revelation, so I put it on the back burner. During abortion #2, nobody got any W’s. I felt foolish and ashamed, like I should have learned my lesson. Gradually, those feelings turned into anger and resentment for a culture that would make me feel so harmfully toward myself. I’d already gone through the pain of the procedures; I didn’t need to torture myself.
The idea that people don’t talk about abortions came back to me. This time, fuming, I knew I wanted to do something with it. I knew that public narratives centered on shame and fear needed to be shifted. I knew that our silence was/is lending strength to anti-abortionist narratives. Before I knew it, I built an online platform dedicated to the destigmatization of abortions through storytelling: “so, I had an abortion…"
Stories are powerful vehicles of love, vulnerability, empathy, and change. Although the site has not launched yet, it’s intended to be a space safe for us all to be shameless. I love that my abortions were catalysts to my shamelessness.
What is your advice for others enduring similar loss or grief?
I know that the reasons for why people terminate pregnancies are vast. I can’t assume anybody’s experiences, so I won’t. Just know that what you have gone through started with and ends with love. You had love before the abortion(s), and you will have it after the abortion(s).
Like all hardships, getting over the hurdles is about meaning-making. Our minds are amazing things and we can turn “that was fucked up” to “I learned something” as long as we open ourselves up to being vulnerable enough to be authentic with ourselves and integrate the experience(s) as something that informs and fuels our sense of self in a positive way. If you have an outlet (creative or otherwise), express yourself through it – get cathartic about it. You’re entitled to your feelings; it’s about harnessing them to suit your Self.
Just as with grief, let your Self feel – get deep in your mess.
Anything else you want to share on the topic of loss and grief?
I’m still learning. All I know is that I want to learn with and from people. My project “so, I had an abortion…” is dedicated to us all. If you or a loved one accessed or tried toaccess an abortion, please consider participating. This project is not exclusive to cis-gendered, heteronormative individuals, and accepts stories in written, visual, audio, or video form.
Together we can destigmatize abortions – who knows what kind of an impact that may have. At the very least, we will stand together in our experiences, opening up public discourse to represent the truths about abortions and shift the narrative from shameful to shameless.
Muchas gracias to Julia for sharing her brave story! If you would like to share your story about abortion please contact Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org. xo R
For more kick-ass tools and resources on loss and grief, including the FREE e-book The Shit You Need to Know About Grief, sign up for loss&found here.