We are only as heavy as our secrets. That’s become part of my psychotherapeutic personal and professional mantra. Just because our conservative society, family or friends may find difficult subjects best dealt with in silent ignorance, does not mean that we, you, now us, have to carry on this old-fashioned concept of public denial. Subjects such as child abuse, domestic violence, rape, self-harm, anorexia, abortion (you get the idea) are real, and therefore need to be addressed, people need to be supported to heal and to become survivors rather than victims, and perpetrators of any type of abuse also need help to stop abusing their vulnerable victims. But with a hush-hush mentality the silent culture we have sadly grown up in needs to be smashed out of the silence and into the open. Why should we walk with guilt and shame shackling us to the heaviest part of our souls?
When I thought to write about my own experience of late, I felt happy. Happy to share the details of my recent termination? That surely is an odd reaction? Absolutely not. Writing about our experiences can have a wonderfully cathartic result, in the process and in the outcome, not just for the writer but also, for the reader. Sharing is caring. I want to try and break not only my silence, but also help you feel freer to talk about yours, or at least feel less alone and guilty for having to make one of the hardest decisions a woman has to make in her life.
August 23rd was the day I decided the staff at the hospital should end the life that was starting to develop inside me. 7 weeks and no bigger than my small fingernail but it was my baby, the start of being a baby, it hadn’t formed into anything that looked like a baby yet, but it was mine, and I had already fallen in love with her. The bond between mother and baby is something only a woman can understand fully; its profound connection is too deep to describe in words accurately. There is nothing closer in life, apart from death. The memory will never go, it will stay inside my heart until I take my last breath, but the pain will get easier to live with and its existence won’t be forgotten, just remembered differently to the pain that the early days of grief engender. Our connection is too strong to go even once the physical bond has been removed. Time and space have no distance with the attachment once formed. Its an invisible love. A love that needs to be mourned, respected and accepted. Don’t tell me to move on! Because right now I am angry and hurting. We are all unique so of course we will all react differently to our post termination feelings. The commonality is that we were pregnant but our feelings and experiences will differ so I write this mainly for those that are struggling with coming to terms with the choice that they made about ending their pregnancy.
4 months after that horrendous day in hospital, tears still fall, anger still rises, pain still pervades, and he tells me to move on. He didn’t want another child. He didn’t want more responsibility. For 4 weeks I was rejected in one of the worst ways a woman can be, two days before the appointment he agrees to stand by my side, but by then the damage had been done. I had shut down, made my decision, and our relationship was over. Sadly, this was reminiscent of times before when I had fallen pregnant and the father hadn’t wanted the baby. How could it be happening again? What was my unconscious drive to repeat this experience? Why do we end up in the same situation? Repetition compulsion is part of the reason, but with all my training and awareness is this really what had happened?
How strong are our unconscious drives to repeat a situation from our childhood that had left us abandoned or hurt in some way; that we want to repeat but get right in our adulthood to somehow make up those years and the damage that was carved into our psyche? Very.
Being part of an “ideal” family was my dream, but sadly, the older I get, the more I realise dreams are just that. Perhaps right now is not the best time to speak to me about relationships! Jaded and cynical I admit, and can usually find the positive but tonight it’s a struggle!
Without a partner’s love and support, the prospect of doing it alone, of going through the pregnancy and having the baby alone, can be just too much, too heart-breaking an experience to find the internal strength to go ahead. It will never be the same between you both after. Something has changed and unless your communication and relationship are extremely strong, succeeding isn’t usually an option. Time to move on from each other but not from your grief, weeks after it has happened. We need time. We need to feel and be allowed to cry, but how can you do that when those closest to you don’t even mention it. Their awkwardness talking about your pain and suffering stops them supporting you, so what about talking to them? What about finding help and support professionally if that doesn’t seem possible? My suggestion would be to have both if you can, personal and professional time and space to talk, and to get support, particularly if you are finding day to day living hard to cope with.
There is a local charity in London called Choices. They are based on Caledonian Road, N7, and offer up to 6 months counselling on a sliding scale. I have just had an initial assessment session and was held well, as in I felt supported and heard with no judgement. Being a psychotherapist, myself makes me quite a harsh critic of the therapy I am receiving so I was relieved to find the assessment a kind space and a haven for my secret pain to come out. Woman to woman, counsellor to counsellor the hour went as the tears fell and the inner sense of support to come started to ease my loneliness.
I already feel quite alone as a single mum, with one wonderful two-year-old daughter, I just don’t know how I would have coped with a baby as well in a one bedroom flat on the fourth floor. I’m old as well! 44 now, and us mummies, well those that haven’t led the healthiest of formative years, and are now tired, are not best designed to be mature mums! My decision to terminate was based on the lack of support I would have, my already tired self, our living arrangements, and wanting my daughter to have a decent quality of life without having an exhausted mummy.
The choice is up to us, and there are no rationalisations that help us. What will help is a space to talk about how you feel, in therapy if you can access this, or with a good friend or trusted and open minded relative. The last thing you will want to hear is anyone telling you to just “move on!" - grief is a process, consisting of 5 stages; denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
The more we can talk about our experiences, the better our relationship becomes with our narrative and the more we are able to accept and integrate our experiences rather than split them off. Becoming a coherent healthy whole being means we can walk without guilt and shame weighing us down. Don’t we deserve to walk free?
We can be our own worst enemies by bottling up our feelings, beating ourselves up with regret, and not reaching out for help and support. Let’s start to rethink as individuals, as women, as a culture of independent women to make Emily Pankhurst proud, to believe in our capacity to make the right choices even when they are the most painful ones to make. It is our body, our mind and our spirit after all, and therefore we need to find compassion and love for ourselves to heal and let our futures be bright without the dark clouds of yesterday casting shadows where the sun shines.