An obvious decision

by Evangeline

March 15, 2021

Researcher Dr. Brené Brown has said that shame needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. The antidote she says is empathy.

Just after I turned 21, a month before I was due to move overseas, June 11th, 2016,

I had an abortion.

My heart is literally thumping as I write those four words. I have since told people about it and would freely elicit the information if someone asked, but I didn’t use to. I was overcome by emotions I had never known before, complicated by my biology and in hindsight, pretty poor mental health.

It was an obvious decision. I was so young, the other person involved (sperm does not a father make) wasn’t really interested in me as a full person, I was about to move countries and I had so much of my life ahead of me. It was, however, the hardest obvious decision I’ve ever had to make.

I haven’t dived deeply into the scientific reasoning behind it but the best I can describe it as is this, my head was in war with my body which was primed for reproduction and changing faster than my emotional intelligence could catch up to. I was changing physically, and my body was telling me at every stage that this is exactly what I am here to do. The hormones made me love this little nothing that wasn’t quite something but still overwhelmingly full of possibility. Reckoning with this is what made me realise after the procedure that I had plummeted into grief. I was mourning the loss of what could have been, fully understanding that the could-have-been would have been wretchedly hard and I would have done it alone but who was I at 21 to make such permanent decisions? I think often about what my baby would have looked like, if they would have been more me than him, if they would have forgiven me for bringing them here and if I could have still had the exciting and rich life I reach for every day.

Secrecy, silence and judgement. It was years before I told my best friends, I haven’t told my father and I don’t know if I ever will. I told my mother as soon as I had a positive pregnancy test and she said, and I will never forget these words, “I thought something like this would happen to you.”

Shame grew exponentially within me. It is as Dr. Brown rightfully observed, “an intensely painful experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” It differs from guilt as that’s feeling like you did something bad, shame is feeling like you are bad.

So, what does a 21-year-old grappling with shame and trying to postpone this grief do? She goes on with life, confronts nothing, grows in resentment for herself and anger for those who judged her and spends more years silent, harbouring this secret.

Well, I had an abortion. I’m searching for empathy to counter my shame and it feels like writing this all down is killing some of that silence and secrecy. I hope this isn’t met with judgment; believe me, I have judged myself harshly enough. Feeling unworthy is a wicked thing, it gets you to the precipice of happiness and drops you right off the cliff and I have plunged many times already.

How am I now? I am almost 26, I went on that incredible adventure overseas and cried on a canal in Amsterdam at how lucky I was to be there, alone. I finished university and moved across the country. I try to be a loving daughter and a good friend, an honest person and a listener. I practice empathy always, maybe because I am so desperate for some of my own. March is always a hard month, its nine months from June and I think I’ll mark it always. I think a lot about the children I might have, that finding out I’m pregnant won’t be for the first time, and it will make me so sad when I should be so happy and there’s that shame again.

I know there are people I need to speak to, to just cry in front of and kill that silence, but the blue light of this laptop screen is all I’ve got for now, and that’s okay because I’m worthy of finding comfort, right?

I wasn’t supported enough through my decision and certainly not after, a grief counselor would have made a world of difference. I hope this story can soothe someone who hasn’t felt seen before or can be the catalyst to unburden a heavy heart. I am here for anyone who has ever danced with this dark decision and will always support the right to choose. Choice is pro-life and I am going to have a magnificently insignificant and lovely one.

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