For many years I have been supporting women through all aspects of pregnancy and birth, firstly by empowering them to have joyful, healthy birth experiences, and more recently by helping women reclaim their power and self worth if their experience was not what they had hoped for.
Whilst women often approach me to resolve the trauma of medical complications or clinical intervention, what comes out in the safety of our sessions is that there are many layers of grief from a whole range of situations and events. Of these, one of the deepest wounds comes from those pregnancies that never come to term.
Today I am reflecting on my own and others abortion stories. Here are a few notes and reflections from my healing work with women. These are not ‘truths’ or ‘facts’ – these are my personal feelings and observations from listening and holding space for women healing from abortion. I was astonished that the research I did find on abortion supports my own experience on a personal and professional level.
1. We suffer alone in silence
Abortion can mess with who we feel we are at the deepest level of our Feminine. Honouring the Sacred Feminine is the first step in the healing path.
We are the life givers.
We want to create more love.
We want to create more beauty.
We want to create more life.
Having an abortion can be very disturbing and emotionally painful for many women. So the first thing I want to acknowledge is the loneliness a woman can feel for weeks, months and even years after the abortion is actually over.
On a deep level we feel we have done wrong by life, that we have sinned, that we have now moved from being divine creators to cruel destroyers.
We can place ourselves in the very bad person basket.
From here we punish ourselves relentlessly. This can sometimes go on unspoken, underneath the surface layers of coping fairly well in the everyday world.
We move on in a daze like denial, pretending we are fine, whilst actually feeling sad, angry, furious, resentful and even depressed and isolated.
The truth is that the deepest part of us, the part that created the pregnancy, the Sacred Feminine part of us deeply deeply wanted to conceive, nurture, grow and birth. She wants to grow more love and more life. She is nature’s way. Growing, cycling, birthing more love and light onto planet Earth.
2. We feel guilty
We don’t yet have enough circles for healing after abortion. At least one in three women in Australia has an abortion.
There may well be a tsunami of collective grief in the female underbelly.
We are collectively afraid of being judged, found out and punished. We are afraid of being persecuted, stoned to death and even jailed. Deep down we feel we have done the wrong thing, even though we made the difficult decision from the heart of love. We often felt choice-less, forced into abortion because having another baby would wreak havoc with our physical, emotional or mental health, our families, our bodies, our relationships or marriages.
In short, having the baby sometimes threatens our survival as women. We may feel threatened emotionally, physically and psychologically, so we feel forced into choosing abortion to protect ourselves from abuse, neglect, alienation, rejection, and generally being cast out of our partnerships, communities and families.
3. We feel unsupported to go ahead with the pregnancy
Often we abort because our partners do not want, or will not support the pregnancy, or the child. There is no judgement here. Male partners see things through male bodies and male minds are sometimes able to be pragmatic about such decisions. They do not grow human lives inside them.
Male partners are not under the super nova of divine spiritual and hormonal influence of pregnancy the way women are. Partners may be more able to detach from the lived experience of conception and subsequent abortion and post abortion healing phases. This is not to say they do not suffer grief and loss, for they certainly do, just not in the way a woman experiences it on an alchemical level.
We need to grieve the fact that we could not bring life in without the necessary support of our partner by our side. I want to acknowledge that often a partner makes this decision from his deepest truth, from great love. Sometimes not. There is no one to blame. Each has their own unique experience of pregnancy and abortion.
According to Ewing (2005), the majority of women and girls who have abortions do so because of a lack of support from partners, parents and friends. Seventy percent of women say they felt they had no alternative to abortion.
4. We are afraid of going crazy
Recently I was listening to a woman who had a significant amount of grief from her abortion. She was afraid to feel her sadness because in her youth her mother had said, “women who have abortions end up going crazy and regretting it for the rest of their lives.” She associated sadness, lots of sadness, with going crazy.
Women fear mental breakdown. Nearly one quarter of the female population is taking anti-depressants. It wasn’t that long ago women were given shock treatment and sent to the mental hospital.
In an attempt to ‘still feel sane and normal’ we can bury the bones of guilt, grief, anger and shame.
This doesn’t work. Like grass growing up through the concrete, our feelings want to be seen. At some point we may get a whiff, we smell the pong of something with a foul stink. We need to tend to the dying aspects lurking within us. Giving death, tending well to what is dying and what is dead is ancient women’s business.
We are the guardians of life and death.
Respecting these sacred transitions in an authentic way to our spirit gives us a sense of peace and well being. By giving death the honour, respect and time she requires we become truly liberated to live whole and full once more.
Fearing or avoiding giving some death robs us of the life we are meant to live. Death has the power to liberate us from many old wounds, old grievances and illusions.
Life and Death are one.
5. There are no accidents
I don’t believe there are any accidents. Every experience we have is for our truth. Everything is for our learning. Every experience is for our awakening.
My abortions led me deeper into myself. My abortions took me to the darkness so I could find the light and love that still remained in my heart and soul.
I wanted to create a family. I wanted more love. I thought that having more babies would bring me that, yet the universe was clearly not going to support that path.
I have said this before and I’ll say it again. The baby I needed to nurture and care for was the child within my heart, my very own inner child. I desperately needed to love the baby inside me. I wasn’t willing to do that then. I was looking to create more illusions.
I am loving my inner babe now.
Today I have a teenager and although I am sometimes sad she never had a sibling, I am deeply grateful I do not have more than one teenager to parent now. I am grateful for living in a time when I can have a safe abortion. My grandmother did not have this option, blessings on her soul.
I am grateful for my abortions, because I know in my heart that if I had three children now I would be crazy. That’s my truth.
Abortion is often a painful and unspeakable experience for many women.
Too many feel alone often years later.
If you have experienced abortion and are still suffering in silence, I am here for you. I am here to tell you that you can heal.
You are not crazy.
You are good.
You are worthy.
You are truly wonderful.
I honour the creator and the destroyer within Nature and within us all.
Selena Ewing, Women and Abortion: An Evidence-Based Review, 2005; a meta analysis of Australian and international research on why women have abortion, compiled for a Women’s Forum Australia parliamentary submission. See also www.afterabortion.org