Clearly this has been a very painful time for Theresa May. Not managing to do what she’d set her heart on. We all experience this at some time in our lives, and we have ways of coping with the disappointment.
If we have been very confident that we’re going to succeed and let everyone in our circle of friends know about our aspirations and desires, it can feel worse than if we’d kept quiet and just worked towards our goal as best as we could. However, that’s not always possible – especially if what we are hoping to achieve requires the co-operation of those around us, some of whom are not in agreement with our aims. What an uphill struggle we can face. We see in the public resignation of Theresa May something of the resultant loss of face, and whatever our views of her premiership our sympathies are touched for her.
For us, the things we’ve set our heart on are much more personal, and our disappointments are not made public in the same way as it has been for Mrs May. As women we often come against something that limits us, our dreams and aspirations are threatened. We have been taught that we can have it all, that there is no limit to what we can achieve. Then we find ourselves expecting an unplanned baby, and we believe that we can control that through abortion, which is presented as a useful remedy to a problem. To our surprise it can be truly traumatic and devastating. An unplanned pregnancy, a baby diagnosed as not perfect; how does this equate with resigning from being Prime Minister of Her Majesty’s government? Is it ok to resign from motherhood in the same way? Can we truly let go of motherhood without harm to us or to our baby? Will it be a painless choice for either of us? There is plenty of evidence that the baby in the womb can feel pain. It is such a final thing. There is no going back from death however much we might come to regret our choice.
After abortion there is a shock, a time of adjustment for many of us as the certainties of life are re-evaluated in the light of the challenging experience we’ve been through. Especially when we are also dealing with a measure of abuse that led up to the abortion, the trauma is very hard to deal with.
Which brings me to what has been on my mind a lot in these past few days. How do we deal with regret, heartbreak, deep sorrow? What words of wisdom are there out there to help us? Fashions change. We used to be encouraged to smoke to calm our nerves. To keep calm and carry on, keep a stiff upper lip. Advice that is frowned on nowadays because it is harmful to us.
Yet many people still cope with this sort of pain and humiliation in ways that are harmful to them – we’ve even got a term for it – ‘self-harm’. It seems to a person in mental or emotional turmoil that a better option is to experience physical pain that will for a time block out anguish. Somehow nothing is enough. We might decide to spoil ourselves and have a nice meal. We might find it has become comfort eating.
To return to Mrs May. I would hope that her husband will take her away on a holiday where she will have a chance to rest from the stress she’s been under and let go of the concerns which have been constantly in her mind for the past few years. Things won’t be achieved that she wanted to achieve, and she will have to accept and learn to live with that disappointment. I would hope that she might even reach a point where she is able to feel at peace with the outcome which she will no longer have a say in.
And we, who are struggling to survive and are over-eating, cutting, abusing our bodies with drugs or starving ourselves, what can we take from what Theresa is going through, her failure to deliver the goods?
We can see that her failure is a shared one. She was given the job to do, did it to the best of her convictions and did not receive the support from those she needed to support her. Is this true in our case? Did society encourage us to consider a choice, the choice to end the life of our baby, with the implied lie that it didn’t really matter, wasn’t important and wouldn’t affect us? Does the responsibility for the death of our baby rest on society as a whole? Did the fact that it is legal give us the message that there’s nothing to fear? It’s the medical profession who offers it, who gives us the message that there is no problem here, that we should take their advice. Our experience is so at odds with what we have been told. We feel it’s almost as though we have been lied to as we are shown pictures of the development of the baby in the womb.
How do we deal with lies and trauma in a way that is helpful to us? My experience is that to deal with lies we must face the truth, no matter how painful, and admit that we were wrong. To lose face is a small price to pay if we can have an end to the anguish in our minds.
The best advice for dealing with trauma is to talk it through with someone who has been through a similar experience, is accepting and understanding. Someone you can trust.
There is a website www.postabortsupport.com and a Facebook page Post Abortion Support for Everyone. The regret and sadness affects not only the mother but has repercussions for the wider society as well.