Let's not assume! Disenfranchised Grief, but Now We Can Grieve Respectfully (Voluntary Pregnancy Termination A.K.A Abortion)
I'm so nervous and fearful of sharing this specific portion of my journey. I'm usually super transparent about the emotions or experiences that I have had in my life, especially now that I am an adult. There is one situation that I feel like I don't have the privilege to talk about because I don't ever see anyone stating that they feel the same way that I do or that they've had the same emotions about this specific social issue, female issue, most importantly human issue.
I thought that if I brought this topic up and shared it that people would judge me for The Choice that I did make or even judge me for The Choice that I did not make. I felt that I would be judged for not being “perfect” or more so not living up to this expectation that people have unintentionally put on me as this example of a mentor for young girls or a Christian or being a social worker and all these other roles that people put expectations next to.
This topic is one that I felt like I didn't have the right to speak about because grief and loss is usually centered around physically losing someone or some type of ambivalent loss like a parent not being in your life anymore or a divorce. I didn’t feel like I had the right to speak about all the various emotions that come with VOLUNTARY PREGNANCY TERMINATION (VPT) AKA The A Word (ABORTION) in the same way that INFANT LOSS and MISCARRIAGES are talked about and grieved. I felt that because I technically made the decision to not allow life into this world that I didn't deserve to feel grief or loss; that I was being selfish because there are women who have miscarriages and women and parents who experienced the loss of their child before their child was able to experience moments with them. So I hid those emotions from myself and swept them under the rug (intentionally and unintentionally). No one (not even the people who told me that having this child would not be a good idea) really asked me how I felt after and if/when they did it was to reassure that my life wouldn’t have gone the way that it had and everything works out the way God wants it (Do you know how hard that is to hear).
Please note that I have not put these people’s names in here for privacy.
So, for a while I felt like I was living outside of my body, like a zombie and I didn't truly smile from within. The first time I smiled was when My God daughter was born. I felt like God was giving me a reason to smile and she's kept me smiling since her arrival. She's probably the one reason why I'm still alive today, but that’s another story for another time. Although she's brought me joy, my heart still yearns for that child that was growing in me and it is that ungrieved experience and emotions that has sat in me for many years (since 2013).
I've learned through my own therapy that I hadn’t truly grieved (life wouldn’t let me. I had to graduate from undergrad and keep moving forward. There was no time and no one else who had told me about their VPT told me that they grieved, so I didn’t think I needed to.) I still had lots of sadness and conversations with certain people still haven't happened but all of those emotions I pushed down to just keep moving on with life. All of that manifested into anger and so many other emotions. It became unhealthy and I didn’t even know that I was angry until after an incident. It has been one of my triggers of depression and anxiety that I experienced.
Sometimes I’ve wondered and asked God, am I being punished? Sometimes I really question if I'll ever have children (I know I'm "young" and still have all this "time"), but this is my raw truth. I want children, but fear I won't have any (please don’t cut off my grief and processing by trying to say anything that you feel would be comforting. It ends up being a reminder that I should just be okay with moving forward without having the right to feel). I've even looked into the process of adoption, just in case. I have always wanted to be a mom even when I was younger, probably more than a wife. I have a dog now and he has been the best emotional support animal. During the first few weeks after his arrival I would literally pick him up and instantly start crying and every once and a while now this still happens. In this interesting way holding reminds me of the child I never got to hold, but I get to express and feel the nurturing side of me just explode for this loving, silly, and out of this world personality of my dog. I give to him the love and care I wish I could give to that child, a child in general, one that I could birth, but honestly any child that I can nurture as my own.
You know there are many times even before I conceived at the end of November in 2012 where i really just wanted to be a mom more than anything. I still do have that feeling so when people, especially older people (women mainly, sometimes older males) say "ohhh its so good you don't have children yet. “You can live so freely and just enjoy life” among many other things; I die and melt a little inside every time (I'm actually crying while I'm writing this, but it’s okay. it’s a part of this process).
There are many other aspects of this topic, but just sharing about grief and loss from VPT, abortion/termination of a pregnancy/not following through on giving birth (however saying it makes you feel okay); it has to be a complete stereotype (not acknowledged) that women who get abortions don't feel anything. I felt way too many emotions from the first day the nurse at my college campus's health care center took my urine test and came back with positive results. I felt when I was trying to find a place, not knowing if this was the right decision, or if it was actually me making the decision, when I was setting up the appointment, driving to the place with a friend, walking in the building, talking to the nurses and people at the place, when I took that pill that forced my body to start the process of termination (basically forcing the body to contract like you are on your cycle, but cramping so much basically a forced miscarriage in a way because the end process is similar if not the same.) I’ve felt ever since. My body remembers and so does my mind especially around the anniversary. I never ever wanted to get an abortion as I also felt that if I could lay down and have sex willingly (talking about consent) then I should be able to take responsibility for this life that was conceived especially if I wanted to mother a child.
So I'm working on forgiving myself completely, although I know God already has but my hurt and disappointment in the pressure I experienced from those around me made me believe that was the best option. I'm working to truly forgive them for taking that choice away from me (the choice to actually choose or to have an unemotional discussion) through what I felt and believed to be an ultimatum and also decision that were forced on me because of their own fears from their own past ( that’s another story). You know maybe it was the best decision or maybe it wasn't (yes, I've gone on to graduate with my bachelors, attain my masters, get a good job, publish 2 books, participate in all types of programs, travel, meet some awesome people along the way that shaped my life in amazing ways, create a non profit, and some more stuff that I don't have time to list), but none of that was done without me ever thinking about the child I could've had. Yes it may have been a lot tougher or maybe longer to do all of these things, but that child is one thing that can never be replaced or forgotten and if/when God blesses me with a child biological or adopted; that child will be loved beyond measure and cared for with every breath in me. That child will not take the place of my first child that did not get to develop and be born because they are two different souls and I appreciate that already.
I'm still working through my grief. I still get sad and angry at times, but I'm working on my healing. I could say a lot more but I think this sums up a nice portion of my experience and gives transparency on another issue that has affected my mental and even physical health over the years on top of other traumas.
Someone may be wondering how I react to other women becoming pregnant or the babies I see randomly. Babies make me smile and children are amazing. I loved working in child care facilities, afterschool programs, mentor programs, and being a school based clinical therapist. LOL I have immersed myself with children since I was about 15. I love to be around them. But as for other women getting pregnant I’ll admit there are often times when I don’t even think about myself or my VPT and I just am so elated for the other person and it may randomly pop up as a thought of “I can’t wait to have my own child”. I am genuinely joyful for my friends and family when I receive the news, but then the other question is when are you having one. Sometimes that makes me want to cry. The answer I want to say is I had a chance, but didn’t take it, so I don't know anymore, but I usually respond when God sends me a man to help me and I laugh afterwards. Sometimes or rather in the past few years I also say when I get financially stable and maybe I’ll adopt or have a child on my own (I have had this convo with some people here and there, so if you are reading this then you know the details of what I mean by this). I would be lying if I did not acknowledge that I do feel sad at times when I randomly see someone who is pregnant and not because of them or a despise or jealousy type of way, but like geese, I am really affected by this. I had a few friends over the past two years who became pregnant, but the love I have for them and how they included me in aspects of their pregnancies or embracing an Aunty connection of Aunty really makes me feel a special way, so thank you! I have tried not to bring up this topic to a few of them, but one of them is my best friend and she knows it all, so she checked on me earlier on and I love her for that and so much more. I guess we can say I have learned how to compartmentalize and not make everything about me, because although in my world it is, but in their world it isn't and I acknowledge and respect that.
There are so many reasons why women get abortions. Let's not shame them as it isn't always their first choice and even if it is, let's not assume that they (we) don't feel grief or ever think back our decision (s) (I put the S there for the women who have had more than 1) or even on what that child's life would've been. What our lives could’ve been. Some women who get VPTs are single, married, children, teens, engaged, in a relationship. Some of their partners know and some don't know. Some people went by themselves and have never shared with anyone, some had one person go and have slowly shared with others over years, and some people shared right away. Regardless Let’s not assume.
Something I did maybe because I was in therapy at the time and it was recommended or maybe I did this on my own (it's kind of a blur), but I named that child back in 2013 and I imagined that the child was a boy (for some reason I just really hoped it was a boy when I initially found out and was originally planning to follow through with the pregnancy) and his name would've been Aiden Zion Uriyah (last name will not be shared for the other person's privacy as this is my truth of me and that person's time together). I keep saying I'll get a tattoo to remember this child, but I haven't because I keep thinking people may think I'm being too dramatic, so clearly I'm still working to silence all the thoughts. I do have an indirect tattoo on my back of Elephants. I randomly found a short story a few months after the VPT and it is titled
Hills Like White Elephants - Ernest Hemingway. This short story was very helpful for me during the first year and every time I look in the mirror and see my back I am reminded of a lot of things that I connected to in that story.
Since my VPT I've talked with the guy and shared my truest thoughts and hurts and I still do as I am healing and he allows me that space more now in the past two years more than precious years to process when I need to. I really appreciate that he hasn't asked me to get over it etc. Which is helpful and doesn't make me feel like I'm being gaslit in this area surrounding this issue. It's taken years for me to truly share everything with him on how I feel about everything between him and I. Now was probably the most appropriate time to talk in depth because I learned how to assert myself even with the fear of rejection about this topic. If I can talk to him then I should be able to talk to anyone (of course as deemed appropriate/needed). As strange as it may sound this is traumatic for me and probably a big T. This trauma I experienced outside of the rape and other attempted rapes, bullying, and a few other things… this one is the one that affects me the most for the longest amount of time (can you believe that). If you have ever completed for self or give to a client then you know there is the UCLA PTSD Reaction Index questionnaire and towards the end is ask; which event affects you the most currently. As a therapist on the other end I have often times been surprised the traumas/events that I thought my client would pick and they choose something else, But I quickly remember what’s traumatic for one and what is a big T versus a little t are always different for each person.I know that I could never put myself through that again. Now that I think about it my body was out of whack for months. My cycles still took time to come back. My hormones were re-adjusting just like postpartum. I also know that pregnancy isn't always pretty. Each woman is different and so is each pregnancy.
Prime example that everyone defines traumatic events slightly differently, including myself. Some women may not define this as traumatic but just very emotional. Some may not see it as either. I am Pro Choice as I have assisted other girls/women (by talking out their options with them/just listening) or been the person to take them to complete the VPT. I will never put my emotions on my VPT experience on another woman to encourage her to keep a child or to not keep a child. Each one has to make that decision without super influences.
Lastly, I am not saying don’t ever ask a woman when she will have kids or things related to birthing a child, but if you do it ask with compassion and ask because they brought the convo up. Pay attention to nonverbaland verbal cues. Let’s not assume.
Some questions to consider…
If someone was able to conceive and had a VPT for whatever reason is she still a mom?
Women who have had a VPT have you ever thought about (if this issue of VPT still affects you and you are processing) how do you deal with mother’s day or do you consider yourself a mom?
Women do you ever see abortion/VPT advertised with support/friend groups etc.? (I recently over the past 8 months started to see more information and resources and have come across 3 podcasts that touch on abortion after care. One podcast that I remember is from Therapy for Black Girls Session:140 Healing After an Abortion.
I have recently found a few books and I don’t feel as alone as I did for all of these years. One book is titled C.P.R.: Choice Processing and Resolution
by Trudy M. Johnson, Tonya J Williams, et al.
and another is titled You're the Only One I've Told: The Stories Behind Abortion by Dr. Meera Shah, Janina Edwards, et al.
There are people talking about this and I finally feel like I can talk about it all. I talk about sexual assault easily and my rape, but this I just couldn’t but now I have been processing and healing. I shared about my VPT about a week or so ago with someone I met for business purposes and it sparked such a healthy conversation. This is my narrative and just the surface, I have written so much personally and recorded my verbal thoughts. So I have been practicing for this moment in a way for a while. I had all of this written for about 2 and half months, just waiting. .
What's your narrative?
Have you ever done anything memorable for that child or given that child a name?
I haven't even touched on how guys feel if a woman has a VPT and they were there and supported it or didn’t support it.
Men, is this something that comes up for you? Women, yes it is our body, our choice, but do you or any women or men ever ask the guy how he feels after it’s all said and done (if there is still a relationship of some sort there). Men, are you honest about your feelings if it has impacted you , who do you share them with if you do share? Why or why don’t you share?
Since I have processed and am in a good stage of the healing process. It’s not as gritty and rocky and suffocating as before. I am now in a healthy space to assist others. One thing that I will offer and make space for is VPT/Abortion grief and loss for the women and men who still have strong emotions around this hard decision. It won't be politically or religiously charged, but if those factors are things my client wants to express/explain as to what led to their decision or connected to morals then we can include that at the appropriate portion of the processing (when the client is ready to bring that up and/or when it’s vital to bring up for the process).
With love & light,