Laura is our neighbour
Understanding post abortion difficulties.
I am trying to sum up my understanding and observances of what post abortion difficulties look like, both from my own story, friends and from other stories on line, and in books. My study floor is covered with pictures, poems, articles and studies which all focus on one thing: how to make sense of it all, and how to help us all to understand what or how it feels to be experiencing a difficult reaction to an abortion – this is my objective.
My eye rests on a picture of a woman curled up into a foetal position, her arms and legs scratched with words. ‘Not yet’; ‘not ready’; ‘can’t have a child’; ‘what would my Mum say’; ‘my boyfriend won’t let me’. Her face is hidden from view, her hair disheveled, her legs naked and barefooted. I shall call her Laura. She looks distressed, fearful, and lonely.
Laura is found sitting in the reception of an abortion clinic. It is very clean and grey. There are no pictures. She sits, folded into herself, trembling, avoiding eye contact with everyone. The nurse ushering her into the doctor’s surgery is a relief to her. Fear and panic are replaced with a calming reassurance that all will be well. Disquiet takes a back seat; these people care. And they do. Confidence grows because of their words.
Now Laura faces the counsellor, for whom she steels herself. ‘I can do this’ she says internally, ‘I know what I am doing. I don’t want them to think I can’t cope with this.’
Two days later, shaking and flint-faced, Laura walks hesitantly into the clinic again. She feels choked and the atmosphere in the clinic is hauntingly quiet. Then there is the faint sound of women crying, slightly ethereal and deeply sad. She feels uncomfortable so she goes back to her car to wait.
Coming back in, she stands in the corner waiting her turn. Other women are coming out, some with mascara stains on their cheeks, arms hugged across them tightly. They look down with unseeing eyes, then steal away back to where they came from. Going home.
Now is it her time. She is beckoned down a corridor by a smiling and friendly nurse. She is instructed to take her clothes off, put on a gown and walk into the surgery when she is ready. She feels a bit awkward about undressing in the corridor. After all, she did pay good money.
Once inside the surgery, Laura sees what looks like a large dentists chair with stirrups. She is welcomed to take her place on it. The nurses, with hushed and controlled voices, and ask her if she is comfortable. The doctor takes charge. Laura feels like her heart is going to stop. The world becomes very small and there is an air of deep concentration. She is on a roller coaster and there is no going back. She lies in agonising obedience to the procedure.
All done, Laura is led by the hand into the recovery room, in which she is offered a cup of tea. The staff tell her how brave she is. And she is. She sits there for a while, trying to be nice, but everything hurts. Her mind is in turmoil. She wants to get out of this place. She makes her excuses and rushes out of the recovery room. She goes towards to the receptionist for reassurance but the they’re busy with a client. No one wants to meet her eye in the waiting area, and she moves towards the doors.
Laura is alone. How do we feel, knowing what she has been through? What now?
However, her boyfriend is waiting for her in the car; he didn’t want to come in because he felt it was ‘her business’. They drive home, not saying a word. She feels sick and goes to bed when they get home. The full horror of her ordeal is just beginning to dawn on her. She wants to forget it.
The following weeks for Laura are numb.She goes to work, she can’t focus and she has trouble making simple decisions. She can’t bear to be near her boyfriend – she is angry with him. They row a lot. Something has changed and they can’t work it out. They made a choice, it was safe and legal: all their friends have done it. But she feels rubbish. He feels equally terrible and he gets angry a lot.
Months go by and Laura learns how to bury her feelings when they are too much for her. She gets busy socialising, has an affair with someone else and ends the relationship with her boyfriend. He was no good anyway. If she sees pregnant women, she thinks about how old her baby would have been, but she then feels a pang in her heart and closes it down very quickly. ‘I will have another child,’ she says to herself.
A year later, Laura is changed. She has re-invented herself, buried her experience and there is no way she will be telling anyone, especially her new boyfriend. She wants her life to be new and fresh but something has happened deep inside her, and in the quiet moments she feels the pain again, the anguish of her soul, like a gnawing and aching emptiness. The finality of an irreversible decision made in the context of distress, isolation, and wanting to please people, reaps its consequences in her private world.
Understanding post abortion difficulties
Laura could be in our office, in our College, in our church, or live next door to us. There are plenty of us. She endures a private pain, because she feels ashamed to tell anyone about what happened. This is shame she has imposed on herself. She gets guilty feelings, or deep anger towards seemingly trivial issues. Her walls are up, she works hard to keep them there, and all the time a deep sadness threatens to engulf her. All her behaviour patterns are askew. Depression and anxiety have come in where there once was a happy-go-lucky spirit. Her spirit is heavy, and the weight of it sometimes drives her to be extreme. If she isn’t drinking, she takes risks with men who treat her badly. She tries to get healthy, but due to stress she has gained weight and she is not the same.
Whatever our response is to abortion, Laura is a neighbour of ours. She was made in God’s image; the gift of hope and a future is hers to receive as she comes to God herself. God came to all of us through Jesus, to give us an abundant life. He says to us and to her: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, I will restore your soul, and mend your broken heart.’ He gives us the opportunity to surrender all the things we did and were. We have his invitation to be transformed by His perfect love and then to demonstrate love to others.
We can love Laura and all who choose her path; let us put aside all judgemental and unloving attitudes. We can be a refuge in her storm, lead her gently to our refuge who is God, and help her to recover. God alone can restore her but we can be a part of her new love story, in which love heals her brokenness and brings light, life and hope into her world once again.
* Fredericka Matthews- Green once wrote:
” If a pregnancy is a wheel that draws all together, abortion breaks the wheel, spinning the participants out into isolation. It severs the woman at one blow form the child who trusts her, and from the man she wants to trust. As French feminist Simone De Beauvoir wrote, after abortion women “learn to believe no longer in what men say….the one thing they are sure of is this rifled and bleeding womb, these shreds of crimson life, this child that is not there. It is at her first abortion that a woman begins to “know”. For many women the world will never be the same.” **
*“Real Choices”, Fredierika Mattthews-Green
**The Second Sex,” Simone De Beauvoir Bantam Books, 1952