A sunny winter’s day

Six years ago today I sat in a park, on a sunny winters day. I was in that park with my eleven year old niece and three year old nephew.

I had watched these children grow up from the day they were born. I was eleven when my niece came in to the world. Her first couple of years they lived within a ten minute walk from us. I had watched her waddle around in her nappies with her big cheeky grin, bossing around their boxer and bringing sunshine in to our lives. Then as she grew, a couple of times a week I would pick her up on my way home from school, from preschool, then kindergarten, and walk her home with me. Some days we’d have a half an hour or so of Aunty/niece time before mum would get home or my sister would come to pick her up. As an adult I would often babysit my niece and nephew.

This day in the park was the first time I’d been alone with the kids since I’d left Brent. My sister, their mother, was the first person I had began to admit the truth to whilst I was still with him. He had made me go from the aunt who was in so many little moment of these children’s lives to having a home their mother wasn’t comfortable visiting, let alone asking me to babysit. I had missed them so much, Brent had been so successful at making me afraid of talking to and seeing people who loved me.

Today was a gorgeous sunny winter’s day, similar to that day in the park. However, on this day six years ago, as I played in the park with my niece and nephew, I knew that I had the potential to have my own child the following summer. I was still unsure of what decision to make, I was still considering the situation surrounding it.

Watching how happy the children were, remembering all the moments I’d been there for when they were babies was toying with my mind so much. Yet, whether it was later that day or over the following days, I knew what was meant to, or not meant to, be in my life.

Six years of sunny winter days have passed and throughout each one I have wondered about the child that could have been. I won’t deny that I have had a lot of ‘What if?’ moments. For all this time, even though I don’t doubt that I made the right decision, I’ve felt an empty space in my heart, particularly this time of year. The different thing this year was, that recently, not all on my own and not without some heartbreak, I began to open up my heart and soul. Now that I realise that I have been closed and protected for so long, perhaps there won’t be many more empty hearted winters like the last six.

The walls we build

When life has thrown so many challenges at you, you construct an emotional wall. I recently told someone that I have the Great Wall of China. I always thought this wall came up after my tumultuous relationship with Brent. It’s been six years since I left the most volatile relationship of my life. One would think that it was then that the last time my wall was down. However, someone walked in to my life recently and I’ve realised that my wall has been up since my high school boyfriend and I broke up. That’s ten years of never truly letting anyone in.

Yes, I’ve had a mostly healthy relationship since then but he got the damaged me, the me when the PTSD really reared its head. It wasn’t easy for either of us, but we at least had some happiness. It was hard, he was seeing a psychologist for emotional detachment disorder so I guess that’s what kept me placing bricks in to my wall instead of slowly taking it down piece by piece.

Since then, I dated a man for almost two years. It was ‘casual’ but people seemed to think we acted like a relationship. We’d laugh together, spend a lot of time together, tease each other and generally vent about our lives. Occasionally we’d do family things together but never a big event. We’d buy each other gifts with cute cards, but never an I love you. We never opened to committing to each other, I guess we just knew it wasn’t meant to be. He was a great support through all of my emotional times and when I let go of him, I seem to have also let go of my past traumas. Still I wonder if that relationship put more bricks in to my wall.

They say that things happen when you least expect them. It wasn’t part of the plan for me to let someone in recently. I know it wasn’t part of their plan either. But I’ve stopped building my wall. I’ve gone from having this Great Wall of China as strong as it could be to completely letting it crumble. As my wall has come down, I’ve seen another try to rebuild. I know that I’m strong enough to at least let the light shine through the cracks. No more building walls.

The abortion

They warn you when you book with an abortion clinic that you may encounter protesters at the clinic. They don’t warn you that there will be a teenager in the waiting room waiting to terminate her third pregnancy. They don’t warn you that there will be a woman with a child in that same waiting room.

I look back on this experience and I feel anger surrounding the process. There are laws in certain areas that outlaw abortion but these achieve nothing. What angers me is that there are no laws enforcing the research process that I put myself through and no laws to enforce a single counselling session. The only moment that a professional speaks to you about how you became pregnant and why you want a termination is the gynaecologist almost immediately prior to being prepared for abortion surgery. It made me wonder about the teenage girl, had she ever actually had any proper counselling around her pregnancies. It made me wonder if the mother waiting for her own procedure had been offered all of the advice she may have needed. As a teen and before my own experience I always said that abortion was only for rape victims but having been through the experience myself, I am now pro-choice but I am pro-educated-choice. The gynaecologist who women speak to is not a counsellor, not a psychologist, cannot give qualified financial advice and is essentially only qualified to perform surgery on and treat the reproductive system. I am not attempting to disrespect the doctors working in abortion clinics, I am simply saying that they should not be burdened with a responsibility for which they are not trained.

I was in a ‘nice’ private clinic, the front of house staff were kind and empathetic. The gynaecologist herself was kind and respectful whilst performing an ultrasound prior to the procedure. However, it was not a pleasant experience, I was made to get myself on to the table prior to being given anaesthetic, I’ve had several surgeries in my life and never before had this happened. I then woke up in recovery hearing the crying of the teenage girl, she had nobody there with her, it had seemed she was on her own, that upset me more than anything at that time.

Mum was there once I came out of recovery, she had been incredibly supportive throughout the entire process from the moment I was standing in her kitchen after receiving the positive pregnancy test.

Driving home from the clinic I felt empty, no emotions just emptiness. I also felt really gassy and uncomfortable. They give you a suppository…my butthole was stinging so much. This is graphic, but this experience was my reality. We were on a highway and I literally sharted, luckily I was wearing a fairly large sanitary pad, we pulled in to a roadhouse a few minutes later and I rushed inside. It felt like I was pooping for half an hour. Mum came in to check I was ok, I washed my hands, we grabbed some food and hot drinks and continued the journey home.

I was occasionally teary, but I was numb. This month marks five years since this experience. I feel much the same today. Numb.

The situation surrounding it

The situation surrounding it. It wasn’t as though I was a sixteen year old who accidentally got pregnant to their high school sweetheart. It wasn’t as though I’d found out I was pregnant after leaving someone I had a happy but boring relationship with, whom I had simply fallen out of love. I was pregnant to a man who, at the time, I was still in love with. A man who had spent more of our relationship berating and bruising me than he did showing he ‘loved’ me.

Two counselling sessions over the next few days and I went over as much of the complicated situation that was my life as was possible in a couple of hours. How I had felt like I was having an outer body experience since the day I walked out of my home with Brent. The physical pain and the thought of the financial support my parents would need to provide. The risk the unborn child was at of having birth defects or developmental issues as I had been prescribed vitamin A cream and an SSRI. Whilst it all played on my mind, none of those things was the deciding factor on the decision I made.

The counsellor wasn’t the only outside person that I spoke to in order to help me decide on the next chapter of my life. There was a girl I went to school with who fell pregnant at 17, although weren’t friends at school, we were in some of the same classes and she was a good person. I spoke to her about the challenges and rewards of raising two beautiful little girls, initially on her own but still as a team with their dad. I went to the state child protection agency to find out about temporary foster care, until I had a job that could support me to raise a child alone. The agency could not guarantee that the child would go to a registered foster carer that I knew, so that option was quashed quickly from my mind. The option of adoption only briefly crossed my mind, a lifetime of not knowing where my child was and if they were happy, if I could have made their life better.

Someone very close to me had a child young, whilst the child is happy, the mother spent so much time protecting the child from the spiteful things the father would say or do…just to try emotionally hurt the mother of his child.  However, children are smarter than they are given credit for and this child is now old enough to see both parents true personalities. Watching that situation led me to wonder if I wanted to put a child through the same experience.

Raising a child with someone means you are a team. That you are in each others lives until your dying day. How could I possibly be part of a team with a man who had used the words “come back to me or get rid of it”. I couldn’t be with a man who thought he could use an innocent child to scare me in to staying with him. I had never had him charged for his abuse so I had no legal standing to stop him from being a part of the life of our child.

Whilst I was putting myself through counselling and researching every possibility on my doorstep, my doctor sent me for the usual routine pregnancy blood tests. It appeared that I had lost immunity to rubella so I had this immunisation in preparation for the pregnancy to proceed. Through the whole journey I was conflicted so I needed to prepare for whichever path I chose.

I kept going back to the woman who had her child young, and how little team interaction there was in raising her child. I felt that it would be unfair for me to bring a child  into the world already having the knowledge that the parents would never be a team. After a call with a counsellor from a local abortion clinic and an additional appointment with my doctor, to which my mother accompanied me; I made a decision to terminate the pregnancy.

Just when you think you’re ‘normal’ again

My last relationship ended quite amicably, we went through a lot together. My PTSD symptoms came to a head during the two years that we knew each other. There were too many times that he’d say or do the simplest of things and I would end up snapping…or break down and collapse in hysterics. I thought it was all over as far as innocent actions triggering the anxiety side of my PTSD. I thought it was all over until a few days ago.

There’s a man who’s been in my life for quite some time now. He is one of the most kind, gentle and caring people I have ever met. My parents are mid separation and he has been so supportive of me. He has even been a shoulder to cry on when I’ve been a blubbering mess. The thing is though, he has absolutely no obligation to be there for me but he has been. As kind and gentle as he is and as much as I trust that he would never do anything to hurt me, a few days ago he triggered my PTSD. We were just sitting and chatting, I was likely being my usual irritating self. I don’t recall the exact details but it led to him holding my arm still so I couldn’t move. That moment triggered it. As my anxiety rose I asked him a couple of times to let go…until it felt like I was yelling it.

I apologised to him later during the day, it seemed like he’d barely noticed I’d snapped. What I didn’t tell him was that it’s not the first time almost the same thing has triggered an anxiety attack. It first happened a few years ago, only about eighteen months after I’d left Brent. A guy I’d known for more than five years wrapped his arm around me and held me tight and commented “You’re so tiny”. It felt like he was pinning me down, he only held me tight for a few seconds, my chest tightened and I felt as though I couldn’t breathe so I yelled at him to let go. Luckily…I’d not long told him about the night I left Brent, so he knew exactly why I’d reacted that way.

Unfortunately, the second time it happened was with my last boyfriend, probably one of the first times he saw me break down. I told him as little as I could about my past because that’s what it is, past and it shouldn’t affect the present. However, as I mentioned before, that relationship was when everything PTSD began to rear it’s ugly head. He’d get upset with me because he would do something playful or make a joke and it’d trigger something in the back of my mind and I’d flip out or hyperventilate and collapse in an hysteric heap. Every time it happened he’d aske why I just hadn’t told him not to. It’s impossible to explain to someone what will trigger PTSD, not until it’s actually happening.

That’s just it with PTSD. You don’t know when it’ll pop up, you don’t know why until it actually happens. I thought those days were over, I thought men could be playful with me now and I would be fine…but I’m not.

It was and it didn’t

Pregnancy isn’t supposed to be painful, it’s also supposed to show up on a home pregnancy test by six weeks gestation but it was and it didn’t.

There are two reasons all of this is so fresh in my mind at the moment. The first is that one of my siblings is expecting their first child and the second is that this week I have another operation scheduled to treat my endometriosis.

I went to work the day I had gotten the results from the doctor, at a job I’d only begun two weeks earlier, a few days after leaving Brent. It only seemed fair that he knew what was going on, I had no idea of what I wanted to do with the pregnancy and it wasn’t just my baby. I text him that I needed to see him to talk about something. He was so convinced that I had done so wrong by him and refused to see me, nor would he answer my call. So, in true twenty-first century style I text him three words ‘I am pregnant’. Which, as I suspected, got an a response. It may have seemed immature, or unfair to tell him that way but I’d tried to do the right thing which is more than can be said for the way he treated me. His reaction was essentially go back to him or ‘get rid of it’.

My mother is a trained counsellor, growing up, usually unbeknownst to me, she was always counselling me. Whether it was always intentional or not, this time she knew that she could only be my support, and not a counsellor. I still needed to speak to someone who could be objective the pregnancy and the situation surrounding it.

 

 

…but it isn’t supposed to be painful

At twenty one years old, after being with the same gynaecologist for eight years they decided it was time to go in for a laparoscopy. As suspected, thanks to my mothers history; endometriosis was the cause of agonising menstruation and all the lovely symptoms that go with it. From the time of that diagnosis every medical professional who learned that I have the disease would tell me that I should ‘have children yesterday.’

I have always had in my mind that I won’t have children until I’m married. I was raised in a relatively normal family structure, so my children deserve the same. Armed with the knowledge that the longer I leave having children, the more I risk being unable to do it naturally, Brent took advantage of the vulnerable state I was in and I no longer had the contraceptive pill.

At the time, my life in general was fairly stressful and they say menstruation can stop due to stress. They also say that you can feel when an embryo embeds itself in to your uterus. After an unusual sudden feeling in my uterus one day and missing a period, I took a home pregnancy test. It was negative. I had agonising pelvic pain for almost six weeks, it would drop me to the floor. However, after a third negative pregnancy test, all different brands, with the instructions followed meticulously, no morning sickness, and my medical history I had to put it down to stress from my tumultuous relationship or endometriosis.

I had been back in the safety of my parental home for two weeks when I just couldn’t handle the pain any longer so I went to see my doctor. He seemed to agree with me that perhaps I’d contracted an STD as “pregnancy isn’t painful” but for good measure he added an hCG ‘pregnancy hormone’ blood test in to the mix. I had the bloods taken that afternoon and was given a container for a urine sample to bring back the next morning.

I have been going to the same doctor since the day I was born so I know his medical secretaries fairly well. When I walked in the next morning with the sample and she told me the doctor wanted to see me and asked me to wait a moment, I knew exactly why he wanted to see me. I was sitting there with every imaginable swear word going through my mind because I knew that results for syphilis, hepatitis and HIV would take more than 12 hours to process. The only thing that could have returned results so quickly was hCG.

My doctor called me in to his office, I sat there as he calmly told me I was pregnant and we went over the next steps. He gave me a referral for routine pregnancy blood tests and I went home. My mother and I have always been fairly close, but I think even someone who’d never met me would have seen how white I was when I walked back in to that house.  She was in the kitchen, I stood at the bench and without words she asked what was wrong and all I could say was ‘I’m pregnant.’ Just like my doctor and I, she was shocked because ‘pregnancy isn’t painful’.

Pregnancy isn’t supposed to be painful but my memories, memories that I’ll share another time, they are painful, more now than they have been in a long time.