“After a significant loss women are much more vulnerable and likely to engage in behaviors that are aimed at replacing that loss in some way.”
by Anne Neville, R.N., R.M., Dip. Past. Psych., Dip. Marriage & Family Therapy, Cert. Interpersonal Relationship Therapy, Accredited Grief & Loss Counsellor National Association of Loss & Grief (Vic), Clinical Member CAPAV, PACFA Reg: 21127
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Test Positive! Who could imagine one word could mean so much? So much confusion, so much disturbance, so much pain. That word turned my life around. Suddenly I didn’t know anything – couldn’t think straight, make decisions, sleep, eat or relax. So much for the new chapter in my life, the start of a new job, a new career! How could this happen! I felt so stupid. I knew why and how we get pregnant. I knew the dangers of a sexual relationship but why did I continue? Especially knowing he did not love me or even want a proper relationship. I didn’t understand. Part of me knew the relationship wasn’t good for me but part of me needed to be with someone. How did I get myself into this mess?”
‘Emma’ (above) is just one of many women who question themselves after an unplanned pregnancy. She tries to make sense of how she could find herself pregnant when clearly it wasn’t her intention to have a baby. She acknowledges her choice of a partner was not in her best interests yet her great need for someone seemed to override her judgement.
What about you? Do you have certain thoughts about what you want to do and how you want your life to be? Maybe your plans involve a career, a stable relationship, a home and then a family after other plans have been accomplished. Is that somehow not working out? Maybe, on some level, your lifestyle contains elements that are less than ideal and opposed to what you consciously say you want for yourself.
Ever wonder why you do the things you do? Do you find yourself doing the opposite to what you say and plan for? Do you find yourself repeating the same old patterns and ending up in situations that are possibly very limiting and sometimes destructive? There are situations and experiences that tend to make us more vulnerable, particularly to an unplanned pregnancy.
Are you aware of the things that can make you vulnerable, emotionally and psychologically? It is not until we gain some understanding of these factors that we can begin to make healthier choices. Just as some people appear to be accident prone so too do others appear to be pregnancy prone.
At Open Doors we see certain issues present in the lives of women who experience unplanned pregnancies:
A history of a loss, either past or recent, can have an influence on our capacity to function. After a significant loss women are much more vulnerable and likely to engage in behaviors that are aimed at replacing that loss in some way. Thinking can be affected and behavior compromised.
Women trying to deal with their loss may attempt to block out their feelings by perhaps throwing themselves into work or by using substances, such as alcohol or drugs, to dull the pain. However, these tactics can actually work against them in the long term with life becoming even more complicated.
At Open Doors we speak with women returning for a further pregnancy test or for post-abortion counselling. This happens sometimes at the time the baby would have been born or on the anniversary of the termination. They often do not connect their emotional responses with their loss. It may be that they experience the loss as a dull “ache” rather than a more obvious reaction. This “anniversary response” also applies to other types of pregnancy loss.
When these feelings persist over a period of time depression may result. Depression lowers reserves and vulnerability increases; thinking becomes negative and needs become greater. These needs can unconsciously lead to compromising behaviors and choices.
It’s not at all uncommon for a woman who has had an abortion to find herself pregnant again within 3 to 6 months. Others talk about experiencing a compelling desire to become pregnant again. This has been acknowledged as an attempt to replace the aborted baby.
Low self-esteem tends to make it more difficult to be appropriately assertive or discerning in relationships. People-pleasing behaviors can result in placing oneself at risk. The use of contraception may be compromised or a decision to be sexually active may be influenced. Many younger women express regret about their earlier sexual experiences being premature or under conditions that were less than ideal.
Interestingly, quite a number of women have been surprised to find themselves disappointed that their test was negative. They say that they see a baby as ‘someone to love and someone to love me’. Unmet needs appear to be finding expression in this statement.
Research shows that women who have experienced deprivation (physical or emotional) in childhood are at greater risk of having an unplanned pregnancy. Childhood sexual abuse is another factor that tends to be found in the background also. These experiences have a great influence on emotional and psychological well-being and the development of our capacity to be confident and assertive in our relationships with others.
When a woman has an abortion because of pressure or to please someone else it is likely that she will find herself grieving. Relationship difficulties commonly arise with the end result being a double loss – the baby and the relationship.
The cycle of loss may be perpetuated as relationship difficulties further contribute to the sense of emotional fragility and vulnerability. It’s not unusual for women to discover themselves pregnant when facing a relationship breakdown. An attempt at reconciliation can often result in an unplanned pregnancy that, in turn, may place her in the situation of having to make a further abortion decision.
And so the cycle can continue.
Pregnancy proneness isn’t an illness. It’s just a part of life and originates from many of our previous experiences. The bottom line is that unless we’re aware of the issues in our background and their power to influence our lives we can’t be truly free to make well-informed decisions. It is through knowing ourselves we realize our goals and take charge of our lives.
Perhaps you can relate to some of these issues. You may like to consider finding a counsellor or therapist with whom you can work on developing your self-awareness and identifying your unmet needs.
These are only general suggestions. You should always seek outside help if you are unsure what to do. If you need to talk to someone you can call –
OPEN DOORS COUNSELLING
5 Greenwood Ave Ringwood 3134 Victoria Australia
Ph: (03) 9870 7044
Freecall outside Melbourne 1800 647 995
or use our Contact Form to request an appointment or a call back, or to ask a question.