Updated: Sep 7
This article was first published on The Coach Space
We all face difficult decisions in life, but some decisions come with extra societal pressures.
Thanks to social media we are feeling those pressures more than ever since we now know the opinions of millions of strangers.
And as you well know, we women have our own set of societal expectations. We are scrutinised for how we look, what we wear, and god forbid we look our actual age as we get older.
Our biology and what we do with it attracts criticism from all angles. Women’s reproductive decisions, from the decision to not have children at all, having “only one” child, having too many children, or having children “too late” in life… all of these decisions can be scorned for being selfish ones.
Then we are judged for going back to work too soon after having a baby, and also for not going back to work at all and being a stay-at-home mum.
And these judgements can also come from other women. I say we lay off and give each other a break.
Fertility is something all women deal with in one way or another
From the moment we reach adulthood, there are decisions where women in particular have to bear an emotional burden.
With three decades of fertility to manage, most women will face a difficult decision regarding family planning – even if that is the primary decision of whether or not to have children at all.
Some women know from early on that they want to have children, and some the opposite, while others wrangle with the decision for years and years.
Then there are the decisions around contraception, whether to have fertility treatment and what type, whether or not to adopt a child… These are all decisions that take an emotional toll.
Then there is abortion.
Abortion : the moral dilemma that dare not speak its name & one of the most difficult decision
Terminating a pregnancy is in a league of its own, as it’s not just a decision, but also a moral dilemma.
The global debate around abortion is something we are all well aware of because everyone seems to have opinions on it, and very strong ones at that. Never did I think that I would end up wrestling with this dilemma for real though.
I always liked the idea of having a big family, but wasn’t completely settled
on it. I was happily going along with just the two when unexpectedly, I became pregnant.
To say this put me into a spin would be an understatement. It was a very, very tough time.
Even in those unsettled and turbulent moments, it was clear that this was not the right time for me to be thrown back into those exhausting early child-rearing years.
Then I also thought about the long term.
I have two amazing children. I love them dearly. But I love myself too. And I have dreams and plans for me and for my family.
The costs of living have gone up dramatically since I had my first two children. Essentials such as food and fuel have risen rapidly and could rise even more. So I had to think about the financial burden (in 2018, the estimated cost of raising a child from birth until completion of their 3rd level education is just short of a whopping €250,000), and how that would affect the whole family.
The main thing that worried me was the time and energy I would need for a third child, especially as we would both be working parents with the added financial pressure. I wanted to be sure I could sustain all my kids, maintain stability and give them the attention they need. Because if I had a third, I might completely lose myself and not be the mother I want to be for the two that are already here.
Along with my husband, I decided to terminate the pregnancy.
Although I was worried and scared about what people might say, I knew it was the right thing to do.
Even so, I stayed with these uncomfortable emotions for a couple of days, still thinking of what was right for me and for my family.
Handling criticism when taking a difficult decision
Criticism is something that all parents have to face. Actually, it’s one of the hardest things about parenthood that nobody likes to talk about. Everything we do as parents is criticised by someone at some point, and criticism can hurt if you let it.
Judgement can make you feel ‘less than’, and like the worst person ever. Even as I write this article, I am worried and I fear the reactions or the impact the reaction would have on my emotions and my confidence.
However, when it comes to making really, really important decisions, we cannot allow the fear of others’ reactions, or what other people may think or say about us to cloud our decision-making.
Because we are talking about difficult decisions here that need a very clear mind. The last thing we want is to waste time with regrets, constantly looking back and wondering if we made the right choice.
How to address difficult decision-making
Humans cannot make sound decisions whilst in an emotional state. So we need to put the emotional reactions to one side and stop them from overwhelming the rational mind.
To do that, first, you need to be present and accept any emotion that comes to you.
We must not hasten in making a hard decision but when time is of the essence, you really have to tune in and be willing to get in an uncomfortable place.
May it be guilt, anger, or deep sadness, you have to be with those emotions to understand them.
Be curious and honest about what they mean to you. Why are you feeling these emotions?
And once you are settled down with a clear mind, you can be logical and objective whilst exploring all the possible outcomes. Look at your starting point of what is true, now. Look at the future scenarios and be brutally honest with yourself. Rationally assess the impacts of each decisional outcome.
So be objective first but then consult your heart of hearts and use your intuition for what you feel would be the best thing for you.
Seek support from those who matter. If you’re really lost and the emotions are very hard, then go talk to someone who can help you.
The best you can do is address the issue without letting emotions and fear of judgement get the better of you. Confronting the problem with honesty and also a big dose of self-compassion is what is needed.
I hope by being honest about my decision to have an abortion brings some comfort to all the women who are wrestling with their own difficult decision in silence. - Alice
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