I was 8 years old.  The date was 19 July 1969.  My family were busy celebrating the arrival of a new baby and I was left in the care of my brother in-law 20 years my senior. Along with my two younger nephews we were tucked up in bed and read bedtime stories.  After a busy day playing we fell asleep quickly and deeply all in the same room.  My two younger nephews top and tailed in one bed and I had one to myself.

I was woken at about 10:30 pm, not sure what was happening. My brother in law had his hands down my pyjama pants and in hushed tones told me shh go back to sleep.  I felt very confused.  Until that day bottoms were something you peed and pooped out of.  The fabric of my family life changed that day.  I wore shame, guilt and dirtiness.  No amount of washing could make me feel clean. The following morning were were kept very busy and again the ‘children’  were taken time the park, by the ‘son in law’. We were plyed with treats and given great attention, so my confusion was put into the recesses of my mind to deal with later. This became a pattern until I was 12 years old, when my abuser moved away.   Children often lack the words to articulate events, but that series of events shaped my attitude towards sex. It was a commodity that could be traded for treats and favors. And subversive and causes a great deal of anger.

Looking back it is no surprise that I fell pregnant at the age of 16, and sort the help of my sisters.

I went over to my second eldest sister living in Australia, and at 4 months was given a later term abortion.

“A couple of hours in hospital, and everything would carry on as normal “

That was not true.  The fabric of my life changed again

“It will be better for everyone “ everyone was saying this but the reality was I had given up and been discouraged by so many people that my internal opinion was that I was dirty, tainted and a failure

I can remember the huge feeling of isolation and the overwhelming grief I experienced at the hospital putting on my street clothes.

Shame, moodiness, and depression became my shadows. It is easy to laugh on the outside, but on the inside I lost my ability to feel joy. I lived behind a mask.

Explaining emotions is like trying to explain to someone who has only ever had milk what ice cream is like.

It is very hard.

A cold draft whistled around my inner self.

At 22 I married a wonderful man We took a long time to get pregnant, but I never divulged my earlier abortion to him or my GP.

After 30 years of marriage it is still a secret.

Post abortion trauma has taken me years to process. The only thing that helped me was love and it took me a while to be able to identify the genuine product due to my childhood distortions

Love is not self seeking. It always looks outwards.  It is the most satisfying, strongest emotion that you will ever know. Once you have tasted it, the fabric of your life will change again, and the beauty and joy of relationships, even ones that had a painful pass are restored

Now that I am in my late fifties if I had to speak to my 16 year old self. I would say “ Don’t make decisions based on money. You have enough resourcefulness within you to get by, even if a few days, months or years are tough. Look for people in your life who remind you about what you can do – not what you can’t do And most of all I would say the heartache of an abortion is the worst deal you will ever make in your life. What you think will be a quiet quick fix is not what it seems.

I have reconciled with my childhood abuser, the relationship in our family has in fact become stronger, because the decision to focus on people’s strengths instead of their weaknesses has become a priority.

There is a great tenderness for past hurts and forgiveness for past wrongs. And an element that despite our human frailties  we are stronger together. Our communication is more open and honest. This feels free!

Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye. It is keeping the eyes open, but changing your focus using the lens of love.