As I stood on the balcony watching colourful fireworks ushering in 2020, I did not shed a tear as usual. I watched silently wondering what my 50th year would bring. What do most people do when life throws them tsunamis and earthquakes? It had been 10 years, and I missed my forties. It had been doctor after doctor and the diagnoses: depression, fibromyalgia and mid-summer 2019, lupus. On the back of the mind were the rumours of COVID 19 and my vulnerability.
On December 6th, 2016, 6:31 p.m. a broken, once vibrant woman working in social care, leaves her job in a community mental health team. Depression and stress escalating from increased workload due to austerity. On January 4th, 2010, at a routine visit to the OBS/GYNAE, I am told: “you will never have children, and we have found a growth in your uterus.” Whilst the reality of conceiving at that age would be difficult is not lost on me; the words kill me. Being solution based I ask the doctor, let’s deal with this possible Big C and shelve the baby matter. Three minor surgeries take their toll, followed by a nervous breakdown, my soul died on October 18th, 2013.
Our coping skills in trauma differ; I disassociate or roll up my sleeves and fight. In this case, fighting the truth was not the right way. As an African woman, we are told “stay strong” “don’t show emotion”, lessons I was unlearning. At work, I put the Mac on and was as efficient as normal.
Healing is linear, and for a Type A person and perfectionist, falling over and not healing quickly was a sharp lesson on patience. When the body starts falling apart you have to “Practice the Pause”. You have to give yourself permission to pause and do less, allowing the body to reset itself as long as it needs. One has to review their whole life as priorities change. Retrospectively I realised “the decision you make after hearing the bad news will determine your healing”. I smiled at the doctor and told him “I am going to reinvent myself,” I started writing a book.
Mental illness and Infertility are taboo subjects in Black Asian and African communities, and fear of accessing the system keeps people away. The tradition is worse with questions, “when are you having a baby? Whom are you working for? Why don’t you adopt.” As if one can go pick a baby in TESCO or Sainsbury’s with a tag and take one home! Grief is continuous and becomes a companion who turns up at inopportune times. You must practice thankfulness, not the passing, “thank you God for my life”. Then actual sitting down and considering what you are thankful for. Your big and small achievements must be celebrated.
Living in England has made it easier as there is a cultural acceptance that one can remain without children, whether in a partnership or single. The time allows me to delve into my beliefs and embrace with gratitude my cross-cultural experiences. Resilience and Hope are my rhesus’s; don’t give up be RH+.