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  • Writer's pictureRachel Chan

What are you longing for....?


One of the great highlights in my calendar is the annual weekend away with the choir I belong to. We spend the days with a singing coach, who puts us through our paces ready for competition later in the year, and we spend the evening socialising. The year after my first miscarriage, and only a few months after I realised I was suffering from PTSD, that time had come again. When I look back, I really shouldn’t have been there. I was still feeling incredibly anxious most days, but that feeling of having stage fright twenty-four hours a day had settled slightly, and I was desperate to get on with my life and get ‘back to normal’ as soon as possible. It was difficult to participate in something when I could barely stand up long enough to take part, but I was determined to make the most of the opportunity of a fun weekend with my friends.


One of the requirements of our singing competition is that we move with the music and use our faces to express the mood and story of the song. Seeing that we were looking a little lacking in enthusiasm, our coach encouraged us to imagine we had just seen a plate of our favourite food. His idea was for us to show how excited we would be to finally get something we’d been longing for. To everyone’s hilarity, it did in fact help our performance to imagine that we were in the presence of our favourite food! He began calling on first one person, then another, to share with the rest of the group what food they were imagining.


‘What are you longing for?’ he asked, as he pointed to one person.


‘A huge burger’ someone would venture up, as the rest of the group erupted into giggles.


He then pointed to the next person.


‘What are you longing for?’


‘ice cream’ came the reply.


As he worked his way around the group, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and that familiar internal shaking of anxiety, as I tried to avoid eye contact in the hope he wouldn’t call on me. For me, the question ‘What are you longing for?’ triggered a vastly different emotional response, which was nothing to do with food. What was I longing for? My answer screamed in my head,


‘A child!’


I was worried that if asked, I wouldn’t be able to hold in my emotions any longer and my secret shame would become apparent. For me of course the question had ceased to be about food (in case anyone was having terrible images of the large villain from the Austin Powers movies ‘I ate a baby’ etc). No, for me, I was holding inside an unfulfilled longing I felt I couldn’t speak freely about, and which made me feel like a failure amongst women. However, for all the fear I had of being asked about what I was longing for, a large part of me actually wanted someone to ask me. I was desperate for someone to give me permission to start talking about what was eating me up inside and release some of my pent-up emotion. Up until that point in my life, I hadn’t realised that it was possible to feel so mixed up and conflicted about anything.


Even though I had a healthy outlet in counselling and therapy, the strain of hiding it all in the majority of my real life was difficult to handle. Having had another miscarriage about nine months ago, I purposed that I would be more honest about it this time round. But even then, I only disclosed to a small amount of people, and only when an opportunity arose. I can’t understand the reason why this particular subject feels so difficult to talk about in the mainstream. Especially as so many taboos have now been broken. My initial instinct after my first miscarriage and failed IVF, was even to cover it up and lie to myself about it. I tried to convince myself that perhaps I didn’t really want children anyway. Perhaps it was just societal pressure forcing me into it. I remember sitting with the counsellor at the fertility clinic and putting this theory forward.


‘I suppose I could say that I’m a career woman’, I offered up.


She wasn’t convinced and neither was I.


There seems to be something about an unfulfilled longing that makes people feel uncomfortable. We’re bombarded these days with stories of people who have been able to get exactly what they want by working hard enough, following an amazing new programme, buying a new product, or even just putting it out there and speaking it into existence. The message appears to be that you can have anything you want, and if you’re still longing for something, then maybe you just haven’t tried hard enough. At the same time, it’s not the done thing to try too hard, especially if your efforts haven’t been successful. Everybody loves a winner after all. We all know that life isn’t that simple, but I’ve found it’s still pretty uncomfortable to admit our perceived failures, even to ourselves. I’m definitely on my way to accepting what has happened, and I’ve noticed a shift in my mood since I started to be honest, at least with myself, about my feelings.


Although it may be one of the last taboos, my hope for the new year is that we’ll all feel empowered to speak freely about our struggles, as well as our triumphs. I hope that we’ll be able to be honest at least with ourselves about how we feel, and that the secret shame of fertility difficulties, pregnancy and baby loss will become a thing of the past.


So, what are you longing for?





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