News from Open Doors June 2016
‘Baby & Me’
In my last letter I flagged that some change was in the air for Open Doors. I am pleased to announce that we are launching a program for new mums experiencing postnatal depression. Called ‘Baby & Me’ – getting ahead of postnatal depression, this 12 week support group program has been developed by the Parent and Infant Research Institute (PIRI) in conjunction with Austin Health.
Two of our counsellors have done the training to conduct the groups and we are ready to promote this service to Maternal and Child Health centres in municipalities around the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. We look forward to building closer ties with the MCH network through this program and from there being able to promote our pregnancy and pregnancy loss counselling services.
Through the ‘Baby & Me’ support groups we will be able to reach out to women who have unresolved concerns about past pregnancy loss, including abortion, and who may not have had the opportunity or encouragement to speak about what that loss has meant for them.
Our Director of Counselling Anne Neville has made the decision to retire after 24 years at the helm and we will be farewelling her at the end of June with a definite sense of loss but also great gratitude and admiration for all she has done and achieved over this time. Back in 2004 Anne initiated our involvement in the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats for post abortion healing, a program which God has used to touch the lives of so many, bringing hope and healing where there was despair. Anne has been a wonderful leader and mentor for our counselling team and a passionate supporter of the organisation. Fortunately, we do not lose her altogether. Anne will be moving onto the Committee of Management and will continue to lead retreats for the time being.
We are so pleased to welcome Eileen Carison into the role of Director of Counselling commencing July 1. Eileen has been on our counselling team since 2001, initially as a volunteer and latterly as a qualified counsellor. Her experience, knowledge of the organisation and heart for the work will ensure a smooth transition.
What makes an event ‘life changing’?
I was interested to hear a recent news item about the Australian Medical Board calling for a shake-up of the cosmetic surgery industry. A key recommendation was the need for a mandatory cooling off period of 7 days for patients considering major surgical procedures. In an ABC news interview, the head of the AMB said this was an important safeguard given that such decisions were potentially ‘life changing’. I couldn’t help wondering whether the same recommendation could ever be successfully implemented in the case of abortion and yet surely this could be described as a potentially life changing event?
So often women report feeling as though they were on a conveyor belt from the time they entered the abortion clinic. The pressure was on to get it over with as soon as possible. Some clinics even advertise ‘same day services’. Clearly they don’t consider a woman in crisis may benefit from slowing down and considering the decision from all angles.
Proposals for mandatory counselling or cooling off periods are typically dismissed as insulting to a woman’s intelligence and autonomy. The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 2008 Report on Abortion tabled in Parliament recommended that ‘Any new abortion law should not contain a requirement for mandatory counselling or mandatory referral to counselling’ and ‘Any new abortion law should not contain a compulsory delay or cooling-off period before an abortion may be lawfully performed.’ (www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/projects/abortion.)
However, at Open Doors we know that women benefit from the opportunity to be supported in a safe, unpressured place while they think through their situation and identify the supports that are available. Potentially life changing decisions made in panic, under pressure or on auto pilot cannot be in anyone’s best interests – if not for those seeking cosmetic surgery, then certainly not for those thinking abortion. Anne’s final client story for us illustrates this well.
NEWS FROM THE COUNSELLING WING
from Anne Neville, Director of Counselling
(all client names have been changed)
Decisions about pregnancy are life changing. No matter whether the outcome of a crisis pregnancy is a giving birth or having an abortion, something fundamental changes for all involved and there is no going back.
‘Michael’ and ‘Ginny’ were so excited when they discovered they were pregnant after many years of infertility. However, when it was confirmed that they were not having one baby but two, Ginny panicked. As the pregnancy proceeded, she battled severe morning sickness and became totally overwhelmed by anxiety about how she would manage 2 babies at once. All her family members were interstate and in her debilitated state she became even more distressed and kept saying that she “couldn’t do this”, wanting Michael to find a way around their situation.
Initially, Michael tried to comfort Ginny and encourage her to take one day at a time, reassuring her that they would find someone to help in the home after the babies were born. However, she countered saying that she’d still have to manage the babies for most of the time and became even more distraught.
Michael was totally lost as to how to relieve Ginny’s distress and then he started to panic as well. He suggested that they seek the opinion of their doctor, hoping he would be able to reassure Ginny about the pregnancy. When the doctor heard about their difficulties he spoke to them about having a ‘selective reduction’- reducing the pregnancy to one baby instead of two. They were both horrified at the thought and became even more conflicted: how could they choose one baby over the other?
Things spiralled downwards even more and, in the end, it became an “all or nothing” situation. With Michael also beginning to feel overwhelmed, Ginny’s panic escalated. Anxiety and fear took over and they decided to abort both babies, rather than choose one over the other. What followed was a time of immense sorrow, anguish and guilt about this decision.
Michael felt he’d let Ginny down badly by not being able to keep calm in order to support her through a difficult time. He voiced many self-recriminations as he tried to work through his grief and guilt. In turn Ginny blamed him for not being able to find some way of managing the pregnancy and “being stronger” for her. However, in looking back Ginny just couldn’t find a way to contemplate continuing the pregnancy.
This became a life-changing event in Michael and Ginny’s lives as their former closeness took a pounding and their relationship deteriorated. They barely spoke to each other and, when they did, their conversations were full of recriminations and anger – it was so sad to see their marriage breaking down.
After much encouragement, Ginny attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. She was desperate to deal with her guilt and wanted to restore her relationship with Michael. It took time for her to open up over the weekend but eventually she was able to grieve, not only for the twins, but all the failed IVF attempts – her loss was enormous.
Her decision to attend the retreat helped to restore their relationship. They were able to grieve together and support each other. They’ve now reached a stage in their lives where they can move on but not forget. They’ve just found out that Ginny’s pregnant again and are looking forward to the birth of their baby in January. That will be another life changing event!
Talking about decisions and life changing events, I’m retiring as Director of Counselling at the end of this coming June, after being a part of Open Doors since 1992. I will miss not being here 4 days a week but the time has come to move into the next phase of my life.
In looking back, I can see how fortunate I am to be able to say that I’ve loved being at Open Doors all this time – something not too many people can say. Over the years I’ve been “stretched” in having to step up to the many situations that come with the position and that’s a nice feeling but I’ve also received so much.
After completing my three-year internship in Pastoral Psychotherapy, I had originally thought I would just set up a private practice so it was quite a surprise when I was approached by Open Doors to come on board. Thinking back, just being in private practice wouldn’t have satisfied me as I’m a “people person” and also enjoy being involved with others professionally. Whilst the work involves sitting with those with difficult choices to make or those suffering with the intense pain and anguish after an abortion, it’s immensely satisfying to be with them on their journey. It’s a privilege to be entrusted with their pain.
Running Rachel’s Vineyard retreats since 2004 has also been an amazing part of the work here – seeing the healing that takes place is awesome – it’s my passion. So having said this I will continue to run the retreats with the rest of the team and will keep an association with Open Doors but in a reduced capacity.
I want to acknowledge the work of everyone who contributes to Open Doors – our Executive Director, our committee, our wonderful team of volunteer counsellors, our therapists and our donors who continue to support and encourage us in our work.
It’s been wonderful working for all this time with people sharing the same values, ideals, ethics and passion – it’s been an amazing ride. ANNE
Anne has exemplified the spirit of Open Doors in the love and passion she has given to her work for so long. We wish her all God’s blessings as she takes the next step in life.
We are thankful for Eileen being ready to step up to become our new Director of Counselling, we are thankful for all who work for and support Open Doors. We are thankful for you, our donors, for your constancy in keeping the doors open. If you are able to make an end of financial year tax deductible donation it will be gratefully received.
Together we can be there for vulnerable women and men who face life changing decisions about pregnancy. Together we can help them heal and find their strengths.
with our prayers and warm regards,
Alison and Paul
Executive Director (Hon.)
Financial Director (Hon)