As her due date approaches, Annie Broadbent reflects on the unexpected sense of aloneness she has experienced during her pregnancy.
I am due to give birth on 3rd January 2017. I have loved my pregnancy. Fortunately, I avoided the more unpleasant symptoms often associated with pregnancy. Most of the time, I’ve felt the most extraordinary natural high.
One symptom no-one seems to talk about with regards to pregnancy though, is the sense of aloneness. In the third trimester I have experienced, every so often, a transpersonal, transcendental, existential feeling of aloneness.
This feeling is so powerful it manifests in a physical feeling in my chest that I can only name as homesick. Transpersonal psychology describes this feeling as divine homesickness. That resonates. It’s as though there is somewhere, a place elsewhere, that I belong, that I can’t get to, or am not part of. I used to get this feeling as a child, often at home, so in many ways it is familiar. And as I’ve experienced it more frequently during my pregnancy I have come to understand it a bit more. It feels very much in response to the absolute unavoidable truth that giving birth is something I have to do entirely alone. Whilst my husband will be there, midwives, and any other person I might invite, no-one else in the world can birth my baby for me. Perhaps the fact that my mum can’t be there either amplifies the sense of aloneness. But even if she were alive, it’s still only me that can do it. Being in touch with that sense of aloneness, stirs up the existential reality that we are all ultimately alone – and it calls to question our sense of belonging.
It also brings death in to the picture. The only other thing in the world that we absolutely have to do alone is die. No one can die with us, or for us. We are all born alone, and we will all die alone. It is strange, but rather moving being in contact with the reality of my mortality at the same time as creating and giving life. It feels somewhat timely then, as I embark on maternity leave, say goodbye to my clients for a while, that I take on a new role as Agony Aunt for the bereaved. Funeral Zone, the UK’s leading online funeral resource are committed to helping the bereaved and have taken me on to answer questions sent in by bereaved and friends of the bereaved about their experience of death and grief. Once a fortnight I will answer people’s letters with my best guidance and support. As I count down the days until the birth of my baby, I feel grateful to be working in the territory of death and grief; acting as a daily reminder of the cycle of life and death, and that whilst we are all ultimately alone, we are all also deeply and intimately connected.
Annie Broadbent is a psychologist and the author of We Need To Talk About Grief. Her new column for the Funeral Zone Dear Annie will provide support for anyone who has lost a loved one, or is anticipating a bereavement.