Shame – Family and/or Church?

From my current perspective on life I view the birth of a child as a miraculous experience, a pure wonder and joyful occurrence.  But that wasn’t quite how I was brought up, nor was it my experience as a teenager.


I was raised in a Roman Catholic family where we observed all the rules of the church, attended mass every Sunday and holidays as well as Catechism and Confirmation.  Even going on holiday my parents looked for a local church to attend Sunday mass.  My father had converted to Catholicism when he married my mother and I think was more devoted to it too.


My eldest sister, who was at university and unmarried, fell pregnant when I was around 11-12yrs old.  I don’t remember too much of that period except my parents being embarrassed, ashamed and feeling judged by others especially at church.  I only found out a few years ago that my father didn’t talk directly to my sister unless he had to for about a year.  Home life must have been very awkward too but I think I’ve blocked out that period to quite an extent. My parents pretty much forced her to give the baby up for adoption.  The whole thing was kept as quiet as possible.


Then a few years later my second sister fell pregnant in her final year of school.  She left the school to finish her matric through a correspondence college and whilst I think her experience around the pregnancy with regards to our parents and the church was a bit easier than our eldest sisters had been, it still was not well accepted by them.  My mother turned around to me at the time of finding out and said something to the effect of “I hope you never do anything like this to me/us”  The result of which I conformed as much as was possible for a non-conformist, I tried to be the “perfect” person, etc.  Her baby was also given up for adoption which she wasn’t given a choice about.


It took me a long time to be able to talk about these pregnancies to others.  It was like I needed to protect my family from any further shame – through not talking about it but also not continuing the pattern.  My sisters had their own journeys with our parents to talk through the events and impacts which they both were able to do at some later stage.  I never did as I only realised the extent to which I carried the family shame in my late 40’s after which my mother had moved on from this plane of existence and my father had had a series of strokes which had left him cognitively impaired.


So now working through the pattern of not being good enough and the constant striving to please others I came face to face with this conundrum – is this shame I carry my family’s only or does it belong to the Church too which was their guiding force?  Either way I can’t give it back.  I can only accept what happened and let go of the expectations I picked up and the roles I played as a result.  My healing is far more important than trying to make a point.


The RC Church of the 1970 & 1980’s was different to today but in some areas still the same, the dogmatic approach to certain things and the way they keep you in line is what gets me the most.  Religion as a whole is something I avoid if possible today for a variety of reasons and another discussion.


How many or much of the beliefs that I carry around, that are handed down through my DNA never mind the environment I grew up in, are really relevant, are counter productive, are hampering my happiness in life?  Some of them are buried so deeply that only ongoing questioning and delving bring them to the surface.  I intend though to keep questioning them – are they relevant, are they true, is this really what I want to believe?


Wishing you love, light and happiness