Women have been fighting to have their voices heard forever it seems. I’m a Democrat who lives in Massachusetts, so each November I find myself questioning whether my vote will really matter, living in such a liberal state. But then I think of the women during the Suffrage movement who canvassed long and hard, were outcast; jailed even, for petitioning for their right to vote. And so I make the time, partly in deference to them, because they fought for me to have a voice, now, 100 years later. I think of my mother, who taught me about Friedan, the ERA… about the inequities between men and women that have existed since time. She was a good Catholic girl who grew up during the 1950’s in a very traditional household… who sensed that by the 3rd grade that she was a lesbian, and hid that fact from the world, from me, from herself, until she hit middle age, when she finally found her voice.
2018 has been an interesting year for women. One by one, we’ve all watched so many brave women come forward, speaking the truth about the unspeakable. And finally, the world seems to be listening, lending credibility to the trauma, the multi-generational impact sexual assault has on women and those around them. Validating a woman’s boundaries, her body, her whole self that is sacred, and belongs only to her. I am in awe of their courage and strength.
There are so many more subtle ways that women’s voices have been hushed in our society. We asked for equal work and equal pay, so how dare we complain when we are expected to keep up with the majority of the housework, childcare and elder care? We wanted it all, and we got it. (With the exception of equal pay of course.) It’s only now, with the younger generation of newer families with small children, that we see more of a 50/50 in division of household labor. Many continue to struggle with this imbalance.
I still remember feeling so embarrassed after I found out that I miscarried my first pregnancy at 12 weeks, nearly 10 years ago now. I must have done something wrong, I thought, to make this happen. After all, I “lost” the baby. There began my journey towards motherhood, a new time when I felt compelled to keep quiet. Shame does that. After the birth of my daughter a year or so later I experienced postpartum anxiety and OCD. I again thought I must not speak about what I was thinking and feeling. Everyone will think I’m crazy or that I will harm my baby. I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was a thing. I didn’t know because we don’t talk about it as a society. Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are sacred after all, and to acknowledge the truth that sometimes the whole thing is really, really hard, is still taboo. I made a personal commitment then, to speak about my experience, in part to help alleviate shame that other women feel. In part, to alleviate my own. I made a commitment then as a therapist and survivor to offer services to the larger community, as such services are lacking.
The concept and idea of a counseling office just for women was born during the “Me too” and “Time’s Up” movements. My vision included offering services to women through our ever-so-complex life cycle. My hope is that Women’s Counseling of Nashua will serve as a catalyst for every woman to find her voice, her place, her unique self in a space that is accepting and safe.
Laura Duncan, LICSW