Reflecting on Repeal

imag0887I took this photo a year ago. I clearly quite like it, because I’ve posted it before.

It was a time that will always be a weird mix of fuzziness and absolute clarity. I was pregnant, I had complications, I was emotional, I was tired, I was restless, I was nervous. I didn’t know how the vote was going to go and I had passed by some pretty obnoxious posters and people on a near daily basis.

I’ve only just started processing the past year properly. I’ve been listening to some podcasts about the campaign and the result and it feels like the campaign only happened a short time ago, but also like I’m hearing analysis of another time and place entirely.

I’m still elated about the result and I’m still really angry that we had to go through this at all. I’m angry that the legislation isn’t perfect but elated that people are getting the healthcare they need. I’m angry that a local election candidate who left his political party because the absolutely minimal legislation in 2013 was too extreme for him sidles past our repeal bumper stickers to look for our vote in a constituency which voted yes by a landslide.

I feel guilty that I didn’t do more and wonder if I was too lazy, and then I wonder if I needed to do more given the result. Then I feel guilty for trying to absolve myself of my guilty feelings. I’m not sure if feeling this guilt is good or bad at this point.

I look at my children and  that makes me happiest of all. All the marches and the chats and the donations and the support and the GIFs and the funny moments and the sad moments and the whole of the 25th of May 2018 when I barely functioned because of the knots in my stomach and the all over shaking when I thought about what might happen. I don’t want to say it was all worth it, but it happened and I can look back on it all in a slightly less garbled way than I would have even a few months ago.

I’m glad I have these memories; they’re part of me now. I’m equally glad that this morning when I moved my box of repeal stuff aside to get at something else in the attic I was able to tell myself that the box is a relic of another time already.

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Reflecting on Repeal

Tiny Sparks of Joy

img_20190319_121430-1This view. A place in Dublin I rarely walk around. I forgot how nice a riverside stroll can be.

The aforementioned stroll led to a long overdue lunch with friends and plans for more catchups.

Looking forward to another referendum. We do love a good referendum. Thanks, Irish Constitution.

Finally being in the headspace to be able to listen to analysis of the referendum on the eighth amendment. Still brings all the emotions to the surface. Still can’t quite believe its normal to see advertisements for abortion services at bus stops and in the local health clinic.

Feeling stronger after every gym session.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Is It Good Enough?

imag0887This is a photo I took on the 1st of May 2018. The referendum was on the 25th of May and by the 26th of May we knew we had repealed the eighth. By the 1st of January the legislation to give effect to the proposed abortion service was in place.

I know the legislation isn’t perfect and I voted for repeal in the hope that further changes to the current law will happen. I know services aren’t as accessible as I’d like and that some people will travel.

My fear is that we’ll continue to rely on so-called hard cases to push for further reform. Every case is a hard case. No one wants a medical procedure if they can avoid it. I’ll continue to grill any political representative who comes to our door on their stance on reproductive rights.

Is this good enough? I don’t know. I think we’ll have to keep working and stay vigilant. I’m learning more and more that we can’t be complacent about anything to do with reproductive health care.

Is It Good Enough?

I can have trivial problems again now…

It’s been quite the ten days of highs and lows since 25th May. Mainly highs, it has to be said. And this weekend involved such glorious weather it almost felt like we had a weekend away. It feels almost churlish to complain about trivialities again.

But I’m not looking forward to a return trip to Ikea to return something we bought during an efficient shopping run on Saturday. There’s a few nooks and crannies crying out for some reorganisation but I’m not in a Konmari mood right now. Our fridge is a mess after the weekend but I can’t face cleaning it and doing a virtuous week of eating what we have already instead of stopping off at the shops before I come home and buying what I really want to eat.

It’s kind of nice to have my brain mulling over these types of “problems’ again. I haven’t forgotten that a scant two hours up the road my sisters in the North are still fighting some of the battles we’ve won though. Today the House of Commons starts talking about their rights.

I can have trivial problems again now…

Tiny Sparks of Joy, Having Repealed the 8th

Last Friday night at three minutes past 10pm.

Catching up with my oldest friend watching the results coming in and just getting happier and happier.

Wearing my together for yes tshirt on Saturday afternoon and feeling lighter than I have done for weeks.

Clare Daly. Every speech, every time.

Having a use for a ‘fancy’ box after seven years of shuffling it between homes and rooms. It will be a repeal the eighth memory box now.

Tiny Sparks of Joy, Having Repealed the 8th

Turns out the bubble was bigger than we thought.

Just after 10pm on Friday I frantically refreshed the Irish Times’ website for results of the exit poll on the referendum. I thought I was seeing things when I saw the words ‘landslide in favour of repeal’ or some variation thereof. I burst into tears. This week has been exhausting and draining for me, so I cannot imagine how those right on the frontlines felt seeing the news. I then started panicking and we decided we’d endure another 90 minute wait for the RTE poll at 1130pm. I couldn’t have slept before then even if I wanted to.

The 1130pm exit poll results were similar and we couldn’t quite believe it. All day I’d felt anxious, and judging from messages from friends a lot of people felt the same. We’d reassured ourselves that we just needed one more vote than the other side, but we knew that would frustrate any attempts to legislate. We never even dared hope for a 60%+ figure in favour of repeal. We slept a little easier but we didn’t want to get too optimistic.

When the tallies started coming in we still couldn’t quite believe it. Photos from people at the count showed clear majorities voting yes across the board, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Mayo – we couldn’t believe it but we started to relax a bit. I picked up a friend who came home for the referendum and we watched the results come in on RTE, feeling slightly incredulous and as though we could finally start to relax a bit.

The day wore on and we relaxed a lot. It was a clear and decisive win. I cried a few times. I didn’t expect it to be like this. Not so many years ago I dithered over wearing a black repeal sweater on the school run and finally decided to put it on and wear my cause across my chest. We got some stickers for our car but when they arrived we wondered if it was a good idea to put them on just in case. We put them on and handed spares to others.

Yesterday we realised the bubble we were in was pretty big. It is a bubble of the majority. The marches we went on represented the majority. It’s a good feeling.

Turns out the bubble was bigger than we thought.

I said yes I will Yes

I don’t write about one big part of my life on my blog, but I will today. It is one week before we go to the polls to vote on whether we repeal the eighth amendment and replace it with the thirty-sixth amendment.

I have two children and I am nearly 21 weeks pregnant. These are all planned, chosen pregnancies. My first pregnancy was when I was 30 years of age. I had little or no idea how the eighth amendment affected maternity care. I was able to choose private maternity care with a consultant who provided excellent care and eventually delivered my daughter by c section at 39 weeks gestation. I had no idea back in 2012 that if I hadn’t agreed to that procedure, court proceedings would have been almost inevitable.

The absolute and complete game changer for me was the death of Savita in October 2012. It was the first time I ever thought about marching for something. Me, my husband and our baby (in a sling worn by my husband) marched in Dublin in the rain until it got dark when we reached Merrion Square. I felt deeply, deeply ashamed that day of my former ‘prolife’ views, formed almost entirely from the overtly religious nature of schooling in Ireland and an unspoken but present sense that abortion is always, always wrong.

The Oireachtas held hearings on the introduction of new legislation to deal with the X case and cases like Savita in January 2013. I was newly pregnant and still on maternity leave with a baby as I watched non medical experts explain, twisting and turning their words as they did so, why the eighth amendment was a good thing. I was overjoyed to see the doctor who delivered my baby speak robustly about how women and children are at risk in Ireland because of the status quo.

I returned to work and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act debate was in full swing. People who now hold this legislation up as a reason not to repeal the eighth amendment seem to have forgotten that we saw them protest against it, saw their posters full of lies and heard their myths during the wearying ‘balanced’ debates on television and radio. Being pregnant while a whirlwind of debate about the contents of your uterus which omits you or thinks you’re untrustworthy isn’t pleasant.

My wonderful prochoice consultant delivered our second child by c section later that summer. This time I knew how the eighth amendment affected my care, but I also knew that we had to change this. That’s when me and my husband started really thinking about getting involved instead of letting someone else do it.

We have brought our children on marches in the rain and the sunshine. We have donated money, and donated again, and then donated some more. We’ve had uncomfortable chats with friends and family, sometimes leaving things and then coming back to them. We’ve worn the badges and the t shirts and the sweatshirts. We donated again just in case. We feel guilty for not canvassing.

In January this year we found out I was pregnant again. I’m 36 now, and officially a geriatric mother. We knew we wanted prenatal testing and our wonderful doctor advised it. We had the harmony test, the test that’s waved around as a reason to deny all women control over their bodies. We had the money to pay for it and it was a short train journey to the hospital to have it.

Less than a week later, when I was nearly 14 weeks pregnant, a call from my consultant told me there was a high risk for a trisomy. The test is not conclusive. You don’t get a definitive answer. My husband, who loves numbers almost as much as he loves me and our children, crunched the numbers. We decided we wanted definitive answers and agreed to the suggested course of action, which was amniocentesis.

We wore our badges and tshirts from Together for Yes to the appointment. We saw the foetus during a scan, a scan which was more painful than the amniocentesis itself. We watched amniotic fluid being taken from my uterus. My doctor and the nurse in attendance didn’t need to tell us what our ‘options’ were if the news wasn’t good. Days went by as we waited for the results and I spent most of them in bed, rereading comforting books from my childhood. A call from my doctor confirmed the initial results were clear but there were other test results to come. Another week later and we got confirmation that everything was fine.

Did the eighth amendment ‘save’ this foetus? Did I feel supported by it? Did my husband feel I was getting some of the best medical care in the world? No. No. No. We hadn’t fully decided what we would do if the news wasn’t good, but we knew that the ‘options’ are. In Ireland, you must stay pregnant; there is no other option.

I’ve come to loath the phrase ‘journey’ when it comes to the eighth amendment, but we have been on several of them over the past few years. I look back on 30 year old me, and 31 year old me, with a serious amount of bafflement. How was I so ill informed and so ignorant? How had I ever thought this crazy amendment, inserted at a time of fire and brimestone over creeping reproductive rights elsewhere, was a good thing?

It is no surprise that me and my husband and our wider families are saying Yes to repeal next Friday. We hope all our friends vote Yes too. I think many people are compassionate, but sometimes that compassion needs to be explored. I never thought I was a cruel person, but supporting the eighth amendment is a very cruel thing to do.

My Yes is most especially for my daughter. My wonderful, funny, clever, insightful daughter, who’s been marching since before she could walk. I hope that Ireland shows its compassionate side for her generation, and the ones after that. Please vote Yes for her, and her classmates, friends, cousins and every other girl and woman in Ireland next Friday.

I said yes I will Yes