Six Years

norThis day six years ago I went on my very first march ever. I had been shocked to my  very core by what happened to Savita. I remember exactly where I was when I heard that she had died following a miscarriage, having been refused an abortion. I had given birth a few months earlier that year and I hadn’t really understood how the eighth amendment affected me. I had associated it with not being able to get an abortion here in Ireland and people having to travel but it seemed to be a somewhat ephemeral concept, affecting Other People.

I don’t think I slept very well the night the news was reported, via the Irish Times, on Vincent Browne’s late night TV show. The next morning I donated to an abortion rights campaign and cried my eyes out listening to various radio shows discussing what had happened. It shouldn’t be the case that you only start understanding what this type of law means when you think it can affect you, but that’s how I processed the story. I remember RTE having a panel discussion before the Dáil session was to start, and one of the political correspondents wryly commenting that there were three men discussing abortion in 2012 in Ireland.

On this day six years ago we met a friend and marched with our baby from O’Connell Street to Merrion Square. I remember it raining a bit and being a very gloomy afternoon. I remember walking as it got darker and darker, and the candles being lit, and seeing banners with Savita’s face and thinking with horror that this could be anyone, including me, who is pregnant in Ireland right now.

We didn’t stay for all the speeches but that day was a turning point. The next march we went on was with two children and a greater sense of purpose. The abortion rights movement was shifting gear following the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. On yet another march we wore our REPEAL sweatshirts and were joined by more and more people we knew.

I have been pregnant twice since the death of Savita and the eighth amendment was on my mind throughout both pregnancies. I didn’t want to be the next catalyst for social change and I regret that it took a name and a story like hers to push me and others forward. It’s so bloody unfair that, as a prochoice doctor said, if she had been able to have an abortion we wouldn’t even know her name.

Six years is a long time and yet no time at all. Thousands of people have had to travel for health care since that march. Thousands of people changed their minds and decided that yes, they trusted people and while they might make different choices we needed to change the way we treat pregnant people in Ireland. There has been a lot of hurt and I know many felt excluded by the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment. I know the proposed legislation isn’t perfect and that implementation of same is going to be another painful process. I know we could have done more and we should have known what affect this law has had on the generations before us.

In September last year I sat with friends after a march and drank wine and was convinced that we had a lot more convincing to do if we were going to get a yes vote on repealing the eighth amendment. I’m very, very glad I was wrong and that one moment I will always remember is just after 10pm on the 25th May 2018 when I saw the Irish Times exit poll predicting a landslide victory for repeal.

In six years’ time I hope I’m still thinking of Savita and the debt I owe her and the changes that have happened since that march. And I hope her parents know how many people think of her still and worked to change the law so that we won’t need to know the names of other people because they’ve been able to access the care they need rather than dying needlessly.

Thank you, Savita.

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Six Years

Babymoon

I gave birth on the 25th September and escaped from hospital five days later. I was really worried about the hospital stay this time around because the last two times I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. This time around it was pretty good though. The food was a pleasant surprise, my TV didn’t work so I was somewhat cocooned from the rolling news coverage that’s standard these days and I knew this was the last time I’d be in hospital post birth so I kind of surrendered to the whole thing.

Since getting home I’ve had a babymoon. My days are spent feeding the baby, eating, watching crappy daytime TV and sleeping. We’re very lucky that my husband gets paid paternity leave and can take the time off work to keep everything else ticking over. We managed to get out to lunch together with the baby yesterday, which was some much needed headspace away from our home.

I’m loath to mention sleep because so far we have been incredibly fortunate and baby wakes once a night for a marathon feed. We’re cosleeping and managing to get a nice few hours in between the waking, much more than we ever got with our first two children. Knowing this is the last time we’ll go through this is a bit bittersweet. I’m still coming to terms with it, to be honest.

Babymoon

(Not Quite) Zero Waste Nursery

When I had two children within 15 months and then moved house two years later I went through a lot of decision making about baby, toddler and child stuff. There was a lot of stuff, some borrowed and happily returned, most stuffed into storage bags and our attic as our children outgrew it. When we moved house I happily passed on most of it to someone who needed it more than I did, given that I wasn’t sure if we’d have another child and I wanted to sort through it and reduce the pile anyway.

Now that our third baby is on the way I’ve been resorting what we had tucked away and deciding on what we need to buy or acquire. Some of the things I gave away have come back, and I’m especially grateful to get back one particular sentimental item. I found a moses basket and stand in our local charity shop and a changing table, cot mobile, sling and sundry other items via a zero waste Facebook group. We’ll be using washable nappies again and despite giving away a lot of baby clothes we’ve more than enough to keep us going for months.

We haven’t been totally zero waste about it, mainly due to legitimate health and safety rules for baby stuff. It’s recommended to buy a new moses basket and cot mattress for each new baby, so that’s what we’ve done. Car seats for babies have a five-year limit of use so we need to buy a new one, but our old base is fine as its less than ten years old and hasn’t been in an accident. The biggest ‘we can’t get away with borrowing this, getting it free or making do with what we have’ item has been a new car and we had to make some serious compromises, but such is life.

I suppose the biggest zero waste decision is that, as with my first two children, I plan on breastfeeding. It’s free food, which is perfect for a baby and produces waste which washes out in the washing machine. What’s not to love.

(Not Quite) Zero Waste Nursery

We Didn’t Start The Fire

The decision not to categorise female soldiers as soldiers despite their having fought for Irish independence in the 1920s. The decision not to pay them pensions as a result.

The mother and baby homes.

The Magdalene laundries.

The 1937 Constitution which put women in the home.

The marriage bar. The loss of income and pension rights as a result.

The different pay scales for women and men in the civil and public service.

The exile of Edna O’Brien.

Telling the Parliament that the first female police service recruits shouldn’t be too horse faced and that they should not be targets for marriage.

Symphysiotomy being introduced after it had fallen of out favour in most other countries.

Male only jury service.

The seizure of state run social services, including schools and hospitals, by religious orders loyal to another state.

The Irish Women’s Liberation Movement taking the train to buy condoms.

Mary McGee taking the state to court to buy condoms.

The eighth amendment.

Joanne Hayes and the Kerry babies scandal.

Miss X.

Miss Y.

A, B and C v Ireland.

Terminations For Medical Reasons.

Amanda Mellet.

Savita Halappanavar.

NP being kept alive despite being braindead and liquifying because the foetus inside her had a heartbeat.

The women passing illegal abortion pills into the hands of women minding their children.

The lack of anatomy scans because ‘What can you do anyway?’

The lack of a right to informed consent during pregnancy.

The 2002 referendum in which the Government wanted to do away with the right of suicidal women to abortions in Ireland.

The 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act where women who have abortions where their lives aren’t at risk face a jail term of 14 years.

Being told we’re all going to die as a reason to deny women autonomy.

The marches for choice.

I came very late to the repeal movement. I was antichoice for a large portion of my younger years. I was wrong. I was judgmental. I didn’t know just how much the Irish state has tried to keep us quiet. When you grow up somewhere that has a religious school system, where most of the population are the same religion and where the state broadcaster plays the catholic call to prayer twice a day any non-conformity can seem shocking.

This week it feels like something has shifted. I don’t know if this is the beginning of the end but I am very hopeful it is the end of a long beginning. Reading about the women who went before me is humbling. I admire their resolve and strength, and I don’t know how they didn’t spend a large amount of their time being mad as hell about things.

It will be long and hard and difficult to get to the finish line, but I think of all those who went before us and I take solace from the fact that, in their way, they’ve chipped away at some of the stoney silence around women’s rights and human rights in Ireland. And I thank them for that.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

My Happiness Depends On Me

One of my very favourite singers is Dolly Parton and one of my very favourite songs of hers is Jolene and one of my very favourite performance of it was when she sang at Glastonbury in 2014. I watched her performance on BBC4, which broadcast the show live, and my husband, who had been a little ambivalent about her before then saw why I’ve been such a fan.

I think it’s one of the saddest songs ever written, and, in a twisted way, one of the most beautiful songs about love for a man I’ve ever heard. Dolly is begging Jolene not to take her man just because she can, and pleads with her that her happiness depends on Jolene’s decision.

I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of leaving one’s happiness in the hands of a decision another woman takes regarding your man, but suffice to say it’s probably not the healthiest message to send to anyone. My happiness depends on me, and whatever I decide to do.

Changing my mindset from expecting those around me to make me happy to realising my own actions and thoughts were what would make me happy – a feeling of being in control instead of hoping other people would deliver happiness to me – has brought me great peace of mind.

I often wonder about Jolene’s happiness. I hope she turned out ok in the end.

My Happiness Depends On Me

Musings for 2018.

I’m pretty happy about the opinion polls on repealing the eighth amendment. I wish the media would stop calling it the abortion referendum, however-it affects every single pregnancy.

I have continued to obsessively track the Mueller investigation via my subscription to the New York Times (the best money I spend each month), social media and political commentary. Rereading All The President’s Men again might be in order.

I’ve signed up for the Frugalwoods’ frugal challenge for January. It’s a little extreme for me but I would like to work on my finances a bit and January is a birthday, plan free zone for us most years.

I am glad to see the back of 2017, but then I was glad to see the back of 2016 for myriad reasons. I really hope something comes of the Mueller investigation, that we repeal the eighth and that my finances spark a lot of joy this day next year.

Musings for 2018.

All the Feels

The women with the buggies. The two old friends holding a photo of themselves from 1983. The woman with a hijab holding a sign in Irish. The group of teenage lads with homemade signs. The woman whose dad made her sign that was photographed all the way along the route. The older women who’ve paved the way for us. The teenage girls who I’m in awe of. The friends who marched for the first time. The friends who’ve marched before I had the nerve to. The parents for choice. The midwives for choice. The Enya fans for choice. The grieving couples. The three generations marching together. The left wingers. The right wingers. The middle of the roaders. The Father Ted mastermind. The singers. The handmaids. The hastily bought badge wearers. The people sweating in their black sweatshirts because of the glorious sunshine. The immigrants who can’t vote but need us to vote for them. The borrowed t-shirts. The shoppers cheering along the way. The theatre staff giving us the thumbs up. The beeps from passing cars and buses. The tooting from the passing train. The little girls and boys waving flags bigger than they were. The stories that still make me cry. The anger and the passion of the speeches. The hope for change.

It’s time to act. Repeal the Eighth for all of us.

All the Feels