If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw during the week that I attended the rally outside the High Court in Dublin on Wednesday to support Aja Teehan in her case against the HSE to lift the blanket ban on homebirths for women who have had a previous Caesarean section. Aja’s case is based on an individual’s right to self-determination and making decisions about themselves based on informed choice. You can read the details of her application on her website here. Continue reading Aja Teehan: Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong
I think most mothers remember the birth of their children like it was yesterday, no matter how much time has passed. Sure how could any woman possibly forget such a powerful, life-changing day when their bodies did the most incredible thing and brought a new life into the world? They say every pregnancy is different and every birth unique, which makes perfect sense because even though the mama might be the same, we’re talking about a whole new different human being and all of their individuality playing such an important role in the pregnancy and birth process. Continue reading Share your positive birth story and photos with the women of Ireland
I’m sorry, sisters.
For the hand you were dealt.
For the cruelty of the times.
For the freedom that was stolen from you and the love and compassion you so deserved but never received.
For the terror and the loneliness you must have felt, not knowing why you were in this place and how long you’d be left there.
For the injustice. For the misogyny.
For the stolen childhoods, womanhoods, motherhoods.
For the betrayal by your sisters, The Sisters. (The Sisters – how could you? Did you not see? Did you not know? Where was your compassionate God in those days?). The Sisters who judged you and kept you in subservience to wash the dirty linen because society said you had already washed your own dirty linen for the world to see. According to them. And their hypocritical, absurd ways.
For the stigma you never deserved but still haunts.
For the passing of years with no voice, no acknowledgement, no support.
For receiving no apology yesterday when the writing was on the wall and the words should have tumbled out, begging for your forgiveness.
I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry this happened in our country but I am unsurprised. I’m sorry that I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like and how life is for you now when my own life is a million miles away. I was 17 when the last laundry closed in 1996. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even know they were still open then.
I’m sorry that the Ireland in which you finally got your vindication is an Ireland so obsessed with money and budgets and bottom lines and belt-tightening and cost-cutting and percentages and accounting, that the powers that be have lost perspective and empathy and cannot see the healing that “I’m sorry” can bring, at no cost to them. Although their actions yesterday will cost them in the end…
I’m sorry we were who we were then. I’m sorry we are who we are now.
I hope you find peace somewhere in the middle of all this.
In the wake of a judgement from the European Court of Human Rights and a growing public outcry from both sides of the debate following the death of Savita Halappanavar in October last year, the Irish Government is this week conducting a three day public hearing on abortion in Ireland. The hearings have been broken down into medical hearings, legal hearings and church and advocacy hearings.
I don’t want to continue the debate here – that’s for another day – but I would like to touch on a comment that was made by one of the presenting experts during day two of the hearings yesterday which covered the legal side of the issue.
University of Limerick law lecturer Jennifer Schweppe made a submission based on the constitutional law on abortion as it currently stands. Schweppe herself is heavily pregnant and during the course of her speech she made the following statement:
What is inside me now is a foetus, it is not a baby. I am not a mother, I am a pregnant woman”
To give her comment some context, she was discussing how any legislation around the subject of abortion should be value neutral and unemotive. So where previously, the legal text read “mother” and “baby”, she believes it should be “pregnant woman” or “woman” and “unborn”. From a legal perspective, of course she’s right. Emotion has no place in the law. But her statement about herself really struck a chord with me.
When does motherhood begin? I thought back to my post about Savita Halappanavar and Anna Byrne and remembered I talked about a mothering journey beginning when a woman turns her thoughts and actions towards becoming a mother but that’s a kind of pre-mother state really, isn’t it. It’s the start of the journey to a final destination of motherhood rather than actually becoming a mother.
Do you become a mother the second you conceive? To say yes is to narrow motherhood to including only women who give birth to their babies but immediately we know that being a mother is so much much more than that and excludes all of those wonderful women who adopt, foster or are mothering children that they haven’t given birth to themselves.
In some ways, being a mother is all in the mind, a psychological and emotional concept more than a physical one. It’s when you become aware that you are a mother that you begin to be a mother. Or to put it another way, when you are aware of the existence of a child to be mothered by you, you then become a mother. So when your adopted or fostered child is delivered to your arms or when your relationship with your partner gets to a level where you assume a mothering or step-mothering role to their child, that’s where you become a mother. And when you discover you’re pregnant – rather then when you actually conceive – that’s the nub of the issue for me. When you see that double pink line and you realise there’s a life inside you, that’s when you become a mother. Suddenly, you have the responsibility to act on your new-found pregnant status. For most, this is an immediate instinct to change your lifestyle, your diet, to assume a nurturing role, to protect and grow this life and prepare to welcome a baby into the world. For others, the realisation of their pregnancy is not a happy time and they make decisions to end their pregnancy that are right for them. But in my mind, whatever way your pregnancy journey ends, be it holding a newborn – both welcome and unwelcome – having an abortion or having a miscarriage, you were a mother from the moment you became aware of your pregnancy.
To claim that pregnant women are not mothers and just pregnant women is to deny the love, the nurturing, the heartache, the disappointment, the grief, the myriad of altruistic emotions a women feels for the foetus in her body and how she feels about herself during her pregnancy. I think it’s impossible to say that a pregnant woman is not a mother. Can you tell a woman who lost her child in late pregnancy that she was not a mother? I don’t think so. So where does that line to cross into motherhood begin?
By all means, let’s keep the legal debate about abortion in Ireland calm, clear, value neutral and unemotive. But let’s not diminish the status of pregnant women in society by saying they’re not mothers until they hold a living baby in their hands. We’re not vessels. We’re living, breathing, loving, nurturing, strong women who when we discover we are mothers have to make life changing decisions about what happens next. It’s a mother who chooses to end her pregnancy for excellent reasons unique to her and her life. A mother chooses to continue her pregnancy to term and bring a new life into the world. There are no human incubators devoid of the emotions of motherhood here.