Anonymous 10

We have a mug filled with flowers in our bathroom, it is the body of a pregnant person with the words “I should have danced all night” inscribed on it. These words have haunted me from the moment I saw the word “pregnant” on my test.

St. Stephen’s night I was in a nightclub with my friends. I went outside at one point and saw a guy I occasionally work with who I had gotten with once before, he was older, and I enjoyed his attention. We were talking, and he convinced me to go back to his house near town. He removed the condom at one point which I thought was fine because he didn’t “cum” in me. I ran back to town because my mother was collecting my friends and I. No one asked any questions and I thought nothing of it.

I was in sixth year in secondary school. I was 17 years old coming up to my pre Leaving Cert exams. My friend had whispered to me one day in maths class that she was scared she was pregnant, I jokingly laughed with her that I might the same and we would be grand. Weeks passed her period came, mine didn’t. She was the only one who knew. We kept laughing about it until it felt more serious. I did some research and found out the more you stressed about it the more you delayed your period. I convinced myself it would be fine.

One Wednesday night when both my parents were out, I drove to the nearest late-night pharmacy. I received what I thought were explicitly judgemental looks from the male pharmacist. I went into my spare room and peed and waited and prayed for my suspicions to be wrong. They were not. I texted my best friend, who I was fighting with at the time, she immediately reassured me she was there for me. We decided we would get the 7-hour bus to Marie Stopes in Belfast and say we wanted to go shopping. I even started dropping hints to my mum about it the next day.

I emailed Marie Stopes that night and to be honest I hadn’t even considered any other option after my research. If I could have gotten an abortion the next day I would have. For me that was my only choice. My child would have been born in September, I would have been eighteen and a half. I would have to either sit my leaving cert 7 months pregnant or not at all. I don’t believe I would have been able to go to college or to work.  To some people that may sound selfish and I can understand that, but I knew I wasn’t ready. Even to this day any close encounter with a baby/child reaffirms that for me. Pro-life people say every life is precious, but I wouldn’t have been able to give that child any life. I wouldn’t have been able to provide financially, mentally or emotionally for that child. I haven’t told the father which I am aware might seem unfair, but I knew my decision and wasn’t prepared to have that contested as I know it was the right one for me.

After my initial phone consultation, I learnt I could not go to Belfast unless I was suicidal and numerous doctors signed off on it. I was in the middle of studying for what we are told are the most important exams of your life, trying to decide my future and plan a trip to England. To say the thought of suicide hadn’t crossed my mind is an understatement. The pain of feeling I couldn’t tell anyone, the shame I felt and that I would bring to my family especially my parents.

Fortunately, my brother was in college in London at the time. I told my mum that the plan had changed, we would go over visit my brother, stay a night with him, do a bit of shopping and get a late flight home to celebrate being finished our pre exams. It was midterm and all my friends were so jealous of me going on holidays. So, the day after Valentine’s day I had my pre French oral exam and then got the flight to London. We arrived at my brother’s flat which he shared with a few friends. We ate cereal and I pretended to watch First Dates. We went to bed early because we said we wanted to get as much shopping as possible done. My brother said he would bring us to Oxford Street at for 9am but we said no we were going to get up earlier than that. I could see he was hurt, but my appointment was made for 8.45am and it was one of the first times in my life I wanted to be early. When we got on the 6am bus my friend didn’t have an oyster card and the bus driver refused to let her on. There were no purchase points around and if we didn’t get this bus we would miss our next connecting one. My voice was breaking as I pleaded with the bus driver. He asked where we were going to and when I told him he immediately told us to just sit down. I still believe he knew.

I organised my abortion through Marie Stopes and I’ve honestly have never had healthcare like it. From the initial phone consultation to the receptionist at the last moment I left the clinic they were exceptional. I never once felt like a stupid shameful young slut that I felt like in Ireland. They were considerate and caring in their work especially in the way they conducted their medical assessment and the fact the nurse angled the ultrasound scan away from you.

I found out I was later in my pregnancy than I thought I was. I was told I couldn’t get a medical abortion as it wouldn’t work, and I can vividly remember my heart sinking. I envisaged going home and having to come back, how I could lie to my parents again, how I would afford it, when could I go with school, the worries were endless. The nurse was amazing at calming me down and informing me I could still get a surgical abortion that day if they had an availability. They took into account my flight home and fitted me in later that day, for that I am forever grateful.

We went away to a shopping centre, came back a few hours later and this time I walked into the centre alone. I sat alone in the waiting room watching Four in a Bed for what felt like forever. The waiting room was packed, and I desperately wanted my name to be called. A nurse brought me upstairs and instructed me on what to get changed into. She led me into the prep room where I had to put my legs into stirrups.  I cannot remember her face, but I will never forget how much I appreciated her holding my hand as I went under general anesthetic.

When I woke up I was lying on a bed in a room surrounded by other women. There was a nurse’s station in front of me, as I opened my eyes I immediately felt the mental and physical pain and began to cry. It struck me that no one else was crying, this also struck the nurse who rushed over to me. Again, she was exceptionally kind offering me tea and painkillers. I felt an inordinate amount of relief but also sadness that I was doing this journey on my own. I waddled to the bathroom and realised that someone had changed my underwear to an adult nappy. I remember thinking how strange and wrong it felt that the last time someone changed me was my mother when I was a child. Now it was a person I didn’t even know in a country I didn’t call my home. I was warned I couldn’t leave until I peed to ensure everything was okay, but I couldn’t and lied to the nurse.

I left the clinic with my friend; a pro-life protester was outside the clinic shouting obscenities at me. I have never seen such a disregard for a human being as I saw in that man; shouting at a young woman who very obviously had just undergone a trauma. We hurried past and it finally hit me that my mum was not with me. I knew she would have stood up for me. We sat in Starbucks and I have not felt such elation since. The worry that had been consuming my life since the start of January was finally over.

I sat on the last row of the plane and read an article on the Kardashians. My best friend’s mum collected us and when I was dropped home my parents were delighted to see me. I went through a scathing amount of lies of what we did that day, how amazing it was, how unfortunately there wasn’t much really that I wanted to buy. I didn’t feel any real pain since I left the clinic.

The next evening my mum had been out and came home drunk. I had been in bed in agony most of the evening. She came into my pitch-dark room bumping into things as I silently sobbed in pain. I told her my period cramps were bad and she tried to help but I ended up snapping at her to get out.

I know I would be classed as having a “bad” or “unnecessary” abortion by some people. I wasn’t raped, I didn’t have a foetus with FFA, the pregnancy wasn’t due to incest. I was just a 17-year-old girl who should have been more careful. I only blame myself for what happened to me, but I blame so many people for the order in which I had to obtain my procedure. And I was one of the lucky ones.

I had the freedom to drive and buy my pregnancy test. I was able to research and plan my trip from my phone. I got pregnant at a “good time” because I only had to wait a few weeks until we had midterm. I had the money saved up from working the previous summer. I had the support of my best friend. I had so many things available and accessible to me that so many pregnant people in Ireland don’t have. Abortion access in Ireland as its stands is deplorable. If I was at home in Ireland I would have been able to get a medical abortion weeks earlier, and I believe I wouldn’t have felt as ashamed and been able to open up to my parents and closer friends.

I never received any follow up consultation due to lack of supports available and my own desire not to find help. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I swiftly moved on. I had my 18th birthday, finished my Leaving Cert, went to college did all the things I have been planning since the previous year and life moved on seemingly unaffected.

It is now coming up to two years since my abortion and its becoming harder and harder. I’m actively involved in the repeal campaign and not having many people to talk to is wearing me down. My boyfriend is truly amazing and has been since the day I told him, helping me in every capacity possible. I just wish I didn’t have to feel this shame and stigma. Airports and planes are an extremely sad place for me. I feel sad for all the pregnant people who have gone before and after me. There are times I just want to scream my story at people but because only a few close friends know I am still very much in the shadows. I wish I had the courage to tell my parents, so I could be more vocal about it for the repeal campaign but for now I cannot. Getting an abortion wasn’t the hard part, living with the institutional shame is.

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Anonymous 9

I’m trying to think which details might be worth noting. Which details might make you think I’m still a good person, that I did the right thing.
I work with our local Pro Choice group and there’s only so many times you can be called a Murderer without it getting it on your head.

I was 24. He was 40. The age difference never mattered because I loved him and I stupidly thought he loved me to. It turns out I love you can outlast anything except for an Unplanned Pregnancy. I was on the pill and shocked when I did the test but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was in shock and wanted to talk to him about our options.

I told him and everything about him changed. I didn’t know what to do with the pregnancy but I thought we could explore our options together. He can down to talk one day at 4pm by 6pm we were in our local pub because “he wanted a drink to settle his nevers” I sat in the smoking area of the dead of winter frezzing running to the bathroom to be sick and watching him talk to our friends as if nothing was wrong. Spending money we didn’t have and laughing as if I wasn’t sitting there pregnant and trying not to cry. I wanted to scream for someone to help me. He stayed until closing time and left for a session. That night in the middle of winter I walked around trying to find him. Eventually I walked home, crying, and awear I was very very alone.

I made my decision that night.

I was broke and I was in a relationship with a man who was verbally and emotional and just the once physically abusive. I made the decision I could not bring a child into a world that would be tied to him or would know the cruel tang of poverty. I grew up in the 2000s in Ireland and there was no Pro Lifers when St Vincents De Paul ran out of vouchers the day before Christmas Eve so we simply didn’t eat that Christmas. I knew I only wanted to bring a child into this world if I could support it in every way it needed and deserved. I knew that there wasn’t much help for mental illness or poverty or abuse in Ireland, I know there wasn’t because I grew up in a Ireland where there wasn’t any help or support.

He came with me but I would have been better going alone. He was silent or cruel the whole way. When we got on the bus, I started crying and he put his headphones in. He didn’t touch me once not to hold my hand or hug me or anything. I remember crying my heart out on the plane wondering why the whole country wasn’t screaming to make this stop. I was terrified. I thought I would die. I was suddenly praying to a God I wasn’t sure I believed to get me home safe. The clinic was packed with so many Irish accents it was easy to pretend I was at home. I puked when I gave myself the chlamydia test. I fainted when they took my blood. But I fell apart when they did a scan. I cried so much I got sick. I screamed. I knew I was making the right choice but it was the hardest thing I ever did. The nurses were so kind and even kinder when they heard my Irish accent. She calmed me down.

When I woke up I cried with relief. I was exhausted from traveling, from fasting, from the choice, from the procedure. A nurse held my hand and handed me a tissue and told me I was ok. It was the worst day of my life and I kept thinking how much easier it would be if I was at home and could go straight to bed instead of facing a journey home bleeding and in silence and in agony.

While waiting there were loads of women in the waiting room. We got chatting to each other because I guess the silence was too loud. One woman had the abortion because her last child was a stillborn and she couldn’t go through pregnancy again. Another because she was studying to be a doctor. Another because she had five children and couldn’t feed them. Another because she was a grandmother and made the mistake of trying to find love again. Another because her arm was in a cast from her husband and she didn’t feel there was a way out. Another because she was raped. A group of strangers shared our stories and never saw each other again. I waited hours because the flight was delayed. Waited for a bus home at the airport for hours. I limped the whole way home. I left the clinic at 2pm and didn’t get home until 5.30 in the morning.

He woke me the following afternoon and suggested we go for a walk because it would do me good to get out, he wanted a drink. The day after I had abortion I stood in a pub and begged him to go home with me. He told me he was staying to watch the match and turned his back on me back to his pint. So I went home alone.

Only it wasn’t my home. You can’t be proud of a country that doesn’t want you. The silence was agony. Pretending like nothing happened was agony. The journey was horrific beyond words but the aftermath was horrific too. I didn’t know who too talk to. I know I made the right choice but it was a hard one and I needed help and I didn’t know where to go. I was scared and alone and terrified. I had nightmares and felt so ashamed.    Three years later and I still don’t feel like this home. I feel like I’m not wanted here.

But I feel less alone because so many women are coming forward with their stories.

Please Ireland, Repeal The 8th and let me come home finally.

Artist: Carol Treacy.

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Anonymous 8

I got pregnant at 27. I wasn’t too young, I wasn’t single, I had a stable job, I had a stable relationship, a supportive family, I wasn’t raped, but I wasn’t ready to become a mother.

I took multiple pregnancy tests, you’re in complete denial at first. The feeling of utter shock, sickness, sadness and grief is something I hope I never feel again.

During work one day I went into a room and made the call to Marie Stopes, they told me they couldn’t take any more appointments from Irish women as they were at capacity. This was a horrible thing to hear when you are already in a very vulnerable and scared state. She told me to call another organisation, luckily they could fit me in. The only appointment they had was for 2.5 weeks time, on Valentine’s Day.

I had to get a scan in Ireland so I went to Reproductive Choices. Women approached me as I was arriving and told me they do scans for free down the road, I later found out these were Pro Life groups that tell you you are much further along than you are. There were a few other women in the waiting room who looked around my age too.

The two week wait was horrible, you are trying to ignore your symptoms and constantly thinking am I doing the right thing. You go to work every day and try to act as normal as possible.

I told work I was sick the day of my appointment. We got up at 4am and got a flight to Manchester. When we got off the flight we had to wait for the taxi driver to come and find us, I think he had a code word. The whole thing just felt so strange. I did feel like a criminal.

In the clinic I was surrounded by women of all ages and circumstances. There were so many Irish women there. At one stage I was in a waiting room waiting for the surgery and it was me and 5 other Irish women.

The nurses were fantastic, they make sure the Irish women get seen first and order them depending on your flight time. One nurse told me she had an abortion herself.

It’s crazy being in the clinic all for the same reason where everyone can talk about their situation so openly. Some women had children at home, some were very young, some looked very afraid. The partners have to wait in a separate waiting room all day. I said goodbye to by boyfriend at reception around 8am and saw him again around 6pm once it was all over. When I left the clinic I didn’t want to speak about it much again. I often wonder if I will bump into any of the Irish girls I saw in there.

We traveled home exhausted and I was back in work the next day.

I went to the Well Womens clinic for a free post abortion check up, it’s amazing services like this are around.

This decision was not taken lightly, I think about it every day. I don’t regret my decision but it still makes me sad every day. I wish I never had to make the decision. But, it happened to me and it will happen to many others.

I wish I could have gotten the support I needed at home, I wish I didnt have to wait 2 .5 full weeks, I wish I didnt have to get on a plane, I wish I could have spoken through my options with my GP, I wish I didn’t have to think of excuses to tell work so I could get the day off. I wish I didn’t have to feel ashamed for a decision I felt was right for me and my partner at the time.

I hope to have children some day when the time is right for us.

Artist: Carol Treacy.

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Blood Stained Jeans after an Abortion

Anonymous 7

I’ve wanted to tell my story since the day it happened. At 28, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with someone I was casually seeing. He was a nice man but had no means to help me or support me properly through this. I told him I didn’t want to continue with the pregnancy. He respected my decision and left me to it.

I grew up just me and my single mother, she had me at 18. While I had a fantastic upbringing without my father, I saw first hand how tough being a single parent was. When my mother had me, she had fantastic support from her family and friends. While I feel I would not have had this as I don’t live close to my family. I was not ready to be a parent and I certainly wasn’t ready to be a single parent or could I afford it either.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I searched my options online and booked in with a clinic in London. I was very fortunate that my best friend lived down the road from a clinic. I booked last minute flights for the Friday and a flight back on the Saturday- I just wanted to stay in my own bed that night. I left work on Friday and didn’t tell anyone my weekend plans and just hopped on a bus to the airport. Everything was fine going over, I felt I had to sort this out and I was very mechanical. I went to clinic at the assigned time (11am) but the clinic was so over booked (many Irish woman there) that I didn’t get seen to until 3pm. The staff were beyond lovely and helpful. I chose the tablet option as it seemed to be to be less invasive. I took the tablets at the clinic and then only had a hour to lie down in my friend’s house before I had to leave for the airport. I was feeling ok, just slight bleeding . I got on the plane and it just felt like a period but by the time the plane was starting it’s descent in Ireland, I felt horrendous pain. I wasn’t allowed to leave my seat as the plane was landing. I gripped the chair in front on me in agony, I tried to disguise it as being nervous for the landing. I knew I was in trouble as I felt very wet and convinced myself I was just paranoid.

I got off the plane and for some reason there was no toilet until just before the arrivals door. I walked what felt like an eternity to the toilet. I glanced down and my legs and I horrified to see I was bleeding down to my knees on the inside in my light blue jeans. I felt so ashamed as I felt anyone that saw me would know I was just after having an abortion. I whipped off my hoodie, tied it around my waist and tried to hide it until I got to the bathroom. I finally got to a bathroom and I stripped off and tried to clean myself off with wet wipes. As I took off my underwear I felt something on my inner thigh. I put my hand down and I will never forgot what happened next. It was pure shock, where you can’t move or talk. The foetus was stuck to my leg. The next couple of minutes are a blur and then my phone rang. My friend was waiting in the car to collect me outside in arrivals. I tried to talk and couldn’t, I was just gasping. He calmly told me to get my stuff together and he’s just outside the railing. Only a few steps away he reassured me. I put one foot in front on the other and managed to get outside. I was in full blown shock and hysterical. My friend my absolutely amazing and managed to calm down, I finally got home to my house, had a shower and get into my own bed. The following day I pulled myself together and went for a gentle walk, to clear my head and get fresh air. That Monday morning I went into work as normal, acted completely normal and hid what had happened. No one in work knew the horrors I had experienced and I was happy to pretend I was fine and forget it.

Artist:  Anonymous 7 illustrated her own story.


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Anonymous 6

I was in a long term but very unhealthy relationship when i found out i was pregnant. I adored my boyfriend but this was not reciprocated. This unreciprocated adoration only added to my mental health issues as I battled a crippling eating disorder, anxiety and depression.

I was 21 when we got the positive result on the pregnancy test and we both knew that I couldn’t continue with the pregnancy. I was both terrified of the effect that my bulimia may have had on the initial weeks of pregnancy and terrified of my own mental health. I just knew that this pregnancy could not continue. My boyfriend was also certain that it was the right choice for me, for him and for us.

The procedure was a somewhat painful and lonely experience. But the aftermath upon returning to Ireland – the silence and secrecy- was more painful and lonely than I could have ever imagined. We told no-one for over a year and he refused to speak about it with me, instead just pretending that it never happened. I bottled it up. My eating disorder spiralled while my anxiety and depression worsened and our relationship ultimately fell apart.

Slowly, over the last 10 years, I have confided in friends and I have heard that he has too. Neither of us regret the decision to have an abortion but the shame, silence and secrecy that surrounded it were absolutely horrific. People do not make the decision to end a pregnancy lightly. We did not have a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, I was not raped, I was not a victim of incest and my life was not in imminent danger but this was the decision that we had to make. Women in Ireland make this difficult decision every single day.

My only regret is that I accepted the shame that this country and its people put on women and have carried it for so long. For too long.

Artist: Carol Treacy.

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People standing on a bridge in solidarity

Men's Voices - Jay

Men’s Stories – Jay

The weekend before my wife traveled for an abortion, I was working abroad. I listened to her desperate phone calls that weekend and felt utterly helpless. I was a few hundred miles away, as I would be when she travelled a few days later (when I would look after our children) and didn’t feel like I could make any helpful contribution to the situation. Certainly not one that would ease the pain in any way. All I could do was reassure her that I would back her up 100% on whatever decision she felt was right.

Having said that, with young and sometimes very challenging children already, we both knew almost immediately that another was not something we wanted or possibly even could cope with as a family.  Our youngest hadn’t slept a full night for some years and we were just coming through that process. The idea of creating that position again for us and the children would have been disastrous. Our attention and devotion to our children would have suffered as would their behaviour, development and education.

On the evening before, she packed and prepared for the following day. I couldn’t even drive her to the airport because of her very early departure and the need to care for our children. We spoke and texted each other throughout the day, which was some comfort to me but probably of little to her. I was somewhat reassured by the fact that a family member based in the UK had very kindly made the trip to be with her for the day, even if she wasn’t actually travelling with her (there were plenty of women from Ireland with my wife that day who were on their own).

I can’t begin to imagine the pain, anguish and rage she went through that day, being exiled for doing something that she knew was the right thing for her and for our family and yet having to make a lonely, stigmatising trip to do that. Of course, I felt empathetic and sympathetic towards her and shared her anger. However, I also felt guilt – guilt that I contributed to this mess – whilst also thinking, that because our method of contraception failed just once, neither us nor our family should face such long-lasting consequences for it.

When she arrived home late that night, exhausted, she was in a lot of discomfort and she was distressed, as she would be for many weeks to come. I tried my best to comfort her. Her distress was not to do with the abortion itself, but rather it manifested as anger at the isolation and stigma she felt at having been forced to travel in order to access the care and support she needed.

Who are we protecting by keeping this law? Certainly not the women or men affected, the baby? My wife was barely 5 weeks pregnant. If it came to saving my wife or that embryo, it would be my wife every time. Finally, I never again want to witness anyone I love go through such needless trauma and distress. Not my wife, not my daughters. Not your wife or daughters either.

The only positive, if there were any, that I was able to take from the wretched situation was that I had a newfound admiration for my wife that different to any I’d already experienced.

Artist: Jacob Stack.

http://jacobstack.net/


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People standing on a bridge in solidarity

Men's Voices - April 3

Listen Here

We were thrilled to find out we were pregnant in April last year, and went for an early scan at 7 weeks. Finding out it was triplets was like being hit over the head with a baseball bat; we felt concussed. The next few weeks were a blur; we didn’t know up from down. We went for another scan at 9 weeks, and all three foetuses were still progressing.

We talked to two consultants, both of whom recommended reducing to a twin pregnancy because of the health risks to my wife, and the relative safety of a twin pregnancy compared to triplets. Beyond the medical issues, we don’t have any family living near us that would be able to help us out with child care, and the financial implications were stark. Having twins would be a stretch anyway, but we felt we could handle that. It was an awful decision to have to make, but we knew it was the right one for our family. Some members of my family reacted very badly to the decision, which added to the stress.

We were put in touch with a clinic in Spain, as they have experience with reductions and were highly recommended. My wife’s family helped financially, and we arranged the reduction for a Friday. It meant flying to Spain on the Thursday for a consultation, and remaining there until Monday to allow my wife to recover. Friends of ours looked after our daughter while we were away. It was excruciating to leave her for 5 days, but our country gave us no choice.
It was surreal to be flying abroad for a medical procedure because it’s illegal at home, but at the time you don’t really think about the absurdity of it all.

The consultation and procedure went as expected. The staff at the clinic, and the surgeon in particular, were extremely compassionate, which made a big difference. I do remember saying goodbye my wife before the reduction, stepping outside and bursting into tears because the whole situation was so awful and we were in a place where we knew no one. The scan on Monday showed the two remaining foetuses were in good health.

After arriving home on Monday evening, my wife began to feel unwell. We went to the hospital for a scan, and one of the twins had no heartbeat. It was heart-breaking.

We were told to come back on Friday for another scan to check on the remaining foetus. On Thursday evening, my wife passed some water, and the scan on Friday morning showed that the heartbeat had slowed almost to a stop. We were going to lose the third. They kept my wife in hospital overnight, and did a scan Saturday morning which confirmed the worst. We were practically numb at this stage, and my wife had to have surgery on Saturday evening to remove the foetuses. I don’t know how she coped with it all. She had to endure two surgeries while trying to come to terms with the emotional trauma. It was almost unbearable.

It’s likely an infection set in at some point after we arrived home, which caused the two miscarriages. We can’t say for sure whether having to fly home played a part, but it probably didn’t help. It’s been 9 months since it happened; the pain is still there and always will be, but it’s not so close to the surface. We lean on each other as much as possible, and our daughter is the light in our lives.
I can’t believe my own country forces women to travel abroad at a time when they should be supported and cared for at home. The 8th Amendment is cruel, and we need to repeal it.

This story was submitted anonymously.

Artist: Jacob Stack.

http://jacobstack.net/


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An IV drip

Niamh

I suffered enormously with morning sickness. I lost a lot of weight and was severely dehydrated. So much so that the clinic had to give me a bag of fluid through an IV drip before they could examine me.

My ex wasn’t any help. He lay watching TV one night while I clogged up the toilet with vomit, then the sink, then the bath. Our flatmate cleaned it up. I was fortunate that I had support from my parents, they paid for everything. My GP was angry because he couldn’t help. The flight was delayed, the taxi man cursed at the protesters outside. The staff were so so kind. I remember the anaesthesiologist eyes, they were reassuring. When I woke up the nurse sitting with me was stroking my hair & wiping my tears.  She told me in a comforting tone that I’m so pretty, much like a mum would when you are ill or upset. I wish my mum had been there instead of my ex.

When we left the clinic in a taxi I asked could we pull over to get a pack of smokes. My ex said no. All I wanted was a cigarette. The taxi man took pity on me & gave me one of his and let me smoke it in the car. There was 3 other women on that flight going to the same clinic. One of them was 17, her parents thought she was out shopping for the day. We all avoided looked at each other in the airport coming back. I went to stay in my parents house while my ex went to the pub. I never went back to live in our shared flat.

I don’t regret having an abortion, it was the right choice for me. What I do regret is having to leave my country & support network to do it. I’m bitter about that. I’m bitter that in Ireland there is cloak of shame over the whole subject. We (Irish women) “can’t” talk about it. Most of the people who know me, don’t know me.  I left Ireland. I don’t think I’ll ever move back. It’s liberating to be in a country that openly talks about abortion. I’ve long since gotten over my ex & my hard thought out decision, but 10 years later I’m still not sure if I can ever forgive Ireland for the way it’s treated its women.

Illustration: Caoimhe Anglin

Audio: Sarah Ní Riain

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A woman sits alone with an Irish passport

Anonymous 5

I had an abortion seven years ago. I had spent a week making the decision with my husband. We agonised over it, because we thought we were supposed to.
In the end, it was the easiest decision in the world.
We had a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old. Our full-time jobs barely paid the mortgage and creche fees, and I was struggling to find the €44 a month for my anti-depressants.

We couldn’t tell anyone, because we didn’t know who we could trust. Would the people who helped us through our miscarriage four years earlier judge us now? Abandon us?

So, with the cost of flights and the procedure taking my credit card up to its maximum, I travelled alone. To keep the weekend ‘normal’ for the kids, my husband would need the car. I took a bus from our small village to Dublin, then a plane, then a lovely man in a black taxi picked me up at the airport. He chatted to me, ensured I was at ease, told me my kids’ names were lovely and showed me a picture of his granddaughter. When we arrived, he opened my door, took my bag and acted as a human shield to hide the protestors from my sight.

There were three other Irish women in the clinic. I wasn’t the only one who travelled alone. I hope I was the only one who lied about staying in a hotel that night. Against medical advice, I flew home that night, I couldn’t afford a hotel as the last of my money was spent on having an IUD inserted at the same time as the abortion procedure took place. Our birth control had failed us and we needed extra reassurance. I arrived home, bleeding and in pain shortly after midnight.

I do not regret it. My kids needed their mother, my husband needed his wife. I needed time to come through my post-natal depression and enjoy the family we already had.

We have two more kids now. One was unplanned, but not a crisis. I think it’s important to recognise the distinction.

Those two amazing kids would not be here if I hadn’t had an abortion.  Frankly, I might not be here if I hadn’t had an abortion. Certainly, the strain it would have put on our marriage would have been immense and it’s entirely possible our children would have lost the security of family and home.

We made the right decision, the only decision, for us and for our family. And still we keep our mouths shut. Because this country doesn’t trust us or our judgement and we don’t know who to trust in return.

Artist: Aoife Anna Mullan

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Louise

My story began in April 2017, when I began to show symptoms of being pregnant. I was 19 at the time and in the middle of my college exams, so I put these symptoms down to stress. On the morning of my toughest exam I finally got up the courage to take a pregnancy test, and to my relief it showed me to be not pregnant. However, over the next three to four weeks I began to feel nauseous all the time and was not able to eat my food, although I continued to deny it to myself and to my boyfriend. He was very worried about my health and eventually convinced me to take another test. He was by my side when the second test revealed I was pregnant.

My whole world felt shattered. We couldn’t turn to our parents for support, so we had to figure this out alone. We were both young, scared and had heard all the stories our how our ‘lives would be ruined by a mistake like this’.  We were simply not in the right mental, financial or emotional state to continue the pregnancy. We were meant to be going on holiday to Amsterdam in a few weeks, so we looked into the possibility of getting an abortion while we were there. There was a very complicated process involved in booking an appointment, where the clinic required us to know and give certain pieces of information about the foetus. To get this, I had to have an ultrasound scan. Terrified and alone, I paid to see a local doctor who thankfully saw my utter distress and referred me to the hospital. She told me to pretend that I was having severe stomach pains as that was the only way I would be seen quickly.

Lying to the Hospital Staff

After finally being admitted to the hospital, I kept the details of my visit quiet and told them only what the GP had advised me to say. I was told that the earliest I would get a scan was the following day, so I returned to the hospital the next day, unbeknown to my parents or friends. This was probably the worst moment of my life – to see and feel the baby inside you, when you know the decision you are making, is indescribably heart-breaking. I cried for hours that day and for many other days after. Yet, I knew and trusted myself enough to know this was definitely the right choice for me.

The ultrasound gave us the pieces of information required by the clinic in Amsterdam, and I rang them to make an appointment – only to be told that the soonest appointment would be in three weeks’ time. I felt heartbroken all over again, as by that time I would be 14 weeks pregnant and the process would be much more complicated as well as financially straining. The woman on the other end of the phone was completely unhelpful and had no interest in my situation. Once again, I felt completely distraught.

Marie Stopes Clinic in England

I decided there and then to ring the Marie Stopes Clinic in England. The woman who spoke to me on the phone was so kind and understanding that I cried with relief. She gave me all the information I needed, and I had an over-the-phone consultation; within thirty minutes I had an appointment booked in Manchester, and I felt completely supported and informed.

Less than a week later, my boyfriend and I travelled to Manchester while our families thought we were going on our original holiday. One of the worst things about the whole situation was having to act like we were fine, while in reality we were dealing with the toughest situation we had ever experienced. The people in the Marie Stopes clinic were amazingly helpful and friendly, and the procedure was over within two hours. The feeling of relief we experienced that day was indescribable.

Coming Home

My boyfriend and I are still together and are stronger than ever. We have been incredibly lucky that we were able to support each other through the heartbreak and agony of this complicated process. We are a prime example of two people who discussed which option was right for them, and we still know we did the right thing  a year later, particularly where my mental health was concerned. Despite this, it is something I think about every day, and I know that if the option had been available to us in Ireland it would have relieved us of a huge amount of emotional and financial strain, as well as the mental difficulties that come with having no support system from our own country, family and friends.

Artist: Aoife Anna Mullan

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Narrated by Joanna Schaffalitzky


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