I wish I had the courage to share my story with everyone. I knew I was pregnant for weeks before I finally confessed to my sister and she forced me to do the test. After agreeing together on our option, my then boyfriend bit my face in a drunken rage, beat me and left me cowering on the street in our small town. Terrified to be alone and terrified to tell anyone, I ignored the bite marks on my cheek. I lied to my parents and consumed by a quagmire of the states making, I went back to him. My sister brought me to a family planning clinic. She walked me past the small vigil being held outside and she wept as a very kind woman shared the critical literature.

We had to wait and save. My misery continued for seven long weeks more as he saved the money to go there. Every day my body changed. I got cravings and my breasts swelled. By the time we took the bus to Dublin, another to the airport and the flight to Liverpool I didn’t know who I was. I lost touch completely with the girl who had just finished her Leaving Cert and had been looking ahead to life beyond the county bounds.

A lone woman looks through a broken window

We stayed in a hotel with a broken window. I was forced into sex the morning of. I cried all the way to the clinic. I cried in the waiting room and he used viscous words to silence me, which only increased my sorrow. And still through this despair I knew I was doing the right thing. I choked through my tears to confirm this flatly, in the pre-procedure interview.

It wasn’t the decision itself, but the fear, the shame, the waiting (Oh. The waiting), the abuse, being tied to the whims of a monster, that damaged me. The humiliating bite marks faded, but the indelible branding that I had to be ashamed and the visceral memories of a protracted, humiliating, trauma stayed with me for years.

My story is not about parents not understanding, a violent partner, or even age dictating a life decision. It is, like all the others, about the nuances, the particulars of each situation, that the small vigil outside the family planning clinic did not know of and could not remedy with plaintive wails of heartbeats.


I should consider the nuances. I should consider my particulars, my life, assess my threshold. I alone should decide the outcome. And I did.

In 2016 I returned to Ireland after a number of years away. I marched to repeal with my current partner. A gentle, supportive, kind man that I am lucky to have found. I felt sick to be standing on the street which I stood upon 18 years ago, still fighting for a woman’s right to decide her own outcome.

*Name has been changed for this story

Artist: Bernard Hennessy


Audio: Emma Callaghan (not Emma in story)

Can you think of someone to share this story with?