Sinéad's Story

I am now a 40 year old mother of two. In 1992, aged 15, I realised I was pregnant. When I realised this, I went into a state of shock and panic. I felt I had nowhere to turn. I didn’t want to tell my parents as I knew they would be so hurt and disappointment with me. At the time I was in 5th year in school and we wore little tiny gold foetus feet on our uniform in our convent school. I removed them as soon as I knew I was pregnant.

I went to the man who I was pregnant by and asked if he would help me pay for an abortion. He was 22 and said no and walked away. I then took an overdose of paracetamol as I thought I would be better off dead. It didn’t work, I was still alive.

Finally, I realised in absolute despair, I would have to tell my mum and ask for her help. I’ll never forget the night I told her, I had never seen her cry before. She cried for hours, I felt so guilty for bringing this situation to her. She had enough to deal with. She had 6 school going children and an unemployed husband (my father). I told her I wanted to travel to the UK and have an abortion.

Thankfully she accepted my choice but she said she would have to tell my dad. I was petrified, as I felt he wouldn’t support my decision. Initially when he was told, he said that I could not travel and would have the baby. He was very upset.  But even with his resistance, my mum pushed ahead and made plans to help me.

My mum arranged for me to see a GP in Dublin who a friend had recommended. He asked me what I wanted to do and asked if anyone was putting pressure on me to have an abortion. I told him it was the opposite; I was the one who wanted to travel. He was very kind. The GP must have given my mum details of a UK clinic as she booked the appointment and our boat to get there. She travelled with me.

By the time I made it the UK, I was 13 weeks pregnant. I can remember the clinic staff being very nice and kind. After the procedure, I felt so relieved. I never had a follow up check up with a doctor or even follow up counselling. I just had to get on with life.

Loan Repayments

Calendar Image illustrated by Ciara

My parents didn’t have the money to pay for this and had no access to money from the bank or family so my mum took out a loan from a high interest finance company. The company called to our door every Saturday morning for two years to collect the repayment.  I felt guilty each week seeing that lady call for the money ‘the abortion money’ and the financial stress I had put on the family.

My mum and dad have never ever mentioned the abortion since. When I arrived home, life returned to normal for us all. My dad and I who were not very close, grew even further part. I felt he now hated me. I felt like I was the ‘bad daughter’. But I never regretted my decision and I will be eternally grateful to my mum, and ultimately my dad, for supporting me.

Moving On

Looking back, it was the secrecy that caused me distress as the years went by. Not being able to mention it to anyone. The church’s and society’s view that I was a murderer, the guilt that I would go to hell (when I still had a faith in the Catholic Church). That I broke the law, that I was a criminal. It’s only now I feel I can speak about abortion openly; only since the Citizens Assembly and their recommendations. Not that I announce it to everyone or talk about it all the time. But my good friends know, my husband knows, I will tell my two daughters when they are old enough to understand. I will not be made to feel ashamed any more. I was a child/young person, I made a mistake and I was also taken advantage of, but that didn’t mean I had to have a forced pregnancy. I’m lucky my parents could borrow the money so I could travel.

I still don’t feel I can talk to my parents about it. I want to say thank you to them for supporting me at the time but it’s been so long and it’s never been mentioned, I feel they don’t want be reminded. They know that I have now joined a local Repeal the 8th group but they don’t ask any questions about it or offer any opinion about it. Maybe in the coming months as we get closer to a referendum I might find the right time to mention it. My dad and I have rebuilt our relationship and it’s good now; it’s always been good with my mum.

Some might say I should have had the baby and given the child up for adoption. I can’t say I considered this for more than a passing moment. If I had to follow through with with the pregnancy I would have kept my child – I would not have been able to give a child up for adoption. I did not have a concern about my ability to parent as I had four younger siblings, I knew I could parent if need be but I felt I was too young to be pregnant and to parent. I felt the man who made be pregnant would have a hold over me for life and it turned out he wasn’t a good person. So at 15 I was able to see this and know what was right for me.  I was right, I am right and I hope that we can change Ireland for the better for the future for the women and girls so they have choice over their own bodies. I trust women and believe women are best placed to make these choices. Life is complex and I don’t think we can stand in judgement of anyone else’s life situation.

I would like to thank all the people and organisations who have been involved in the campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment over the past 30 or so years and I wish I had been in a place to support that over the years, but I wasn’t ready. But I am here now and I hope others might find the strength to come out and support the campaign to Repeal the 8th and introduce free safe legal abortions in Ireland.

Calendar Image illustrated by Ciara

Artist: Ciara O'Brien.

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