I travelled to the UK in 2016 to access abortion care. My contraception pill failed as I took other pain medication, for an ongoing problem, that made me violently ill and I found myself pregnant.

My decision was justified because it was mine. I do not claim to speak for the tens of thousands of women who have either travelled or taken pills illegally, but I know that the majority of them were, like me, already mothers.

On my previous pregnancies, I suffered from post-natal depression. At its worst, it took over two years to recover from. Postnatal depression has a massive impact on the whole family. There was no way that I could have put myself, my children or my husband through it again. I know myself well enough to know that another pregnancy and child would have been a very difficult tipping point.

In my last pregnancy, I developed a dangerous condition, which placed me at a greatly increased risk of a stillbirth. It was a traumatic and stressful time and it was very likely that the same condition would manifest itself in any subsequent pregnancy.

Alongside the practical ‘head’ reasons, in my heart, I just did not want to be pregnant. We did not want another child. I knew that we could not go through it all again. This feeling was the overwhelming one – the one I came back to again and again. The decision to have an abortion, was one grounded in the absolute certainty that it was, in so many ways, the right decision for me, for my husband and for our children.

In spite of this certainty, my heart was broken and my head was in a complete mess – caused by the anger and isolation I felt at having to travel. I researched ordering pills, but the uncertainty of a journey through customs, coupled with waiting time and the possibility of a 14-year prison sentence all combined to put me off that idea.

I searched online for ways to induce miscarriage and consumed thousands of grammes of Vitamin C– to no avail. I spent the days minding my children, speaking to my husband on the phone (he was away with work) and calling clinics, provisionally booking appointments and then checking flight times. The clinics I called required that you visit over two days in order to take the abortion pill.

An overnight stay was not an option, either practically, or financially. This meant that I faced the prospect of travelling, on my own, for a surgical procedure. The idea that I would have to do it without my husband (he would have to stay with the children) was traumatic beyond any words I could ever find to describe it.

At a time when I felt shamed, exiled and stigmatised by my own country, it was a wonder to receive the compassion, empathy, kindness and support of the British staff in the clinic. Their warmth, openness and expression of horror and quiet anger at what Irish women endure made everything so much easier to bear. I will never forget those wonderful nurses and how they supported me when my own country wouldn’t and didn’t.

There were six women from Ireland in the clinic that day. They ordered us for theatre so that our flight times would allow for the longest recovery time possible. We had general anaesthetics and got on a flight a few hours later, on our own – exhausted, bleeding, in pain and overwhelmed with relief.

In outlining some of the reasons for my decision, I want to share how I felt afterwards. My overriding emotion was one of relief not to be pregnant any more. I felt positively empowered in the decision I had made, knowing that it was the absolute right one for me and for my family. I felt enormous gratitude for my circumstances – that I had the legal right, social support and financial means to travel. My feelings haven’t changed.

Artist: Lisa Hutchinson @SheDrawsAnything

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