Ireland’s eighth amendment

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Friends, it’s been a while.

I am breaking my blogging silence to speak about something important. Something that is very important to me.

Tomorrow, in Ireland, one of the most historic referendums is happening. The referendum on whether or not the eighth amendment to our constitution should be repealed.

For those who don’t know, the eighth amendment is as follows;

The states acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’

In layman’s terms, this means that the life of a fetus, no matter it’s gestational age, has equal rights to it’s mother. Sounds good in theory, but in practice, in this little isle of green, it has been used in other ways.

The eighth amendment has been a way of tying women’s rights. Introduced because of our fantastic ability as a country to bow down to the weight & will of the Catholic Church which has long been castrating our people for its own gains (anyone who has an issue with what I say here, I have no problem debating it with you. I have my Faith in God, but my Catholic church has failed my country & I will be happy to calmly & kindly explain to you how). This constitutional amendment has led to women having lesser rights than men. It has led to women being denied cancer treatments because they are pregnant, even in the case where both of them will die without medical intervention. It has led to a woman who was medically brain dead bring kept alive on a ventilator & artificial feeding for 24 weeks to incubate her still-living fetus; she died after her ventilator was removed & her child lives motherless. It has led to countless women travelling to the UK & further afield for pregnancy terminations. It has led to parents of unborn children with fatal fetal abnormalities or in-utero death being forced to carry these children to term with no hopes for life. It has led to the worldwide scandal of Savita Halappanaver who died of sepsis because she could not have her unviable pregnancy terminated. It has led to shame, heartbreak, and suffering for women in this country.

While I have mixed feelings on abortion myself – ie I can’t see myself ever having one & would encourage others to seek other options before having one – I recognise that every single person has the right to decide if they want to be parents or not. I believe in choice. I believe in women.

With this in mind, I wrote a poem about this referendum. I am posting it below. Anyone who wants to discuss this issue with me, I do welcome it, but I ask that you be kind. Because I respect that people are anti abortion, but you must understand that this referendum is not a simple cut-and-dry abortion issue. Please arm yourselves with the facts before you attack me. Thank you.

Repeal the 8th

All of my life I have lived on this fair isle,
raised Catholic, asking questions that were given no answers.
I have spent my life marred by the Church; capital C you see,
an ‘illegitimate’ child of an unmarried mother.
Lucky I hadn’t been born a decade earlier and sold by the laundries,
as I was told once as a child too small to understand what those places were.
In the shadow of the Church I grew,
and learned shame.
Learned to put my head down, hunch my shoulders, because of what I was –
a woman.

Our little slice of lush heaven is run by men in frocks
telling women not to lift their own frocks,
and if they do, to deal with the consequences of their actions.
To be ashamed, so ashamed.

As an adult now, I pull against my shackles,
my own daughter looks to me to lead,
not follow blindly these rules that are a danger to our sex.
How many times must we endure a death like Savita’s;
Six years have passed since our system failed her, since our State Church failed her,
and not a letter of our law has changed.

This 8th amendment ties women’s health, but not women’s tubes,
God forbid we not continue the Irish race, the Irish way of life.
God forbid we put an end to bodies of babies found in tanks, in mass graves,
unmarked and unheard;
One of Ireland’s dirty little secrets.
Not allowed to talk about it, who on earth wants change.

I lead my girl with one hand and cover her eyes with the other against the NO posters;
the graphic images that are not appropriate on a lamppost,
but they think it’s better than a poster to ‘vote yes’.
I respect your right to a vote,
but not to lie.

The referendum is not only about abortion you see,
but equal rights.
The rights of women to have control of their own health, their own futures.
To women who cannot or want not to bear children, to be able to say
no, this life is not for me.

Ireland it is time for change.
It is not to be feared but embraced,
we are moving away from the Church,
from the hurt, from the poverty they have caused us.
This change is for our better and you would see if if you just open your eyes.
To the pain of your sisters and mothers who were shamed and shunned,
and bore more children than their bodies could bear.
To your daughters, your nieces who look to you for help, for guidance of how to behave.
To the women who’ve known pain, known oppression, known fear
because that’s the way it’s always been done.

No more, Ireland.
No more will we be your lesser halves of this species.
No more will we be forced into a life that we would never choose,
because of our anatomy.
No more will we watch unwanted children failed by a system that doesn’t care for them once they are born,
but only care that they are born.
No more, Ireland.
No more.

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NaPoWriMo day 18

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Day 18

I sit & see the room
through the haze of steam
from my morning coffee.
I take less milk these days,
preferring to taste the bitterness
that keeps me going these days.
Wrapped still in my duvet,
I clutch the mug like a buoy,
a lifeline in these days of little sleep.
I leave the room dark until my first coffee is finished,
& then rise,
stretch
& start.

NaPoWriMo day 17

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Day 17

I watch dawn creep over the garden,
changing shades of ink to their spring colours.
The sun peeks over rooftops,
seeming to stretch her beams out
lazily, fingertips of light
reaching out to start the day.
As she grows stronger,
the sky turns purple to gold,
navy to a silvery blue
& the world comes alive. 

NaPoWriMo day 16

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Day 16

I watch her with fascination,
her body moves like liquid,
poised on her toes,
each movement a ballet in itself.
She is grace embodied;
every twitch of her muscles
is deliberate,
poetic,
a joy to watch,
a treat for the eyes.
She is perfection
in motion.
Off stage she is shy,
her shoulders rounded,
eyes fixed to the floor
to ward off contact.
Her walk is the opposite
to her dance;
halting & painful,
a girl in need,
waiting for its moment
to take the stage once more,
& fly.

NaPoWriMo day 15

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Day 15

I lie awake
with a thousand thoughts,
flowing through my head
like butterflies
caught on the wind.
I need to sleep,
my head a flurry of activity
keeps me up,
eyes unable to close.
Every noise makes me startle
& shakes me back to wakefulness
once more.
I make patterns
on the walls with my mind,
see shapes in shadows,
with eyes so tired
their bags are like bruises
beneath my lids.
I need to sleep,
but the clock ticks on
towards morning.

NaPoWriMo day 14

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Day 14

It’s hard to admit,
lump in my throat
nasty taste in my mouth
churning stomach
type of admission.
We are no longer friends
& I am sad for it.
But things were said
& not said,
although it was the unspoken
that hurt the worst.
I must confess
there was a time I blamed you
& only you,
but the fault is as much mine,
for allowing you to hurt me
& walk away.
Now let us let go
& be happier apart,
I wish you well.

Mum-shaming has to stop

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Being a mum is a bit of a minefield. You might look at me sideways for saying that, but in spite of how hard it is in general to keep a brand new, helpless human alive every day, it’s also quite difficult to live up to mum-expectations. 

It’s a very odd thing that I have encountered, even before I became a mum, & something that really baffles me.

Picture it – you go through 40 weeks of the intense discomfort of pregnancy, childbirth in whatever way, shape or form it happens to you, get left alone in a hospital bed with a squirming, pink, demanding creature, get sent home probably earlier than you feel ready for & are suddenly hit with the ‘holy fuck I’m an actual mother now’ blues. You turn to a friend or group of friends who are mums themselves thinking you will be welcomed with open arms & a library of advice & are met with brick walls.
Oh you’re not breastfeeding/you’re co-sleeping/using disposable nappies/using cloth nappies/babywearing/using that brand of formula/wipes/bottles/pacifiers/breast pads etc etc etc cue screaming & hair pulling.
I mean REALLY.
We are all mums. There, I said it, it’s out in the open now like an exploded nappy. WE ARE ALL MUMS. Did you hear me or do we need to do it again?

Just like there are different types of fashion sense, different favourite colours, different favourite TV shows, there are always going to be differences. If everyone parented the same then every kid would be the same & every adult would be desperately fucking boring. There would be no variations.

There are obviously, some
rules to follow when it comes to babies; generally as long as they are fed, bathed, clothed & happy, then we’ll done mum, you’re doing a great job. But jesus lads, the mum-shaming has to stop. I give zero fucks as to what way someone else is feeding their child. As long as they are feeding them, then what business is it of mine. Same goes for any other subject I’ve mentioned above.
Is it my business? No!

That’s a question that people need to be asking themselves before giving their oh-so-helpful opinion or advice, unless it’s asked for of course. Just take a split second to ask – is this my business? If the answer is no, then keep the trap shut & skip along on your merry way to raise your kids how you like. & leave me to do it my way, the way I can cope with dealing with my individual little child.

The world has gone mad with the internet & shaming every last thing you can think of, & genuinely getting offended over things that have nothing to do with them. Aside from the actual world issues & daily travesties that happen that we should be worried about, what colour underwear I have on is noone else’s concern.

Ladies, it is hard enough to be a woman & even harder to be a mother without us ganging up on each other. We should be lifting each other up, supporting each other & passing on words of encouragement & help. We should be doing our best to help the new mothers of the world to deal with one of the hardest jobs with the feeling of support behind us rather than wondering who is judging us in the open or behind closed doors.
Life is hard enough, let’s be the kind of women who build each other up. It feels a lot better than tearing each other down, trust me.

NaPoWriMo day 12

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Day 12

She presses her face to the cloth,
comfort in memory
& the scent of her past
clinging to the fabric of her pillow.
Familiar shadows & shapes
twist across walls she knew in childhood,
she finds solace in what she once found frightening, & sinister,
beams of darkness thrown by tree limbs
outside her window.
The wallpaper is faded,
jaded, but hers,
& it seems to her a scent
lingers softly on the paper
of candy sweets & summer warmth,
so tempting
that she lays her cheek on the wall
& breathes it in.
Coming home is a warm swelling
in her chest,
a bittersweet reunion with her
former self, the child in her aching
with the woman she’s become,
& tears rise to her eyes
in protest.