Guest post by Taryn Gleeson
PREGNANT IN IRELAND
Unwanted presence in my womb
Cells the size of a sesame seed
In MY womb.
Not the womb of Irish politicians
Who will never know
Of the pain previous pregnancies ravaged on my body
The decade of sleepless nights
Of worrying about having money to pay for school trips and shoes
And wrapping kids in sleeping bags during freezing winters
When I had no money for oil.
Of the increased chances of something being very wrong
At my age.
14 years in jail I face
Because Ireland expects women to bear
Of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
I tell my teenage daughter
And she is scared.
Not of abortion pills
14 times safer than pregnancy
But of her mother going to jail.
Making an already distressing
I planned my abortion in the window of a sun drenched café, with a harp player playing relaxing and soothing music nearby. I thought it was about the most optimum planning-an-abortion experience one could hope to have. It made me realise how lucky I was, compared to so many women. I have a loving supportive partner who has been by my side through all of this, kind friends helping out, web access and enough money in the bank to be able to order the pills on the day I found out I was pregnant. Many women have none of these things. Many women do this alone.
While I know that the abortion pills are extremely safe (14 times safer than pregnancy in fact) it’s still scary. I’ve had a miscarriage before and I’m frightened about the pain coming for me. I’m not looking forward to it, and I have every support available. I’ve filled up my time between now and the pill taking. I’ll be working, meeting friends, a dinner party then work again tomorrow. Filling my time is helping me to not think too much about it.
What’s also helping is the knowledge that the clump of cells is currently the size of a sesame seed. Actually every time I tell myself that it sends me off into a burst of anger. See I live in Ireland, where the clump of cells the size of a sesame seed is seen by Irish law as having as much value as my life. Now, let me tell you a bit about me, and you can decide if that sounds like a reasonable conclusion to come to.
In my 40 years on this earth I have formed beautiful friendships with some gorgeous people. There are a lot of people who love me and even more who like me. I also have quite a big following on facebook, both on my personal page and on my Wealthiest Woman in the World page. Some people I’ve never even met in real life seem to like me and feel I enrich their life in some way.
I feel certain that all those people would choose keeping me over the sesame seed, if they had to make that choice.
I was part of a team that created the first multi denominational school in the county I live in. Along with a group of committed parents we put our heart and soul into a safe, warm and welcoming space that now has over 250 students at it. I am passionate about social justice issues and have been involved with campaigns to stop war, highlight domestic violence, promote equality, look after animals, promote children’s rights, highlight suicide, mental health issues and many more worthy causes. I have supported people (some of them strangers to me) on visits to social workers, solicitors and during interactions with abusive ex partners. I’ve provided support for parents, looked after other people’s kids during times of family crisis (or just when their mum needed a break) and cleaned the houses of my sick friends. I’ve taxied friends and friend’s kids all over the country, taking people to appointments and meetings. I’ve raised money for any number of good causes.
I like to think that I have given back to the world around me as much as I humanely could. I’m not telling you all this to big myself up, I’m telling you because in Ireland this rich life I’ve lived is seen as being as valuable as the sesame seed of cells in my uterus.
I’ve given birth 5 times. I’ve tried since my first child was born to be the best parent I can be. I am not a perfect parent, I don’t think that a perfect parent exists, but I’m the best I can be. I’ve tried to support my kids through the struggles of their life, to teach them resilience, emotional intelligence, empathy and compassion. I feel I have a lot more to offer my kids and I hope I’m around for long enough to see them all well into adulthood.
I’m fairly certain that my kids would choose my life over a clump of cells.
I’m in a relationship with a beautiful loving man, who I love so very much. Our love is the deepest, purest expression of love I have ever experienced, or witnessed. The supportive, loving and non-judgemental connection we have has allowed both of us to grow as people.
I’m more than confident he would choose my life over the sesame seed cells.
And even if I had no friends, if I was loved or liked or appreciated by no one, if I never contributed much to society – I would like to think that my life and value as a person was still greater than that of a sesame seed sized clump of cells (or any sized clump of cells, just mine are sesame seed sized).
The crazy thing is that I know shedloads of women who have had abortions. More than half the women I confided in shared their abortion stories with me. Irish women and women living in Ireland are having abortions every day. So this mad law isn’t stopping abortions from happening, it’s just stopping those women from getting support and care in the country they live in and adding fear and worry to an already stressful situation. It’s buck passing, to the woman who is pregnant.
My friends shared their stories with me and each woman’s experience was different. For some it was all very easy, others more complex, stressful and difficult. I’m not sure there is a ‘typical’ abortion story. Mine is hard. It’s hard because I love children, I love being pregnant, I love giving birth and I love my partner. It’s hard because I have programmed responses to being pregnant that I’m trying to shut off this time.
That all said, I 100% know that I am doing the right thing. I am now of an age where a pregnancy would be dangerous for both me and the baby. I don’t want to take that risk. When my youngest child leaves home I will have spent 28 years of my life child raising. That’s a really long time. I don’t want to add another 13 years to that 28. I want to enjoy the freedom of being child free and an adult. I do not want the expense and hassle of another child. I already feel like I don’t have enough time to spend with the kids I have. Plus, my partner and I do not live together, do not plan on living together and he has always been very upfront that he does not want children.
The single factor that makes this most difficult for me though is the fact that I am doing something illegal. That I could face 14 years in jail for refusing to be an incubator for a child that would have a high chance of having something wrong with it, that could endanger my health, that would drain my finances and put strain on my relationships, that will limit my ability to earn money and that I would have to be responsible for for 18 years is madness. I am a grown woman of sound mind, I’m pretty darn sure I know what is best for my life, for my body and for my existing children. Yet under Irish law I am not allowed to make this decision for myself. And I am being asked to assume all the risks, all the costs and all the pain.
Ireland, it’s time to start trusting women to make choices about their bodies and their lives. It’s time to stop giving as much value to a clump of cells as to a grown woman’s life. C’mon Ireland, you can do it.
*The 8th amendment is an addition to the constitution of Ireland that states:
“The State 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.”
Article 40.3.3 (otherwise known as the 8th amendment) gives the “unborn” an equal right to life with a conscious, sentient, thinking, feeling woman.
Taryn Gleeson is an eccentric dresser, a writer, mother of 5, and one half of Love With Ease Please providing coaching for couples and individuals who are looking for authentic and conscious loving relationships.