For a few nerve-wracking days, it seemed that the good times might just have come to an end. But if things had bounced differently, what would she have done?
My period arrived – thank God! For a while back there I was worried. Granted, I was probably over-reacting and I’m blaming my friend Ciara for that. I was feeling nauseous two mornings in a row and I told her. Jokingly – it’s not funny, missy – she asked if I was knocked up. I laughed, but a little voice inside my head wondered if she was right. Aaaargh!
As soon as she’d asked, I began to notice the signs. Tender breasts? Yep. Food cravings? Oh dear, I’d bought sushi three times the previous week – couldn’t get enough of it. Were these merely coincidences or was something more sinister afoot?
I like children – preferably grilled! No, I’m just kidding. I might like to have a baby one day – that is, at some indefinable point in the future, but not right now. No sireee. Somebody told me that when I hit 30 my biological clock would kick in, that I’d start to get broody and sigh over the mere thought of crochet booties. Biology is destiny apparently. Fair enough, but it ain’t happened yet and until it does I’m happy to content myself with late nights out and lots of acrobatic sex. More than happy, in fact!
No doubt it was the acrobatic sex that was – or that would have been – to blame for me being ‘with child’. Damn! Although I know very well that pregnancy is a direct result of sex – at least well enough to manage to take the pill every night – I’d kind of forgotten that there was a possibility that it could happen to me. Thomas and I are very careful, we use condoms as well as my contraception, and therein lay another problem. If in fact it had come to pass, would he think I’d been messing around?
I decided not to say anything to him – no point in scaring the boy unless there’s good reason to. I considered a home pregnancy test, but since a friend of mine got a false positive a few years back, I don’t really trust them. Although she was mostly relieved, she was also disappointed when the news was reversed – and I was worried enough as it was that there was no way I wanted to jump onto that particular emotional rollercoaster.
The major question was – if I was pregnant, what the hell was I going to do about it? My older sister has four kids and I used to joke with her that if I ever got pregnant I was going to leave the resulting progeny with her as she probably wouldn’t even notice an extra child about the house – but I don’t suppose that’s really an option. In fact, for me there were two potential scenarios – keep the baby or have an abortion.
It got me thinking. Thousands of Irish women have unplanned pregnancies every year. Of these, naturally some are thrilled, even if they had no intention of getting pregnant at that time; for others the news is a potentially life-changing crisis.
According to the Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy Study, a nationally representative study of 3,317 men and women, 54% of the participants had experienced a pregnancy or been with a partner who had been pregnant. Of these, 28% of women and 23% of men had been involved in a crisis pregnancy.
Single mothers have got a lot a bad press in this country. Despite the outrage caused by Kevin Myers infamous ‘bastards’ column in the Irish Times two years ago, a lot of people seemed to be in sneaking agreement with his views. The truth, of course, is that it isn’t easy raising a child alone even with State benefits, whether you’re working or a stay-at-home mother, and I say fair play to those that do. I’m not sure I could manage.
For women who actively want to work – and that’s the vast majority – there are all sorts of issues that have to be considered. If you take time out to mind the baby, your career has stagnated and you may need to retrain to return to work. And when you do go back, how will you cope with the early mornings, the crèche runs and the fact that you are tied to the house to a far greater extent than you’ve been used to? And will you be able to afford childcare that – to put it mildly – doesn’t come cheap…
There’s always adoption. You see a pregnancy through, and then give the child you’ve carried for nine months away? For many women the idea is too painful to even think about. Furthermore, there’s the potential social stigma to consider – everyone will know that you had a baby but that you didn’t feel capable of raising it yourself.
And there are other, deeper issues. Do you want a child with this man? Do you want your lives forever intertwined? Do you have what it takes to be a good mother irrespective? Do you ever want to have a child at all? Or if you allow this pregnancy to take over your body and your life for the remaining eight months or so – where will that leave you in relation to everything you have ever imagined as a future? What if you are 17 years old, and can’t even confide in your parents? Is the prospect of it all just too much for you to bear? In the short space between missing my period and knowing that I was safe, the germs of all of these thoughts and feelings, and an awareness of how tough it might be in different circumstances, had begun to invade my consciousness…
It’s no surprise that many women in this situation decide to terminate their pregnancy. While it’s hard to estimate exactly how many, according the Crisis Pregnancy Agency’s figures between 2001 and 2006, over 36,000 women gave Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics. That’s a lot of women – and there’s more who travel to parts of Europe as well.
It is, to me, a shocking state of affairs that these women can’t get an abortion in their own country. The so called ‘pro-lifers’ really hack me off. I get so angry every time I see them by the GPO with their horrible posters. Yes, abortion isn’t a pretty thing, but sometimes it’s the only realistic choice.
Very few women treat the idea of abortion lightly. And if they did, no amount of graphic posters is going to change their minds. But what of those women who have had abortions, not because they couldn’t care less, but because they felt they had no other option?
I found the actions of the pro-life lobby during the Miss D case particularly repellent. That poor girl had gone through enough as it was and for anyone to tell her that she should bring a pregnancy to term knowing full well that the baby would live no longer than three days was unimaginably cruel.
The abortion laws in this country are completely hypocritical considering we all know that if a woman wants a termination, she can get one a mere short flight away. It’s high time we faced up to this and stopped criminalising women for making what may be the only possible decision in their particular circumstances.
A woman who experiences a crisis pregnancy isn’t just some fool who forgot to use a condom because she was drunk at Oxegen (although that can happen too). She could be anyone – your girlfriend, sister, even your mother. I’m just grateful that, this time, it wasn’t me.
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