Sharing stories: I was so alone and unprepared

The Tube

As part of our Citizens Assembly submission we gathered the real stories of real women who had been affected by the 8th Amendment. Now, as we approach the referendum to remove the 8th from our constitution and allow compassionate care in Ireland, we are reproducing some of the stories, with permission. We want to thank those who submitted with us. Please share widely.

I was 20 years of age, in a relationship with an older, manipulative man who had isolated me from friends and family.
When the strip turned Positive he told me he didn’t want it and I certainly didn’t.

What would it meant for me not to travel?

I had never been on a plane on my own, never left the country by myself and I cried watching the rats crawl around the Tube railway lines. I’d never even had a smear test or gynaecological exam. Yet I was about to be told to wiggle my toes and get an injection in my vagina. There was nobody I could ask for advice or what to expect. And I wondered: if I die, how will anyone find me? I was using a fake name, I hadn’t given my address. My boyfriend was sleeping with his ex girlfriend. Who would know to look for me?

What would I say to the citizens’ assembly if you could speak to them?

I would say that nobody leads a charmed life and that mistakes happen. Why force someone to be a parent of an unwanted child? Nobody will force you to have an abortion against your will. Nobody should force a woman to continue with an unwanted pregnancy against her will. What’s right for you may not be right for me and a One Size Fits all approach is not good enough.

How would my experience have been different if I had been able to access safe, legal abortion services at home?

I wouldn’t have felt like such a dirty, stupid, shameful woman, driven out of her home. I could have been at home with my own supply of sanitary towels and a hot water bottle. The people I loved wouldn’t have been hundreds of miles away.

What impact would being forced to remain pregnant against my will have had on my emotional and physical health?

My boyfriend didn’t want the child, and I was slightly estranged from my family. I imagine I would have tried to terminate the pregnancy myself, somehow. Throwing myself down stairs, overdosing…

What impact did being forced to travel have on me, my family and my finances? 
The moment I made the choice to travel, I had to begin lying. To my boss. To the travel agent. To the bank. To the air hostess. To my family. To my friends. It cost me a fortune, financially, I believe it was the guts of 1,000 euro, which was about 3 months rent.

It cost me much more though – I bled on a stranger’s sheets, cried on my own on a plane. I had never even had a smear test. I was so alone and unprepared. I felt shameful and dirty. It forced me further into cahoots with the toxic man I was with. Guilt and shame trapped me for a few years to come.

Illustration by Mollie Little