It’s that wonderful time of year again. The leaves are turning all kinds of beautiful colours. The nights are getting longer and cosier. AW colour schemes are in the shops, alongside my favourite holiday decorations – halloween! And then there’s the delicious atmosphere of solidarity and revolution in the air. It’s time for the annual March for Choice. I have only been to one, to my shame. Last year, Rise and Repeal, was my maiden march. That’s me there, with my sign. My sign that was made with water based paint and therefore melted in the rain.
This year is quite a big one. It’s the sixth year it’s run. It’s grown from a crowd on O’Connell street to a network of caring, sound, funny, intelligent people (I know I’m biased because they’ve been like an online family to me since I started researching and campaigning) all across the world. There are solidarity marches from Canada to Australia. There are countless groups who march under countless banners – students, politicians, midwives, lawyers, mothers, artists. There’s always a bit of contention about numbers, but it’s a really big crowd. Even in the rain, with a bus strike going on, there were thousands out for bodily autonomy.
Now, the point. What is a student midwife doing at a march for abortions? Big issue number one: this is not just about abortion. Over the last few months it’s become increasingly upsetting to me that the experience of so many pregnant women is swept away because people understandably get caught up in the very emotional issue that is abortion. There are a whole heap of issues, that I’m still learning about, around maternal consent. We’ve had so many cases in Ireland that have broken my heart: Savita Halappanavar. Mrs B vs the State. A. B. C. X. Y. Women’s experiences reduced down to a single letter. Those are the big stories, the public ones. I’m in a lot of facebook groups – maternity consumer groups, regular mammy groups, various “for choice” groups, where I’ve read lots of personal stories. I’ve cried at many of them.
The reasons that I’m marching are actually quite difficult to condense down into a single blog post, now that I’ve sat down to write. I’m marching for myself. I would someday like a family, but I am too terrified of being pregnant under the 8th Amendment and all it’s strings. If the 8th remains, I would leave the country. So it impedes my personal plans. I fully believe it impedes my ability to be the kind of midwife I want to be. I am marching for the families that will grow under my care. Birth trauma should be reducing. Consent should be a given, not a question mark. Informed consent should be the norm. I haven’t been out in practice, but what I’ve heard from parents, what it should be is not what it is. And it’s not right.
It was actually in an emotional text to a friend that I found my reasons. I am on this earth to be a midwife. I am here to be with women, at their side, wherever they need me, to help them do the most badass thing they can do. No midwife or expectant mother wants to be faced with a rupture of membranes that wasn’t consented to. I’ll be faced with pregnant women who, for whatever reason, do not want to be pregnant but are unable to make that happen. I can’t imagine how I can make that better. And when you go into the caring profession, that’s what you’re aiming for, you are there to help people and make things better. I can’t see how after a procedure, explaining to a woman that her lack of consent wasn’t listened to because it wasn’t legally required.
The role of the midwife is, to my understanding, wrapped up in trusting women. We give people the information to make a decision, and they decided what they want to do. That’s what informed consent is, in a nutshell. Knowing benefits and risks, and deciding what’s best for your situation. In my heart, I believe that we should be trusting women through the entire pregnancy continuum. From conception to termination if that’s what someone needs. Or from the first kick to the first kiss.
I hope that makes sense to someone. This post probably can’t be called measured, or objective. But I think it’s an accurate representation of how the campaign is now deeply rooted in my day to day. The 8th has become a state of being for me. It’s a constant fear and frustration. My organs feel like they’re shaking when I speak publicly on it. I feel physically ill at some of the hurtful comments that are thrown in online discussions. If I could have a wish for this campaign, it would be that it is carried out with kindness on each side. That’s incredibly sappy. But kindness goes such a long way in such a loud debate. This is not a college essay, more a train of thought. But maybe seeing into the thoughts on either side of the 8th is what will help.
If you’re marching, feel free to come up and talk to me. I’ll be carrying the same sign as I did last year, pictured above. I managed to salvage it with an entire roll of sellotape. If you’re posting about the march, please remember to use the hashtag #ARCMarch17.