You my biggest fan, my strongest critic, my eternal shoulder.
You, who served as both father and mother for the last ten years of my life. You, who tried so tirelessly to place your traditional morals and steadfast beliefs upon me, so as to better me and in turn society. You, who raised me in the shadow of all you saw as right, of all your conformed ideals. You, my Dad.
My Dad, a funny middle aged man who brings a smile to my face daily. Light-hearted exterior with an internal platter of traditional viewpoints and beliefs. My Mother, a brilliant, driven woman destined for more, settled for less. I often wonder how different I would be if the last ten years were laced with her influence and not yours. I sometimes think has the absence of her voice amplified my choices? Has her lack of presence paved a way for my interpretation of what I should believe?
Where did I get this from? This ambition, this right to be what I want to be? Even within the realms of society where my ambition falls so short of any magnificence, to you and so many others ambition should be bound by the repercussions of my mistakes.
I should be mediocre; I shouldn’t rock the boat.
What is ambition anyway, the bar is only as high as you set it. Nonetheless it stands, I want more from life than a husband and family, I want more than to be someone’s dependent. I want as much education as I can have and I want as much of life as I can live. I want more and I don’t want to settle.
Your downpour of criticism on what I believe & what I’ve done frequent our conversations yet you have no idea. You have no idea that one September morning, I left this house at 3AM under the pretense of a shopping trip with someone who’s name doesn’t matter anymore. I sat in an airport on a Wednesday morning, headed for some irrelevant English airport, constantly aware of the eyes on me.
“They know where I’m going. They know what I’m doing. Of course they do.”
My stomach is in knots as I sit absentmindedly staring onto the runway of Dublin Airport, it starts to turn, churn, the same convulsion I felt every morning that week. I sit on a 45-minute flight where business men try to sleep over the noise of me regurgitating the €4.99 meal deal from Boots I reluctantly ate in the airport. The airhostess sympathetically hands me a sick bag and utters something attributing my state to “travel sickness”. Her and the surrounding 4 rows of disgusted business men know it is a lie. I sit in a taxi, listening to English morning radio, they discuss Boris Johnson. I pulled up to a building nested between an industrial estate, and a B&Q with an attached McDonalds. He asks if I’m hungry. I’m not.
Two women holding picket signs of “murdered foetuses” stand outside the gate and condemn me as I enter the clinic. I briefly think of how you share their opinion, baffled by how anyone would take time out of their day to degrade me further. I’m already so far removed from a situation I want to be in, that their presence makes little impact on my day.
I sit in a waiting room and spot a family of mother and father and a teenage girl. They were on my flight, I can tell from their accents they’re from the country. What time did their day start? When did they leave their home to undertake this journey? I feel a pang of confusion witnessing their union, I doubt I’d ever feel the same parental support for this situation.
The smell of disinfectant and the pallet of ‘healing hues’, the greys and creams blur into one. He sits downstairs. Middle aged women pass me from one to the next. After a series of questions, scans, checks, further questions I see a doctor. I’m 8 weeks gone she tells me. I already know this. I’m eligible for the medical abortion. I already know this too. She tells me what it entails. Again, I know this. I’ve sufficiently analysed and researched this situation, believe me Doctor, I know. I know exactly the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve been through the ‘should haves’ and all the possible scenarios but I’m still here, nothing changes. Does it make it a bit more alright if I take an alternate route to the same mistake?
I’m given a pill, he pays the woman at the door.
We get to the hotel, a beyond bleak Holiday Inn, 15 minutes taxi from the clinic, we’re too early to check in. We go to an adjoining pub I sit beside the window, a casino style slot machine beside me makes false promises. I try to eat a bowl of Weetabix, I snap at him for pouring too much milk.
Six hours later I pass by two different women picketing outside the clinic, I wonder how they circulate their roster. Via Whatsapp? What’s the name of their group called? I entertain the idea for a minute before concluding they distribute their roster via email, with some convictional subject title followed by the weekly date. I’m glad I missed the shift change. The doctor issues me a second pill.
I spend the next 18 hours in a world of pain, I sit in a hopeless hotel bathroom for hours, crying as my body expels this unwanted embryo. Crying in pain, physical pain. Acutely aware of how far far away from my life I have travelled. My family and friends are going about their daily lives. I’m sitting in secret, in an abysmal chain hotel, in a different country, undergoing a medical procedure allowing me to revert to my normal life. I alternate between lying in pain on the bed and sitting on the toilet, I don’t sleep, my whole body covered in sweat gripped in pain at this point, physically drained.
Hours later the pain dulls and my body’s exhausted, heaped on a twin bed, in this hotel chain, in some meaningless corner of an English suburb.
At no point in time do I ever internally feel what I’m doing is wrong, I don’t feel guilt or sadness. My own beliefs and opinions do not cultivate self-angst or generate self-disgrace. But the process does. The judgement and the secrecy does.
The fact that my country, my family some of my closest friends could never see the reasoning and reckoning behind my motive, could never accept that my life is mine, is the only shame I feel.
The stigma cast onto me by association makes me ask myself: Why is it ok for me to be limited by my mistakes? Why should I be contained to my environment and be a product of my surroundings? Why shouldn’t I fight tooth and nail for everything I want to be? Why shouldn’t I take every measure possible to have the life I want?
These same thoughts resonate daily, for every decision I make to improve myself and my future. They’ve guided me through years of education, travelling the world and now they sit in front of me as I plan the next chapter of my story. I plan to ask myself these questions and indeed fight for what I want for the rest of my life.
You once told me that what anyone else thinks of you is none of your business but I sit here justifying my decisions now as though it’s anyone’s business as if it’s anyone’s decision but mine. It’s not and it never will be.
You ridicule these choices not knowing they are mine, you call them despicable, immoral and wrong. You chose to only see things this way, and that I can’t change but I can tell you my story and I can tell you that this choice will always be made, by me and by many more just like me.
My story isn’t unique my journey happens daily and will be repeated for the foreseeable future until we live in a country where the choice is ours.
This is an issue that will never directly impact you, you who have always had body autonomy, who have never been in this situation of despair and fear. I was not born with that privilege but yet you get to condemn this issue and vote on this issue, you get to make the choice for me, without any of the consequences. You get to subject people like me to journeys of inflicted shame and outcast them to deal with their troubles somewhere else, because this topic doesn’t sit well with your antiquated moral beliefs.
I can’t sit and look you in the face and tell you this, it would break my heart to see you hate me and attribute the same venom and disgust you utter in everyday conversation on the topic onto me. You who have raised me to the best of your ability, for the most part on your own, following all you think to be right. In all my conviction and defiance I still I couldn’t take falling from your biggest success to your biggest disappointment.
I hope one day you will read this and know these words are mine, and I hope you will understand the pain I have gone through in order to try and make the life I want for myself. I hope one day I will live in a country that doesn’t exile me to another country to deal with my mistakes. I hope one day I won’t have to hide anonymously behind this post and I ultimately hope you will know that the right to have an abortion is mine and will never be something I regret.
This piece was submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.