REPEAL

I posted about my views on the ongoing movement for the Irish government to Repeal the 8th Amendment earlier this year. You can find that post here: https://irishamericanbreakfast.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/repeal-the-8th/

This past weekend there was a march in Dublin in support of the movement. I didn’t make it as my babe’s feeding schedule and the pouring rain together were an obstacle I couldn’t surmount. But I was there in spirit.

Having a baby has not changed my mind regarding my views on Ireland’s abortion laws. Having survived the twelve weeks of my son’s short life, I can safely say motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It is not for everyone. It is certainly not something to enter into casually. Pregnancy and motherhood should never be forced on a woman. It’s too hard, too all consuming. For the past ten months my body has been completely highjacked; out of my control. Pregnancy is absolutely like something from Alien and I would not wish a quick nine hour top to bottom drug free labor and delivery on my worst enemy.

Yes, pregnancy and motherhood are also magical. They are/were magical for me because I wanted it, I chose it, and I have a lot of support mentally, emotionally and physically. I am so lucky.

I fully support all the women in Ireland who are not so lucky. It is my hope that the Irish government decides to as well. For more information on how to join the movement see these websites:

http://www.repeal.ie/

Petition: Repeal the 8th

 

REPEAL

Repeal the 8th

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I was asked to do stand up at a gig over the weekend. Being pregnant for the past six months has forced me to look more closely at the Repeal the 8th debate raging in Ireland at the moment. So I wrote about it to perform some of my thoughts in an amusing way. But then I wrote about it to give my serious opinion. Here it is:

Now that my pregnant belly cannot be hidden, I am getting so much love and positive attention. Who knew getting fat could be this fun? Being obviously pregnant is like being newly engaged all over again: everyone wants to hug and rub me. It’s so lovely. It seems kind of crazy to get all this love for the simple fact that I chose to have unprotected sex. I’m being congratulated for having unprotected sex, and having biology work. Other events that occur as a result of unprotected sex are not as likely to get you this kind of positive attention.

Crabs, for example, would not get me the same reaction from the average person on the street. Crabs are funny, yes, and the story would lend itself to good self-deprecating comedy, sure, but having crabs isn’t really something that people get overly excited about if it happens to them.

Most other things—“events”—that are the result of unprotected sex are not positive. Unless you actually want to be pregnant, basically every “event” after unprotected sex is not a positive one. Pregnancy in particular, if it wasn’t the goal of unprotected sex, is a really bad thing. So bad, in fact, that in the country I choose to live in, a country I really love, I become a criminal. If I chose to act on the fact that I didn’t want to be pregnant, I become a pariah in my adopted country.

Mine was a planned pregnancy. Or as planned as any pregnancy can be. That’s a good thing for me because there is a fine line between being a much adored and cooed at pregnant person and a criminal.

That line is very fine. I’m on the right side only because I decided to put myself in this position. I chose this. If I hadn’t, or if I decided I didn’t want to or could not remain pregnant, life gets much more complicated for me.

This is a far less funny topic than crabs, right? There is a lot of energy going into debating this topic and both sides absolutely have a right to their opinions and beliefs.

To take a slightly different view, what if here in Ireland we had to treat wanting to get pregnant as seriously as we treat not wanting to stay pregnant? What if we made women who want a pregnancy jump through all the same hoops as a woman who doesn’t want a pregnancy? What would that look like? Let’s walk through that looking glass.

This is how it might pan out for someone like me who decides she wants to get pregnant in the near future. Once I decide I want to have a baby, I have to talk to a whole bunch of people, spend days getting advice and “thinking it through”. I say “me” like I’m the only one who can make these decisions about making a baby. Obviously, my husband and I talked a lot about the idea of making a human together. But in this scenario, in a situation when someone doesn’t want to make a baby, it becomes immediately the woman’s issue and problem to deal with. So for the point of this exercise let’s just say it’s all about me. The woman. And my body.

The first step would be that I have to go and talk to my Doctor. I have to hear from her about all the biological ramifications of getting knocked up.

“Well, now, it is about time, that clock is ticking, and you do realize that for 3-9 months you will be feeling a constant car sickness with possible vomiting and if you’re really lucky, possible projectile vomiting. Then you’ll start to get chubby around your mid section (and maybe elsewhere), while experiencing other joys such as swollen ankles, cramping calves and feet, odd discharge, sore boobs, unexpected or explained body hair growth, bloody gums, and constant fatigue. You might experience roller-coaster style mood swings, but that’s the joy of hormones. You won’t really be able to sleep through the night from here on out because you will have to pee. Often. At least once a night. In fact, you probably won’t be sleeping through the night again for a very long time. I have some pamphlets here if you’d like to read more, but take a few days to consider your options. You don’t have to do this.”

Because not wanting to be pregnant in this country is a political issue, wanting to be pregnant should be as important politically. So I would definitely have to talk to my local TD. I can’t vote here, but Ireland’s laws apply to me no matter my nationality or political views, so I head over to the local TD’s office. He will say things along the lines of, “this is great for Ireland. Our census numbers were down, and we are hoping to surpass Scotland this year with babies born. We need to focus on education and healthcare for children. I’ve been working very closely with the new children’s hospital in James’s so like you, I will be working for a better Ireland for our children. I’m excited you are joining me on this journey. I look forward to hearing from you again, and I am happy to represent you.”

Then, I have to go and talk to a priest. The Catholic Church believes very strongly that their opinion on termination should rule here in Ireland, so it follows that their opinion on all individuals getting knocked up should rule too. I am not Catholic myself, but again, rules is rules. Frankly I’ve always wondered what a priest or a nun could tell me about fornication and reproduction, so this meeting might be fun and informative for me. Or at the very least provide some good material.

Then I would have to travel to Britain. I know, that sounds crazy, right? But here’s the thing: if I didn’t want to be pregnant, I have to deal with the Brits at some stage, so it’s only fair that I have to deal with them when I do want to be pregnant. I have to fly over there at my own cost. I would get to some clinic in the north of England where I find a doctor and we would look at each other with confused faces, and they’d say, “I don’t really care if you want to have a baby.” And I’d say, “well, fair enough, but I live in Ireland now, and it seems the Irish still want you guys to be charge of their population, so here I am!”

Finally, once all of those people are on board, I need to post a notice in the Irish Times so that the whole country gets to have a say about whether or not I should be allowed to have a child. A woman who decides not to move forward with her pregnancy, and has the guts to speak up about it, gets to listen to the whole country tell her what they think of her. Surely I should get the same chance to hear what the country thinks of my reproductive abilities, right? It’s only fair.

It is an Alice in Wonderland situation and of course it’s not reality. It all seems ridiculous when viewed in that way. Well so is not letting women make their own choices about pregnancy.

Everyone is so happy for me that I get to be pregnant and grow this being and feel car sick all day every day, and hate the smell of coffee and red wine, and get leg cramps and be constipated, and all sorts of other delightful bodily issues. People are thrilled for me. I’m thrilled for me.

But if I didn’t want this? If I didn’t want to put myself and my body through this? What if I mentally and/or physically couldn’t? Well, it’s none of your business. It’s my business and maybe the business of my husband.

Or, what if I did want this and for some horrific reason it couldn’t happen? Women in Ireland deal with fetal abnormalities and fetal death on a daily basis. Often they are faced with the heartbreaking choice of having to carry the fatal pregnancy to term or traveling to the UK to have it taken care of.

Those women are carrying babies who are deeply wanted, and yet they are being sent away from home to be “taken care of”. It’s like something out of horror story!

In these debates, there seems to be some confusion about what a FACT is, what an OPINION is, and what a BELIEF is.

Let’s play this game: In my opinion, smoking is bad. I believe smoking is bad. I think it’s gross. Science backs me up on the fact that is bad for humans to smoke. When you smoke, you are likely killing yourself and possibly affecting those around you. Smoking is not a good thing! Yet I cannot, should not, do not have a right to walk up to a smoker and tell them they are a bad person for willfully killing themselves. It’s none of my business what those people choose to do with their bodies.

Some people believe that terminating a pregnancy isn’t about the woman at all, that it’s about the fetus, and it’s about that new life. But not everyone believes that. There is no scientific paper that exists that tells us conclusively that conscious life exists in a cluster of cells. It is completely fine and right to believe that life begins at conception, by the way, if you do. But that belief does not give you a right to judge someone who does not believe that. This issue is not about your personal belief system; it’s about another human’s body and they get to decide what happens to it.

You can decide to smoke, or jump from a plane, or get a Winnie the Pooh tattoo on your ankle, and I cannot comment on the possible lack of respect you may or may not have for your own physical or mental wellbeing. It is none of my business.

The world is an easier place to live in if you believe whole-heartedly that all of your beliefs are facts. But beliefs, yours or anyone else’s, are not necessarily facts. It is good and right that people in Ireland believe whatever they want. This is a free country. It does not mean that those individually held beliefs are facts. It certainly does not mean that those individually held beliefs should be imposed on anyone else.

It is scary to live in a world where mystery reigns and where we don’t have the answers to everything. It’s terrifying to admit that what we believe might not actually be the truth. It’s a nightmare! That’s why we employ people to do things like tell us what the weather will be like for the next few days and weeks. We need to know everything! In Ireland, that’s kind of a sick joke, right? It’s an insane job to predict the weather accurately and perfectly on this island.

Just like it’s insane to have to explain to people why they don’t have the right to make decisions about their own body and their own lives.

 

 

 

 

Repeal the 8th

Glendalough

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On St. Patrick’s Day earlier this month, a happy band of family and friends headed out to Glendalough, home of another Saint (Kevin), to walk in the fresh air and get the heck out of the party zone that Dublin turns into on the 17th of March.

It turns out most Irish people in the Dublin and Wicklow areas had exactly the same idea; there wasn’t a parking spot to be had in all of the Glendalough Park official car parks or along the road leading to the park. At one point I was afraid we had reached grid lock as we tried to pass from one lot to another. Everyone seemed to think that St. Patrick’s Day morning was a super time to stretch the legs, breath fresh Irish air and take in the fantastic scenery Glendalough offers.

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We managed to finagle a space about a mile up the road eventually. The plan was to hike the full Spinc Trail which runs around the lake, through the old mining village up over the ridge of the valley and back down through the forest on the other side. Eight miles in total.

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The day was foggy and grey as we started out around the lake. The trail was busy (not surprising considering the car park situation), not only with adult hikers but babies, children and dogs of all shapes and sizes. A celebration of the national holiday in one of the most gorgeous locations.

As we started our ascent out of the mining village, the sky began to clear. I ate an apple. We climbed up and up along the rocky, switch-back trail and after about an hour or so found a gorgeous grassy, not-too-windy spot to have our picnic.

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Luckily we’d packed enough food and treats to sustain us for the remaining climb and descent. I’d never walked the Spinc before and the views are incredible. It’s well worth the little burning in the quads to be high up above the Glendalough valley looking down on the lake, the graveyard and the mining village.

As we began our decent through the forest, we were aided by wooden steps. There is an option of walking up the steps and around the path the other way. Many people were coming at us from that direction. I am, however, thrilled that we went up the other way and didn’t have to face climbing all those stairs. The ascent that way would have been much steeper and more punishing. Also, if you go up the way we did, you get the views of the valley facing you as you walk back down. I don’t want to toot our own whistle, but that was clearly the best way.

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Once safely (if exhaustedly) returned to the valley, we had a little gander through the graveyard. The sun was over the lake, and the mist from earlier made the air sparkle a bit. It’s easy to see why Glendalough was considered such a spiritual place. It’s part of the new Ancient East Trail.

We rewarded ourselves with pints of Guinness (or whatever you’re having yourselves) before the mile long walk back to the car. If we’d parked a little closer the day would have been too close to perfection. The distance to the car made us feel very smug about our ten-mile walk.

Glendalough is close to Dublin and there are buses out there every day a few times a day if you don’t have a car. I highly recommend going. There are other trails and loops to follow if you don’t feel like the full eight mile Spinc adventure. Just being there is magic.

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Glendalough

Why I Love St. Patrick

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Today, this famous Irish national holiday, I will be going for a walk in beautiful Glendalough. We will walk for up to two hours over hills, around a lake, and up to look-outs. The weather is perfect, spring is springing, the sun is shining and I’ve packed a picnic.

The best thing about our walk today is that I won’t have to worry about coming across a snake.

Snakes are my biggest natural fear. I would rather stumble on a nest of spiders than one solitary snake minding his own business. The fact that there are no snakes in Ireland is one of my favorite things about living in Ireland. Some days it is my favorite thing. Like today.

I don’t know much about St. Patrick, but the fact that he supposedly ridded Ireland of snakes is enough for me to unabashedly celebrate this day but getting out in this snake free nature.

Thank you, St. Patrick.

Why I Love St. Patrick

My Two Winters

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NOT Dublin

We are properly enjoying winter in Ireland this year. C and I have not been in Dublin during a January in three years.

Yesterday morning there was frost on all the rooftops and cars. As I cycled down my road, I noticed a car running on the street with no one in it. The door in the house across was open and a woman darted out with her kettle steaming. She poured the hot water all down the front windshield, turned on the wipers, and ran back into her house to return the kettle.

I saw C do this five years ago when I first moved to Dublin when there were freak snow storms for a week before Christmas.

“That is GENIUS!” I thought of the kettle trick. “Why did we never think of that?!”

I grew up in Connecticut, where there are plenty of frosty mornings. Far more than there are here in Ireland. And yet instead of a quick hot water fix, we run the cars, blast the defrost and get out the scrapper and scrape away at the ice until you can see out enough of the windshield to drive.

Winter is no joke in the Northeast of the States. I already feel as though my winter toughness is lessening. I mean, those few frosty days may be as wintery as it gets around here. There will be crocuses and snowdrops in a few weeks. Daffodil shoots are already bravely poking up. Spring comes sooner here, and thanks to the kind Gulf Stream, winters aren’t that cold.

I do miss the smell of snow in the air and going to bed in a world of brown and green and waking up in a winter wonderland. I miss the drama of a big blizzard. I’m worried I won’t remember how to drive safely in a snowstorm or what to do when I hit black ice. I miss ice skating (which is actually far better when there is NO snow) and sledding, but I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it every day. I’m also grateful that I can still get around Dublin by bike. And that spring is actually just around the corner.

But even during these chilly days, the Irish have some good winter tricks up their sleeves.

 

 

My Two Winters

The 12th Day of Christmas–Nollaig na mBan

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The Lovely Scene Upstairs in Smock Alley

Well, Christmas is officially over for another year. Our tree is down, I clipped up the Christmas cards into next year’s Christmas tags, and found one little handful of pecans that missed the cookies.

The 6th of January is celebrated throughout Latin America, Spain and Portugal as the big Christmas celebration. The Epiphany. The Three Kings have arrived at the Christ Child’s stable and all is right with the world.

In Ireland, it’s Nollaig na mBam, or Women’s Little Christmas. Traditionally it was a day when women, who would have worked double time over Christmas and New Years to ensure their (generally) large families had food, gifts and fun, got a full day off. Men were expected to do the housework and look after the kids so the women could head down to the pub for some proper girl time.

I’ve lived in Ireland for six years and have never heard the expression before. Nollaig na mBan is more traditionally celebrated in the West and South-West of the country and often in Irish speaking communities. However, after the huge success of the Waking The Feminists movement here in Ireland, this year seemed ripe to re-imagine the day as a celebration for, by and about the talents of women. It seems right to re-claim a day that was begun long before any feminist movement hit these shores.

Back then, and last night at Smock Alley Theatre, women gathered with cakes, treats, stories to tell, songs to sing and good cheer all around. The Dublin event, You’re Only mBan, was a night of stand-up comedy, live music, story-telling and singing. It was a celebration of the huge talent in our community and a coming together to close out the Christmas celebrations.

Men were involved and represented as well. Of course! That’s what feminism is: equality for all sexes.

My podcast, Trivial Cahoots was there to record it all and collect some funny stories from the audience members not performing. Click on the link to hear the event in total and for some extra fun and chats.

It’s always wonderful to see old traditions re-purposed for a new time. And 2016 is going to be a pretty wild and wonderful time for the women of Ireland.

The 12th Day of Christmas–Nollaig na mBan

Creche vs Crib

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The first Christmas I spent away from my family I spent in Dublin. I was introduced to new delights such as mince pies, mulled wine and the fact that what I call a creche, is a crib here.

I had found the fact that my niece went to a “creche” in the afternoons a bit odd. A creche is a nativity scene you put up at Christmas time, right? Do you mean my niece goes to a daycare? Yes. Oh, ok. Daycare=creche. A few months later, as Christmas neared, I asked if a nativity scene was called a creche too.

No. It’s not. The Irish call it a crib. But doesn’t a baby sleep in a crib? No.  A baby sleeps in a cot. Isn’t a cot  a camp bed, or smaller bed used in hotels for an extra child? No.

In Ireland a crib is a nativity scene. A child goes to a creche to be cared for by adults other than his/her parents, and will sleep in a cot until at least two years old.

In America a baby sleeps in a crib, summer campers or an extra child will sleep in a cot, and the baby Jesus–with assorted animals, wise men and shepherds–can be found in a creche at Christmas time.

Got that?

Happy Christmas One and All!

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Creche vs Crib