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Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

I’m in two minds over the effectiveness of online petitions, one the one hand they can be extremely useful in terms of raising public awareness of a particular issue, on the other, there is no guarantee of them getting to debate stage and even if they do, overwhelming public opinion seems to be ignored when MPs are voting on legislative issues. The petition against the redefinition of marriage serves as useful illustration; despite garnering over 668,000 signatures, an unprecedented number in contrast to the 66,203 signatures in favour of the redefinition, the measure comes into force on the 29th March, with my home city Brighton and Hove, likely to offer the very first ceremony, taking place in the Royal Pavillion at one minute past midnight, for a selected winner of a competition. (One of the comments on this is very telling, stating that same-sex couples have not previously had the opportunity to ‘try’ marriage).

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, democracy and public opinion do not seem to have been served well by online petitions which seem to be little more than a gimmick designed to present the illusion of democracy in action.

With that in mind, I have come across an extremely worthy online petition which due to its unsensational nature will probably receive very little support. It is unlikely that even 100,000 signatures will take this to debate stage, but it will nonetheless trigger a response and hopefully a legislative change.

The Mariposa Trust, who are responsible for the Saying GoodBye organisation who organise services of remembrance for those unborn babies lost to miscarriage in Cathedrals spread throughout the UK, are wishing to campaign to legislate for the treatment of women who are experiencing miscarriage.

Saying Goodbye offers Anglican Services, which unsurprisingly are often customised with secular elements, nonetheless their ministry is an important one, contributing to  and consolidating a pro-life ethos in the UK, because they recognise that parents lose a baby and grieve no matter what stage in pregnancy they were in. These services give parents a formal opportunity to mark and mourn the loss of their child, which is often denied to them, thanks to the way that miscarriage is dealt with by hospitals.

While it is not right to attempt to claim Saying Goodbye for the pro-life movement, I have no idea where the founders stand on the subject of abortion and would not wish their organisation to be leveraged, they exist purely to help bereaved parents and not to judge, nevertheless their very existence makes life uncomfortable for those who would promote early stage abortion. The issue of bereavement is a complex one, it is undoubtedly true that parents who experience miscarriage do suffer very profoundly. As do many women who have been through the process of abortion, even if it was what they believed to be the right option. This young woman describes how she cried and grieved for her baby after an early stage abortion – fortunately the medication did not work, her baby is due later this year and she bitterly regrets opting for an abortion in the first place.

Not every women who experiences an abortion will suffer from grief, however Saying Goodbye would not disbar post-abortive women from attending their services which are open to all and therefore it is highly likely that they could prove a source of comfort both to women and extended family alike. Their sensitively worded blurb, invites anyone who has experienced any type of infant loss to attend the services, no matter how historic, although they are not a specific ministry for post-abortive mothers.  We shouldn’t adopt a partisan attitude – an organisation that seeks to acknowledge and recognise the humanity inherent in the unborn child, by accepting and marking a loss, deserves our full support and makes a valuable contribution to the dignity and protection of the unborn.

Anyway, the petition itself wishes to end the practice of women being instructed by hospitals to keep the bodies of their miscarried babies in their fridge, until such time as the hospital is ready to accept the baby. This is common practice, especially at weekends and is particularly barbaric. When we lost Raphael a few months ago and were waiting to see if a miscarriage may occur spontaneously, this is what we were instructed to do and I was dreading the process of having to retrieve his or her tiny body. Woman are reporting being instructed to buy tupperware containers precisely for the purpose of storing the baby, indeed we had an ice cream tub at the ready.

The internet was a tremendous source of help and practical information which was not given to us by the hospital and upon reading various Mumsnet threads, I was horrified to discover that women are by and large expected to miscarry at home if they opt for a medical management of the procedure. I read numerous terrifying tales of women having to be blue-lighted into hospital due to excessive blood loss, as well as of incomplete procedures. Coincidentally a woman privately hooked up with me in the Brighton area who had also discovered that her baby had died. As her pregnancy was not as far as advanced as mine, she was not admitted into hospital, being given the medication to administer at home, which had not worked. She frantically messaged me to ask about bedspace and staff on the ward as she was desperate for medical attention, support and reassurance. Following repeated attempts to induce the miscarriage with medication, a process that involved several hospital trips and being what she felt was ‘fobbed off’, she ended up needing surgery six weeks later. As far as the stretched department at our local hospital was concerned, she was not in any immediate danger, her baby had died and while her distress was unfortunate, she was not a priority.

No petition is going to ease the pressure on the over-burdened NHS, however I was left with the impression that overall the standards of care for women who suffer a miscarriage are very patchy. We were fortunate to receive excellent and compassionate care, although there was a brief crisis due to a lack of available doctors and theatre at 2am, but judging by Mumsnet threads, I seem to be in the minority.

Woman are routinely encouraged not to request remains of a 13 week baby, standard procedure is that they are kept by the hospital and sent to the crematorium to be sensitively dealt with en masse with your baby’s name or details being added to a book of remembrance. Most mothers are in too much of a fug to want to think about ‘foetal remains’ as they are called and so this often seems like the easiest and most straightforward option, although from our perspective we felt a duty and responsibility to our baby to accompany them on their last journey and accord Christian burial rites and so we requested the remains.

The hospital were quite flummoxed, there were the inevitable paperwork snafus as this was an unusual request and upon leaving we were given a container with the foetus inside, they were unwilling and unable to store this for us until such time as we could arrange for burial.

And so it was that as I left the hospital in which I had given birth to three live children, leaving the floor and the lift forever associated with newborns in carseats and ante-natal appointments, clinging on to Robin feebly due to having lost almost 2 litres of blood, instead of the newborn in the carseat, Robin had the foetus in a jar in his oversized coat pocket.

We weren’t able to bury the baby for another 10 days, so for that time they remained in the fridge, which was tricky and distressing with four children in the house. It was only thanks to Robin’s contacts in the funeral industry that we knew that a tiny wicker casket could be sourced and again thanks to the support of our parish priest that we were able to lay Raphael to rest in the memorial garden/flowerbed of the church. It’s enormously comforting having a resting place.

(Trolls who suggested that I was faking or simulating my pregnancy ought to come and have a word with my husband. Likewise while you were hectoring me and writing letters in green ink to my employers because you were annoyed by some petty account for which I was not responsible and would not engage with or acknowledge, digital engagement was not a priority for me at this time, perhaps you ought to rethink that with our baby in the fridge we had other more pressing matters to think about). 

At time of writing I should be into my third trimester of pregnancy and Christmas was difficult at times – there will always be a missing stocking. The comfort of our religious faith has made this an easier time than for many, both in terms of accessing available support and the logistics of organising a burial.

No mother should be instructed to keep her baby in the fridge at any stage in gestation or for any period of time and neither should she be treated as inconvenience if she finds herself needing to access counselling services weeks later, for which there are often long NHS waiting lists. Which is why I believe that this petition is worth signing.

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I based a previous post about Sarah Ewart based on a misconception of the severity of her baby’s condition which had been misreported in the press, with even Melanie McDonagh stating that the baby ‘had no head’. While I did not quite believe this to be true, my visualisation of the condition was something infinitely more graphic and gruesome than the reality.

Peter Saunders has sensitively and scientifically outlined the reality here, in a must-read piece for anyone wanting to know the reality of the condition. Had the case been as I believed, I still don’t believe that would have been a good enough reason to abort the baby, but I would not have been rushing to demand prosecution of someone who assisted her and would have wanted some compromise found, which did not implicitly endorse abortion, but also would offer some relief for the mother if necessary, such as early delivery at point of viability.

I still believe that pro-lifers need to exercise due care and compassion nonetheless in these situations, rushing to quote the Catechism, which is couched in philosophical and theological language at a frightened mother, who may or may not be a Catholic, is not the most pastoral, compassionate or necessarily convincing approach.

If we are to change society’s consciousness on this, then we need to reach out beyond our own religious circle. One isn’t going to convince a pagan or committed atheist as to the compelling philosophy, logic and science that supports a pro-life mindset by referencing the Bible, the Didache or Magisterium, although my experience is that very often the pro-life cause is what attracts people to re-examine, revert or convert to Catholicism as they begin to explore why it is that we are so uncompromising on this.

LIFE charity are currently running an extremely effective ‘not blinkered’ campaign, which de-bunks the whole ‘religious nut jobs on the right’ stereotype very nicely. While we cannot divert from Catholic principles, a recourse to theism is not a necessary when it comes to explaining why the most vulnerable, from the unborn, to the disabled, terminally ill and elderly should be protected from abortion, assisted dying and euthanasia.

When I discovered that our unborn baby had died, I chose to undergo a procedure similar to a medical abortion in order to deliver our baby after waiting to see whether or not matters would resolve naturally. It was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to face and even though we knew that the baby had died, there was still some guilt in taking action that would literally force the baby out of the womb. Despite having had the diagnosis confirmed by 3 separate doctors I still needed confirmation that no heartbeat was present, before I allowed intervention to proceed.

Ending a pregnancy is a traumatic and violent affair, regardless of the method one chooses even armed with the knowledge that there is little other choice,  as there was in our situation. For a while I was too physically battered by what had taken place to begin the process of grieving and it was only yesterday, following the burial of Rafael’s remains that the loss really ‘hit’ the pair of us.

I cannot imagine the trauma  experienced by grieving parents who have felt compelled by a baby’s disability to take steps to end their life. Several priests have recounted heartbreaking tales of parents bringing their aborted children for funeral services, their grief compounded and complicated by the dissonant knowledge that they terminated their babies lives, often due to medical coercion, themselves.

It has not been definitively confirmed, but upon talking to the doctors and sonographers involved, the cause of death was likely to have been Downs Syndrome as many markers were present. People come out with the most ridiculous platitudes, implying that your baby’s death was ‘for the best’, ‘a blessing in disguise’ and it was probably ‘just as well’.

Downs Syndrome has an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or neo-natal death, though not as great as anencephaly, but as we laid our baby to rest yesterday (fully formed with limbs, fingers and toes) had we experienced stillbirth or a neo-natal death, both of us would have given anything to be able to have held our baby, even just for a short while. Which is what convinces me that Peter Saunders is right.

But at least we have the knowledge that despite being denied the privilege of holding our child, we did whatever we could to look after them, both in life and death. We accorded our baby the dignity and respect that every unborn child deserves. It was not only the right thing to do, but is already a source of enormous comfort.  Being pro-life sometimes means needing to bear witness in death. Treating a baby as a human being from the moment of conception until moment of death is the compassionate, decent and humane response, for mother and baby alike.

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The 40 Days of Choice group, set up to counter 40 days for Life, have gone into propaganda overdrive, tweeting a link to a report that women diagnosed with foetal abnormality are ‘denied surgical abortions’. Yet again, the Guardian proves its reputation as being the the soft advertiser on behalf of the abortion industry, the conference referred to was one organised and funded by BPAS and the pro-choice group ARC (ante-natal results and choices).

A woman who has never actually had to give birth to her deceased child vocalised her horror at the prospect and described how she had needed to borrow £1,000 in order to have a surgical abortion performed swiftly, instead of having to wait two weeks to see a consultant and being told that she would need to give birth naturally.

With lots of accompanying rhetoric about the politicisation of abortion and how foetal abnormality ‘forces’ women to abort, the usual frame of choice shifts from the concept of abortion, to the actual method itself. Nobody seems to be asking the question as to why these women are somehow forced, why does foetal abnormality or disability take away a woman’s agency?

The stat that less than 1% of all pregnancies are ended due to foetal abnormality is also presented, in order to convey sympathy, this is such a rare occasion, (which should tell us something about the obscene amount of abortions that are performed in the UK) surely women in this unusual situation ought to be allowed to choose, as well as take their time?

Jane Fisher of Antenatal Results and Choices points to the research that this is such a distressing time for women that they need to be able to take their time and space to chose on the abortion method that is right for them. Not that they need time and space to choose whether or not to abort, rather to choose the method.

Sadly I understand this all too well. We had an appointment at the hospital today in order to discuss the options in terms of delivering our own deceased child. The nurse could not have been more sympathetic, she checked that I understood why we were there and took her time explaining the different options to us. She also stressed that there was absolutely no hurry to make any sort of decision, we could go home, we could choose whatever option we wanted, we could change our mind at the last minute, no-one was going to pressure us at all.

I can more than understand why some women in my situation would choose surgery, it’s over very quickly, you are unconscious, you do not have to see any foetal remains and neither do you have the interminable wait to see if nature might take it course, something that could take weeks. I would not admonish any woman who chose the surgical option, however, I don’t think it’s for me, for a number of reasons, one being that there are often no remains left to bury.

But the difference for women in my situation is that tragically, our babies are already dead. I more than empathise with women having to give birth to a dead child, it’s what I am going to face over the next few weeks, but there is some comfort in knowing that there is nothing I could have done. All I can do now is see to it that he or she is given a decent burial.

For those women who are faced with the terrible situation of feeling forced into aborting a profoundly disabled child, there is for many, some form of closure in being able to hold a funeral, or bury the remains and say goodbye to their child, even if there is also a sense of dissonance.

But the most important thing is that by giving women time to make their decision, something that I would always advocate, the surgical option becomes less and less safe. So today, when we were discussing my options, it was very clear that while not being forced, I was being strongly steered towards a medical management, i.e. when pills are administered to force contractions. Surgery would not have been denied, but it was clear the consultant preferred to recommend a medical management because it was safer for me with a relatively late, missed miscarriage, which is larger than usual.

I was explicitly informed, both verbally and in writing, that surgery carries an increased risk of infection, scarring and perforation of the uterus. If I opted for a medical management, I would be given a private room with ensuite bathroom, a cannula inserted in case fluids or a blood transfusion is needed and given as much pain relief as possible. They would also issue me with the paperwork to bury or cremate the remains. A far cry from the medical abortion procedure that takes place in abortion clinics, who have been campaigning for women to be able to miscarry at home. The NHS pulled no punches, this will be emotionally and physically difficult, but they would support me through it, rather than leave me to suffer at home alone. Unlike at the clinics, Robin will be allowed accompany me the whole way through the procedure. It isn’t the narrative of period pains or slight cramping that the abortion clinics try to soft-soap women with. Former clinic worker Abby Johnson who had a medical abortion tells it like it is.

I get it, I truly understand what an ordeal it is to have to deliver a dead child, at any stage of gestation, but if surgery is the riskier option for me with a child at 10 + 5 gestation, 12 weeks into pregnancy, the risk will increase for women at a later stage – typically, abnormalities are not picked up until around 12 weeks and in many cases, not until 20, when one doesn’t have a choice in terms of abortion, you have to deliver.

It’s terrible when your 12 week scan delivers devastating news, we have been totally blindsided by what’s happened, though we’ll get through it, life seems that bit more grey, bleak, colourless. Our future does not seem quite so rosy, our precious little baby has been taken away. My body has not yet caught onto the situation as is common in this situation, and so I’m still experiencing full-blown pregnancy symptoms in a cruel twist of nature. The mind and body are at odds with each other, while I know the baby has passed away, my body is trying to fool me into thinking otherwise. I’m sick, have the erratic familiar food aversions, am growing bigger as the hormones increase the size of the sac and yet know there will be no baby at the end of the process.

I have no doubt that a diagnosis of foetal anomaly has a similar effect and my heart goes out to anyone faced with this. But where there is life there is always hope, why aren’t we asking why women in this situation are feeling forced, but instead blindly accepting the inevitability of abortion for disabled children?

As for the choice of method of termination, surely that should be wholly down to clinical factors, and what is in the best interests of a woman’s overall health, not politicised in order to do homage to the false notion that we have bodily agency?

If one were inclined to shout empty slogans, the following seems applicable:

Pro-”choice”? That’s a lie, you don’t care if women die.

As the Good Counsel Network have just pointed out the reason why 40 Days for Choice find women having to give birth to their dead child ‘disgusting’ is because that word sums up the tragic reality of abortion.

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Those who keep up with my Facebook and Twitter account will have read the news of the loss of our baby.

As I’ve frequently stated on this blog, a life of pro-life witness means walking the walk as well as talking the talk. So a few weeks ago, I confidently shared the news about my pregnancy in the pages of the Catholic press, genuinely believing that it was in women’s best interests if the taboo of early pregnancy was broken. The aim was not to compel women to share their news before they feel ready, rather to empower women who may be suffering in the early stages of pregnancy to ask for the help that they may need, especially if they are experiencing a crisis pregnancy.

The flipside of that means that women who suffer an early loss also then have to make that public, which is the hard part. Because frankly I don’t feel like sharing my grief or raw emotions with the world and every single message of condolence, hammers home the hurt and loss. We have the consolation of Christian hope, we know that the baby is without sin, we trust in the mercy of God and yet still there is terrible pain and a lot of tears.

I also feel like a prize wally for naively thinking that just because I was pregnant, I would definitely be carrying a baby to term. Not to mention terrified of the usual trolls. Shortly after announcing my pregnancy, one woman tweeted some dreadful stuff in response, namely that I was making things up, that the most ‘natural thing in the world would be for me to announce a miscarriage’, followed up by a stream of (later deleted) musings about an obviously mentally ill woman in America who had simulated pregnancy for 7 months,  with links to the story as well as a site where one could buy a prosthetic stomach.

I have no need to prove anything, I’m not tweeting the scan photograph which will probably be all that we have to remind us of our baby, it’s too private, too personal, I don’t want to share him or her with the world.

The day began so auspiciously. We’ve had a friend staying with us for a few nights so they could attend the Labour conference events, after a few nights up late drinking red wine and chewing the Catholic fat, I woke up this morning and managed to finish an extra long Universe column dealing with last week’s papal interview. Feeing particularly smug at having submitted a piece early, I then nipped next door to pick up a parcel containing my copy of the new Father Robert Barron series on DVD, together with associated study material. Part of my excitement was that due to wholly chance encounter last year, it appears from the trailer that I make an appearance in the film, when they followed me across London to film a radio segment at the now defunct Bush House.

After a lovely lunch at a restaurant in the late summer sunshine overlooking the sea with Robin, the children and our friend, I skipped off excitedly for the scan at the Royal Sussex at 4pm. This was the first one of our baby’s ultrasounds that I had been to on my own, the time of the appointment meant that it would be impossible to do the school run and besides which, Robin needed to look after the children, as the unit is keen to discourage young babies and toddlers from attending.

As I bustled my way through throngs of frighteningly young-looking delegates at the Labour conference, clutching my plastic Bounty wallet containing pregnancy notes and with the hint of a protruding belly, I smiled benignly at various familiar faces.  Suddenly a bumptious young man asked me whether or not I fancied catching Ed’s speech with him followed by a bite to eat. ‘Sorry, I’ve got a pregnancy scan appointment”, I sniggered. Bounding up the steep hill towards the hospital, I giggled at his presumption and mused that despite having greasy hair, not a scrap of make-up, manky toe-nails caught unaware of the unexpected turn of weather and wearing a scruffy Mothercare top that was probably about 10 years old, and not far off the dreaded 4-0, obviously I still ‘had it’. Either that or more likely he’d had too much at lunchtime and was clearly blind! I mused as to whether or not certain feminists would quote this as an example of Labour misogynist sexism and that the conference was obviously a hotbed of dastardly sexual predators!

But all in all, life was good, though still sick, the worst part of the pregnancy was behind me, I’d just entered into the blissful second trimester, was feeling like I was beginning to glow, things were coming together for us as a family and soon there would be a snuggly new baby whom we were looking forward to. Just before arriving at the hospital I realised that I didn’t have any cash with which to pay for the scan pictures, something that I’ve always considered a cynical piece of exploitation and stopped at a cash machine, which proceeded to fail, meaning that I then had to waste precious minutes queuing at the next one, whilst muttering under my breath and worrying that I would be late.

Running into ultrasound reception, at 4.05 pm, the velociraptor on the desk snapped at me that I had just made it and ushered me through. Just as I was fiddling with the change machine, I was called into the sonography room, whereupon I panicked that I didn’t have the right amount of change for the photograph and they assured me that they could give me some. Lying down on the couch, I settled into the familiar routine, unbuttoning jeans, feeling the cold jelly on my stomach and enjoying the cool air-conditioning blasting onto me, by contrast with the scorching heat outside. ‘There’s your little one’ said the sonographer, putting the scanner on my belly. I was too busy marvelling at the little hands and feet, noticing that the baby seemed to be lying in the perfect transverse position for a photo and wondering whether or not I could spy a willy, or was it the umbilical cord, to realise the uncharacteristic silence.

“Sorry, there’s no heartbeat” came a voice, completely out of the blue. It was a bolt from the blue, it had never occurred to me to be concerned that the baby might have died. I’m still sick, growing larger and have had no indications that anything might be wrong. The primary purpose of the scan as far as I was concerned was to check on the size of the baby and due date. I am the fertile baby-maker,  I am Mrs Fecund, the person who falls pregnant at the drop of a hat, who goes on to produce healthy  babies, nothing else was on my radar. Besides at 12 weeks plus 2, I was out of the danger-zone surely?

The staff were exceptionally kind.  They volunteered to remove my pregnancy notes, provided tissues, left the room while I called Robin and made sure that I could get home safely. They also didn’t charge me for the photo, and didn’t think I was macabre for asking for one. They called for someone else to come and confirm the diagnosis, there was a brief flicker of hope when she thought she might have seen something, but no it was bone, the baby died approximately a week and a half ago at 10 weeks and 5 days. Apparently there is a lot of fluid, an indication that there could be chromosomal problems, and according to the sonographer the baby ‘didn’t look right’. They didn’t elaborate and neither did I want to know. The sac has continued to grow, but not the baby.

I don’t really know what happens next and it’s better that I don’t speculate, although I’ve read through the leaflet. The priority now is attempting to ensure that the baby is not treated like another piece of hospital waste, but if possible given some sort of funeral. I’ve a job interview tomorrow to take my mind off things and a further appointment on Thursday to discuss possible options. I don’t want to contemplate what lies ahead.

I said at the beginning being pro-life means walking the walk. Being open to life entails the heartbreak that can accompany that, a few weeks ago someone was telling me about how they suddenly understood the sorrows of Mary and that’s something that I can now sharply identify with.

Looking at my twitter feed earlier, I saw the pro-choice protestors out in force at the start of 40 days for life outside the Stratford clinic and felt a jolt of sharp anger that these women were campaigning for their right to kill their babies whilst mine is dead. Certain pro-lifers don’t get off  lightly either. Quite frankly if I saw a photo of a dead or dismembered foetus in my sightline right now, knowing what could be in store for my baby, I’d struggle to restrain my anger.

I look at my four beautiful girls and am grateful that they are safe and well, but that doesn’t somehow magically alleviate the sadness that one of our babies has died. We are just so immeasurably sad that this little one didn’t get the same chance.

On the print-out I’ve been given to take with me on Thursday it says “missed miscarriage”, but somehow that noun seems inadequate. It wasn’t the passive of a verb, but a human being whose life has come to an end and who was and is and will always be loved and whose loss we miss keenly.

RIP little baby. Thank you so much everyone for the prayers, intentions and Masses offered, which are sustaining us.

In the words of the children’s favourite American pachyderm:

A person’s a person no matter how small. 

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Taken from the Catholic Universe – 25 August 2013

(Since this piece was written, I’ve lost well over half a stone in weight and my nutritional intake consists solely of sips of flat coke, water and bites of white bread, further reinforcing the original view.  At times I’ve been almost bedridden and barely able to leave the house, thank goodness for a supportive husband who is carrying the majority of the load during his holiday, whilst I languish like some gothic Victorian heroine. How women are supposed to function normally let alone make rational decisions in this condition is beyond me. Once again I am reminded why abortion must seem like an attractive option to those who may already be overburdened and find the crippling nausea and fatigue almost too much to deal with). 

First-Trimester-Symptoms

My Catherine Earnshaw moments are rather less glamourous!

Much to our delight, we discovered a few weeks ago that we are expecting our fifth child who is expected to put in an appearance some time in March.

The response, even from Catholic quarters has been interesting and is one from which lessons can be drawn. Many people have questioned whether or not I am correct to announce things at this relatively early stage in the first trimester. “Do people tend to go public before 12 weeks, I thought it had to be top secret” asked one colleague in good faith , which made me realise that a taboo pervades when it comes to the subject of early pregnancy.

I’ve therefore decided, perhaps rather foolishly, to lead by example and announce the happy news to the world at large. This pressure to keep mum about being mum, seems to me to be doing women a major disservice under a misguided notion of compassion.

There are really only three main reasons why a woman may wish to keep her pregnancy news to herself. Firstly, she is concerned about the risk of miscarriage, secondly she wants to be sure that the baby is healthy following her twelve week scan and thirdly, she might be undecided and not want to have to face the public stigma of abortion. Which goes to debunk the notion of choice, because surely if the unborn child is not really a person but a bundle of cells, if the decision is hers alone, to do whatever she likes with her body, then why the urge to keep silent? If pro-choicers are wishing to remove the stigma of abortion, to discuss it in terms of need, then why are they wishing to buy into the silence that surrounds early pregnancy?

Regardless of choice, there can be absolutely no doubt, that for most women, the first trimester is a physically and mentally exhausting time. Added to the worry about potential miscarriage, the majority of which take place in the first trimester, women, if they are anything like me, have to face the trauma of perpetual nausea and sickness, loss of appetite, food and scent aversions, (my children currently smell appalling much to my horror), crippling fatigue, periods of feeling faint, accompanying breathlessness along with headaches, with the skin and temperament of a moody adolescent as huge amounts of progesterone go crashing through your body.

In short, one is a wreck. It’s not surprising, as the first trimester is when all of the baby’s major development takes place. By 4 weeks, all of the baby’s major organs and body systems are in place and beginning to form. By 12 weeks all bodily organs and systems are fully-formed and ready to grow. It’s no wonder you’re shattered! There’s an incredible amount of building work taking place inside you, it’s only after 12 weeks that the placenta takes over in terms of supplying the baby with vital nutrients. Before then, it’s one’s body doing all the work in constructing this tiny human, which will naturally deplete your existing resources.

 It therefore seems crazy to keep this quiet when the first trimester is the time that a woman requires most support from her partner, family, friends and employer. You need people to exercise due care and understanding and even if one’s  symptoms are not all that severe, it is likely that at some point, a woman will need some leeway and understanding. To keep things quiet forces a woman to conform to the expectations and demands of others, whilst suppressing her own needs, which is not an ideal model of womanhood.

While it is understandable that a woman may not wish to publicly announce the loss of a child if she were to miscarry, it is far more likely that she will get the time off work and compassion she needs from others, if she has previously made them aware of her pregnancy. By suppressing the news, a woman inherently buys into the prevailing zeitgeist which holds that a child is only a child if it is wanted and once it has reached a certain stage in development, whereas biology tells us that a life is formed from the moment of conception.

Why should women be forced to suffer the grief, pain and loss of a child in early pregnancy alone and unsupported? Friends of mine who have experienced the tragedy of multiple  early miscarriages have testified to experiencing enormous stigma for wishing to mourn the loss of their little ones, because an abortive mentality tells us that this is not really a child or person.

To keep news of a pregnancy silent until one finds out whether or not the baby may have any abnormalities, heaps further pressure on the disabled who live in our society and upon the parents who may be faced with some very difficult news. The silence serving as a shroud with many parents not feeling able to discuss their news with anyone who might be able to give them a more positive vision than a gloomy clinical prognosis, which talks only in terms of pathologies.

A woman who is undecided needs even more compassion in a society which endorses abortion as an acceptable and even responsible option. If she is struggling with a terrible dilemma whilst in the throes of feeling absolutely dire, how does a conspiracy of silence help her to be able to talk through her options with someone other than the worker at the abortion clinic, who will in all probability consolidate her doubts and offer a swift concrete solution.

 In 2012, 91% of abortions were carried out in first trimester, compared to 57% in 2002. It’s no wonder the abortion industry want to keep early pregnancy hidden and behind closed doors. Pregnant women should not feel silenced.

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I have a confession to make. In tweeting up a storm about the media blackout surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who reportedly snipped the spines and cut the throats of babies born alive following late term abortions, I was actually being very hypocritical. I knew about this story some time ago, having seen it mentioned by US pro-lifers as well as reading about it last month in the Daily Mail and yet refrained from writing about it and raising awareness.

I’ll forgo the false modesty, I know that this blog is, on the whole, highly regarded in pro-life terms, I also know it is referred to by pro-choice advocates and activists and read by BPAS, Marie Stopes and, according to my stats, IP addresses that emanate from inside the Houses of Parliament. Over the last year, it’s become increasingly apparent that I do have a platform, which I need to remember to use wisely.

So why did I neglect to do my bit here?

1) I was scared. Last year when all the bullying nonsense was occurring, a certain tweeter was repeatedly (and falsely) claiming that I was a member of Abort 67, “an extremist, a bad egg, a fake pro-lifer who doesn’t care, who must be flushed out of the pro life movement”.

I’m not a member of Abort 67, but I’m not ashamed to state that I have enormous respect and admiration for their courage and what they are trying to achieve. Andy Stephenson doesn’t just sit about writing polemic on the Internet or chew the philosophical fat in smokey pubs, but he dedicates his entire life to trying to show people the horrors of abortion, at times risking his own personal safety and even his liberty, when he was subject to an illiberal and misguided prosecution.

Whilst I might have some reservations about the tactics of showing images outside an abortion clinic, actually I have no problem with the way Abort 67 try to reach University students on campus or lobby politically, such as outside the Houses of Parliament or at Speaker’s Corner. But I was worried that by talking about the grisly horrors of Gosnell, and the pickled human feet found in storage jars or dead babies in the freezer, I might be perceived as a sensationalist or extremist. The only coverage I’d seen was in the Daily Mail, a publication that garners much deserved disdain at times, I hadn’t read the Grand Jury report and was concerned that I would be accused of scare-mongering or spreading inaccuracies. A major tactic of pro-choicers (as I will demonstrate in a subsequent post) is to attempt to bamboozle with science and stats, nit-picking to the umpteenth degree and attempting to use semantics, in order that they can scream “liar”. I didn’t want to put my reputation on the line, or be seen to be posting graphic photos or perceived to be revelling in gore.

2) The other reason and perhaps most importantly, was that I didn’t want to think about what had gone on in Gosnell’s abattoir or engage with it. I’d read the reports and recoiled with horror. It was literally unbearable and had the capacity to drive me mad. No doubt the pop psychologists and misogynists will liberally apply the ‘hysterical’ label, but stories regarding the twisted and bloodied corpses of murdered babies, are too close to home for a woman who has had three babies in the space of as many years.

I saw the photograph of one of Gosnell’s victims which appeared without a prior warning, in yesterday’s Atlantic and had a meltdown. The photo depicted a beautiful baby girl, with a full head of black hair, all her features perfectly formed, bizarrely, her umbilical cord had been cut and clamped, and she bore a startling and uncanny resemblance to my youngest baby daughter, and in fact all of my children who were born with lustrous heads of hair and tiny delicate little features. Except she was lying there, lifeless, motionless, dead and cold, having been mercilessly killed by Grosnell, shortly after her cord was cut and clamped and she was breathing. She would never again twitch, her hands wouldn’t uncurl, her limbs wouldn’t fling out in the startle reflex, her mouth would never root around for the comfort of a nipple or teat, she would never have known the comfort of her mother’s, or any human arms, her life consisted of being prematurely forced out of her mother’s womb, then disorientated and distressed from birth, longing for warmth and food, she was brutally murdered and left like a piece of rubbish on the cold hard slab of the abortionist’s table.

It was like looking a photograph of my own babies, particularly my youngest who was born early, weighing 5lbs, less than one of the little boys who was killed, and whom Gosnell jokingly referred to as being big enough to walk to the bus stop. Like this baby, my own baby was tiny, with fragile spindly limbs and swamped by the smallest size nappy. Even the colour of the clip on the umbilicus was the same.

I broke down. There were no words. I usually grab snatches of Twitter or the net on my phone or tablet, often whilst cooking, and the initial response was like being hit in the stomach. I curled up in the foetal position on the floor by the fridge in floods of tears, completely unable to process either the image or my response to what had happened. There was a mixture of overwhelming grief, sadness, anger and despair. I wanted to kick the living daylights out of this man and anyone who may have aided or abetted him in any way. That feeling still hasn’t dissipated, nor have the questions – namely, how on earth could the people working in the clinic have brought themselves to do this, what made them so damaged as individuals that they were able to justify and disassociate themselves from their actions? How could they have become so desensitised to what was going on? What kind of society are we living in when we can allow this to happen and where most people are happy that the media do not report it?

Yesterday was a concrete manifestation of why I had deliberately avoided engaging with this and so writing about it. Because I didn’t have the courage, it was too close to home and I didn’t think I had the emotional resources to cope. I had a very disturbed night’s sleep last night and I still am struggling to rid my mind of those dreadful images as well as deal with the emotions they invoke, which make me want to do terrible things, tear my hair and clutch my head in horror. Whenever I read about dreadful cases of child abuse or murder which crop up depressingly frequently in our national press, it churns me up inside. I cannot envisage what might motivate a person to do such odious things to a little child, and it terrifies me that people can often lose control in such a way that they inflict and violate little children with acts of sickening violence and depravity. Any parent who denies having the odd flash of anger, is either a genuine saint, or lying to themselves, all of us occasionally, at the end of our tether, might speak a little more harshly to our children than we should, but what is that forces a person to cross that line and inflict acts of utter sadism? And the worst most harrowing thing, is imagining the terror and pain experienced by these little ones. Imagining their trusting little faces and lack of comprehension and fear as they are repeatedly battered or worse.

I can’t stop myself imagining the brief painful lives of these little babies, treated as human waste, what they must have gone through, and also the agonies endured by the women, many of whom suffered life changing injuries, permanent infertility, infections and two of whom died. No matter how opposed one is to abortion, we shouldn’t forget the ordeals suffered by the women, most of whom were vulnerable, either by virtue of age, or socio-economic circumstance. No woman would chose to give birth to a live baby to have him or her murdered in front of her eyes. Most women have no idea of what is entailed in a late-stage abortion until it is too late, and I would wager most women going for an abortion have no idea of what to expect, everything is couched in such vague clinical terminology involving ‘products of conception’.

I eschewed writing about Gosnell, because I didn’t want to have to process this emotionally, or deal with the horror, the images or the reaction that they would invoke. Much easier to stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and pretend that it doesn’t happen, or that this is simply an one-off aberration and not think about tiny bodies beheaded and contorted in pain, or women giving birth amongst animal faeces, with filthy tubing used for both inter uterine suction and breathing purposes and freezers and storage jars full of neonates or neonatal body parts.

I suspect that’s one of the reasons for the media blackout. Some things are just too repugnant to bear. We often read about sadistic crimes, such as those of cannibal killers, for example, or serial murders, with a sense of detachment, we can look at these monsters clinically and though be disturbed by their crimes, have a sense that these sorts of crimes are relatively rare and won’t happen to us. With Kermit Gosnell it’s different, in that he and his staff genuinely didn’t seem to have any awareness that what they were doing was in any way immoral and neither did anyone seem to wish to report it. These atrocities occurred at a state licensed abortion facility, which went un-inspected for 17 years due to the pro-choice policy of the Republican Governor of Philedelphia, Tom Ridge. This wasn’t something that just happened to people who had an unfortunate encounter or mixed with the wrong sort. This was something that happened to women who exercised their free and legal choice in one of the most developed and civilised countries in the world. This is what abortion entails. The wilful destruction of innocent human life, depriving babies of their basic right to life in an act of brutal violence, whether inside or outside of the womb. Every single member of humanity, every single person reading this post, has something in common with Gosnell’s victims, we all began the same way, we were all blastocysts, developing embryos and unborn babies too. We all went through those same stages of life, only we escaped the abortionist’s instruments because we were the lucky ones.

And like the media, and like those who knew but didn’t think to report, I sat on this story too, for my own selfish reasons, born out of fear. It once again proves Burke’s adage – all that requires for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.

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Back to pro-life matters and it’s been heartening to watch LIFE charity who have really raised their game on social media over the past year, in terms of putting out some really useful information, along with biting commentary out into the public domain. Their Twitter handle is @LifeCharity

LIFE were live-tweeting testimony from the Parliamentary Inquiry (led by the all-party Pro-life group)  into abortion and disability which examined the unjust discrimination that allows for disabled babies to be aborted right up until the moment of birth, whereas ‘healthy’ children are subject to a 24 week limit. A discrepancy with which the general public are becoming increasingly uncomfortable following the resounding success of London’s 2012 Paralympics, which did much to raise awareness that having a disability does not preclude one from living an active and fulfilling life, nor from achieving success in a chosen field.

All of our medal winning athletes would have been allowed to have been aborted up until the moment of birth according to current UK law.

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS made no attempt to hide her extremism, with the following statement, which is an absolute gift to the pro-life cause. Whatever else, one cannot fault Mrs Furedi’s honesty, these are the thoughts of one the UK’s most prolific and influential advocates for abortion:

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That’s right. If it’s unfair to kill disabled children up until birth, let’s kill ALL the children, instead of attempting to save the lives of those who can be killed right up until the moment that they are born. And they scoff at the moniker culture of death? Highly appropriate I’d say. Instead of choosing life for all, let’s choose equal rights to be unjustly killed, if at any stage your life becomes an inconvenience.

Here’s another good one.

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So when the expectant mother feels her baby kicking and hiccuping from around 5 months, it isn’t really alive, and neither is a baby alive when you can see him or her kicking, somersaulting, stretching, yawning, swallowing on your 12 week pregnancy scans. That’s not life, no it’s just human sentimentality telling us otherwise. When a woman suffers a tragic miscarriage, she has no need to mourn, or hold a funeral because her baby was never really alive? I wonder what this organisation, which exists to support and counsel parents who have lost a baby at any stage in life would make of that?

On the contentious issue of time limits:

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I can think of some pro-lifers who may sympathise with that. It’s logically coherent, either abortion is acceptable or it isn’t. If you can kill a baby, does it really matter at what stage?

I think the answer is yes, for two reasons. Firstly, we know that late-stage abortions are physically much more dangerous to the mother, which is why there is always such a rush to get women to abort at the earliest possible opportunity. Late-stage abortions are also a lot more emotionally harrowing for a woman, which any organisation that claims to care about their welfare should acknowledge.  Read some of the testimony on this womens’ forum, I linked to in a previous post. Also note, that since linking to it back in November, a pro-choicer has demanded that the moderators remove said thread, due to its age and it allegedly being ‘unhelpful’ towards women thinking of late-stage abortions. Unhelpful being a euphemism for deterrent.

It’s an astounding coming from someone whose organisation purports to care about women, that time-limits which are related to the health and well-being of the mother as well as the baby, are deemed unimportant. Autonomy or choice must come before personal safety and wellbeing.

The other reason why late stage abortions are important from a pro-life point of view is that the 24 week limit means that no attempt is made to help babies who made be born prematurely before this time, such as the case of baby Jayden, who was left to die for hours, as it was against the rules to help him. Ideology must not cause us to stick our heads in the sand over this issue.

But so what if time limits are a political preoccupation? Abortion has become political ever since pro-choicers decided to politicise it back in the sixties. In a democracy politics exist to reflect the will of the people, the majority of whom are extremely uncomfortable with the notion of late-stage abortion. Does Ann Furedi deem public opinion irrelevant in the face of her own personal ideology. It doesn’t matter whether or not stomachs are churned by the idea of fully developed healthy babies being killed subject to the whims of others? People are obviously very ignorant, what matters is that babies must be able to be killed right up until the moment of their birth, if that is what an individual wants, regardless of whether or not it is in step with the views of the general public, who don’t really matter anyway. The kind of atrocities such as those committed by Kermit Gosnell, are irrelevant?

If anyone was in any doubt about the ethic of autonomy being paramount regardless of consequences, here’s a chilling example:

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So it doesn’t matter if parents abort a much-wanted unborn baby because they have been poorly informed about their potential quality of life, or future prospects? It doesn’t matter if parents later find out something that had they known prior to the abortion, would have changed their mind and then have to live with the fact that they aborted an unborn baby on a false premise. The anger and sadness of grieving parents doesn’t matter, their right to be properly informed is of secondary import, what really matters is that they made a choice, even if it then turned out to be the wrong one and one that they would not repeat given similar circumstances. All that matters is that a decision is made?

Blowing all claims of impartiality and informing women of all their options out of the water, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Services, says this

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People were screaming blue murder at Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment which suggested that abortion clinics did not offer wholly impartial advice and offered to give pregnant women the choice of independent counselling in which all options and alternatives could be discussed. Whilst wary of adoption being offered as a panacea or first solution to a woman with a crisis pregnancy, it should at least be discussed and given equal weight as an option as abortion. It makes a complete mockery of BPAS’ name of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service – the type of advice on offer is one way.

People say pro-lifers are the extremists? Try telling that to those from 40 Days for Life in Brighton yesterday, who had a car drive past them sizing them up, and which then returned to pelt them with eggs. Or to those working at the Youth Defence office in Dublin who found the memory of Savita Halappanavar defiled when her photo was stuck to their office doors with human faeces.

Sometimes there is no need for pro-lifers to make an opposing argument. Give some people enough rope…

Save all the children

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A pro-life colleague in Ireland sent me the following link, which was posted on the website for the Association of Catholic Priests. She said that she would be interested in my comments from my perspective as a mother of four.

I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the logo on the sidebar, here is a website purporting to be representative of Catholic priests publishing a post which advocates abortion, in contravention of clear Catholic teaching on the matter. Further enquiries tell me that this group are the equivalent of Ireland’s Call to Action. They’ve gained a bit of credence for successfully defending Fr Kevin Reynolds against false and malicious accusations, but other than that their orthodoxy or formal representation of the Catholic Church can not be taken as read. That they choose to host a piece of pro-abortion propaganda (albeit couched in a thoughtful, hand-wringing and compassionate tone) is beyond contempt. The sooner this group is kicked into touch, the better.

Originally I intended to fisk the post, which covers familiar Irish pro-choice ground – misrepresenting the case of Savita Halappanavar,about which everyone should really keep quiet until the enquiry has reported its findings and stating that the life of the mother should take precedence over that of her unborn child, when in fact Irish law currently treats the two lives as of equal value. The law in Ireland is clear that no woman should be denied treatment that will save her life, even if the consequences of that treatment will result in the death of her unborn child. Since 1992, not one single Irish woman has come to the UK for an abortion under ground F (to save the life of the mother) of the 1967 Abortion Act.

The post includes a reflection on behalf of the writer as to how her two children were wanted and loved, how she cherished them in the womb, but what about those women for whom pregnancy is more difficult? Of course she side-steps the whole issue of personhood, but it was this passage that struck me and to which I want to offer a general response. I’m wary of giving too much of myself away, for obvious reasons, I hope this isn’t too difficult a read, I’ve prayed over whether to disclose this and my hope is that it will be an effective, if gritty, pro-life witness.

So, basically, I loved the nine months that my babies spent in my womb.
But this isn’t The Waltons! Pregnancy was a long and difficult time in ways – the nausea at the start, the feelings of being like a beached whale as time went on, the utter discomfort and aches and pains that even the most straight-forward of pregnancies brings along with it and ultimately the utter agony of childbirth itself, were all part of the package.

Oh yeah. I hear you sister. It does pregnant women no favours at all to pretend that pregnancy is all about the blossoming and glowing. For some women it can be like that, but it certainly isn’t for me. I’ve been pregnant and/or breastfeeding continually since February 2009. That’s 3 continuous years of fluctuating hormones and sleepless nights. I don’t fare at all well either physically or mentally in pregnancy. Fortunately, this last pregnancy was the only one in which I didn’t get hyperemesis, but not needing medication to stop the nausea, is not that much of a consolation, when you’re only being sick a few times a day and are absolutely exhausted, not only from the physical effects but also from the demands of three existing children, two of whom were two and under. The whole nine months was beset with crippling deja vu – I’d conceived child 3, when child 2 was 8 months, child 4, when child was 3 was 7 months, every symptom was met with familiar resignation – “oh, this. Again…”

Goodnight Vienna

Not again…

There is an assumption that pro-life Catholic women are full of the joys of spring, happy, expectant creatures, nurturing another precious child, doing the Lord’s work and offering up any suffering in silence for the souls in purgatory or whoever. If only. I was a misery. Sick, exhausted, scared, miserable and guilty that I wasn’t bearing it as a good holy pious Catholic woman should, and guilty that I wasn’t like the pregnant celebrities gushing forth their gorgeousness onto the pages of the Daily Mail. Guilty that my body seemed to be so rubbish at what should be a natural process and I couldn’t give birth naturally. Resentful too. I really did not want to be having another baby so soon after the last two, I had already had to defer my university place once, now I’d have to do it again. I had no idea as to how I was going to cope. Which leads on to:

But what of those who are not so blessed in the circumstances in which they become pregnant? What about the woman who is raped; the stressed out mother who’s already at her wit’s end looking after young children, who’s partner has left and who has no support system to fall back on? What about the victim of incest? What about the teenager who’s terrified about what’s happening to her body? And there are so many more “What abouts”!

Is it truly right and morally justified to demand that such women carry a burden (literally!) that they find unbearable? If every moment of every day is spent in horror and anguish that the ‘growth’ inside them is something they cannot bear and that will have consequences for the rest of their lives, have I the right to say “You must do so”? And who knows what effect the feelings of such a woman might have on her unborn? If feelings transmit themselves into the womb (and I felt MY feelings of love did transmit themselves to my as yet unborn babies), then what kind of a start is it to come into the world unwanted, unloved and a cause of anguish?

OK, I’m not comparing myself to a victim of rape of incest, but I think it’s fair to say that I fall into the stressed out mother already at her wit’s end looking after young children. The pregnancy was a source of anguish. My husband hadn’t left, but he was working really long hours, including weekends on call and I had no support system at all, both sets of parents living at least two and half hours away. We were in a tiny 2-bed bungalow, with no garden suitable for the children and when recently two bloggers came down for Theodora’s Baptism, they really appreciated first-hand what I’d been on about, in terms of not only the size of the house, but its location. I was completely isolated, living at the top of a steep hill, with the nearest bus stop fifteen minutes walk away, which was a real problem, when trying to negotiate a double buggy with baby and toddler whilst pregnant. It sounds trivial, but I was very isolated, trapped in a tiny house, no bigger than a flat and no friends or support network nearby. Added to which, there was the whole ghastly business of the onslaught of a relentless bullying campaign, by a few very noisy detractors, hurling wild unfounded allegations, and, I later learnt, ringing up and emailing other people with demands that I was isolated, shut down, forced to withdraw from the internet and “flushed out of the pro-life movement”.

I don’t want to re-hash in great detail but I came dangerously close to a nervous breakdown. I always suffer from a touch of ante-natal depression in pregnancies, but this was really severe. Getting through the day became a major achievement. I couldn’t actually bear to think about the baby, or what life would be like with 3 under 3, it was all just too frightening. Added to which was the terror that constitutes a cesarian section looming large on the horizon.

In short this last pregnancy was a perfect storm of fear, anxiety, dread and illness. Which is why, I think, I innately ‘get it’ about crisis pregnancies and why I feel so strongly about the outreach work that is performed outside the clinics. On those occasions where I have participated in vigils, I’ve recognised the pallor, the drawn expression, the dark rings under the eyes and I’ve wanted to have the courage to go up to women and say ‘look, I’ve been there, I know it feels like there is no hope, but trust me, there really is, there will be a solution and there will be a way forward.’ Recognising that pregnancy is far from easy, that a situation seems hopeless, is the first step to finding a solution. Pretending that pregnancy is a carpet of roses sets up unrealistic expectations.

For those who think this is mere hyperbole, or exaggeration, or that my circumstances or situation could not in any way be compared to someone in a crisis pregnancy, I will be even more explicit, if a little guarded. I’ve mentioned I had ante-natal depression. Because of the bullying, I was too scared to seek help. I’d received an email from another blogger, stating that because he felt that my pro-life writing was of such good quality, (I wish) he was concerned that there were people out to get me, who would use any excuse and who could not only use my mental health to discredit me, but, more seriously, have the children or baby removed, and implored me not to talk about it. After all, we’ve seen various cases in the press of late, where membership of UKIP has entailed foster children being removed and we all know that as a faithful Catholic I am a ‘homophobe’ who will undoubtedly instil hate into her children whilst simultaneously religiously indoctrinating them.

I was mentally really struggling to stay on an even keel and thank God for my husband, who also had a hard time of it, helping me to stay centred, keep up my prayer life and keep receiving the sacraments. Part of the bullying had included several really unpleasant slurs calling my ability as a mother into doubt – cleverly crafted insults, designed to hit my pressure points and they succeeded. I began to wonder whether these complete strangers who had never even met my children, might be right. If, after all enough people start to call you despicable names and use the same repeated insults, then you begin to wonder whether its true and certainly that was the case for me. I fell into the sin of despair. Was I good enough for my children, didn’t they deserve better than a permanently pregnant, miserable and tired mother?

At one very low point, I seriously considered and made tentative enquiries into having the baby adopted, or placed with Catholic foster parents, because I genuinely believed that I was in no situation to be able to look after her, physically, logistically or practically and I thought that she would be better off with a good Catholic couple, perhaps one who’d never had children of their own? Fortunately those with whom I discussed it, including a pro-life organisation told me not to be so ridiculous, although they were kind enough to offer me a short-term au-pair, saying that their mission was to help anyone who was suffering through the sacrifice of bringing a child into the world.

Far too much personal information, probably more than I should have shared, but I wanted to convey that yes, I know exactly what it is like to be pregnant and to think that you don’t want the baby. I heard the phrase that an unplanned baby is not the same thing as an unwanted child and despaired, because, and yes, I know this is a terrible thing to say, I did not want the baby. I was too caught up in my own feelings, too caught up in looking after two very young children, and an older one, too caught up in trying to support my husband, too caught up in the chaos and maelstrom of hormones, illness, despair and anxiety to actually bond with the baby and that bothered me. I was scared that I wouldn’t love her, we wouldn’t bond, that I’d get post-natal depression and that life would be too difficult. I also blamed myself for contracting pre-eclampsia.

Intellectually, I knew that I probably would love the baby and bond with her as I had all the others, any depression I’d had in previous pregnancies had lifted, but there was still that nagging doubt.

Had I gone to Marie Stopes or BPAS, they would have undoubtedly confirmed all my negativity and I could well have been persuaded that aborting my unborn child was justified. When you are in the depths of despair, it’s difficult to see a ray of hope and all I could see and feel was darkness and negativity and you talk yourself into a worse and worse place. Without the consolation of faith, I would have been finished.

Things are so much better now. As predicted, as soon as Theodora was taken from me and placed into my arms, immediately the veiled lifted, which had begun with a pilgrimage to Lourdes a few weeks previously and then with the breast-feeding and taking care of her, the bond deepened and developed and now when I look at her, I am horrified that I was self-indulgent enough to think about giving her away. I’m also not too concerned about her knowing that she was unplanned because she was always loved, even if at the time I felt rather numb and she knows, as do all my children, without a shadow of a doubt that they are adored and loved. We also moved house and things which had been so far up in the air, all moved into place. It really was Providence.

So, why the long and painful testimony? Because I know, that no matter how bad things may seem, even to a rational outsider my situation wasn’t great, that sometimes, sticking to those first principles, that to kill an unborn child is wrong, is sometimes all you need to see you through.

I guess you could say that I’m a strong and resourceful person. I really am not, but effectively I had little other choice than to endure a demanding unwanted pregnancy and give birth to a child, whom I thought due to depression and all sorts of other factors, that I did not want. I had no other option, my deep-seated and unshifting faith told me that to kill my child would be an act of unspeakable evil. That didn’t make life any easier, but it saw me through. The baby was unwanted and a source of anguish, but she was never unloved. It is not abnormal not to feel overcome by feelings of love and tenderness when pregnant and women should not take the absence of the rush of maternal love in pregnancy as being proof of anything. It certainly doesn’t follow that the child will be unloved or will suffer. The mothers who genuinely wish they’d never had their children are exceptionally few and far between – I’ve never encountered one. This idea that the baby picks up love or lack thereof from within the womb, is specious. The baby knows its mother intimately before it is born, the baby loves their mother, but the only sense it will have that its mother doesn’t want it, is when it starts to flinch away from the cold hard steel of the abortionist’s instruments heading straight towards it.

When you see the women who appear to be in terrible situations, the ethical principle, the fact of the existence of their unborn child, can be all they need and acts as the small glimmer of light or ray of hope. And this is why, all women should worry about cases such as this one, where a decision as to whether or not a woman with a mental disability was allowed to have her baby, or whether she would be forcibly sedated as it was aborted.

Different day, different judge, different decision. When I was in the throes of depression and when I had “high risk” scrawled all over my notes, could that have been me, not deemed fit to have made a decision about the life of my own baby?

Which is why sometimes, all the compassion, all the empathy in the world, such as that expressed by the pro-choicer above must not trump the basic morality, that an unborn baby has as much right to life as its mother. And that no matter how hard the circumstances may appear, a new baby will always be a blessing. To those genuine pro-choicers for whom this is not about ‘reproductive rights’ but about caring for the mother, I would urge that compassion to be put to more productive use in terms of helping pregnant women.

St Maximilian Kolbe said “only love is creative”. Abortion is destructive and not love.

Sticking to first principles, that the deliberate taking of innocent life is wrong, is a decision of love. And love is never easy. Which is why we are commanded to do it.

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Last year, I wrote extensively, both on this blog and in two pieces for the Catholic Herald, that the tide was turning for the pro-life movement.

This very point has been proven by the latest cover of Time magazine, which admits that since the phyrric victory of what was Roe v Wade, the pro-choice side has been fighting a losing battle, with Emily Buchanan writing what I have been saying time and time again – pro-life and feminism are not mutually exclusive.

Of course what happens over there, happens over here, which is why pro-choice advocates have been speaking about the parallels with the American pro-life movement in cowed tones – of course they do not want the success of the pro-life movement being replicated in the UK.

I think one of the refreshing things is the breed of new activists that we are seeing in the UK. Whereas as recently as five years ago, pro-life advocates were seen as retired men and women in their late 60s and early 70s (not that age or gender should preclude anyone from standing up for the rights of the vulnerable), more often than not, the person that you will see praying outside the clinic will be in their early twenties or thirties, in line with a younger, fresher breed of advocates that we are seeing in the UK.

As I said, age or gender should not be an important factor but in terms of the personal outreach, women, particularly those who have experienced an unplanned pregnancy of their own, life as a single mother and especially those who have experienced the loss of abortion, are often better placed to counsel those in difficult circumstances. Empathy is often sneered at, but you need to have a heart for pro-life work, it is not simply an intellectual or ideological exercise.

But in an age where image seems to be everything, the fact that we have young, fresh faces campaigning for the unborn should fill us all with renewed hope. We have a new generation with the blessings and energy of youth, able to use imaginatively the new technology and all the tools at their disposal to spread the pro-life message and also to pass it on to future generations. That these people look great is even better. It’s why they manage to inspire such anger – whilst the general public tend to dismiss those who are clearly of another generation or culture, such as the retired stalwarts or those in clerical or monastic attire who attend vigils, it’s much harder to dismiss those who seem like ‘normal’ people on the outside.

It’s very hard to call someone out as a ‘weirdo’ when their appearance contains reflections of your own normality or aspirations and that’s why it inspires such anger. Young pro-lifers threaten and challenges existing preconceptions whilst foreshadowing the future. There is a definite trend or sea-change in the air, which is why the feminist lobby will cling on to their tired and anatomically and idiomatically incorrect old slogans involving wombs, rosaries and religious paraphernalia.

That’s not a clarion-call for young good-looking bods in the movement which should have room for all, but simply an observation. Even more challenging is the attractive young pro-lifer using the rosary for its intended purpose. Whoah, what’s that all about?!! Which is one of the many fruits of the 40 Days for Life campaign, uniting all those with common purpose in prayer.

 The Alliance of Prolife Students is launched next week. Let’s equip people to be proud advocates of the unborn, let’s get this topic out in the open, it’s time to re-gain some ground from those who would wish to make the subject of abortion a taboo, closed issue, all about personal choice and not up for discussion. Whilst experience is invaluable in terms of outreach, youth should not be an impediment for bearing witness to the truth – abortion is the wilful destruction of life and the greatest injustice in today’s society, with 200,000 lives lost a year. And where better to start spreading the word, than in places of academia, where a free and frank exchange of ideas and discussion should be welcomed and encouraged. Let’s get people talking about this in bars, coffee shops, libraries, student halls of residence and later on around water coolers and in places of work. Let’s dispel the fear and stigma of being thought ‘judgemental’ for expressing the basic right to life of all human beings.

The future is young, bright and it’s orthodox. No wonder pro-choicers are on the run. Let’s give them a real run for their money in 2013.

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As many pro-life campaigners have noted, the wonderful news that their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby, has proven yet another significant marker in the consciousness of the general public, of the humanity of the unborn child.

Nowhere in the press coverage is the baby referred to as foetus (derived from the Latin word fetus, meaning offspring, bearing forth or hatching of young) or as a bunch of pluripotent cells, instead there is much speculation as to the physical characteristics of the baby and his or her future. Despite being an estimated 8 weeks old, there is no doubt in the minds of the media and public, that this is a ‘royal baby’.

What is intriguing is that the couple have decided to bring the announcement forward, prompted by the Duchess’s unfortunate severe morning sickness for which she has my sympathies, it is an extremely debilitating condition. Given the climate surrounding the press following publication of the Leveson Report last week, actually there was no need for the couple to make this announcement quite so early. Though there would have been much speculation had the news leaked that Kate was in hospital and of course it was a matter of public interest, there was no necessity for a pregnancy announcement. The Royal couple enjoy much public support, a fact underlined by the universal sympathy for the Duchess after she was snapped topless in the privacy of an enclosed holiday home, by an unscrupulous paparazzi member.

If news of her hospitalisation leaked, a vaguely worded statement could have been released, reassuring the public that the Duchess was fine and that this was a private matter. Though this would not have stopped the inevitable speculation, the press could well have been briefed to afford the Duchess some privacy and breathing space during this difficult and delicate time, with promises of a formal press call later. No editor worth their salt would want to run the risk of incurring public censure by being intrusive and had the royal couple wanted to keep this quiet for a few weeks longer, my bet is the press would, in the current post-Levenson climate, have laid off.

So why didn’t William and Catherine stay quiet? Most couples do tend to keep the news to themselves up until the period which carries the highest risk of miscarriage has passed and the scan has confirmed that the baby is free of any congenital or chromasomal abnormalities. That they have gone public so soon, is indicative of their pro-life attitude. Whatever happens and God Willing everything is fine, the announcement signals a commitment to the baby, whatever the future may hold.

The only reason for announcing before the 12 week mark is to signal your commitment and joy. It’s one of the reasons that I have no qualms in informing people I’m pregnant as soon as I know, not only so they can be considerate, but because I know that scan results are irrelevant as to the question of whether or not I am having a baby. My hope is that this will set a trend; to announce a pregnancy early goes against society’s current tendency to ignore or deny that one is carrying a live human being until such time as it is decided that it is wanted – usually after confirmation that it is healthy.

There is one elephant in the room nonetheless. The royal baby is being referred to as such, because he or she is wanted. Those who would defend the use of nondescript clinical euphemisms such as “products of conception” would state that what makes the royal baby worthy of being described in human terms is that s/he is wanted and planned for. Whilst no republican, this inequality is at the root of both Christian and pro-life concern. It is very clear that William and Catherine will be wonderful parents and both William and Harry have their mother’s attributes in terms of an affinity with the sick, disabled and outcast. The royal couple have both the disposition and resources to cope, should the baby experience any health difficulties. A measure of how pro-life the country is as a whole, is how we would react to the news that the couple had aborted their baby if he or she were revealed to have Downs Syndrome. More than 90% of babies with the condition are aborted, so why would it be so abhorrent if the royals were to follow suit? What if the Duchess changed her mind about the pregnancy for any other reason. Would she be admonished or decimated by the media? If so, why? Isn’t it supposed to be all about choice?

The answer is, as always, money and resources. These are the key factors that make the difference between a baby being wanted or unwanted and thus human or sub-human, worthy or unworthy. This is the heart of pro-life sentiment, that all human life is of equal worth and dignity, regardless of where it is in its journey; whether it has one day to go before it emerges from the womb, or whether it only has a few hours left. Everyone deserves the same respect and right to life, regardless of disabilities or family circumstances. Cristina Odone said yesterday that Catherine’s pregnancy will be a great equaliser. Let’s hope that this is prescient, that the public come to realise that all unborn babies are human and worthy of life regardless of whether one’s blood is blue.

Is an acknowledgement that the royal couple’s 8 week old baby is human only by virtue of his or her birth circumstances really the position of an enlightened twenty-first society? Nothing could be more illustrative of how abortion really is a the scourge of the poor or dispossessed.

Congratulations to Catherine and William nonetheless. I hope she recovers and enjoys good health and is afforded a degree of privacy and respect during the rest of her pregnancy. How marvellous if they could take this opportunity to help and highlight the causes of all the women and babies who are not as human as theirs.

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