And some nice news

I am going to write about what it really means to be pro-life at a later date, but this pregnancy is forcing me to put my money where my mouth is, in more ways that one.

When the word “crisis” pregnancy is bandied about, single women, often in straitened circumstances comes to mind. Actually a “crisis” pregnancy is one that is unplanned and is very difficult for the mother to accept, for a multitude of reasons.

One of the things that has been causing me a lot of anxiety is the thought of yet another cesarian section, my third in three years. My last two children were born by cesarian section and I have to admit that my personal experience is not a positive one. I shall spare the gory details, but in the interests of fairness and for any expectant women reading, it’s fair to note, that many many women testify to their cesarian as being a “blissful” experience, which, if it is planned, is certainly possible. Mine just haven’t worked out that way.

I thought that after 2 cesarian births I would not be allowed to attempt a natural birth, however this has been agreed in principle today. Though I can’t quite have the experience that I wanted, I can at least attempt to do what nature intends, on the proviso that I am strictly monitored at all times. This is a huge weight off my mind, the thought of yet another cesarian looming into view had been the source of repeated panic attacks.

Some prayers have been answered at least. This is what being pro-life means, having compassion for the stressed-out mother, understanding that for many childbirth presents a psychological barrier and that the heady cocktail of pregnancy hormones combined with pre-existing worries make her especially vulnerable and not dismissing her fears as histrionics or irrational.

This is why more midwives are needed in the UK – to help and support women to make the choices about childbirth that are right for them.

List of bloggers in solidarity with Cranmer

Stuart James of EChurchblog has listed all those bloggers who have posted a copy of the coalition for marriage advertisement in solidarity with Archbishop Cranmer.

I have asked him to include my name on the list and posted a comment asking if he would include me but still no response. Hence, here’s the updated list, together with erm – me!

Sorry to be provocative, it’s not my intention, but I find this kind of behaviour from a fellow Christian blogger, not only baffling but deeply distressing. Obviously he doesn’t want me in “his gang”. It seems really petty, but I’m pretty much at the end of my tether to be honest. This is one of the reasons that I am considering closing the blog, because the only way I can process some of the hurt is to write about it, but doing so is perceived as unhelpful. From my perspective, this is really the straw that has broken the camel’s back. Being excluded as some kind of ‘undesirable’ for something that I haven’t done following a public whispering and hate campaign, on top of a stressful pregnancy.

Still, I can be consoled that Christ wants me in His Church, as flawed and imperfect as I undoubtedly am.

I hoped that Christians could move beyond the schoolyard politics. Clearly some of us have some way to go.

Lisa GraasBenProdicusTangled WebTim WorstallBoiling FrogVicRogerThe Bones,LMSPart Time PilgrimAdmiral CreedyNeil AddisonOpinionated CatholicJohnCreative Minority ReportRichardNicRuariDavidCalvinMax FarquarStand FirmNickHarry’s PlaceLazarusJamesChrisMulier FortisMelon FarmersDefend Marriage Scotland,Anglican MainstreamDavidSteve KnealeWoman on a RaftFr FiniganNSSMundabor,Maria Stops AbortionEcumenical DialogueBritNorAmFreedomNew Zealand Conservative,Quid DeindeEd West (Telegraph), Peter Ould, Dr Jim West, GillanJohn and of course Me.

Update: Patricius, Annie Elizabeth (Defende nos in proelio) and CrookedasCorkscrews have also joined the ranks.

Let me know of anyone else. I believe Heresy Corner has commented and Jack of Kent plans to do so also.

Pax vobiscum.

The Moaning After

There may be a flurry of posts over the next few days/weeks. I am still pondering what to do about this blog, but in the meantime will continue to comment as/when I see fit, until I’ve come to a firm decision. Warning, the following contains bucket-loads of snark.

This blogpost from young women complaining about their experiences of obtaining the morning-after-pill (MAP) or to use the less emotionally laden term “emergency contraception caught my eye earlier today (h/t @RiverFlows77), which bears dissemination.

Like much clinical phraseology,  ’emergency contraception’ is in itself an ingenious piece of newspeak, cleverly masking with semantics, not only the effect of the pill, namely very early abortion, but also the circumstances in which it be might be employed. Contraception is a way of preventing conception, in many instances, conception, the fusion of the sperm with the egg, will have already taken place and thus the morning-after pill will prevent this already fertilised and dividing zygote or if 5 days have elapsed, blastocyst, from implanting into the womb lining. The newer version of the morning-after pill introduced in 2010 can now be taken up to 5 days after intercourse, so it is not distortion or misleading to discuss the morning-after pill as being a form of early abortion. Undeterred the pharma companies have engaged in a clever piece of casuistry, declaring that abortion constitutes termination of pregnancy and that pregnancy does not begin until the fertilised egg is implanted in the womb lining.

Anyone who has ever been pregnant will testify to the specious nature of this reasoning. Pregnancy starts on day 1 of the cycle in which she conceives. This is why a pregnancy is dated from the first day of the last period. Conception, implantation and the maturing of the fetus are all part of the pregnancy process. Medically speaking, a pregnancy does not start at conception. Thus one’s pregnancy is always two weeks beyond the age of the fetus. A woman who is, for example, 8 weeks pregnant, will have conceived 6 weeks previously. So whilst the pregnancy is 8 weeks old, the age of the fetus is only 6 weeks.  Even if one wishes to reject the medical definition of a pregnancy, conception is the process of the sperm meeting the egg. Therefore the idea that the morning-after pill is always contraception (preventing or against conception) is clearly flawed.

But back to the complaints of the women seeking to obtain the morning-after pill, some Fisking seems in order.

Woman Number 1

So I went in and asked and the woman pharmacist told me that due to her religious beliefs she was unable to serve me the morning after pill. Not only did the way she said it make me feel like a complete slut, Sorry is this a parody? Since when did “I’m sorry but due to my religious beliefs I’m unable to serve you that product” equate to “begone you sinning dog of a whore, you shameless slut”??!! Not wishing to be complicit in the procuring of an abortion makes no comment upon the sexual morals of another person, nor does it imply any such sentiment. It is simply one person acting in accordance with their conscience, in this case dictated by religious beliefs, but as I have said on countless occasions, a sense that abortion is wrong does not require recourse to theism. This is the crux of the matter – there is no right not to be offended by the beliefs of others. The lady wanting to obtain the morning after pill wished to prevent the pharmacist from exercising her freedom of religion, because it made her feel uncomfortable. This is bigotry in action. 

it also meant that I came very close to not being able to get hold of any- which obviously could have lead to like, much bigger issues, especially as personally I don’t think I’d ever get an abortion. To point out the obvious, if you don’t think you’d ever get an abortion, perhaps you might want to think a bit harder about the effects of the morning-after pill. The Pharmacy is not the only place that one can get hold of the morning-after pill, GP clinics operate out of hours services and will dispense the morning-after pill, as will hospital A&E departments. The issue here is that Boots did not have another pharmacist available  to dispense the pill, hence the lady had to go elsewhere. Her complaint was that someone’s religious beliefs meant that she, as a consumer, was inconvenienced. If she desperately needed the pill, then there would have been another Pharmacy and/or medical clinics able to provide this for her. Her issue here should be with Boots, not a person’s rights of religious expression.

I completely respect everyone’s right to their own beliefs and opinions and while I would never judge anybody for their decisions I don’t think it’s right i get judged for mine- especially for people who are acting in a professional capacity. Good. That’s nice. Who said you were judged? That’s your own insecurity coming out there. I could never be involved in procuring an abortion for anybody, but that does not mean that I judge those who have them. I recognise that women often feel compelled and have no other choice; not sanctioning a choice is not the same thing as judging the morality of another, or stating that person is innately bad or flawed. This is all about how you feel. How do you think the person feels who would be forced to do something that is in their eyes deeply immoral, just so you don’t have a few minutes of feeling a bit embarrassed? Sorry, I’m not able to serve you that due to my religious beliefs, is neither a judgement upon morality, nor unprofessional. Did she give you a lecture on sexual morality? Or simply state the facts?

It was a bloody pharmacy and though she is perfectly entitled to her own beliefs i really don’t think its fair she be working there if those beliefs interfere with her ability to do her job. There should at least be another pharmacist on duty when she is who is able to dispense emergency contraception.  Her job is to dispense medicines in order to cure and prevent symptoms of disease and ensure that the medication is suitable for the patient. It is not her job to dispense medication that might cause an early abortion and the ending of a human life – she is protected under conscience rights. Your beef should be with the Pharmacy, not with someone exercising their freedom of religion.

I’m a vegetarian but if I got a job at Tesco I wouldn’t refuse to serve anybody buying meat. I don’t like the idea of forcing people to act against their own principles however STRAW MAN KLAXON. Firstly the right of people to eat meat is not generally held as being a contentious issue in society. Whether or not people should abort their unborn children is hotly contested and is still a relatively new development in society. Whilst women since the dawn of time have attempted to kill their unborn children, for centuries society, shaped by Judeo-Christian tradition, have explicitly rejected this as being desirable and have outlawed the practice. 

If you felt that strongly that eating meat was wrong, your principles would prevent you from being involved in anything that encouraged or condoned the practice. Furthermore selling meat is an altogether different concept. The animal is already dead and is being passed onto the consumer in processed form. How would you feel about working in an abattoir or selling equipment or supplies to the meat-industry? In the case of the morning-after pill, a Pharmacist is actively involved in a process that could result in an early abortion and could be held partly responsible. 

so if there are doctors who really don’t feel they can perform abortions, or pharmacists who don’t feel they can dispense the morning after pill, as long as their personal belief doesn’t inhibit my ability to get that service, I don’t think it’s a problem. so basically as long as there is always somebody else available at that time who can and will do it for me with the same competency and immediacy. I totally respect their opinions but i expect them to respect, if disagree with, mine.”  It’s all about ME ME ME. You can do whatever you like unless and until it inconveniences ME, then it’s how very dare you, because I am more important than you and respecting my opinion is doing what I demand you to. Not dispensing the morning-after pill is not disrespecting your opinion, it is an exercise of conscience rights – to disrespect your opinion would be to erm, fisk your self-centred moaning. Actually, I don’t disrespect your opinion, or your right to express it, I do however take objection when you wish to impose your right not to be inconvenienced upon someone else’s deeply held conscience rights. The Pharmacist did not disrespect you – she disagreed with you. What’s the problem? Don’t impose illiberal restrictions on others for your own convenience. That way lies a dangerous path. 

Woman Number 2

Before I discuss my personal experiences with contraception, I want to draw attention to the growing ‘hate’ against birth control, especially in America and increasingly here in the UK. Yay! Obligatory comparison with America, put the frighteners on everyone, the first rule of any discussion pertaining to “reproductive rights” in the UK. BINGO!!!

In North Carolina a few weeks ago, New Hanover County Chairman Ted Davis spoke in rejection of a state grant to cover the costs of family-planning for those earning low wages. Ted Davis is quoted in the Wilmington Star-News as saying, “If [they were] responsible and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t have this problem”. Because having sex without contraception when you can’t afford a child or afford/don’t-want-to-have an abortion is responsible, right?

Having sex when you can’t afford a child or afford/don’t want to have an abortion is, if not irresponsible, rather naive, even if one is using contraception. I hate to break it  you lovely, but *whispers* CONTRACEPTION CAN & DOES FAIL!!! I know this may come as something as a shock, but no method of contraception is 100% effective. There is one sure-fire way not get pregnant and that’s not to have sex. Now, I’m not going to get into the specifics about the political issue here, not least because I know nothing about this specific state grant, but it seems that Mr Davis has a point. I can also see why, folk such as Calah Alexander in America, might be annoyed that her son doesn’t qualify for free life-saving treatment and yet taxes are spent on birth-control.

 Planning to be sexually active (woo-hoo!), and not wanting immediate children, I went to the nearest doctor’s surgery and asked about contraception. Cor, aren’t you grown up? You enjoy sex and want to tell everyone that you’re having it? Round of applause. How very empowered. How novel, a woman having sex and liking it. Wonders will never cease.

Hmm…they kept asking me if I was in a relationship. I was, but it really shouldn’t have mattered, seeing as they’d already cleared up the ‘Do-you-have-an-STD’ matter, cue scary nurse voice. Actually they were doing their job in terms of attempting to help you look after your sexual health. If you were not in a relationship and planning to have casual sex, then it is their duty to advise you of the best way of protecting yourself from disease. Asking if you have an STD, is a professional responsibility. Scary nurse voice is not as scary as untreated chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes or Gonorrhea. Grown up enough to want to have regular sex and yet avoid the possibility of children, but intimidated by the mention of potential consequences of unprotected sex. Hmmm. I see…

Meh, decided not to press that point – really excited to be getting contraception.  You really should get out more.

After more than a year of using the injection and then The Pill (cue capital letters for awesomeness) I took the advice of various nurses/doctors and took a short break from hormone contraception. Bless. The Pill. Awesome. So awesome that the medical profession decided that a prolonged dose of artificial hormones were not good for her long-term health. 

This is where the story gets a little scary kids! One time the condom broke – Yep. It happens. Oh wait. Hang on. Aren’t condoms supposed to prevent AIDS? Gosh isn’t the Catholic Church iniquitous in its teaching that they aren’t 100% failsafe…?

Cue the tale about her going to get emergency contraception. I say tale, I mean something of an Odyssey. Cue lots of swearing.

 Feeling (a lot) braver than I thought, I went straight up to the till, and I asked for what I wanted. The person at the counter freezes at my face (I did look young, but was at University age) and says in a cold voice that they ‘will need to talk to me in private’. Hmm, ominous. But, I think, they are just being professional. In my mind I am telling myself that I know they cannot sell/give the emergency contraception without assuring themselves that I am not pregnant, or underage. Cold voice? Gracious, I thought I was the Queen of Melodrama!!! Ominious? Or as you observe, simply doing their job? The morning-after pill is multiple the strength of a normal daily birth control pill. In studies, approximately 1 out of 4 women experience menstrual bleeding and nausea, approximately 1 out of 5 women experience abdominal pain, fatigue and headache. Other side effects include changes in menstrual cycle, breast tenderness, dizziness, vomiting and you may be at an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. 

If you have the following conditions: past heart attack or stroke, blood clots in the legs or lungs, breast cancer, liver cancer, epilepsy, cardiovascular or kidney disease, migraines ,diabetes or hypertension, then the morning-after pill is not suitable for you. Given all of that, of course the pharmacist has to do their job in ensuring that the patient is able to safely take the pill as well as warn them of the potential side effects and check that they are not already pregnant. If a woman presenting does look young, then of course their age should be checked and relevant precautions taken, such as advising them to speak with their parents, and/or a responsible adult as well as future advice regarding contraception etc. Not least a pharmacist needs to ensure that if the woman is under-age that she is not in an abusive situation. In the same way that retailers now ask routinely for proof of age for anyone buying alcohol who looks under the age of 25, this is only the Pharmacist doing her job. FOR YOUR PROTECTION. 

Maybe the person at the counter did not approve of contraception, maybe they thought I was someone who had not used any contraception. Maybe they were just doing their job?

I will never know. I will, however, always remember the cold and disbelieving look upon their face as they asked me whether I had ever used emergency contraception and my age. Drama-rama!! Cold, disbelieving look. Pur-lease. Aspiring Independent columnist perhaps?

It was only when I asked with bright eyes, (having visions of Watership Down here) flushed face and controlled-annoyed voice whether they would need to see my licence ID in proof that they with shame? embarrassment? abruptly ended the interview and gave me what I wanted. I can’t even remember if I paid for it or not, I wanted to leave that shop as fast as I could.Why did I not complain? Because I was relieved to receive the emergency birth-control. Because it was an uncomfortable encounter.

Here’s the nub. Women want to have their cake and eat it too. The freedom to have sex with whomever you want, whenever you want and not get pregnant, aside from being physically non-existent, carries with it certain responsibilities. The morning-after pill is supposed to be for total emergencies, it is a high-dose of artificial hormones which can in some women cause nasty side effects, not to mention an early abortion. If you are using the morning-after pill, it is an indication that something has gone wrong. Those dispensing it have a duty to look after your health. They also have a right to refuse to dispense if they do not feel it is appropriate, as well as a right to exercise their conscience, whether that’s based on religious beliefs or lack thereof.

Being an adult means that one has to accept that not every person in the world is going to condone or agree with your beliefs. Granted they should not abuse you on the basis of them, but tolerance should not have to entail being forced to commit an act that one believes to be intrinsically wrong.

The women relating their experiences, may well have been responsible women in steady or committed relationships, no-one is judging their sexual morality, but looking after their health. It’s funny. Women are prepared to get down, get naked and exchange bodily fluids with a man with whom they are not prepared to have a baby, yet all of a sudden go all coy when someone entrusted with dispensing health care, asks them generic, non-intimate pertinent questions to ensure that they get the best possible treatment.

Time for some feminists to grow up.

A revolutionary act

By now many bloggers will have followed the example of Dr Joseph Shaw and added the Coalition for Marriage advertisement by way of expressing support for Archbishop Cranmer, who despite being a long-dead heretic, remains, in my humble opinion, the best religio-politico blogger on the net. It is a shame that His Grace is long since deceased, in his current incarnation he stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field of potential candidates for the see of Canterbury.

Neil Addison has the URL of the banner on his site, for anyone experiencing difficulties in uploading the advertisement to their sidebar. Every single proponent of free speech must stand up and prepare to be counted against this moral tyranny.

I cannot say anything that has not already been eloquently articulated elsewhere, suffice to say Orwell would be spinning. That’s if he’s not already in terms of the execrable, mediocre sub-GCSE level ranting that is spewed out by bullies, bigots and plagiarists that passes as political writing these days and awarded recognition by the liberal ‘elite’ in his name.

Mind you since Orwell’s openly expressed aversion to religion, that can come as no surprise. It is a tragedy that as Christians we seem to have failed to demonstrate how correctly understood, taught and lived-out Christian morality can be applied to the greatest social issues of our age. It is, without a doubt, the best counter-weapon to the scourge of the Big Brother mentality, ever devised.

Marriage is the union of one man and one woman for the purposes of procreation.

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

Parting of friends?

A few years ago, before Robin and I got married, someone said to me, “you know what I can’t believe that you are a Catholic, you’re attractive, have loads of fun and seem so normal”! When we were dating I incurred plenty of incredulous looks when explaining what it was that my boyfriend did, not to mention salacious comments. I remember talking this over with a Catholic priest at the time, who said to me that it was precisely for those reasons, he thought, rather flatteringly, that I was a “great ambassador for Catholicism”.

This is why I have always been very open about my identity and probably at times, too open about some of the issues that I/we have faced. I didn’t begin to blog in order to present myself as a pious example of sanctity, but to share some of my insights and struggles in trying to live my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother. My aim was not to present myself as an object of admiration, quite the opposite, to demonstrate that like every other human being, I am fallible, I am fallen, but nonetheless trying my best. I hoped that by sharing some of my journey and insights, some of my joys and sorrows, I could thereby inspire others which is why I shared my identity.

One upside of being very open about my identity is that it forced me to be fairly circumspect and also ensure that I exercised the requisite charity in my dealings with others. The flip side to this, is that it has left me very open to attack from all quarters. What has become very obvious is that actually I don’t have the constitution to cope with with non-stop personal abuse. Over the past few years, there is not one single element of my life that has not been picked over in meticulous detail, no element has been spared, my family and children have been thought fair game and even the colour of my shoes worn on a recent TV appearance were used as ammunition.

It is a pretty open secret that I have been the subject of a despicable whispering and hate campaign, in which everyone with whom I have had any sort of relationship has been contacted with increasingly outrageous allegations. It is claimed that I am operating several twitter accounts under various pseudonyms and any time any anonymous unpleasant remarks appear on any blogs of those with whom I have disagreements, these are definitely my doing. It seems that every day a fresh allegation is thrown my way, all of them increasingly wild and tenuous. The latest I heard was that someone had traced an IP address to a road a few miles away from where I live, had a look on Google street view, saw a nursery and decided that was my modus operandi. I specifically go to a nursery a few miles away from where I live in order to secretly troll and abuse other people. As someone received a blog comment 4 years ago from this very same IP, it therefore *must* be me.  I should not really have to de-bunk this spurious nonsense, but it is just one of the extraordinary pieces of “evidence” doing the rounds.  For starters, none of my children have ever attended this nursery,  I wasn’t living in this area 4 years ago, nurseries don’t allow mobile phones, tablets or computers, nor do they to the best of my knowledge have WiFi, dropping children off at a nursery does not allow free time or hands for any other activity, and erm, I actually have a lot better things to be doing with my time. The internet, and/or those with whom I have ideological disagreements are not so important as to lead me to Inspector Clouseau type exploits. Besides which it’s just not really my thing. I am capable of being intemperate and ill-considered enough under my own name when so provoked.

I’m not naming names, everyone knows who the main protagonists in this sorry affair are. I’m not going to offer any comment other than my sorrow that seemingly fellow Catholics, could be driven to such lengths that are wholly contrary to natural justice. I have been contacted by a huge spectrum of people expressing support and sympathy who have attested to attempts having been made to co-opt them into this campaign. People have told me that they have been forbidden to talk to me publically, one person upon enquiring what it is that I am supposed to have done was told “it would blow your mind, she is pure evil. Trust me”.  Someone was told not to worry about the health of my unborn child because “she’s past the 12 week stage and won’t miscarry”.

There are no words. I have experienced months of absolute hell, where I have been unable to comprehend what on earth was happening to me and why. I have also been unable to restrain my hurt and anger, particularly when moves were made to affect my family life. It takes a huge amount of self-control and restraint, which I do not possess, to know that people are deliberately talking about you publically, deliberately defaming you, deliberately provoking you and deliberately abusing you – not to respond. I am still coming to terms with it and attempting to forgive those who, whilst allegedly going under the auspices of pro-life, have carelessly disregarded the health of a pregnant woman and indeed sought to cause her distress. My unborn baby deserves better, even if it is felt that I do not. The abuse seems interminable and never-ending. I have been pursued with the vigour of a fictional Inquisitor, indeed someone has spoken of me as being a “boil that needed to be lanced” and that I must be publically humiliated as a form of exorcism, in order that “repentance and reconciliation might follow”. Trouble is, it’s quite tricky to confess to something that one simply hasn’t done!

All I can say, is that I haven’t done whatever it is that I am accused of. Given that no-one has ever had the courtesy ever to present detailed or precise charges, let alone any sort of evidence then it is very hard to defend oneself. All I have gleaned is snippets from various accusations thrown about in public and from third parties. When I found myself writing to the police, because it was claimed that I had asked an MP whom I’ve never met,  to obtain a police order on my behalf banning publication of evidence, in order to clarify that no such order in relation to myself existed, I realised that the situation was way out of hand.

To those who would attempt to paint me as a careerist, I would say only this. A few years ago we were living in a lovely Rectory in a flourishing parish. We had stability, a wide network of friends and support, an income, a pension and guaranteed job security for life. I had the choice whether or not to work, to build up a career, or to be a stay-at-home mother and volunteer. I could have attempted to build up a career in either writing or the pro-life movement, frankly, in terms of my own material needs and security, it would have been infinitely better had Robin stayed put in the Church of England. If I was the pushy careerist type portrayed, I would have been urging him to continue to stay where he was, to fight for traditionalist views in the Church of England and nudging him towards becoming a Cathedral canon and more. Though no saint, I took a back seat and when it became so clear that Robin could no longer remain an Anglican in good conscience, I encouraged him to pray and follow God, no matter where that might be leading us, knowing that it would come at a personal cost and that the road ahead would not be an easy one. I do not regret that for a single moment, however I am glad that the internecine fighting and shenanigans between Catholics on the internet, are not reflective of the welcome he has received from the much wider Catholic community, including, most importantly, at parish and diocesan level. For those thinking of crossing the Tiber, the internet is not indicative of the Church as a whole.

What I didn’t realise when beginning to write this blog, is that holding such strong pro-life and indeed Catholic views would lead to such strong and extreme reactions from others. I think when one adds a very unusual set of family circumstances into that, I can see that I seem a curiosity and object of interest. A former air-hostess who went into investment banking and private equity with a public boarding school background, a seemingly intelligent, lively, fun and engaging woman who was married to a vicar, is clearly able to make a good account of herself but yet has “batshit bigoted” views and lives a weird lifestyle of martyrdom where she seemingly can’t stop herself from getting pregnant. It’s not surprising that at times the stats on this blog have gone stratospheric.

What has become clear is that recently, this blog and my twitter account have become all about “me” and the horrible controversy rather than the things that I have to say. This seems to be an enormous shame,  because many have commented that I do have a valuable contribution to make, not only on the Catholic blogosphere, but also to the pro-life movement as a whole.

All of which has led me to ponder whether it really is time to stop for now and certainly time to stop writing under my own name. Ironically those who have accused me of running various pseudonyms have forced me to do consider doing just that. I am devastated, I think I still have a lot of valid things to say, I had been planning some storming pro-life posts, these past few weeks have given me some much deeper insights, but I have to put my family first. If I stop blogging it lets those, who openly admitted that their aim was to get me off the net, win.

Robin is going through the ordination process, if, God willing, he is ordained, then this blog will be a renewed source of interest to many. It therefore seems sensible to halt. His vocation is of primary importance and I therefore need to support that by ensuring that whatever I do, does not detract from his priestly ministry in any way. I do not want to be a source of scandal to either my husband or the Catholic Church or detract from the causes that I care so passionately about. I can only see the obsessive interest and abuse getting worse. Before Robin converted, I remember a former young parishioner quizzing me about our intimate life. I refused to answer and gracefully changed the subject, not only is our private life just that, but furthermore I did not want anyone to be distracted from worship in Church by thinking about the vicar’s private life.  The same principle applies here. My aim is to be an enhancement, not a distraction and definitely not a scandal.

There is much to look forward to, much that I had hoped to share, such as our daughter’s First Holy Communion and the birth of new baby, but I am no longer sure whether or not this is wise?

Maybe a short break is the answer, or maybe I should just disappear and regenerate under a pseudonym?

All (sensible) thoughts appreciated.

PS Arise from Darkness: What to do when Life doesn’t make sense by Fr Benedict Groeschel. This book has done much to restore my equilibrium. An absolute must-read.

Practical Action

A few weeks ago when I wrote about the Ps, of Pro-life, Prayer, PR and Politics, Ben Trovato reminded me of an omission – that of positive action.

I was reminded of that earlier today, upon receipt of some news from the Good Counsel Network, regarding a mum and baby whom they are attempting to help and support. It would not at this point, be appropriate for me to go into the specifics of this case, but it’s a timely reminder that though the narrative of abortion seems to be about fully autonomous choice – the reality is far from that for many women, who are coerced into abortion against their will, often being frogmarched to abortion clinics by controlling relatives or boyfriends.

There are a handful of sceptics in the pro-life movement who believe that pro-life work should not consist of helping women in need, but should be all about the politics and campaigning for changes in society, in order to make abortion not only unthinkable but also unnecessary. Pro-life work should not consist purely of mopping up, of providing the layette and the basic baby equipment for impoverished or abandoned mothers, but needs to think beyond the needs of the newborn baby and address the needs of single mothers with toddlers and young children. It is not enough to think that once the baby is saved from the abortionist’s tools, that the job is done. We need a society that is prepared to protect the vulnerable, which includes amongst others, young children and their mothers.

In a recent conversation with Deborah Orr, I highlighted that abortion is a sign of female inequality, in that women are under various pressures not to have children if they want to be able to compete on equal terms with men in the workplace. There is something very wrong in a society that seeks to present abortion as solution to inequality, if anything abortion perpetuates the inequality as it forces the woman to suppress her feminine fertility and natural bodily functions, if she is to succeed, or in some cases survive. The social, financial and economic inequalities that lead to abortion being touted as a solution need to be addressed, which is why pro-life needs to look beyond pregnancy and the newborn baby.

But that does not mean that there is no place for practical action. In a society that uses abortion as a sticking plaster, we therefore need practical action to help these women who feel that they have little other choice. Whilst some may feel that the politicking and campaigning is their calling, there is also a need to step in and help those who are facing desperate and terrible circumstances.

Which is where organisations like the Good Counsel network come in. Contrary to the myths peddled by the Guardian, the Good Counsel Network are there helping the poorest and those marginalised in society. Their typical clients are not the middle-class professionals arriving for a lunchtime abortion, but those on the very fringes of society. Women from ethnic minorities who are facing terrible cultural pressures for example. Immigrants who do not qualify for any benefits and who financially feel that they have little other choice. Homeless women and victims of domestic violence. Why should these women be denied the choice or opportunity of motherhood, due to poverty or social isolation?

The Good Counsel network has been criticised for its overt Christian iconography and Christian mission, but let’s think about this for a minute. Christ was a man of compassion. He shared human burdens and alleviated suffering. Jesus could not look at those suffering without being moved to intervene in some way. He was moved when people experienced pain, sickness, sorrow, were hungry, lonely or confused. Christ was concerned with helping people, and if we are to bring about the Kingdom it is not simply by empathy, by feeling someone’s pain but by following in his footsteps and doing something to alleviate it. The Good Counsel network is all about compassion in action, by demonstrating Christ’s love, not simply by words and certainly not by evangelising or attempting to convert, but by the outreach, love and support they give to women in specific need.

I know what it is like to be pregnant and vulnerable, only too well. I am fortunate, my husband tells me everyday what a hero I am for doing the work of nurturing an unborn child and bringing her to life, whilst also looking after our other little ones. He is also good at doing what he can to alleviate the burdens when he can, be that cuddling the baby to sleep so that I can have a bath, doing as many household chores as he can, taking the children out for a few hours at the weekend so I can have a much needed nap, or simply going out to fetch a packet of Haribo or MacDonalds as the mood takes me. I think he’s the hero frankly for putting up with grumpy pregnant miserable hefalump wife for 9 months! I would not have coped without him.  Many women do not have that. The Good Counsel network provides the much needed emotional, practical and often financial support that is so often missing.

To be pregnant, whilst not an illness, is to be vulnerable. Anyone who calls themselves pro-life, needs to accept this. Pregnant women get free prescriptions, free dental care because pregnancy puts an additional physical burden on the body, it lowers immunity and makes women more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Employment law also now recognises this, which is why employers have a duty of care to ensure that pregnant women are not working in an unsafe or physically compromising environment and are not over-burdened or compromised. In every single one of my pregnancies, I have at some point just wanted someone to understand all the various physical and emotional anxieties, and someone to reassure me that everything is going to be OK. This is where the support offered by pro-life organisations is invaluable. They are there to help, not just with platitudes but with actual help, be that being there at the end of the phone, or helping to provide the basics that a woman needs. The mother is not dismissed the moment that she has her baby either, the Good Counsel Network, continues to offer help, advice and support for as a long as a woman feels it necessary, hence they are still assisting mothers with toddlers and older children. It is up to the mother to decide when she no longer needs their help.

Here is why they should not be dismissed or scoffed at.

We spend £40,000 per year on feeding Mothers. And we give this help when a Mother has no wage, no right to benefits and no other means of support.
Some of our Mothers were sleeping on buses or on the street as late as 7 months into their pregnancies.
Many others considered abortion because of their devastating poverty when their baby’s father chose not to support them in having their baby.Those readers who have been pregnant and who know the awful hunger pangs you can endure in pregnancy even when you have plenty to eat will understand how terrible real hunger in pregnancy can be!
We always deliver the help that we promise an expectant Mother. We don’t provide luxuries, but we do provide the basics
I noticed pro-choicers scoffing at their website a few weeks ago. It comes to something when a charitable organisation is laughed at for its choice of font, and it also shows exactly where the priorities of the Good Counsel Network lie. This is not a glossy, pious sanctimonious spirituality, but a roll-your-sleeves up apostolic mission. People like Stuart and Clare are there on the frontline getting their hands dirty and incurring the wrath and enmity of those who would much rather the poor and marginalised were forced to abort their babies and the abuse that comes with that territory. Whilst society sanctions and condones abortion, then organisations such as Good Counsel network will be needed and never more so in these times of austerity.
Here are some of their costs:
It costs us £35 to feed an new Mother for 1 week.
It costs us £25 to feed an expectant Mother for 1 week.
It costs £15 to pay for baby milk each week when a Mother cannot breastfeed.
It costs us £7 a week to buy nappies for a baby.
It costs about £3.60 a day to feed an expectant Mother.
Here’s how to donate. £5 a month is the equivalent of 2 lattes in a typical chain, or perhaps a bottle of wine from the supermarket. In the meantime the Good Counsel Network  would appreciate any prayers, fasting or acts of suffering for “M”.
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Lost families

A very bizarre thought popped into my head when praying for my Nana earlier, not the most seemly of thoughts and indicative that I need to focus more, but interesting nonetheless. She was born in January 1913, which makes me wonder whether or not she may have been conceived in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. Though I haven’t been able to find any evidence to corroborate whether or not there may have been a surge in the birth rate following the tragic sinking, there is a known phenomenon of minor surges and fluctuations in birth rates following national disasters – sex is an affirmation of life, when faced with our own mortality, a theme aptly explored by Albert Camus.

Why would I be thinking about the circumstances in which my Nana was conceived? Though I had always associated her birth with occurring shortly after the Titanic, I had never previously made the connection, however the circumstances of her birth are somewhat mysterious and tragic. During the 30 years that she lived with us, she rarely talked about her childhood or her family, which were all veiled in secrecy. Whenever I had to complete any family tree projects at school, she always clammed up when asked to assist, angrily shouting that it was none of anybody’s business.

My mother confided that there was some kind of mystery, Nana had not in fact been brought up by her birth mother, but by an “Auntie and Uncle” in rural Devon, two very lovely, kind and caring people, but it was not clear what blood relationship, if any, they had to Nana. This couple had children of their own and brought my Nana up as if she was part of their family, but she was always aware of being different, of there being some kind of stigma. Apparently her mother was a “grand lady” who would occasionally come to visit, my mother noted that clearly there was money there: Nana often talks about the fact she had rickets as a child and was sent to specialists in London to correct the bows in her legs. ‘When you see photos of children in leg braces, they always look terribly uncomfortable’ says Nana, ‘but mine weren’t at all. They were made of the softest leather and sheepskin. I can still remember how soft they felt even now’. Maybe I’m playing amateur detective here, but one thing that has always struck all of us in the family, is that specialists in London and high quality orthopaedic braces would not come cheap, they would not be the preserve of a farming family in pre-war Devon.

A few years ago Nana was on a nostalgia trip, unwrapping and showing me all the trinkets and knick-knacks from her wedding, incredibly enough she still has the decorations from the top of her cake. One of the things she painstakingly unwrapped was some exquisite solid silver photo frames and candle sticks from Mappin and Webb, which had never been on display. She explained that her mother had not attended her wedding, but had instead sent her some silver as a wedding gift.

All of which has led all of us in the family to ponder who my great-grandmother and my mother’s grandmother was. We have a surname, but that is all. We assume that there was money in the family and some reputation. We have no mention of a father and the subject has always remained strictly taboo. It has always been a source of great sadness to my mother, she lost her own father at the age of 22, and though she has maintained close relationships within her paternal family, there has always felt as though there was something missing. Though I try not to dwell on it too much, my curiosity is piqued, all of us like to know our identity of our forefathers, from whom we hail, it helps us in terms of establishing our own sense of identity and context in relation to the world around us. The BBC programme, Who do you think you Are, has proved enormously popular for that very reason.

With the advent of the internet and the rise in genealogy websites, it has occurred to us on more than one occasion that some amateur sleuthing might be in order, although not in the period of Nana’s lifetime, as she is incredibly touchy about this subject and it would seem, rather ashamed. It was only a few years ago, at the age of 95, that she finally admitted that she had no idea who her father was, she no longer had a copy of her birth certificate, but that the father was marked as unknown. It seems to have been a source of great shame, stigma and sadness.

I would love to know about my maternal family, but have to concede that this will be lost in the mists of time. Perhaps one day I’ll investigate more as to the identity of my great-grandmother, just to satisfy my innate curiosity. But it would certainly seem to fit that some clandestine relationship may have taken place in the Spring of 1912, almost certainly in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster – not that I am claiming any link whatsoever or hinting at any James Cameron style story, merely noting a historical fact. Perhaps the two events were entirely unrelated and it’s just a fanciful whim?

So what does my Nana’s history have to do with the price of eggs? Not much really, other than personally I am glad that the stigma of illegitimacy has largely been wiped out. Children should never be blamed for the circumstances in which they were born, nor the indiscretions of their parents. Having seen how my Nana has suffered in many ways as a result of never having known the love of her biological family (she was cared for, but knew she was different), I am glad that mothers are no longer routinely forced into having to give their babies into the care of someone else in the name of respectability. I can understand the physical need for contact and close loving relationships with both biological parents and the damage that can be done if a parent is deliberately withheld. This happened also to my father, whose parents divorced in 1945 upon my grandfather’s return from the war. My father was brought up without any contact with his own father until he reached the age of 21, this being deemed in his best interests, in an era in which divorce was still a dreadful scandal. Both my nana and my father, whose knowledge of his paternal family is scant, feel somehow incomplete.

I am relatively sanguine about it all, but there is some innate desire in me to find out more about from whom I hail. I know that my maternal grandfather was Italian and my father’s family were King’s Lynn fisherman and Norfolk agricultural labourers (I think) but that’s about it.

When I think about my Nana’s circumstances in particular, I give thanks that abortion was not an option in 1912. Though my Nana has missed out in many ways, she had a happy marriage, a child of her own, 2 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Though I am sure that my great-grandmother, whoever she was, must have endured a lot of suffering, she also brought forth much joy and happiness. One ‘mistake’, one clandestine relationship has borne much fruit for which we are all grateful. It made me wonder how many other potential families are now wiped out before birth as a matter of routine?