Sunday, 18 December 2016

Why I am, and will always be, pro-choice

To clarify before I even start, pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. In an ideal world, the only women who will ever find themselves pregnant are those who want to be. Pro-choice is the belief that women anywhere and everywhere have the right to access safe clinical termination of an unwanted pregnancy.

To remove what may be an elephant in the room, I myself am physically unable to have children. Whilst for some news of infertility is a hideous tragedy, for me it was firstly not terribly surprising and secondly not in any way a sadness. I have never wanted children, and now teetering on the cusp of 30 I feel absolutely no different about the situation. In the highly unlikely- actually, impossible- chance that I became pregnant, I am able to say with total confidence that I would terminate the pregnancy immediately. There is only ever one reason to have a child- because you want one. 

I do not follow any kind of organised religion and so am not influenced by that in my decisions, and I do not live in a country whereby it would not be possible to me to access a termination. 

Abortion became legal in the United Kingdom in 1967. Prior to that, some women attempted to self-abort- endangering their own lives in the process. If pregnant and not married, you would be considered by some a “fallen woman.” Some woman wouldn’t be able to rent a room of their own- because they were clearly a ‘harlot’ no good to anyone- and in some cases, women were sent to a “convent house”, and basically forced to work until birth. The baby would be removed from them immediately and given up for adoption, and they would return to the life they had before. 

Women could also be given a “shot” by a doctor (most likely an overdose of the hormone progesterone) used to treat teenagers slow to begin menstruation. This is a form of chemical abortion. Women would then be sent home, with no form of emotional or clinical aftercare, and left to bleed heavily, in horrific pain, until the pregnancy was no longer there.

Doctors in some cases would also forge paperwork to say that the baby would not survive to term- and the pregnancy could be ended.

When you value the 'life' of a foetus before that of a woman, what does that say about your morals? Are we really such throwbacks in time that we believe “all woman love babies”? Abortion is not murder, nor has it ever been. Women do not have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term when they do not wish to. The mother will suffer, the child will suffer. There is no good that can come out of a situation like this.

I don’t wish to inflame gender relations here but men- we are the ones who suffer the consequences of sex ending in pregnancy. Women can be taking oral or injected contraception, other methods can be used and it can still fail. Accidents do happen and not much can be done to stop that. In some instances, it also worth saying that women may be the victim of rape and then become pregnant. 

There is also domestic abuse cases whereby men keep their partner continually pregnant to enforce their reliance on them and as another form of control. There is a very sad story of a woman having to discreetly meet a nurse from a Women’s Health Centre, so she could secretly have a contraceptive shot and not allow her husband to force a pregnancy onto her that she didn’t want.

When I see the anti-abortion protestors outside my local hospital, I am not only angry but I am tremendously sad. People are entitled to their beliefs- this goes without saying, but when those beliefs are hateful and hurtful to others, there has to be a line drawn somewhere. For a woman who has made the decision to end a pregnancy, imagine the disgusting situation that puts her in- to have to walk into the centre at the hospital past a group of people who consider her a “murderer.”

I have absolutely nothing but respect for the women who have chosen to end a pregnancy they did not want. You do not ever need to justify yourself and you do not ever need to tell anyone why. The only person who needs to be satisfied that you made the right choice is you. You made your choice and I am completely behind you whatever you decided. You are not a failure, you are not wrong, you have not let anybody down and I hope that you know that whilst some may choose to wave signs in your face, force their beliefs onto you or tell you that you were wrong- remember this. They do not know you nor your circumstances. You always, always, always have a choice, and I cannot say how grateful I am that you do.

Let me end this with a quote from Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun.

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That is not pro-life, that is pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Finding out I was Pregnant

I always imagined that the day I found out that I was pregnant I would have an explosion of emotions and it would play out like a scene from a TV show or film. I'm a ridiculously emotional person and always have been (my Mum still hasn't lifted the ban she put on me watching Watership Down despite me now being 32). So you can imagine the amount of ugly happy crying I expected to do on the day I had such huge news.

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Instead I stared at the pregnancy test that had been resting on the bathroom window ledge and thought 'is that another line? I'm not sure, maybe it's a defective test' I showed my husband and he advised that there definitely was a second line but if I wasn't sure I could do another test in the morning. Prior to this I had waited a week just in case my period arrived, despite having the most precise periods that arrive on time without fail (ironic as I am always running late for everything else in my life).

I did another test, and another two tests the following day just to be sure (all positive) and finally made an appointment to see my GP. There was still no jumping for joy, tears etc. and no magical moment, I was just stunned. It wasn't a case of it being unexpected, we had been trying to have a baby and it had finally happened so why wasn't I skipping down the road with glee like Morecambe and Wise?

I told myself that the tests could be wrong and I shouldn't build my hopes up, remembering when I had mixed my dates up and thought I was pregnant a few months prior and the devastation I felt when my period rocked up. I had sat in the bath and sobbed, convincing myself that it wasn't going to happen. I told myself that once the GP had a look at me, he/she would be able to tell me for definite and then I could open the emotional flood gates.

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The GP appointment was not what I expected. She was lovely and asked me a few bits about my health and when my last period was, she took my blood pressure and asked if I had done a test and laughed when my husband told her we had took four (just to make sure). She advised she would refer us to the hospital for our first 'booking in' appointment and 12 week scan, congratulated us and sent us on our merry way. 'I can't believe they just believe me' I told my husband, didn't they want to make sure before referring me to hospital? My husband reassured me that tests are pretty accurate these days and and since I'd done four and had no period it was pretty certain we were on our way to becoming parents.

I told myself that once we told people, then it would be real. We told our parents, siblings and a few close friends and still I felt as though it was happening to someone else. I didn't feel pregnant, what the hell was wrong with me? Maybe I wasn’t maternal enough, how could I not be bouncing off the walls with joy, the thing I most wanted in the whole world was happening and I felt numb. Why did my body not feel different?

I carried on my normal day to day routines and waited for our booking in appointment at 10 weeks. I told work and even then I told my boss 'I think I'm pregnant'. The booking appointment was again pretty routine, but a bit more in depth than the GP appointment. They weighed me, took blood and urine samples, gave me my booklet of notes that I needed for all the appointments throughout the pregnancy and talked us through a few bits. 'I still don't feel pregnant' I told my husband.

Again I panicked that I was some kind of monster, how could I not feel excitement about this amazing thing that was happening? I was really worried that there was something wrong with me and had decided I was going to be a terrible mother.

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Two weeks later we went for our fist scan, and I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest with joy. There on the screen was my teeny tiny baby, fidgeting away. The sonographer pointed to the little black pulsing dot and told us it was the baby's heart. I looked over at my husband and he looked like he had won the Euro Millions. I totally fell in love with the little black and white image and I sighed with relief as a couple of little tears rolled down my cheeks. I had finally let myself believe that it was happening. For weeks I had been protecting myself, just in case there had been a mistake. Because I knew that once I had let myself go and believe it, I would be vulnerable because I would love that little baby and want the world for them. I was grateful for the picture they gave us and saved it as my phone's wallpaper to remind myself it was really happening.

Real life is not like TV or films, I peed in a cup and waited for a plastic stick to tell me the biggest news I have ever had in my life. I didn't suddenly say to my husband one day 'ooh I fancy some gherkins' prompting some revelation and knowing I was pregnant. Everything happened in it's own time and in a really normal uneventful way. And there is nothing wrong with that in the slightest.

It could just be me, but I am sure that there are many women who have felt similar to me. They have heard anecdotes from countless women who 'just knew' they were pregnant and felt pregnant from day one. But that doesn't mean that we all feel that way. There are times during my pregnancy that I have almost forgot I was pregnant, even when sporting a bump that should have it's own postcode. I have the rest of my child's life to beat myself up about being a good enough mum, so I've learned that this pregnancy is my own journey and it's been an amazing one.

Friday, 30 September 2016

For my Dad

A Dad, a Father, is a funny thing. We all have a Dad, whether we know him or not. I know a few people who have never met their fathers and probably never will. What a peculiar situation to be in. To be half of someone you don’t even know.

My Dad is a great person for doing things. He does things. My Dad is, and I’ll be prepared to fight you over this, the wisest person I have ever met. I trust his advice implicitly on absolutely anything- if the boiler makes a funny noise, if an electric appliance starts to smoke, if I need advice on a financial or practical matters- I call my Dad. No doubts or questions in my mind, he’ll know the answer.

I don’t wish to make my Dad sound boring because he’s not. My Dad used to be a firefighter. Pretty cool, isn’t it? I know to everyone, hopefully, your Dad is a hero anyway, but my Dad actually is. 

I’ve never been able to make sense of how he did the things he did. My Dad, I remember, was always there. He took me on bike rides. We hung a new cabinet in the bathroom together. He drove me faithfully to my dance lessons every Saturday over and over again, for years. I don’t recall him not being there for any birthday or Christmas. He was the primary breadwinner in our household (not through my Mum’s choice but rather through circumstance) and yet he was always there, to drive you somewhere, to make you sausages for breakfast. It’s nothing short of outstanding how he did all the things he did.

He’s quite astonishingly green fingered. His garden is and always has been beautiful. The cat preferred to sit on him because he could sit for hours reading the paper, glasses never quite perched on his ears. He has a huge dent in his collarbone because he broke his collarbone and it healed funny. His little finger on one hand is bent because he broke that too. He’s so like his own father, it’s a little scary. I will never forget the image of him and his dad stood in the garden of my grandparents neat little bungalow, spade in hand, looking at the vegetable patch.

He doesn’t know anything about music, as in literally nothing, which is amusing for someone who lives with someone as music obsessed as my Mum. His handwriting is absolutely stunning- the beautiful flowing italic script they don’t teach in schools any more. He’s fiercely bright and his successes in work are testimony to that. When he retired from the Fire Service, many people came to tell me how highly they thought of my Dad- let me tell you, they were not lying. It’s a sign of the type of man I think, when they are so highly regarded.

We give Mothers a lot of love for the rearing of children, and so we should. They do the effort of carrying and giving birth to the child, but I think it’s only fair we give the credit to Fathers that they deserve. My Dad was kind and giving with his time and his love for his children, and he continues now as I am an adult to be generous and thoughtful, to celebrate your successes and commiserate when things don’t go well. He’s a fantastic person to have in a crisis because he’s so entirely unflappable, and a brilliant person to talk to if you’re down, because he’ll have a few words of wisdom and a funny story, and you’ll feel absolutely fine. 

I know it’s a bit cliché, to be a little girl and to think your Dad is so amazing, but I really did, and I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of that. He is one of my most favourite people on the planet, and nothing will ever change that. I owe him more than words can ever say, a difficult position for a writer. Just like I said when I wrote about my Mum, let’s all take a minute to remember our Fathers, with us and gone, and thank them for their love. I cannot say what I would have done without my Dad. 

There goes my hero, watch him as he goes.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Me and my Pregnant Body

Since being pregnant I have experienced a whole range of symptoms and side effects. There was the relentless morning sickness of my first trimester that started at around week six, and felt like it was never going to end (whoever called it morning sickness is a total dick by the way, I had it morning, noon and night). There has been the aching and forever growing boob situation (both painful and costly). Oh and let's not forget the raging hormones that left me sobbing watching an episode of 'The Golden Girls' (the one where they give a lottery winto a homeless shelter).

These are all expected and run of the mill for pregnancy and appear on most lists that guide you through the craziness of growing a baby. However, I have experienced something else of late that has been a rarity during my adult life. I've started to realise that my body is fucking amazing, and I don't really give one about how other people see it. I totally love my massive belly. Me, the girl who hid her teenage body in massive baggy band hoodies, and sobbed in her 20s in changing rooms because she felt grotesque.

Whilst I am not 'eating for two', I'm eating what I feel like when I'm hungry, guilt free and it's liberating. I look at my belly and think 'wow, well done body, you're growing a human!'. My changing body is completely out of my control and I'm actually OK with it. I know that my body will likely never be the same as it was pre-pregnancy but I hope that I continue to feel the same kindness towards myself that I have of late.

I am already rolling my eyes at every magazine/website story I see about celebrities' 'post baby bodies' letting us know the secrets to how they 'got their body back'. My priority will be learning to be the best mum I can be for my little one, not how flat my stomach is. Of course I would eventually like get back to near my pre-pregnancy size, but I won't be sacrificing valuable time with my baby stressing over getting there.

I make jokes about how huge I am but that's just me, I joke about everything. I am totally over the moon to be pregnant and am beyond grateful that me and Mr S have been able to start a family together. My big fat belly is housing a human being, which is crazy and amazing. And the other changes that my body is going through are either necessary to accommodate the growing of that tiny human or side effects that I am happy to put up with because I know it will be worth it.

And it's not just during pregnancy that this is true, women's bodies are fucking amazing. It makes me really sad that we are so hard on ourselves about them and I morn for the time I've wasted in my life giving myself grief about it. Let's all be a bit kinder to our gorgeous squishy bodies and fabulous lady bits, and we can concentrate on enjoying life. 


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Ladies Day & Shaming Women

I have my own particular views regarding horse-racing (I think it’s cruel and unnecessary) however, that is for discussion on another day. Today I want to talk about the level of abuse in the media targeted at the women who have been attending Aintree this week.

As someone born and raised in Liverpool I feel somewhat protective of the women when I see an article trying to ‘shame’ them, enjoying every opportunity to show shots up skirts that are caught in the wind and any other unflattering angle they can find. They hire ‘experts’ to rate the looks of the women, who give the impression that anyone working class could not possibly understand the concept of style. They manage to simultaneously slag them off whilst objectifying them (which certain news outlets do to women in general…looking at you Daily Fail).

I’ve also noticed of late, that the good old soapbox of negativity Facebook is full of people making comments such as ‘big girls should cover up more’, ‘they look like they’ve been dragged through a charity shop’, ‘epidemic of big thighs on show’, ‘slags’, ‘tacky’…the list goes on. Sadly a lot of these comments are from other women, why are we being so bloody nasty to each other?! If you don’t like someone’s outfit, well that’s fine (we all have those thoughts) but why go out of your way to go online and write something nasty about someone you don’t even know? And body shaming is never ok.

Many of the women who attend put a huge amount of effort and money into their look for Ladies Day. They wax, tan, spend hours searching for the perfect outfit and get their nails, hair and make-up done. They put in an effort that I can only dream of and probably don’t even make in total across the entire year. If you go to Liverpool city centre any weekend, you can see that there is a culture of women taking huge pride in how they look and dress. Why is this something that we are expected to turn our noses up at?

The winner of 'best dressed' - Metro
There’s a term used in Liverpool, ‘Prin’ which is used to describe these girls. It is short for ‘princess’ and it’s not an insult, many of the girls use it themselves. To me, the term is basically saying ‘hell yes I’m as good as any princess and won’t accept treatment that doesn't make me feel like one’. There is nothing wrong with women enjoying themselves and wanting to look good. Why are we tearing these women down, instead of celebrating women enjoying themselves and expressing their style?

I understand that some of the dresses or looks are not everyone’s cup of tea. I personally don’t dress as glam as these women, and I’d look ridiculous in a fascinator, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire them. In the past I may have eye-rolled at the effort put in (I can be a bitch as much as the next person) but that was wrong of me, and I shouldn’t have been so judgemental. While the media takes its opportunity to tear women down, I think that we need to be lifting other women up. Let’s appreciate each other’s individual tastes and style and congratulate each other if we want to look our best.