what my miscarriage taught me

 

I miscarried in early pregnancy. A blighted ovum meant that the embryo hadn’t developed properly. A loss for us. We grieved mightily for what may have been. Like thousands of others, many with multiple miscarriages and much loss. To the rest of the world, miscarriage may be commonplace, a simple statistic, no big deal, but it can be very sore on us.

We were lucky. Girl1 & Girl2 arrived, thrived, and are doing what teens do.

Ireland (the rest of it, not Northern Ireland) is having a referendum soon. I don’t live in the jurisdiction and I can’t vote, but it’s occupying my mind. As it stands, the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution gives equal right to life to the unborn, prohibiting abortion and impacting on medical care to all women, pregnant, pregnancy related or not. The forthcoming referendum is on whether that amendment should be repealed.

There are lots of discussions and campaigning. There is fake news (fake medical practitioners included). There was incredible crowdfunding for posters & information packs. Posters have been put up and taken down and put back up again. It’s not always a polite discussion- feelings and convictions are running high.

One post has caught in my mind; the one asking if a foetus is human, & if not, when does it become so. Years ago, my wee embryo didn’t even make it to foetus-hood. It stopped developing and ended up simply a ‘product of conception’.

It was human tissue, but not a human. Like a toe nail or an appendix, it wasn’t capable of becoming a human. Not all pregnancies can result in human beings. Human life cannot be said to ‘begin at conception’: tissue growth is not life.

The philosophers & scientists do their thinking and their research. They shape and advance our understanding of our world. I am neither of those. There are many issues I don’t understand or am not aware of, but I know that my first pregnancy would never have resulted in a human being. Nor would thousands of others. I don’t know when ‘human ness’ happens, but we cannot assume that it happens from conception.

Most abortions happen before 10 weeks gestation- around the time my product of conception was being evicted. How many people have the guilt and the stress of leaving Ireland or buying pills for a procedure that may have happened naturally? The expense, the uncertainty, the illegality for something not even guaranteed to grow into a human. Surely, appropriate local healthcare must be a better option?

Why would any compassionate society think that was a bad thing?

Why would any compassionate society not permit people a say in their own medical care?

Why would any compassionate society make doctors consult the constitution before their medical expertise?

With the 8th amendment in place, can Ireland claim to have a compassionate society?

 

 

This is not a new topic for me. See #oneinfour, this previous post on abortion access in NI and this one on Savita

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what chance have you got against a tie and a crest? #Ibelieveher

There are plenty of people who have experienced non consensual sexual activity. I don’t consider myself one of them, although I know I’ve been lucky. There but for the grace of the gods…

There’s been an infamous trial in Belfast the past nine weeks. 3 elite rugby players were accused of various forms of sexual assault, another one of preventing the course of justice. The rugby players are well known. Despite anonymity for the prosecution witness, her name was mentioned in court and shared on social media. I don’t know her name, but I know more about her than I should.

Having been initially reluctant to go to the police, the woman ended up enduring 9 days of cross examination. Four defendants = 4 defence teams = 4 sets of questioning. I know about her unshaved legs, her blood stained clothing. I know about her friends and her internal injury. Her very underwear was presented to the court and passed along to the jury. The woman had no lawyer. She was not on trial, not accused of any offence, but the adversarial trial system made it seem so.

I also know that an international rugby player likes to sketch and babysits for friends. Apparently that’s all I need to know. The men sent each other texts and WhatsApp messages after the event, some of which were deleted and unrecoverable. They sent crude, misogynistic messages displaying a lack of respect for women and an “aren’t we the greatest lads?” attitude. What we’ve seen demonstrate appalling behaviour and world views. Worryingly, social media tells me that’s how young men talk to each other, and that I’m simply being old fashioned and prudish. This is simply the sort of locker room talk that Mr Trump enjoys, so what could possibly be unacceptable about it?

Yesterday, all the men were cleared of all the charges. And lots of (mostly, but not only) chaps began to demand that the woman be tried for perjury and/or sentenced for as long as the men would have been, had their guilt been proved beyond reasonable doubt. I’m to feel sorry for the guy who apparently missed out on winning a Six Nations medal and a Grand Slam ‘unnecessarily’. As if investigations and the legal process were something carried out on a whim, out of spite.

Those men have been feted their whole sporting careers, privileged and garlanded since school, because they are better than most at a game. I don’t imagine they understood the sexual activity as rape. But they were clear that there was no explicit, agreed consent. They admitted to presuming consent. The defence approach was ‘They’re the good guys, they didn’t attack a woman in a dark alley, she didn’t scream, so how could that be rape?’ They may not be able to bring themselves to doubt their drunken decisions and actions.

In some jurisdictions the difference between murder and manslaughter is the intention. Death is caused by recklessness or criminal negligence, rather by a deliberate act of killing. I hope somebody, somewhere, with a legal mind is considering what happens when there’s no clear intention to rape, but that through recklessness or negligence, harm has occurred amounting to rape. (I know nothing about the law; I’m suggesting this is an area worth exploring.)

We need to better support those women and men who report sexual assault. We need to move beyond effectively putting those people on trial.

We need to ban reporting on these trails until they are over. The media soap opera of this trial will have been traumatising for hundreds apart from the woman at its centre.

We need discussion on what consent actually is, beyond ‘no means no’. What if one is unable to speak or remove oneself from the situation? None of know in advance how we would react. ‘She didn’t scream’ should not be an acceptable argument.

The local press are having a great time after the verdict. Stories of sisters, coiffured mothers with expensive handbags, middle class respectable families, brave men and all they had to endure. Men being rewarded for the fact that their poor behaviour turned out not to be criminal. Woo hoo.

So today I went with thousands of others to a support rally. We stood outside the courts in Belfast, together. There were speeches I couldn’t hear. And a surprisingly emotional few moments of chanting I believe her.

I want to fix the world. I want to make so many things better for so many people. But oddly, I can’t do all that I want to. Still, my keyboard activism is being reignited.

 

Title from Eton Rifles

 

 

the defiant ones

I’m watching a music documentary series about music producers Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre. I’d thought, in advance, that I knew nothing about either of them, but I couldn’t have imagined how wrong I was. Independently and together these guys have shaped music and culture for decades. We all know something of their work.

There are many stories- gang culture, winning, innovation, jail, murder, collaborations, family, fame, success, loss, performing arts school, community, and hard work. And headphones. Extraordinary experiences, and varieties of moving from nothing to beyond all dreams. Fascinating, compulsive viewing.

But one wee story, an aside really, certainly not meant to be the take away, is stuck in my head.

Jimmy was working with Tom Petty, and Stevie Nicks was about. Jimmy and Stevie got together, but didn’t tell anyone. Stevie stayed at home and made mini muffin pizzas while Jimmy went out to the studio and did whatever it is producers do. Sometimes Tom came round to chat and hang out away from work. Guess what Stevie did then? Lots of singing with Tom? More muffin making?

Stevie Nicks, the Stevie Nicks, hid in the basement until Tom went away. She hid herself until their mate left, in case the relationship reflected badly on Jimmy. She listened to them chat and carry on, but was no part of it.

I was still at school when Stevie and Jimmy were making those choices. Nicks was a rock goddess, in her early 30s. I was 15- quiet and dumpy with frizzy hair and big specs. But it is remarkable to me to think that my choices may have been different. A woman who’d been abused by a previous partner and who had a cocaine problem was hiding herself away because her boyfriend thought it was a good idea …

The documentary series The Defiant Ones has lots to capture the mind. What catches your imagination will be different from mine. But I can’t get my head round Stevie Nicks hiding. In a powerful story about two men and how they define our soundscape, I’m caught wondering about the women and the choices we all make.

 

 

unintended consequences OR what I’ve learned

I’m sure you’ve seen the video of what happened after wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. An additional species transformed the ecosystem of the entire park. The pecking order was disrupted, different plants grew, other species returned, and the very routes of the rivers changed. Many of these changes were unexpected. The park was transformed.

We’ve had our own transformation in the McSpec world recently. The change agent is dog>terrier>cairn westie mix>Harry. We don’t know what’s hit us. The bundle of energy who came along a month ago surprises us every day.

Some of you may remember Jake, the grumpy westie, who used to be part of our family. He was an Eeyore sort of character, a bit depressed, stoic and not great with people. In contrast, Harry is a Tigger- bouncy, enthusiastic and very friendly. Trees are exciting, as are individual leaves, cushions, passing strangers, hats, shoe laces. We are not allowed to go upstairs unaccompanied in case he misses out on an open door, a cuddly bed or a window to look out of.

You’ll guess that such enthusiasm can be both destructive and exhausting. Some slippers, hats, his cuddly bed, and assorted soft furnishings have been killed. The bathroom bin has been emptied and contents chewed, and the upstairs landing decorated with toilet roll. We’re learning.

Now he has a hard bed, hats have been moved out of harm’s way and doors are closed. And the entire circulation in the upstairs of the house totally disrupted. Until recently the doors were always open, air swishing round all the rooms, doing its thing. I didn’t notice that girls never opened windows, or that the bathroom was cool. (The bathroom has 3 outside walls, so I’m not exactly observant…) Thanks to Harry, I know that bedrooms are stuffy and the bathroom is freezing.

I’ve also remembered poo bags, soggy walks in the rain, the light of the sun on the river, the daily boost of fresh air, thinking space.

Thanks to Harry.