As I have listened and watched the arguments for abortion in Ireland, north and south, I have been moved to wonder about all the women who have been unable to conceive a child, or whose babies died in the womb before they were born, and about those whose children were stillborn. How do they feel in the face of all that is being said? They just wanted their baby, nothing more.
I have met many women over the years who have grieved because they were unable to conceive, their pain often hidden, until a chance word opened the doors of grief momentarily, as they spoke about their loss.
I have met women, too, whose much-loved babies died before or at birth. Women whose empty arms ached for the child they had carried with such love, such hope and such joy.
The voices of those who advocate abortion as a woman’s right to personal autonomy, a woman’s right to choose, rarely speak of what she is choosing to do. It is all about the woman, not about her little boy or girl, yet unborn, whose life must be terminated.
Yet when a woman loses a baby, people do not tell her that it is not a baby, that it is just some cells. Rather they feel her sadness, and very often they feel helpless, not knowing how to respond because the pain is so palpable.
Here in Ireland and in many other countries, the loss of the child who is aborted is often an unacknowledged loss, a loss which is not spoken about, and yet we know that many women grieve their babies lost through abortion, and many more thank God that, having contemplated abortion because they were afraid, or really did not want the child or for many other reasons, it was not done, and their child lived and is loved.
I lost my first baby when, pregnant, I was caught in a bomb explosion many decades ago. I still remember it and I still feel the loss. I could not understand why anybody would plant a bomb in a place in which there were so many people. It happened many times, and many times, women like me heard those words: “Your baby is dead.”
My child died through paramilitary violence. Others have been lost through car crashes, accidents, domestic violence, illness and so many other causes, explicable and inexplicable. Their mothers and their fathers mourn.
As Ireland faces into the referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, there must be many mothers and fathers who remember their lost children, and many more who grieve for the children they could not have.
The pain of a lost child remains in the heart of the woman who carried that child. I used to wonder about my lost child, and after many years I wrote about it – a dialogue with my child and with myself. I called it ‘In Christ’s cradling’ (For a lost child).
“Child of my dreaming,
Child of my heart,
Child ever wanted,
Child torn apart.
Where are you now
Child of my heart?
Torn from my body,
Broken and bloody,
Killed in the darkness,
Child, by a bomb.
What was your pain,
Child with no name?
Lost years of loving,
Growing not done,
Life gone for ever,
Child never born.
Child lost in anguish.
Child of my heart.
But light comes to darkness,
Sorrow and pain.
Done now the anger,
Gentle the mourning.
Is there peace in your being,
Child of my heart?
Softness and beauty,
Innocence and life,
Gone to Christ’s keeping,
Gone from my life,
Kept safe in Christ’s cradling,
Child of my heart.”
I am writing this very short article, because the pain of a lost child can seem as if it will never heal, but it does, and I think that it is important to acknowledge again the fact that every child conceived is a child of God, loved by God, made by God, even though, for some, their time on earth was so very short.
We must remember these lost children as real people, as ‘one of us’. We must remember too that all these children, conceived and lost, have life now with God, they were and are precious in His eyes; that He holds them safe.
The unborn children of the future deserve protection against violence of all kinds, but especially the violence that is abortion – that deliberate killing of a baby in his or her mother’s womb.
As I contemplate the forthcoming referendum, I ask myself has Ireland lost its soul and its conscience, or will the people of Ireland rise up once more to defend its most helpless beings – its unborn children – against abortion? If everybody who believes that abortion is wrong would stand up and vote, and encourage others to vote to save the Eighth Amendment, it would be done. It must be done.