Mourning our daughter, as Ireland votes

We have been so moved by the outpouring of support and kindness in response to this piece my partner Aoife and I had published in the New York Times yesterday. It describes our experience of facing the cruelty of the 8th Amendment and laws against abortion after receiving a heartbreaking diagnosis. 

We are so touched by the thought of so many people reading our daughter Cara’s story, so proud to think she might inspire and help others. 

Our story is intensely personal, of course, and everyone’s experience will be unique. But it’s so telling how many people are getting in touch to tell us their own stories of loss and grief, and how many felt they weren’t able to discuss it before now. That is the power of taboo – we feel the discomfort of others in the face of our grief, and know at some level that it is not accepted. Now, seeing our words, other parents who have suffered a similar loss feel a permission to share their stories with us. It’s an immense honour to hear their stories. 

Please read the full article here

Heartbroken by our daughter’s diagnosis, we contacted a hospital in England and began making arrangements. We felt an acute anger that we had to plan a surreptitious trip, that we had to leave behind our caring doctors and midwives. The sense of enforced furtiveness was degrading, a result of the shame that surrounds the journey. When we were at our most vulnerable, having to make these plans was an added torture.

As the day of our departure approached, one of us, Aoife, suffered an intense panic. The prospect of the procedure was daunting enough; the prospect of checking onto a plane, booking accommodations, all of it, was just too much to bear. We didn’t make the journey. We couldn’t.

Instead, we gave Cara her name — in the Irish language, it means “friend” — and decided to embrace the time we had with her. For nearly two months, between getting the diagnosis and her death, we got to see our daughter grow in weekly ultrasound scans, we got to hear her heartbeat, we got to see her move. We made memories. We became a family.

We decided not to go to England, and it was the right choice for us. We are grateful for the time we had with Cara, and we are proud to be her parents. But it isn’t the right choice for everyone in that situation — other parents, acting out of a sincere love and concern for their child, might make a very different decision.

Our heartbreaking experience taught us that such a decision should never be shrouded in shame and stigma. This referendum is a chance for everyone in Ireland to leave such shame and stigma behind. We have, instead, the opportunity to replace them with trust and real empathy.


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