Friday, May 24, 2013

We're Not Designed For Hate

It's been so long since my last post I hope you haven't forgotten me!  I've been overwhelmed by writing and listening and trying to do my bit here in my own little country which is sitting on the cusp of a wave and is either going to gently enter calm waters or crash down into a trough of destruction.  If you don't know already, I'm talking about the fact that the Irish Government is proposing to legalise abortion this summer in a law that all experts agree will sooner rather than later lead to abortion on demand up to birth. 

But that's not what my post is about, it's about something else, it could be life issues, it could be politics, culture or anything else where people have different viewpoints.  

Last night my husband told me I woke him up in the middle of the night to tell him how difficult the last few weeks have been for me.  I have zero memory of this incident but it doesn't surprise me.  Being midweek I'd had nothing stronger than a mug of camomile tea before bed so there was no vino induced veritas kicking in.  It would however seem that in half slumber veritas will also show it's face. 

I'll tell you what's been happening. Now I'm not telling this to bring the subject around to me, it could be, and is, anyone.  If you've been following this blog for any length of time you'll know that I have spoken about online nastiness  more than once.  It's spoken and warned about in schools, workplaces and so on and though everyone laments it, it's rampant. Of course, nobody ever admits to being the person behind those pseudonyms  from whose fingers flow toxic hostility that is sometimes chilling to witness.  I really really wonder what some people are like in real life. Can they hide the side of their personalities that are unleashed anonymously on Twitter and other forums? Does it seep into their interpersonal relationships? Their family lives?

A few weeks ago, maybe two weeks, I penned a letter to e-mail to the elected representatives of my country on the topic of this proposed legislation. 

This is what I wrote:

Dear Deputy,

From the perspective of someone who was advised to have an abortion by an Irish Obstetrician on the grounds of foetal anomaly and who every day is thankful she didn't take that advice, I am contacting you to convey my dismay at the upcoming proposed Irish abortion legislation, entitled 'Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Bill'.

Three and a half years ago at my routine ultrasound scan, my daughter, Louise, was diagnosed with a major life threatening congenital heart defect and a rare brain anomaly called Dandy-Walker Syndrome.  The very first thing our obstetrician suggested was to 'go to England'. We decided against that and to give our daughter a shot at life, however long or short that might be.

Throughout my pregnancy we felt judged and punished for deciding not to abort our child and were treated with great unkindness throughout the pregnancy.  To be honest it was a relief to transfer to the care of Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin, where our baby was called her name from our first visit there long before she was born, in contrast to the refusal of our OB  to not only not call her Louise, but to not even refer to her as a baby.  To this day this has caused me profound pain.

I'd like to add that the suggestion to abort was made without the offer of an opinion of a cardiologist or a neurologist.

Because our daughter's condition is very rare, I am in contact with families across the English speaking world that are in the same situation.  I have yet to 'meet' a single family who were not encouraged, or more commonly, pressured, to abort their child.  In fact I came across a UK obstetric guideline that TOP should be recommended in EVERY CASE of Dandy-Walker.  On top of that, the same site cites an abortion rate of 50% for all babies with CHD, many of whom could have been given long lives with the help of surgery.

Had we taken the advice of our doctor, we would have thought we were 'saving' a child from a life of pain and disability.  We would never have known that Louise was about to defy all grim predictions, that she was about to defy her genes and that she would grow into a delightful little girl who has reached all her milestones with time to share.  She has had three major cardiac surgeries in her three years but her surgeon told us just this spring that he expects her to lead a long and normal life with just some restrictions such as she will never compete for Ireland in The Olympic Games.  He also told us that should she ever become pregnant, he and his colleagues will see and her half a heart through.  This is opposite to what we were told before she was born.

We also would never have known that this child was about to blow us away with a love we never could have imagined.  We would never have witnessed the effect she has had on people who will never meet her but whose lives she touched in profound ways...and this was long before she was born.  

As you know, there is already pressure and expectation to extend abortion legislation for foetal anomaly.  In my experience legality becomes expectation and quite quickly a 'duty'. The inclusion of a threat of suicide in the legislation is so wide open to misuse.  Nobody can disprove the validity of a threat of this nature and the widespread use of the mental health clause in UK abortion law rings alarm bells for Ireland.

 There is nothing in Irish human nature or psyche to suggest that we are different to every single other country in the world.

To take the life of an innocent person, sick or well, is such a terrible injustice and wrong to the core.  Surely the duty of society is to offer something better than this hopeless and terrible terrible act.

On behalf of babies like Louise, I implore people to stand for what is right and to do whatever is in your power to stop this legislation from passing.   

Yours sincerely,


All I did was tell my story and ask they take it into account. 

After I wrote it and read it over I thought it was pretty good (if I said so myself) and had the idea of sending it to the letters page of the country's newspapers, including the regional and local papers. 

About twenty minutes after I clicked 'send' I got an e-mail from a journalist with a national newspaper asking me could she ring me and could they get a photograph of Louise. Of course I was delighted that my letter would now be an article and maybe more people would read it.  So I spoke to the girl and she promised a story faithful to what I'd told her. 

I presumed the story would feature somewhere about page 16.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next!

I was preparing to go to bed a day or so later when my sister messaged me to say my face had just flashed up on the screen during a late night political programme which was having a look at the next day's front pages.
I was the headline article!! 

It also took up all of page two and three.

I felt the blood run from my face at the sudden realisation that 'they'll be out for my head now'. This is not a topic where a certain viewpoint is welcomed. I was so shocked! I couldn't sleep. Delighted and horrified at the same time.

Next day all hell broke loose. I got emails from other newspapers, radio, TV.  I figured that some news sources were weary of the shabby treatment and unveiled lack or balance and were happy to run with a life affirming story of hope.

Then I foolishly looked at Twitter.

When you find an assistant editor of a major national newspaper live tweeting anything he could find about you in his online research it's a bit un-nerving.  When that live tweet is joined by a staff writer of a different major online news site, adding links to comments (on the same topic as the article) I'd left on sites, links to my blog (both my blogs spiked that day with the pages being viewed the ones which looked like 'juicy' topics), trying to find out my Twitter handle, which luckily I'd changed about a year ago, links to a blogpost (about the sadness and beauty of miscarriage if they'd bothered to read it) that was published by a Catholic newspaper as an article last moves into the realm of creepy. 

Next day online commentators were researching family links and any other links they could find, and it wasn't so they could praise my gorgeous little girl.  And then, the inevitable accusation that my story about Louise was fabricated by me and my husband for the purposes of agenda.

Now here's my point. I knew this was going to happen. My blog about Louise had from the start the hope that another family would glean enough courage to give their baby a shot at life.  I've never been ashamed or tried to hide that I stand for life, or my Christian, and more specifically Catholic, beliefs. Why should I be ashamed? 

I honestly really don't care about being the butt of this nastiness. Ultimately it's not personal, I'm just the vehicle for a message, it could be anyone who speaks an uncomfortable message. I'm happy to be in a position to say something.  When I was in Africa on a work camp I remember the battered sign that a lot of lorries and vans had which read 'Let Them Say' I've remembered that time and again over the years and if I was Carlsberg and I did mottos, that might well be it. 

Let them say.

Let them...

So why then can I not fall asleep these nights? Why have I had a two week low grade headache? Why did I wake up my husband during the night to admit to something my subconscious self can see but which my awake self denies? 

I have had far more lovely things said to me since I clicked 'send'. Today my green-grocer thanked me for saying what I said and gave me a free bag of spinach. Maybe he realises I probably need some of Popeye's power snack!!  The nasty witch hunters have been relatively minor.  

So why have they affected me? 

I think this is why:

We were made by God. Who is Love.  He made us out of Love. Our destination is Love. We're designed to be loved. 

We're not designed to be hated. Nobody is. When it's aimed our direction it's disconcerting. Peace does not come from hating and being hated. Peace comes from the freedom to love and be loved. That's our design. 

I normally have some (what I think is a) profound resolution at the end of my posts. Not this time. Maybe the words of St Francis...where there is hatred let me sow love. I don't know those people's baggage and it's not my business to. Maybe it's just a lesson to me to remember not to react with the same...although if my husband were to write here he'd tell you a few of the colourful mouthfuls that have come from me this past week...we're all a work in progress.

Well anyway, that's why there's been a gap in my blogging mojo.  I have some nice posts on my mind to write.  Unless they GET me, that is. 


  1. Yes we are all works in progress whether 7 or 70. Kudos to you for resisting the new kulturkampf . Reading the responses to articles about the proposed abortion legislation of the Blueshirt party one is taken aback by the insane hatred of the Church founded by Christ over 2000 years ago. Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in both the US and the EU it seems. Keep up the good work. You have still got your mojo.

  2. Wow, Jennifer, I was wondering what had happened to you on Twitter for the past two weeks, I hadn't seen any of your tweets, and now I know!!!! Wow, congratulations, but you deserve it! You're multi-talented and an inspiration to God I'm sure too. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  3. Well done Jennifer, keep up the good work.

  4. Don't let them get you down Jennifer. God bless you and your family. All life is sacred despite what our government and pro choice groups would have us believe. Shame on them.

  5. Would you bother yourself about the petty, biased journalism we have in this country? I am 100% sure your story has inspired many more than some of those excuses of journalists.

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  8. I had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the Vigil for Life, you are an inspiration and Louise is just beautiful. Keep up the good work.


I'd love you to leave your thoughts...I will not approve disrespectful, personal or inflammatory comments, especially if they are under Anonymous. If you want to partake in online abuse I recommend trying elsewhere.