Monday 22 September 2008

When Mothers Slay Their Young

Last week's poll was clear cut.

7 of you think we don't come down hard enough on rapists.
2 disagree.

Hmmm. I'm actually surprised we got no votes, but still. I expected a low turnout, but I didn't expect no votes. Still.

Usually these poll topics are presented in the form of I put an issue up and I tell you my point of view. This week will be a little different.

Some of you will be aware I have a strong opinion on this subject and will also be aware that is in part due to personal reasons. I have never told the story in full, because it is, for the most part, something that lingers on in my mind as one of those things I never quite forget and which totally changed my perspective on everything.

So this week, I'm actually just going to tell you my own experience of this topic and how it affected me.

I'm only going to say one thing. The argument that a foetus isn't life because it can't survive on it's own doesn't hold water. Show me a two month old baby who can.

Claire and I were not perhaps, the most ideally suited couple in the world. But we drifted along.
I was 23, she was 24. We were engaged. We lived together. I sold phone systems, she was a college lecturer.
We had little in common, but we muddled along. If anyone cares for more detail, it's here.

Had no spanners ever appeared in the works we'd have ended up walking up that aisle in September of 2002. That's the date she had planned. We'd have ended drifting up to that date and beyond into marital hell.

For her, because it was her dream. The whole package. The career, the house, the wallpaper, the fitted kitchens, the three piece suite that matches the carpets, the loving huband and the ring on the finger.

For me, strange as it may sound, I thought it was better to settle with what life threw your way than carry on waiting forever. It sounds strange looking back that I was worried about being 'left on the shelf' at that age, but I was.

Underlying it all, wasn't any great desire to tie the knot. I think I saw it as the price that had to be paid. I'm not sure I even saw it as a lifetime arrangement, even if it did end up at the altar.

I think I saw being present at my own wedding as kind of an unpleasant necessity I had to go through in order to be present at the christening of my own children.

A life chosen out of a catalogue, perhaps. But we were choosing from different catalogues.

I'm not sure either of us were really alive.

The problem arose in quite a common way. She was diabetic. They told her her new medication would likely counteract the pill and that she should consider the implant. The thing is, the implant can only go in at a certain time of a woman's cycle (I can't remember whether it's just before or just after her period), and in between her being told this and her next opportunity to have the implant, we went off on our summer holidays...

A week in a cottage in Devon...

I guess everybody remembers where they were when England redeemed itself for thirty years of always losing to Germany by beating Germany 5-1.
I certainly do.

Right from the start the day was- tense. And I didn't quite know why. She kept going on about the town carnival, being an ex carnival Queen herself and I had no interest whatsoever. I was more concerned with working out where I'd watch the game. And where the hell I'd put my England flag.

And we bickered at eachother most of the morning. She wanted me to come watch their floats with her and I wanted to find the flag. Turned out she DID know where it was all along.

Anyway, I agreed to go with her to the carnival and all seemed well, until we were walking down the street and almost got knocked over by a horde of kids armed with plastic guns and pirate hats.
'Bloody kids!' I said 'There should be a law keeping them off the pavements.'
'Well, you better get used to them, DADDY!'

I turned. 'WHAT?'
She growled 'You heard.'

I refused to believe it. She went into all the technicalities of when she thought she'd had her last period. I flatly refused to listen.
'You're not pregnant, Claire. A day or two late at most. Hence your mood.'

It was self deception, of course. I didn't really want to face the prospect. Mainly because I didn't want to be worrying about it when the football was on. So till then, it was better NOT to believe.

Anyway, I kidded myself I didn't believe and it was just another of her crazy short lived self deceptions and forgot about it for the ninety minutes it took England to redeem herself for thirty years of losing to Germany. And for the seven pints I consumed in the pub to celebrate.

By the time I got back to Claire, I think I kind of knew in my heart of hearts. I don't know why.

We found a chemist next day- a Sunday- on the way over to have Dinner with my parents.

We did the test in a cubicle in the Women's public toilets in the local shopping centre.
As I held the strip in the little cup of urine, I could see in my mind the second blue line before it happened. I KNEW. And so did she.

Dinner with my parents was awkward...

We stopped off in a pub in the way home and talked about it. 'I can't keep it.' she said. 'It's the wrong time in my career. And we're not married. In a few years, yes, but not now. We're too young. We can't afford it. I'm not ready for it, and nor are you.'
I just told her not to make rash decisions. I knew my opinion already. But I didn't think it was the right time. She was too shaken, I guess I thought I could work her round into keeping it. So I didn't say much yet, except to tell her not to rush into a decision.

The following day at work, I rolled back in after lunch slightly the worse for wear. I'd told my colleagues in the pub, and they'd agreed I should go home that afternoon and join Claire at the doctors.

So when I got back, I'd had a fair few Double Jamesons.

My boss wasn't impressed. We went for a private talk in the office.

'You're quite drunk.'
'Yes, I know. Thing is, Claire's up the duff and I should really go home. She needs me with her at the doctor's'
'You know, people get pregnant all the time. Welcome to the real world. I was pregnant at fifteen. I'm sure she can cope- it's not like you won't be back home soon.'

Half hour later she called me back in and said 'I've been thinking, I was a bit harsh there. I didn't think. You should go. Go home, if you want.'

But I was weak 'No, it's OK, you're right. I'm needed here. I'll stay.'
'You sure?'

I should have gone.
Because Claire had already started the wheels in motion.

That month was hell.

Because it kept coming up. I guess I really convinced myself I could talk her out of it.
And so much more came out too, underlying gripes that had festered so long, issues that really showed how little we had in common, how much, underneath it all, we resented eachother in some ways.

I cried several times.

At one time I said 'He's my SON, Claire. And yours too. MY SON. You are making me an accomplice to the murder of MY SON. LITTLE ---. He wants to come with me to watch Birmingham play, not end his life in a plastic bag before it even started.'
And she snarled back 'It's not a he, it's an it. A ball of cells. And it's going to be RIPPED OUT, that's right, ---, RIPPED OUT AND THROWN AWAY!'

And I stared in horror 'What kind of mother are you?'

And I'd say 'How can you think we could marry and have children in the future? What do we say? You had a brother but we killed him. How could we look any future children in the eye, knowing that we killed a child?'

Ans sometimes she really hit me where it hurt 'Typical of you isn't it? You can't even manage sex properly. Never gave me an orgasm, but you managed to get me pregnant. Managed that OK, didn't you? Managed to stick a kid inside me that's no doubt as useless as it's father at everything apart from being a wide boy.'

She wore me down. I did get covert legal advice and found, as most males do, there really is nothing you can do. You really do have absolutely no power at all, your opinion is irrelevant. No one cares. It's her body and it really doesn't matter that it's your son inside.

The day she had to go to the clinic I woke up with a throbbing pain in my shoulder. Burning, it was. All the way to the clinic, I kept massaging it. Eventually as I pushed and pulled the ball of the shoulder, I felt a tight click and a slight twinge. I realised I'd been sleeping so bad, I'd managed to dislocate it and that click was actually my arm slotting back into it's socket.

The Calthorpe Road clinic is a disturbing place. Looks like any other nice house on a nice street. Inside, it could be a Harley Street dentist. But it's not. It's a place where mother's go to divest themselves of their unwanted young.

Killing those two hours was hard. I couldn't focus on my book, so I went for a walk. I got some cigarettes and returned to the clinic. As I came back up the road there were a handful of demonstrators outside, with two security guards blocking the entrance.
As I walked past, one of them flashed a portrait at me. One that he couldn't know would hit me in a way the way it did. Because he couldn't know that I privately shared his position. Not his tactics, not his extremism. But his position. And the image he used was one which holds much power over me.
'Look on the face of the Mother of Christ!'

I returned to the waiting room wanting to run up and stop it. But I knew it was already too late.

They do the women in batches, so they all come back down together. As the first ones came down, one of them came up to me. She must have been told who to look for. 'She's coming, the gas affected her. But you were the first thing she asked for. She's worried about you.'
And I guess for an instant you think it's something you can both come back from. In time, it will heal.

It doesn't.

It never can. It's there. I would look at her and in my heart all I thought was 'Childkiller'.

We lasted a month after that.
And I've never seen her since.

And it changed me. It changed how I saw the society I lived in. Because I could never, ever again, have any respect for when people quoted the law. The law? The law tells me I can't stick Cocaine up my nose of my own free will? Would that be the same law that allows 100,000 unborn children to die every year in the UK alone? One of which was mine? That's how I felt about it.

It was all of it. The women sitting in there in the waiting room, treating it as not much more than a form of contraception. The smiling nurses, the doctors, no doubt justifying it to themselves, but no doubt so did Mengele.

And a society that thinks it's really OK, that it's a 'just a ball of cells'.

Well, that ball of cells carried my DNA. And I don't forget that. I'll never forget that.
To me, it's murder.

Up till then, I had cynically played lip service to the social values of the culture I lived in. Accepted the idea of playing the system, playing ball. This is when it changed for me. This is when it started to get personal.

I give money to two charities.

Dog's Trust.

I'm not going to present any of the arguments on either side. I don't really care about the issues the Pro-choice camp come up with. It's Murder. It is Murder.

And there is no justification in my view that you can come up with for it. At all.

And I feel that way, because I still grieve. Every time I even see a baby, a part of me remembers.
And always will.

Poll's in the sidebar.

You know the drill.


Anonymous said...

Crushed: I disagree with your position but I found this an incredibly powerful post. I don't think its the kind of post to which you respond with an argument- I can't take away with consoling words or logical chains what you felt, and nor will I try. The one thing I do think is that abortion can inflict terrible damage- it obviously did on your relationship with this woman- and the way you tell that story is so good because I can see her point of view as well as yours. This is a very impressive post.

Anonymous said...

Agree with gracchi, I can see both sides.
However, for me personally and am not throwing stones at anyone, abortion is an easy way out to excuse irresponsibility. Really unless it's rape or an abnormality or severe risk to mother and or child, there is no excuse for abortion. It gives those who are careless a way of resolving their carelessness. There is no excuse for unwanted pregnancy, the pill is not 100% safe, so if you dont want a baby, take the extra precautions. A bunch of cells? Well cells are a living thing, as tissue it is still living, it is the beginning of life. I do feel for those who are faced with rape, incest and risks involved, not those who dont give a dam and dismiss it as easily as getting an abortion. Sorry for such a long reply but I dont agree on abortions in the first instance.

Anonymous said...

That is a very ugly title and it sets the stage for what follows.

Setting aside the personal story, which is a very powerful one indeed, I have to say in theory I am pro-choice but personally I could never do it. Once you have had a child I don't see how any woman could. I suppose if you never had a child it might be easy to say it's just a bunch of cells. But that bunch of cells has the potential to be just like your Johnny or your Sarah, how is it possible to stop that development.

Yes I do believe it is far too easy to get an abortion and do think it should be restricted to a much narrower set of circumstances. It is quite sobering to think that in one year there are more abortions performed than live births in a local hospital here.

I don't think too many women actually do have an abortion without some emotional aftereffects but I am sure that many people never think of the effect it has on the potential father and you have put forth one man's feeling on the subject very powerfully.

Anonymous said...

Well said JMB.

Anonymous said...

this is one subject which has always conflicted me...while for myself it wouldn't be a choice...i cannot see that i have a right to take the choice from someone else...i have been with women before having the procedure done who were rape victims and even though it was spawned through a violent, horrid still affected the women years later and conflicted them...i don't know if there is a right answer to this one...

Anonymous said...

I am guilty and I do suffer after effects of my actions - I was young - my guy was not suprotive, nor did he want it and I was alone my family being far away. having said that and having done what I did, I can tell you my life changed on that day - and when I do look into my children's eyes I often times wonder what if. I wrote about it here:

I cannot call a do-over - but if I could I certainly would.

Anonymous said...

I am pro choice. I have to admit that I don't like the title that you have used in this post, but that's just me. Very, very powerful post. I do believe that men should have more of a say in what happens with their unborn child, it's ashame they don't. I have a friend who almost lost his little girl because the mother was not capable of making responsible decisions. He now has her and is raising her without the Mother in the picture...

Anonymous said...

Gracchi- It does kind of soften over time, though it was still almost two yours before I dealt with it in Confession.
I think it's prob one of the few times I can say that receiving absolution felt like it physically lifted a burden from me.

I think it's promoted too easily. I do agree, I don't think either of us were ready to be parents- certainly not parents together, but there are many couples out there crying out for a child to adopt.

Nunyaa- I would agree, indeed so would Haeckel. He said that the most important thing in life is not birth, death or marriage, but gastrulation.

How the ball of cells starts to split. Within a matter of weeks, there is a difference betwen a protostome and a deuterostome embryo and a little over two months, then the embryo has already started to be identifiable as the species it will become.

I this case, it did take place before 11 weeks, but certainly I don't think abortion should EVER be tolerated after that point. By this time, it is defined not as an embryo, but as a foetus. It has developing human organs. Prior to then, you could argue that it is not distinguishable from any other animal embryo, not that I'm entirely convinced that loophole improves matters.

jmb- I've called it worse over the years.
I was always pro-life anyway, due to my faith partly, but this made it real.

Of course, all human life is just a bunch of cells, if you think about it. Where do you draw the line?

I'm no moral crusader, but I think people forget that unless you were raped, you DID have a choice. You CHOSE to take part in an activity the biological purpose of which is baby making- and it's a pretty effective process. And that makes you responsible for the outcome, whatever it is.

I think it does affect most women, yes.

What I do find irritating is how most people assume the father probably pushed the woman to have it. It's not always the case.

Sometimes when I'm in a bitter mood and I'm railing against the world I still find myself saying 'Yeah, well, life ain't like that. It ain't all dreams and happiness. It's about steel doors clanking shut and dead babies.'

I do have a bitter streak in me in somewhere. I just try to move on.

Daisy- I wonder though, has any woman who changed her mind last minute and NOT had the abortion ever regretted it?
I would say, probably not.

Cat- I hope the post didn't offend you. It wasn't meant as a a judgement on people who've madfe the choice- more on the cultural acceptance of something that people just don't think through.

It messed my head up for a long time. And in a real way, it messed parts of my life up that can never be repaired.

Reeny- You don't realise it till you're in that situation. It's quite bizarre. The state will hound fathers to death in some cases to get maintenance from them, but they have no rights to save the life of their unborn child.

I was never consulted. You'd have thought at some point I would at least have ben asked by someone in a position of authority, but no.

And you've have thought, bearing in mind what jmb rightly points out as well, there would be more of an aftercare service to help people get through this kind of trauma.

Anonymous said...

Weak male attached to an alpha female with new competitor on the way.
She enacts the Final Solution. Every time.

I almost married a woman older than me (by a few months but it signifies a difference of mindset) - and in pre-wedding counselling she revealed she would never have children. I looked at her and realised she always wanted to be the child. I was to look after her and only her.

Weak male that was me. She saw me coming.

So, I resolved to find myself.

Life does not begin at conception but at inception.
Two selfish people, like the female who sees the relationship confirmed in astrological stars and the male confirmed in his pants does not make a good start. Her first sense of glorification of being lusted by the male soon turns to her having contempt at being so easily able to confuse and play him to her advantage. Whilst he wakes up to the thing of beauty turning into his mother... she further change into the muther of all creatures.

Women are not bars of chocolate. They are conscious beings of great potential. Treat her honorably for she will not forget, and if she's lucky, when she's ninety she might forgive to discover heaven.

As a man you should find your natural born insight which should be able to bring the woman with her natural born intuition to a place of love.

Anonymous said...

This was very sad. There are no winners in any of it. Poor Claire, poor you and poor little life that didn't get to be born - it's a damn horrible subject.

But. You cannot take away the rights of a woman to own her body and what happens to it. What about your rights? as a Father?
That's the thing that no one can do a thing about - it is the woman's choice solely because it is her body that carries the baby.

I am sorry this happened to you, I really am.

Anonymous said...

p.s I know a few women who have had abortions. One of my friends had one over TWENTY years ago and she still cries over the baby that never was born. She still hurts.

Anonymous said...

A very powerful post. I agree some people go along this route far too easily without thinking through what they are doing. I should think it is always bound to have a lasting emotional effect and I don't understand why some women don't realise that the decision would affect the father too!

Anonymous said...

There was a really gross thing about abortion on Radio 4 only yesterday... they were saying a 12 week old baby can be extracated through a 0.5 cm wide tube "because it's all soft tissue" in other words what comes out is baby mush this made me feel so ill I cannot describe it

Anonymous said...

Intense post, sir. I am pro-choice, yet I don't know if I could ever go through with it myself, and I thank God I have never had to be in that position.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we come down hard enough on crime generally.

Paedophiles and rapists should really be made aware that their crime is not socually acceptable.

I won't demand the death penalty, but solitary confinement for months on end would be too good for them.

Murderers or those who casually cause grievious bodily harm with a bottle in the face, a knife or a gun, or in a drunken brawl should have their arms broken, and put in solitary confinement while their arms are in plaster.

And terrorists who plot random murder should have the same, but with no remission.

As barbaric as it may sound, I really do think that in this day and age there is less excuse for any crime, yet the punishment and time in prison are far too lenient.

There is no pussy footing about when british troops are entangled in an exchange of fire with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The result is your brains blown out, or your legs blown off by a grenade. Of course british troops may ne able to rely on better medical care when they are on the receiving end.

Anonymous said...

Kinderling- I can't really comment on your relationship with this woman.

I can see SOME similarities, esp in your remarks about your partner wanting to always be the child.
There was an element of that with Claire. And in fact that kind of worked. I think I'm one of those males who ONLY responds to women they feel protective towards.
When it worked, it worked because I felt protective towards her vulnerable side.

But there was another side, and that's where we clashed. And I can be quite a cold hard person in many ways.

Life is one long learning curve, I guess.
I was still very young then.

Kate- Winners, losers, I don't know.

Everything happens for a reason, I guess.
It's true that what happened to me later wouldn't have happened had this not happened.

But then again, I'd be sitting her now after six years of marriage to Claire and I think my life would have ben far more miserable.

And with less hope for the future.

I don't think my life now is a waste and yet had this not hasppened, I think it would have been.

If that makes sense.

CherryPie- Because it is thrown at them, oushed on them almost. It's not held up as an emergency option if there really is no other solution.

I know people say that a woman may not be ready for a child and all the other arguments.
But there is no law says she has to bring the child up.

Giving the child up for adoption HAS to be better than depriving it of the life that has alreadsy ben set in motion.

I've not met a woman yet who had one and didn't at least part of her look back and wonder.

At least if you give the child up for adoption you can come back when you're ready, should you want to.

Gledwoos- I know, it's that sort of talk makes me angry.
No doubt how the medical staff at Auschwitz used to talk.

Princess P- Touch wood you never have to be. It's horrible, it really is.

Every time someone asks if you have children, a part of you registers the question and wants to ignore it.

Quasar- I don't know, I'm quite against the concept of an eye for an eye, for several good reasons.

I've met and talked to a couple of life sentence prisoners and I don't believe it did much good for anyone.

I actually think we should move to a slightly more utiltarian concept.

I'd aim to break all justice down into three answers; Recompense, rehabilitation, public safety.

The first bit is simple. Pay back to society. If someone gratuitously commits an offence, but it it is preety certain they did it, not because there's issues need addressing, but because they thought they could get one over, then the community service model is the way forward. Currently thev limit is 200 hours. I'd just scrap the upper limit. Let people do 60,000 hours if need be. It seems far more productive than gaol, methinks.

Rehabilitation- that's omprtant for most petty criminals. They have issues need addressing, and really the best way is to try cure the problem, treeat it as a disease. Treat them more as disaroders that can be solved. And a lot of them, I think, can be. Shopplifting, crime to fund drug habits etc.

However, some offenders can't be cured, and I think this goes for most sex offenders and some violent criminals.

Why let them out at all, when they're incurable?

I'm of two minds what to here. One side says lock them up somewhere secure, but not brutal. A bit like mental patients are treated. essentially, they come into much the same category.

But sometimes I wonder. Much as I do deplore the death penalty in eye for an eye justice, the fact is I do agreee with euthanasia for people whose life has become a total misery.

And I do find myself wondering whether or not in cases such as serial sex offenders, actually putting them down isn't the most humane option.

Anonymous said...

No offense taken at all this was a view from the other side if you will and it does need to be heard more than it is. Cat