Tuesday 17 September 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

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'I have given birth three times but only have one child at home... please show compassion for women like me'

Ciara Cribbin from Edenderry, Co Offaly has lost two children to fatal foetal abnormalities. Last week, her best friend of 25 years buried a daughter also born with a fatal foetal abnormality. Here she tells Independent.ie why she is voting Yes

Ciara Cribbin and her daughter Robin
Ciara Cribbin and her daughter Robin
Ciara Cribbin (right) and her best friend Sinead (left), who also lost a child to a fatal foetal abnormality

Ciara Cribbin

I am days away from giving birth to our fourth child, yet we only have one child at home at the moment.

This baby I am carrying is, thankfully, healthy but we haven't always been this lucky. We have been affected by both a fatal foetal diagnosis and the weight and restrictions of the Eighth Amendment.

The No campaigners call us the "hard cases" but they also dismiss parents like us by saying cases like ours are rare and try to justify our grief and our reality into a statistic so low we become the casualty of what the No side think is the greater good of the Eighth Amendment.

We have lost two babies to fatal foetal abnormalities and just last week we watched as my best friend buried her beautiful baby girl, lost to fatal foetal as well. We, the "hard cases" are not as rare as the No side would have you believe.

Ciara Cribbin holds the hands of her two sons, who she lost to fatal foetal abnormalities
Ciara Cribbin holds the hands of her two sons, who she lost to fatal foetal abnormalities

A No vote in this referendum will not clear anyone's conscience by keeping abortion out of Ireland.

It is and has been here for some time. Those floodgates are well and truly open. A No vote is turning a blind eye to what is already here.

What a No vote does do however is to prevent compassionate and deserving care to any parent unlucky enough to find themselves in our shoes.

It takes away the choice of early intervention in an incredibly difficult pregnancy where the baby has no chance of survival.

Ciara Cribbin (right) and her best friend Sinead (left), who also lost a child to a fatal foetal abnormality
Ciara Cribbin (right) and her best friend Sinead (left), who also lost a child to a fatal foetal abnormality

It forces parents to continue for weeks through emotional and mental trauma only to watch their child die at the end of it.

It creates stigma, shame and judgment on parents who instead should be shown kindness, compassion and empathy at their most vulnerable and devastating hour. It condemns grieving parents into criminals for the crime of not wanting their unborn child to suffer.

I was 21 weeks pregnant when my husband and I were told our baby was incompatible with life. It's hard to put into words just how devastating that is, to be told this baby who was planned, wanted and so loved already, would die as soon as he was born.

The Eighth Amendment forbade us from compassionately ending the pregnancy early and the added extra trauma of travelling to a different country was too much to bare so we continued in the blind hope that the doctors could be wrong, that someone somewhere could help our baby.

We got several second opinions from different hospitals, even from different countries. Every answer was the same, there was no hope. I don't know how we made it through those weeks, we answered the many usual baby questions from well meaning people asking my due date, any names etc, plastering on a smile while knowing all the while that our baby would die.

I panicked and broke down everyday, every time the baby was quiet wondering was he gone already, when he wasn't moving or kicking had his heart already stopped. This happened everyday for 14 weeks. I wouldn't force that kind of pregnancy on anyone, but that's exactly what the Eighth Amendment does.

Our son Danny arrived in August 2012, we were so happy to finally meet him, to have him, to hold him. We watched absolutely helpless while our gorgeous newborn son struggled to breath. 1 hour and 15 minutes after Danny was born, he died in my arms.

Our baby boy, here but already gone. We were just devastated, the whole pregnancy was traumatic but nothing can prepare you for the death of a baby. The silence in our house was deafening, the void was huge.

We were so lucky to go on to have our daughter. Even though we were now high risk we are so happy we went again, she is the light of our lives and we wouldn't have gotten through our dark days without her.

In December 2015 I was pregnant with our third baby, the nature of Danny's condition meant we had to wait until late in my second trimester to find out if the baby was affected. Our worst nightmare came back.

This baby had the same fatal foetal condition his big brother had. The same only a lot worse. There was no doubt in our minds that our second little boy who was as wanted, planned and loved as much as our first could not be saved.

We had gotten through our first pregnancy on naivety and hope. We didn't have that comfort this time around. We knew with certainty that this little boy had potentially a horrendously painful short life and death ahead of him if we continued with the pregnancy.

There was only one decision we could make and even after all we had been through it was not a decision we came to lightly.

Two weeks before Christmas in the middle of a storm in total secrecy, we took the shame, secrecy, judgment and stigma that the Eighth Amendment creates and flew to Liverpool.

Two devastated parents, alone, neglected, kicked out and let down by our country. We knew what we were doing was what was best for our son.

We had watched three years earlier as his big brother struggled and ultimately died and we knew that we could not make or watch this little boy go through an even worse fate.

If the Eighth amendment wasn't in place our own team of doctors could have compassionately induced me earlier in the pregnancy, instead we had to wait for an appointment in Liverpool and endure the trauma of a termination procedure. We were forced to do that because of the Eighth Amendment and that is something that will stay with us forever.

At 22 weeks pregnant our tiny boy Sam was born, no less loved than his big brother Danny was at full term. By ending the pregnancy early we did what was the kindest most humane thing we could do for our baby.

It was absolutely not humane for us but it was for baby Sam. We don't regret continuing with our first pregnancy, it was the right thing to do for us at the time. We also don't regret ending our pregnancy with our little boy Sam, it was also the right thing to do for us at the time.

We don't feel shame or think what we did was wrong, we absolutely know we did the right thing for him.

We were one of the very lucky ones that could bury our baby here. It gives us great comfort that our two boys are laid to rest together. We are privileged that we have a grave to go to.

Many many other families don't even have that. The Eighth Amendment strips them of the dignity of a funeral and a final resting place. My heart breaks for all of the parents who were forced to travel to a different country and leave their babies behind them.

After travelling both roads of the fatal foetal journey I can say that neither choice is easy and you wouldn't wish that diagnosis on your worst enemy.

What I do know without doubt is that the Eighth amendment and its restrictions made our decision immeasurably worse. The Eighth made us feel like criminals, it punished us for doing what we knew in our hearts was best for our son.

The No campaigners through their posters and campaign have labelled us murderers for ending our pregnancy early. It has condemned us to stigma and silenced us for fear of judgement. Parents like us have an impossible decision to make, we shouldn't be made feel like this, we should be shown kindness and compassion, understanding and empathy in our hour of need.

The law cannot be changed in regards to fatal foetal abnormalities unless the Eighth Amendment is repealed this Friday. A No vote is condemning every future parent who is unlucky enough to be given this diagnosis to even more suffering and trauma than what they will already have to go through.

This has been incredibly difficult to write and even harder to share but I have watched in admiration as others have bravely shared their own stories.

Sometimes a private matter needs public support.

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