Ali’s Blog

Hypocrisy, Truth and Lies #repealthe8th

It is a beautiful, sunny day, and today the people of Ireland are making history yet again by voting on changes to the constitution. Times change, society changes, people change, the world changes, and sometimes the legislation which governs us must change to accommodate that. The people of Ireland are not afraid; they’ve done it before, and I hope they will do it again.

What does it mean? Very simply, it means abortion could be legalised in Ireland. Most people would agree that abortion is a double-edged sword; no one wants to kill an unborn child. In Ireland, there will be strict controls so that the system cannot be abused, and abortions will only take place during the first twelve weeks.

The debate still rages over whether life starts at conception, or later. And until now, the right to life of the unborn child has been prioritised over the health of the mother, to the extent that women have been allowed to die rather than provide medical intervention which might compromise the life of the baby.

Historically, women and children have not been well looked after in Ireland. It is only in recent years that the truth has emerged concerning the Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes, dying rooms, cesspits stuffed with the bodies of babies and children, widespread abuse of children by priests and covered up by the church… lies, cover-ups, it’s a horrific legacy indicating just how Ireland in the recent past has actually valued its women and children, particularly its vulnerable pregnant women and girls.

Now it’s time to change all that.

I don’t approve of abortion; in all seriousness, who does? But if I was allowed a vote, I would without hesitation vote YES, because there are times when abortion is necessary: rape, incest, childhood pregnancy, when a woman has mental health issues, for the mother’s health and right to life, if the baby has serious deformities or health issues, to name but a few circumstances in which a termination might sadly be required.

I don’t believe women’s bodies and fertility should be controlled by the state, the church or the patriarchy. A pregnancy is a private matter between a woman and a man. If the woman is in a loving relationship with that man, they should both be part of the decision, if an abortion becomes necessary, but primarily, a woman should hold the rights over her own pregnancy.

You might be shocked at my decision, when I have a profoundly disabled child of my own. But having Carys has taught me so much. I would never judge someone who decided to terminate a pregnancy based on a diagnosis of abnormalities in their unborn child, because I know how hard it is to raise such a child, how it controls your life, actually, how it sucks the life out of you so you become a shell of the human you once were, how in fact society and the state do not value your child, will not support and help you or the child, how you must fight, fight, fight when you are so exhausted and stressed you can barely think straight.

That’s what it’s like for the mother. Nowhere in this debate has anyone stopped to consider what life is like for such a child, how much they suffer, and believe me, they suffer.

Of course, there is great joy in sharing your life with such a child, too. And so much love. But the good doesn’t outweigh the bad, or justify it; they just exist together, the bad and the good, side by side, impossible to separate. And that’s why I wouldn’t judge anyone who chose an abortion in similar circumstances. And neither should anyone else. In fact, I support their right to choose.

The twelve week rule. I support that too, although in effect, it will rule out a lot of women. In my pregnancy, the problems were not detected until I had my first scan, and I didn’t get my first scan until I was 18 weeks pregnant. Well past the twelve week limit.

My doctors spoke of termination, but of course that meant travelling to the UK. I won’t lie, I considered it. I researched all the syndromes I could find to see what my child’s life might be like, and if I thought I could cope. We decided to let nature run its course, so long as the baby wasn’t in any pain. The doctors said in their experience, in 100% of cases, the baby dies before it is born. They were wrong. Carys was born alive, and she is now nearly thirteen years old. That decision was right for us, but I respect that it might not be for others. I want people to have the right to choose.

Women should not have to travel overseas to access abortions. They need the comfort and support of family, they should be able to access after-care and counselling in their own country, not risk 14 years imprisonment. They should receive safe medical intervention provided by experienced, knowledgeable medical staff, not buy pills over the internet. And they should be trusted to make the right decisions over their own bodies. Contrary to what no-voters think, women care about their unborn babies, they do not see abortion as some kind of new birth control measure. Society needs to stop treating women as if they don’t have the capacity for rational thought.

Of course, the truth has been manipulated, and lies promulgated as fact in a debate which has prompted a highly emotional and passionate response. Now here’s the hypocrisy; the no-voters are arguing for the right of the unborn child to life, that life begins at conception. But in Ireland, if a child dies in the womb, it cannot be registered. In other words, in the eye of the law and the state that child, that human being, doesn’t exist, and has never existed. Therefore, whilst a baby is unborn it can have no rights, because it doesn’t exist. I discovered this personally when I was pregnant with Carys and believed she would die in utero. My only option to prove that she was ever here was to write her name in the hospital’s book of remembrance. It’s a blatant double-standard.

I know that this is a very difficult personal decision for everyone. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to vote on. But I really hope that the people of Ireland will vote with open minds and open hearts, with compassion and consideration, and without judgement and prejudice.

I am sitting on the edge of Carys’s bed. She sprawls across my lap, fuzzy head tucked into the hollow of my neck, small arms clutching me tight. It is incredible how much strength there is in her under-developed muscles. I wait for her sobs to subside. It is three am. I am exhausted. We have not had a single solid night’s sleep in a month.

Carys has made great progress with her walking, so much so, that her PT feels that she no longer needs her AFO’s. How I rejoiced to hear that! But this particular silver lining, like so many, comes with its own dark cloud attatched.

We have always been grateful that Carys loves her sleep. She is a good sleeper, and if she wakes at night, usually she manages to drift off again. That is partly down to the ‘rituals’ we have adopted with all our children from day one: the soft blanket, the cuddly toy, the musical toy, the fun songs and stories, the hugs and kisses. She loves her bed, and she loves bed-time.

That’s so important to us parents; we can’t function well without good sleep, either. I turn into Godzilla if I don’t get my eight hour quota of zeds, and even then my family know not to speak to me until I’ve had my first coffee of the day!

How Carys Likes to sleep.

How Carys likes to sleep.

Carys likes to sleep curled up on her side in the foetal position, or on her tummy with her knees drawn up underneath her, bum in the air.

She can’t do that anymore, though, because at bed time I have to strap her into her night-time AFO’s, with an added contraption called ‘gators’. It’s like having heavy plastic knee-boots strapped onto her legs with a boned corset-like structure fasted over the top and up to the tops of her thighs.

The AFOs hold her foot at a 90 degree angle, stretching her calf. The gator prevents her from bending her leg at the knee so that her hamstrings are stretched. Without them, her muscles would tighten and seize up, making walking impossible in the future.


Carys wearing her AFO’s and gators.

It also means she can’t sleep, because she can’t get comfortable. Getting off to sleep initially doesn’t seem to be a problem, presumably because she is so tired to start with. However, she does now kick and fight when I strap her into them, because she has come to understand what they mean. After a few hours, inevitabley she wakes, any time between midnight and 3am, and then she gets very upset. And who can blame her?

Yesterday, her little face looked bruised with tiredness, grey smudges under her eyes like she’d slept without taking off her mascara. Carys doesn’t wear make-up, but you get the picture. And she was so grumpy and tired all day. She really needed a proper night’s sleep, and she wasn’t the only one… Conor and I did too. We’ve been taking it in turns to deal with her in the night.

So I decided to let her go to bed without her AFOs and gators, just for one night, and she slept like a baby! She didn’t wake once. I was happy for her, but of course I felt the duality of guilt; guilty for not following through on her treatment, and wondering how far that one night had set us back, and guilty for forcing these horrible contraptions on her night after night, singing songs to her and smiling widely as if they are a good thing and she shouldn’t make such a fuss.

I can’t work out which makes me the better mother… or the worst.

Tonight I strapped her back into them with a smiling face and a heavy heart. She kicked and kicked and moaned, but she didn’t cry. Not yet.

Carys is my little fairy child, my changeling, ethereal as breath, solid as bone, vital as blood, flighty as thought, a gift, a blessing and a curse. I know I can’t live without her, I don’t want a life without her, but living with her is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. She is my life’s work. I push and pull at her with equal force.

Every night, I strap her into her suffering, and yet she forgives me, draws comfort from me even, wraps me in more love than I am capable of receiving, or deserve.

I don’t know when to stop. When is enough? It’s been a month. We’ve come this far. To stop now would only belittle her endurance to this point. It might only take another month, maybe two, and in her lifetime and ours, that’s a mere moment.

To walk unencumbered. She loves to walk. If I try to hold her hand, she snatches one, sometimes both, out of my grasp. She wants this, I know she does. But she doesn’t associate the night-time torture with her freedom to walk during the day.

Carys will never walk ‘well’. She will never walk far. Even so, she has travelled further than most of us. I guess we will just take it one step… one night… at a time.

My second year at uni has now finished… I had my last exam on Thursday. Let’s just say that I found this last semester somewhat intense. I’ll be posting about that later, but I’d just like to inform Irish mythology fans that I have a lot of posts coming up over the summer that you might find interesting, although I can’t guarantee I will be able to keep it going come September, as I gear up for Year Three- The Last… gulp! Where did the time go?

If you would like to reblog this post, please use the PRESS THIS button. Hugh has an excellent post on the PRESS THIS feature, if you want to know more. ☺

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You may remember these two young ladies:

Incredible Irish Women. The Mysterious Deaths of Eithne and Fidelma

And you may remember also the block I had when it came to writing the next post in my Incredible Irish Women series, and how I was given to believe that I had ‘unfinished business’ to complete before I could move onto my next subject.

I decided to go to the site where Eithne and Fedelma had been baptised by Patrick, and where they were said to have to have immediately ascended to heaven afterwards. Let’s just say it was not at all what I expected.

St. Patrick was represented there, as was Mary, but where were Eithne and Fedelma? Not a whiff of them, anywhere. The site was filthy, neglected, scattered with empty beer bottles and litter. The door to the glass oratory was broken, the glass speckled with damp, the room stank of mold. Inside, a courting couple waited impatiently for me to leave.

A man had driven his car right up to the stream and was actually sitting in the water up to his waist, fully clothed, with his car door open so he could blast his music, while staring at his phone.

I laid out my roses, a white one for ‘Eithne the Fair’, and a red one for ‘Fedelma the Red-Rosed’, said my piece, and left. I felt very sad. The whole thing felt wrong. And as you know, I do believe in intuition.

There is another well, which some say is the real holy well of the two young ladies. I drove around, but it’s certainly more elusive… I didn’t find it. More research is required.

But I did find this…

Cruachan, home of Queen Medb and the site of the Tain bo Cuilnge, according to legend.

Cruachan, home of Queen Medb and the site of the Tain bo Cuilnge, according to legend.

I haven’t been back to Cruachan since last Samhain, so I was delighted to have the chance to spend some more time there. I also went to Rath Beag, Rath na Dtarbh, and Rath Mór, but that’s a whole other story…

Meanwhile, the search for Eithne and Fedelma goes on…

If you would like to reblog this post, please use the PRESS THIS button. Hugh has an excellent post on the PRESS THIS feature, if you want to know more. ☺

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You may have noticed there was no blog post from me last week. I try really hard to keep the blog updated as often as I can, but sometimes things happen which change that, and this was one of those times.

I had been planning to introduce you to a particular lady from Ireland’s history, and indeed, the post is actually half written. I thought it would be an easy post to write, because I already know something about her. However, so many obstacles popped up during the writing of it, that I gave up; I felt it wasn’t meant for me to write, or at least not yet.

It wasn’t writer’s block, but that all my research seemed to contradict itself, no matter what angle I approached it from. I was frustrated and puzzled.

I was driving home from uni on Thursday, wondering about this, when the following thought came into my head: “You have unfinished business.” Those were the exact words, and here’s where you might think me slightly mad… Read More

Eithne and Fidelma were sisters who lived in the time of St Patrick. Their story is incredible, although it may be argued that the two young women themselves were not. They were pagan princesses, daughters of Laoghaire, High King of Ireland in 432AD, when Patrick is said to have lit his paschal fire in defiance of the King, pagan custom and ritual.

When Patrick first approached the King, the sisters, known as Eithne the Fair, and Fidelma the Red, were not at court. Following tradition, they were fostered out at Cruachan, also known as Rath Croghan, in the province of Connacht, made famous as the royal residence of Queen Medb.

There, the two girls were in the process of being educated by two Druids, Maol and Caplait, who were said to be the wisest men in all of Ireland at that time. Clearly, then, they were being trained as Druids, an education which is believed to have spanned over twenty years. Read More

I haven’t posted about Carys for a long time, not because there was nothing to tell, but because progress has been a long slow plod of repetitiveness and, I know it sounds awful, but yes, monotony; not particularly interesting to read, and achievements which might seem minor and trivial to the outsider, although spectacular to us.

This week, though, we had some great news: Carys will be AFO free! At least, during the day-time. What does this mean? No more clunky, heavy plastic leg braces strapped to her lower legs. Carys needed AFO’s for several reasons: for support, as the muscles around her ankles were very weak; to stretch her calf muscles, as they are very tight, and she cant’ make a 90 degree angle at her ankle like we can; also to correct her pronation. Read More

Today I visited the shrine of Saint Dympna in a tiny little place called Lavey in Co. Cavan. Although Dympma is quite a well-known seventh century saint in Ireland, her association with Lavey is a relatively unknown local tradition.

Dympna is one of Ireland’s tragic heroines. According to legend, she was just fifteen years old when she came to her untimely end at the hands of her very own father. Her life may have been short, but she inspired the birth of something wonderful which still goes on to this day.


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Back in Lavey this afternoon, I came to where I thought the shrine was located, but which appeared to be a farm-house and dead end. I knocked on the door, and explained that I was looking for Dympna’s shrine, and the man who answered said, “I’ll just get my coat and take you down there. Have you a bottle for the holy water?”

When I gaped at him blankly, he went inside and fetched a small, bright orange, plastic Ribena bottle, surely the most humble receptacle that has ever collected holy water. Ever. Read More

I could only answer one question on the history exam paper. It said something like, ‘Describe a day in the life of…’ I don’t remember the rest of the question. But the first seven words inspired my creative juices, and a story began to build.

I was only eleven. I had joined my new school six weeks before the end of first year, right in the middle of their exams. I wasn’t expected to be able to answer any of the questions, but I was told to have a go anyway. I guess they didn’t know what else to do with me.

I have been both a writer, and a student of history, probably from as long ago as when I learned to read and to write. To this day, I can’t figure out why I am so drawn to the peoples of the past.

My father loved reading and history, but he played such a small part in my life, that I don’t feel I can credit him as my inspiration. I lived on the island of Cyprus for a while during my childhood, where I was surrounded by crumbling ancient sites in the process of being lovingly restored by archaeologists, but my interest was already formed long before we moved there; I remember asking for history books one Christmas when we still lived in Kuwait, and that was before I had ever set foot in a Greek burial chamber or Roman amphitheatre. I would have been about seven or eight at the time.

So what did I write about? Read More

Welcome to the first post in my new blog series: Incredible Irish Women. I’m very excited about this series, because history has tended to ignore its female participants, and I’m here to tell you that, actually, the women of the past were not as passive and subservient as our modern patriarchal society would have us believe. In fact, some women were very active in the power struggles, politics, battles, and religious organisation of their time, but if you want to know about them, you have to go looking, sometimes in unexpected places.

But now, I’d like to introduce you to Rose ny Neile O’Reilly. I met her when researching the 1641 depositions for a history assignment last year, and she wouldn’t leave me alone until I agreed to tell her story. I’m glad I did too… she got me a 75%! I don’t think that was enough for her, though… she’s been wanting to get on my blog ever since.

Incredible Irish Women | Rose ny Neile O'Reilly

You might be wondering what the 1641 depositions are. Today, they are an incredible resource for anyone interested in Ireland’s history, but they began as Protestant witness testimonies of peoples’ experiences of the 1641 rebellion. Housed in Trinity College Dublin, there are over 8000 transcripts, searchable online right HERE, freely available for anyone to peruse. Read More

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh
(pronunciation Ah-vleen fwee vosh-ah gheev)

Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for supporting Aliisaacstoryteller last year! I hope 2018 will be good to you. I can’t believe we’re already two weeks in… time sure flies.

Why the long silence, Ali?

Well, let’s just say the Christmas break did not go completely to plan. Two days before the big day itself I was flying around trying to make sure everything was ready, and I managed to injure my eye, which meant I could barely see, and was in agony. I couldn’t drive, do the food shopping, and certainly couldn’t see to read, write or blog. It certainly put a damper on the festivities for me.

After Christmas, Carys and I caught the Aussie flu. I was very ill, and in fact, I’m still not fully recovered, but life has to go on; I have my family to take care of, and I had to study for my exams… that was the last thing I felt like! Only one more exam to go next week, and then I have some time off until semester two starts at the end of January.

Of course I learned something from all this; as usual, I was trying to do too much, thinking ahead and not concentrating on the here and now; also, I need to take better care of myself, for my sanity as well as my health. I’m probably not the only one… am I right???

Happy New Year from Aliisaacstoryteller

Top Posts of 2017

Thank you for visiting aliisaacstoryteller last year. I write for fun about a subject I love, and I’m so happy that so many of you enjoy it, and feel the same. Thank you also for all the emails; I love getting to know you, and appreciate you taking the time and trouble to get in touch. I try to answer each one, but sometimes I get a bit snowed under, as aliisaacstoryteller is just a one-woman-band, so if you didn’t get a reply from me, I apologize sincerely.

These are the posts you liked most in 2017: Read More