How Ireland treats a pregnant 14-year-old in 2016

Life

As an Irish native living in Belgium, Charlie editor Hilary is concerned with Ireland’s current affairs. This week a report surfaced, revealing another example of how Irish girls and women suffer because of Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to write another article like this.

I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to tell you again how badly my home country treats women and girls.

And yet here I am, a year after I first wrote about the history of abortion rights in Ireland, forced to write again. I am so ashamed.

A report has been released, outlining yet another girl, failed and abused by Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. It reads like something from the dark ages but it dates from 2016.

Abortion was illegal in Ireland in all cases until 2013. Current legislation only allows for abortion in cases where there is a risk of loss of the mother’s life. However, criteria to qualify for abortion under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 are very restrictive. Every day 13 Irish women travel to the UK for an abortion. That is over 5000 women per year who leave their support network and home to undergo a medical procedure that their country denies them.

Today we learned of a pregnant 14-year-old girl and her mother who took steps to terminate the girl’s pregnancy. The young girl was depressed and suicidal. Under the terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, the risk of loss of life from suicide is an accepted reason to legally obtain an abortion. However, the procedure for this is strict. Three physicians need to agree to the need for a termination. An obstetrician, a psychiatrist with experience treating women during or after pregnancy, and another psychiatrist. Following the consent of the woman, one of these three should consult her doctor. The termination can only take place in an “appropriate institution”, which translates to a short list of hospitals. What are the benefits for psychiatry locum? Physicians in this specialty are also subject to a high rate of burnout, with long shifts, high patient volume, and working nights and weekends all contributing to their stressors.

Taking into consideration that the girl is 14, whatever the circumstances of the conception, this is a case of statutory rape. A child is not capable of giving consent to sexual acts.
So, let me tell you how Ireland treats a raped pregnant child in 2016.

Following an evaluation by one psychiatrist the girl and her mother were told that they were being transferred to Dublin for the abortion to be carried out. Considering that the procedure is not permitted in all hospitals, they probably did not consider this unusual. However, they had been lied to. The psychiatrist had actually concluded that the child had a “mental health disorder” and that she needed treatment for her suicidal thoughts. They decided that an abortion was “not the solution” for the girl’s problems. This girl and her mother were not on their way to receive the healthcare they needed and had a right to at least get assistance from a sutherland family medical practice center. Instead the girl was transferred and detained in a mental health unit.


Dublin March for Choice, September 2012. Young woman holds hand made poster in act of support other women about their decisions regarding abortion. Via Istock

This decision was made by one psychiatrist and goes against the current law in Ireland which states: “Medical personnel with conscience objections to abortion will not be required to participate in terminations, but must transfer care of a patient in such cases. Where a termination is requested but refused, a woman may appeal to the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE will establish a panel of at least 10 physicians, from whom a committee of two or three will review any application within three days.”

The human rights of women in Ireland are severely limited by the laws surrounding the termination of a pregnancy. This case shows that even when the law allows access, termination can be denied by one doctor based on their personal convictions.

The district court appointed a “guardian ad litem” (GAL) to the girl. This is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the “best interests of a child.” They also appointed a GAL to the foetus. In Ireland, a foetus has equal ‘right to life’ as the mother does. In August 2016, a judge ruled that the “unborn” have significant rights and legal position at common law, by statute, and under the Constitution, going well beyond the right to life alone.

Upon arriving at the mental health unit and discovering that she would not receive a termination this girl became “agitated and extremely upset.” She voiced very strong views as to why she wanted an abortion and communicated that she did not wish to be detained. Another psychiatrist was appointed by the GAL to assess the young girl. Their report stated that she was dealing with her depression well and there was no immediate danger of suicide. Her treating adolescent psychiatrist stated that “while the young girl remained agitated and angry, she did not suffer from an acute mental health disorder.”

The GAL for the pregnant girl applied for her to be discharged from the institution where she was detained. The court agreed, on the basis that the child no longer had a mental health disorder. Several days after her detention, she was released.

It is not known what happened after that.

Did she get the termination she legally has a right to on Irish soil? Did her mother put her on a flight to England, risking 14 years’ imprisonment, to attend one of the abortion clinics that provide healthcare to Irish women daily? Or did she endure a forced pregnancy and forced birth against her wishes?

The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, where young women were subjected to heavy manual work and suffered abuse by the nuns. An estimated 30,000 women were confined in these institutions in Ireland. Via Wiki CommonsThe mental institutions of Ireland have a lurid history of locking up ‘crazy’ women due to pregnancy/sexuality/abortion/miscarriage. Women spent their entire lives in those ‘prisons’, considered unfit for society. The ‘solution’ for women who were different, opinionated or loud was to lock them up and throw away the key. I thought those days were behind us. I thought that we were past the days of the Magdalene Laundries, I thought our shock and horror reading about the Tuam Babies would translate into respect and love for women and babies.

It seems I was wrong.

Keep in mind, this is happening in a country where there are not enough psychiatric beds for the people who really need them. Suicidal people are begging for help in the emergency department of hospitals and are sent home because there is no space for them in the mental health units. If you want to access abortion, you need to prove you are suicidal to be allowed the procedure. If you are suicidal, the only way to get a bed in a mental health unit is to say you want an abortion.

The UN Human Rights Committee has called on Ireland twice to reform its restrictive abortion legislation. The latest ruling stated that Ireland “should amend its law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including if necessary its constitution, to ensure compliance with the covenant, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland.”

Amnesty International published this list of Six outrageous facts about abortion in Ireland.

I am not going to lecture you about your daughters, sisters and wives. At this point it is about common decency. It is about human rights. Stand up. Speak up.

https://twitter.com/TaraFlynn/status/874044753553367040

You can read Irish women’s abortion stories on this site. Frighteningly the stories from 40 years ago differ little from those of today.

Follow #repealthe8th on Twitter to get involved in the revolution, and amplify the voices of those suffering under this barbaric law.

I’m tired of signing petitions to ask my motherland to give women basic human rights, but here you go: Locking women up because they want an abortion is barbaric: Sign here.

This article was first published on Charlie magazine.

The unimaginable evil done to mothers and babies in Ireland

Life

In 1975 human baby bones were found in an underground chamber believed to be a septic tank on the grounds of a Catholic Mother and Baby home in Tuam, Ireland. A priest said prayers over the pit and it was re-sealed.

In 2012 a local historian Catherine Corless published an article revealing records of 796 babies who died between 1925 and 1961 at this Mother and Baby home without a registered burial place. She concluded then, that there was likely a mass grave at the location where the bones had been found in 1975.

It was only two years later, in May 2014, that her story received press coverage in Ireland after being picked up by the international press. Some news outlets ran articles suggesting that the report was an anti-Catholic hoax. The Irish police released a statement: “These are historical burials going back to famine times. There is no suggestion of any impropriety and there is no garda investigation. Also, there is no confirmation from any source that there are between 750 and 800 bodies present.” Following an online petition and international outrage, an investigation was set up. However, it is not a criminal investigation, but one of historical interest meaning the site is not being treated as a crime scene.

Today we heard the first report of this investigation and it has confirmed our darkest fears. The ache in my mother heart and the disgust in the pit of my stomach pushed me to do the only positive thing I can. To write. To shed light on this horror story.

The Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home was an institution in Ireland where thousands of unmarried pregnant women gave birth between 1925 and 1961. The running of these homes was paid for by the Irish government. This was just one of the approximately 140 institutions around Ireland that “cared for” unmarried mothers & their babies.

Women and girls who became pregnant without having a marriage licence in those times were cast out of their homes. There was no place for them in society. Their only crime was being an ‘unmarried mother’. The circumstances of the conception were of no relevance, nor was the identity of the father. Whether it was rape, incest, or romance, the consequence was the same. These women were forced by their parents to join a “Mother and Baby home” to hide their pregnancy and give birth. This was done secretly in the night, those women vanished and no one mentioned them in public again.

After being left behind by their parents, the women were stripped of their names and clothes. Their hair cut short, they were forced to wear rough uniforms, heavy clogs and given a ‘house name’. They were not allowed to talk to the other women in the home. They were subjected to heavy manual work and suffered emotional and physical abuse by the nuns. Women who managed to escape the homes were arrested by the police and brought back to the nuns.

These women gave birth without doctors, nurses, pain relief or after-care. The nuns verbally abused the women throughout the whole birth, telling them that they needed to atone for their sins and deserved being torn. After the birth, if the mother could pay £100 she was allowed to leave 10 days later. If not, she had to work in the home for three years to pay back the cost of the birth and to make amends for her pregnancy. In most cases, these women had nowhere to go, as they were not welcome back to their town or family. They were sent to England or other faraway places, never to see their families again and never to know the fate of their babies.

The mothers were then separated from their babies and forced to breastfeed all of the babies in the home, to prevent them building up a bond. The babies were starved, beaten, neglected, received no medical attention, (or any attention for that matter). The mortality rate for these children was significantly higher than the national rate of infant mortality at the time. The main cause of death was Marasmus, which is the medical term for malnutrition. The nuns who carried out this torture and abuse, believed that these mothers and babies were less than human, they referred to the babies as ‘bastards’, ‘illegitimate’ and ’the Spawn of Satan’. Stillborn babies were not registered.

Most of the babies who survived were adopted illegally for money (sold). The new adoptive parents often spoke of the children’s underdevelopment. The children were months behind in speech and walking skills due to lack of attention. Many were sold to families in America and became known as ‘banished babies’. It is estimated that the church earned $30 to $50 million in today’s money from the trade in babies. It was child trafficking on an industrial scale.

Other babies were sold to vaccine trials. “For thirteen years, the state and the Borris-Wellcome foundation (now part of GlaxoSmithKline) conspired to turn between 200 and 300 babies and young children into human lab rats in the three Sacred Heart Mother & Baby homes and other institutions and orphanages.” Dead babies were ‘donated’ for routine dissection practice by medical students and/or research. “In both the vaccine trials and the ‘donations’ of bodies, consent was neither sought from, nor granted by, either natural or adoptive parents. Nor were they even told the truth about their children, living or dead.”

Today the first results of the excavation in Tuam were released. It confirms the presence of “significant quantities of human remains” in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers. The structure is thought to be related to the “containment of sewage and/or waste water”. The skeletons they tested indicate the age of death to be between 35 foetal weeks and 2-3 years old. The bones date from the 1950s. The investigation is ongoing.

I repeat, this was just one of the approximately 140 Mother and Baby homes around Ireland.

Writing this I was interrupted by my son who was crying because he did not want to go to sleep. I spent a while by his bedside, stroking his hair, telling him to breathe calmly, telling him that his baby doll (that I handmade) was also going to have a little rest. Back downstairs I sobbed uncontrollably thinking about those thousands of babies who had no love, no one to calm them and tell them that everything would be OK. No toys, no food, only fear, sadness and cruelty. I am overwhelmed by how UNFAIR it is. Those mothers and babies were punished for breaking an imagined rule, a rule criminalising the victim, a rule made by people who had no business telling us what to do in the bedroom.

Knowing the ache in my heart I felt leaving my baby at crèche the first time, I can’t imagine the heartbreak these women have felt every day for the rest of their lives. It must be unbearable. Why were they being punished? What crime did they commit that was SO bad that they were not even seen as human, but as monsters to be sold, used as slaves or destroyed and disposed of?

We need to show the world that we do not condone what happened. Imagine these things happening to your child or grandchild. It is time to stand up and say NO. Say that we no longer support an organisation that to this day continue to treat children and mothers so badly. (Child sex abuse, influencing abortion law and marriage equality to mention but a few)

It is difficult to break from tradition but it is high time to create new traditions. Get married on a beach, in a castle, in a forest. Surround yourself with people you love and imagine your own rituals. We are no longer slaves to the church, and we need to let the world know that. Believe what you want, talk to loved ones in the sky if it gives you peace, but walk away from the men on earth who use the power of the church to perpetrate such unimaginable evil. We do not need the church to tell us right from wrong. They have proven time and time again that they are not on the side of good.

Listen to your heart and realise that you don’t need their piece of paper to validate your life choices. And realise, that piece of paper comes with a great price, the lives of innocent babies. Do you still want to be a part of that?

I hope that the broken mother hearts who are still living get the chance to learn the truth of what happened to their babies, to know if they are alive or dead, to maybe even meet their grandchildren and cherish them in the way they would have cherished their own children given the chance.

 

References

  1. The true story of a little girl who ran away in 1960s Ireland by Donal O’Keeffe
  2. You became so frightened eventually you toed the line‘ by Claire O’Sullivan
  3. If you don’t approve of the church then don’t take part in its rituals by Donald Clarke
  4. Report into the History of Adoption in Ireland Since 1922 by Adoption Rights Now!
  5. Tell us the truth about the children dumped in Galway’s mass graves by Emer O’Toole
  6. Mother and baby scandal hidden in plain sight by Conall Ó Fátharta
  7. Midwife’s memoir reveals the horror of Bessborough by Claire O’Sullivan
  8. ‘We can offer a better class of baby with a good background‘: The 1961 letter from nuns to adoptive parents  By Alison O’Reilly
Featured image: Istock

Song of Good Hope

Life

Fifteen years ago, in my first week of university, a girl pushed a CD into my hands and said “You HAVE to listen to these guys.” The band was The Frames and ever since that moment, I have been doing the same, pushing their CDs into the hands and hearts of everyone who crosses my path. This November Glen Hansard will play a sold out concert in De Roma in Antwerp. So here I am pushing his music into your hands. Luckily for you I also have two tickets to give away!

With a beard that is no longer as flame-coloured as it once was, the fire in Glen Hansard’s belly is burning stronger than ever. The front man of Irish band The Frames for the last 25 years, he now has two solo albums to his name. You probably know Glen Hansard from his lead role and Oscar winning soundtrack for the film Once. You may have heard his last band The Swell Season on Belgian radio or seen him on The Simpsons.

Glen’s songs are so interwoven in my life that they feel like they are part of me. His songs are in my heart, in my soul, in me. Every time I see him perform, those songs come alive, dance and tear me apart in a thousand happy pieces. I have seen him step onstage hundreds of times, and every single time he has left me awe-inspired and full of love. Which is why I’ve made it my personal mission to share his music with others.

Glen’s songs of lost love are so powerful and real, they open a window in many hearts. Glen’s rendition of ‘Leave’ in the Melkweg, Amsterdam last year left me with tears streaming down my cheeks. I’m sure I was not alone, the sold out venue was so quiet that I could hear the air-conditioning on the other side of the room. His voice transported everyone to that moment, the moment she kicked him in the chest and knocked the wind out of him. This song exists in the breathless moment before he has had a chance to stand up and inhale.

“I can’t wait forever“, is all that you said before you stood up
But you won’t disappoint me, I can do that myself
But I’m glad that you’ve come

Now if you don’t mind leave,

Let go of my hand
You said what you came to, now leave.

I see you rolling your eyes at the thought of another singer-songwriter with a broken heart. But I’d say Glen Hansard blows this stereotype out of the water. His latest album Didn’t He Ramble plays like a collection of personal letters to friends and family. I’ve left all of his concerts with more love and joy than I brought with me.

Glen seems to understand energy in the same way people in a yoga class do. Nearing the end of this tour last year, he told me that he is in a space of neutral energy. Not exhausted, and no longer full of energy, but just existing. This is difficult to believe if you see him on stage, energy sizzling off him like he’s in a frying pan. “It’s about the transfer of energy,” he said with a sparkle in his eye. “You get energy from me and I get energy from you.”

That energy I’d like to share with you. Tell me which music moves your heart. What song touches you and makes you deeply feel? Which song or artist moves you to tears? On the 15th of November we will select our favorite story and the lucky winner will receive two tickets for Glen Hansard’s sold out concert in De Roma Antwerp on the 18th of November. See you there!

License To Pee

Life

Picture the scene; a person is having a drink in a bar when they feel they need to use the toilet. They get up and walk to the bathroom, choose an empty cubicle and do their business. Afterward they go to the sink, nod politely to another toilet-goer and wash their hands. They return to their table, relieved and peaceful. Sounds normal right?

That should be the end of my article right there.

Unfortunately, not all toilet facilities are accessible to all people. Most toilets have a symbol on the door signifying who may use it and who may not. If the toilets marked with your symbol are occupied, you must stand in a queue and wait for one to become available. Even if there are identical toilets, you may not use them unless you fit in the category indicated on the door.

The queue for a women’s toilet is often longer than for the men’s. There are several reasons for this… Read further on Blendle.

Huge thanks to Nana Ramael for the amazing photos.

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Say My Name. It’s time we learned about the female body.

Life

Recently a teacher in America lost her job for using the word vagina while discussing Georgia O’Keeffe paintings in her class of 14-15 year olds. I’m not even sure how you could teach about O’Keeffe without using the word vagina! Meanwhile, in a café in the UK a couple of ladies having a chat about their vaginas got asked to leave because there were children present.

The average toddler is able to identify and name male genitalia with relative ease. The penis and testicles are visible external organs. We have all seen their familiar shape in amateur graffiti. Female genitalia however are a bit more difficult to identify, and are even difficult to see without a mirror and some acrobatics. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is not spoken about or referred to by its name. Papa has a penis and Mama does not. To explain it this way to a child seems to imply that women are lacking something.

saymyname

We have come a long way since the days when women were not permitted to vote. We are making progress when it comes to equal employment opportunities and pay. It is time that we correct one more inequality. It is time to give female genitalia the name they deserve.

I’m guessing most people would say ‘vagina’ when asked the official name for female genitalia. However, the vagina is inside your body and cannot be seen from the outside. The correct term for the external organ is ‘vulva’: the name for the part you can see. You may have read that Britney flashed her vagina to reporters while getting out of a car. Let me tell you something: Britney ain’t never flashed her vagina to anyone except her gynaecologist!

‘The love that dare not speak its name’ is a phrase historically referring to homosexuality. I think that women knowing and appreciating their bodies is the modern love that dare not speak its name. It is time to speak up. To learn and teach that we have no reason to be ashamed of our bodies. The first step to making something ‘normal’ and ‘accepted’ is to talk about it and call it by its name.

The easiest way to bring about positive change for the future is through our children. We need to teach our children the correct names for their body parts. It is no different than teaching them the name for ‘arm’, ‘leg’ or ‘toe’. Penis and vulva are not sexual words for children. They are body parts used several times a day to go to the toilet. Being secretive about these body parts teaches children that they are shameful. This is damaging in so many ways. For example, knowing the correct names for body parts and creating a safe environment to talk about sexuality are crucial factors in empowering children to identify and report sexual abuse. This is just one of the many reasons why it is important for all children to grow up with a healthy, correct, open and honest knowledge of their body.

There is nothing inappropriate about knowing the correct words for your body parts. If people feel uncomfortable about your child using the words vulva or penis, feel free to educate them too. Do not let anyone make your child feel ashamed of their body.

Being ashamed of your body is not a natural reflex, we teach this to our children. Men grow up feeling proud of their penis, it is considered a symbol of power. Women however, are taught to hide any suggestion of their vulva. Keep your legs closed. Shave your pubic hair. Don’t mention your period. Don’t ever talk about all-that-down-there. We must throw off the cloak of shame and be proud of our vulva.

There is no stronger expression of shame than denying something a name and recognition. This silence impacts our knowledge of female genitals. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t found the G-spot, scientists cannot even agree if it exists or not. We still do not know exactly how female ejaculate is made, where it comes from or what it is. This fact blew my mind, to be honest. I never imagined that certain parts of basic anatomy were still unknown and not understood.

In an episode of Orange Is The New Black the female inmates argue as to whether urine comes out of the vagina or not. This seems ridiculous to anyone with a basic knowledge of the female anatomy, but how much do we actually know? There is still so much to learn. I for one never realised that the urethra (where the urine comes out) was so close to the vaginal opening, I always thought it was near the clitoris. (I literally learned this while researching this article.) This week I also learned that you’re supposed to pee after sex. I wonder when I was supposed to learn these things. Who was supposed to teach me?

I learned a lot while trying to get pregnant, through hours and hours of searching online. I learned about what your cervix can tell you about your fertility cycle. I learned the secrets of the varying stickiness of vaginal discharge. I learned about basal body temperature. I learned that our vulva can communicate so much about the state of our body, if we just know how to interpret the signals.

How about you? Do you know what your cervix feels like? Did you know it has a different shape and position each day? What do your labia look like? Are they long or short? Are they the same on each side? Did you know that the clitoris looks like a mini penis?

Get to know your vulva. The women’s groups in the 60s squatting over their hand mirrors had the right idea. Those of you who understand Flemish can listen to this Vuile Lakens podcast about going exploring with a speculum and mirror. You can find photos of cervixes on the Beautiful Cervix Project site. (I should add that these photos are not considered safe-for-work, but if you frame it as scientific research, you should be fine.) And to quote sexuologist Wim Slabbinck who worked with us on a recent Charlie project: “Masturbation is Emancipation”. Figure that stuff out ladies.

You can make a difference to future generations. Teach your kids the correct names for their body parts. Don’t pass down the negative weight and stigma surrounding female genitalia. Take time to read about age-appropriate explanations.

And of course I try to practice what I preach. It’s not the easiest thing in the world but I believe it’s important. So when my four year old asks me where my penis is, I say “Mama has a vulva”. And as I do each time I teach him new words, I ask him to try to say the word. His first attempt was “foefal” which is quite funny because ‘foef’ is a slang word for vulva in dutch. His most recent effort was “bumba” which is the name of a tv clown here in Belgium. So we continue, laughing and learning.

A good place to start learning is with Dr. Lindsey Doe, she makes excellent videos under the title ‘Sexplanations’. Start with her video about the vulva and before you know it you’ll be watching all her videos and learning about things you never imagined.

It’s time to put on your grown up pants and start using your words.

Illustraties: Charlotte Vanderputte

“In onze manier van leven is weinig ruimte voor rouw en verdriet”

Life

Jelle en Sofie zijn twee filmmakers die een verleden als koppel delen. Toen Sofie zes jaar oud was, pleegde haar moeder zelfmoord. Dit trauma speelde een grote rol in haar breuk met Jelle. Tijdens de voorbereiding van hun film How to Fall Apart belandde Jelle in een verlammende depressie waardoor de film een nieuwe wending nam. Na een bewogen maakproces van drie jaar komt hun film nu in de zalen. Hilary praatte met Sofie en Jelle over hun drijfveren, hun film en hoe die tot stand kwam. Foto’s: Katleen Gils

Jelle: “We waren oorspronkelijk met een heel ander plan naar Lesbos afgereisd om te filmen. We wilden een film maken die langs de ene kant de vluchtelingen toont die via Lesbos Europa binnenkomen, die niets te verliezen hebben maar alles om voor te leven. Daartegenover wilden we de Europeanen plaatsen die in dat land van melk en honing niet meer vooruit kunnen. Mensen die worstelen met depressie en zelfmoordgedachten, en onder begeleiding van psychotherapeut Bob Vansant naar Lesbos gaan. Maar toen we daar effectief waren, ben ik gecrasht. En plots kwam het idee om onszelf in de film te tonen.”

Sofie: “Het was de burn-out van Jelle die de film gemaakt heeft tot wat hij nu is.” exact replica fake omega watch uk for sale online

Jelle: “We kunnen zelfs 10 jaar teruggaan naar de eerste kiemen van het verhaal. De zelfmoord van Sofie’s moeder was eerste aanleiding dit soort film te maken. Alle films die wij daarvoor hadden gemaakt, waren eigenlijk vingeroefeningen om te leren samenwerken, te leren filmen, en uiteindelijk dat zware, grote thema aan te pakken.

Voordien waren we er nog niet klaar voor. Samen films maken en tegelijkertijd een relatie onderhouden was onmogelijk. Al onze liefde en aandacht ging naar de films en niet naar elkaar. Je moet sowieso als filmmaker, mens, en koppel, heel sterk in je schoenen staan om zo’n onderwerp te brengen met de nodige nuances en schoonheid.”

Sofie: “We hadden te veel samen: we waren vrienden, collega’s, en een koppel. Maar tegelijkertijd is dat ook een beetje de boodschap. Hoe depressie wel een positieve betekenis kan hebben in je leven, hoe contradictorisch dat ook klinkt. Hoe een relatie die eindigt daarna een nieuwe dimensie kan krijgen, en hoe je elkaar weer kan leren kennen maar dan op een andere manier. Vandaar de ondertitel A True Love Story.”

Jelle: “We hebben geprobeerd om de film zo toegankelijk mogelijk te maken. De scherpe kantjes zijn eraf. Onze aanpak is niet aanvallend, maar eerder zacht omdat het thema op zich al zwaar is. Ik ben zelf wel depressief en soms misschien een klein beetje cynisch (lacht), maar de al te donkere dingen moet je wat verdunnen zodat ze effectief aankomen bij de kijker. De film toont het contrast tussen licht en donker.”

Sofie: “Het toegankelijke van de film zit ‘m in de schoonheid. De esthetische aanpak was een bewuste keuze. We vonden het belangrijk dat het niet zomaar een interview met wat begeleidende beeldjes erop werd.

Jelle: “Het is bijna een gedicht! Maar het was een heel lange zoektocht om tot deze vorm te komen. faux watches for cartier replica etsy 65 percent off

Sofie: “Het is een film over heel beladen thema’s en ik heb het gevoel dat mensen heel erg voor of heel erg tegen zullen zijn. Er zullen weinig gematigde reacties komen.”

Jelle: “We laten onze donkere kant zien en het is best eng om te denken hoe dat bij kijkers gaat overkomen. Hoe we verstrengeld zijn geraakt, hoe we soms op een niet al te mooie manier met elkaar omgaan. Maar tegelijkertijd is het net dat wat we bespreekbaar willen maken. En dat helpt om onze angsten te overwinnen.” ladies watches for sale fake omega turkey for sale

Sofie: “We maakten deze film omdat er nog altijd grote taboes bestaan rond thema’s als verdriet, depressie, toegeven dat je niet meer kan, burn-out… Ontzettend veel mensen worstelen met die gevoelens, en maar weinigen durven ervoor uitkomen door het stigma: ‘Je bent een loser, het zal wel aan jou liggen want alle mogelijkheden zijn er’. We stellen onszelf op als een soort medium. We tonen niet zozeer ‘wie is Jelle?’ en ‘wie is Sofie?’, maar wel hetgeen we als mens doormaken. Herkenbaarheid is heel belangrijk daarin. Als we met de film het taboe dat op depressie ligt een klein beetje kunnen doen afbrokkelen, is het voor mij al geslaagd.”

Het was niet de bedoeling om een informatieve documentaire te maken over wat een depressie is, of wat voor impact zelfdoding kan hebben. Je kan de nuances en gradaties van depressie bij verschillende mensen toch niet echt vergelijken. De depressie van mijn moeder was bijvoorbeeld van heel andere aard dan die van Jelle, dat merkte mijn vader ook op nadat hij de film had gezien. Psychotherapeut Bob Vansant heeft ons heel erg geholpen in ons zoekproces, maar dat wil niet zeggen dat zijn theorieën heilig zijn.

Anderzijds heeft Jelle’s depressie mij wel doen inzien wat het met een mens kan doen, los van de specifieke aard van de depressie. Hoe apathisch en leeg iemand zich kan voelen. Ik denk dat het moeilijk te begrijpen is als je het niet zelf hebt meegemaakt. Vooral die apathie heeft mij heel erg geraakt. Niets meer kunnen doen, compleet lamgeslagen zijn. Die dingen hoor ik ook van mijn vader als we over de laatste maanden van mijn moeder praten. Ik denk dat er weinig mensen die zelfmoord plegen, echt dood willen. Je bent op dat moment niet in staat te weten wat je doet of wilt. Die mensen zitten in die apathie gevangen.” under 120 rolex daytona 6241 replica online store

Jelle: “Hoe laat je een leven dat je beu bent achter, maar wel met de mogelijkheid om een ander leven te beginnen? Ik denk dat mensen die tot die wanhoopsdaad overgaan, eerder willen ontsnappen uit iets. Zij willen niet per se dood zijn, ze willen vooral op een andere manier leven, uit een patroon stappen. Maar hoe doe je dat? Dat is eigenlijk een vraag die groter is dan depressie. Iedereen komt weleens op een punt dat ze iets anders willen. En het is ontzettend moeilijk in onze georganiseerde samenleving om iets ‘anders’ te doen.”

In onze manier van leven is er weinig tijd en ruimte voor ‘negatieve’ gevoelens zoals rouw, verdriet of boosheid. watches makers maurice lacroix fake watch cheap

Er wordt nog te weinig gecommuniceerd over alternatieve manieren om uit een depressie te geraken. Genoeg bewegen, op je eten letten, praten, zelfs simpelweg aanvaarden dat je een periode van ongelukkig zijn doormaakt, kunnen helpen. Maar in onze manier van leven is er weinig tijd en ruimte voor ‘negatieve’ gevoelens zoals rouw, verdriet of boosheid. Uit persoonlijke ervaring weet ik dat het toegeven aan jezelf een heel grote stap is. Toegeven dat het gewoon niet lukt. Hoe kan je erover praten als je het aan jezelf niet kan toegeven? En dan nog, eens je zover bent, is het moeilijk die stap naar buiten te nemen. Al is het maar omdat je anderen niet wil belasten met jouw problemen.”

Sofie: “Het maakt een groot verschil als je jezelf kan aanvaarden, inclusief de kwetsbare en donkere kantjes. Maar opnieuw, in onze samenleving is minder dan perfect niet goed genoeg, de druk om te presteren is zo hoog, dat het moeilijk is om vooruit te komen. We zijn doordrongen van het idee dat als je niet mee kunt, dat aan jezelf ligt. Qua mentaliteit is er nog ontzettend veel werk aan de winkel. Daarom hebben we een educatief pakket gemaakt, ‘Van zelfzorg naar zelfliefde’. Het omvat zeven stappen om jezelf graag te leren zien, je goede kanten en je slechte kanten. En van daaruit kan je groeien en openstaan voor anderen. Het is vooral bedoeld als een soort kapstok voor praatgroepen die thema’s als depressie en burn-out behandelen.”

Jelle:Self-care, dat is iets wat op school gegeven zou moeten worden, vanaf de kleuterklas zelfs. Mensen van jongs af aan leren herkennen wat ze zelf nodig hebben. Wat we nu leren als kind is om druk op onszelf te leggen. Jonge mensen zouden moeten leren hoe ze met moderne technologie kunnen omgaan zonder onder die druk te lijden. Er komt zoveel op ons af, veel meer dan vroeger, en jonge mensen zijn nog veel minder weerbaar. Met al die prikkels leren omgaan en er selectief in zijn, dat is belangrijk.” watch uk replicas watches fleamasters online store

Sofie: “Op Lesbos zijn er veel loslopende katten, want er wordt daar niet gesteriliseerd. Dat was van in het begin iets wat we in beeld wilden brengen. Die katten kijken naar ons, mensen in de ratrace, terwijl zij zelf van dat dolce far niente genieten. Het was een mooi contrast: zij met hun negen levens, moeten zich van niks iets aantrekken, terwijl wij alles in ons ene leven proberen te proppen.”

Jelle: “Onze volgende film wordt een zoektocht naar de ziel. Wij hebben de gewoonte twee films tegelijk te maken; in deze film zochten we naar zingeving in dit leven, onze volgende film gaat over wat er gebeurt als we dood zijn. We hebben maar vijf zintuigen om de werkelijkheid waar te nemen. Ik vind het een beetje hoogmoedig om te zeggen dat dat alles is wat bestaat. Ik kan niet geloven dat wat wij ervaren het enige is.”

Sofie: “Eigenlijk is het leven een mysterie, en daarom maken wij films.”

Foto’s: Katleen Gils

Charlie mag 20 tickets voor How to Fall Apart weggeven! De film speelt op 3/06 in CC De Kern in Wilrijk en op 8/06 in CC Deurne. Stuur een mailtje met de datum van je voorkeur naar anderewereld@gmail.com. First come, first served!

De trailer van How to Fall Apart kan je bekijken via www.howtofall.be, waar je ook meer info vindt over de edukit van Jelle en Sofie.

When having an abortion makes you a criminal

Life

This Friday the 26th of February, the people of Ireland will take to the polls to elect a new government. One of the topics needing urgent attention is the country’s highly restrictive abortion laws.

In the tourist travel book my boyfriend had when he first came to Ireland it warned “don’t start conversations with Irish people about abortion or religion”. That was ten years ago and not much has changed.

Abortion was illegal in Ireland in all cases until 2013. Current legislation only allows for abortion in cases where there is a risk of loss of the mothers life. However, criteria to qualify for abortion under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 are very restrictive.

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This time last year, Independent Socialist Clare Daly proposed an amendment to the law, to allow for abortion in the case of fatal fetal abnormalities. Just to be clear, we are talking about pregnancies in which there is no chance that the baby will survive the birth. Sounds logical right? This bill was defeated by 104 votes to 20. This means that heartbroken women in this situation are forced to carry their dying baby in her body for 6, 7, 8 months. “When are you due?” “Do you know if it is a girl or a boy?” usually innocent questions are in this case unanswerable. It means that these mothers go through the torture of feeling her baby move and knowing that they will never take a breath. She has to suffer the mental strain of wondering every day how much pain her unborn child is suffering. She is left with no other choice than to go to another country to undergo a procedure with no aftercare, no counseling, and to come home empty-handed with no body to bury.

The 2013 change came about partly in response to the avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar caused by the restrictive abortion laws. Mrs Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant in October 2012 when she was admitted to hospital suffering a miscarriage. In the last seven days of her life she repeatedly requested an abortion for her dying baby. She was told “this is a Catholic country” and her request was denied based on the fact that the fetus still had a heartbeat. By the time her miscarriage came to a natural end four days later and the fetus was removed it was too late to save her life.

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Ten thousand people attended a rally in Dublin in memory of Savita Halappanavar in November 2012. Pics by William Murphy via Wiki Commons

The media storm and Pro-Choice protests following Mrs Halappanavars death lead to the first legislation in Ireland allowing abortion. However, this legislation only allows abortion if the woman is at death’s door. Only if the pregnancy could end her life is she considered for the procedure. How ill do you allow someone to become before you start calling the four experts needed to make this decision? How close does she have to come to dying? These questions are not easy to answer and that is horrifically evident in cases that have arisen since the 2013 ruling.

In 2014 a teenage immigrant, raped and 8 weeks pregnant, requested an abortion on the grounds that she was suicidal. As required by the 2013 law, experts confirmed that she was indeed suicidal and judged her life to be at risk. However, the government used her legal status to delay and hinder the final decision. Her request for termination was refused and the girl went on hunger strike. In an attempt to save the life of the fetus, a caesarean section was performed against the girl’s wishes in the 25th week of pregnancy. This was 17 weeks after she first sought an abortion. Her extremely premature baby has been placed into care.

The law states that a pregnancy can be terminated if there is a risk to the life of the mother. But what if the mother is already dead? Should the pregnancy then be terminated? The law states that the fetus has equal right to life as the mother. In November 2014 an Irish woman, 14 weeks pregnant, fell and hit her head. On the 3rd of December she was declared clinically brain dead. Because her doctors were uncertain about the legal rights of her fetus, her body was placed on life support against the wishes of her family. In the 26 days that followed her family fought for her right to die. Her doctors refused to switch off her life support for fear they could be prosecuted under Ireland’s strict abortion laws. On the 26th of December in a ruling contrary to Irish constitution, the High Court decided that the life support machines could be switched off.

So even if there is a proven risk to a woman’s life, or if she is already dead, there is no guarantee that she can access termination services in Ireland. These are just two stories of women who actually qualified for abortion under the current law.

What about the women who do not qualify? The victims of rape and incest? The women carrying babies with fatal fetal abnormalities? The cases of failed contraception? What options do they have?

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The modern day equivalent of the clothes hanger is abortion pills ordered on the internet. As you can imagine this is a very dangerous route to take. You have no idea what you are taking, if it is deadly poison or if it will have the desired effect. If it goes wrong, it is difficult to take the step to a hospital or doctor as you have broken the law. Anyone who orders termination pills on the internet or assists anyone in doing so runs the risk of 14 years in jail.

Since 1992, pregnant women are protected from prosecution if they travel abroad for an abortion. The Thirteenth Amendment states that the state shall not limit the freedom to travel of a woman. Imagine that, grown women being allowed to travel. On the same day in 1992 The Fourteenth Amendment was approved, allowing freedom of access to information with respect to abortion in other countries. Previous to this, Family Planning Centers faced prosecution if they provided any information in relation to abortion services in other countries. In a time before the internet this must have put a lot of women in dangerous situations.

Every day 13 Irish women travel to the UK for an abortion. That is over 5000 women per year who leave their support network and home to undergo a medical procedure that their country denies them. In a heartbreaking testimony Dr Susan Cahill tells how the Irish laws around abortion impacted her life. One of many Irish people living abroad, Dr Cahill discovered she was pregnant when visiting Ireland for a month. Unable to receive the medical care she needed in her home country, she was forced to remain pregnant for that month before returning to Canada to get the procedure there. What is heartbreaking about her story? That her country made her feel like a criminal. That she could not tell her family. That she was made prisoner in her own body. One detail of her story that struck a cord with me, that the clinics in the UK offer a reduced price to Irish women to help compensate for the travel costs. The clinics in the UK care more about the women of Ireland than the Irish government. That is heartbreaking.

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Protest March in Dublin, March 2014. Pic via iStock

One in every six people born in Ireland currently lives in a different country. Ireland has the highest percentage of people living abroad worldwide. If the Irish government of tomorrow wants their educated youth to ever come back they need to address this issue. From what I can follow from the election coverage online it seems that politicians are avoiding this topic like the plague. It is time that the Irish government started taking women’s health seriously.

I hope that the people of Ireland consider the candidates stance on abortion when casting their vote. Abortion is a medical procedure and only doctors and patients should decide if it is a suitable option in any situation. The government and church have no place in this conversation. A pro-choice slogan that has been going around for years comes to mind: “If you don’t agree with abortion, then don’t have one.

The hashtag you need to follow for tweets on this topic is #repealthe8th. You can follow the General Election developments with #ge16 on twitter. You can read Irish women’s abortion stories on this site. Frighteningly the stories from 40 years ago differ little from those of today. If you would like to help, you can sign Amnesty International’s petition asking Ireland to change its abortion law.

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Tanktop via Look Human
Featured Image: Dublin, September 2012, Dublin March for Choice via iStock
Previously published on Charlie Magazine.

In search of what makes me Irish

Life

“You know, an immigrant is just someone who used to be somewhere else.” said comedian Russell Brand. Whatever you think about the refugee crisis and migration, we have to admit he has a point.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am an Irish immigrant who has been living in Belgium for ten years. I am an Irish citizen but not a Belgian one. I am a Belgian resident but not an Irish one. My nationality, that’s a difficult one.

Being an Irish citizen but not resident, means that I cannot vote in any Irish election or referendum. This seems very unfair to me, as I view Ireland as ‘my country’. It was particularly painful in the case of the recent Marriage Equality Referendum, which I would have loved to be able to support. When asked “Why should people who don’t live in the country have a say in what happens here?”, the only reply I could think of was “Because I’m Irish”. But what does that mean?

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Who is Irish?

If either of your parents is an Irish citizen born in Ireland, then you are automatically an Irish citizen, irrespective of your place of birth or whether you ever set foot in the country. It is interesting to compare that to my position in Belgium. I have been living here for 10 years. I speak the language. I am integrated into Belgian customs and culture. But I am not a Belgian citizen.

According to brief research in my family, place of birth is not the deciding factor in how you feel, empathise, or associate with the people, history, culture and traditions of nations. My mother was born in Scotland and I’ve never seen her wearing plaid or eating haggis. Living in Belgium has not made me feel less Irish. I can only conclude that being Irish is about feeling, about culture, about being part of a tribe. It is about knowing the personality and behaviour of a group of people and feeling at home.

Emigration has played a greater role in the story of Ireland than immigration,  in the USA and in countries like the UK, read the uk points based system for immigration purposes. As a country on the periphery of Europe, inaccessible by land, Ireland has not seen the numbers of immigrants more southern European countries have experienced. However, people have been leaving Ireland for hundreds of years. The Flight of the Wild Geese is a term used to describe 120,000 Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. There was an Irish regiment in the Spanish Army of Flanders in the 1580s. Typically Irish names beginning with ‘Fitz’ originate from this time frame, ‘Fitz’ meaning ‘bastard son’ in French. The Great Famine of 1845-52 caused Ireland’s population to fall by 25%. More than a million Irish people emigrated during this time, an estimated 1 million to America and 200,000 to the U.K. Most recently, following a crash in the Irish economy, more than 200,000 Irish people left Ireland over the last five years. A study recently showed that Ireland has the highest percentage of native-born population living abroad.

That goes a way to explaining why the world is full of Irish bars. Irish people have been setting up shop all over the world for centuries. The population of Ireland is about 4.5 million at the moment. It is estimated that there are 70-80 million people in the world with Irish ancestry.

A least 22 presidents of the United States of America have Irish ancestral origins. Including Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush. Wikipedia tells me that Beyoncé, Elvis, Tori Amos and Muhammad Ali all have Irish roots. Some people would say that these and the 80 million other Irish descendants are all ‘Irish’, that they belong to the tribe. Irish people are proud, and always happy to claim a success story as their own.

How can you be proud of the place you just happen to be born in? How can you be proud of the soil under your feet? How can you be proud of your ancestors? Their achievements and actions are not ours. The people living in Germany or Belgium today do not feel personally guilty for what happened in Auschwitz and Congo. In the same way it is strange to feel personal pride in relation to the history of your country.

Yet I do feel proud to be Irish. Ireland’s successes feel like mine (like winning the Eurovision Song contest more than any other country ever). This kind of nationalist pride is considered dangerous and extremist in Belgium. In Ireland it is accepted and feels normal, we want to show the world how lovely we are. Visit any festival in the world and you are sure to see people flying the Irish flag.

Belgium seems happy to fly under the radar, to convince the world that chocolate and beer are the only things you need to know about us. Belgium is afraid of that feeling of national pride, because here it mostly comes adorned with a lion tattoo. I understand that side of the story too, of course, one of the things Ireland is known for is ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

No amount of rational thinking has changed my gut feeling about being proud to be Irish. I realised how deep the feeling ran when I became angry at a comment from an Irish acquaintance. “You can tell by looking at him that he is not really Irish”, an off-the-cuff remark directed at my (then) 2 year old son. My half-Belgian, half-Irish son. The first person on my family tree that does not have two Irish parents. My son who looks exactly like my dad. It hurt my feelings in an unexpected way.

At the end, I guess you are what you feel you are. When you look at it that way it seems silly to judge or separate people based on where they come from. Nationality is not something you can satisfactorily prove with paperwork alone.

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The first book I reached for while researching this article was the dictionary. (OK it wasn’t actually a book. It was the internet, but same difference.) These terms sometimes seem interchangeable but I needed to know exactly what they mean. We all need to know what they mean.

  • Refugee: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
  • Immigrant: A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country
  • Asylum seeker: A person who has left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking asylum in another.
  • Foreigner: A person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own. A person not belonging to a particular place or group; a stranger or outsider.
  • Citizen: A legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalised. An inhabitant of a particular town or city.
  • Resident: A person who lives somewhere permanently or on a long-term basis.
  • Nationality: The status of belonging to a particular nation.
  • Nation: A large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.
Previously published on Charlie Magazine.

Watch What Happens When You Kill The Clickbait

Life

Sometimes you just can’t resist those seductive headlines. Links like I’ve Been Brushing My Teeth Wrong All These Years. Have You? HUGE Difference! mostly lead to disappointing spammy content but we still find them so alluring. For Charlie Magazine I looked at why we should all stop clicking clickbait. #KillTheClickbait.

This one almost got me this morning. Watch What Happens When He Pours Green Liquid Into A Bunch Of Straws – Brilliant!’ What was this mystery green liquid? Would the straws explode? For a second, I got a flashback of the awesome experiment with Mentos in Diet Coke, then I quickly realised it probably wasn’t as exciting and it was probably the same tutorial about how to make jelly worms that I saw earlier on Pinterest. Fascinating. Not.

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Yet they’re so tempting. You’re always One Click Away from discovering something Unbelievable, Shocking, Amazing or Heart-Warming. And so you click. Because you’re curious. Because you need a laugh. Because you need a cry. You follow the link only to find out it’s just a re-posted video from YouTube, a celebrity Instagram or an article that’s not worth calling an article. You promise yourself to do more scrolling in your News Feed and less clicking.

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Two mean tricks: showing half of an image and accusing you of failing at life.

By using sensational and exaggerated titles on social media, sites hope to trick you into following their link, earning them money from advertisers. Clickbait is the word, and the worthless pages behind the links exist because advertisers pay for page clicks. If a site gets you to click onto a page where an advertisement is visible, the advertiser pays. They pay more if you play a video, more if you don’t click the skip button, more if you watch to the end, more if you click the ad, and more if you make a purchase. There are hundreds of sites creating and recycling content with only the interests of advertisers in mind. The financial income of many sites depends solely on how many readers see and click on advertisements. With this in mind, the priority is no longer to create good content, but to get people to click through to your page. This way they earn money even if no one reads the content.

Just because clickbait works though, that doesn’t make it nice. Curiosity killed the cat, but in this case curiosity mostly just leads to disappointment. Enough is enough. I’m not the only one who is fed up. Recently on Facebook, people have been commenting under clickbait articles, revealing the punch line and adding the hashtag #killtheclickbait. By ruining the surprise, they take away any power clickbaiters have over our curious minds. The fact that people are taking action to fight the system is a great indicator that there is room and readiness for change.clickbait4

While well-intended, these actions may be counterproductive. Clicking, reading and commenting under posts means that more people will see them. To quote Oscar Wilde, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” So my advice is to just keep calm and scroll on. I guarantee you will not miss a thing. There is no interesting content behind those sneaky links. Save your clicks and your time for honest, real sites. I’m not saying we have to be deep and meaningful all the time. If you want to just look at pretty things and cooking tutorials get yourself over to Pinterest and enjoy!

Which leaves one question: how can online media make money? There are other ways. By selling products, subscriptions, native advertising and sponsored content (and being honest about it). By having other business activities like events or consultancy. Interestingly, in the US, there is a system called ChangeTip allowing people to send small amounts of money without charging a fee. You tip the creator of online content just like you would tip your waiter in a restaurant. This puts the focus back on the relationship between the creator and the fan, much as how it works with crowdfunding. I would be happy to be able to send a few cents to the artists, journalists and musicians whose work I enjoy online. Without this kind of support it is almost impossible to survive in the online world.

Maybe someday, online magazines in Belgium will receive support from the government – just like the classic print media do today. Print media get a whopping 400 million euros every year in indirect support: they are exempt from value added tax, whereas Charlie doesn’t have this privilege. They also get free distribution when they publish at least four print issues per year, whereas Charlie pays 3,50 euros per issue distribution because it only publishes two issues per year. The reasoning behind this financial support is that ‘the public has a right to information’ but it seems that the rules were made in a time before the Internet was interwoven with our existence. Hopefully the government will soon see the importance of supporting online media. Environmentally this would also make sense, considering every year 34 million newspapers and magazines are thrown away without ever being read. The online media organization Media 21 is trying to change that.

For now, we should treat ourselves to good content and give our attention to sites that deserve it. If you keep clicking on clickbait, more clickbait will be made. You have the power to make a change in the landscape of online media. If you are feeling particularly inspired you can buy a subscription to Charlie, we’d love to get to know you better!

Just for laughs I have clickbaited some Charlie articles for you, can you resist clicking?

You Won’t Believe What She Did At This Funeral. Do You Suffer From The Same Stress Hormones?

This Amazing Thing Happened When Our Photographer Entered These Homes.

I Left My Husband and Kids At Home and THIS Happened…

Changing This One Thing In Your Diet Will Boost Your Health AND Save The Environment.

For those of you so inclined, I see a New Years resolution in here; to not fall into the clickbait trap in 2016. #killtheclickbait

Previously published on Charlie Magazine.

Needles, laziness, x-rays and a check-up.

Life

On Christmas day it will be exactly one month since I left hospital. Being at home has run more smoothly than the nightmare scenarios I imagined. I’m not in pain and I can move around if needed. I’m learning to embrace laziness and even wrote about it for Charlie magazine.

AWARD

There were so many unknowns in the months before the operation. I felt like I was falling head-first into the dark. I had no idea what the aftermath would look or feel like. And there was no one to tell me. No support groups, no flyers or leaflets, no info evenings. If I compare this to my hospital experience around Lucas’ birth, the contrast could not be greater. From the moment I was pregnant I was happily immersed in information coming from every angle. The gynecologist, the midwife, the insurance company, the hospital, my local doctor, even the government showered me with advice about pregnancy, birth, breast feeding and everything else I needed to know. The internet also has one or two websites dedicated to the topic. Finding people who had been through it and could tell me what it was like was also a piece of cake. What worried me the most in the months before my back operation was not knowing what lay ahead.

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It turns out that a lot of the stress and unanswered questions were non-issues. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out where I should lie. If I lay in the hospital bed we rented for the living room I could watch TV. If I lay in my bedroom I could access the toilet. What would you choose? The hospital suggested renting a toilet chair so I could ‘go’ in the living room. Turns out, as long as I am careful, I can go upstairs and downstairs without problem. Of course we must take into consideration that patients of this operation are usually in their 60s or 70s. The post-op advice compiled is aimed at that age group. I spent five months imagining my life in bed, in pain and unable to move. The reality is I have had very little pain since coming home. The only thing restricting my movement is the fact that I’m not allowed out of bed for more than 10 minutes at a time. (Enough time to make pasta pesto every day!)

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On Friday I had a check up at the hospital. It was the first time I have been out of the house in a month. Despite being almost pain-free in the first weeks at home, I have been suffering a nasty pain in my hip for the last few days. I had nightmares that the screw was touching the nerve again and that I needed a third operation. The surgeon assures me it is nerve sensitivity caused by the first misplaced screw. To give the nerve a chance to heal and to avoid aggravating it further he advised to delay physio another 6 weeks. I can increase the number of 10 minute walks, so long as I don’t feel any pain. If I get a home trainer bike I can cycle without resistance, also for a maximum of 10 minutes. I should still avoid sitting as much as possible. The good news is, I no longer have to give myself an injection every day. That is a huge relief. Moving around more will mean less risk of blood clots. I can also get rid of the highly attractive compression stockings I have been wearing 24/7 since the first operation.

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We all know that using Google for medical advice is not the best idea. However before the operation I felt I had no other option. By sharing the photo of the springs I managed to find a facebook group of people who had the same implants. They were happy to share their stories and (eeeeek) photos. A couple of the stories involved things getting loose and popping out. This had been bothering me the whole time and made me quite afraid of falling. The surgeon said that I should indeed avoid falling right now, but once the six month recovery period had passed that my back would be as strong and stable as before. So that set my mind at ease.

Oh and I know you noticed my fabulous nails, beauty salon io came on a house visit! A spot of beauty advice, bed-rest is excellent for keeping a manicure perfect for weeks.

In other news, I’m working on photographing old paintings and getting them up on facebook for sale. They deserve a better home than the attic, and I’m out of work for six months.

The yearly excursion to the attic for Christmas decorations made me think about my paintings. They are safe and cosy in the attic, but they deserve better. Those paintings created themselves in my heart and each has a story and life of its own. They deserve to be admired everyday, they deserve to hang on your wall and brighten your heart. It has been four years since the inspiration for a painting has graced me with its presence. I miss it, but I often think happily about my paintings that hang on walls around the world. Over the next few days I aim to unwrap and photograph my paintings (with the help of some friends, I’m stuck on post-op bed-rest until February). For now I’ll leave you with a photo of my favorite patron and inspiration.

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