Laura Ní Chonghaile
When I was 26 I was raped and I became pregnant. I was blaming myself, I just kept thinking it was my fault for getting into his car and trusting him. Most rape victims then blamed themselves, which was so wrong. It was a big shock, and there was still a stigma at the time about unmarried parenthood.
It was before the eighth amendment was added to the Irish Constitution, so I was immediately offered to be referred to an abortion clinic in the UK, but I refused. I felt the baby was as innocent as I was.
Having helped unmarried mothers myself at that time, I knew where to get help. Although I would have preferred to keep the baby, I decided for adoption to ensure that she would be given a good life with two parents and a loving extended family. It broke my heart to give her up, but I knew she would be safe and loved.
I had her for six days before she was adopted, and I always wondered what had happened to my baby, and what she was up to.
Then both I and my biological daughter Clare (not her real name) both happened to get in touch with the adoption agency about contacting each other.
We began to communicate by letter, and when she was 23 years old she sent me a photo enclosed in a beautiful Christmas card that had the verse of O Holy Night on it. She wrote “thank you for having me” which was beautiful.
When she was little, she used to say at her birthday parties, “Happy birthday to me!” Then her Mam and Dad used say “and who do you think of today and is thinking of you too?” Clare would then reply as she also did every Christmas, “My Mammy who grew me in her tummy!” She used say in primary school that she had 3 Mothers. “The mother who chose me, the mother who grew me in her tummy, and Our Lady.”
It was true, I did think of her on her birthday because we share the same birthday.
“We began to communicate by letter, and when she was 23 years old she sent me a photo enclosed in a beautiful Christmas card that had the verse of O Holy Night on it. She wrote “thank you for having me” which was beautiful.”Laura
We began to send each other tapes of our favourite songs and poems we composed ourselves. She said her pet chinchilla rabbit Coinín never made strange when she played my tape.
Her parents encouraged her to reunite with me which was lovely, and we did reunite when she was a young adult woman. It was just amazing, like a honeymoon for me!
She has met all my family. I should really say her family too.
It was especially wonderful to meet Clare’s adoptive parents, and later on to meet her brother and sister in law and cousin at my grand child’s birthday party. On one occasion, not long after Clare and I first met, I introduced Clare and her parents to my mother – the one remaining Granny in Clare’s life and of whom she is very fond. She wrote to her Granny and said on a card “I’m grateful for the Wexford heart that beats inside of me”.
Clare has since met all my siblings, bar one who died in 2008. She has met most of her first cousins too. She is the eldest of her Granny’s 13 grandchildren. She enjoys a close relationship with my siblings too who feel that “she really fits in so well with our family” as my sister says.
The last time I visited Clare at her home with my two grandsons I enjoyed telling her the story of the day she was born, my own birth story, and in turn hearing her experience of giving birth to her own children.
I am so glad I had her. She is my only child. I am so happy we reunited. I told her that too and she agreed. If I had an abortion we could never have met. It would be an irreparable loss not just for me but for others.
She now has two beautiful children of her own. All this would not have taken place if she was aborted. Abortion is too final and brutal. A mother can never forget the child in her womb, even a mother who has had an abortion.
If abortion was widely promoted as the norm for pregnant women who were raped, I feel that would be an absolute tragedy.
I really feel so strongly against abortion as a result of my experience, and I wish to appeal in the strongest possible terms against the repeal of the 8th amendment which saves the life of the unborn child and protects the wellbeing of his or her mother.
This has been the case even in situations where the unborn child’s mother has been raped. Abortion is so invasive that it adds to the trauma of rape. I’ve heard other rape survivors like ‘Miss C’ have publicly testified that the abortion was more traumatic than the rape.
What helped me a lot at the time, was that my father and mother were very good to me, even though it was because of the stigma that they didn’t want me to discuss ‘my business’ in public or anywhere for that matter, even within our family. They only wished to protect me and my welfare and that of my siblings. My father paid for me to attain a qualification in the hopes that I would put all the past behind me and make a new career for myself.
Women like me need support and compassion, not abortion. I hope Ireland keeps offering that.
“I really feel so strongly against abortion as a result of my experience, and I wish to appeal in the strongest possible terms against the repeal of the 8th amendment which saves the life of the unborn child and protects the wellbeing of his or her mother.”Laura
Laura, first on the left, with other women from the Unbroken Tour and Michael Collins, TD, after meeting TDS and Senators at Dáil Éireann
Laura speaking outside the Spencer Hotel on 28th September 2017
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