I used to know exactly how I felt and now I don’t?

I wanted to challenge her but I didn’t. I suppose I didn’t dare. It would have seemed rude and unpleasant, and I didn’t want to do that to Mary because it was her house and she would have been embarrassed.

But Bernie makes me cross the way she always behaves as if she knows everything and there can’t be two sides to any story, only her side.

‘They’ll get what they deserve,’ she said about the government and those citizen assembly people. ‘They’ll see that the country won’t stand for it. Not now, not ever.’ She waved her fork around while she said it and there was a crumb of cake on the fork that I kept expecting to fly off. I thought about where it would land and I imagined myself reaching out and wiping it away with my napkin. I wish I could as easily wipe Bernie away, although I know she’s a good woman and works very hard for all of us.

I wanted to say something, but I didn’t have any idea what I could say. Just that I’ve been thinking more about it, because it is talked about so much now, and that I used to know exactly how I felt and now I don’t? Of course I used to know. We all did: Abortion was a sin and a stain before God and something no decent woman would consider – but now it doesn’t seem that easy anymore.

We’re all so different now, and in the ways I love. My daughter, Jen, when I see her and her friends – their confidence and sureness in themselves and how they are able to tell people exactly what they want and don’t want. I’m so proud of them. And I’m so sorry that I’ll never know what it feels like to be them and walk down the street in the big black boots and those flowery dresses they wear with leggings, and not wonder if everyone’s looking at me and do I look good enough? They look free and we were never that.

Does it make me a coward, that I didn’t say anything? I know we’re supposed to stand up for what we believe in, but I don’t know yet what I believe in, except that whatever it is has changed.

What changed me was finding out that it happens all the time anyway. Girls go to England – they say thousands go every year from Ireland – and they go on their own, with money they’ve had to borrow, and they come home on their own, bleeding all the way back, and I feel so sorry for them and I know then that it’s wrong. Something is wrong.

But I can’t say that to Bernie. I wonder what Mary and the others think? None of them agreed with Bernie, but they didn’t stand up to her either.

I don’t feel I have the right words to start talking to them about it. I only have the old words – sin and shame and disgrace and never naming anything and ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ with that special holy look when a pregnancy doesn’t last. When I hear the women on the radio discussing it so matter-of-factly as if this is just another part of society that needs to be tidied up and sorted out, I’m envious of them too. Of their certainty. They’re like Jen, marching down the street in her big black boots, ready to say any of the things they think because nothing is a secret and nothing is a sin.

‘We had wanted children together. We had had children together.’

Sandra’s story

‘The nights and the bottles and the feeding and changing. I did it too.’

Denis’s story

‘Of all the ways I ever thought I’d feel about us having a child, it was never this.’

Seán’s story

‘I can’t not trust another woman to know her own mind, her own body and her own life.’

Agnes’s story

‘I chose to do something that you didn’t have any choice about’

Jennifer’s story