“Asking for it…”

This is a great article by Irish author Louise O’Neill, which sums up so many of my own emotions about the Ulster Rugby rape trial verdict, having followed the trial closely.

It’s been a divisive trial, but one thing can be certain: seeing what that girl went through – shamed, and shamed, over and over – to prove she was essentially “asking for it”, was appalling, and for sure will not be an encouragement for other victims of rape to come forward.

These guys weren’t cleared or exonerated. The view was there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But my question is: what does it take?! In our current legal system, if all the evidence presented in this case wasn’t enough, what evidence CAN prove rape, short of CCTV/the guy admitting it, especially in a situation where the girl already knows the guy (or guys, as in this case…)? Or are women just always presumed to be lying?

Here we had their texts talking about the hysterical state they’d left her off in (let’s not even start on their other texts…); the taxi driver confirming how upset she was; her texting one of the guys the following morning to say “what happened last night was not consensual”; her texting her friends to say what happened; a doctor’s report saying she had an “internal tear”, which is why she was bleeding (she was still bleeding from this the night AFTER the incident), and on and on. Even the fact that she went to trial, KNOWING how much the odds were stacked against her, counts.

She was in the witness box for 8 days. She was the one on trial here, not those guys. The defence’s line of questioning was degrading and insulting, and designed to shame, humiliate and sully her, and drag her reputation to the gutter. We look back in horror at our dark Magdalen Laundries past – have we really moved on at all?

A big concern I’m left with is the message to men: “it’s almost impossible to prove, lads. Your word against hers. Just call her a liar; the system will do the rest.” Well, it worked for the now POTUS, on camera admitting to sexual assault, and still elected.

Those guys may have walked free, but anyone who read their text exchange knows what they think of women. At least they can never escape the facts of those exchanges, laid out in black and white. And no, that’s not just “banter”; I refuse to normalise that behaviour by calling it that. It’s toxic, and it’s dangerous.

As for that girl, broken all over again… I hope that the knowledge that so many believe her (and I am one of those) helps to give her strength moving forwards.

Really informative article:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/inside-court-12-the-complete-story-of-the-belfast-rape-trial-1.3443620?mode=amp

And then there were 4…

Yes, this is not a drill… 4 weeks left to the London Marathon!!

With my longest run now under my belt, I thought I’d reflect on the last 5 months of marathon training.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Running is hard, but the feeling after a run, once it’s done, is hard to beat!
  2. Running very long distances is still easier (and often less tiring) than dealing with three-year-old twins!!!
  3. Having a week-by-week fitness schedule in place is the only possible way for me to fit training in and around work, kids, and all the other crazy drama going on in our lives
  4. In this phase of my life, audio books and podcasts are way more my thing when running as opposed to music. I’ve been on some really interesting journeys on my runs through my phone. Makes me think back to my last marathon, 11 years ago, and training with a Discman!!
  5. Planning very long running routes in London around a public water tap/toilets is not easy! Thank you, Regent’s Park Hub, which has been a bit of a saviour to me
  6. Annoyingly, as your mileage goes up for marathon training, and your nutrition needs to increase to compensate, weight loss may slow; it has for me anyway. I’ve lost a good chunk of weight over the past 5 months, and feel my health/fitness has improved, but after the marathon know that what will be best for me and my weight loss journey is taking back the distance a bit, and mixing in another exercise one/twice a week, eg Zumba, HIIT
  7. Running is really, really good for stress. I’m now 8 months alcohol-free, and I’ve tried to train myself to reach for the trainers rather than a glass of wine when in the midst of high-level stress, or after a really tough day with the kids. Ironically, going for a run makes me feel more energised and able to deal with everything I’m juggling
  8. Social media accounts, like on Instagram and various running pages like Run Mummy Run and This Mum Runs London, are really motivating to follow. I’m so much more likely to put the trainers on, if I’ve been deliberating whether to run or not, if I’ve seen someone else has been able to suck it up and get out there. Particular useful during the horrendous weather of late!
  9. Good trainers are a must! I went to Runners World in King’s Cross, and had gait analysis done there, and it was so useful hearing the feedback, and learning where my foot needs to be supported (incidentally inside of the back of the heel as otherwise my foot goes in a little)
  10. The generosity of my friends and family continues to amaze me: from my husband’s support, taking the twins at the weekend after a busy week so I can run; to those who have sponsored me, donating money to the amazing cause that is Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Charity. Thank you everyone. ❤️

Here’s to the final 4 weeks of training!!!

International Women’s Day… equality for women, yes, but basic human rights for Irish women while you’re at it too, please #repealthe8th

repeal.jpg

My social media today has been mostly filled with two cries:

  • 1) UK: International Women’s Day > let’s celebrate women, and continue the fight for equality;
  • 2) Ireland: Repeal the 8th Amendment, in light of today’s march and ahead of May’s referendum > please recognise Irish women’s basic human rights, and vote to repeal the 8th amendment, even if you personally are morally opposed to abortion.

As an Irish mother living in the UK – a country that trusts its women to make the right decisions for themselves – it staggers me that, in the 21st century, women in Ireland are still fighting for basic rights when it comes to their own bodies and reproductive systems, so I thought I’d pen a few words, especially about my own pretty traumatic pregnancy experience in the UK, where thankfully my rights were recognised.

In 1918, women fighting for their right to vote shouted: “Votes for Women”. In 2018, Irish women shout: “Votes for Repeal.” The 8th amendment’s constitutional protection for a foetal right to life has jeopardised the health and lives of Irish women, as many doctors – knowing they face a potential sanction of life imprisonment – fail to perform terminations for women even when they meet the criterion under which it’s currently permissible. The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 is perhaps the most famous recent example of this, when a life-saving termination was denied to her, and she died, an inquest found, from sepsis, e-coli and miscarriage.

The constrains of the 8th amendment are far-reaching. For example, I remember being in university in Ireland in the early 2000s, and being in a position to want/need the morning-after pill. It’s worth noting that this is something that in the UK you can buy over the counter at a pharmacy. Your protection fails etc, and with one tablet, taken within a couple of days, it means that a pregnancy doesn’t result from that mistake. In Ireland? The university doctor I went to refused me, saying she “didn’t morally agree with that” and sent me on my merry way. After all, I’d made my bed and so should lie in it, eh? Good old Ireland. I would argue – and did, not that it did any good – that surely her moral beliefs should be irrelevant in a medical situation where someone was asking for a pill to simply prevent a pregnancy from happening. No joy, and so I had to seek out another doctor who was willing to actually do their job and recognise my right to make this kind of decision for myself about my own body. This is 8th Amendment Ireland. Hardly surprising I left as soon as I could.

Last month ministers approved the draft wording of a bill to hold the vote on repealing the Eighth Amendment. If passed, the constitutional ban on abortion would be replaced with a new amendment stating that “provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies”. This would mean that abortion would no longer be regulated by constitutional law and instead would be set by the Oireachtas. And the thing is: it’s not just about abortion, which so many of the “pro-life” anti-choice folk seem to forget… the reason there has been a call for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution is so that full reproductive health services, including access to abortion, can be made available in line with best medical practice, international human rights norms and the will of the majority of people in Ireland. In order to make any changes to legislation, the Eighth Amendment has to be repealed. Women’s lives matter too.

The petition to repeal the Eighth Amendment states that the Eight Amendment equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus. In doing so it criminalises abortion in all cases except where to continue a pregnancy would result in death. his archaic and dangerous law:

– infringes on the human rights of women in Ireland and goes against international human rights norms
– denies access to basic health care, forcing over 154,000 to travel overseas to obtain an abortion since 1980 [1]
– criminalises those who self-administer abortion pills in Ireland
– maintains a false and medically dangerous distinction between risk to health and risk to life
– discriminates against those who cannot travel to obtain abortions
– does not reflect present public opinion in Ireland[2]

[1] http://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Statistics
[2] http://www.irishtimes.com/news/poll-suggests-strong-support-for-proposed-legislation-1.1426365

I recently had reason to come across another contrast in terms of the way women are treated; my own birth story in the UK only serves to highlight various places the Irish system falls down, by taking choice away from the mother.

In Ireland, if going through the public healthcare channel, thousands of pregnant mothers don’t have access to routine mid-pregnancy scans to check for abnormalities in their babies, including fatal foetal conditions. It’s a lottery as to what maternity unit they happen to be in. Several units, such as Portlaoise Hospital, only carry out the scan for clinical reasons or for women deemed at risk. Of those who happen to be scanned, and tragically have fatal foetal abnormalities detected, some have to travel to Britain for a termination rather than it be offered in Ireland.

Women who aren’t offered the scan run the risk of having a baby whose anomaly has not been diagnosed, which could prove fatal to the baby post-birth. Those who aren’t offered the scan, whose baby has a fatal foetal condition, aren’t given the chance to prepare in advance for the baby’s passing.

This time 4 years ago I was just passed the 20-weeks pregnancy mark with twins, and at the anomaly scan – offered as standard in the UK to everyone – a kidney problem was detected in one twin. It’s worth noting that I was a first-time mum with no previous history, and so, had I been in Ireland having a single pregnancy, it’s very possible this 20-week scan wouldn’t even have been offered to me, and this anomaly never detected. This scan, and the early detection of my son’s problem, is the reason he’s alive today.

I was scanned frequently after this point, with Great Ormond Street Hospital involved for the rest of the pregnancy. Post-birth he seemed totally fine, and didn’t have any worrying symptoms, but a scan and subsequent blood test a few days after birth – which had been arranged because of the anomaly scan – showed severe renal failure, and what followed was one of the worst 24 hours of my life, where it was hour to hour as to whether he would live or not. He was 5 days old. Due to the amazing medical care he received he pulled through, spending a further couple of days critical, and then another month in hospital, before being released with complex medical needs requiring a huge amount of specialist care/medicine etc, and the knowledge a kidney transplant would be needed in early childhood.

But where my picture varies mostly to my Irish counterparts is what happened immediately after the 20-week scan.

We were given the available information, and ultimately I was given the choice about how to proceed. The doctors told us what they could, and trusted us to assess that within the context of the reality we were living (i.e. jobs, money, responsibility to other kids we might have already had, our mental health history, ability to cope, family support etc). They were realistic about how – if the child was born with severe kidney problems – it would be something that would have a life-changing impact on the family, and we were gently encouraged to think of things from all angles before deciding what was best for us. At no point were we swayed, and our right to make the best decision for us was totally respected.

Ultimately we decided to continue with the pregnancy, having the advantage over some of being a two-parent family, having reliable income, a house we own (well, have a mortgage on), no other kids depending on us, no other disabled kids/family members who depend on us.

And that was the right decision for us then, and not something we’d change/regret, but I can hand-on-heart say that having twins where one has a life-threatening chronic illness and requires a huge amount of medical attention, when you don’t have family living close to you, is not something everyone would be in the situation to cope with.

And if parents know in advance that what they’re facing isn’t something they will cope with, for whatever the reason specific to them, I don’t understand why they should be forced down a road they know they won’t be able to deal with.

People say, shur family/friends will rally round etc, but in reality? Do more than a handful offer actual physical tangible help when you’re in a constant/day-after-day long-term battle? The answer, simply, is no. People have their own lives, and you’re expected to get on with it. At one of my broken moments, 7 months in, trying to get a family member to understand how bad things were and how much I was drowning, trying to cope with everything (we’d just had a house fire for good measure), they kindly reminded me that it had been my decision to get pregnant… my husband and I had chosen to go down this road, hadn’t we. There was another bed I’d made, so lie in it.

Again, the decision we made that terrible day was the right decision for us and me then. And it’s easy for some to say, see, it all worked out, didn’t it? You didn’t have a mental breakdown, did ye? And you’re just about coping, aren’t ye? But let’s play devil’s advocate…

What if I got pregnant with twins again, in London with no family around, already having twins where one needs a transplant soon, and both twins I was carrying had the same life-threatening condition as my son? Do I think I would cope then? Realistically: No. Do I think I would be able to properly care for the kids I have who already exist? No. I imagine the decision I would make second time round would have to be different to first time round, if I was going to be able to properly care for the kids I already have. My kids – who have been born, are alive and are here now and need my care – are my priority, and they have a right to be cared for to the best of my ability.

But none of that would come into it in Ireland. The choice wouldn’t be mine, even though I’m 100% the best person to make that decision. Why are women in Ireland not trusted enough to know what is the right decision for them? In Ireland the Eight Amendment equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, but from the second she’s pregnant in Ireland that woman comes second.
In January the Cabinet agreed to hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment before the end of May.

I urge you to consider how this amendment:

  • represses the woman’s right over her own body/reproductive system, and the choices she’s free to make in the pregnancy;
  • allows doctors make decisions biased by their own personal beliefs on the system, refusing some women the right to birth control/the morning after pill, which have life-changing consequences for the woman;
  • denies women across to the country access to a consistent level of antenatal care (e.g. 20-week anomaly scan, which can actually save children’s lives);
  • exports the issue rather than dealing with it.

Please consider voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment to allow the government to introduce legislation that ensures the human rights of women in Ireland are no longer being infringed on, and that this law no longer goes against international human rights norms. Only with repeal of the Eighth Amendment can we begin to change our abortion laws and provide full reproductive healthcare for women and girls in Ireland. No woman should be forced to leave the country for the healthcare they deserve and are entitled to.

On March 8th, women in Ireland will march for our right to choice in the future. I’ll be with you all in spirit, ladies.

Her body. Her choice. My vote.

10 weeks to the London Marathon!

Ok, it’s all getting real now! The miles are ramping up – 18 miles tomorrow – which coincides, possibly in a good way, with life getting quite a bit busier and more stressful at the moment; it’s been useful having the outlet of running, and I feel in the habit of turning to it more readily for stress relief, which is positive all round.

February is a busy running month for me. I did a 10k last weekend, and have a half marathon in 2 weeks, with two more half marathons in March. Then the big day itself! That’s a lot of miles between now and 22nd April, so hopefully see a few more cms drop from the waistline/pounds decrease on the scales too.

I’ve got my new trainers ahead of the big day (experts recommend changing every 300-400 miles), which I’ll be breaking in over the next few weeks, my GOSH vest, and am starting to experiment with various fuels on my long-distance runs, which will hopefully help on the day. All of that is really helping to make the big day feel a lot closer! I wore my GOSH vest on my long run (16 miles) two weeks ago to wear it in a bit, and I got a lot of ‘well done’ and ‘you can do it’ and ‘great cause’, which felt really motivating as well as quite emotional; I’m clearly no Mo Farah and having people recognise my efforts, and be supportive of the cause, was really heartening.

I’ve reached 49% of the minimum fundraising goal I’ve set, and am really pleased with that. Thanks to everyone who’s dug deep and supported me on the journey so far. I read the other day that a marathon is the training, and the 26.2 miles on the day itself the victory lap, and I thought they were wise words!! The training is quite a slog, but I can’t think of a cause more worthy. For anyone who did plan to send a few pounds to Great Ormond Street Hospital via my channel, here’s my link!

I’ll continue to post regularly with small updates on my Facebook page!

Join me for a run in February (‘virtually’, at least!)

GOSH
Calling all runner/walkers/non-exercisers who might be up for a small challenge!

Fancy running (or walking) a 5k or 10k in February and at the same time help raise money for the amazing Great Ormond Street Hospital and Children’s Charity, and bag yourself a cool GOSH pin in the process? If so, read on!!
I’ve set up two virtual runs here, with all the details about how it works on each post:-

> 10K (£10): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/february-10km-run-in-support-of-great-ormond-street-hospital-childrens-charity-tickets-42401997516

> 5K (£5): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/february-5km-run-in-support-of-great-ormond-street-hospital-childrens-charity-tickets-42402344554
For my London Marathon training, in February I’m set to do 164km (102 miles) – would be great to have virtual company for some of those!!

(Read about why I’m running here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/donna-hillyer)

 

Snow joke, this training-for-a-marathon-in-winter malarkey!

It’s been a busy month since my last blog update, which takes me up to week 8 of my marathon training, and 18 to go to the big day – argh! 18 weeks….that seems very, very close!

A week and a half ago I ran a 10k (6.2 miles) in Regent’s Park, non-stop in 1 hour 2 minutes, so I was really proud of that. Running non-stop was the main objective – I still have a long way to go to build up the endurance and fitness needed for 26.2 miles – and I was delighted that I managed that, although I had to dig deep towards the end. I’d been at a big Christmas lunch the day before – three courses, with cheese after – and got a stitch a mile in, and just had to run through it! So a race I’m really chuffed with, but not one I’ll remember as being especially easy!

And then…huge slump! Not because of motivation, but more the weather in London – ice, snow, frost, so haven’t been able to get out for the last week and a half as the last thing I want is to slip and injure myself. I realised I probably should have gotten some trail runners in anticipation of the winter weather, to stop me slipping all over the place, so will look into that after Christmas. I still haven’t gotten round to getting my gait measured/new trainers to match, so need to get on with that too, especially as my distance is creeping up. My weekend runs to the end of the year are 6, then 13 and 14 miles, so it’s starting to get serious now!

I’m off to Ireland tomorrow for 2 weeks, so will try to fit my runs in as planned around Christmas meet-ups with friends and family, but at the same time won’t be stressing too much if it’s too busy. I’ve been on the fitness trail since July, and maybe this is a good point to pull back a little ahead of the January countdown to the marathon.

My plan, from week one of January for the 16 weeks to the marathon, is as follows:

  • 3-4 runs a week, averaging 2-4 miles
  • Long Sunday runs as follows: 7, 15, 8, 16, 8, 18, 9, 19, 10, 20, 10, 21, 10, 22-23, 8…. 26.2 miles: MARATHON DAY

My new year’s resolution for January, assuming life and all its chaos accommodates it, is at least one official run every month. I work best when I have goals, so I know this will help to keep me on track with my fitness plan, and hopefully the weight loss will follow.

My plan so far is as follows:

  • Jan: Regent’s Park 10k
  • Feb: Regent’s Park 10k, Roding Half Marathon
  • Mar: The Big Half (half marathon), Brentwood Half Marathon
  • Apr: London Marathon
  • May: London Vitality 10k, Moonwalk Marathon
  • Jun: Cork Marathon, Ireland
  • Jul: Richmond Riverside 10k
  • Aug: Hyde Park 10k
  • Sep: Richmond Half Marathon
  • Oct: Dublin Marathon
  • Nov: TBC
  • Dec: TBC

Hopefully I’ll manage most, but a lot will depend on the health of our son, as he gets closer and closer to needing his kidney transplant. We found out from Great Ormond Street Hospital last week that they will begin, in the new year, the process of testing my husband and me to see if we are a compatible match, so am excited about that process starting, and nervous. It will take at least 6 months, so a while yet before there is an answer.

We’ve spent the past 3.5 years since his birth wondering constantly – daily – whether it will be in our power to save his life when he needs that help. I cross everything that at least one of us is compatible and given that opportunity. It’s impossible here for me to describe what that has been – and is – like, but suffice to say it’s a very, very stressful situation. I’ll continue trying to get the weight off, in case that chance lies with me, and only me, so that I’m below the BMI of 30 that’s the limit for what is classed as voluntary surgery.

So with all that looming, perhaps a slightly easy next couple of weeks in Ireland is just what the doctor ordered – then time to grab the bull by the horns on Jan 1st!

I’m also hoping to do a little more come the new year for the fundraising element of this challenge. One idea I’d had is supper clubs at our house – currently a building site as we’re in the middle of a big refurb! We’re moving back in end of March, so I’m hoping things are finished enough by then to host supperclubs to groups of local people, with a different local person as the chef for each night, with the ingredients provided for them, and them kindly volunteering their time and know-how. I bounced the idea off a local foodie group of Facebook, and lots were keen, so fingers crossed we have a house by then in which to do it!! I think it would be a fun way to raise funds, while giving me and others a chance to meet other local people in our East London community! Watch this space for more updates!!

For anyone tempted to contribute, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/donna-hillyer

snow-running

One month down! 5 to go…

calendar

Crazily, one month of my marathon training has passed, in what seems like the blink of an eye!

It makes me really glad I’ve put a training schedule in place, as, without it, I genuinely know that I wouldn’t have fit in even half of the runs I’ve done. Having them mapped out in the diary is making it much more likely I’ll map work/kids around them, and try to get out – though sometimes I really have to drag myself out, especially on the wrecked/low-energy days.

I’m pleased with how it’s going: I’ve managed every long Sunday run so far, as well as the majority of the planned weekday runs.

Sometimes it’s just been too hectic and I’ve not been able to fit one in, but I’m not worrying about it too much. There’s so much going on, with us living in a temporary apartment a few miles away from the kids’ nursery, which means there’s a lot more commuting than there would be ordinarily, and we’re having to make what seems like a hundred refurb-related decisions a week, so I have to be realistic about what’s manageable.

It’s so busy at the moment that I’m glad I have something like this to focus on, for me – any working parent reading this, who’s the one who most has to juggle the kids/house stuff around work, will relate to how easy it is to put your own goals on the long finger while you try to manage all the other goals. Well, there’s no putting training for a marathon on the long finger, if you want to run it in one piece, so that’s some forced personal time right there!!

I’ve enjoyed listening to Robert Webb’s How Not to be a Boy over the past few weeks, on and off, and I finished that today on my long 10-mile run. It was such a funny, moving and honest book – Webb is self-deprecating, and self-critial, and always hilarious, even in the sad moments (it made me shed more than a tear or two, which must have made me an interesting sight when running around London!). It offered an interesting insight into the confines of gender role from a male’s point of view, something which, as a mum to boy/girl twins, I’m ever conscious of.

Next up: Hillary Clinton’s What Happened. I’m so appalled by what’s happening in the US, at the hands of a person who got 3 million fewer votes than Clinton, that it will make for a heartbreaking read – to think of what could have been (and try not to dwell on the horror of what is) – but it’s important to hear what did happen, if we’re ever going to learn from it. It’s nearly 17 hours, read by Clinton herself, so that will keep me going for the next couple of weeks at least, with a break here and there for a podcast.

Back to running… this week coming I plan to run a 4-mile, 2-mile, 3-mile, with an 11-mile run on Sunday. The weather has been holding out so far; it’s getting a bit chillier but not too much rain. You can wrap up from the cold, but escaping the wet is a lot harder!!

I’m definitely noticing my fitness starting to improve, and I’m already miles away from where I was 4 months ago, when I started my 0-to-half-marathon training. Weighed myself today for the first time in a few weeks, and I’m just a couple of pounds off 3 stone lost in that amount of time! It’s motivating seeing clothes start to fit better etc, and hopefully that will keep me away from all the warm, carby grub my body is craving as the cold and dark nights creep in!