Incompatible with life

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We had been trying to have a child for a number of months, and both of us were over the moon at the fact that “we” were pregnant – I always, and still do, hate that phrase. By writing this post, I’m not looking for sympathy – I’ve heard enough apologies and condolences already. People are uncomfortable talking about this, for obvious reasons, but we need to talk about it.

I am doing this to let other people who are going through this know that they are not alone, that there are others, and we fully understand what you’re going through. It has taken me a number of years to come to terms with this part of my life, to accept it as part of who I am, and to try and continue on.

I remember it was a Thursday, a Thursday that I will never forget. It was a miserably day, dark and gloomy. I was still living in Carlow at the time, so I took the day off work and we drove to the clinic for the first tests of our baby. I’ve never been that nervous before, but it was an excited nervousness – I was a big ball of ecstatic, worried, overjoyed, and anxious. I was so proud of announcing that “we are here for our scan”, to the receptionist.

We did not tell anyone. There’s an Irish (and possibly it is the same in other counties) tradition that you don’t tell anyone the news that you are about to be a parent, until after the first trimester – for fear of losing the baby. I had always assumed that it was an old wives tale that had  no place in modern Ireland – not with our technology and low infant mortality rate.

The scan took place, and everything looked good. The staff were really fantastic, going over all the details. This is when it sunk in. Holy fuck, I’m going to be a Dad! I had to get my ass in gear, and be able to provide for my family. I left Blacknight, and started in ICHEC. A move from Carlow to Dublin, and from the private sector to a nice public sector job in academia. That’s what I wanted, a nice safe, and stable public sector job, so I could be a proper Dad and provide for my family. About a month after the move, however, things started to go downhill.

We went for another scan, this time in Dublin. Tests were ordered, and the body language of the doctor went from warm and inviting to cold and professional. I knew something was gravely amis when her colleague came in for a consult. He went over the scan, and asked both of us some questions. Then he brought me into the side office.

I will never forget what he said, “Incompatible with life. No chance of delivery”. These words still ring home today, even though a number of years has passed.

Options were given, both at home and abroad, and they were weighed up. I still believe we decided on the best option – travel to the UK and get an abortion. The fact that this is not possible in Ireland, under these circumstances (whether you agree with abortion or not), is shameful and abhorrent. You can criticize me, call me a monster, and hate every fiber of my being, but in the end it was our decision. I have to live with this decision every day of my life. You do not. You have no right to judge me.

At some point every single day, I feel the same sadness I did on the day we travelled to Birmingham. The only difference, now, is that I have been able to hide it better. Nothing will take away the despair and agony I feel inside. I still can’t believe this happened – surely this only happened to other people. Hell, there are days when I want to shut the world off, stop pretending that everything is alright, stay in bed and cry. I became considerably more withdrawn, depressed, drank heavily, and angry. I was angry at life, and at death. I was angry with myself, with my partner, with the universe… with everything. Our relationship quickly went downhill, before disintegrating entirely a short time after – the fact that it lasted as long as it did after the news is surprising. This event has drastically altered my view of life, and I know I will never be the same because of it.

The most important thing is to take the first step for help – to talk to someone. Please take it.

Some Thoughts On The Real World, By One Who Glimpsed It And Fled — Bill Watterson

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Being Happy

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive.

Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

Richard Hawley — Serious

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Persistence — Calvin Coolidge

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Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Dallas, The Next Generation

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Goodbye, Seamus

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I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o’clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying–
He had always taken funerals in his stride–
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were “sorry for my trouble,”
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

On the 30th of August, 2013, we lost Seamus Heaney. The world of poetry will never been the same without him.

Hello, from Sydney

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2013-08-29 18.34.23Since I can’t be there in person, my world travelling photo will have to make do.


The Egg — Andy Weir

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You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.


And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders.

Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.”

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“I’m Jesus?”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.

Passing the driving test

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Well, I finally passed my driving test. They say that 4th times the charm.

A huge thank you to John Gibson, from Gibson Driving School, who has been an absolutely fantastic instructor and person.

So now I’m competent to drive tractors and cars, but not to use the big scissors in work. I don’t think 10gen will give me a certificate when I’m allowed use the big scissors – so I’ll have to make my own.

Needless to say, I’m utterly delighted – pink licence, lower insurance premiums, and legally using the motorway!

Goodbye, Colm

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