Wading in Shallow Waters – Louise Cunnane of Lilac Glass


I’m in a small town in County Mayo and I’m pregnant. Now let’s not get too excited. I’m 28. I just left Dublin and I am briefly staying at my parents house before I move to London. I’m a musician and the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. There’s managers and labels and producers getting in touch. My EP is out. I have just put a band together and we are getting ready to play our first show.

I can’t have a baby. It’s not the right time for me. I refuse to buy a test in small town Ireland. The news will be back to my mother before I have time to check the result. I have a trip to London booked for a couple of days time. I’ll get the test there. I have a meeting with a producer to finalise a new track. I also have a meeting with a music lawyer and a rehearsal for my first show. I need to start hunting for somewhere to live.

Maybe the test will be negative.

I fly from Knock to Stansted. There’s no pharmacy at the airport. I drag my suitcase to Hackney for my first meeting. I buy two tests. I sit in a cafe and order some breakfast. I do the first test in the bathroom. It’s positive. I text my best friend. She asks if the line is faint. The line is the boldest thing I’ve ever witnessed. I feel like the smallest person in the world.

I arrive at the studio. We listen to the track. We chat and laugh and catch up. I go to the loo and do the other test. There’s that line again. I’m trying to hold a conversation. I feel like I’m losing my mind. The song sounds great. Thank you. Bye. Bye. Bye.

I don’t have a doctor in the UK. The only option is to go to A&E. I mean, it was an accident and right now it feels like a fucking emergency. I pee in a tube. I fill out some forms. I have my bloods done. I’m pregnant. I’m 4 weeks pregnant but I knew that already. I didn’t make the best decisions over the August bank holiday weekend. Everyone I see at the hospital is amazing. I’m given safe and unbiased information. I’m asked if I’m ok. They know I’m Irish. They know the deal. They suggest Marie Stopes Clinic. I take some leaflets and go check in to my Airbnb.

It’s the day after and I have a meeting with a music lawyer to discuss some options, some valuable contacts and the future. Does he know? Can he tell?

I try to call the father. I’ve known him for 8 years. We are terrible for each other but we can get through anything. We are no longer in a relationship but these things happen. No answer. Back at the Airbnb I look at the info. I call to check available dates. I’m told the sooner the better. The sooner the better.

I have band rehearsal. Are we ready for the gig? I’m so nervous. This could be the beginning of something amazing. Fuck, I need to puke. Nerves? No, this is the beginning of morning sickness. Pretend it’s nerves.

We speak eventually. We agree that we can’t have a child. We are both planning big moves. We decided a long time ago that this relationship doesn’t work. It will be better for everyone. I fly home. I pick a date and I wait. While I wait I get sick and I don’t stop getting sick for about two more weeks. When you decide to have an abortion, anything that connects you emotionally to the pregnancy is like a stab in the heart.

I’m taking a little break from rehearsals. I’ll be back soon.

I fly to London without my band knowing. I don’t schedule any meetings. I go to Brixton and check in to a basic hotel five minutes from the clinic. He didn’t come with me. He didn’t give me any money. I don’t hear from him again until I bump into him in Dublin a few months later. This is costing me around a grand in total. Travel, accommodation, procedure, antibiotics. I had some help with the financial side but what if I didn’t? It costs £500 for an Irish woman to have an abortion. It costs a UK resident zero. That night I rub my stomach and I say “I’m sorry” over and over.

I go to the clinic for my first appointment. Am I sure? Yes I’m sure. Am I ok? I have no idea. I take the first tablet and I go for a walk. I’m so nauseous. I go back for my second appointment. I take the tablet. I pay the bill. I get a bus to the hotel. The cramps start within 30 minutes. I’m in agony. Apparently this is what labour pains can feel like. I cry and I bleed and I cry and I bleed and I don’t sleep that night.

The next morning I feel rough but I’m hungry for the first time in weeks. I fly home and for a couple of days I’m alright. A little sore and still bleeding some. On day three I collapse in pain. Please don’t take me to hospital. They can’t know what I did. Please don’t tell anyone. I’ll get in trouble.

My first gig comes and goes and I don’t feel a thing. The months pass and I’m numb. I feel like I can’t speak out because I have broken a law. I am a criminal in Ireland. I don’t go to church but that Catholic Guilt will still get you.

I play my first festival. I move to London. I support a huge female artist. I work with some amazing people. I’m the happiest person in the world. Right?

A doctor prescribes anti-depressants and anxiety medication. An abortion is not an easy decision even when you know it’s the right one. The silence surrounding it is deafening. The shame haunts you.

Right now, abortions are only available in Ireland in extremely restricted situations. Outside of that, the Irish woman does not have the right to reproductive choices, whatever her circumstances. Unprepared, irresponsible, young, old, married, single, promiscuous, a mother, a saint. If her health is at risk. If she’s been raped.

Legalising abortions will not mean everyone will want one, and it doesn’t mean we’ll stop practicing safe sex. An abortion changes who you are and you’ll never ever forget it, but Irish women should have the right to access accurate, unbiased and readily available information and safe, affordable treatments which don’t make her feel like a criminal in her own country.

We have rights.

Almost four years later I am currently expecting my first child and I have never been happier. I am working on a new EP. I am no longer on any medication. I have no regrets about past decisions.

I am Irish and I am asking you to Repeal The Eighth.

Louise Cunnane performs under the name Lilac Glass (formally Blooms) Listen to her single ‘Shallow Water’ below. 

is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.