They say that families live prison sentences just as much as the prisoner and that was certainly true for us. On January 22, my husband Chris Cole was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment for non-payment of a fine incurred at an anti-war protest in 2005.
This event was not a surprise to us, we had been planning for it in one way or another ever since we first met. However, recognising something is inevitable and dealing with the actual experience are two separate things.
The thing that concerned us from the outset was how our three children (aged between 4 and 8) would be affected by our decision to do this. It is one thing to have principles, quite another to ask people who depend on you and have no say in the matter to live with the consequences.
It helped that we have always talked to the children about our beliefs, so we tried to explain why we were doing it in ways that they could understand. We also gained inspiration from the many families who have done this before. It is our hope that our children will grow up understanding why sometimes such actions are necessary, even if it is not something they choose to do themselves. We will have to wait a few years to see whether we have succeeded in doing this.
The prison system is pretty unforgiving and I resented having our communication limited by letters being delayed either way and by Chris's inability to get to a phone most of the time. The children and I missed him terribly and it was frustrating not being able to talk every day as we normally do when he is away.
Childcare and housework were much harder without him. Small things like getting a bike puncture fixed or organising myself to go shopping often seemed overwhelming.
Drained, grateful, giggly
At times I was so emotionally and physically drained through keeping everything together that I felt my work suffered. But I was also greatly heartened by the many messages of support that we received once the news got out. I was also very grateful for the people who helped out by babysitting, cooking or keeping me company, and for the offers of help I did not take up.
And although the children and I all had moments of being tired and scratchy with each other, we also had some lovely giggly times sitting round the kitchen table just like normal, which made me feel we weren't doing so badly.
We survived the prison sentence with our family life intact, but a prison term still seems a fairly inadequate response to the ongoing carnage in Iraq. Nevertheless, we hope that the experience has contributed to the multitude of people who continue to raise their voices against this immoral and increasingly unpopular war. We couldn't have done this alone and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us get through it. May we do the same for you one day.