'What do you pack in a hospital bag when your baby is going to die?'
Yes vote allows a termination and spares families some of the horror when an unborn baby can’t survive, writes Lucy Brophy
I'll be voting Yes today and I want to tell you why.
Revealing my story is not something I do lightly, but something that I believe by sharing might help you to vote Yes too, and by placing the 'X' in the right box today you will help spare another mother, wife or daughter a fraction of the pain I went through…should that be her choice.
All the excitement that goes into having a baby was building. I had been reading and researching about birth and babies. Planning the maternity leave, picking baby furniture and trying to figure would a Moses basket or a cot be required, or exactly what I would need. I had painted the bedroom at 30-weeks pregnant…I didn't know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, so hence the safe neutral colour. As the date grew nearer the room began to fill with all the bits. Things I'd borrowed were ready to go. Baby clothes washed and I had started packing the hospital bag.
When I finished work I shopped for the remaining bits. There was going to be a heart operation as soon as my baby was born so I searched far and wide to find special front opening vests that the nurses in Crumlin had recommended.
At the 33-week scan the baby measured small so I was asked to come in the following week for another scan. Otherwise all was looking well. I loved being pregnant. Everywhere I went someone would start a conversation about the bump or the due date.
The scan a week later didn't go well. The doctor wasn't happy with the rate of growth. He needed a bigger machine and a second opinion so I was back in the next day. This time, there were two doctors and they spoke in whispers. There were no markers. My baby had been diagnosed with a heart condition at the 20-week scan. That was shocking and challenging as it took a number of weeks to diagnose the condition. I was offered an amniocentesis. In my innocence I thought it only diagnosed Down syndrome. So I refused. I knew I loved this baby and I would continue the pregnancy regardless of the diagnosis.
The doctors shared their now joint diagnosis. There was something seriously wrong with the baby that was kicking in my belly. There were no markers but then I heard it for the first time. There was chance the baby was incompatible with life; a very significant chance. There was going to be an amniocentesis. This time I had no choice.
The results arrived by phone call on St Patrick's Day. It was a baby girl. I howled. She had a fatal foetal abnormality. I was 35-weeks pregnant and I was carrying a child that was going to die.
The following seven weeks were incredibly traumatic and heartbreaking. I made one phone call to my parents, who called over, and to my sister. I asked one friend to call in and to share the sad news with my close friends. I couldn't accept texts or calls. The first week went in a blur. I cried all day and every day. I woke each morning to a sense of foreboding not even aware of what the issue was until I was fully awake. At that point I'd start to cry again. I did what I was told, went where I was brought. I was unable to function.
All the while I have a big bump and a baby kicking in my belly. Can you imagine that? I am 35-weeks pregnant. It is illegal for me to be induced because of the Eighth Amendment. I followed the doctor's limited instructions.
I had happily finished work a week earlier, promising to come in with the baby. I couldn't face texting and calling was out of the question so I hand wrote notes to the people I needed to tell. Asking them to let others know.
I couldn't walk into the bedroom without being stricken with pain. Everything I saw was for her and now it wouldn't be needed: the clothes, the thermometer, the nappies.
What do you pack in your hospital bag when your baby is going to die? What do you do with baby things when they won't be needed?
I was told it was a miracle she was still alive. I had to wait for her to die and the doctors tell you that due to the complications the likely outcome is your body will kill her during the birth. The amazing body that grows and sustains life doesn't always work. Why did this have to happen to me?
You are housebound for fear someone might interact with you. The friendly "when are you due?" feels like a deep dive into your personal trauma. So, instead, I picked a coffin. What type of coffin would you pick for your child? White? Wicker? What size would you go for? Where would she be buried? Instead of thinking about which lullabies to sing and play in the nursery, I was choosing which readings to have read out at her funeral.
Another day I had the windows open and my sobbing got so loud one of the neighbours called in as she thought I had gone into labour. It took nearly an hour for me to explain the horror I was going through. I was in the deepest pain you could imagine and it wasn't labour.
After 42 weeks she was born sleeping in a pool of love. We named her Julie.
- Read more: Floating Voter debates the Eighth with McGuirk and Noone - 'Young men could rebel against Yes'
I cannot describe the pain and trauma my situation brought me and those close to me. The depth of loss in an already emotional experience makes grief ever more powerful. Childbirth creating death. "How is the baby? Show me the photos!" The words come faltering out of my mouth, trying to explain what has happened. The colleague turns white, stutters, apologises, and shares their condolences and grief. Sometimes supporting the grief of others is as hard as your own.
The weeks, months and years that have followed have been transformative and healing. This experience is not something I would want to see anyone go through. It is not something I would repeat. It is most certainly not something I would ever force someone to go through. If a mother received such a diagnosis and decided to spare herself, other siblings, her parents, friends and family some of the horror and pain I went through we need to allow her to do this, to terminate. Your Yes vote will allow this. Your Yes vote is the only way to ensure empathy and support to families in tragic situations.
To the No side, I smile, we are all pro-life, we all love both. Non-judgment is a skill and a way of life, and life is made of all sorts. Who am I to throw the first stone?
Start one conversation, make one phone call, share your empathy or story. Share mine if you like. Do whatever it takes. Change one mind.