Sunday 19 November 2017

'Being cared for at home would have made losing Luke less scary'

Heartbroken mum tells her story as the fatal foetal abnormality bill is due for debate in the Dáil

'Isobel' with mementos of her son Luke who was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality. Photo: Provision
'Isobel' with mementos of her son Luke who was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality. Photo: Provision
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A heartbroken mum has revealed details of her experience ending a pregnancy abroad when her baby boy was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality ahead of the introduction of a bill which would allow for terminations in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Isobel* (31) is a mum to a little boy aged two and was thrilled to discover she was pregnant in January.

She and her partner were delighted at the prospect of having a new addition to their family and attended maternity services in Cork University Hospital.

During a scan at 12 weeks, however, it emerged that her baby had anencephaly – a condition which means a baby is missing a skull and part of their brain.

“Taking that in was… like a load on your chest and it’s just knots. You want to hide yourself from everybody,” she said.

The decision to terminate her pregnancy was not an easy one, and Isobel and her partner talked over their options at home at length, initially refusing to consider an abortion as she knew very little about the procedure.

Rosary beads baring child's name. Photo: Provision
Rosary beads baring child's name. Photo: Provision

After exploring her options and considering both finances and the standard of care she would receive, she opted to attend a Bpas clinic in the UK. Isobel said she felt confident that she had selected the best option for her situation.

“We had to travel because obviously there is no help here. I was scared, I was absolutely petrified even just being away from close friends, family, support, being isolated and being alone,” she said.

Isobel chose a medical abortion which would mean she would deliver the baby after being induced.

“I wanted to give him a proper burial, I wanted to hold him, he was my baby,” she said.

Her experience in the clinic was “absolutely horrendous” she said, for a number of reasons including cold treatment by staff. She also criticised the short time the midwife spent with her, the absence of pain relief and being asked to deliver her afterbirth in a bathroom with no assistance.

 “Luke was born at half past six and obviously the sound of silence is not nice, it’s not pleasant. At that point myself and my partner just fell into tears. [There was] a sense of relief that that scary moment was all over and a sense of sadness that he was here and he was still.

“We had our moments with him and we took our photographs and we spoke to him like any mother would to their baby. We told him how much he was loved, told him how we were so sorry that we were in this situation and not home with our family – we had our time,” she said.

She left the clinic around 40 minutes after giving birth.

“My experience with Bpas was absolutely horrendous. It was so scary and it still haunts me – it will haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said.

Bpas was unable to comment on an individual case but said it “aims to provide high-quality, compassionate care to all women”.

Isobel and her partner travelled home the day after her son was delivered.

 “It was about nine and a half hours by the time we got home and it was the longest, most lonesome, scary journey. I just felt so sad [on the ferry] that my baby was in the back of the car, down underneath and I couldn’t be with him,” she said.

Luke was buried with Isobel’s grandmother the day after they arrived home.

Six weeks later she is coping with the grief day by day, she said.

 “I needed to speak about my story just to show people that it’s not pleasant. Obviously the experience of having a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality is horrible and it’s so sad and you’re angry … even if we had a little bit of care at home it would have made it so much easier, less scary.

“Even if I got the care that I expected to get in the UK, wherever we chose to go, before all of my experience with Bpas it was still so scary. I’ve never felt more alone so yes, in a sense, I do blame the law in Ireland that you couldn’t get the care you wanted at home.”

*Not her real name

Irish Independent

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