‘My newborn turned blue and suffocated to death in my arms’ – Cork mum on withdrawing care for her baby
A mother from Cork has recalled the horror moment she held her baby girl as she suffocated to death, after deciding to withdraw palliative care.
Annie Roche from Mitchelstown in Cork was left with an agonising decision when she and her husband Ciaran were told that their day-old daughter had five fatal heart conditions.
“We didn’t know anything was wrong with Aishling until she was 24-hours-old. She went blue and after being examined the doctors said she had five complex heart conditions. We were told she had zero chance of survival,” Annie told Independent.ie.
Annie and Ciaran who had two young daughters at home had to make the decision of whether to keep Aishling on life support or to withdraw her care.
“We decided to withdraw her palliative care because we couldn’t justify putting her through the pain and suffering that she was feeling.
“We were told she’d never leave the hospital and would only live for a couple of months.
“We couldn’t justify putting her through the pain just so we could hold onto her a while longer. When you see a baby suffering and realise you’re just delaying her pain and death you have to make a very hard decision. We would have been selfish if we didn’t let her go.”
Annie recalled the horror of watching her newborn baby girl “suffocate to death”.
“When we removed the life support I held her in my arms and watched her turn blue. I watched her for an hour and 15 minutes as she suffocated to death.
“She was gasping for breath very loudly. It was horrific to see and watch your baby suffocate to death.”
In the hours before Aishling died, Annie and Ciaran took a photo with her.
Annie said a lot of people have asked her why she’s smiling in her photo with Aishling.
“People questioned if I was happy that my daughter was dying. They make assumptions on how I should have felt. It was 3am and we had spent the night before learning about Aishling’s condition and making the hardest decision of our lives. I was smiling because when I held Aishling I still felt joy. I always smiled when I looked into the face of one of my babies.
“As much as I felt like crying, we were determined to spend our last night embracing her.
“She could hold my finger and look to where my voice was. I was trying to keep calm to keep her calm because babies feed off their mother’s energy.”
Annie told Independent.ie that she thinks families should have the power to decide what happens to their babies before and after their birth, after having to make the heart-wrenching decision when Aishling was born in November 2010.
“Six years ago, I would have thought that the best decision was to carry a baby to full-term. After talking to families who travelled to the UK for an abortion, they did because of the same reasons we took Aishling off life-support. If they keep their baby it will suffer.
“There’s no right answer for what to do in that situation. Every family has to make a decision that’s right for them and their baby.”
Annie said it can be a traumatic experience carrying a baby with a fatal abnormality.
“When you know your baby has a fatal abnormality you have to go through nine months of people asking you when is it due? If you have other children, you have to explain that there new baby brother or sister might never come home. Instead of shopping for clothes, you buy one outfit. The outfit you’ll bury your baby in. Then when the baby is born you have to watch them suffer.
“I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, never mind force it upon someone.”
She said that decisions made once a women finds out her baby has fatal abnormality should be “medical and not legal”.
“Once a baby is born the Government doesn’t interfere with a woman’s decision, so why should they interfere during pregnancy.
“I’m not someone who says abortion is right. It’s a decision a family should make and they should be given the respect and empathy that they deserve. We’ve all lost a baby. We’re all grieving parents.”
Annie said that she did what she thought was right for Aishling, “like any other parent would”.
“The death process of a baby, whatever the circumstances is horrific.
“When Aishling died there was no support available to us. I travelled home to Cork with her from Crumlin with just a leaflet. No counselling, no nothing.
“For families travelling to the UK, there’s nothing for them either but they have to bring their dead baby’s body home to another country.
“I would support Repealing the 8th Amendment but I don’t think one choice is better than the other.”
Annie said that it’s a personal choice, one that people shouldn’t be judged for.
“You can’t possibly understand it unless you’re going through it so there’s no point adding to a family’s grief.”