'All I wanted to do was give her a chance even if that was one-in-a-million'- Irish woman whose miracle baby survived the odds
An Irish woman who carried on with her pregnancy after doctors told her child was incompatible with life has opened up about her experience and said her daughter Grace deserved a chance despite the bleak statistics.
Sixteen weeks into her pregnancy, Sinead McBreen was told by doctors that her baby would not survive and her pregnancy would not go to term. The mum-of-five revealed that scans showed that there was a large swelling (cystic hygroma) on the baby’s neck and fluid was placing pressure on its heart.
Speaking to The Ray Darcy Show on RTE Radio One Sinead said: “The pregnancy was normal. We had an early scan at seven weeks which showed a heartbeat. Everything was perfect as it should be. We had another at twelve weeks and at sixteen weeks we went for a third scan in our local hospital, where the doctor could see something wrong.
“He explained that there was a large swelling in the neck. He said ‘Look it’s probably going to be a chromosomal abnormality’. He mentioned Down Syndrome. We were devastated obviously. Luckily we had an appointment the following day to head to Dublin to see what was going to happen there. We were worried. Although I had seen the scan and I was very, very big.
“I looked six months pregnant. We went to Dublin and it went downhill within a few hours. When they were scanning they said ‘I don’t know why you’re even here today, this should have been a very early miscarriage’.
Sinead, from Cavan, underwent a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test to determine if her baby has a chromosomal abnormality, and the results suggested that the child Sinead was expecting had Down Syndrome. Although Down Syndrome is compatible with life, doctors believed the other medical hurdles facing Sinead’s child meant that the chances of it surviving were minuscule and they suggested she should consider a termination.
“She was devalued straight away. It was like ‘There’s an abnormality here. It doesn’t really matter,” said Sinead.
“Fatal foetal abnormality isn’t a medical term so that is never used. We were told the baby was not compatible with life they said ‘It’s not going to survive’.
“This is what my issue was. There was a pressure. There was an expectation that you should terminate. There was never any support where they said ‘We’ll work through this with you’.
“They said ‘Why do you want to continue with a pregnancy that’s going nowhere?’
“I said ‘Every day was going to be a bonus. If she lives for a few hours, her sisters and brothers will get to hold her’.
“I felt like they were looking at me like I was a silly woman.
“It wasn’t that. I believed them. I knew the statistics weren’t great. I didn’t see that as being an option,” said Sinead.
The part-time nurse said despite the stacked odds against her daughter, she believed she deserved a chance at life, although she had researched what a termination would involve.
“I felt like it wasn’t for me to make the decision. When I looked into what an abortion was going to entail at that late stage I thought ‘Oh no, I can’t’. Until you’re in that position it’s very easy to say what you would or wouldn’t do.
“If the baby is not going to survive why terminate. Can we not let nature takes its course. I thought if we could get to 24 weeks, she’d get a birth cert, wouldn’t that be lovely. We named her at this stage, Grace,” said Sinead.
Although Sinead was not expected to reach term she said she felt very supported when she went into labour.
“I had Grace in our local hospital and it was an amazing experience. Everyone was so supportive at that stage and they were all ready for what was going to happen. I was prepared.
“Grace was born pink and screaming and perfect. She’s 20 months old and tearing the place apart. She’s walking and saying words and is adored by her family,” she said.
The mum of five, who is affiliated with One More Day- a support group for parents who receive poor pre-natal prognoses, said that she does not blame doctors for their diagnosis ahead of Grace’s birth.
“Was it a misdiagnosis? They don’t know. They can’t explain. Nobody can say why she survived. The scary part for me is that if I had gone ahead with a termination, I wouldn’t know any different today.
“Being a nurse, I know that doctors are human. They only go on what they’ve seen. I was so grateful when Grace was born. I would just like to move on and get one about it.
“I was told she was one in a million. I remember one of the doctors said ‘I’m coming up to see this miracle child that wasn’t supposed to be.’
“She survived, one in a million. Was she worth one in a million? In my opinion she was. We do the lotto for worse chances,” said Sinead.
The mum believes that nobody knows how long a child will live, and said that women who decide to continue on with their pregnancies should be more supported.
“Nobody can say how long a child will survive and this is what it comes back to. When we talk about so called fatal foetal abnormalities... I can’t talk about other cases, only my own.
“Grace is worth it.
“It’s a horrific situation to be put in. I can only talk about my situation.
“I think to offer a woman a termination is depriving them of a chance of a few minutes with their baby. I think we need to sit down and think about this for a minute.
“I knew Grace wasn’t suffering and all I wanted to do was give her a chance, and if it’s only one in a million is it not worth that one?”
The HSE have been contacted but declined to comment on Sinead’s case.