After being told her pregnancy was unviable, this mum outlined to Amanda Cassidy the horrific position she suddenly found herself in.
"It was a cold morning in late January.
I was busy packing for a trip to London with my sister to visit my brand new nephew who had arrived over Christmas. I was 7.5 weeks pregnant and so as a precaution, I decided it would be prudent to visit my OB just before I flew to give me the peace of mind that everything was ok in there and to clear me to fly.
I arrived at my doctor’s office and had a little chat. ‘Hello again’ I remember him saying so clearly and I was beaming we were back here a mere 10 months after the birth of our beautiful daughter. He opened up a new file (oh the irony) and asked me to jump up on the bed to have a quick look. It's strange looking back now I was not in the least concerned when he couldn’t find a fetal pole (let alone a heartbeat). He explained that it was an old machine and that I could pop upstairs for an internal scan where they could see more clearly but he assured me that I was ‘definitely pregnant’. That was good enough for me. Off I went to London that afternoon and had a lovely time.
In the back of my head perhaps I was worried as I remember being anxious about the traffic on the way into Holles street exactly a week later. I thought that everything would be as clear as day this time around and I was nervously excited to see my baby for the first time. As soon as the probe went in I searched for the tiny familiar flicker and when my eyes clasped on it I felt sheer relief at the sight. This was quickly replaced with panic. Why was it so small? Why did I have to strain to see everything, surely at nearly 9 weeks we should be able to get a very clear picture of a kicking baby on the monitor.
The lady scanning me said nothing through all my questions and as the walls slowly began to move in closer to me I could hear the blood rush in my head like the ocean crashing on rocks. Instinctively I knew this was not good news but I am a glass half full person so we pressed on.
My husband then spoke directly to her and asked if there was something wrong. In a slightly bored manner she asked if I was sure of my dates (I couldn’t be more Type A, these things are not lost on me, my dates were spot on), and simply stated that we could come back in a week for a follow up scan to see if the baby was growing. Then she said something that tore at our hearts. “It's 50/50, guys. I see this all the time and it doesn’t always work out for the best. NEXT”.
And that was it.
I left clutching my tiny fetus scan photo without an ounce of joy in my heart. I was in total shock and could not even cry. I went into work and spent that entire day googling what had just happened. Of course, Google did not tell me everything was going to be ok. That night my husband broke my heart. He came home with 15 pages of a manuscript detailing what a ‘normal’ pregnancy at 8.5 weeks could look like. He explained that the parameters were wide and we could still have a happy ending. He was trying to make it alright. The wait that week was a year.
The following week we went back more nervous than ever. The same lady scanned me and as soon as the probe went in I knew it was all over. The fetus was barely bigger. It hadn’t grown enough. And there it was, a little flicker fighting for its life, a tiny innocent heart still beating. I was inconsolable on the bed and the lady was a bit more compassionate and simply stated those words that are etched forever. ‘I’m sorry but it looks like this is not a viable pregnancy’.
Once I composed myself my doctor arrived in the room. I smiled through the tears and told him that I was fine. Then I very innocently asked when he could book me in for a D&C. My doctor looked me in the eye and told me that would not be possible. I was confused and thought maybe he hadn’t understood that my baby would not survive, I was told it was not viable and therefore surely this nightmare ends here.
“I’m afraid that you have no choice but to wait another week and come in again at 10.5 weeks for a further scan. Hopefully, by that stage, the heart will have stopped beating and then we can proceed. But for now, there is nothing I can do for you. You should tell your employer what is happening as there is a huge chance that the baby might spontaneously abort and that would be painful and messy. Otherwise, I can write a note for you.”
In Ireland, our constitution means that it was not possible for me to terminate my pregnancy- even if my baby was inevitably going to die.
My ears were ringing. There was no humanity and no dignity. There was no support offered. Nothing but the notion I must “ride this out” until the tiny person inside me finally gave up the fight. It was barbaric. I was too vulnerable to even consider my choices at that point. It was my husband that stated we always had the option to travel. To me, that seemed even more dramatic and terrifying than what we were going through and we had a 10-month-old to consider.
In the end, I went about my days. I went into work and informed my manager what was happening. I explained that if any point I had to leave in a hurry this would be the reason. And I don’t know how but I got through the next 8 days waiting, waiting. Waiting for my baby to die. I wanted to die myself. I felt nothing but sadness. I still felt so pregnant. I spoke to my tiny child at night willing it to give up and give us all the peace we needed to move on.
Finally, at the next scan, it was confirmed that the heartbeat had stopped. It was finally over. At 10 weeks and 5 days pregnant I finally got my date for my D&C in two days time. The relief was soon replaced by grief. I still remember so clearly that day on the operating table, looking up at those bright lights before they put me under. The nightmare would be over soon.
So many women go through something like this. So many women suffer in silence and have to walk around with an unviable pregnancy, waiting for the baby to give up itself. I am not here to give my opinion on whether the 8th amendment should be repealed. That is my own private opinion that I have and I am not here to sway anybody one way or another. I am writing my account simply to highlight my story, in light of the many complex issues that come with the final decision that is made. And the people will make that decision themselves, hopefully with an educated mind."
Thank you to this brave mum for sharing her heartbreaking story with Amanda.