Mairead’s Story

I was 19 weeks pregnant with my first child when I went for my initial appointment with the obstetrician. He carried out a scan and determined there was a problem. The baby either had an ovarian cyst or a blocked urethra. The appointment was in his rooms and the ultrasound equipment he had was not as sensitive as would be found in a hospital so he said I needed a more detailed scan. If it was an ovarian cyst, it could be dealt with after birth; if it was a blocked urethra, in-utero surgery would be required. I went for the scan. It was a blocked urethra. He said he would arrange for me to have surgery in London but that I should go off on holidays the following week as planned, as there was no rush.

I got a phone call a day or two later to tell me to cancel my holiday and to book a flight to London immediately. I presume he spoke to a more knowledgeable obstetrician who recognised the seriousness of the problem. My husband and I went to London to have surgery to place a catheter into the baby’s bladder.

When I arrived in London, they carried out another scan. They told me that the kidneys had failed and the lungs had collapsed due to a lack of amniotic fluid. They told me my options were to wait for the baby to die, either in-utero (unlikely) or immediately after birth (the collapse of the lungs would not allow the baby to breath), or to have an abortion. So my choices were to wait for the baby to be born and watch him slowly suffocate, as he would not be able to breath, or to terminate the pregnancy using an injection to stop the heart.

Watching a much-wanted and loved child suffocate seemed like a cruel and unnecessary act. Continuing with a pregnancy for another 4 months, knowing I would have to allow my child suffocate to death was an unbearable thought. The only option left was abortion.

The consultant suggested injecting the baby’s heart in London and then returning home for induction and delivery so I could finalise the abortion in a familiar environment with my family around me. My husband and I agreed that this would be the best option. He phoned the obstetrician in Ireland and suggested this as an option. The obstetrician refused as he said abortion was illegal in Ireland and so it would not be legal for him to carry out the induction, even though the baby would already be dead. As an autopsy would be required, he was concerned that the injection to the baby’s heart would result in difficulties for him.

That meant I had to remain in London for the induction. They injected the baby on a Friday. I had to wait until Monday for the induction. Rather than being able to share this horrible time at home with my family, my husband and I spent a long and miserable weekend in a guesthouse in London.

The induction was carried out on Monday. After a 6-hour labour, my son was born. We spent some time with him before he was taken away. The hospital kept him in order to carry out an autopsy.

The following day, I went to check out of the hospital. We were asked to call to an office before doing so. Apparently, abortion is not covered under the reciprocal health agreement we have with the UK. Therefore, before we could leave, we had to pay a bill of approximately £2500. This was over 20 years ago, so it was quite a lot of money. Luckily, my husband had a work credit card with a credit limit that would cover this amount so we were able to pay and leave.

A few weeks later, after the autopsy was completed, the hospital shipped the body of the baby over to us. This was done by a local undertaker on our behalf. We buried our baby boy in the local cemetery in a plot reserved for babies who are stillborn. I still, more than 20 years later, resent the fact that I had to go through this ordeal in London rather than at home. The medical staff in London were wonderful and truly compassionate. However, having to spend that miserable weekend in a guesthouse away from home because the obstetrician was afraid to induce me in Ireland was nothing short of cruel.

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