Whilst this piece is published with no name, a real story lives behind it. It’s written in the hope that it helps ease some of the unknowing for other mothers in similar situations. There are no right or wrong scenarios, you must decide what to do for yourself and your family. 

Deep in thought

Deep in thought

Finding myself pregnant with our second child both my husband and I were over the moon. It had been over 3 years since the birth of our first child and I had seemingly forgotten the more gloomy side effects of being pregnant. 

Like with my first, I was permanently nauseated, unable to eat much of anything with nutritional content. Other than the nausea, with my first pregnancy I didn't have many other side effects. However, with baby number two I was exhausted. Truly exhausted. I could quite happily sleep for 11/12 hours. I put this down to potentially being run down from illness and looking after a preschooler. I still don’t know if there was any link between my tiredness and what was to come but it didn’t feel right. 

Having had a c-section with baby number one, I was seen as high risk, that meant that I had some additional appointments with a consultant and as well as a couple more scans later in pregnancy. 

Working our way up to our twelve week scan, other than the sleeping, there were no signs that something was wrong with our baby. Each scan was perfect, she was growing as she should and her heartbeat was normal. 

By week twelve, I decided to have the health screening for serious genetic abnormalities. Whilst some mothers may not wish to do this, I am one of those people who always wants to have as much information as possible - if the baby had an issue, it’s best to be prepared for when it arrived rather than being discovered later. 

We visited the hospital and I had my bloods taken. This initial test combines a number of risk factors as well as markers within the blood to reach a probability. A few days later I was called to say that the test had come back positive, My PAPP-A was low, and I needed to come back in for a further test. 

The nurse I spoke to was very caring and she informed me that a positive result was by no means a certainty. The odds were with me but there was still a chance the baby could have an abnormality. 

The next day I went in for more tests, this one was called NIPT test and looked more specifically at the blood work and genetic markers in my blood passed from the baby. 

The wait for the results was hard, I had  a niggling feeling inside that wouldn't shift. Four or five days later, I once again received a call from our local screening nurse. She informed me that the result had come back as showing genetic abnormalities for Edwards syndrome. My heart instantly broke. Unlike Downs Syndrome where people can go on to live a full and beautiful life, I knew that if the baby had Edwards she was unlikely to reach full term and if she did, her condition would mean she wouldn't survive long and would require constant support. 

As the phone call went on, it was upto me to make the ‘what’s next’ comment. To which I was informed I could continue with the pregnancy, wait until 15+ weeks and have an amniocentesis test to confirm the result and at that point have a medical termination with the NHS (for the NHS to terminate a pregnancy, a result from tests must be 100% confirmed and signed for by two consultants) or continue with the pregnancy. Alternatively, I could seek a surgical termination from one of the private clinics outside of the NHS now. 

A medical termination is defined as one undertaken with pills and natural labour. A surgical termination is one where you’re put to sleep and the foetus and placenta are removed by various surgical methods.

My husband and I talked. I hated the idea of being ‘vacuumed’ of the little life growing in me but I decided that it was best to seek a private termination as I didn't want to wait and let the baby develop more..

I called BPAS and had an initial consultation with a nurse quite promptly. We ran through a lot of medical questions and the nurse informed me that we might have to travel to a clinic outside of our area as they were very busy. 

After numerous calls, some reluctance was building in me to go through with the operation. Whilst the nurses were nice, there were a few badly dealt with specifics - probably due to working remotely because of COVID. These issues planted some doubt in me about the procedure. 

Whilst I knew a termination was inevitable, the method and other specifics were not. Each day I continued to carry our little girl was incredibly painful. She was currently a life I was never going to be able to nurture and grow in the real world.

I was now 14 weeks pregnant. I finally had a date, it was in three weeks time at a clinic over two hours away. As the time grew closer, and the fact I'd be over 15 weeks anyway, I called up our screening nurse and booked in to have the amniocentesis.

This is a procedure where you have a needle inserted into your tummy via guided ultrasound scan and the consultant removes some fluid from the amniotic sac. The procedure has its own risks and can result in miscarriage. This was booked via the NHS really quickly and they saw me within a few days. When it came time for the test, it was painless - I held on to the smallest glimmer of hope that the result would come back negative and the previous tests were incorrect but this wasn’t the case. The test came back positive.

As my date at the clinic grew closer, I was called up for a pre-op. As the nurse ran through all the potential medical complications, more and more dread was building in my head. After the nurse called me back because of a mix up about some medication, that was the last straw. I decided I wasn't going to have a surgical procedure. I called up my screening nurse and she talked me through what would happen with a medical termination. 

The process begins with visiting the hospital and taking some initial medication to stop your body from producing hormones. Then within the following two days, you go into hospital where you're effectively induced into labour. This can be a quick or long process depending on your body and how the medication takes. I had not quite understood how long. Whilst I knew there was a chance this could mean an overnight stay I hadn’t really accepted this to be the norm - especially as my previous C-section meant I had to have smaller doses of the drug in order not to cause damage to the scar tissue. 

It’s advised you bring someone along for support for this procedure but unfortunately my little girl had fallen ill with a cold so my husband had to stay home and look after her. I carried my overnight bag to the maternity ward - a place you only expect to visit with good outcomes and the midwives signed me in. By this time I was 17 and a half weeks pregnant. 

I was taken to a special room that was more than your average hospital side room. This was a loss support room, at our local hospital it was called the sunbeam room. There was a sofa, a bathroom and bed, more like a double than your standard hospital setup. There was also a cot, something that instantly depressed me, but later would realise brought solace to a lot of the people using this room. 

The wait for the on call consultant to begin his rounds in order to start the medication felt like an eternity. Having long ago come to the conclusion that this pregnancy wouldn't have any positive outcome, I just wanted to get home and look after my sick little girl and begin some form of grieving. I hoped the process would be a quick one but it wasn’t. 

However, what did happen was the nurses who were on duty throughout my stay were wonderful. Not only nursing me physically but also my mental wellbeing. I had a dedicated nurse assigned to me each shift and they'd pop in and check on me as well as stay and chat to keep me occupied. 

The doctor finally arrived, he administered a dose of the medication into my vagina. Whilst uncomfortable, there was no pain. He advised me to stay on my back for at least 30 minutes to help the medication absorb quicker - something I was only too happy to do if it meant going home as quickly as possible. This would be repeated every six hours until labour was under way. Throughout my stay I would have three doses of the drug and stayed in hospital just over a day and a half. 

As time progressed, I was constantly offered pain medication and began accepting it as the tightening in my belly began. After about 22 hours, the medication started to kick in, luckily by this time my husband had arrived and my waters broke. Labour was finally happening. I began to lose quite a lot of blood, so for the final push I was taken to a surgical room where they had equipment on hand in case of issues. Luckily no issues did arise. 

She came into this world already deceased, her arrival had very little physical pain attached but a heavy mental burden. 

We were given the option of either seeing and spending time with her body or not. This is a personal choice and you must do whatever you feel is right for you. We were taken back to the sunbeam room and told we could stay as long as we wished. As well as seeing our baby, charity donations meant we were given a usb of photos, prints of her hands and feet and i share a locket with her that she was buried with. 

Nothing can heal you of the pain that comes with losing a child but I couldn't be more grateful to the midwives who supported me through such a personal and draining process - they took what burden they could to support me in my hours of need. 

It's with heartfelt thanks to the midwives and nurses who looked after me, they made an impossible situation manageable. 

Late medical or surgical abortion is a heartwrenching process. You must do what's right for you and if you find yourself in a situation, be sure to ask for help when you need it and remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel.