I had an abortion after I found out my baby had Down's syndrome

I remember thinking that my 12 week scan was a bit odd. 

The sonographer kept asking to take a second look at the baby and it was taking longer than I’d expected. Then he asked me to take a walk around the block to see if the baby would move and he could get a better view. 

When I came back he was ashen-faced. ‘I’m sorry to tell you…’ he said, before informing me that there was a one in two chance that my baby had Down’s syndrome.

It felt like the earth was falling away. I was there on my own; all my earlier scans had looked fine, so my husband hadn’t come with me. I stopped hearing what the sonographer was saying, unable to absorb all the information he was telling me.

My experience is about to be depicted in Emmerdale as characters Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) and Jai Sharma (Chris Bisson) discover they are due to have a baby with Down’s syndrome  – and, like me, decide to terminate the pregnancy. 

It’s a complex, emotive subject but it’s good that the show is tackling it. Soaps are representative of real life and this is a dilemma people are having to face every day. You just never think it’s going to happen to you.

I’d had two miscarriages before I got pregnant a third time. My family was due to visit hours after the scan and my husband and I had been banking on it going well then telling them that I was expecting. We never did. To this day, my siblings still don’t know I was pregnant. 

The hospital told us that the baby might still be OK, and asked me to come back the following Monday for amniocentesis, where a needle is inserted through the stomach into the amniotic sac. I am a really anxious person and terrified of needles, so I sat with it whirring in my mind all weekend, eventually deciding to go through with it.

It was then a week’s wait for the results. The phone call came when I was at work and I had to run out to the toilet to speak to a nurse who said that she was very sorry, but the test was positive. I was devastated and kept asking her if she was 100% sure. I couldn’t believe that we were really going to have to make such a huge decision about this baby.

My medical team were all really supportive. They didn’t try to persuade me to either go forward or terminate, they just gave us the facts, making it clear that Down’s syndrome can come hand in hand with further medical complications including heart problems that could make it a very long and painful road for all of us.

They gave me another scan to see if that baby had four distinct heart chambers, which wasn’t clear. 

Initially my husband and I decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. We spent a lot of time googling Down’s syndrome support and imagining what our lives would be like. Yes, we thought, we can do this

The more we considered it, however, the more I started to have doubts. I’d had a friend whose sister had disabilities, which in turn had caused her huge health implications and I’d seen the amount of stress and pressure that it put the whole family under. I didn’t know whether I was emotionally strong enough to begin my journey through motherhood on a similar path. 

We have a rose bush in the garden in her memory, I have a tattoo on my arm and she will forever be part of my life

My husband was fantastic, reassuring me that while it was our decision, at the end of the day it came down to what I wanted. We were both on the same page the whole way and ultimately, we chose not to have the baby.

It was a huge decision and one we didn’t take lightly. Of the few people we told, one suggested we could manage with help, but another responded ‘You’re doing the right thing’, which annoyed me. I know she was trying to be comforting but I thought, how can you say that? Who is to say what’s right and wrong here?

Having made the decision to terminate, I had to wait another couple of weeks for the operation so I was just off being four months pregnant when it came around. The waiting was awful – having come to this conclusion, which was so difficult, I still had to walk around with a life inside me. 

I had never had a general anaesthetic before either, so it was a huge deal physically as well as emotionally. I had to start the procedure myself with a pessary and then sit around in a gown in a waiting room that was filled with teenage girls. I remember thinking: this is not what I expected to be doing aged 38.

I was absolutely petrified on my way into the theatre – then I woke up again, feeling really sad and sore. It was surreal.

I took about three days off work but in hindsight I needed longer. There was a lot of grieving I needed to do. But I think women especially feel like we have to just get on with it; I felt like I needed to pick myself up and get back to normal when in fact I had been through a huge trauma.

The hospital told me that if I ever had questions in the future, I could phone at any point. At the time I couldn’t see why I would but six years on I get it. A couple of months ago I needed to know what sex the baby was – I just couldn’t get it out of my mind – so I rang and they told me it had been a girl.

The decision to end a pregnancy stays with you. We have a rose bush in the garden in her memory, I have a tattoo on my arm and she will forever be part of my life. 

I’ve heard that terminating a baby with Down’s syndrome is a lot more common than you think but the shame stops people talking about it. Everyone has an opinion – I probably had one before it happened to me  – and you know you are going to be judged. 

Quite soon after I had the termination, the actress Sally Phillips released an amazing documentary about life with her son who has the condition.

So many people I knew were sharing and discussing the show online, and I was sitting there thinking: I’ve been through this. I found it really difficult to watch everyone debating what to do when I had just had to make that call. 

It’s shown me that you never truly know what someone is going through until you’ve been in the situation yourself.

My husband and I went on to have a little girl and whenever I have pangs of guilt about the decision I made, they are quashed by thinking if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have the daughter we do now. In my experience, however, there is a lot of help on both sides, whatever path you choose.

It is such a personal decision, and every couple has to do what is right for them, taking the bigger picture into account. Everyone has different means, mental stability and levels of support. My heart goes out to anyone who is having to choose.

Source: Read Full Article