Friday, February 15, 2008

Article: 'Abortion is never an easy option: Why I aborted my first child'

What a terrible and sickening article!
She even admits that she killed her baby - "I pass Down's children on the street and think, 'I killed mine.'", but still says, "I remain certain that, for us, it was the right decision."

'Abortion is never an easy option: Why I aborted my first child'


YOU reader Katherine Mobey, 38, is a customer manager for a supermarket chain and her husband Neil, 35, is an operations manager for a recruitment company. Six years ago, they aborted their first child after it was diagnosed with Down's - a traumatic decision that took their marriage to breaking point. Here, Katherine tells their story...

Every mother can remember the moment when that blue line appears on the pregnancy test and, all of a sudden, you are contemplating a whole new future.

Neil and I had been married less than a year when, in 2001, I discovered I was expecting. We were so ecstatic, we immediately went out and bought three more tests - just to be sure.

The routine 12-week scan gave us the first sight of our baby and all appeared to be well. When we were offered the chance of another more detailed scan, we saw it as a bonus. There was no family history of complications, but it seemed wise to take every precaution.

The nuchal translucency scan - so called because it measures the nuchal folds at the back of the baby's neck to help detect Down's syndrome - was to be carried out at King's College Hospital in South London, and has to be done before you are 14 weeks pregnant.

My appointment was delayed when my GP surgery lost my notes and I made it just before the deadline.

The sonographer scanning me was calm and obviously experienced. I trusted her completely. But when she became quiet for a few moments, I knew instantly that something was wrong. She explained that my baby had exomphalos - a rare condition in which part of the intestine grows outside the body.

It was something that could be corrected by surgery, she said, but it could be an indicator of further problems. Neil was holding my hand. We were both in shock and I was crying. Four or five doctors poured into the room to look at the screen. I had become an exhibit.

A measurement of the nuchal folds revealed a one in 56 risk that my baby had Down's. To get a firm diagnosis, I was told I would need a chorionic villus sampling (CVS) test.

This involves taking a sample of amniotic fluid and can accurately detect Down's and other chromosomal abnormalities. We agreed to have it done there and then. By the time we left the hospital, it was early evening.

As I walked on to the street, I was physically sick. It had been such a shattering experience. Driving home, I realised my relationship with my baby had changed.

Every pregnant woman wants the little person growing inside her to be perfect - but my dreams had turned into a fearful vision.

Neil and I stayed at home for the four days it took for the CVS results to come through. In the three years we had known each other, we had been so happy. Now, for the first time, a black cloud was hanging over us.

It was mid-afternoon when the midwife called. As soon as she told me it was bad news, I broke down. The baby was seriously affected by Down's as well as the intestinal complications.

We didn't know what its life expectancy would be or what medical treatment it would need, but we did know that we would not be able to cope with a severely disabled child.

Going ahead with the pregnancy wasn't even up for discussion. Neil stayed strong and made all the necessary arrangements.

I saw a consultant the following day and talked through the abortion procedure.

The delay caused by my GP losing my notes meant that, at almost 16 weeks pregnant, I had passed the safe threshold for a surgical termination and would have to go through an induced labour.

The first step was to take drugs that block the pregnancy hormones and stop the baby's heart beating. I was booked to return a couple of days later for the abortion itself.

Neil and my mother came with me. At Farnborough Hospital (now replaced by the Princess Royal University Hospital) in Kent, I was put into the side room of a maternity ward.

I couldn't see what was going on around me, but I was aware of healthy babies being born nearby. A pessary was inserted to bring on contractions and I was moved into a delivery room.

Mum sat on one side of me, knitting, Neil rubbed my feet and I had gas and air and some pethidine to ease the pain. I was told the labour would take up to 16 hours; in the event, it was only six. The midwife had asked me at the outset whether I would want to see the baby when it was born.

My reaction had been, "Oh God, no."

I know a lot of people name and cuddle their baby.

But I couldn't do it - hold the dead and deformed being that had been inside me. I never even found out the sex, although I have always thought of it as a girl. In the years since, I have struggled hugely with the way I rejected my baby. I know it was a dreadfully unmotherly thing to do.

At the point of delivery, Neil and Mum left the room. On his way back, Neil saw someone taking away the baby in a bundle of tissue down the corridor – presumably to the incinerator. He often talks about that moment and it is extremely painful for him.

Afterwards – and I know this will sound bizarre – we were elated. Mum and Neil were saying, 'Well done,' and relief flooded over me. For Mum, it had meant losing a grandchild, but she was totally supportive of our decision – her priority throughout was me.

When I left hospital the following day, I was given a leaflet on miscarriage – a mistake, but one that made me feel very alone.

Friends and colleagues were incredibly kind - no one has ever criticised me - but it was hard for many people to understand fully what we had been through.

I returned to work after a couple of weeks, but couldn't concentrate and kept breaking down in meetings.

My employers agreed to let me reduce my hours temporarily and King's College Hospital referred me to a psychotherapist. I saw her on and off for two years, and without her I don't think I would be where I am today.

There were three conflicting emotions that I had to deal with.

First, the guilt at having rejected my baby was foremost and overwhelming. Second, I was battling with a massive sense of failure - I am the third of four children, my elder brother and sister each had two healthy children, and my younger sister Pippa had just announced she was pregnant.

I could hardly bear to be around her. Losing the baby had become the catalyst for a whole mass of deeply rooted emotions.

My family were all academic high-achievers. I had done well, but not as well as them.

And Neil was my second husband - my first, to a boy with whom I was at school, had ended disastrously after a year.

I felt like the black sheep - the one who couldn't even get having a baby right the first time round.

My third irrational but very real feeling was that my body had been contaminated by having a sickly child in my womb.

I was desperate to replace the baby we had lost but, looking back, it was too soon for Neil. He had had to be strong for me, but no one was taking care of him.

He needed time out, but I was pushing and pushing to try for another baby, and after eight months, I fell pregnant with our daughter Honor.

The pregnancy was fine, and tests showed nothing untoward, but that didn't stop me having panic attacks. My life was consumed by the baby "project".

When Honor was born, I couldn't quite believe my 'contaminated' body had produced a healthy baby.

I was so focused on being a good mother that I was probably overprotective, and Neil ended up feeling abandoned.

On the surface, we looked like any other happy new parents, but underneath there was a build-up of problems that we weren't addressing.

Both of us were still struggling to come to terms with what we had been through.

I had had the support of therapy and a network of friends and family; Neil had me, but now that we had Honor I wasn't so available for him.

When Honor was a year old he left, saying he needed a break. It was a terrible shock. Until then, I hadn't stopped to acknowledge how troubled things were between us.

More than anything we needed to talk. Splitting up forced us to do that. I listened hard and realised that the pain lived on inside Neil, just as it did in me.

A month later he moved back, and it was tough but we were determined to make it work. I hope we will be together for ever, but I no longer assume anything. I've learnt there are no guarantees.

After a lot of thought, we've decided against having another baby. Honor is now aged four and wonderful, but my pregnancies were dark days and we don't want to go back there.

I no longer feel a failure. I'm proud that I have such a lovely family.

Having Honor was the proof my psyche needed that my body isn't contaminated.

But the guilt, I realise now, I will have for ever. I pass Down's children on the street and think, 'I killed mine.'

I know they can be wonderfully loving. There is no escaping the reality of what I did, or the way I mentally rejected my baby. The hospital took photos, but I have never seen them, and it feels too late to go back there now.

Abortion can never be described as an easy option. I still cry as though mine were yesterday.

And yet I remain certain that, for us, it was the right decision.

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