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Interview 30

Age at interview: 34
Brief Outline: Her 2nd pregnancy' felt unwell and sick throughout pregnancy, some bleeding at 6 weeks. 11-week scan confirmed viability. 20-week scan detected heart abnormalities. Specialist scan identified tricuspid atresia and ventricular septal defect. Pregnancy ended by induction at 22 weeks. She has had another child since termination.
Background: Pregnancy ended in 2002. No of children at time of interview' 2 + [1]. Ages of other children' 4, 1. Occupations' Mother - nurse, Father - building company director. Marital status' long-term partnership. Ethnic background' White British.

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She felt extremely sick in her pregnancy (her baby had ventricular septal defects) and thought...

She felt extremely sick in her pregnancy (her baby had ventricular septal defects) and thought...

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I knew when I conceived - we'd gone away for the weekend which was lovely very happy. We went for a scan about 11 weeks, but when I was 6 weeks pregnant I had a bleed and went to the doctors. She reassured me that it was okay. There didn't seem to be any problems. Felt absolutely dreadful - felt very tired, very sick. I was being sick physically 2 or 3 times a day, and inside I felt that something wasn't quite right.   

Lots of people were saying, 'Well you're being sick that's a good sign. The baby's getting everything it needs,' but I knew inside that something wasn't quite right. We had the 11-week scan, and on the pictures everything looked okay. It was too early for them to see if there was a problem, and with the scan at my local hospital they wouldn't have been able to pick it up anyway. 

So everything progressed, and everybody was saying, 'Oh well, the second baby you'll be able to feel movements a lot earlier than you would in your first pregnancy'. But I never felt the baby move - maybe once a day and that was when I was coming up for 18 weeks I think - when most people said you should be feeling things by now. But I just felt unwell and ill, and I didn't feel that things were right.
 

Feels that her baby's heart problems would have affected every aspect of family life.

Feels that her baby's heart problems would have affected every aspect of family life.

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And we just felt that would be absolutely devastating to get to know your child and to love them and so. We wouldn't have been able to do anything normal with them anyway, because babies that have congenital heart problems are very poor at feeding, their health is going to be affected. They're not going to be able to run and chase a ball and the impact that would have had on our elder child as well. To say, 'Oh sorry we can't go out because the baby is poorly. You can't run around because the baby is going to get out of breath.' Just seems completely unfair to ourselves. One of us would have had to stay at home to look after our eldest daughter. The other one would have had to have been at the specialist hospital, 50/60 miles away. You can't live your life like that. 

We being, one being at home with the eldest would be thinking, 'Oh I should be at the hospital with the baby needs me'. The one at the hospital would be thinking, 'Well I want to be with the baby because they're so poorly, but I feel torn in two because I should be at home with my partner and the eldest child.' The whole idea of trying to have some kind of normality... we just couldn't see any future in it really. 

It seemed unfair to everybody, and especially the baby when you think that it would be great to have the baby to be able to see them and hold them and cuddle them. But just then the thought of turning round when they may be 8, 9, 10 saying, 'Sorry' - if they get to be that age - 'You might not have many years left'. It just seemed too devastating and too unfair on them to carry on. 

 

She and her partner felt that keeping their baby and coping long-term with her heart problems...

She and her partner felt that keeping their baby and coping long-term with her heart problems...

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One of the other things we also discussed about on holiday whether to proceed or whether to terminate, again with quality of life, was looking at our own relationship as well.  

Sometimes going through a traumatic experience can bring you closer together - sometimes it can tear you apart. And we also thought about and talked about the impact it would have if one parent was to stay at home, and the other parent would be in the hospital, whether at the local hospital or whether in the specialist hospital, and would we inadvertently blame each other if somebody wasn't there and something did happen and she, she did die before the other partner could get there.  

It's very difficult, and we felt that we are a strong couple, but we didn't want anything to jeopardise that over which we had control, and obviously terminating the pregnancy meant we had some control. And we've both come from broken homes, and we wanted to give our children a good stable basis and a good loving home. And to give that chance for our eldest daughter, meant that we chose to terminate the pregnancy, in the hope that we could have some more children, and carry on giving her the kind of upbringing that we wanted to have ourselves. 

 

She found that gas and air provided enough pain relief for her on this occasion so that she was...

She found that gas and air provided enough pain relief for her on this occasion so that she was...

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The midwife came in and said oh yes everything is dilated and it looks like, you know the birth will be imminent. And I think I'd had contractions, it was about half an hour to an hour, and [the baby] came along at ten to two. I'd felt quite uncomfortable with the contractions, and first time round the gas and air didn't do anything to take away the pain, but this time it really seemed to have a, an analgesic effect and took the pain away.  

I stood up over the bed and delivered her that way. The midwife swaddled her in a lovely white cot blanket and said did we want to, to hold her which I did. And it was, it was lovely to see her and my partner and I both said the same thing - she looked so peaceful. And it's very difficult to say yes, she's poorly, she was ill, she had a severe problem that couldn't be put right, she had no chance of a normal life - when you see a perfectly normal looking baby on the outside. 

 

She decided to leave her photos of the baby in the kitchen so that members of her family could...

She decided to leave her photos of the baby in the kitchen so that members of her family could...

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The only time I've thought that perhaps people might not want to know about [baby] and is when we had the photographs back. 

We took lots of photographs because we didn't want to forget. Although her little face and hands is imprinted on our minds forever. When we came home from hospital and when we'd got the photographs back, they were, were on the side in the kitchen, and we had lots of family coming and going for a few days, and we always said to them, 'We've got some photographs, you don't have to look at them'. 

I didn't want people thinking that, you know, we've got the photographs you must look at them which was why we gave them the option to say, 'Oh no'. But nobody did decline looking at them. Everybody looked at them and everybody sort of said, 'Oh she looks very peaceful,' and had tears in their eyes. 

And sometimes I think well would I like to look at pictures of somebody else's dead child?  But she's a part of us and part of our family. And if they want to look that's fine. And I have a few friends, close friends that every now and again will sort of mention something about [baby] or they will ask - not as frequently as they did in the early days - but every now and again. Some of them are aware that our youngest's birthday is [baby's] memorial and they appreciate that obviously when the youngest turned one it was quite a difficult day for us. But everybody's been very supportive. 

 

Explains how it helped her in the days after the termination to keep a diary of her feelings...

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Explains how it helped her in the days after the termination to keep a diary of her feelings...

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With [baby's] diary in the first 2 months of going through her loss, I wrote in it quite frequently, maybe 3 or 4 times a week. 

The day I resumed work was quite stressful I guess. So I came home and wrote how I felt. And it was quite upsetting being back as I mentioned with the other new mums who had returned. I don't tend to reread bits. I tend to just... if I've had a good day I can say, 'Yes I've had a good day, I have still thought about you'. But most of it has been, 'Oh today has been a bad day. I've thought about you. My tears are falling like rain from heaven'. I remember writing that and it's kind of stuck in my head, and sometimes when it is raining I think it's tears from heaven. When the sun is shining I think, 'Yes all is well - life is great and I don't need to write today'. But the writing has lessened. 

My partner came home from work earlier than expected after a couple of weeks, and I'd left my diary on the table, and he read it and started crying and he just said, 'It's beautiful,' and I just wanted to have something so that I didn't forget. And now I know that you don't forget but it's reassuring to know it's all there. And I shall keep it. I don't tend to look at it so much now, and how it's sort of been a couple of years, but I do still think about her everyday, and sometimes I write the odd 3 lines, sometimes I write a little bit more, but it, the writing has gradually lessened and the looking at it has lessened, although the memory is still as vivid as it was when we lost her.
 

Explains that it was difficult to leave the baby behind and then deal with the physical after...

Explains that it was difficult to leave the baby behind and then deal with the physical after...

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I think the hardest part was leaving [the baby] at the hospital, and not bringing her home. And then obviously with any pregnancy your body gets ready to feed the baby, so 3 days later your breasts are engorged and you've no baby to feed. So again that's quite an upsetting thing which you don't anticipate until you're in the hospital and the midwife is discharging you know saying you've got this to expect.  

And coming home without a baby - your arms have nothing to do - there's nothing to hold, and there's a big ache and a huge void that says 'well where's my baby to hold, you know'? 

 

She and her partner chose to hold a memorial service for the baby followed by a private cremation.

She and her partner chose to hold a memorial service for the baby followed by a private cremation.

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We had the memorial in the hospital to say thank you for being able to have [baby] and to say thank you that she had been part of our family and we wanted to recognise that. 

But we also felt that it was quite important for my partner and I to say our own private goodbye. And the chaplain that did the hospital service very kindly did the service at the cemetery for us, because she was born before the legal date to have a, a proper burial - I think it's 24 or 26 weeks - if we also wanted we could attend the cremation which we did. 

And that wasn't as upsetting as having the, the service in the chapel. It was just my partner and I. The difficult bit was obviously seeing the shoebox-sized coffin and knowing that she was in there. But we both said our goodbye's at the hospital when we had her, and this just seemed to be carrying out what was expected and what was to be done. And then we collected the ashes I think a week later, which was when we also mentioned a possibility at the funeral directors about having a little memorial stone with her name which is in the garden. 
 

It helped her partner to be able to talk to a GP who had personal experience of ending a pregnancy.

It helped her partner to be able to talk to a GP who had personal experience of ending a pregnancy.

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My partner, probably like most men, doesn't talk easily about his feelings and his emotions and he said to me it's not because he doesn't not think about her, he just chooses not to talk about her.  

When my GP came to visit me a couple of weeks after we'd had the termination, he also mentioned that him and his wife had had a similar experience about 2 to 3 years previous, and my partner could come and visit him in the surgery. He said make a double or triple appointment so that he can have time to talk about things.  

My partner thought that was a good idea. I think he feels that sometimes it is easier to talk to another person rather than talk to me about things. And he found it very, very helpful talking to the GP. The GP is a gentleman as well so it's possibly easier for men to talk to men. And to have the time to talk about the feelings and emotions was, was good for him. 

And also when the GP came to visit me at home we could talk about our experiences and although they were different, it's the same feelings, the same grief and the same loss that you go through, and it's reassuring to speak to somebody that's gone through it and you know you're not alone And you know that you can get through it - it might take a few months, it might take a few years - but if you talk to people that have the same experiences then you're supported. 
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