Here is my story of the birth of my daughter Poppy Rose. I am an NHS midwife and I work on the labour ward. It has been extremely difficult for me to be on the other side and experience for myself the devastating heartbreak and deep overwhelming grief that I have unfortunately seen many other women before me go through. I still haven’t been able to return to work 5 months on, but I am hoping to return after Poppy’s due date.
I found out I was pregnant the week before our wedding. We were elated. The first trimester of my pregnancy was running smoothly. I’d had minimal sickness and we had an early scan at 7 weeks and saw the heart beating. The nuchal scan was normal and so were the screening for trisomy 21, 18 & 13.
We were classed as ‘low risk’. When I got the actual results I was shocked to find out I had low Papp A. I was also worried as previously with my first child my risk of trisomy 18 was <1:20,000. With Poppy I got 1:833 which is still classed as ‘low risk’ but I just had this gut feeling that I needed to investigate further. I was told by family members and professionals that I didn’t need to waste my money but if it was going to help ease my worries then I should do it.
So we decided to pay privately for an NIPT through the hospital at 15 weeks to give me peace of mind. A week slowly passed and I’d been having panics attacks at the thought of something being wrong. The day I received that awful phone call I was actually at work. I never thought I would receive the news that our precious baby had a >95% chance of having T18. I completely broke down and went home early from work.
The next morning we drove to a fetal medicine unit where I had an amniocentesis at 16 weeks. We were told that Poppy showed ‘no markers for T18’ and looked perfect on the scan. The growth was normal but on the small side. We were told that as she looked normal that it could be a rare confined placental mosaicism and that she may be unaffected. We left that room feeling so hopeful and I genuinely believed our baby would be the one who was unaffected.
A painstaking 4 days passed and I cannot describe how that was. A place of limbo in hell. We tried to stay positive and I continued to feel strong kicks from Poppy. But that was all shattered when we received a phone call to inform us that our baby did have T18. We already knew what this diagnosis meant. We were told by numerous professionals that T18 was incompatible with life.
We were devastated and utterly heartbroken. I was told that Poppy would most likely be stillborn. Or if she did survive birth she would most likely die within hours or days. Maybe 1-2 weeks. We had to make the impossible decision that no parent should ever have to make. We didn’t want her to suffer any pain. I wanted our baby to know only love and warmth and the sound of my heartbeat. This decision was made from the purest and deepest love.
I was offered a surgical termination at the fetal medicine unit or a medical termination in the unit that I work in. We opted for medical management as I wanted to see and hold her. I felt my experience of these procedures did help me as I knew what to expect and what she would look like. I’ve cared for and supported many women through medical management so I hoped that I would be able to find the strength to do it this way.
It took me 2 hours and all my physical and mental strength to take that first tablet. We held my belly and through agonising pain and tears told her we loved her and were so sorry. 48 hours later I was guided into the Maple suite, the bereavement suite. After a 10-hour labour Poppy Rose was born peacefully at almost 17 weeks. She was beautiful. I could see some soft markers on her, which gave us some kind of peace that we had made the right decision for her. I then had to go to theatre for the placenta to be removed under general anaesthetic as it was retained.
I am grateful that I had amazing care during and after labour and we got to spend a precious 18 hours with Poppy. Saying goodbye was extremely difficult. This experience has been the hardest thing we have ever faced. I think about her and all that I have lost constantly.