Rosa’s story

(© Sophie Liffen Photography)

In June 2021, we chose an abortion for our daughter Rosa. She had a very serious heart problem, which would have meant a short life of pain and no realistic prospect of a cure.  

We wouldn’t wish our experience on our worst enemy. We write this story to offer others some small comfort or practical advice.

When we were told the awful results of the 20-week scan, we had good access to medical advice. We asked lots of questions to understand the diagnosis and treatment options. Sam called the wonderful ARC helpline and wailed incoherently at the lovely lady at the end of the line. We spoke with family and friends to settle our comprehension of the scan’s implications. 

We felt our assessment of whether abortion was the right decision for Rosa was based on the best advice. We didn’t like the decision we took, but we did like that it made things better for Rosa.

We knew what the abortion procedure involved, but that wasn’t much help in actually experiencing it. Drawn out over 4 days (including labour), it did at least get the worst part – the feticide – over first. And, we were lucky that Covid restrictions had eased so we could be together throughout. We kept reminding ourselves we’d put Rosa’s pain above ours.

We chose a TFMR so we could see and hold Rosa. We were surprised how much of a little person she was. She had all her tiny fingers and toes, and looked (mostly) like she was just having a peaceful snooze. Possibly snoring, which she got from her dad. She fitted snugly on Sam’s forearm. 

After her birth, we had a few decisions to make. Her condition is so rare that research is scarce. We decided on a full post-mortem, to identify causes and so others in our situation might benefit. We found it immensely comforting to think of something good coming out of our woes.

Sam forced us to do things we’d enjoyed previously. Mainly, country walks, which don’t involve seeing other people. We like to think we’ll scatter Rosa’s ashes on one of these walks someday. Somewhere she’d been while she was alive, and where her parents dared think she might walk the same path one day.

The TFMR was awful, but we knew what to expect. Much of it was dictated by the procedure itself, and medical professionals caring for us. We were so close to the 24-week cut-off that it was over quickly, with no drawn-out waiting. Most importantly, the procedure itself was successful.

The time after the abortion is in many ways harder. The void of Rosa’s absence and returning to normal life are not happy bedfellows.


We held Rosa’s funeral a month after her birth. It was a simple cremation, for which Sam wrote a poem. We remember the music was far too loud, but not caring enough to complain. We were together, honouring Rosa’s existence, and anything else didn’t matter. 

Time off work helped us bunker down and grieve, but Sam returned to work when he felt its absence was doing more harm than good. His job gives him problems to solve, and good people to work with. It’s something he can influence, unlike Rosa’s life.

Rosa’s due date and first Christmas were particularly painful, but we’ve stubbornly persisted in doing what we previously enjoyed, individually and as a couple. We like to think that, little by little, this is helping us remember who we were and what we wanted from life (other than Rosa). 

Talking helps. We’re lucky to have plenty of people to talk with. Not articulately, mind, but their responses have helped. Some have simply listened; others talked of their experiences; and others gave snippets of advice. We’re doubly grateful, as we know how hard it is to think what to say to someone grieving. 

The best advice we had was blunt: prepare for the long haul. The core of this grief is a trauma we can’t solve, and probably won’t. It’s tiring, frustrating and unfair. This takes some getting used to, as we like to find solutions. It still hits us with no warning. We use it as a reminder that Rosa was real, we loved her, and did the very best we could for her. 

In May 2022 we went for a stroll around a Kentish garden. Sunlight was filtering through trees onto some lovely flowers. The setting was tranquil, and after a while we realised we didn’t feel discordant. We felt at peace with circumstance. This was a fleeting moment, but one we treasure. There will be more like these, and they will be more frequent. Of that we are confident. 

The friendly and rational ARC helpline was enormously helpful in dealing with the agony of Rosa’s TFMR, such that we were able to prepare mentally for trying for another baby. The helpline was then invaluable to us in handling the stresses of trying to conceive and Isobel’s foetal scans. Rosa’s little sister Isobel is now here and healthy, and we are profoundly grateful for ARC’s support.