From ‘devastation to elation’ for Burtonport mother

by Louise Doyle
A BURTONPORT woman who was told by doctors that her son would not survive in pregnancy but who was born healthy, has said the Eighth Amendment must be revised and not repealed. 
Anita Ni Bhaoill’s son, Conor, is now 18 months old. In April 2016 when she was just under 12 weeks pregnant, Anita was given the news her unborn baby more than likely had a chromosomal abnormality. 
At just 29 years of age, and the mother to two healthy daughters, Ella and Amy, Anita, who now lives in Dublin, said she was floored by the news. 
“I left the hospital absolutely devastated as I tried to come to terms with what I had just been told,” she said. 
Anita was offered a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) whereby a needle is inserted into the placenta and a sample is taken. The procedure is not without risk and a one per cent miscarriage rate was cited. 
However, Anita said initial results came quickly and she and her husband, James , were told their baby was ok and had no signs of T13 (Pataus Syndrome) T18 (Edwards Syndrome) and T21 (Down Syndrome). 
The couple were relieved and were told that while the Lab were to finish results, they didn’t expect anything else. 
However, ten days later that relief turned again to anxiousness for Anita and James following an urgent phone call from the hospital. “During the visit I was told that my baby had Trisomy 2,  a Trisomy so rare that the doctors had absolutely no idea what that meant for him. They just knew it was bad and that he would more than likely not survive the pregnancy. If he did, he would only live for a short time. To say I was devastated was an understatement.” 
Anita, who had been living in Abu Dhabi  at the time, said the “favoured and most spoken option” by doctors was termination. 
“Termination there is illegal, like Ireland, which meant that I would have been faced with huge expense as I already had two kids, and a longer journey to England than we face here in Ireland. Termination was not really a choice for me. 
“They could not tell what difficulties my baby would have and by the time an amnio came back it would mean a late second trimester termination, which, she said, would be too difficult for me. 
“As if to add effect, she detailed the process and made a case for  how a termination now at 15 weeks would be more preferable and more compassionate as he was never going to live. It is difficult in a position like that when one is at their most vulnerable not to trust and listen to doctors. She told me she would contact her colleagues in Liverpool Fetal Medicine Hospital to arrange everything if I decided to go ahead.”
However, while a doctor was discussing a termination with Anita, another doctor was providing hope to James. 
“I had made it to 15 weeks which, to him, meant that this issue was more than likely placental. He couldn’t guarantee a happy outcome but he was 80 per cent sure our baby was ok. We proceeded with his plan.” 
At almost 22 weeks pregnant, 10 weeks after being told her baby had a fatal condition, the couple finally got the news that their unborn son was going to be fine and his condition was placental. 
Having moved back to Ireland and monitored carefully, the couple’s son was born healthy. However, Anita said the devastation and stress that had followed her through her pregnancy stayed for a long while after his birth.
“The ‘what ifs’ haunted me for almost the first year of his life.” 
Anita said that while she believes there is a need for terminations at times, she does not support the complete removal of the Eighth Amendment. 
She said she has had her compassion for other women called into question.
“This is an emotive referendum and it is filled with bullying and misinformation on both sides.  I absolutely know there is a need for terminations at times and no woman in Ireland is denied a termination if it is medically necessary. I know we need to do better to support those who have been raped and find themselves pregnant. 
“We need to ask why the government are so hell bent on the complete removal of the Eighth and have not amended it to include a constitutional limit for terminations? If this 12 week limit was written into the constitution there would be broader consensus.
“We will never vote on this again and I for one would hate to think that in any future pregnancy, my children have would have zero right to life until birth and zero constitutional protection.”  
Anita’s story has been shared by a Facebook page called ‘Courage to Love’. The post has been viewed thousands of times. To read more see 

Anita and her son, Conor.

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