‘I wanted to feel the pain for taking Finlay’s life….’
Everything was going well with my 2nd pregnancy, apart from the normal morning sickness and indigestion! We already have a 2 year old daughter, called Libby and all had gone well when I was pregnant with her. We had our 12 week scan, which was fine and we started to look forward to our new baby and getting excited about having a brother or sister for Libby.
When we went for our routine 20 week scan, we were told that the baby was in the wrong position for the sonographer to see the whole view of the heart, nothing to worry about, just that my belly button was in the way. I was asked to move around, go to the toilet etc, but they still could not view it, so we were asked back in 2 weeks time. Various sonographers had a very thorough look, but we were still told that they could not see everything they wanted to see on the heart. So we were asked to come back again to be scanned by the consultant. We had to wait until after Christmas for this appointment, but maybe, naively, we still didn’t really think that there was anything wrong. We turned up to the appointment and there were a few more people in the room than we had expected, which was when we started to worry. The consultant performed a very thorough and at times, silent scan, I can’t tell you what was going through my head, but I knew then that something was wrong. Then we were told that our baby had a serious heart condition, my world just fell around me, and my hopes and dreams for the future had been shattered.
We were transferred to the Princess Anne’s Maternity unit in Southampton for a cardiologist to scan and confirm the problem. I think I still had a glimmer of hope that they had made a mistake and that it wasn’t as bad as we thought, but no, the cardiologist and his team confirmed the worst, they explained the problem and what would happen if we went ahead with the pregnancy, but also explained about termination.
My head just went into a spin and I couldn’t believe the words we were hearing. Why us? And how could we even think about ending our baby’s life? But we both knew how serious the problem was and that if our baby was to live through the pregnancy there wasn’t much hope in the long run, we both knew what our gut instincts were telling us. After a very long, New Year bank holiday weekend, we had to go back to Southampton to tell them our decision and to start the process rolling. All the way to the hospital I could feel my baby moving and kicking, was this to tell me not to do it or that we were doing the right thing? The cardiologist rescanned me just to confirm their findings and also told us that our baby was a boy. We named him Finlay Andrew. Again, they confirmed the worst, that our little boy was seriously ill, so we came to the absolutely heart wrenching decision that the best thing was to end the pregnancy, to stop the pain and suffering before it started. I wish we had never had to make this decision and I felt so sick. By no means was this the easiest option, but I do believe it was the bravest. I also didn’t want to think about what was to happen over the next few days.
The consultants had explained to us that because we were nearly 24 weeks into the pregnancy that if they induced now, there may be a chance that Finlay may have lived through the labour, which would have been absolutely distressing for us and the midwives’, so they would inject Finlay to make sure that he died before the labour. I had said to Andrew that he may not want to be in the room, as I know what he is like with needles. All of the staff were brilliant and were there for me every step of the way. The cardiologist had asked if, when they were doing the injection, could they also try and unblock the valve as this would help their medical experience and help people like us in the future, to start with I thought, I don’t want my little boy to go through any more than is needed, but then I thought that at least it would be helping other people, unfortunately when they came to do this procedure Finlay was lying in the wrong position and were unable to carry it out. This then also upset me. I just don’t know where my strength came from to be able to lie there whilst they were doing this injection, because inside I was a crumbling wreck. I will never forget this day.
The next couple of days went by in a blur, I hated that I couldn’t feel Finlay move anymore and I went through every emotion possible, from ‘why us?’ Anger; ‘are we doing the right thing?’; ‘What if’s?’; ‘Is it something I’ve done?’. How can I live with myself for making this decision? Two days later we were admitted to the SPRING suite in Poole, a whole mix of emotions going through me. I really didn’t want to go through the labour knowing that Finlay was going to be born dead, but I also wanted it over and done with.
Even though we had arrived to go through the most devastating event in our whole life, the staff were all so nice and considerate and made us feel as comfortable as we could. It was a great relief to have the suite of rooms to ourselves. I was induced and it didn’t take long for the contractions to kick in, Andrew started not being able to cope then, but I was helpless. I had a couple of pain killers, but before I knew it I was in so much pain and was asking for an epidural. I don’t think the midwives believed how quickly everything was going. When I got downstairs to the delivery room, I was already 7cms dilated and too late for an epidural. The midwife gave me some pethidine and 2 minutes later Finlay was born, at 2.55pm, weighing 1lb 7oz.
Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have an epidural in the end because I wanted to feel the pain for taking Finlay’s life. I think then the reality kicked in for Andrew and he really couldn’t handle the situation. For me, because the pethidine kicked in after Finlay was born, I was enjoying my time with him, he was so beautiful. I remember everyone saying that we should remember as much as we could, take as many photos as we liked, hand prints/ footprints, hold him etc. Andrew found it very hard to look at or hold him to start with, but I suggested that he did hold him and kiss him otherwise he would regret it. He did this and now thanks me for making him do it. I wanted and will always want to remember every little part of Finlay. I’m so grateful for all the help from all the staff in Poole and Southampton. I’m glad we were able to spend so much time with Finlay, so now we have many loving and lasting memories.
The day after Finlay was born we had a little blessing and naming ceremony, by Declan the hospital chaplain, in the SPRING suite, with all of our family there. It was lovely and I’m so pleased that our families were able to see him and hold him so that they will also have a memory of him. After all, Finlay will always be a part of our family.
I can’t tell you how hard it was saying goodbye, I couldn’t control myself when I had to turn my back on him and walk away and leave empty handed. There are no words to express the love I have and will always have for Finlay. He will never be forgotten, and will always be my little sunbeam. I just wish I had got the chance to watch him grow up, but I know we have made the right decision. I was really worried about what everybody would think of our decision and how they would act around me, but I have been amazed at how supportive our family, friends and professionals have been.
In a strange way I enjoyed organising his funeral and service sheets. The service went by in a complete blur. Andrew was so brave and carried Finlay’s little coffin in and out of the church. I was surprised at how many people were there to support us. I had designed the service sheets with a rainbow leading to a sun on the front. We had also chosen to enter the church to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ by Eva Cassidy and when we left the church everyone apart from us saw a huge rainbow! At least we knew it was there! It is now only a couple of weeks since the funeral and we are still waiting for post mortem results. I am finding life very hard, crying at everything and feeling numb and empty, but I am taking each hour of each day as it comes. All I can say is, over time you somehow learn to cope.