Reason 7: Compassionate care in cases of ‘Fatal Foetal Abnormality‘
Hearing that there’s something wrong with your baby has to be one of the most difficult situations for any parents. It’s particularly challenging when your baby is still in the womb – at a time when you should be looking forward to meeting them face to face at birth, you’re thrust into a completely new reality.
These babies present a very special challenge to the vision offered by the Love Both Project. We need to respect and care for the needs of parents at a time when they are receiving traumatic news and having to take on board medical information that they were not prepared for. The needs of other children and the extended family members must also be taken into account – expectations of a healthy sibling or grandchild will now have to change. And of course, the unborn baby will need very special care and love at this time.
With so many specialised types of need, it’s only fitting that a specialised model of care has been developed to look after these families. That model is perinatal palliative care and it involves considering how best to help families come to terms with the fact that their new baby may not survive to birth or live for very long after that.
This kind of care doesn’t just involve thinking about one day during the pregnancy – instead, every aspect is considered. Parents are encouraged to think about how they want to spend the short time that they may have with their babies after they are born – to ask a professional photographer to take photographs that can be used as treasured memories, to make a space for family members to come and meet the baby in whatever time they have.
Unfortunately in Ireland, we’re not having the kind of discussion about perinatal palliative care that we all deserve. Too often, families who are told that their babies have a serious or terminal condition in the womb travel abroad for an abortion and only on returning do they discover that there was a means of care that could have enabled them to continue with their pregnancy in an atmosphere of loving support. When we hear discussions about babies who have serious conditions, too often the talk turns to abortion instead of listening to the needs of families who have been through this experience. Many parents say that they felt abandoned when they received their baby’s diagnosis. They didn’t feel the support they should have. This is something we need to change.
Other parents say that they received a misdiagnosis – they were told that their baby would die only to find, to their intense joy, that their baby was born healthy. Unfortunately, in countries where abortion becomes the norm for these sick babies, parents are encouraged to have abortions and they’re not given the chance to recover from the shock, reflect on the situation and decide how best to prepare for the new type of care their entire family will need.
Deciding that we will #loveboth mean accepting all unborn children, regardless of any illness or condition that they may have. It means supporting their families and working together to ensure that Ireland becomes a centre of excellence in the provision of perinatal palliative care. The Eighth Amendment provides the foundation stone for this kind of compassionate care. It’s up to us to build on this great law as we move forward together.