I was just 16 when I discovered I was pregnant with Matthew. The decision to keep him was hard in itself knowing that my life would be forever altered. However, his father was in the armed forces and I was working so despite the timing I went head first into planning for a family.
The pregnancy was hard with regular spotting, sickness, low iron, a bump that never really grew and barely any movement. At my 20 week scan it was discovered that he had a rare condition known as bilateral renal agenesis (no kidneys had formed). The impact of this was he was not producing amniotic fluid causing there to be very little surrounding him, which explained the small bump. This also meant his lungs would be underdeveloped, he would not survive outside the womb and there is no cure. Just 1 in 5000 babies (usually boys) have this condition.
The guilt I felt about considering an abortion early on haunted me. I considered continuing to term just to try and offset what I saw to be karma. What if he could survive? What if they were all wrong? Midwives and consultants made it clear that he would be stillborn or survive for a very short period of time, that they could not tell me if he would be in pain but they would make him as comfortable as possible.
I decided to terminate the pregnancy, it was a heartbreaking choice.
On the 4th May I was admitted to Peterborough Maternity Unit to give birth. The tablets I had been given 48hrs prior had not induced labour so a pessary was used. I was cared for in the snowdrop room. The contractions were painful but after a while they stopped. At 9:00am the next day I was checked by a consultant who could feel that Matthew was in the birth canal and on the 5th of May I was told to try to go to the toilet otherwise I would need another pessary and experience more contractions. The movement triggered me to bear down and I gave birth at 9:20am. I was devastated.
He was whisked away to be cleaned and dressed, a photo, footprints and handprints taken. His face was fully formed, including a pout reminiscent of a photo of me as a child. He had tiny finger nails but his legs were so long. I had been told he would be the size of my palm but he was the length of my forearm weighing only 250g! I was able to stay with him, I held him for hours. We held a small funeral for him and a plaque has been placed in the baby garden at Peterborough Crematorium, his ashes spread with his Great Great Nan.
Tommy’s helpline were there helping me with all of my questions. I was in pain not only physically but emotionally. I had questions about the breast milk coming in, how down I was feeling, the constant anxiety about my decision, and about my future pregnancies. Having a phone call rather than being face to face helped me feel less anxious about asking the questions I needed to.
It is hard to tell people you had a medical termination. It feels like you can’t admit it. I always say I lost a child or had a miscarriage but it doesn’t help those who have to make this choice - it allows it to continue to be unspoken, as if you have done something incredibly wrong.
So I run, I run for Tommy’s with Matthew as my reason. I ran my first London Landmarks in 2019. This year he would be 18 so I am taking part in the Local Landmarks 10k and the London Landmarks Half Marathon as well as 20 other races and challenges to celebrate who he was and who he could have been at 18! 22 races for 2022. I now have 3 amazing children Laila, Nathan and Alexander. My sister is due to give birth and will be honouring my Matthew in the name of her son.
So happy 18th to my angel baby. To all of those who have experienced the need to medically terminate a pregnancy you have my love, a shoulder, and support. Thank you Tommy’s for not judging my age but supporting me in such a difficult time.
Good luck everyone running the LLHM!