When I’m asked how many children I have I answer three, but I think four. Our second child, Aoife, was triploid, she had three of each chromosome instead of the usual two. This is different to trisomy, an extra copy of a single chromosome, Aoife had an extra copy of every chromosome. A baby with triploid is doomed, almost all miscarry, usually early in the pregnancy. The few that survive to birth die soon after.
Aoife was not born alive but she did survive six months of pregnancy. Her place in the world is tiny, she never experienced life outside the womb, no one ever heard her cry, no one ever saw her smile, only three people were at her funeral. What we do know about her is that she had a tremendous will to live. Although her harsh fate was written into her cells, she survived for six months in the womb. We also know how much we loved her. Although her main experience of life was dying, she was loved. I believe that means something, not just to me and my wife, but also to her, our daughter, to Aoife.
We decided we wanted to spare Aoife the death she would have had if she was born, the failure of her organs that would have followed when her body was no longer sustained by the womb. We loved her, and though we sometimes wish she could have died in our arms, we decided that termination was kinder to her. It was kinder to us too, particularly to my wife, carrying a dying child is a huge mental and physical burden.
This decision was both awful and difficult, but we feel that, according to our beliefs, we made the right choice. We understand that other people, acting with an equally good conscience, might decide differently to us. A parent in this situation does their best to do the right thing. We love Aoife and since she was triploid, we cannot wish she could have survived, she could not. We cannot wish that she was anyone but who she was. Most of all we are glad of her life and, though years have passed, we continue to mourn her absence.
I think it was wrong we had to travel to England for the termination. It was cruel to me and crueler still to my wife. An already almost unimaginably difficult situation was prolonged, made more complex and more difficult by the legal situation. With our hearts broken for our doomed child, we had to play the part of criminals and travel across a border to do something that would have been illegal at home.
I don’t think the current legal and constitutional restrictions on terminations accord with Ireland’s traditional values of compassion and tolerance. I don’t believe these restrictions have the support of the Irish electorate.