Any loss of a baby is tragic and circumstances always vary. Here is our story:
Our family is me, Tamsin, my husband, Andy, and our two children Thomas and Benjamin. Thomas is our swan and the brothers have in fact another brother in the middle – Beau.
Thomas was born in 2011. It became apparent very quickly that he was going to be unique. Thomas was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, slow weight gain and growth, hypertelorism and visual impairment, plus issues with various midline features. We had every test during pregnancy, a CGH array as well, but nothing was every found and nothing has been since. With Thomas, we have been very ‘lucky’ with his syndrome. He is very able, cognitively and physically, and he is the most resilient person I know.
We were told we had a 1 in 4 chance of having another Thomas. But, we believe that siblings are important, and how unlucky could we be a second time? So in 2014, we tried for a second baby and fell pregnant very quickly. Scroll forward a few weeks and the first warning signals that we’d had with Thomas, didn’t happen – no bleeding, no high nuchal at the 12 week scan. Our geneticist referred us for an early anomaly scan which we had at around 13 weeks and the baby looked fine. It had its hands over its face so there wasn’t a good view. We were told to return in a couple of weeks but we left the hospital feeling confident that we’d done it.
That confidence was shattered two weeks later. Baby’s face was now visible. He had an identical cleft to his big brother. He had the same features, plus he had some new potential defects. Like his brother, he would survive the pregnancy and birth but what sort of life would he lead?
I will always be grateful that my husband and I had planned. And in that planning we decided what we would do if the new baby was a second swan. We had already decided that we would not complete the pregnancy CGH array – it is called interrupting the pregnancy. Termination is so final. Our decision was for various reasons. With Thomas, we only had him and ourselves to look after. Our lives, we can control and it is our choice which was our stance with Thomas but this baby would impact on Thomas’s life as much as ours and he was not yet two years old, still in and out of hospital, we couldn’t decide that for him. We looked into the quality of life, and the implication was that we weren’t so ‘lucky’ with this syndrome as we had been with Thomas – all confirmed a few months afterwards with a postmortem.
So, on April 20 2013, we went to hospital with my mum, and I completed the procedure started by swallowing pills a few days earlier. At 16-18 weeks you are told that you can’t feel the baby kick, but you definitely know when it isn’t moving anymore. I knew Beau had gone already so now it was up to me. At this stage of pregnancy, you have to labour and give birth. It is much easier for the mother’s health I believe. But it does not hurt any less. Even though Beau was so much smaller than Thomas, it was so hard. And to any mother that chooses to lose a baby at this stage then they cannot be judged. They don’t win either way.
We met Beau afterwards. I didn’t hold him … maybe I should have done but he looked and was so fragile that I didn’t want to break him. He was so like Thomas, we could see his little abnormalities but his tiny cleft also made him look like he was smiling. All cleft babies have wonderful smiles. We were shattered by the potential person we had decided not to keep. We said goodbye to him that day, after some hours, and walked away with a memory box and later, some photos.
We joined SWAN UK that Autumn.
Just over a year later, I gave birth to Benjamin. This time, we had been brave, tried again and succeeded. Thomas and Benjamin are amazing brothers together, their biggest supporters (and of course their best critics!).
I have been judged. By cleft parents who are often offered termination and choose not to. By parents who didn’t choose to lose their babies but sadly they weren’t to be with them. By parents who have struggled to conceive. I have struggled with naivety of conception, pregnancy, and birth, and insensitive comments when new babies are born smoothly, without any issues. But in the end, we chose the right thing for us and our little family, including Beau. I think of him every day and I remember all my feelings every step of the way. In our family, we choose to be kind. In every aspect of our lives.
Each new life, however fragile or brief, forever changes the world.
For support visit: