‘I had to put my baby’s remains in the freezer’

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As those on both sides of Ireland’s abortion debate continue to campaign on the issue, those directly affected have been sharing their stories.

A referendum will be held on Friday on whether or not to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which gives equal right to life to the mother and the unborn child.

Here, Amy and Conor Callaghan share their harrowing story with Sky News after they discovered their unborn baby daughter had a fatal condition at their 12-week scan.

Amy: This time last year we were expecting our second child, who we named Nico. We were excited – a little worried about how we’d handle two kids – but excited.

So I went for the scan and the first few seconds were joy, you see the little blob and you hear the heartbeat, you know it’s there and then I just knew when the doctor was quiet and said nothing that this wasn’t good news.

She said “I’m really sorry your baby has a condition called anencephaly”. It’s a neural tube defect and our baby had no top of the head. She explained that the baby was probably going to pass away in the uterus.

She explained that some babies do go full-term and if they do go full-term and you give birth, they’re likely to die while you’re giving birth and that if the baby didn’t die when you were giving birth it was going to be a few minutes or an hour or two.

Conor and Amy had to fly to Liverpool for an abortion 'I had to put my baby's remains in the freezer' ‘I had to put my baby’s remains in the freezer’ skynews ireland abortion 4316247
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Conor and Amy had to fly to Liverpool for an abortion

At that stage I started thinking about our son Finn and when he was born and you know when you give birth, the head is a really important part of that and I was thinking about this baby, about Nico.

I started to think this wasn’t a kind way to die and I was thinking about myself having to spend the next six months of people asking me about how far along I was and trying to explain to Finn that I was pregnant but there was never going to be a baby.

Before all this happened I would have known that abortion was illegal here in most cases but I thought really in a case that was so severe where a baby was missing most of its brain, where the amniotic fluid was wearing the brain down until she died, I really thought they would be able to help more.

They said we could end the pregnancy early and they could fax the paperwork to Liverpool. I just felt abandoned.

Conor: I booked the flights and we managed to find a babysitter for our son because we needed to go overnight. We flew out on a Ryanair flight with stag parties and hen parties and other women as well. We wondered if there were any other women on the plane and sure enough when we got to the clinic, yes there were people there.

Amy: I had a surgical abortion so I was put under and they gave us Nico’s remains in a box when we left. We stayed in an airport hotel and the next day, took our baby’s remains to the airport and flew home.

The couple's unborn baby was missing most of its brain 'I had to put my baby's remains in the freezer' ‘I had to put my baby’s remains in the freezer’ skynews ireland abortion 4316248
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The couple’s unborn baby was missing most of its brain

Conor: That was probably the lowest point. We had to pass Nico’s remains through the X-ray machine and walk through security. And Amy turned to me and said what if they ask us to open the box? And I just said they won’t, they know. But I didn’t know at the time.

Amy: So we got home and I suppose again it was one of those situations where there is no guidance from anyone, no one told us what you do when you get back. We knew enough to ring the hospital here about my mental health and my physical health but we had Nico’s remains and so we put Nico’s remains in our freezer.

Conor: I started looking into what our options were. We looked into funerals and cremations but nothing seemed to suit our situation. We had a tiny cardboard box and we didn’t really know what to do and in the end we felt that we didn’t really have to follow anyone’s rules any more.

We didn’t really get any support so we could make our own rules. So we got in the car one day and we drove down the country to a place we really liked, somewhere peaceful and we buried Nico’s remains and we went to the family, we hugged, we cried a bit and we said goodbye.



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