‘It was my job to protect him’: powerful words from mother of baby with Trisomy 18

Editor’s note. The following first appeared in the Irish pro-life publication “Life Zone.” 

trisomy18ribbonThis past week on the Pat Kenny radio show, a mother whose little boy lived for 2 days after birth with Trisomy 18 spoke powerfully and inspiringly about her son Seán. Sarah Hynes, of the group Every Life Counts, which represents families whose children were born with life limiting conditions, gave a moving and beautiful testimony in a week which was otherwise dominated by abortion-supportive broadcasting from Newstalk FM.

Sarah recounted how Sean was prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, at 21 weeks. She was told he probably wouldn’t survive the pregnancy and was unlikely to live long after birth. Sarah was given the option to terminate her pregnancy but Sarah said that she didn’t think it was her place to end her son’s life. Sarah told Pat and his listeners, “It’s not up to me to end his life. I’m his mother, it was my job to protect him, I wanted to give him that chance, I just couldn’t give up on him.”

She said that she had “no regrets now” and that she was glad she had given him that chance. Sarah said that as they feared they might not have time after birth, they learned to make the most of the time they had with Seán while he was in the womb.

She said that her two girls were devastated by the news but that they absolutely loved him, and that all the family came in to see him and loved him. “He touched everyone in the community in Ballyfermot, they were all touched by him,” she said.

Sarah described her son as a “little fighter” and that “to look at him [after birth] you’d never know there was anything wrong with him …. he was tiny but he was gorgeous.” For two days they cradled him and minded him and loved him. It was tragic that Seán’s life was so short but Sarah emphasized how much those two days meant to her and her family. She stated how important it was to her that in his life, little Seán “knew nothing but love.”

Asked about abortion, she said “His time was short, but they were two days we would not have had if we had gone down that route.” Sarah said she couldn’t have lived with herself if she had opted for an abortion.

She added that she could see how people might think abortion was the right option for them but that they might go on to regret it, and pointed out that the negative language and lack of information in hospitals might prompt people to look for an abortion. “I’ve yet to meet a parent who regretted having their baby … that time is so precious,” she told the radio show.

The media tends to only tell the experiences of women who choose to abort their babies. However there are many parents who allow their babies who have severe disabilities to live as long as they can. These parents most often find that letting their children live to be enormously beneficial for the entire family, who are given the chance to meet their baby, hold them, and say goodbye.

Following Sarah’s interview, Newstalk read out a comment sent in by another mother who had had two children with life-limiting conditions. She had an abortion following her first diagnosis, but continued with the pregnancy when her second baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. She said that allowing her daughter to live as long as she was able was a precious gift, while she still struggles with the heartbreak of her abortion.

The diagnosis of a life limiting condition is always a tragedy but abortion only adds to that tragedy. Sarah’s story is a beautiful reminder of how out of something so sad, there can still be so much love and hope. Sean’s life outside the womb was short but still meant so much and left such beautiful impact on his family. The media should be giving these families more of a voice. While it may not fit into the narrative that the media has chosen to tell, it may be one that can ultimately help a lot of families.