I was already 23 weeks pregnant when my partner, Mickael, and I discovered that the much-wanted baby I was carrying had a chromosome disorder called Trisomy 2 mosaicism (an extra copy of chromosome two).
Doctors had known something wasn’t right from 10 weeks because my foetus was growth-restricted, but they hadn’t known what – at first suspecting a problem with my placenta. It took several risky tests, including an amniocentesis, which can’t be done until late on in a pregnancy, to reach a diagnosis: one which shocked everybody.
Trisomy 2 mosaicism is so rare that, in 2012, there were only five children known to be living with it in the world, and only seven live births recorded in medical literature. Each of the surviving children had severe, but different, physical and intellectual disabilities. I was told that if I continued with my pregnancy, any life that my daughter did endure would almost certainly be short and painful.
And so, after discussions with Mickael and with my doctors, geneticists, family and friends – one of whom has two severely disabled children – I made the only decision I felt I could make: to end my pregnancy. Not because I thought the life of a child with life-limiting disabilities would have less value than a healthy one, but because I wanted to spare her suffering. Would I have done the same if I’d been told she had something less severe, such as Down’s? I honestly can’t say. Do I believe every woman has the right to make her own choice? Absolutely.
Contrary to emotive “anti-abortion” (I refuse to use the misnomer “pro-life”) propaganda, there is no “dismembering” in a late-term abortion: you have to go through full childbirth. First, Elodie’s heart was stopped by a lethal injection of potassium chloride, a process known horribly as “feticide”. I then had to carry her around, dead, inside me for two days.
Finally, on September 26 2012, following induction and a traumatic and painful labour, I gave birth to her. She had her father’s cupid bow lips and a shock of dark hair. The midwives washed and dressed her, and we were able to hold her until her tiny body grew cold. After a funeral at Golders Green Crematorium, we scattered her ashes on our favourite isolated beach near Nice, in France.
The psychological and emotional impact of taking this decision is not easily explainable. There is a complex tangle of grief and guilt, the rational wrestling endlessly with the emotional. It’s a decision made against every instinct in your body – against the actual body that is kicking inside you. But I know, deep in my heart, as well as in my head, that I did the right thing, not only for me and Mickael, but also for Elodie.