5 February 2019
Erin O’Hara with baby Freya.
Abortion “was never an option for us, not even for a second.”
A mother whose baby was diagnosed with a life-limiting condition in the womb has spoken out about how rejecting abortion gave her and her partner precious memories with their daughter.
The story of baby Freya and her brave young parents Erin O’Hara (24) and Jamie McCormick (23) gained media attention in October, when Erin spoke out about their decision to carry Freya to term, despite the devastating diagnosis of untreatable anencephaly. The couple, from Limavady, Northern Ireland, received messages of love and support from around the world.
“I would do it all again in a heartbeat”
Now, Erin has revealed that her daughter Freya Anne O’Hara-McCormick lived for two minutes outside the womb after she was born eight weeks premature on 7 December 2018.
Due to little Freya’s condition her mother faced complications during her pregnancy and was in pain in the later stages. “The pain was awful, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat, if it meant I would get to see Freya again,” Erin said.
The grieving mother also revealed how she shared the precious minutes of her daughter’s life. “She was absolutely perfect in every way, just 2lb 4oz of pure joy,” she said. “We would have given anything to have her longer, but I am glad that she didn’t suffer and she passed away peacefully.
“In her last moments, with one eye open, she stared right up into mine, holding her daddy’s finger, and listening to the sound she knew best, my heartbeat. I will hold that memory of her with me forever.”
Erin says that abortion was never an option for her and Jamie, even when they were told that there was no chance their baby daughter would survive. “Jamie and I have been utterly distraught since Freya’s diagnosis a month ago and it has been undeniably difficult to come to terms with,” she said in October. “People told me termination was an option, but we couldn’t do it. We want this wee baby more than anything in the world and we will love this wee baby, no matter what.”
There has been much discussion of abortion in the case of a life-limiting diagnosis (generally cruelly and inaccurately referred to as a “fatal foetal abnormality”), especially in the light of the court case claiming that Northern Ireland breached the human rights of Sarah Ewart, who travelled to England for an abortion when she learned her baby would not survive. However, many studies show that almost all women do not regret carrying a baby with a life-limiting condition to term, and that abortion in these cases leads to less positive outcomes (Prof John Wyatt spoke very movingly on this at a SPUC conference).
Erin would agree with this, saying on Facebook that the decision to carry to term was the best she’d ever made, and how it helped them cope with their loss. “We had spent the whole pregnancy getting ready to meet this little human being, half of me and half of Jamie, and because of that we owed it to ourselves and to her to meet her and get that much-needed closure,” she said.
Parents needs to know there is support available
Freya’s life and story also highlight the importance of providing proper support to parents who get this tragic news. “When we were given our diagnosis we were told on at least four occasions that we could have a termination – but there was a lot less information about the perinatal care that was available to us and that’s something I can’t get over,” Erin said. “I do feel that if other mothers knew what care was out there, maybe it would make a difference.”
The family were helped by Every Life Counts, a support network for families whose child is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Hopefully the life of baby Freya and the witness of her family will inspire people to support initiatives like this, rather than pushing for abortion.