Marie Ideson was 16 weeks pregnant when she found out her baby had Down syndrome. Ideson originally wanted to keep her baby. She recounts hearing the news:
A woman said, “I’m sorry to say your baby has Down.” It was devastating. My first thought was, how will we cope?
I told Allan [her husband] I wanted to keep the baby and he agreed.
But Ideson was about to experience intense pressure to abort. She had hoped that the doctor she was seeing would support the decision to keep the baby. Instead:
… doctors said she could be born needing emergency heart surgery and have bowel and muscle tone problems – and that was if she survived. At no time did anyone suggest we might keep our baby. A termination was presented as the only way forward.
A nurse said not aborting my baby would cause it to suffer, and she’d only become a burden on society if I went ahead. She even said, “99 per cent of women in your situation wouldn’t want the baby.” Having it would be a burden on our other children, too, she said, especially if it was likely to need many operations throughout its life.
Our children were at the hospital with us. I looked at them and thought the medical staff must be right.
She gave in to pressure to abort. She swallowed the tablet that would kill her child:
I felt numb as I swallowed the tablet. I remember saying to Allan, “I just want to keep my baby.” But he just kept saying, “But they must think the baby’s really bad, Marie – it’s for the best.”
It wasn’t until Ideson delivered her stillborn baby girl that she was faced with the horror of what she had done:
She was so small, but otherwise perfect. I started sobbing uncontrollably. What had I done? I realized I’d been bullied into taking that first pill. I felt overwhelmed by anger. I should’ve been sent home to think about all the options. It should’ve been pointed out that having my baby was an option and that, with medical advances, most Down babies go on to live happy lives.
Ideson named her child Lillie and mourned deeply for her. She said:
I was bullied into going ahead with an abortion…I only wish I could turn back the clock. I think of the daughter I never had every day. I’ll always regret it.
Ideson came to resent her husband for encouraging her to abort, and the abortion eventually tore apart their marriage.
I knew he was devastated, too, but I was angry he’d allowed staff to rush me into getting rid of her. The feeling he didn’t support me when I needed him most festered between us.
The final straw came when I was in labor with Reuben [her next baby]. We were at home and the midwives wanted me to go to the hospital, but I told them I couldn’t go back to where I’d terminated Lillie. Allan tried to persuade me to go and, in the end, I had no choice. I felt, again, Allan hadn’t spoken up for me when I was at my most vulnerable. I couldn’t find it in my heart to forgive him.
The marriage did not survive. Ideson says:
My eldest sons are 25 now. When I was pregnant with them, I knew of women who had babies with Down syndrome. Today, I never see mums with Down babies. I can’t believe that everyone who finds out their baby has Down syndrome willingly chooses to abort it. I can’t help feeling that other women must be having abortions they don’t want.
Alison Squire Smith “I was bullied into aborting my baby’” Herald Sun December 4, 2011
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