Go to content; Go to main menu; Go to languages.

James Palmer


31 October 2004

April 10th 2004 was the day I found out that I was expecting again. I had only just had a baby girl Siobhan in February 6th 2004. She is my second daughter, I also have a 6 yr old girl Meaghan who was of course the only child I was ever going to have, but as you know, never say never eh! But this time I planned my pregnancy unlike the 2 girls who were unplanned but sooooooooo wanted.

I was over the moon to be expecting again so soon – at last my family complete – my 3 kids that's it now I thought. My first visit to the hospital was at 13 weeks and a routine scan was done just to clarify dates etc. But they couldn't really get a good view they said so I was asked to come again for another scan a couple of weeks later.

I came back again a couple of weeks later and this time the doctor questioned my dates. He asked how many weeks I thought I was, and I said: "16", but he said: "No way! This baby is definitely not 16 weeks; it's too small." He asked me to go for a developmental scan – I found this normal as my 2 previous babies were small too.

So on the 30th of July, week 17 of my pregnancy, I went for my scan. At this stage obviously I did not know the fate that lay ahead of me. The nurse put the gel on to my stomach and spent what seemed like and eternity scanning. She kept saying that she was finding it hard to get the head measurements and asked me if was ok if she did a vaginal scan. I had no objection at all and she asked another nurse to assist her. She was spending all her time scanning what I thought was the neck area. She then said to the other nurse "Is this what I am looking for". This was my first sign that something wasn't right but I tried to remain calm. My husband kept saying don't worry, as did the nurses, but come on, as soon as someone says "don't worry", what do you do??? You worry of course.

The nurse then said that she still couldn't get the head measurements correct and that a doctor will have to come in and have a try. At this point I knew something was wrong for sure. She asked us to wait outside and would call us when the doctor arrived. Myself and husband waited outside, me saying to him something's wrong, and him saying to me no there's not. I thought my child had Down syndrome, that is all that was going through my head.

Then about 10 mins later we were called in to the room for a scan by the doctor it just took him 1 min to make the diagnosis. I will never forget his words: "I'm sorry, this baby will not survive outside the womb". I was saying in my mind: "but you live with Downs, what's he saying?" Then he said the baby has anencephaly. I had never heard of this and asked him to explain. He told us about neural tubes and not closing and incompatible with life. All this of course going in one ear and out the other. All I could hear is your baby is going to die, your baby is going to die. Tears were shed by me and my husband, but I think shock was the main thing we were feeling. After a short conversation we felt we just wanted to leave the hospital. We had decisions to make, people to tell etc. The doctor gave us a little photo album and some thoughts from a couple who had gone through the same thing a few years back. We took this home with us to have a look at and help us in any decisions we had to make.

From the hospital I went straight to my mothers. Its only a five min drive but my god, I never knew five mins could last so long. I don't think we spoke a word to each other in the car. Then as soon as I got to my mothers and had to say the words out loud, I think it was then that I realised what was really happening. It was so hard to say it out loud but you have to to make it real. Then of course I had to ring my job as I for sure was not going to there for a few weeks. This is one shock that a glass of brandy won't cure in a few mins eh!

The decisions that we had to make were so hard

Should we carry on with the pregnancy?
Should we tell my eldest daughter?
If carrying on should we induce early?
So many decisions !!!

But you know, when you are chatting with people about terminations (abortions) and you are there saying: "oh god, if there was anything abnormal about my child or if I got pregnant through rape I would definitely terminate." Really it means nothing, just opinions about something we actually know nothing about until the dreaded day when you have to play god and make that decision for yourself. It is the most terrifying question I have ever asked myself: "will I terminate?"

Remember, I told you about the little album the doctor gave me. Well it had pictures of a little boy who was carried to term by his mother and he was so beautiful. He looked so unaffected by his abnormality he had a little hat on his head and eyes wide open looking at the camera. I thought to myself: "How can I deny this child the chance of life, even if it be for seconds, minutes or days if any time at all? Who am I to take that away from him?" I decided this is my child I am carrying (please note this is just my personal thoughts).

I went to the hospital again a week later to inform them of my decision and asked to be induced at 32 weeks. I don't know why I wanted that and even now I still don't know. I also went back to work that week as to try and keep life as normal as I possibly could. Now I realise this was the best thing I could have done as the support and genuine care given to me there was second to none.

The next few weeks were so hard to understand. You could be sitting there, watching Eastenders and then all of a sudden you would be in Tears mind you east enders would do that to the best of us. But seriously it's hard to think that the little legs and arms kicking and punching you will not be with you for ever once the baby is born.

One of the best things that we did to help us bond with my child, was to find out the sex of my child at 22 weeks. Going in for that scan was so scary. I really tried to stay focused and strong but then to be told that we were having a son, the son my husband always wanted! So devastating but yet great news. I know such a contradiction but it was great knowing we were having a son, but devastating to know he would not live with us on earth. We called him James. Once again the car journey home was quiet not a word spoken between us.

One thing I didn't realise, even after about a million hours on the internet studying anencephaly, was that these little children don't swallow the amniotic fluid. Therefore I was experiencing an awful lot of pressure pains and a complete discomfort within my body. I couldn't even lift my daughter.

Then on week 30, on the Friday of that week, I was in work and started to vomit and get lower back pain and then I realised I hadn't had any movement in the last 20 or so hours. I phoned my husband and asked him to take me to the hospital for a check up. But like when you go to the dentist with a toothache, once you get there the toothache goes. The same thing happened me. I was put on a monitor and then what happens: he makes a tick out of me and starts kicking like mad. I thought phew!! So of I was sent home with a kicking baby and a red face.

On the same weekend on the Sunday I was still not feeling great. A stomach bug was going around the house and of course I got it and then had a show. God I thought, is this from vomiting so hard or is it a genuine show? I played it safe and dropped the girls at my mother's and back to the hospital for a check up again. I wasn't that worried though figured it was just the stomach bug affecting me. But no, no, no: I was 5 cm dilated when I had that check up. I remember the nurse saying: "You're going to have this baby today." I just started to sob couldn't believe that this was happening. But the nurses were so empathetic, they are so highly skilled you are just made feel so at ease. Then my waters broke and as I said earlier about the fluid; let's just say a lot came out – contractions started and within 10 mins my son was born, weighing only 2.1 lbs.

I opted not to hold him straight away. I wanted him dressed and his head covered before I saw him. But my husband opted to look at his head. I feel we both made the right decisions. When I did get to hold him he was so beautiful, looked so perfect apart from discolouration on his tiny face. He was thankfully born alive, big blue eyes and pouting lips. His body apart from his head was perfectly formed. His nanny, uncle and aunt got to see him before he passed away in his daddies arms after 20 mins of life. It was so peaceful he had no discomfort just passed away as if he was going to sleep.

The hospital did up a beautiful booklet for us containing polaroids of James, his foot prints, hand prints name and cot tag. Made everything so personal. We also decided to baptise James ourselves.

I stayed in the hospital for 2 nights and decided to keep James with me in my room. To my utmost amazement, this stopped no one from coming to see me! I really thought the fact I had him in the room would upset visitors but no! Some of them even held him and one aunt in particular even helped my husband dress James in his christening robe. The strength of some people really lifts my heart.

I hope reading this helps you make informed decisions and I am truly sorry for anyone who is going through this traumatic period in their life. My thoughts are with you and one thing you must remember is that there is support there for you, no matter what choices you make.




Last updated April 6, 2019