Erin O’Hara refused to consider abortion when her unborn daughter, Freya, was diagnosed with a fatal condition called anencephaly.
The Northern Ireland mother recently spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about why she chose life even though her daughter may die before she is born.
A powerful statement from such a young mother, O’Hara said pregnancy is as much about her daughter’s life as her own.
“It’s not only my pregnancy, it’s Freya’s and her daddy’s too,” said O’Hara, a 24-year-old from Limavady. “I feel Freya roll and kick inside me all the time, reminding me that she’s very much alive.”
She said she and her partner, Jamie McCormick, were devastated when they learned that their daughter has anencephaly, a brain disorder that typically is fatal within hours or days of birth.
They found out earlier this fall during O’Hara’s 20-week ultrasound. She currently is 26 weeks pregnant.
“I’ll never forget the way the friendly smile on the sonographer’s face withered into a faint, frail frown,” she said. “Then she just went really quiet for seven, maybe 10, minutes. The sadness in her eyes was apparent but I still didn’t expect her to say what she said: ‘There’s a problem, it’s a big problem.’”
O’Hara and her partner felt shocked and heartbroken at their daughter’s diagnosis. She said they were told Freya might not be born alive, or she might die within hours of her birth. As the news sank in, she said they both broke down in sobs.
Soon afterward, both the ultrasound technician and doctor suggested that they travel to England for an abortion. Unborn babies are protected from abortion in Northern Ireland, though lawmakers currently are debating whether to legalize abortion there. Some women travel to England or Scotland for abortions, but O’Hara said that was not an option for them.
“There was no decision to make,” she said. “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.”
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To celebrate Freya’s life and help other babies like her, the couple is organizing a baby shower in November to benefit a local charity.
Here’s more from the report:
Erin and Jamie have drawn support throughout their diagnosis from Every Life Counts and the pair have organised the forthcoming baby shower in aid of the Dublin-based charity.
“There will be food, cake, balloons, pints and hopefully plenty of laughter and smiles,” said Erin, who has joined various support groups to get her through the days ahead.
For now life remains far from easy and the future can often seem daunting for them, their family and their friends.
“It is so hard; I seem to have a lot more bad days than good days,” Erin said.
“Anencephaly is such an unpredictable condition and a lot of the babies tend to die before they make it to birth. But there are quite a lot who’ve lasted a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and even a couple of months in some cases.”
O’Hara said they hope to have time with Freya outside the womb before she dies. They already are making plans for her arrival and her funeral.
“We haven’t a clue what’s going to happen,” the young mother said. “We just want to spend some time with her. There’s a bed for me, a bed for Jamie and somewhere for Freya to sleep as well.
“If she’s born alive there’ll be something set in place for us to ring family straight away, so everybody can come up and see her while they can,” O’Hara said.
So beautifully selfless compared to the “Shout My Abortion” stories of today, O’Hara said she would give up her life to care for her daughter.
“I’d have sacrificed the rest of my life to look after this child, this special wee person, even if she needs round-the-clock care. Even if our future remains bleak and uncertain,” she said.
“We planned Freya’s life, not knowing that very soon we would be planning her funeral.”
Mothers like O’Hara are the true, unsung heroines of today because they recognize that their children are valuable creatures when others do not.