Abortion debate: ‘Our 33 days were full of joy’, says mother of fatal baby

Clodagh and Derbhille McGill
Clodagh and Derbhille McGill

A Ballymena woman whose daughter was born with a fatal foetal abnormality has opposed any change in legislation which would allow abortion in such cases.

It comes amid a renewed focus on abortion, including a call from one DUP man for a change in the law.

Derbhille McGill was told during her 20th week of pregnancy that her daughter had development issues with her brain, heart and face due to Trismony 13 or Patau Syndrome.

“We knew she was probably going to die in our arms after being born – but she didn’t”.

Clodagh was born at 7lbs eight years ago on June 22.

“The doctor told us she was ‘not compatible with life’. I went into shock.

“I thought – that means she is dead, but here she is alive and breathing in my arms. She had a cleft lip but to me she was my perfect little daughter.”

Doctors said they would not resuscitate Clodagh if she had any sort of attack. Horrified, they signed themselves out of hospital. “If she was going to die we wanted it to happen in her home surrounded by people who loved her.”

For 33 days the McGill house was full of happy people visiting the new arrival.

“Even though we knew she was going to die it was just like having any other baby. We were just bursting with so much joy and happiness even though it was tinged with sadness. Clodagh just loved to be held. Whenever she was set down she would cry.

“Finally, she stopped breathing one day lying in her daddy’s arms. But we have beautiful memories, photographs and a grave to visit.

“What we really need is a network of support for mothers in these situations. If we had been told our daughter had cancer, countless experts would have swooped down to support us.”