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"My partner and I were advised at 26 weeks to abort our pregnancy."

Tonight’s episode of Insight is focussed on how far should we go to save extremely premature babies, here one father shares his experience.

My partner Rochelle and I were advised at 26 weeks by a private obstetrician and a specialist to abort our pregnancy. We were told “you are not going to get a feasible baby out of it. It is not going to live out of this situation, so go home and the baby will pass. You will miscarry and that will be the end of it.”

Rochelle was beside herself. I just thought, “this doesn’t sound right to me”, so I made some initial contact and research and spoke to a few specialists in the area. Most told us that the doctors were right, that there was a small chance of survival.

It’s not in my nature to take no for an answer. I know that there are variables and that not everything is black and white in any industry, especially medicine. So when I went back home, I had to have a look at my options. I wasn’t just going to assume there was only one.

I spoke to a lot of specialists and people in different hospitals. I did some Google searching into some articles- but ones that had weight – not just forums.

I didn’t tell Rochelle what I was doing – I didn’t want to get her hopes up.

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Peter shares his story on Insight. Image via SBS.

In my research I came across Prof Sue Walker. She was obviously trying to put a positive spin on a bad situation but still put the facts in front of us – 75/25 chance of survival, 50/50 chance of disability. Our main concern was having a baby that was severely disabled.

We were not sure of our rights in that situation, but we just decided we would wait until we got to that crossroad. We knew whatever we decided could have a huge effect on our lives. We could end up having a child that will always have to be fed with a feeding tube.

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The doctors asked us, “if you had a 25% chance of winning lotto would you go for it?” And I thought… maybe. And they said, “why not with a baby?”

Rochelle and I fluctuated from agreeing to disagreeing at various points. Our emotions were understandably high, especially Rochelle’s. After speaking to numerous doctors with different opinions and doing copious amounts of research, we finally decided we would try to keep our baby alive.

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Baby Tia was born extremely premature. Source: supplied.

I saw our baby Tia being resuscitated, which was traumatic. Even when she was born it was always, touch and go, touch and go. She would be okay, then the next thing you know, they had to resuscitate her or put her on a special machine which is basically a cradle in which she is rattled around to keep her breathing. That’s the max they can do to keep her alive after life support, which she was on almost constantly. She was alive, but only just.

I was also concerned about Rochelle. She was in ICU because her heart was playing up.

Babies on both sides of Tia passed away but others survived. The whole process proved that you should never take doctors’ word for gospel. I worked with them and we came to an agreement rationally but a lot of parents were just going mental at them.

Some doctors would sit down and talk to us at great length and show compassion and empathy. Others were blunt, and some didn’t give you time of day. I didn’t hold it against the blunt doctors because they are also trying to push aside the emotion, which I have a lot of respect for in this situation.

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Peter with baby Tia. Source: Supplied.
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I initially withdrew from Tia when she was first born – I was scared to make a connection. I thought, if I don’t get connected, the mourning process would be a lot easier. It was probably about three or four months later when they moved Tia to the nursery that I finally allowed myself to make a connection.

These days she’s fantastic. She’s a little delayed in the way of milestones, but we hope some of those issues will resolve in the next few years. Sometimes I think we are so, so lucky to miss that bullet – a major disability. Kids can’t really give you a straight answer until they are 7 or 8. But I really don’t think she will have anything… I think we’re very lucky.

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Baby Tia now. Source: supplied.

Peter is a guest on tonight’s episode of Insight at 8.30pm on SBS ONE, which hears from parents, doctors, nurses and ethicists to discuss how far we should go to save extremely premature babies. #InsightSBS

Read more on this topic:

The things no one tells you about having a premmie baby.

A mum’s first cuddle with her tiny baby, born three months premature.

Show this to anyone who’s brought a baby into this world before their due date.

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