We lost our beautiful boy to same rare condition as Whitney Dean on EastEnders – it was too painful to watch | The Sun
A GRIEF-STRICKEN mum who gave birth to a baby boy with Edwards’ syndrome at 17 weeks has praised EastEnders for shining a light on the condition – but admits the heart-breaking scenes have been “too painful” to watch.
Viewers of the BBC1 soap have been left in tears as Whitney Dean struggles with her grief after giving birth to her daughter, Peach, with the condition at 17 weeks.
Like Whitney, Natalie Armitage, 38, from Bradford, was devastated to learn her son – who she named Arthur – had the rare genetic condition following a routine screening test while 13 weeks pregnant.
Babies with Edwards’ syndrome often have severe heart, kidney, gastrointestinal and respiratory conditions as well as physical abnormalities such as clubfoot, and sadly most die before or shortly after birth.
Natalie, a part time cleaner, and her husband Adam, 30, were given the tragic news their little boy’s heart wasn’t developing properly – and like Whitney, made the heart-breaking decision to go ahead with a medical termination, meaning Natalie had to go through the trauma of giving birth.
She says: “We knew at that point the pregnancy couldn’t progress.
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“When I was told I would have to give birth to him, it was my worst nightmare come true.
“They warned us it could take days. I was so scared and didn’t want to go through with it, but the midwives were so reassuring and we had a bereavement counsellor with us.”
Natalie, who is mum to three-year-old Lily, gave birth to Arthur at Bradford Royal Infirmary on December 15, 2021 with Adam, an engineer, by her side.
Arthur was born in the specialist Snowdrops suite for bereaved parents, but while Natalie was kept away from the maternity unit, she struggled to come to terms with the fact she would be leaving without her baby.
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She says: “The labour was awful and like any normal labour.
“Days earlier I had to take a tablet and then wait.
“When the time came, the midwives spoke to me like they did when I was having Lily, and when Arthur arrived five hours later they spoke to him as if he was a living, breathing baby.
“I remember wanting the labour to be over quickly and being in lots of pain.
“I’m not good with pain at the best of times and I had only taken paracetamol.
“I asked one of the midwives for something stronger so she went off to get me some morphine, but by the time she came back, Arthur was in my arms. I’m so grateful he arrived so quickly.”
Arthur weighed just 150g – the same as a small punnet of raspberries.
He was carefully wrapped in a blanket by the midwives and handed to his devastated parents.
“It was so sad holding him for the first time,” Natalie says.
“He was tiny, but he was still a baby. Some people might not think they will be fully formed at 17 weeks, but he was.
“He was perfect. He had all of his fingers and Lily’s nose.
“We cuddled and kissed him and told him how much we loved him.
“The midwives took imprints of his little hands, but he was born with clubbed feet so we asked them not to touch those.
“My mum placed a teddy in the little box with him.
“Adam and I each wrote him a letter, Adam said he wanted to take him to rugby and I said we were sorry we couldn’t keep him.”
Eventually the time came for the couple, who have been married for six years, to say goodbye to their baby.
“I think the hospital would have let us stay there all night, but we knew we had to leave him and get home to Lily,” Natalie says.
“It was the most horrendous thing we’ve ever had to do. I felt awful leaving him and hated that he was all by himself.
“But the midwives looked after him for us. They were amazing.”
The couple returned home only to be dealt another devastating blow – because Arthur was born before 24 weeks, he wouldn’t receive a birth or death certificate.
Natalie says: “It was devastating. It felt like Arthur didn’t exist.
“The hospital was so good and gave us a little card with his name, birth date and weight on it, and we’ve put that in his memory box, but we couldn’t register his birth or death.
“The law has to change to allow lost babies to be recognised. Arthur was living and breathing inside of me – as far as I am concerned he was a little person.”
Natalie and Adam not only had to face their first Christmas without their son, but they also had to arrange for his cremation, which was organised by local funeral service Edwin Pound in Bradford.
“Lily got us through that Christmas.” Natalie says.
“We tried to keep things normal for her, but it was tough. Adam and I both found Christmas Day very hard.”
Natalie says grief soon started to put a huge strain on their marriage as they struggled with the loss of their son.
Natalie had to return to work just four weeks after giving birth as bosses told her she wasn’t entitled to maternity leave, while Adam’s mental health began to slowly deteriorate.
“I didn’t have long before I had to go back to work,” she says.
“I didn’t get paid to be off for those four weeks as I wasn’t entitled, so I had no choice but to go back.
“I didn’t get any support or flowers – I felt like people didn’t care.”
Meanwhile Adam also returned to work, but was treated with much more empathy.
“His employers were so supportive and offered him counselling,” Natalie says.
“But he was a ticking time bomb. I would notice his reactions to things would suddenly be over the top and his temperament would change.
“Losing Arthur put us under a lot of stress, but it was Lily who kept us going.
“Without her, we are not sure what would have happened to us.”
The couple finally had some good news last summer when they discovered they were expecting, but had an anxious wait to see if the baby would suffer the same fate as their older brother.
Natalie says: “We decided to try for another baby, but were warned there was a chance they could have Edwards’.
“We were advised to have a gene test to be certain, but the wait for results was six months.
“We couldn’t believe it. The consultant said we could still try, but with risk.
“There has to be a quicker testing system – it is just a blood test.
“It’s not fair to keep people waiting for results that are life changing. This needs to change.”
Thankfully neither Natalie or Adam carried the gene and they conceived during a family holiday last year.
She had a screening test at ten weeks to be sure their baby doesn’t have Edwards’.
“I felt so nervous in the beginning of this pregnancy, but we had the NHS screening test and a private NIPT,” Natalie says.
“When we were pregnant with Arthur we were so excited and told everyone.
“We were even laughing during his scan as he was moving around so much so they couldn’t get his measurements.
“I was definitely more worried this time around, but as soon as the test came back negative I felt relieved.
“Screening for Edwards’, Down’s Syndrome and Patau's syndrome is optional, but I think it should be compulsory.
“Edwards’ is a life threatening condition and we should all know more about it.”
Natalie wants to thank EastEnders for bringing Edwards’ syndrome to the forefront and for helping to raise awareness of the condition.
However, she admits it has been “too painful” for her and Adam to watch.
She says, “I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a post where Whitney said, ‘Why doesn’t my baby count?’ and it just brought it all back.
“Adam has found it particularly upsetting to watch. Whitney’s story sounds very similar and it is just too painful.
“But it’s so important that Edwards’ is talked about – I love talking about Arthur.”
With her due date just days away, Natalie knew Mother’s Day would be bittersweet.
“Last year it was horrendous. I thought I was going to be OK and we had booked a meal out and Adam got me a card, but when the day came it just hit me,” she says.
This year Natalie, was overjoyed to welcome Sidney Adam Arthur Armitage, born at 8.21pm, weighing 7lb 2oz.
The family also thought of Arthur, who is at the family home with a memory box from baby loss charity, 4Louis.
Inside Natalie keeps his Peter Rabbit teddy – a gift she bought him in her early weeks of pregnancy – a wooden star with his name on, his handprints and a guardian angel.
In their bedroom, a picture of the couple holding Arthur sits next to their bed.
“Lily points to it and says, ‘It’s Arthur’,” says Natalie.
“She is too young to understand, but she knows she has a brother and we will tell her and her new brother or sister all about him when the time is right.”
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4Louis is a baby loss charity supporting those affected by stillbirth, miscarriage and child death.
For more information visit 4louis.co.uk.
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