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Smoking killed Spock!

Why is tobacco and the consumption of it legal? Of course, I know why. It’s legal because it came onto the market at a time when the medical community and governments didn’t realise how lethal it was and, as we all know, the tobacco industry generate ridiculous amounts of government revenues in taxes.

Imagine if tobacco was a new thing. Can you imagine a company selling a product that has no health benefits whatsoever, is highly addictive, kills two thirds of its users, pollutes the atmosphere and costs the government billions of pounds in healthcare costs, not just for smokers but also those poor passive smokers who are affected? Can you imagine that being allowed?

I am an ex smoker. I understand why people find it so hard to give up. And if you have a stressful lifestyle, smoking is a soothing crutch. It also clogs up your lungs, makes you and those around you smell like an ashtray, costs you hundreds of pounds a year and, every time you take a drag, you are basically choosing to increase the chances of you dying, because, let’s face it, you are more likely to. Smoking cigarettes kills two thirds of those who do it. 66% of people who smoke will die as a result of it.

If you deeply love someone who smokes as I do, this number will terrify you. Smokers are addicted. Addiction is a disease and a bastard of thing to conquer. However, it can be conquered. It just takes a hell of a lot of effort, agonisingly strong will power and the ability to resist the horrific withdrawal. No easy feat. You have to want to do it more than you want the cigarette. You have to be in the right headspace. I sit and wait for my loved one to get there. I live in hope that they will.

Cigarettes are little nuclear bombs all over the place, threatening to detonate and destroy. I live in perpetual fear of ours detonating. I can not imagine life without my loved one. It would be utterly devastating.

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Losing a baby in pregnancy . . .

I gave birth to a sleeping Ziggy at 21 weeks and 5 days into my pregnancy. Another 2 weeks and 2 days and he would have been entitled to, in fact required, a birth and death certificate. As it is, there is no legal proof that he ever existed bar the fact that he is buried in a cemetery. But he definitely existed. He changed me forever. I am a better mother because I lost him.

What people don’t tell you is that the loss of a baby in pregnancy never leaves you. The pain of it never diminishes, never decreases. You learn to live with it, that’s all. If you go to that space in your heart, where your baby lives, expect to be seared. So I try not to. However, there is one week in every year that I have no choice because it is the run up to his birthday. I try not to think about him, I keep myself busy, but there is a sleeping volcano in my soul that erupts, without fail, every single year and does not let up. I am in pieces, held together by sheer strength of will. I do not want Moo to feel my pain and I don’t want to bring everyone around me down. Yet inside, I am a mother who is broken, like too many others. Ten years on and it doesn’t lessen, my arms still ache for him. This pain is as intense as the year after he was born and I expect it will be this intense in twenty years too. It is the proof that he lived, that he was loved and cherished and that he lives with me still.

It’s his birthday in a week and I may finally write his story, if my husband is okay with it. It’s pretty intense. If you know someone who has lost a baby, give them a hug, send them a note or a text or an email. Even if you have the most extraordinary rainbow baby, the loss of an angel never fades.

 

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Three “parent” babies . . .

So the MPs voted in favour of three “parent” babies and the whole thing makes me very uneasy. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why people have been campaigning for this and I really hope that I do not offend anyone with this post. Mitochondrial disease is an absolute horror. I have witnessed the destruction and heartbreak it wreaks first hand. I would not wish that on anyone. I fully empathise with them. I feel the same way about a myriad of other life limiting and life threatening conditions. Anyone who has spent a lot of time in a children’s hospice does. However, the idea of a baby made up from three people’s DNA does not settle well with me. There is no other description, it makes me very uneasy. Let me explain.

Firstly, I know what it is to desperately yearn for a baby. It took five very long and painful years and failed fertility treatment to have Moo. There is nothing like the heartache that infertility can cause. It literally tears you apart with yearning. It’s agony.

Secondly, I know what it is to find out that you have a devastating genetic disorder. I lost Ziggy because I have OS-CS and passed it to him. My variant is lethal in boys. My daughter’s tenuous grip on life is the direct result of the disorder. There is no guilt quite like the irrational one that consumes a mother who carries a deadly gene.

Thirdly, I wholeheartedly support IVF, pre genetic diagnosis (PGD) and ICSI. These medical advances have helped millions of women have the children they yearn for. I realise they are not natural and, without them, these families would not be created. PGD, by definition, filters healthy embryos from unhealthy ones and would have been my port of call had I not got pregnant with Moo naturally.

Here’s where I have a problem. Those medical procedures still rely on nature taking its course. It is still down to one woman’s egg being fertilised by one man’s sperm. When you start taking eggs from two women and mixing bits, it is no longer nature taking its course. It’s a man made embryo and that just can’t be good.

It shouldn’t be about “giving people a choice of how to build their family”. There are already plenty of choices. Parenthood has never been and should never be a right. It seems that people seem to think that having children is a right, not a blessing. The thing with blessings is that not everyone is blessed and those that are should look at the miracles they have and be utterly grateful for them. The thing with rights is that people take them for granted.

What would you tell the child? Would you tell them? I find it hard to imagine keeping a secret like that from any child but how would it make them feel? “Mummy and Daddy made you with a little extra bit from another lady.” That would be one heck of a conversation.

Then there are cases like me. I am what is called a spontaneous genetic mutation. My OS-CS could not have been prevented. When I got pregnant, like a lot of mothers carrying the faulty mitochondrial gene, I had no idea that I had it. Not only that, but when I got pregnant both times, the gene had not been discovered so my babies couldn’t be tested for it anyway.

Imagine going through the hell of IVF, this three parent baby procedure, getting pregnant, breathing a sigh of relief, only to be devastated when something else is diagnosed? You just can’t bombproof conception. No one is immune from things going wrong, even when you’ve been through hell to get there.

I would have walked through all manner of fire to have a baby. I would have done just about anything. I was waiting for approval for sex selection when I fell pregnant with Moo. Girls were meant to mildly affected by OS-CS (HA!) so they were a safer choice. I was approved but already pregnant with a girl. Had PGD not worked, I would have tried donor eggs, then maybe surrogacy, because I knew that my husband was resistant to adoption. There were options. I get that people don’t want to use donor eggs, they don’t want to use a surrogate, they don’t want to adopt, but, to those people, I would ask do you really want to be a parent? Being a parent isn’t just about passing your genes down the line; it’s about the job you do, the love and care that you give, it’s about cherishing another human being and helping them find their place in the world. Using donor eggs still involves pregnancy and the miracle of birth, if that’s what you crave. Embryos created from donor eggs are influenced by what you eat, how you feel, just like any other baby. They would not survive without your care.

As for us, I found that I couldn’t have children. My two pregnancies were miracles in themselves. There are other options for getting pregnant or having another child but I just don’t yearn for a baby the way I once did and I think all children should be yearned for like that. I fully appreciate the strong willed, funny, loving, complicated miracle that I was blessed with every single day.

The thing about all these terrifying conditions and the agony they cause is that, in the most horrific way and in the great scheme of things, we need them. The human race is a great mammalian weed and these disorders controls the population. Not only that, but it also forces us to look inward, at our lives, and feel utterly blessed. I would not wish the pain of a life limiting condition on anyone, least of all an innocent baby, but mixing DNA between three people just isn’t right, no matter how small the third contribution is.

The thing is that no one knows what the future brings and when Man starts messing with the natural process of things, I get very uneasy. You can’t design a baby, that term is just ridiculous, but as someone who is genetically imperfect, the idea that you can swap one woman’s unhealthy gene with another’s just makes me quiver with unease. Once you cross that line, where it could lead, with the wrong people in charge, is quite scary.