A grieving mother has re-lived the harrowing moment she went into hospital for a termination but instead gave birth to a live, crying, baby who died in her arms.
Sofia Khan, 35, had been reassured by doctors that the injection to terminate her pregnancy was 100 per cent effective.
But hours later, in a shocking and unique case, she gave birth to a living baby who survived for just one hour.
The devastated mother, from Bolton, had made the decision to terminate her pregnancy late on because of congenital birth defects.
But during her labour, she became convinced that her baby was moving and kicking – but was told by midwives she was imagining it all.
A coroner has now instructed UK guidelines to be changed as a direct result of the tragedy.
Mrs Khan said: ‘It was a difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy and I was swamped with guilt and doubt, but we were told our baby was very disabled and was unlikely to survive.
‘After the injection to terminate him, I kept on feeling him move, but the midwife told me it was impossible. I even convinced myself I was imagining it.
‘When I gave birth, and I heard him cry, I was in shock. Everyone went into panic. I held him in my arms and I kissed him and told him how much I loved him.
‘I can’t help thinking that he was born alive because he wanted one cuddle with his mummy. He wanted me to see his face.
‘I’ve been racked with grief and heartbreak since, wondering whether I made the right decision, wondering whether anything else could have been done.
‘I think his birth and death were so much more traumatic because I just wasn’t prepared for it – nobody was.
‘Nobody had listened to me when I said I felt him kicking. Nobody believed me.
‘And so the shock and the loss I felt were so much more powerful and I don’t think that will ever leave me. I think about my little boy every day.
‘I hope in future that midwives will listen to mothers. A mother’s instinct is so powerful.
‘I am glad, despite the heartbreak, that I could spend that time with him.
‘And I am pleased too that in future guidelines will be changed to make parents aware. My little boy has made a difference and it will be his lasting legacy.’
Sofia and her husband Shakeel were thrilled when she fell pregnant with their second son late last year. They already have a son, Mustafa, who is 18-months-old.
But a scan at 20 weeks showed the baby was suffering with spina bifida.
Sofia says: ‘I was devastated. I kept thinking that we would manage and that he could have surgery to help him.’
But more tests showed that the baby also had no knee joints and had fluid around his brain.
His spina bifida was the worst case consultants had come across and Sofia was told he was unlikely even to survive the pregnancy.
She said: ‘We were heartbroken, but we made the decision to terminate. We felt it was best for the baby but even so I had moments of doubt and guilt.’
At 25 weeks Mrs Khan had an injection into the umbilical cord at St Mary’s hospital, Manchester.
She says: ‘The doctors did two scans which confirmed there was no heartbeat. It was a relief to know his suffering was over but heart-breaking that he was gone.’
She then was transferred to her local hospital in Bolton to give birth to the foetus.
She says: ‘My sister in law and my husband took turns to be with me. And as I waited, I felt the baby kick. I told the midwife but she said it was impossible. I asked her to put the monitor on to be sure but she said there was no need.’
Ten hours later, she gave birth – and was stunned to hear the baby crying.
She says: ‘I thought I was going mad. I thought I was hearing the cry because that’s what I wanted – my baby to be alive.
‘The midwife went into shock, she was screaming for help, she ran with the baby into the corridor.
‘They brought him back and said: ‘What do you want us to do?’ and I didn’t know what they meant. I held him and cuddled him and told him how much I loved him.
‘he was such a fighter. He had a huge hole in his spine and he was very disabled, and yet he hung on to life for an hour.
‘I can’t help thinking that he was determined to have one cuddle with his mummy.’
The baby, Mohammed Rehman, was given a full funeral and is buried near the Khans’ home in Bolton.
Mrs Khan said: ‘I am still grieving. I think of him every day. But I have my older son to keep me strong and he makes me smile.
‘I am glad that new guidelines are being drawn up as a result of this. And I hope also in future that midwives will learn to listen to mothers. A maternal instinct is very powerful.’
An inquest into Mohammed Rehman’s death was held in July.
Sofia’s doctor told assistant coroner Simon Nelson: ‘I was extremely shocked to hear what had happened … I was stunned as the procedure had gone exactly how we like the procedure to go, very smoothly.’
He added that new guidance has now been drawn up following Mohammed’s death which includes listening for a heartbeat for longer.
Miss Grundy, who delivered Mohammed, said he had come quickly and described how she was trying to prepare the room, not expecting the baby to be born alive.
She added that after Mohammed was born crying and moving she quickly prepared the area for a live birth and called for assistance.
Mrs Khan then held Mohammed until he died.
Mr Nelson recorded a conclusion of death by natural causes. He stated that Mohammed’s death was due to extreme prematurity brought about by compassionate termination of pregnancy, with a secondary cause of congenital malformations.
Mr Nelson praised Mrs Khan’s strength and dignity throughout the proceedings and said: ‘This has been one of the most sensitive of inquests I have ever had to preside over in 20 years.’
Neonatal consultant Dr Dinakar Seshadri, who had been called in after Mohammed was born said, in view of the serious difficulties the baby had, his parents had been correct to opt for termination.
‘At the time it was a brave decision and I believe it was the right decision they took,’ he told the coroner.
Mr Nelson has also decided to write to the Department for Health and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in order to share the new guidance drawn up at St Mary’s Hospital.