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'Heartbreaking' Mum got to hold baby for first time after life support was turned off, inquest hears

Choking back tears, Ms Kennedy recounted: “I remember only briefly seeing a dark mop of hair and someone grabbing her and running out of the room.”

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Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter  who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

An inquest into the death of a newborn baby girl whose mother enjoyed a “textbook” pregnancy heard very few recordings of her foetal heartbeat were available in the hour before her birth at a maternity hospital in Dublin three years ago.

Several midwives from the National Maternity Hospital gave evidence that difficulties were experienced in obtaining readings of the heartbeat of baby Sophie Kennedy in the lead up to her birth on March 5, 2018.

Dublin District Coroner’s Court also heard that Sophie’s mother, Karen Kennedy, had an uneventful pregnancy as well as a first stage of labour with no advanced warning of any difficulties with the baby’s health before she was born looking “limp, pale and white”.

A midwife, Anneke Wolterink, said she had become concerned at one stage about the baby’s heartbeat but the inquest heard medical staff decided to allow Ms Kennedy to continue to try and have a natural birth as she was considered a low-risk patient and making progress with pushing.

Cross-examined by solicitor, Roger Murray, for Sophie’s parents, Ms Wolterink admitted it was difficult to know how the baby was doing because of the poor quality of CTG recordings, which monitors the baby’s heartbeat.

She agreed with Mr Murray that three CTG readings in the hour before Sophie’s delivery were “abnormal”.

Another midwife, Lynn Mulvaney, said that she could hear the baby’s heartbeat at all times, despite the poor CTG readings.

Ms Mulvaney said Ms Kennedy had made great progress without being induced but a decision was eventually taken that an instrumental delivery would be required.

The inquest heard Ms Kennedy had been in active labour for around one and three quarter hours even though hospital guidelines indicated mothers should not continue pushing without some other intervention after one hour.

However, other midwives who assisted Ms Kennedy said the guidelines were “not set in stone” and were used in combination with clinical judgement.

Both of Sophie’s parents were overcome with emotion while giving evidence about the circumstances of their daughter’s short-lived existence.

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 Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter  who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Ms Kennedy recalled her excitement about finding out she was pregnant with her first child in June 2017 at the age of 34 after being married the previous year.

She described how her early hospital appointments were “boringly normal” before being “over the moon” to find out at 21 weeks that she was pregnant with a baby girl.

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When her due date on February 24, 2018 came, Ms Kennedy said she was happy to wait as she preferred a natural birth.

She stressed that she had never stipulated that she would object to any intervention such as a Caesarean section, despite medical staff being notified that she had “needlephobia”.

Ms Kennedy recalled during the early hours of being in labour that she was enjoying the process and “felt empowered and being in awe of what was happening to me.”

By 6.30pm on March 5, 2018, she felt she was near the finishing line but said the following two hours were a blur, although she remembered a midwife being concerned about her baby’s heartbeat.

Ms Kennedy said she was pushing so hard that her contact lenses popped out of her eyes a number of times.

She told the inquest how she felt a sense of relief and how it had been all worth it after Sophie was delivered shortly after medical staff performed an episiotomy to facilitate the birth.

Choking back tears, Ms Kennedy recounted: “I remember only briefly seeing a dark mop of hair and someone grabbing her and running out of the room.”

She said she had no idea anything was wrong and there was no sign of anything abnormal until her husband, Kevin, came back to her crying.

Ms Kennedy said Sophie had taken 20 minutes to be resuscitated which she learnt was the ethical cut-off point for stopping resuscitation.

While she went to bed that night confident that her baby would be OK, Sophie’s condition deteriorated the following day and she died at 4.20pm on March 6, 2018.

Cross-examined by Rebecca Graydon BL, for the National Maternity Hospital, Ms Kennedy said she had attended the hospital for the birth of another daughter in February 2019 and was also attending there during her current pregnancy.

Her husband, Kevin Kennedy, sobbed as he recounted how his wife got to hold Sophie for the first time after her life support had been switched off.

“It was both beautiful and heartbreaking,” he recalled.

Details of a post-mortem which found baby Sophie suffered severe brain damage possibly one week before her birth are due to be examined in greater detail when the inquest resumes on Wednesday.

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