Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Choice

Doctors and society seem to think that we have a choice, as a parent carrying a child with a "fetal anomaly", as they call it -- a disorder that statistically indicates the baby is not likely to survive. 

The choices presented are:
1) abort the baby, or
2) continue the pregnancy.

(#2 should really be more specific -- perinatal hospice care -- in my opinion, but you can read my other posts for more on that.
Also, I recently learned that some parents don't even realize that there is an option #2, but that is for another day...)

What no one seems to recognize, is that it really isn't a choice in the way they expect. 

With diagnosis of a "fetal anomaly", we are told that it is statistically unlikely that our baby will survive.  Our baby will die.  And we will grieve.  We will be devastated by the loss of our very loved and very wanted child.  We have no choice in that.  And in reality, the grieving starts immediately at the diagnosis as we mourn the loss of the healthy child we expected. 

The choice then is on the timing and method of our baby's death.

So the choices are actually:
1) take action to end your baby's life, or
2) allow your baby to have a natural death.

No matter which path you take, you will grieve the loss of your child.  And that grief is significant.  There is no shortcut through it.  Or detour around it.  There is no choice.  You have no control over it.

As it is, society shuns mourning.  Everyone expects you to get over it and be back to your old self in record time.  

Terminating a wanted pregnancy perpetuates this expectation.  It becomes a secret to hide.  No one saw your baby, so to them there is no loss.  No allowance for grief.

How does that help a devastated parent?

And, oh by the way, termination goes against every instinct you have as a parent to protect your child.

“The key point is that there is no shortcut for grief. Getting over it sooner does not make it easier,” says Kuebelbeck. “If your baby is going to die, your heart is going to break either way. Why not do what you can to fill your heart first?”

[Source: Providing hospice in the womb, Roger Collier, CMAJ]

The choice we have as parents is really this:  How will you love and care for your baby?

For us, we knew taking action to stop Joan's beating heart would be irrecoverably traumatic.  It would make the loss and grief immensely worse and more complicated.  It went against every instinct we felt as parents.

We knew what would help us through the devastating loss of our daughter was this...

Recognizing, honoring and sharing her life with others...
Receiving support from family and friends...
Treating Joan with dignity in life and in death...
Creating memories to carry her with us for a lifetime...

Filling our hearts first.