Thursday, October 7, 2010

Incompatible with Life: An Impossible Choice

This is an article featured in one of my bereavement newsletters. Hit home...

Incompatible with Life: An Impossible Choice

When an expecting couple learns that their child has medical complications that will render the infant unable to live outside of the womb, it is a devastating trauma. To be faced with the option of terminating the pregnancy, or continuing the pregnancy knowing their baby will only live briefly – if at all – is a terrible experience. The psychological consequences of this impossible choice have been examined in the hopes of helping families to heal in the aftermath
of this tragic type of loss.

While most research has focused on the mothers, recently attention has also been given to fathers. In a majority of couples, partners make the decision together to terminate the pregnancy. As a result, medical termination is a significant life event for both parents.

Many couples heal after medical termination, working through the grief of this decision. Others however, struggle with complicated grief, post-traumatic stress symptoms and depression long after the loss. Factors that seem to contribute to the healing journeys of parents who have experienced a loss through medical termination include an earlier gestational age at the time of termination, the diagnosis of incompatibility with life and having older children.
These circumstances influence our feelings about the loss
as does the acceptance of family and friends.

Perhaps more significantly, the research shows that mothers and fathers do not differ very much in their response to the loss. Both partners experience the same grief and pain. What does happen in many couples is a pattern whereby one partner is deeper in grief
while the other is coping better for a time, and then their positions switch. This is important for couples to understand, because
so often we feel isolated in our grief. If we are in the depths of
despair and our partner appears to be carrying on business
as usual, we feel alone and stuck.

In the aftermath of pregnancy loss through medical termination, it is critical for couples to understand these dynamics: both parents are suffering, though your partner may not appear to be in sync with you.

By talking about your feelings together and seeking support
together, you can realize the truth of these differences and support each other in an accepting manner. When this mutual understanding and support is present, the relationship is strengthened
even in the face of such terrible loss.

Korenromp, M.J., Page-Christiaens, G.C.M.L., van den Bout, J., Mulder, E.J.H., Hunfeld, J.A.M., Bilardo, C.M., Offermans, J.P.M. & Visser, G.H.A. (2005). Psychological complications of termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly: similarities and differences between partners.
Prenatal Diagnosis 25, 1225-1233.


Andrea said...

Sweetest Leah,

To be honest I started the article and could not was just too hard and too emotional. My heart aches for all that have been faced with these decisions. I'm reminded of you and am reminded of Holly at Caring for Carleigh and I know there are so many more. It just should not be like this....its not the normal progression of life.

I will pray for those who have walked and those who are walking this path.


Unknown said...

This is a good article. Couple def need to support each other.

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this artical ..its helps to understand how differently the mother and father can grieve ...The pain that goes with making such a difficult decsision i know all to well.Scars you will bear for life

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