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Perinatal Hospice: a better response for all concerned to a tragic diagnosis

by | Mar 7, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

newbornhand34As I have written before, my extended family has faced just about every difficult situation you could imagine yet to the best of my knowledge has always rejected the “option” of abortion.

I mention that only because when I write about “Abortion wasn’t part of my birth plan” that I believe I can understand, at least to an extent, how Lizzie Garrett Mettler felt when she and her husband learned that there much, much anticipated baby would likely die immediately after birth.

Ms. Mettler’s “First Person” essay in Vogue is extremely powerful. I would like to make two observations.

First, we have written many times about perinatal hospice. One of the most recent was about a bill that was passed in Oklahoma that addresses those rare but tragic circumstance when a pregnant woman is told that her unborn child has a fetal anomaly incompatible with life.

The mother (and father) facing these difficult circumstances will now receive information about public and private agencies and services available to her which offer perinatal hospice and palliative care if, instead of abortion, she decides to carry her baby to term. This information is at least a partial counter to the all-too-often advice from the physician who encourages the couple to consider abortion as the “humane” response to such a diagnosis.

[Even the Associated Press wrote about the new law in respectful terms. “Perinatal hospice services provide support from the time of diagnosis through the infant’s birth and death,” the AP explained, “Those services can include obstetricians, neonatologists, psychiatrists or other mental health professionals as well as clergy, social workers and specialty nurses.”]

There are many lessons to be learned, chief, perhaps, the importance of allowing parents the opportunity to spend time with their children and how having this chance contributes so much to the healing process. We are reposting a story from last month that made that and many other important points.

Second, Mettler offers deep insight into the aftermath of her abortion before making an unfortunate turn:

The next day, I looked at my still-swollen belly in the mirror and wondered when it would all be over. My hormones started to crash right as the reality sunk in. Glass of wine? Sushi? Another cup of coffee? These kinds of questions made me weep. In a Spin class, the tears mingled with sweat; in the shower, they washed into the drain; at dinner, they dropped into my drink. …

The grief period was longer and darker than I expected, but there were moments of light when women shared their stories with me. I had more comrades in pregnancy loss than I ever would have imagined. I joined a support group for women who terminated wanted pregnancies, and my cadre grew even bigger. The more I talked, the more I healed. And that’s when I began to notice something: None of us ever spoke the word abortion.

The rest of her First Person essay is devoted to two objectives. To making the case that women need “to share their personal stories, [about their abortion] in an effort to remove any shame associated with the word.” And to making clear that any reason for an abortion is a good reason.

[L]aws that restrict abortions pertain to all abortions, the ones that some people deem as moral, as well as the ones some people would condemn. (It goes without saying, I hope, that I support a woman’s right to choose in all possible scenarios.)

My heart goes out to Ms. Mettler and her husband.

Categories: Hospice