Home > Archives > Family First >
Unexpected Outcomes
Photo: Dreamstime
We all long for a healthy baby. Most pregnancies proceed without many complications. Even when complications do occur, Western medical science provides women with treatment for nearly every complication related to pregnancy. The sad truth is that with all the medical interventions possible, parents can still experience miscarriages, stillbirths, neonatal deaths, or have babies born with life-long challenges.

During pregnancy, the unknowns about a baby encourages parents to hope and dream about what their baby will be like. Often parents develop an idea or mental picture of the perfect child-to-be. This can include the sex of the child, talents, or other characteristics important to the parents. Sadly, at the birth of their child, parents may be faced with a reality that the hoped-for child and the real child are not the same child.

When parents lose a newborn child to death, or when they have a baby born with birth defects, parents experience a cycle of grief and loss. It isn't so much about the severity of the condition as it is about the mourning the loss of the healthy child they imagined they'd deliver. Unconsciously, the parents' minds recognize the death of the dream of the hoped-for child and this moves the parents into a cycle of grief.

Shock and Panic
—The first stage is one of disbelief and disorientation. Often parents respond in the same manner that they always react in panic—withdrawal, eating, hysteria, talking, etc.

—After the shock, the parents begin to search for the hoped-for child. This may be done through denial, searching for a diagnosis, or placing blame.

Experience of Nothingness
—This is often a time of strong emotions as parents realize the child can't be “fixed,” and the parents must face the reality of the child's disability. At this time parents ask why this happened to him or her. Anger, guilt, depression, and rage are some of the emotions felt at this stage.

—During this stage, parents take the intense emotions and begin to resolve them in positive ways. He or she integrates the hoped-for child with the real child—seeing the child's assets along with the disability. Values, goals, and family life are restructured to include the child. Now the child is loved for who he or she is.

—The parents reach a relatively stable state of equilibrium at this stage. He or she has found internal and external coping mechanisms to help deal with each new hurdle or obstacle. The parents realize that true resolution can't occur as long as the child is alive. The grieving cycle can and does start all over again when they are reminded that their child is disabled or malformed.

Unexpected outcomes are just that—something we don't anticipate. If you are an expectant parent, consider making a “What if?” list. Anticipating the joys and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes pregnancy and childbirth experience doesn't yield our desired outcomes is an essential and necessary step in becoming a parent.

Respond to this article

By Susan E. Murray. Reprinted with permission from the Lake Union Herald, October 2007. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

SiteMap. Powered by SimpleUpdates.com © 2002-2016. User Login / Customize.