Skip to comments.A grief conserved: Perinatal hospice offers alternative to trauma of aborting disabled child
Posted on 07/31/2009 8:32:29 AM PDT by rhema
"Something's wrong with this baby," my ultrasound technician told me. She had just scanned Mrs. Jones (a fictitious name) at 20 weeks and went on to describe her findings, findings that surely meant little chance of survival for that baby. As I later spoke with Mrs. Jones to relay the findings, she wept. I arranged an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist.
The next day I received an urgent call from my patient. Through more tears, she described her visit in which the MFM doctor confirmed the grim prognosis. The baby would die, probably within a week or two. The MFM insisted on scheduling her for an abortion in three days. "Do I have to have an abortion?" she asked. I promised to call the MFM and assured her she did not have to abort.
When I called the MFM specialist, she immediately rattled off the severe abnormalities found, the fetus' incompatibility with life, and the scheduling of an abortion. I interrupted: "If the baby is going to die anyway, why do you want to kill it before it dies a natural death?" There was silence on the other end. I went on to explain that the parents would not have to deal with the guilt of killing their child if it died naturally. There was a pause, then, "I hadn't thought of that," she said.
So much for nondirective counseling, as it is called. Sadly, I've had several similar experiences in my 27 years of practice.
My patient's baby did die in utero about two weeks later. She labored and delivered a stillborn baby with all the grief and pain associated with it. She was thankful, however, for the love and support of family and friends during the process and the knowledge that she had not contributed to her baby's death.
When a pregnant woman clearly understands the primary purpose of genetic testingabortion of a handicapped babya majority decline testing in my experience and almost all pro-life women decline testing. Nearly every problem now identified by prenatal diagnosis has no treatment. David Grimes, a well-known OB/GYN, professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and a strong abortion advocate, spoke truth in a rare moment of public clarity when he said prenatal diagnosis would disappear if abortion were not available.
But what happens when a routine 20-week ultrasound shows a baby with a profound abnormality, possibly an abnormality that will certainly result in the death of the baby prior to or shortly after birth? Or when a genetic test is done and shows similar results and the patient then decides against abortion? What then?
Enter perinatal hospice, the brain child of Byron Calhoun, a pro-life maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Perinatal hospice honors life. The woman carrying the disabled child receives extensive counseling and birth preparation involving the combined efforts of MFM specialists, OB/GYN doctors, neonatologists, anesthesia services, chaplains, pastors, social workers, labor and delivery nurses, and neonatal nurses. She carries the pregnancy to its natural conclusion. She and her husband are allowed to grieve and prepare for the short time God may grant them with their child while their baby lives inside or outside the womb. Such a process obviates the grief caused by elective abortion, killing the child before it could be born.
Doctors and nurses often withdraw from hopeless patients, and surely a baby with a lethal anomaly is a hopeless patient. Add to that, as my example above illustrates, the concept of natural death for babies with lethal anomalies perplexes those who advocate abortion and prenatal eugenics. For them, not terminating a hopeless pregnancy is stupid.
Perinatal hospice, on the other hand, allows natural grief and separation with the support of the medical community. Calhoun says parental responses have been overwhelmingly positive. "These parents are allowed the bittersweetness of their child's birth and too-soon departure. Grief lessens as time passes and the parents rest secure in the knowledge that they shared in their baby's life and treated the child with the same dignity as a terminally-ill adult."
Even those mystified by a patient choosing life have recognized the value of Calhoun's idea, as perinatal hospice programs now dot the nation. But this mystery is no mystery to us. As Job 1:21 states, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Matt Anderson is a practicing OB/GYN in Minnesota and blogs regularly at mdviews.wordpress.com.
So much for nondirective counseling, as it is called.
Non-directive? Not hardly.
The perinatal hospice is a wonderful idea. The author is right, in that the medical community doesn’t have any way to deal with ‘hopeless cases’, especially when dealing with unborn children.
And here we’ve been told that people with disabilities have been protected from discrimination in society.
There are charitable organizations that specifically target persons suspected of having birth defects with infanticide.
I'd heard so many good things about partial birth abortions.
Some hospitals even have a “comfort” room (tell me that's not caring and humane) where the parents can take the soon to die aborted FETUS and pose with it for pictures, have it baptized and spend some quality time with their FETUS while it's life slowly expires.
Who'd want to miss out on something like that?
(Sorry if I ruined anyone’s lunch. Mine gets ruined everytime I'm presented with the issue.)
How much you wanta bet Obamacare would outlaw such care, or make the patients pay for it themselves.
“the parents of the child would not have the guilt...”
My cousin had her baby after the doctor told her the child would not live long, there was just to much wrong. After the child was born, she lived about 2 hours. They got to hold her, and they had a small funeral for her at church. A small stone with the child’s name was put up. She told her other 2 children who came later about their sister. While this is sad, she has moved on. Her doctor offered her the option of abortion. I have often wondered, while her story is sad, how much worse would it have been if she had aborted the child - and spent the rest of her life wondering? I think she would always have had the questions, and I believe she would have guilt. At least now she knows they gave their child all they could - a chance at life.-—JM
If they believe that you are carrying a child who will have disabilities and who will require a lot of expensive care -- perhaps for decades -- then you can bet that abortion will be prescribed so as to avoid adding a "useless eater" to the population.
And yeah: I think it will be like China, where the abortion is NOT optional.
It’s not just aborting babies with defects — the medical community assumes that every woman experiencing a miscarriage or false pregnancy (empty sac or blighted ovum)immediately wants a D&C “just to get it over with.”
I was lucky to have a doctor who was on the same page when I went thru this. But when I let nature take its course, and had to go the emergency room because I was blacking out, every medical professional I encountered there assumed I was scheduled for, required or desired a D&C.
I would love to see hospices/birthing centers offer services to women who are going to miscarry an early pregnancy, because it can be quite an ordeal. I’m sure many women like me would prefer NOT to have their bodies defiled by an invasive procedure, but fear experiencing a miscarriage at home.
The medical community should give them another option.
Thanks so much for posting this.
We had friends who gave birth to a baby girl with some kind of syndrome. She lived seven days. On the day she died, our pastor asked us in church to leave and go up to the hospital for they were going to unhook her from life support. We got there in time to be with the parents while the baby was taken off life support and were taken into a darkened room with the family. We each held her, sang to her, praised the Lord for her, prayed for her. She died quietly without our even realizing it. It was an amazing experience and one that blessed her parents as well. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
After NOT having a D&C after a miscarriage — simply because I was too young & uninformed to know that I needed one — I got pelvic peritonitis, was hopita;ized in intensive care and almost died. THe D & C is not necessaily sn sortion — after a miscarriage or a spontaneous abortion, it remove small fragments of tissue that remain inside and can become infected.
Thanks also to WORLD magazine.
Years ago, we had gone to Orlando for a small vacation weekend with the our children.
Unknown to us, a dear family in our congregation had been rushed there due to complications of birth.
Not knowing they were there, I felt a strong urgency for the baby, and during the night had recurring dreams about it...
In the morning I found out they were in a hospital close by.
We went to the hospital.....the baby had been born live, but lived only a few short hours.
I was encouraged by the parents to see the child as they lovingly held her, comforted her and prayed over her during her last breaths.
She was a beautiful little girl....
Respect for life separates us from the profane direction of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc.
How can anyone....anyone....choose to abort a living, breathing baby...
The last I knew, “hospice” is another way of saying you’ll be kept comfortable, but not treated. Perhaps kind, compassionate people will not treat you. I know there are many times when treatment is futile, but we must guard against “hospice” being another euphemism for letting an unwanted baby die, while we do artificial things to make ourselves feel better.
My grandson was born last year with a birth defect that led all his nurses to tell us it was a pity the defect couldn’t have been discovered earlier so something “could have been done.” If he had been born prematurely, or aborted late, would they have urged us to put him in hospice? We think he’s perfect, but he will have more costly health care than the average person. Is there a connection?
Thanks for posting.
My daughter was pestered constantly during her last pregnancy to have ‘testing’ for her unborn child. BTW We called the little person “Dot” at the time, as that is how the baby appeared in the sonograms.
Anyway, she went full term and now has a great little boy.
She told me about being pestered about the testing, and then said “Dad, I could never have an abortion, no matter what”. She knew she would the full support of her family, no matter what...
Unbelievable. Baptising an aborted baby as it is dying? Astonishing blasphemy and evil.
A beautiful, beautiful story. Thank you for posting it.
Our granddaughter was born 8 weeks premature...and weighed 2lb 2oz...
...We are very thankful for her.
What a beautiful woman and heart-warming testimony! God bless you two and your marriage from the bottom of my heart!
And doesn’t it also give one pause when these nurses are supposed to be in the life-saving profession?
What an absolutely beautiful lady. You can see the goodness radiate from her face. That’s God.
You’re welcome. It’s something I’ll never forget.
My niece’s child was diagnosed with severe abnormalities and she was pushed to abort and 81/2 months! She didn’t, he was born, lived a few days and died a natural death. It was sad but not as sad as murder.
We had no doubt they meant abortion, based on their eye rolling and knowing glances.
Our grandson was born with a spinal defect. Did I tell you he’s perfect in our eyes? He’ll need a little help walking. Big deal.
Thank you all for your kind comments.
There is a hard core group of folks out there that have a lot invested in teaching people that there shouldn’t be any guilt involved in abortion, ie, killing a baby.
But everyone knows it is the latter, and that guilt WILL be there, and that it will have consequences.
Yes, that is a possibility — that is why I had an ultrasound afterward, and they determined that all had been passed.
What I was trying to stress is that it is not *always* necessary — that nature *can* take its course.
I was taken aback by how callously all the medical workers talked about a D&C, as if it were not a big deal. They never acknowledged that the procedure in and of itself can — just like an abortion — cause irreparable harm.
I understand there are cases like yours, and I’m glad you’re ok. Women do need to be more informed about what is actually happening to their bodies — most importantly, within the sanctity of their wombs.
From the way the story reads, it sounds like the ‘Hospice’ is for the parents of the unborn child; more of a support group. They’ve been told the situation is hopeless for the baby, and they could probably us some support in their decision to go ahead and carry the baby to term.
Oh, I have no problem with having the aborted baby baptized. Why deny the Sacrament to the baby because of the sin of the parents? THEY are the ones who will have to ask for forgiveness of God for the sin of killing their baby.
BS. There are no *cures* for the conditions that may be diagnosed by prenatal genetic and non-genetic testing, but there are some treatments and advance preparations that can help lessen the severity of the effects of the disorder, and more are on the way. Some of the treatments already available are life-saving.
Example: A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 7, 1991 indicates that babies with spina bifida may be much less likely to be paralyzed if delivered by C-section. 16% of the babies in the study who were delivered vaginally or by C-section after labor had begun had no paralysis. But 45% of the babies delivered early by C-section had no or minimal paralysis. This may translate into whether or not children walk. http://www.faqs.org/faqs/misc-kids/pregnancy/screening/overview/
Here's link to a whole bunch of examples of in utero surgical treatments for non-genetic disorders: http://www.drplace.com/Fetal_medicine_treating_the_unborn_patient.16.21646.htm
Genetic metabolic disorders are increasingly being successfully treated in utero, by administering drugs to the mother and/or putting the mother on a special diet. Among the disorders already being treated are:
Phenylketonuria - putting the mother on a phenylalanine-restricted and tyrosine-supplemented diet reduces mental retardation and physical defects in the baby.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia - giving the mother dexamethasone helps to normalize the development of the fetal adrenal glands, and can prevent or minimize abnormal masculinization of female genitalia (in other words, prevent an XX baby girl from being born with a penis, scrotum, and no vagina).
Animal studies of prenatal treatment for Down Syndrome to prevent or minimize mental retardation are at an advanced stage, and showing great success, so this is probably going to be available fairly soon for women carrying fetuses with Down Syndrome.
That is interesting I didn’t even think one could do that. I lost a baby at 3 months and when it was discovered (via ultrasound) that the baby had died I was really not given any choice. I was under the impression from the way it was handled, that it would not be wise to do nothing. I am glad for one thing though which is I do have an ultrasound image from when the baby was still alive that I can cherish. But honestly I do not know that I could have gone through with a stillbirth and seen the baby. I was already heartbroken and I think it would have been too painful (physically and emotionally).
I think this is a wonderful caring solution. Bittersweet indeed but the right thing to do for all involved I think.
I have no problem providing compassionate services to help parents cope with the natural impending death of their newborn, particularly as an alternative to abortion.
Due to recent experiences, I see a very slippery slope to facilitating the death of a baby born with defects, who might well live with appropriate medical care.
There’s a similar slippery slope to facilitating the death of an older person when their situation is deemed “hopeless” by medical personnel. You can’t believe how sweet and compassionate the doctors and nurses were to my father as they tried to persuade him (in vain) to take the Schiavo option.
Hi nit! I haven’t read this thread so shouldn’t comment much as I don’t know what’s been said.
My daughter is a nurse for Hospice and it is considered ‘end of life’ care. They usually only help when a person is expected to live 6 weeks or less.
That person also has to sign a paper saying that NO lifesaving medical devices can be used to prolong life.
I would pray that any and all medical help would be provided to a baby if there was the slightest chance of saving its life!!
I take your point. Couldn’t get past the shamelessness of the parents in that story — a photo machine in the death room... uuuuuuggggghhhhh.
What I thought was extremely interesting was the sign that said Remains of BABY!
I think the point of this was that these were babies who were clearly not going to live much past the first few hours after birth. The author couldn’t see the point of trying to force those people into murdering their children, in the mistaken attempt to not have their pain drawn out, when what they truly needed was just some moral support to be able to have the chance to love that baby, no matter how long it had to live, or even if it were to be stillborn. At least that baby would have felt love up until the minute of his or her death.
I have a friend that had took a lot of medicine and had surgery not knowing that she was pregnant. She was advised to abort her baby. She was about 6 months along at this time. She refused to kill her baby and now she has a perfect little girl with no birth defects at all.
God bless the little ones, their parents, and anyone else involved. It’s good the parents have an alternative to late-term abortion. I hope they find comfort, and I hope the babies got medical care and nutrition.
I read two interesting stories recently.
One was the experience of a woman whose child had died fairly late in the pregnancy. She was advised that she could wait several days until it was expelled naturally, or she could go through an abortion-like procedure. She made an appointment with the now departed but not missed Tiller. She wanted to see the baby, but Tiller told her it would be dismembered during the process, and would not be viewable. Although she’d thought at the time that having the dead child removed in a process almost identical to abortion was her best option, she regretted it later. Had she waited until the natural expulsion of the dead infant, she would have been able to hold it...
The other thing I read recently was about a study done of women who miscarry but do not expel the dead babies right away. Typically, they are advised to have the remains removed surgically. In the study, half the women were given a choice—whether to wait longer, or to have the remains removed. The other half were given the standard treatment, which was to have the remains removed without being given a real choice. In some cases where the women had elected to wait, the remains were not expelled after a week, and were removed surgically anyway; they were counted along with the women who had elected to wait until nature took its course. Psychological evaluations were made at two different time points afterwards. What the researchers found was that the women who had elected to wait for the dead children to be expelled naturally were psychologically better off than the women who had been advised to undergo a D&C to remove the remains. They suffered less grief. They were more adjusted to the fact that they had lost a child. They were less depressed. (The graphs also showed that the women who had elected to have the remains removed surgically also suffered more, but the differences were not statistically significant.)
From that point on I was told to lie flat on my back in bed until my child was born. My body wanted to abort that child but I did all I could to save it. I had to hire a woman to take care of me as I never moved from that bed.
At 7 months I went into labor and my son was born at only 2 and one half pounds. This was long ago now and there were no ultra sounds. He was baptized and kept in an ‘incubator’ as they called them then. I was never even allowed to go in and hold or touch him. That's how it was then!
The doctor said that the placenta had torn away from the uterine wall and that cause the bleeding. The baby was not getting all the nurishment he needed to grow.
After 4 months flat on my back, I was hardly able to stand and walk at first. It took me some time to become strong again. He was in the hospital for two months. Amazingly, he did well and when he was 4lbs I was allowed to bring him home. He was tiny but beautiful.
When he was 4 months old I found him dead in his crib one morning. Crib death, now called SIDS. The autopsy showed he was perfectly normal with no defects. I had worried about that.
I still cry when I recall all of this. I hope that even one single liberal woman who supports abortion reads this and has a glimmer of what some of us will go through to save our babies.
I even had some tell me, ‘that baby is not meant to be, get up and lose it, you'll have another’! My son is an angel in God's Heaven. What happened was God's will.
I pinged all on this thread. No need at all to reply, I just thought that different stories bring different meanings to the value of a life. Thanks if you just read mine.
Thank you for telling that story. God bless you.
I know you still think of him. God bless you both. You will see him again.
Thank you Albion!