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PAILS of Hope

Member Question ~ What do you say/do when people want to ignore my fears during a subsequent pregnancy or in parenting my subsequent baby?
From Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D.:

Some of your friends and relatives may think that if they can convince you that your anxieties are unfounded, then you'll be reassured that you have nothing to fear. They may ignore or belittle your worries. They may try to get you to "be rational." They may try to convince you that you are completely off base or that there is something wrong with your feelings.

Unfortunately, these efforts will do little to calm or reassure you. The best support is when people acknowledge your fears, sympathize with your worries and maybe then offer their own intuition that things will turn out fine--WITHOUT trying to convince you to embrace this optimism.

When people ignore or dismiss your fears, remind yourself that not everyone will share your perspective or feel as vulnerable as you--and that's okay. If you rely on them for support, you can let them know what you need--perhaps what will help you most is if they can acknowledge your fears or just listen to you vent. If you want empathy, talk to those who share your sense of vulnerability, usually other bereaved parents or perceptive and sympathetic friends. Support groups or correspondence networks can be wonderful sources of support to you during this anxious time.

Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D. is a developmental psychologist who specializes in perinatal and neonatal crisis, medical ethics, parental bereavement and adjustment, parent education and child development. Dr. Davis is the author of four books for bereaved parents, Empty Cradle, Broken Heart (Fulcrum, 1991; 1996), Loving and Letting Go (Centering, 1993), Fly Away Home (Centering, 2000) and Stillbirth, Yet Still Born (PILC, 2000). With Mara Tesler Stein, Psy.D., she is the coauthor of The Emotional Journey of Parenting Your Premature Baby: A Book of Hope and Healing (NICU Ink, 2002).


From Leigh Irwin:

In general, I am often called a pessimist, although I do see my glass as half full. When I found myself pregnant again after my infertility and loss, I felt I was doomed. There was true terror in me when I was bleeding and on bedrest, but for some reason, there were certain friends and family who just blew off my concerns, legitimate as they were.

If anyone has anything to say regarding your fears, I found that the best way to handle it was to be bold and tell them that you are entitled to some concern considering your history.

When it comes to parenting, I believe that those of us who have suffered infertility and/or loss truly look at things a little differently. We might even be called overprotective, but that IS our job, to protect these precious little miracles that have finally joined our family. Try though, to remember that unwanted advice is given to ALL new mothers. When people start to question or ignore your fears, you can let these people say their piece and hopefully move on to another subject, or you could tell them that you are confident in your parenting abilities, thank you very much, and change the subject. This is your job, you are the parent, and although these may be people you trust very highly for their advice, it is your decision that counts in the end.

Leigh experienced infertility and a miscarriage before giving birth to three healthy children.


From Kathy Lazar:

People who have not had an experience such as you can't understand the fear that you have for the safe delivery and care of your baby. Try to ignore their unthinking comments and rely instead on the support of those who do understand what you've been through. You might also remind them gently that given what's happened in your past with loss and/or infertility, you are very sensitive to what could happen. There is a tendency for many to believe that once a person becomes pregnant after loss or infertility that everything that happened before is erased. Reminding others that this isn't the case may make them understand your fears better.

Lastly, remind yourself that before your loss, you might not have understood what someone else was going through and might not have understood another person's fears in the same situation.

Kathy Lazar gave birth to healthy twin sons. Her second pregnancy was with twin girls who were stillborn at 40 weeks from unknown causes. She delivered a healthy subsequent (and singleton) son.


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From Heather Williams:

This seems to be one for the "product of our experiences" file. Our fears are our own; our own TO own, so to speak. I can't expect others to have the same level of fear or anxiety that my experiences have brought to me. Just as I don't have the same fear for breast cancer as a woman who has seen a mother, sister or friend experience it, a woman who has not had a pregnancy loss or difficulty will not have the same feelings as I do.

What is most important to me is that people RESPECT my fears even if they only do this by their silence. For them to minimize or ridicule my fears is most painful to me, and I simply choose to avoid those people, even if they are within my family. In some situations, I have snapped back a "try a mile in my moccasins" response, but I don't know that this has ever made me feel better or even gotten the response that I wanted.

At one time in my life, I did not fear pregnancy loss let alone losses. Yet now, after them, many times I feel my experiences inspire fear in others who have had loss, for I represent what they fear most--repeated losses and the complete loss of normalcy in a pregnancy experience. I've accepted that some people in my life (friends, family members, co-workers) simply cannot communicate with me about this because of their feelings or fears, not because they don't respect my experiences. I've learned to leave it at that. I've found that surrounding myself with information and people that acknowledge my fears has saved me from frustrating a lot of energy away.

Heather Williams lost two babies to incompetent cervix and prematurity and experienced two early miscarriages. She has subsequently given birth to three healthy children via abdominal cerclage.

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