expecting
 
Pregnancy Loss and the Need to Comfort

The demise of pregnancy or a child is accompanied with the demise of spirit. Emotions are in turmoil. Sadness is in command. As an obstetrician who cares for the unborn child, a pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth or newborn death is the hollow in what is otherwise the grandeur of a wonderful profession.

When a woman is pregnant, her prospects for a healthy pregnancy and newborn are excellent. Although the incidence of pregnancy loss is greatest in the first trimester of the pregnancy, once viability is established, the promise the family will deliver a healthy child is well over 90%. However, the demise of an unborn baby or newly born infant renders statistics meaningless. The mother’s fear of loss is pervasive throughout pregnancy, even if it is unmentioned, for the failure of a pregnancy or the inability to bear a healthy child ignites primal emotions of failure, jealousy, remorse and guilt. The care giver shares in these emotions, for there is often a kindred bonding which develops between the “attendant” of the pregnant patient which strengthens during a time of loss.

Care givers must not alienate themselves from their patients at this critical time. These are times of yearning and painful emotions. We must support our patients at their darkest hours and offer not only sympathy and comfort, but hope. Care givers in the medical profession, family and friends all must comfort patients and their families through these difficult times. We may comfort them by the gesture of a hand on a shoulder, a simple, “I’m sorry,” a letter of condolence, memorial contribution; a phone call, attendance at a memorial service or, just letting them know we are there for them.

I have called upon all of these methods to help my patients through their losses. On occasion, I have been compelled to write down my thoughts, my feelings, and my pathos in the form of a poem. I have written poems for myself, sent them to my patients, and read their verses at children’s memorial services. Poetry has been my catharsis during these very difficult times. The process is spontaneous and not discriminatory. Like the origins of most poetry, their ideas grow from within. The occasion of my poetry is of loss and hope.

Martyr for Desire
For all children, lost
You are my quiet darling.
Your eyes, like morning burn
The minutes of futility
To contrite hours, turn
Eastward where begins the dance
Of ocean tides, and slumbers still
The famine of our grief, to hide
So deep within my wounded will
A promise, poisoned from the start
So brief without reply or song
Did graze your spirit in my field.
”Return to me” I cry, I long.
As chaos prods my anguish, yet
Neglecting fortunes in my soul,
Tinted hues of destiny
Are tender thoughts which sorrow stole
From me when first I heard your voice;
Each murmur on your breath that sang
Like harps converging as a choir,
And chimes afar, with passion, rang.
You are my quiet darling
Within a cold and flameless fire,
And I, a prism in the shadows;
A silent martyr for desire.

1999-2000 Michael R. Berman, M.D. Martyr for Desire was written as a tribute and memorial to all parents who have lost children, before birth, at birth and afterwards.

Michael R. Berman, MD, is a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine; founder and president of The Hygeia Foundation for Perinatal Loss and Bereavement, Inc. (www.hygeia.org) whose mission is to bring internet-based perinatal health information to medically and economically under-served communities; and author of Parenthood Lost, Healing the Pain after Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death expected to be released in 2000.

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