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Prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities : managing catastrophic psychic pain in a subsequent pregnancy

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Prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities : managing catastrophic psychic pain in a subsequent pregnancy
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Rillstone, Pamela B
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vii, 166 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.

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Grounded theory method ( jstor )
Health care industry ( jstor )
Infants ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Nurses ( jstor )
Parents ( jstor )
Physicians ( jstor )
Pregnancy ( jstor )
Ultrasonography ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Abnormalities -- psychology ( mesh )
Department of Nursing thesis, Ph.D ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- College of Nursing -- UF ( lcsh )
Embryonic and Fetal Development ( mesh )
Maternal-Fetal Relations -- psychology ( mesh )
Pregnant Women -- psychology ( mesh )
City of Jacksonville ( local )
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theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1999.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 157-165).
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Also available online.
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Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Pamela B. Rillstone.

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PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS OF FETAL ABNORMALITIES:
MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN IN A SUBSEQUENT PREGNANCY
















By

PAMELA B. RILLSTONE.
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF TILE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1999





























Copyright 1999 by

Pamela B. Rillstone













ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to acknowledge many individuals for their continuous support and encouragement during the course of this research. I especially want to thank my husband, Jere, and my children-Chris, Amy, and Ryan-for their loving support and for the many sacrifices they made. I also want to thank my mother, Dolores Merrick, my in-laws, Alice and the late Herbert Rillstone, who never failed to encourage me when they could, and my aunt and uncle, Bobbie Jean and Richard Winkler, for their continued faith and assistance. Many other family members and friends, too numerous to mention by name, provided an unending source of encouragement and prayer, especially Jacki Davis, Suzy Ludwig, and Kathy and Ed Leonard.

I began a process when I entered the doctoral program that culminates in this

dissertation that would not have been possible without the assistance of the members of my supervisory committee-Drs. Felix Berardo, Karolyn Godbey, Sally Hutchinson, James Wagner, and Marie Visscher. I particularly thank Dr. Hutchinson for her neverending guidance, encouragement, and strict adherence to scholarly standards.

Last, but by no means least, I would like to thank each of the parent participants who were so graciously willing to share their most intimate stories making this study possible, and the professionals who were willing to share their time and experiences.









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TABLE OF CONTENTS

pAge

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .............................................................. iii

A B ST R A C T .............................................................................. vii

CHAPTERS

1 INTRODUCTION .............................................................. I

Purpose of Study ................................................................ 4
Theoretical Framework for Grounded Theory Research ................... 4
Significance for Nursing ........................................................ 9

2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE .................................................. 10

Prenatal Testing .................................................................. 10
Influences in Pregnancy Termination for Fetal Abnormalities ............ 12
Attitudes Towards Termination for Fetal Abnormalities ................... 15
D isclosure Issues ................................................................. 16
Termination as the Right Decision ............................................. 17
C hoice .............................................................................. 18
Effects of Prenatal Diagnosis and Subsequent Choice
on Children and Families ............................................... 19
Psychological Sequelae of the Choice ......................................... 21
Follow -up ......................................................................... 26
Subsequent Pregnancies ......................................................... 29
Sum m ary ........................................................................... 33

3 M ETH O D ......................................................................... 34

Research Approach ............................................................... 34
Sample Selection ......................................................... 35
Sample Demographics .................................................. 37
Data Collection ........................................................... 43
D ata A nalysis ............................................................ 43
Maintaining Rigor ................................................................ 47
Ethical Issues ..................................................................... 50




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4 CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN:
THE BASIC SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM...... 53

Introduction .................................................................... 53
The D iagnosis .................................................................. 54
Diagnostic Consequences .................................................... 57
Unexpected Pain ...................................................... 57
Intense Pain ........................................................... 59
Never-Ending Pain .................................................... 62
Painful Decisions .............................................................. 64
To Terminate or Not to Terminate ................................. 64
Timing of the Decision .............................................. 66
Decision Rationales .................................................. 67
Decision on Type of Termination .................................. 70
Decision Reflections ................................................. 76
Consequences of Catastrophic Psychic Pain ............................... 77
Loss of Innocence ..................................................... 77
D evastation ............................................................ 79
Changes in Spousal Relationships ................................. 80
Fear of H ope .......................................................... 82
Isolation ................................................................ 83
Stigm a .................................................................. 84
Sum m ary ........................................................................ 89

5 MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCI-HC PAIN ...................... 91

Emotional Armor and Going Forward ....................................... 92
Desire for Future Pregnancy ......................................... 93
Playing the Odds ...................................................... 96
A Different Child ...................................................... 98
Limiting Disclosure ............................................................ 99
Secrets .................................................................. 99
Disclosing the Subsequent Pregnancy .............................. 103
What Pregnancy is This? ............................................. 106
Suspending Emotions .......................................................... 108
Gathering Information ................................................ 112
Accelerating the Diagnosis ........................................... 115
Waiting Hurdles ........................................................ 118
Changing Expectations ................................................ 123
Increased Attachment to Health Care Professionals and Others ......... 125
Increased Attachment to the "Wise .. ................................ 125
Increased Attachment to the "Own7 ................................ 130
Social Structural Issues ........................................................ 133
Sum m ary ........................................................................ 138





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6 SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS ............................. 139

Summary ........................................................................ 139
Recommendations for Future Research .................................... 14")
Recommendations for Practice .............................................. 143

APPENDICES

A INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................................. 146

B INFORMED CONSENT ..................................................... 149

C DEMOGRAPHIC FORM .................................................... 152

D PHYSICIAN LETTER ........................................................ 153

E PARTICIPANT LETTER .................................................... 154

F IRB APPROVAL .............................................................. 155

G IRB ADDENDUM APPROVAL ............................................ 156

REFERENCES ........................................................................... 157

BIOGRAPI-11CAL SKETCH .......................................................... 166

























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Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS OF FETAL ABNORMALITIES: MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN IN A SUBSEQUENT PREGNANCY By

Pamela B. Rillstone

August 1999

Chairman: Sally A. Hutchinson
Major Department: Nursing

Rapidly developing technological advances in the reproductive arena lead to prenatal diagnoses of fetal abnormalities forcing parents to make life and death decisions for their unborn children. The purpose of this study was to discover: a) the basic social psychological problem experienced by parents faced with a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and b) the basic social psychological processes these parents used to address this problem. Symbolic interactionism provided the theoretical framework while grounded theory was the method used for this qualitative study. Two professionals and 22 parents were interviewed during a subsequent pregnancy. Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic social psychological problem identified. This pervasive pain began with the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality in the previous pregnancy. The pain was unexpected, intense, and never-ending. Catastrophic psychic pain resulted from the overwhelming loss these parents endured.


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The pain had consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence, feelings of devastation and isolation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hope, and stigma. With time, parents began to move forward; they thought about a subsequent pregnancy and became pregnant. In order to move forward, parents had to manage their catastrophic psychic pain. Four major sub-processes describe how parents managed their pain; they developed emotional armor, limited disclosure, suspended emotions, and increased attachment to health care professionals and others on the Internet and in support groups who shared similar experiences. Social structural issues involving the health care delivery system affected parents' pain management. Health care professionals need to examine how they support and care for these parents to avoid causing further pain. These agonized, vulnerable, and underserved parents need compassion and understanding. With the knowledge gained through this research, professionals can better understand and guide these parents through their painful subsequent pregnancy.






















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CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Advances in reproductive technology may be occurring at a much more rapid pace than many parents in our society are prepared for psychologically. Prenatal testing for some inherited diseases or birth defects became available in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This testing was made possible by the development of laboratory methods that enable cells to grow from amniotic fluid. Further advances in obstetrical procedures including chorionic villus sampling done in the first trimester of pregnancy, amniocentesis done in the second trimester, fetal blood sampling, ultrasound, major strides in DNA analysis and disease gene identification, and inutero therapy or surgery have not only expanded reproductive choices, but also created often difficult challenges for women, couples and their families (Roberts, 1997). The prenatal discovery of birth defects and inherited diseases influences the way women and parents make decisions about childbearing (Blumberg, Golbus & Hanson, 1975). In fact, Blumberg et al. suggested that families may pay a psychiatric price for this newly available information. As technologies continue to advance, the risk of psychological trauma to these families, including a concern about their future pregnancies, presents a significant clinical problem.

S andelowski (19 8 8) suggested that a case of conflicting paradigms exists between nursing and reproductive technology. She cautioned that reproductive technology is not only changing the experience of maternity, but also the




I





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longstanding bond between pregnant women and nurses. The nurse's role as "empathic toucher" (Sandelowski, p. 43), the laying on of hands to comfort and treat, is being minimized by this technology. The nurse is becoming more like the physician, touching the patient primarily to obtain information (Sandelowski). In the past, parents were unaware of fetal complications until the birth of their baby or some time during the first year of life (Matthews, 1990). With the advent of diagnostic testing during pregnancy and the legalization of abortion, parents are now faced with making life and death decisions for their unborn child.

The subject of prenatal testing and the subsequent influences on childbearing has been explored and studied since the early 1 970s in literature in nursing, social work, psychology, medicine, and genetics (Alberman, Kani & Stanwell-Smith, 1984; Becker, Glinski & Laxova, 1984; Black & Furlong, 1984a, 1984b; Humfeld, Wiadimiroff & Passchier, 1994; Mueller, 1990). Many of these studies are limited in scope and sample size. It was difficult to compare and contrast these studies because they focussed on different research problems and frequently lack common measures. Volumes of studies concerning termination of pregnancies for psychosocial reasons (reasons other than fetal abnormalities) exist, but the literature review for this study focussed on choices concerning "selective terminations" and their subsequent sequelae. "Selective terminations" were usually much desired pregnancies that were terminated for prenatally diagnosed fetal anomalies. The impact on these families began with the diagnosis of the fetal abnormality and continued on long after a decision was made to terminate or not to terminate the pregnancy.








Many researchers described what families experienced following a positive

diagnosis of fetal abnormalities and subsequently having to decide whether or not to terminate their pregnancy. These descriptors included such wording as "emotional upheaval" (Adler & Kushnick, 1982, p. 94), "the worst decision of my lifetime" (Van Putte, 1988, p. 17), "emotionally devastating" (Green, 1992, p. 57), "physically and emotionally painful" (Mueller, 1990, p. 286) "isolating" (Suslak, Scherer & Rodriguez, 1995, p. 169), "complex and emotionally challenging" (Bryar, 1997, p. 560), and "far more painful or traumatic than anticipated" (Kenyon, Hackett & Campbell, 19 8 8, p. 9 8). White-Varn Mourik, Connor and Ferguson-Smith (1992), while looking at psychosocial sequelae of second-trimester terminations of pregnancy for fetal abnormalities concluded that "it remains an emotionally traumatic major life event for both the father and the mother" (p. 202). Blumberg et al. (1975) commented that "even when selective abortion is accepted as the only alternative, and preferable to the birth of a defective child, the responsibility of making the decision to abort may prove to be an uncomfortable burden for the parents" (p. 805). Uncomfortable burden seems to be an understatement of what parents actually experience during and following this profound life event. What is the effect of this technology and the decisions parents are asked to make on their future childbearing? Does this prenatal information and decisions parents make impact how they manage subsequent pregnancies? Is this experience the same for both the man and the woman? The current literature on prenatal testing and pregnancy outcome does not adequately answer these questions. Parental concerns





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during a pregnancy subsequent to having to choose to terminate or not to terminate a previous pregnancy following detection of a fetal abnormality remain unstudied.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this grounded theory study was to answer the following questions: (a) What is the basic social psychological problem faced by parents during a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality? (b) What is the basic social process used by these parents to address this basic social problem? (c) What are the phases and their properties, the strategies and consequences of this basic social psychological process'? and (d) What are the social structural processes that impact these parents?

Theoretical Framework for Grounded Theory Research

This study aimed to develop a substantive grounded theory about parents

experiencing a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. Research methods were linked to certain perspectives on a philosophy of science (Hutchinson, 1993). The social psychological theory of symbolic interactionismwhich grew out of the Chicago school of sociology provided this philosophical foundation for grounded theory (Hutchinson; Robrecht, 1995; Schwandt, 1994). The theory of symbolic interactionism, described by George Herbert Mead (1964) and Herbert Blumer (19 69), searches to portray and understand the process of meaning making (Schwandt) and "posits that humans act and interact on the basis of symbols which have meaning and value for the actors" (Stem, Allen & Moxley,





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1982, p. 203). Symbolic interactionismn can be thought of as a lens for understanding human behavior (Becker, 1993).

Symbolic interactionism, according to Blumer (1969), is based on three basic premises. The first of these is that human beings act toward things based on the meanings that the things have for them (p. 2). Things include anything that the person may note in his or her world such as physical objects, other human beings, institutions, guiding ideals, activities of others and any situation persons encounter in their daily lives. Blumer believed that contemporary social and psychological science took meaning for granted and pushed it aside as unimportant or regarded it as a neutral link between various factors responsible for individual behavior. In this type of explanation, the meanings of things for the persons who are acting are either swallowed up or bypassed in the factors used to account for their behavior. Symbolic interactionism posits that the meaning things have for individuals is central in its own right (Blumer). "To ignore the meaning of the things toward which people act is seen as falsifying the behavior under study" (Blumer, p. 3).

The second premise is that the meaning of such things arises out of, or is derived from, the social interaction that one has with fellow human beings. This premise refers to the source of meaning. Traditional ways in which meaning has been accounted for view meaning as being intrinsic to the thing that has it, or as arising out of psychological elements in the person. In symbolic interactionism, meaning is seen as arising in the process of interaction between human beings, Thus, meaning is seen by social interactionists as a social product, as a creation that





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is formed in and through the defining activities of persons as they interact (Blumer, 1969).

The final premise is "that these meanings are handled in, and modified

through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he encounters" (Blumer, 1969, p. 2). The use of meanings by a human being in his action involves "a process of interpretation.... Interpretation should not be regarded as a mere automatic application of established meanings but as a formative process in which meanings are used and revised as instruments for the guidance and formation of action" (Blumer, p. 5). Blumer suggested meanings play a role in action through a process of self-interaction. Stern et al. (1982) believed that everyone's lifetime study is learning the meaning and value of these interactional symbols. It is through the meaning and value that these interactional symbols have for the individual that he/she tries to interpret their world and the actors who interact with them (Stem et al.).

The symbolic interactionist theory is organized around three central concepts including the self, the world and social action (Bowers, 1989). According to this theory, the human being having a self simply means that the person is an object to himself, perceiving himself, having conceptions of, communicating with, and acting towards himself The self is not static but continually evolving. The process of selfinteraction puts the person over against his world instead of merely in it (Blumer, 1969). It "requires him to meet and handle his world through a defining process instead of merely responding to it, and forces him to construct his action instead of merely releasing it" (Blumer, p. 64).








The world is the second concept that is formational to symbolic

interactionism theory. Persons live in an environment or world of objects, and their activities are formed around these objects (Blumer, 1969). Objects, for the symbolic interactionist, are everything that can be designated to the self or reflected on by the self. Professionalism and anxiety are no less objects than hats and chairs. No inherent meaning is given to an object. Objects are defined by the meaning they have for individuals and how individuals act toward them. The meaning of an object may vary from one individual to another, from one social context to another and over time. However, objects are not static things and evolve over time just as the self does (Bowers, 1989). Bowers believed that "our ability to interact effectively depends on our ability to understand the objects being designated as the designator understands them"' (p. 41).

Symbols, including both nonverbal and verbal gestures, also designate

objects in our social world. Individuals interact in a meaningful or predictable way by designating symbols that are shared by those around them. As individuals receive these symbols from others, they adjust their own actions accordingly. Therefore, individual action, or social action, the third foundational concept in symbolic interactionism, is always contextual (Bowers, 1989; Blumer, 1969). For the symbolic interactionist, social action consists of the person and collective activities of people engaging in social interaction. These activities make up the ongoing social life of a human group, whether the group is a family or a nation. Social action takes place within the process of social interaction.





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In order to analyze or treat social action, the researcher must observe the

process by which it is constructed. The investigator must trace the formation of the action by seeing the situation through the actors' eyes (Blumer, 1969). That is, observing what the actor takes into account and how he/she interprets this, "noting the alternative kinds of acts that are mapped out in advance, and seeking to follow the interpretation that led to the selection and execution of one of these prefigured acts" (Blumer, p. 56).

Symbolic interactionism was an ideal framework to discover the basic social psychological problem experienced by parents faced with a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and for uncovering the basic social psychological processes that were used by these parents as they attempted to address this problem. The symbolic interactionist's perspective provided the underlying theoretical framework for this dissertation because I was interested in how the participants experience their identified problem, what the meaning was for the participant. In this case, the focus was on the parents' perspectives and social interactions surrounding their past pregnancy, decisions made to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and their subsequent pregnancy. It allowed me a way to enter the world of the participant and understand it from the parents' perspective.

Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss gave researchers a method developed for the purpose of studying social phenomena from the symbolic interactionist





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perspective (Bowers, 1989; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This method, called grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss), will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.

Significance for Nursing

As long as technologies continue to advance in the realm of prenatal testing, while at the same time treatments and cures for the conditions diagnosed lag far behind, parents will continue to be faced with heart wrenching decisions about their unborn children. How do these decisions affect their future pregnancies? How do nurses and other health care professionals support these parents through this very difficult and emotional time? Qualitative research recognizes that human realities are complex and focuses on the human experience through a holistic approach. Careful attention is given to the contexts of human behavior with a high level of researcher involvement through in-depth interviews with the participants. A description of individuals living through events is produced by the data obtained (Boyd, 1993).

By the use of symbolic interactionism through the grounded theory method an attempt was made to enter the world of the parents investigated to gain a better understanding of their perception of their situation. With this understanding of these parents' experiences, I identified the needs they shared with me and developed appropriate strategies to assist other nurses and health care professionals to better support these parents through this very difficult experience.













CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE

We live in a fast paced society where new technologies are developed on a regular basis. Certainly, this is the case for advances in technologies in the reproductive arena. Through the use of prenatal testing, parents are given the opportunityt" to discover if the fetus the woman is carrying has any diagnosable abnormalities. With this information, parents are now being asked to make life and death decisions for their unborn child. The information is just enough to make the diagnosis, but unfortunately not enough to treat or cure the majority of the problems. Such knowledge drastically changes the parents' outlook on their current pregnancy, as well as any future pregnancies. In this chapter, prenatal testing, influences on and attitudes toward pregnancy termination for fetal abnormalities, disclosure issues, termination as the right decision, effects of prenatal diagnosis and subsequent choice on children and families, psychological sequelae of the choice, follow-up and subsequent pregnancies are discussed.

Prenatal Testing

For most parents prenatal testing was agreed to not to discover something

wrong with their baby, but for reassurance that everything was all right and possibly the bonus of discovering the baby's sex (Green, 1992; Sandelowski & Jones, 1996). In fact, women in Sandelowski's qualitative study on choosing to terminate or not to terminate, used words such as 'routine' or 'regular' to describe tests performed



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during 'routine' prenatal visits for 'normal' pregnancies (p. 356). Evans et al. (1989) predicted that first trimester genetic testing would be the norm for the 1990s even though this has not proven to be the case. Although the majority of testing does reassure parents, one to five percent of the time fetal abnormalities are detected (Jones, et al., 1984; Raybur & LaFerla, 1982; Roberts, 1997; Timothy & Harris, 1986; and Zimmer, Avraham, Sujoy, Goldstein & Brohshtein, 1997).

Blumberg et al. (1975) suggested that families might not be adequately

prepared for these abnormal results. Families must be made aware that one of the risks of amniocentesis (and other prenatal tests) is the possibility of the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, even though cognitive awareness of this risk is not equivalent to emotional acceptance (Blumberg et al.). Even when the possibility of a fetal abnormality is discussed prior to the amniocentesis procedure, most couples deny this possibility and when a positive diagnosis occurs, they react as if they are hearing for the first time that abnormalities can exist (Jones et al., 1984). Cox et al. (1987) studied the psychological impact of diagnostic ultrasound and found that providing increased feedback during the ultrasound scan significantly lowered both anxiety and emotional experiences. Unfortunately, this research excluded 'high-risk' pregnancies and failed to discuss differences, if any, noted when the results were less than normal. Sandelowski and Jones (1996) reported that both obtaining too little or not the right information, as well as obtaining too much information, left women feeling uninformed.

Other risks involved with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling

included fetal loss or abortion as a result of the procedure itself or the possibility of





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misdiagnosis and termination of healthy pregnancies (Squire, Nauth, Ridler, Sutton & Timberlake, 1982). Squire et al. reported on the outcome of pregnancy in 2036 women following the use of amniocentesis. There were 53 terminations following detection of fetal abnormalities and 65 spontaneous fetal losses not noted as related to the amniocentesis. Three normal pregnancies were terminated following the misdiagnosis of neural tube defects. No information was reported on the experiences of these families.

Influences in Pregnancy Termination for Fetal Abnormalities

Who chooses termination over continuation of pregnancy when a fetal

abnormality is diagnosed? The literature revealed conflicting information. Several investigators reported that most women whose fetus was diagnosed with a genetic abnormality chose to terminate (Kokler & Burke, 1993; Rayburn & LaFerla, 1982). Rothman (1986) agreed that the overwhelming majority chose termination but added that this might be, in part, because those who would choose not to terminate avoid having the tests and facing the decision. In contrast, Matthews (1990) interviewed 20 women prenatally diagnosed with major fetal malformations. Eighteen of these women chose not to terminate their pregnancies. In the majority of cases, pregnancies terminated for fetal abnormalities are much desired or wanted pregnancies (Donnai, Charles & Harris, 1981; Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al., 1988).

Several authors reported on the influence of different types of prenatal diagnosis and time of diagnosis in pregnancy on the decision to terminate or not (Drugan et al., 1990; Evans, M., Pryde, Evans, W. & Johnson, 1993; Pryde et al.,





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1992; Verp, Bombard, Simpson & Elias, 1988). Conflicting findings exist. Drugan et al. found no difference in decisions to terminate or not in parents whose fetuses were diagnosed with chromosome abnormalities by chorionic viluis sampling (first trimester diagnosis) and amniocentesis (second trimester diagnosis). They also reported that most patients who had abnormal results on ultrasound were in the amniocentesis group, and most of these chose to discontinue their pregnancy. This would have one believe that ultrasound findings were not made early enough for first semester diagnosis by chorionic villus sampling and once made and confirmed, even in second trimester, parents most often chose termination for chromosome abnormalities. Pryde et al. and Evans et al. also observed that fetal gestational age did not seem to make a difference in the decision to terminate or continue the pregnancy. On the contrary, Verp et al. concluded that parents are more inclined to terminate all pregnancies with chromosome abnormalities diagnosed in the first trimester, but when diagnosed in the second trimester, parents were able to differentiate among the severity of chromosome disorders and did not uniformly choose to terminate the pregnancy for chromosome abnormalities. According to Verp et al., gestational age did make a difference in the decision to terminate or not to terminate the pregnancy when a fetal chromosome abnormality was diagnosed.

Other researchers have reported varying influences in parents' decisions to terminate or continue their pregnancy (Drugan et al., 1990; Evans et al., 1993; Holmes-Siedle, Ryynanen & Lindenbaum, 1987; Marteau, 1989; Meryash, 1992; Pryde et al., 1992; Sell, Roghmann, Doherty, 1978; Tannebaumn, Perlis & Hsu, 1986; Verp et al., 1988). The severity of the abnormality or the fetal/neonatal outcome was





14

a major determinant for many parents. The more severe the diagnosed abnormality, the more likely the parents were to choose termination (Drugan et al.; Pryde et al.; Tannebaum et al.; Verp et al.). Drugan et al. noted that to a lesser extent visualization by ultrasound of the anomalies was also a major influence. Mothers who were given an ambiguous prognosis were more prone to continue the pregnancy "hoping for the best" (Evans et al., p. 79; Pryde et al.).

The presentation of the information and how it was framed for the parents impacted their subsequent decisions (Marteau, 1989). Holmes-Siedle et al. (1987) observed that when post-amniocentesis counseling was given by an obstetrician, more parents chose to terminate than when counseled by a geneticist. The majority of women referred for prenatal testing tended to be older than 35 years of age (Adler & Kushnick, 1982, Bryar, 1997; Holmes-Siedle et al.,). The fmdings on the influence of age were conflicting. Holmes-Siedle et al. reported couples who chose to continue their pregnancies tended to be older and had more previous children. In contrast, Pryde et al. (1992) found no significant difference in patient age, gravity or parity in relation to their decision to terminate. Tannebaum et al. (1986) also observed that patient age was not significant in the decision. Bryar found the "wantedness" (p. 560) of the pregnancy to be a greater determinant than age. In a survey of female relatives of individuals with fragile-X syndrome, a cause of mental retardation, Meryash (1992) noted that those women willing to consider termination placed greater importance on family-focused factors than those who would not terminate.





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Ethnic background and religious affiliation were reported by several authors to be an influence (Tannebaum et al., 1986; Zimmer et al., 1997). According to Zimmer et al., religious people almost never terminate. They reported that one reason for the high rate of termination found in their study may have been in the secular population. Bryar (1997) noted that religion had a profound effect on her participants' feelings on abortion, making their choice more difficult. Meryash and Abuelo (19 8 8) surveyed women who were at-risk for having children with the fragile-X syndrome about their attitudes toward prenatal testing and termination of pregnancy. These investigators observed that Catholics were less likely to consider termination than non-Catholics, although 56 per cent of their subjects were unsure as to what they would do. These women may or may not change their decision when faced with the actual choice.

Attitudes Towards Termination for Fetal Abnormalities

Attitudes of varying populations were examined internationally by several authors (Drake, Reid & Marteau, 1996; Faden et al., 1987; Mao & Wertz, 1997). Drake et al. looked at attitudes towards terminations for fetal abnormalities in Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom and found that lay persons were less likely than professionals to choose termination for fetal abnormalities. Portuguese respondents were most likely to choose pregnancy termination with German respondents being least likely. An interesting question raised in this study concerned the way information was presented and the effect this had on parental decisions. That is, whether such differences in parental decisions result from "health professionals presenting termination of pregnancy in a way that is not concordant





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with patients' value systems" (Drake, et al., p. 134). The overwhelming majority of 490 women surveyed by Faden et al. believed pregnancy termination for fetal anomalies was justified. These investigators noted a sharp rise in the number who would opt to have the termination if the probability of the fetus affected with a neural tube defect rose from 95 % to 100 %.

In China, Mao and Wertz (1997) surveyed 402 geneticists. The

overwhelming majority of geneticists agreed that they would terminate in the first or second trimester for 25 of the 26 conditions surveyed. Only about one-fifth would terminate for the 26' condition which was undesired gender. Some studies observed that attitudes opposed to termination for birth defect reduction were less prevalent with greater knowledge about prenatal screening (Sell, Roghmann, & Doherty, 1978) and more education (Meryash, 1992). Attitude studies provide us with information about how varied groups perceive these highly emotional issues. Such studies give us an idea about how specific health care professional groups would oppose or support parents' decisions.

Disclosure Issues

Many parents found it difficult to tell others, not only of their decision to have prenatal testing, but also about choosing to terminate their pregnancy for fetal abnormalities (Green, 1992; Gregg, 1993; Hodge, 1989; Suslak et al., 1995). Suslak et al. observed a support group for couples who chose pregnancy termination after prenatal diagnosis. They learned that "The decision not to tell came from both a fear of being judged for having committed a 'sin' and from the sense of shame and guilt at having produced an abnormal child" (p. 174). Women in a qualitative study





17


believed others would assume they would choose pregnancy termination in the case of fetal abnormalities and judge them for making such a decision (Gregg). Hodge felt, from her own personal experience, that keeping the pregnancy a secret until having the amniocentesis results would have cut her and her husband off from support when the outcome they feared did occur. She found that the sympathy and support of others helped them to survive. Bryar (1997) described the experience of creating two stories to explain the pregnancy loss to others as "living a he" (P. 564). The three women in Bryar's study told others they had a miscarriage in an effort to avoid dealing with second guessing or judgements from individuals who hadn't lived through the same experience.

Termination as the Right Decision

By far, the overwhelming majority of women and couples who chose to

terminate felt they had made the right decision and would do it again, if necessary (Alder & Kushnick, 1982; Blumberg, 1975; Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al., 1988; Kolker & Burke, 1993; Suslak et al., 1995; Van Putte, 1988). Suslak et al. who observed a support group over 4 years with 142 clients noted most (no percentage given) couples felt termination was the right decision. Of the 18 women in Van Putte's study, 15 chose termination and 3 did not. Only I woman in this study said that she would not do it again. Adler and Kushnick studied 12 families and found that 11 of the 12 would repeat the process if they had to choose again, Of the 15 families Blumberg studied, 77 % would opt for an amniocentesis in a future pregnancy and repeat the termination, if necessary. Ninety-three percent of the 14 women and 12 men in Jones' et al. study felt termination was necessary. All of the





is

20 couples Kenyon et al. reported on felt it was Mcult, but the right decision. There was reluctance to terminate the pregnancy, and most couples wished they had never been faced with this extremely difficult decision, but expressed no doubt about the rightness of the decision (Jones et al.; Kenyon et al.; Suslak et al.).

Choice

Yes, we can sit here and weigh tragedies and say that the tragedy of a baby's
death is less than the tragedy of disability. Or the other way around. And
whichever tragedy one chooses as the lesser is the one you get. The chosen
tragedy. Whatever a woman chooses, she often experiences it as 'her
only choice'. (Rothman, 1986, p. 180)

Deaim (1998) wrote her personal story about her termination for fetal abnormalities for a lay publication. She said,

It is something you know in your mind, but in your heart ... I can no longer accept that it is all as simple as a choice I get to make because it is my body.
With choice comes responsibility. This was not some nonviable collection of
cells and tissue inside of me. It was a little boy who deserved to be
considered. (p. 13 1)

In Sandelowski and Jones' (1996) qualitative, descriptive study, they interviewed 12 couples and 3 women and listened to their individual stories of choosing to terminate or not after learning that their baby was impaired. The results of this study suggested that the participants "had often 'backed into', as opposed to having chosen or refused, prenatal testing" (p. 353). The authors discerned five emplotments of choice that varied depending upon where participants located moral agency for their pregnancy outcomes. Individuals who placed moral agency in someone or something outside of "themselves removed from themselves some of the pain of bearing the responsibility for choice" (p. 359). These emplotments interpreted how the participants' narratives can be summarized as "nature's choice,





19


disowned choice, choice lost, close choice and choice found" (p. 353). Those whose fetuses were lethally-impaired and who had the option to terminate told a 'nature's choice' story, while a 'choice lost' story was told by participants whose fetuses were viable, but did not have the option to terminate. For participants whose fetuses were viable and had the option to terminate, a 'disowned choice' story was told by those who continued their pregnancies, while a 'close choice' story was told by those who terminated. Participants told a 'choice lost' and a 'choice found' story when faced with lethally-impaired fetuses and given no option to terminate. Important implications for clinical intervention and psychological wellbeing may be related to the differences in emplotments of choice. Some of the burden of choosing seemed to be removed by those who constructed their situation as not their own but as nature's choice.

Effects of Prenatal Diagnosis and Subsequent Choice on Children and Families

Limited research exists in the area of effects of prenatal diagnosis and

subsequent choice on children and families. Parents look for professional guidance, especially with young children, about how they might tell them about the situation without causing psychological harm (Suslak et al., 1995). Green (1992), from her own personal account, found that being straightforward with children was the best. Forrest, Standish, and Baum (19 82) examined support after perinatal death and observed children's grief reactions to be brief, except where the mothers remained severely affected for many months. The only other studies found relating to the effects on children were conducted by Black and Furlong (19 84a, 19 84b) who looked at prenatal diagnosis and experiences within families with children over four





20


years of age. These investigators found that about two-thirds of the parents told at least one child about the testing. The children tended to be very interested and had low to moderate anxiety levels. Extreme or more worrisome reactions were the exception with a few children expressing concern of possible harm to the mother. Several preschool children were frightened by overly graphic descriptions of the procedure itself. Concerns voiced by the mothers were that the children might be frightened and feel less secure about their own imperfections. However, mothers reported few adverse reactions to prenatal testing by their offspring. Black and Furlong (19 84b) surveyed the experiences of 112 families and concluded that families appeared to be adapting well to the new technology of prenatal testing. Results also suggested that all age children should be involved in the experience of prenatal testing, and that health care professionals need to be alert to the worries and questions that do arise in some families (Black & Furlong, 1984b). If parents do not do well, then children will not do well either.

The effects on marital relationships is another area in which there is limited literature and inconsistent results. Blumberg (1975) identified that the stresses related to prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy termination produced undesirable marital consequences. The separation rate of 12 % of couples was reported as being due to increased irritation, a lack of communication or intolerance (VAfite Van-Mourik et al., 1992). Eight of the 10 couples who separated were reunited by the time of the interviews which occurred 2 years after the event. Kenyon et al. (1988) found that women reported that their partners gave them the most support, although they felt difficulties were exaggerated by the added stress of this event. Black(1989)





21

observed, even as long as 6 months following the loss, that some women had difficulty communicating feelings about the loss with their partners. Black also observed that their decline in quality and frequency of sexual activity was another topic women found difficult to discuss with their partners. In another study (Elder & Laurence, 199 1), poorer resolution of the grief reaction was associated with poorly perceived support from their partners. In stark contrast, other authors (Green, 1992; Jones et al., 1984) identified that marital relationships became closer as a result of this experience.

Psychological Sequelae of the Choice

The vast majority of research reported on psychological sequelae of couples, especially women who were faced with the decision to terminate or continue a pregnancy when diagnosed prenatally with fetal abnormalities. Most authors found that these parents experienced a grief reaction similar to parents who have a spontaneous perinatal loss (Iles & Gath, 1993; Kenyon et al., 1988; Lloyd & Laurence, 1985; Zeanah, Dailey, Rosenblatt, & Saller, 1993). The process of mourning is difficult because there is often no grave, no photograph and no focus for the grief (Kenyon et al.; Lloyd & Laurence; Zeanah, et al.).

Iles and Gath (1993) interviewed 2 groups of women following pregnancy termination at 4 weeks, 6 months and 12 months. One group chose termination for fetal abnormalities and the second group had no choice, but terminated for intrauterine fetal death. The psychiatric morbidity rate for those who had terminations was 4 to 5 times higher than the general population at 4 weeks. The rate was based on the Present State Examination and Index of Definition representing increasing





22


severity of psychiatric disturbance. Morbidity had fallen off by 6 months although the grief symptoms persisted. Lloyd and Laurence (1985) found that 22 of 48 participants were still symptomatic for grief at 6 months post pregnancy termination, with 5 requiring psychiatric support. Blumberg (1975) reported on 13 families and found the incidence of depressive symptoms to be 92 % among the women and 82 % for the men. When compared to pregnancy terminations for medicosocial reasons, Lloyd and Laurence (1985) and Dagg (1991) reported more distress following a termination for fetal abnormalities. Termination of pregnancy for medicosocial reasons are frequently referred to as abortions and included almost any reason to terminate except fetal anomalies.

In a retrospective study, White-Van-Mourik et al. (1992) investigated psychological sequelae of a second-trimester pregnancy termination for fetal abnormality. Participants included 84 women and 68 spouses who completed questionnaires 2 years following their terminations. All had emotional distress with 40 % of the women and 24 % of the men reporting coping problems lasting beyond I year. Factors found to influence these parents coming to terms with the loss included parental immaturity (< 21 years of age), lack of supporting relationships, inability to communicate needs, secondary infertility, and a self-perceived deep-rooted lack of self-esteem before the pregnancy. The authors identified this loss of self-esteem in 3 areas, biological, moral and social. Zolese and Blacker (1992) suggested that the poorer psychological outcome, which was not specifically defined, may be understood in terms of bereavement felt for a wanted baby and/or guilt for having produced an abnormal child. In contrast, Black (1989) reported significant





23

improvements over the first 6 months post termination. She found that those with the greatest mood disturbances in the first month showed greater distress months later. Jones et al. (19 84) also found that few participants expressed any long-term deleterious effects. Mueller (1990) reported on nursing care in the hospital and suggested that bereavement began before hospital admission and continued throughout their stay.

Bryar (1997) used a phenomenological approach to examine the experiences of women undergoing second-trimester pregnancy termination for fetal anomalies. A noted limitation in her research was her sample of only three women. Interviews were conducted 4 to 6 weeks after their losses. She described these women's experiences as "one day you're pregnant and one day you're not" (Bryar, p. 562). Her results summarized the transition from being a pregnant woman with dreams and hopes for her baby and the future to a woman experiencing a loss of innocence. Two intertwined processes were used to describe this transition, entitled "The Hardest Thing We Ever Did" and "Saying Hello and Goodbye" (Bryar, p. 562). In contrast to other studies, she did not observe depression and pathologic grief in her sample. These women all experienced supportive spouses and felt the experience brought them closer in their relationships.

In another phenomenological study, Matthews (1990) examined responses of 20 pregnant women who knew their baby had a major malformation. Eighteen of the 20 women chose to continue their pregnancy, although all of the infants except one died shortly before the delivery or within the first few days of life. From the responses of these 20 women, Matthews developed the Expectancy of Loss model





24


consisting of 6 phases. These phases occurred over a period of time beginning with suspecting a problem and continuing until after the birth. Phases included uncertainty, the suspecting phase, verification, the fact finding phase, preparation, the waiting game, reconfirmation, or revalidation, reparation, the readjusting phase, and resiliency, future hope.

Women reported their major source of grief as being the loss of the dream of motherhood and of a normal child. For men, the issue was related more to the loss of a normal child (Suslak et al., 1995). Suslak et al. also suggested that men suffered doubly. They not only lose their child but feel they "lose their wife as they knew her" (Suslak et al., p. 175) before this event. Whether women lose their husbands as they knew them, also was not addressed in this study.

Several authors observed anger and guilt in relation to the pregnancy

termination (Donnai et al., 1981; Green, 1992; Iles & Gath, 1993; Kenyon et al., 1988). Kenyon et al. reported that anger was the hardest emotion for women to understand and cope with when experiencing this type of loss. One author observed that 31 % of the women still felt angry and guilty about the termination 13 months later. White Van-Mourik et al. (1992) reported feelings of shame and failure in 61 % of women and 32 % of the men in their study. The discussion on secrecy earlier in this paper also related to the guilt some parents seem to experience (Gregg, 1993; Suslak et al., 1995). Many parents expressed feelings of guilt even when they recognized termination was appropriate (Donnai et al.). Rothman (1986) chose to use the word responsibility and not guilt, observing "Some women express feelings of guilt, but all of them express 'the inescapable sense of deep responsibility'."





25


(p. 182). Kolker and Burke (1993) found, after interviewing a genetic counselor who leads a support group for parents who make the choice to terminate an abnormal pregnancy, that a support group is a good place for parents to put some of their guilt feelings to rest by talking about them Suslak et al. (1995) reported on recurrent themes and observations noted in FATE (Feelings After the Termination Experience), a support group for couples who had a pregnancy termination following an abnormal fetal diagnosis. These authors, based on 4 years of observations in FATE, believed this bereaved group of parents had "a profoundly positive emotional experience" and were able to use this experience "to help understand their feelings and move through their grieving process" (Suslak et al., p. 177).

Several authors identified other experiences that were helpful (Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al., 1988; Kolker & Burke, 1993; Lloyd & Laurence, 1985; White, 1998). Kolker and Burke surveyed 120 persons, and conducted 12 interviews with genetic counselors, 24 in-depth interviews with women who had undergone prenatal diagnosis and subsequent termination for fetal abnormalities. They recommended that it would be helpful if parents were given candid information and encouraged to bond with their baby before they let go. Jones et al., in their interviews of 14 women and 12 men who terminated their pregnancies for fetal abnormalities, found that most of those who did not see their baby wished they had. Kenyon et al. reported that parents who did see their baby found it important to confirm the presence of the abnormality and to reassure themselves that the baby was not otherwise deformed. Eleven of 48 participants, in a study by Lloyd and Laurence, named their baby, usually secretly, but found this to be helpful in their grief process. Two parents out





26

of 20 buried their infant, while the other 16 reported wishing they had some sort of ceremony (Kenyon et al.). Lloyd and Laurence observed that some parents would have liked a burial or some other more formal recognition of the death. Many parents expressed the desire to meet other parents who had had a similar experience (Jones et al.; Kenyon et al.).

Follow-up

The literature on counseling explored different types of counseling with

multiple foci. "Grief cannot be prevented but may be shortened if coping strategies are discussed in the context of skilled preparatory counselling" (White-Van-Mourik et al., 1992, p. 203). The need for counseling and support is well documented (Blumberg et al., 1975; Donnai et al., 19 8 1; Elder & Laurence, 199 1; Forrest et al. 1982; Jones et al., 1984). Hagar, Valley, Rayburn, and Carey (1997) found that women undergoing second-trimester induction of labor for major fetal abnormalities using intravaginal PGE2 had longer labors and required a greater amount of the drug than terminations for fetal death. These authors found it helpful to counsel women that the labor is longer and the amount of the drug required is greater prior to the termination. Forrest et al. and Elder et al. identified a decrease in adverse emotional consequences and appreciably shortened bereavement reaction with improved follow-up and counseling. Genetic counseling was indicated for all couples who experienced a positive diagnosis of a fetal abnormality (Lloyd & Laurence, 1985) although not all couples were offered this option (Kenyon et al., 1988). Tishler (1981) described genetic counseling as being akin to informing someone that they are going to experience a loss. Several authors identified that the best time to give





27


genetic counseling for future pregnancies is around 3 months post-termination as it seemed counter-productive before this time (Elder & Laurence, 1991; Lloyd & Laurence). Elder and Laurence found, after interviewing 69 women in South Wales who had terminated a pregnancy for fetal abnormalities, that parents are usually still too upset to take in adequate information to consider the future objectively when genetically counseled sooner than 3 months. Supportive counseling on the other hand should begin as soon as possible and continued post-termination (Blumberg; Donna et al; Jones et a; Lloyd & Laurence;). Explanations and information should be offered clearly and concisely in a direct, simple, and compassionate manner allowing parents to make logical and informed decisions (Adler & Kushnick, 1982; Van Flutte, 1988).

Lloyd and Laurence (19 8 5) identified that suppoi t was "remarkably sparse" (p. 909) immediately following pregnancy termination for fetal abnormalities. "The 'death' was passed over, denied, regarded as a failure of pregnancy and the mother was met by a conspiracy of silence" (Lloyd & Laurence, p. 909). Some women and couples had indicated important people in their lives, even their own parents, did not support their decision to terminate and even advocated against the decision (Kenyon et al., 19 8 8; Zeanah et al., 1993). Kenyon et al. noted two cases where there was a permanent alteration in the parental relationship. Other authors found support to be minimal or inadequate (Kokler & Burke, 1993; Zeanah et al.,). Montiguy, Beaudet, and Dumas (1999) found that although some families experienced feelings of support from their social network, most in their study suffered permanent relationship losses with colleagues, friends, or extended family members. Zeanah et al. observed that





28


feelings of alienation and abandonment were further exacerbated by physicians and other health care professionals.

Less distress was identified by Black (19 89) when greater support was perceived. Those who felt supported received most of this support from their partners, other immediate family members, and close female friends (Kenyon et al., 1988). Jones et al., (1984) observed that 80 % of the men and women felt supported by their family with virtually no experience of hostility or condemnation. Mueller (1990), from her professional opinion as a practitioner and educator, suggested that special nursing care protocols needed to be designed to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of the family. Lask (1975) placed emphasis on the importance of staff attitudes for support. "The couple must be treated by society as the bereaved parents they are and allowed to mourn the death of their baby" (Kolker & Burke, 1993, p. 524).

Several authors made recommendations to improve current services. These included early referral to a level three perinatal center which is equipped to handle high risk pregnancies and neonates, information and early counseling, supportive and well informed health professionals, consideration to physical pain relief, assistance in memory making, anticipation of grief and assessment of the need for intervention, identification of possible impediments to successful readjusting, importance of early follow-up, and the availability of self-help support groups (Kenyon et al., 1988; Lloyd and Laurence, 1985; Matthews, 1990;).





29


Subsequent Pregnancies

Little research was found about subsequent pregnancies in this population. White Van-Mourik et al. (199 1) reported that parents found hope for another pregnancy of great importance and that successful subsequent pregnancies following a second trimester termination for fetal abnormality tended to counterbalance the loss of biological self-esteem observed and, to some extent, parents' feelings of social competence. Blumberg (1975) noted, "The birth of a healthy child also provides a source of self-esteem and helps alleviate much of the guilt engendered by the previous confrontation with genetic disease" (p. 807). The hesitation of some couples to become pregnant again is due to their worry that the next baby will have the same condition as the previous child (Borg & Lasker, 19 89). Rothman (19 8 6) described one woman's experience with a subsequent pregnancy as going into the pregnancy too fast. This woman "advises others to wait, give themselves time" (p. 216). Unfortunately, the amount of time between the pregnancies was not given. Rothman noted that time is not exactly on the woman's side, especially those who have prenatal testing related to their age. "The loss of a baby is what it is, a loss, a tragedy. It is not a detour on the route to a healthy baby" (Rothman, p. 216).

Because a review of the literature suggested that the loss of a baby following termination for fetal abnormalities was akin to spontaneous perinatal loss for parents, subsequent pregnancies to perinatal loss was explored. Zeanah(1988),inhis literature review, found conflicting information regarding pregnancy following perinatal loss. For some, a subsequent pregnancy aided women in resolving their loss, but for others the pregnancy was a way of avoiding the loss and therefore,





30


impeding the resolution of mourning. Timing of the subsequent pregnancy was also found to be conflicted. Zeanab (1988) advised that bereaved parents need to recover emotionally and physically prior to conceiving. Most women have a difficult time if they become pregnant while still mourning (Menke & McClead, 1990). Individual recovery periods are unique and no specific time reference was substantiated by research (Wallerstedt & Higgins, 1994). Some parents were warned by their physicians against the possibility of the "replacement child syndrome." This syndrome refers to the subsequent child not being loved for him or herself as parents who have not fully recovered from their grief may possibly, even subconsciously, compare this child to the baby that died (Borg & Lasker, 1989).

Based on her review of the literature, Stierman (1987) reported that the

emotional drive to get pregnant again was quite strong, although rushing into another pregnancy may put the parents and their newborn at psychological risk. Borg and Lasker (19 89) believed that the overwhelming desire to have another baby quickly lessens as the urgency of this feeling subsides over time. Several researchers found that an early subsequent pregnancy or surviving twin were factors associated with prolonged maternal grief reactions or other psychiatric problems (Rowe et al. 1978; Stieman). Wolff, Nielson, and Schiller (1970) reported that 50 % of the 50 women in their study found that the resolution to their grief was in becoming pregnant again. Wolff et al. also reported that previous loss of a baby did not significantly influence the decision to become pregnant again. Garel, Blondel, Lelong, Bonenfant and Kaminski (1994), whose sample consisted of 50 women, found no clear relationship between the reactions following a miscarriage and the time between the miscarriage





31


and subsequent pregnancy to the experience and outcome of the subsequent pregnancy. What Garel et al. did find was that the absence of history of infertility, the women's younger age and the desire for a child were all associated with a higher probability of starting a new pregnancy. About half of the patients sought out a different obstetrician for a subsequent pregnancy, not always due to dissatisfaction, but sometimes to avoid associations with the unsuccessful pregnancy (Stierman, 1987; Wolff et al., 1970).

According to Menke and McClead (1990), if a pregnancy occurred shortly after a perinatal loss, three emotional processes were functional. These included the mourning for the loss of the infant, the bonding to the new infant, and the fear that the loss will reoccur in this pregnancy. These authors suggested parents experience complex emotions even if pathologic grief does not occur. Several authors (Stierman, 1987; Borg and Lasker, 1989) reported that a subsequent pregnancy might be marked by ambivalence. When asked if they had regrets about their subsequent pregnancy, some women "expressed the wish that they had been able to enjoy the pregnancy more" (Schwiebert & Kirk, 1989, p. 77). Most authors agreed parents experienced markedly increased anxiety during their subsequent pregnancy (Armstrong & Hutti, 1998; Borg & Lasker; Phipps, 1985-86; Robertson & Kavanaugh, 1998; Statham & Green, 1994; Stierman). In general, parents reported increasing anxiety as the pregnancy progressed, peaking just prior to delivery (Kowalski, 1980; Phipps). As each important stage passed, parents held their breath, depending on what the cause of their loss was (Borg & Lasker; Lieberman, 1998).





32


Families' readjustment to their new baby may be helped through recognition by others of their previous loss (Wilson, Soule, & Fenton, 1988).

Lieberman (199 8), in an article for a lay publication, identified typical

behaviors she noticed in parents' subsequent pregnancy to a loss. She suggested parents play it safe, gaining as much control over details as possible, seeking new medical strategies such as less or more medical intervention, and maintaining an emotional distance from their baby. Lieberman also suggested helpful strategies parents should be able to expect from professionals including extra indulgences from health care providers such as more frequent visits, private childbirth classes for those who "feel out of sync in a group class" (p. 60), and even possibly a connection to others who have had a simil experience.

In a qualitative study, Phipps (1985-86) interviewed 15 couples who had experienced a previous stillbirth or neonatal death and a subsequent successful pregnancy. The interviews occurred when the age of the subsequent child was from 5 months to 3 years. The focus was on stresses unique to the subsequent pregnancy and parental adaptation to them. Two general phenomena were identified-the taskoriented approach to pregnancy and sensitization to negative outcomes. The taskoriented approach, motivated by parental needs for control and self-protection, described a qualitative difference in the way parents experience the pregnancy as a whole. Parents portray an outwardly joyless quality as they engage in a process of holding back, not becoming totally involved in this pregnancy as they had in previous pregnancies. Sensitization to negative outcomes referred to the parents' state of hypervigilance with a perception of their increased vulnerability and struggle





33


to control overwhelming fears (Phipps). Holding back and not becoming as emotionally attached in their subsequent pregnancy was noted by several authors (Armstrong & Hutti, 1998; Lieberman, 1998; Phipps).

Summary

The body of literature on prenatal testing and subsequent influences on

childbearing was not exhaustive. Many quantitative studies have been conducted across the disciplines, some with contradictory findings. There was little evidence of a theoretical basis for any of the quantitative studies reviewed. Ihe few qualitative studies reported were well thought out, although several had a small sample size (Bryar, 1997). T"bis is important as qualitative studies such as those by Sandelowski and Jones (19 86) and Matthews (1990) provide us with sensitizing concepts and the beginnings of middle range theories.

The majority of the research in this area focuses on women. There is a

limited amount on couples and almost nothing that focuses exclusively on males. Another area that is severely limited concerns the impact of prenatal testing and subsequent decision making regarding fetal abnormalities on parents' experiences with future pregnancies. There was little found on the problems parents face in these future pregnancies. It would be helpful to provide a theoretical foundation for health care professionals to draw upon as they work with these parents during these difficult times. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the social processes of couples who become pregnant subsequent to the loss of a baby with a prenatal diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. This research contributed toward filling this gap in the literature.













CHAPTER 3
METHOD

Research Approach

The qualitative method used for this study was grounded theory, a method

developed by Glaser and Strauss (19 67) for researchers to study phenomena from the symbolic interactionists' perspective (Bowers, 1989). An important aim of grounded theory is to accurately perceive and present another's world (Hutchinson, 1993). This method contributes to the development of middle-range theories through the exploration of the richness and diversity of human experience (Streubert & Carpenter, 1995). Grounded theory is an inductive approach that uses organizational patterns and everyday behaviors to generate theory (Hutchinson).

An assumption of grounded theory is that people order and make sense of their environment even if their world may appear nonsensical or disordered to observers. People sharing common circumstances experience shared behaviors and meanings that constitute the substance of a grounded theory (Hutchinson, 1993). From the symbolic interactionists' perspective, what makes individuals unique is their ability to symbolically define their experiences and shape their actions (Wilson & Hutchinson, 199 1). Glaser (1978) suggested that to gain theoretical sensitivity, a researcher must enter the research setting without a prior hypothesis and with as few predetermined ideas as possible. Grounded theory deals with what is actually happening, not what ought to happen (Glaser).



34





35


Symbolic interactionism was selected as the theoretical framework and

grounded theory as the method for this study because of the interactive nature of the problem under study-that of parents' experiences when facing a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. These parents interacted with technology, their partners, other family members, their environment, as well as health care professionals and the health care system. The past and present fife experiences of these parents determined their interactions. Grounded theory allowed me to enter the parent's world to gain a better understanding of their perceptions and experiences.

Methodological strategies required for this approach accounted for change over time and involved direct contact with the participants under natural conditions (Wilson& Hutchinson, 199 t). Grounded theory addresses social psychological problems with the distinct advantage of fading natural solutions to the problem under study (Stem et al., 1982).

Sample Selection

Sampling in grounded theory is purposive unlike quantitative studies that use probability sampling (Morse, 1986; Wilson & Hutchinson, 1991). All members of the population, in a probability sample, have an equal chance of participating in the study and the results should be the same as if the entire population was included (Morse). In purposive sampling, participants are selected on the basis of their willingness and ability to articulate their insightful experiences on the phenomenon being studied (Morse; Sandelowski, 1986). In grounded theory, sampling proceeds





36


on theoretical grounds and is termed theoretical sampling (Corbin & Strauss, 1990; Sandelowski). This is a process by which data are collected to advance the emerging theory. I selected sample members based on emerging findings in order to obtain good representation of the theoretical constructs (Polit & Hungler, 1995).

Initially, a purposive sample included pregnant women and their partners who were pregnant subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate, following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. The initial sample came from an urban community in northeastern Florida. In the beginning, I recruited these parents through the women's obstetrician or reproductive endocrinologist. I approached Obstetricians, geneticists and reproductive endocrinologists in this community through face to face contact and/or a written notice describing the study and asked for potential participants (see Appendix D for details). To participate women had to be currently pregnant subsequent to a pregnancy in which a decision to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality was made. To be included the woman and/or her partner had to be willing to share their experiences. Interviews occurred at any time during pregnancy in order to maximize diversity of experiences in perception. Word of mouth or snowball sampling were additional recruit Mig strategies used. Snowball sampling occurs when potential participants are referred by current study participants (Morse, 1986).

After approximately 5 months of obtaining only 4 participants in a

northeastern region of Florida, I decided to recruit outside of this region. An addendum (see Appendix G) to the original proposal permitted recruitment of





37

participants through a support network via the internet. The sample size increased quickly.

A sample size of 24 participants was obtained over an 8 month period. This included 13 women and 9 partners, and 2 professionals-a physician and a registered nurse. Saturation was the determining factor for stopping data collection. Data were considered complete/saturated when no new conceptual information was available (Hutchinson, 1993). Saturation of the data started to become evident after the 20th interview. Two professionals were then interviewed along with 2 other women to establish confirmation of the codes.

Sample Demographics

The parents interviewed in this study ranged in ages from the youngest being a woman at 25 to the oldest, a man at 47, and had a median age of 33 (see Figure 3-1 for details). All of the parents were married with lengths of their relationships ranging from 2 V2years to 16 years (see Figure 3-2). The nationality of the majority of the parents, (20), was Caucasian with the remaining 2 being Hispanic and Turkish. All of the parents in this study were either in the middle or upper range in socioeconomic status. Ten parents were in the $24,000.00 to $60,000.00 range with the remaining 12 parents in the over $60,000.00 range. Everyone in the study had a
imum of a high school diploma, but most had four year degrees or higher (see Figure 3-3 for more details). Religious preferences for the parents in this study varied with 9 being Catholic although not all were practicing at the moment (see Figure 3-4).






38







15 I Participants

14

12

10

8-r

6 4

42




<=34 35 39 40 44 >=-45
Age Groupings Figure 3-1 Participants by Age Category




9
10

9 8
8- Mjg Participants

7

6


4

3-// 2-

]-A 0-

<=3 Yrs. 5 10 Yrs, 11 16 Yrs.
Years of Mariage Figure 3-2 Participants by Length ofMarriage







39








Masters 17%









Degree 17
37% Other



.. .. .Ph.D
4%/


4%



Partial College 21% Figure 3-3 Participants by Level of Education




10- 9
9.-

8 .. ..... ....


7-

5-











0






Religious Preferencez Figure 3-4 Participants by Religious Preference





40


Participants resided in geographic locations all over the United States. I

interviewed 3 parents and 2 professionals face-to-face in Florida and the remaining 19 parents by phone in other locations throughout the United States. Internet access allowed me the ability to obtain participants representing almost all of the regions in the United States except the far Northeastern region. Although, the sample was somewhat biased, representing mostly parents in higher socioeconomic classes over the age of 24 with higher levels of education. Probably only those persons who have the financial means and the educational background, which tends to make them older, use the Internet.

The majority of the parents in this study chose termination of their previous pregnancy. Nineteen parents, 3 mothers and 8 couples chose termination while only

3 parents, 1 mother and I couple chose not to terminate. The gestational age at termination ranged from 17 weeks to 24 weeks (further details can be seen in Figure 3-5). One couple terminated their past 2 pregnancies for the same fatal condition, Congential Nephrosis of the Finnish Type, 1 a singleton pregnancy and the 2nd a twin pregnancy. The parents who chose not to terminate did not have a final diagnosis until 27 and 28 weeks of gestation. One of these babies that was not terminated died shortly after birth with multiple anomalies, and the other baby lived with a condition called Spina Bifida. The majority of the parents in this study did not have any other living children. One couple and 3 mothers who were interviewed had 1 to 3 living children ranging in ages from 1 lmonths to 16 years. For 8 couples and 1 mother, the pregnancy they were in during the interview was the first hope of having a child that would live beyond birth.





41


Parents in this study encountered many types of abnormalities and had to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. One woman and one couple terminated for Down syndrome; one couple terminated and one woman did not terminate for Spina Bifida; two couples terminated for Congenital Nepbrosis of the Finnish Type, one couple chose termination in two separate pregnancies for this same syndrome; one woman and two couples terminated for multi-faceted anomalies in their babies; one couple each terminated for Bilateral Renal Agenesis and for Prader Willi's Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by infantile hypotonia, obesity, short stature, mental retardation and personality problems; one woman terminated for anencephaly; and one couple chose not to terminate for Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease.

I interviewed parents for this study at any time they became available.

Mothers were from I11 weeks to 39 weeks gestation (see Figure 3-6). Referrals for participants for the study came from varying sources; the majority came from one support group called A Heartbreaking Choice (AHC), discovered via the Internet. This group gave me permission to advertise in their quarterly newsletter. Seven women found out about the research through AHC and informed their husbands, 6 of whom became participants. The rest of the referrals came from different places; 1 couple each from a local physician, through another participant via AJIC, and through a SHARE newsletter (another national support group); 1 woman each from a local colleague, a nurse in a local obstetrician's office, and through a genetic counselor who shared an RTS newsletter (still another national support group) with her. Three of the women whose partners were not interviewed said that their






42





1412- ?
10-/ 8 13_. mParicipants



6-/





<=17 Weeks 21 -24 Weeks Did Not Terminate
Gestratio n P erio d

Figure 3-5 Gestation Peniod at Terrunation 2-/


- j: '















<=2Weeks 12 Weeks 21 30 Weeks 31 39Weeks
Gestation Period Figure 3-6 Gestation Period atTime of Interview





43

husbands were just too busy at the time. The professionals interviewed practice in a high-risk obstetrical office in Northeast Florida. One professional was a perinatologist and the other a registered nurse. Data Collection

Formal, audio taped semi-structured interviews lasting approximately one to two hours were the primary source of data for this study (see Appendix A for interview questions). Interviews took place either at the participants' homes, my home, or over the telephone in a relaxed and non-threatening environment, that allowed participants to share their experiences. I interviewed couples separately to gain their individual perspectives. Interview questions proceeded from general to particular and changed over time as the theory emerged. Eliciting fundamental information to explore the phases, properties, dimensions, strategies, consequences, and contexts of these parents' perceived experiences was the primary focus. Additional data included one woman's personal journal. Field notes describing the setting, observations, and any events of particular interest to the study were dictated. I transcribed tapes verbatim as soon as possible so that no data were lost. Data Analysis

In grounded theory, data analysis is continual and occurs simultaneously with data collection. Glaser and Strauss (1967) first described this fundamental method of data analysis as constant comparison. This method requires the analyst to compare incident with incident, incident with category, and category or construct with construct (Hutchinson, 1993). "Constantly comparing develops in the analyst a





44


clear, focused flexibility to keep transcending his own and other analyses until he theoretically saturates his problenf' (Glaser, 1978, p. 15).

Coding. Glaser (1978) suggested that ideational codes are the building block of the theory. Open coding, coding the data in every way possible, was the first step. That is, the data were analyzed line by line, constantly coding every sentence. The codes identified during this process are called substantive codes. These codes are considered level I codes and codify the substance of the data and frequently use the same words used by the participants themselves (Stem, 1980).

Level 11 codes, also called categories, require the use of the constant

comparative method. Data were coded, compared with other data and then assigned to categories or clusters according to obvious fit. As categories emerged continually asked three questions: "What is this data a study op. "; "What category does this incident indicate?"; and "What is actually happening in the data?" (Glaser, 1978, p. 57). The emerging categories were compared with one another to ensure that they covered the behavioral variations and were mutually exclusive.

Level M codes, called theoretical codes is a way to think of the data in

theoretical rather than descriptive terms (Stem et al., 1982). Open codes break the data into small pieces, whereas theoretical codes weave the fractured story back together again (Glaser, 1978). Through theoretical codes, the researcher examined how the substantive codes related to one another as hypotheses to be integrated into a theory (Glaser). Through this comparative process, I identified a core variable or basic social process (BSP). Once a core variable was identified, selective coding





45

began with the aim of expanding and densifying any codes that related to it (Hutchinson, 1993).

Basic social process. For a quality grounded theory, the discovery of a core variable is essential- Rigorous analytical thinking combined with continuous examination of the data eventually yielded such a variable (Hutchinson, 1993). Thle believability of the core variable is dependent upon its tidiness, understandability, and ability to explain most of the variation in the social psychological problems of the research (Stem et al., 1982). Since BSPs are fundamental, patterned processes in the organization of social behaviors occurring over time and irrespective of the conditional variation of place, Glaser (1978) described them as pervasive. Glaser identified two types of BSPs: basic social structural process (BSSP) and basic social psychological process (BSPP). A BSSP describes the social structures in process (Glaser). In the case of this study, these BSSP's were those processes in the health care system that affected the parents and their experience with the second pregnancy. The BSPP illustrated social psychological processes as they continued over time irrespective of varying conditions. "A BSSP abets, facilitates or is the social structure within which the BSPP processes" (Glaser, p. 102). Most sociological studies today focus on BSPP and assume BSSP without formulating the BSSP clearly as a process. This study examined the BSSPs in addition to the BSPP, but emphasized the BSPP.

An assumption of grounded theory is that each group shares an unarticulated social psychological problem and this problem is addressed by a social psychological process. Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic social psychological problem that





46

emerged from the data in this study which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 4. Managing the pain was the BSP, or core variable, identified as the process these parents used to cope with the catastrophic psychic pain, and will be discussed in Chapter 5.

Selectively coding for this core variable required that I delimit coding to only those variables relating to the core variable in significantly sufficient ways to be used in a parsimonious theory. The core variable identified further guided data collection, theoretical sampling (sample selection) and analysis (Glaser, 1978).

Memoing and sorting. Beginning with analysis of the data following the very first interview or observation, memoing becomes a regular and crucial part of the grounded theory process. Through memoing, researchers record ideas quickly and spontaneously "to capture the initially elusive and shifting connections between the data" (Hutchinson, 1993, p. 20 1). According to Glaser (1978) the prime rule in memoing is "stop and memo" (p. 83) regardless of what has to be interrupted. This was fundamental so as not to lose the thought as my mind raced on through coding, sorting and writing. Memos were sparked by the data and were ideational, and in this way were grounded. They were written freely, kept separate from the data, and were easily sortable (Glaser).

Conceptualization of ideas was emphasized. While memoing, I questioned the relationship of one code to another. The thinking process during this phase was both inductive and deductive. Inductively, one conceptualizes while coding and memoing and then deductively assesses how the concepts fit together. Through the use of theoretical sensitivity and repetitive examination of the data, in which memos





47


become an integral part, both processes were aided. Literally hundreds of memos documenting this thinking process were developed, and through repetitive questions a theory evolved.

Sorting began once codes become plentiful and memos accumulated rapidly. A core variable, or BSP, was identified that explained most of the behavioral variation in the data. The BSP provided focus and direction for the sorting process.

Maintaining Rigor

Criteria for judging the adequacy of qualitative research is somewhat

different from that used to judge more conventional quantitative methods (Guba & Lincoln, 198 1,1989). Guba and Lincoln, in keeping with the nature of qualitative research and the naturalist paradigm, provided the researcher with criteria that parallel the more conventional criteria of validity and reliability (Hutchinson, 1993; Guba & Lincoln, 1989). These terms, established to evaluate the trustworthiness of qualitative data, are credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Polit & Hungler, 1995).

Credibility parallels internal validity and refers to truth value, the confidence in the truth of the data (Guba & Lincoln, 1981, 1989; Polit & Hungler, 1995). A qualitative study is considered credible when it presents such a faithful interpretation or description of a human experience that those persons having that experience would quickly recognize it from those interpretations or descriptions as their own (Sandelowski, 1986). The technique of checking interpretations with participants is called member checking by Guba and Lincoln (19 89) and is used to verify the multiple constructs the researcher identifies from the data. I shared study results





48


with a woman who had not previously been interviewed but was currently pregnant following the termination of a previous pregnancy. She verified that the constructs identified from the data were in fact, very similar to what she too had experienced.

Another process used to establish credibility is peer debriefing which

provides an external check on the inquiry process (Polit & Flungler, 1995). In peer debriefing, the researcher checks data and interpretations with colleagues and/or experts. The data and interpretations were shared with my major professor. Also, the theoretical constructs discovered were shared with two professionals who were interviewed. Both felt the interpretations were consistent with their clinical experience.

Parallel to the more conventional term, external validity, is transferability.

Transferability refers to the generalizability of the data (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). The concern with qualitative research is not statistical generalizability but analytic generalizability. Analytic generalizabiity refers to the usefulness of the identified concepts/constructs to explain a given situation (Hutchinson, 1993). The qualitative researcher provides "as complete a data base as humanly possible in order to facilitate transferability judgments on the part of others who may wish to apply the study to their own situations" (Guba & Lincoln, 1989, p. 242). One way of checking transferability is to have non-participants who have had similar experiences review the generated theory. I interviewed two women after the theory was generated in order for them to review the theory. They agreed with the findings, and in fact, expressed relief that they felt so similar to the others.





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Dependability may be thought of as parallel to the more conventional criteria of reliability and is concerned with the stability of the data over time (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). The uniqueness of human experiences and the importance of situations that are not necessarily attainable through validation of the senses are emphasized in qualitative research. Therefore, identical repetition is not sought but, rather, variations in human experiences. Guba and Lincoln (1989) suggested the use of the dependability audit to document the logic of process and method decisions. Auditability of a study and its findings is possible when another investigator can clearly follow the "decision trail" used by the researcher in the study (Sandelowski, 1986, p. 33).

Confirmability parallels the more conventional criteria of objectivity and

concerns itself "with assuring that data, interpretations, and outcomes of inquiries are rooted (grounded) in contexts and persons apart from the evaluator and are not simply figments of the evaluator's imagination" (Guba & Lincoln, 19 89, p. 243). In qualitative research, the investigator is expected to be involved with the participants. Comfirmability refers to the research findings themselves, not to the objective or subjective stance of the investigator (Guba & Lincoln, 1981; Sandelowski, 1986).

In order to maintain rigor in this study, I participated in peer review of coding and theory generation with my professor and other doctoral level nursing students at the University of Florida. I participated in member checking with one specified participant and maintained all field notes, transcripts, and theoretical notes for auditing purposes. My interest in this study population was derived from facilitating a pregnancy loss support group and providing counseling to parents who have had to





50


make decisions to terminate or continue their pregnancies over the past 10 years. In addition, I have been a nurse for 22 years. To reduce the chance of researcher bias, I kept a personal journal and notes during the course of the study to facilitate reflection of personal feelings and insights. According to Sandelowski (1986), "the credibility of qualitative research is enhanced when investigators describe and interpret their own behavior and experiences as researchers in relation to the behavior and experiences of subjects" (p. 30).

Ethical Issues

Nurses are patient-client advocates, where empathy, trust, and compassion should encompass all endeavors, including research. Nursing has espoused to deontological principles that humans be treated as ends in themselves and not as means to an end (Munhall, 1993). Ethical considerations of fieldwork were addressed throughout the research.

Participant confidentiality, anonymity, privacy, and autonomy were

maintained. On initial contact with possible participants, the purpose of the study was explained and before beginning the interview process, an informed consent (see Appendix B) was signed. Prior to initiation of the study, approval was obtained through the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Florida Health Science Center, Jacksonville, Florida (See Appendix F).

An ethical issue considered to be a possibility during the interviews

concerned the possibility of additional psychic pain for the participants as they discussed their experiences related to the loss of their baby. It is important that researchers dealing with bereaved persons have training in this area. In addition to





51


the experience mentioned earlier, I am certified as a Clinical Specialist in adult psychiatric and mental health nursing and have taken multiple courses in dealing with grief and loss. I know that emotionaUy charged topics require exceUent listening and empathy (Rosenblatt, 1995). According to Rosenblatt, "any interaction about a loss has the potential to provide a new awareness, integration, and feelings of healing" (p. 15 1). It is possible that through interviews, participants can move through their pain and begin to gain a new awareness, integration and feelings of healing. Although it was not the purpose of the interviews to provide therapy, some participants seemed to have benefited from them therapeutically.

Participants learned they not only could refuse to be interviewed but could stop the interview at any time. If the participant became upset, as evidenced by her/his inability to talk or continuous sobbing, I reminded him/her that the interview could be stopped. I could have referred the participant to a counselor, but this did not become necessary. Many participants in this study had to stop talking on occasion because of crying and general emotional distress. However, aU participants insisted on continuing the interview. in fact, all of the participants wanted to share their stories and were glad that someone was willing to listen. One father said, "I'm happy anybody's listening to my story at this point." One mother said it made her feel good to "know that we were a part of something that's going to help other people." Another mother said,

I firid this [interview] incredibly cathartic ... this helped me. It helps me. I get one step closer to integrating this completely into my life and it's going to be a lifelong process. So every time that I get these feelings out, I am forced to work through them. ... So every time I cry about ... this child, is one step closer to being completely healed. When I say healed, completely integrating her memory, this event into my life in a way that will not be painful anymore.





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Still, another mother said, "It's like when we tell our story it's almost healing in a lot of ways." And another, "every time I told the story, it made it a little bit easier to accept and actually I think that's a big part of my healing, [to] tell the story over and over again."













CHAPTER 4
CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN:
THE BASIC SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM Introduction

Becoming pregnant, for many, is an exciting time of life filled with

wonderment and awe at new beginnings. When a couple decides to start a family or expand their family, they usually go into the pregnancy with hopes and dreams of having a healthy, perfect baby. Pregnancy is a time of change and growth while preparing for this new life to become a part of the family. When parents are faced with the possibility of something being wrong with their baby and having to make a decision to continue or discontinue their pregnancy, their hopes and dreams are shattered. Their lives are changed forever. Having faced the darkness, the worst case scenario, the unimaginable in their previous pregnancy, subsequent pregnancies are not fall of anticipation of joy but instead become wracked with fear and uncertainty.

The purpose of this study was to develop a substantive grounded theory on

how couples experience a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. Basic to the grounded theory method is the discovery of a core phenomenon, which is both relevant and problematic for those individuals, that accounts for most of the variation in a pattern of behavior (Glaser, 1978). Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic social psychological problem that emerged




53





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from the data in this study of couples who shared their experiences of a subsequent pregnancyThe purpose of this chapter is to discuss the problem of catastrophic psychic pain, laying the groundwork for a discussion in Chapter 5 on how these parents coped with this problem

The Diagnosis

Prior to being able to talk about their current pregnancy and their present

psychological state, all of the participants found it necessary to review their previous experience that brought about their catastrophic psychic pain. The diagnosis of a fetal abnormality was the beginning of their "nightmare." The diagnosis was discovered in varying ways, by varying professionals, and at varying times in their pregnancies. For some, the first clue that something was wrong was through an alpha fetal protein (AFP) blood test, for others it was through ultrasound and/or amniocentesis. Not everyone was given an immediate diagnostic answer. One couple, who later chose not to terminate, were made aware that there might be a potential problem at their 20 week ultrasound. It was 7 more weeks before the diagnosis of a rare but fatal disease, Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease, was confirmed. Another couple whose 16 week AFP came back "hugely elevated" went through numerous ultrasounds and an amniocentesis fading non conclusive evidence, only suspicions of a rare kidney disease. This couple only knew "something was very wrong. This is very abnormal. The outcomes don't look good, but we don't know what's wrong." It wasn't until the autopsy results following their termination that they found out conclusively that their baby had





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Congenital Nephrosis of the Finnish Type, another extremely rare autosomal recessive disorder.

Still another couple who was not scheduled for an ultrasound at their regular obstetrician's office "until about 18 or 19 weeks" happened to know a resident at one of the hospitals in their town who scanned their baby for "fun" at 16 weeks one Saturday night. The resident let the father know that night that "he thought it was anencephalic." They went into a specialist's office on the following Monday and had the diagnosis confirmed through a level II ultrasound.

In this study parents were confronted with multiple types of diagnoses,

including Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, Trisomy 18, Congenital Nephrosis of the Finnish Type, Bilateral Renal Agenesis, Prader Willi' s syndrome, Auto somal Recessive Polysystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD), and two couples were given a general diagnosis of multiple anomalies which included multiple malformations of major organs. In years past many of the diagnoses meant certain death for these babies either before birth or shortly thereafter. Today, with advances in technology, immediate death is no longer certain, but professional debates are common about how long infants will live and what their quality of life will be with or without medical intervention. Other diagnoses do not have a death sentence, but the question then becomes one of quality of life for the baby and the rest of the family, resulting in uncertainty for all involved.

Some parents were skeptical about the diagnosis and had a fear that the medical professionals were wrong "because the ultimate fear of a person going through what we went through is to ... have a dead baby presented to you that





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looked normal." As one father said, "sometimes people do make mistakes." Consistent with Kenyon's et al. (19 8 8) findings it was important for parents that the diagnosis be confirmed "correct" at birth.

The news of the diagnosis sent one woman into limbo between two worlds:

Back in my ... world of I'm a woman who won't have a problem with a
pregnancy, that world was kind of crashing down. But it hadn't quite moved into the world where abortion, terminating a wanted pregnancy was an option.
So I was in this ... space between those worlds.

Another woman described the day the diagnosis was made as"the terrible day." She went on to explain how she and her husband, upon hearing the devastating news that their son had Down syndrome, "went outside the door and um, just both of us just stood there in the hallway and just cned." Hearing the diagnosis was only the beginning of their pain for the parents in this sample.

After diagnoses some parents faced making decisions about conditions they had never heard of before. Many of the diagnoses concerned extremely rare conditions affecting only a very small percentage of the general population such as "l in 4,000" or "I in 50,000". Some healthcare professionals were not even familiar with the diagnoses. Thus, acquiring knowledge became an important factor in these couples' experiences. They sought information about the diagnosis from everywhere including professionals, libraries, bookstores, the Internet, and others who may have been in similar situations. One woman discussed her way of dealing:

I start looking for information. Urn, when we found out (the baby) had ARPKD [Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease] we started looking for information .... We actually went to our meeting with the
genetic counselor knowing more about the diagnosis than [the counselor]
did, which was a disappointment.





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Parents believed that knowledge was fundamental to making the decision to terminate or not and the type of termination they would choose.

While seeking information, parents were extremely vulnerable. One mother sought out a bookstore for her reading materials only to find the section on grieving the loss of a baby was located next to the expecting a baby section. She described that experience as "It's like here you are, you're like more fragile than a china cup and, it's like the last thing you can ... handle so I'm sure meltdowns in that book section are very comm n."

Diagnostic Consequences

Catastrophic psychic pain was the major diagnostic consequence for the parents. Catastrophic means a disastrous end; any sudden and great disaster, calamity, or misfortune; or an ignominious or total failure (Guralink, 1974). The diagnosis completely violated parents' previous thoughts, hopes, plans, and dreams. They believed everything was fine with this baby, and then, "a ton of bricks was dropped on [our] heads." The word pain in many ways is almost interchangeable with what some professionals would term grief, or at least a part of grief The pain was unexpected, intense, and never ending. Unexpected Pain

The pain was unexpected. These couples went into their pregnancies with happy-go-lucky attitudes, expecting perfect pregnancies, and they met disastrous circumstances. One mother described it as "when you're hit with something as unexpected as what we were hit with, the news that we were carrying a baby with a grave defect ... it was a huge, huge shock." As seen in the literature (Jones et al.,





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1984), parents talked of being totally ignorant of the fact that something like what happened could ever happen to them. "It was unbelievable shock, because you don't consider things like this are going to happen." The diagnosis was an unexpected assault "like someone was taking a two by four and just smashing you up the side of the head." Another mother who had dealt with years of infertility described it this way:

Our last pregnancy was ... an incredible miracle ... so we were looking
with incredible joy. And when we found out what was wrong, it was ... a
real shock because I was at incredibly low risk for complications. I had ... a glorious pregnancy up to that point and were just kind of hit out of
the blue.... I had gone for a normal 20 week ultrasound. All the prenatal
work had been perfectly normal and when we had the ultrasound, it was a
very strange experience. We just felt like, I think I died in that moment and
was reborn the next, as a totally different person.

This type of experience is just totally out of the realm of most parents' reality.

Nobody teaches you in your life experience how to choose to end your child's
life. Even if it's you know a terminal anomaly, the baby is never going
to live, you're still picking the day. Nobody prepares you for that in your
whole life. You know everybody goes to funerals and knows about relatives
or friends or people that die and yet people know how to do that.

Even parents who had knowledge of some types of fetal abnormalities were unsuspecting of something like this ever happening to them. One woman with a special education background whose baby had been diagnosed with multifaceted fetal anomalies explained that "basically I had not even considered the possibility of a fetal anomaly except for the ones, the types of genetic disorders you've heard of. ... I ... was familiar with Down syndrome and other types of genetic disorders and didn't consider that to be something that I would ever terminate a pregnancy for." The shock was two-fold, first that they never expected to hear that their baby had any





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type of serious abnormality, "deep down I just thought everything would ... always end up being fine," and second these parents never expected to be put in a position of choosing to continue or end their own pregnancy, "I certainly never, ever thought that I would ever have an abortion myself." Never expecting to be in the position they were in and feeling so different from others, many of the parents were uncertain of where to turn in their pain.

Intense Pain

The pain was intense, severe, extreme. "It's indescribable the depth of pain in your soul. I mean it's indescribable." One woman described her feelings as 44extreme just like anguish." At one point she felt suicidal and unable to function at all. Another woman described her pain as "every day was so painful to live through I don't want to keep living every day in this much pain." A husband of another woman who had described feelings of wanting to die said, "I think she just wanted to stop the pain because she really hurt, really hurt bad." The intensity of the grief was so bad for one woman she "was pretty incapable of doing much more for anybody else, [and] wasn't able to do anything else but work and cry." This woman's husband described her as being "out of commission, basically." The pain was so intense for another woman that it even invaded her sleep, "one night I woke up at 2:00 in the morning and just had a screaming fit, it was just hysterical crying." A man described it as "the blackest time I've ever been in ... almost like falling into a bottomless well and where there was no light." "It was awful ... I would never want anyone I love to go through so much pain.... No one should have to go through that kind of grief."





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Spousal differences. The intensity seemed to be different for men and

women. Ah-nost all agreed that the woman's grief was somewhat more intense and that it lasted longer than a man's. One father explained how they both cried and felt anguished, but that his wife cried more and experienced the loss more deeply. This same father explained that "women are more naked to pain than men are because I think they do have this very intimate relationship with the baby from the first moment on." Several of the fathers talked about wanting to be there for their wives but "there were times when she wasn't letting me in ... almost too unbearable for her to even communicate much." One woman described the difference as "he says it's painful, but then I start thinking I don't ever see you cry.... He shows things differently." Another woman speaking of her husband said, "he doesn't understand how deep my feelings are." One woman described how her husband put his grief on hold

because every time he saw me crying he would rush to me and he
wouldn't grieve himself and one particular night I was sitting in the baby's
room rocking and crying and singing lullabies and you know flipping out
because I did this for months.

After much thought, one father described what he believes to be the reason for spousal differences in grief

[It's] because when all is said and done through all of this the father has what's most important to him in the world and that's his wife and she's
safe and sound and healthy and with him And the wife and mother does not have what's most important to her and that's her baby because I think that ...
in the order of importance to a mother is her children and then her husband and then herself. And to a husband, it's his wife, his children and himself
So I think that's why the grieving process is different and the depth is
different because of those two things. You have what's most important to you which is your wife but she doesn't have what's most important to her
which is her child.





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One mother described the differences she saw in how men and women grieve.

I think that the men have a tougher time than the women because everybody focuses their attention on the women, on how they're getting through it and
nobody I mean people would call here and they an asked how I was first....
I mean I was worried about my husband but I was more worried about me and
the loss. Where as I mean in society today men are still raised as the fixer
and the protector and they have nothing that they can do except watch you be
crushed.... They're helpless, and they're also dealing with their own pain.
But then their own belief that they are supposed to be able to make it better
but then they can't but then they're in so much pain themselves but then she's
feeling it and I mean we just feel it differently is what I think.

Similar to Kenyon's et al. (198 8) finding that women felt most supported by their husbands, most all of the women in this study felt supported by their husbands, and most of the men felt their wives supported them as best they could.

Guilt. As seen in the literature (Donnai et al., 19 8 1; Green, 1992; Iles &

Gath, 1993; Kenyon et al., 1988), feelings of guilt from having to choose the fate of their unborn child were a factor for some that seemed to contribute to the intensity of the pain. Guilt not only seemed to compound the pain but it was also an additional type of pain. One mother said, I think the thing that intensifies it to some degree is there's, I mean incredible guilt associated at the same time." She also explained, "nobody teaches you how to deal with the death of your child especially at your own hands." Being involved in the actual decision to end or not to end their child's life tremendously intensified the pain, "because you have to be involved and be an active participant in the whole decision making process. It's much, much, much easier to have things happen to you ... as opposed to deciding that things will happen."

Wantedness. Still another factor in the intensity was that the pregnancies in which these couples had to choose the fate of their unborn children were, for the most part planned, wanted pregnancies similar to what was noted in the literature





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(Donnai, Charles, & Harris, 1981; Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al., 1988). One mother described her pregnancy as "an extremely planned event." All of the participants in this study described their prior pregnancy as being a much desired pregnancy. Even those few who had not planned the pregnancy were happy about being pregnant and excited about having a baby by the time they were hit with the news of serious problems.

Never-Ending Pain

Most of the parents described the most intense periods of pain being in the immediate months following the death of their child. But even though the intensity seemed to diminish over time, almost all described the pain as "it never goes away." As this pain never completely goes away, it becomes never ending. "It isn't going to go away and I don't think anybody else understands what we've been through." Not even distance can separate these parents from their pain. One couple decided to move across the country following their loss, but the wife explained the move was not to run away because "there was no running away from what had happened, it was going to be with us forever." One father talked about not being able to "replace this child, it's impossible, the loss is always there." Another father described it as always "in the back of your mind." There seems to be some very painful reminders for some. Like one woman who said, "it's been really hard to see my niece who is basically like two months younger than my son would be.... It's a real reminder."

This catastrophic psychic pain touches the very core of being in these

individuals and sends a rippling effect throughout their lives. One woman searching for information read about how this experience impacts individuals for the rest of





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their lives. "You know I didn't believe what I was reading, and I was wrong at that point in time. I know this will always affect my life." Most parents "don't want to forget about it." One woman said, "it'll be a lifelong affair." Another woman who kept her baby's ashes explained, "I have a feeling I'm going to carry around these remains with me, and I told [my husband] I think I decided that whenever I die [he] can just put these in the casket with me."

This never ending psychic pain is similar to a concept found in the literature called chronic sorrow. Chronic sorrow was first described by Olshansky "to explain the parental response of lifelong, episodic sadness to the birth of a mentally disabled child" (Teel, 199 1, p. 1313). Teel adapted this definition describing it as, "a pervasive psychic pain and sadness, stimulated by certain trigger events, which follows loss (through permanent inaccessibility) of a relationship of attachment" (P. 1316). The sorrow is a natural response to a tragic fact: it recurs periodically, but is not constant (Teel). One woman described it like this,

We have a little box that has all the baby's things in. There's still times, I keep it in my room. I don't open it often but sometimes, the other night I just went to dust it and I started to cry you know. There's times where it
comes back to you.

Another woman said, memories come up at the strangest times and we're fine for months and months and months, and then all of a sudden crash.... it still hurts a lot." A physician described what he sees with his patients.

It's in your mind and right now it's right here (points to the top front
portion of head) in front of you, in your eyes. Hopefully 5 years from now
it's going to be back here (points to back of head). it's still going to be in
your mind, but farther back in our memory banks where there will be
triggers that will bring it back, situations that will bring it back. And those
triggers and those situations are going to become less and less and less.





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One woman confirmed this as she said, "it doesn't go away, you just learn how to carry it in your head and have it not interrupt your everyday life and the stupidest thing will set it off... Sometimes I see babies that look like him and you know [that] brings it back." As one father said, "neither of us are over with the grief... I don't think that it will ever be gone away so it's you know going to be an ongoing process."

Painful Decisions

To Terminate or Not to Terminate

After the immediate catastrophic psychic pain that assaulted them when they learned the diagnosis, parents had to go on and make an exquisitely painful decision-whether or not to terminate their much-wanted baby. Being faced with having a baby with abnormalities and having to make this decision concerning termination is what sets these parents' pain apart from other types of grief experiences. All except one couple made their decision jointly and agreed on their decision. The couple who did not make their decision together felt it was the wife's decision to make, although the husband agreed with her decision. The option to terminate was presented to the couples mostly by their obstetricians but occasionally in connection with a high-risk perinatologist and/or a genetic counselor. For some, they already knew their options and just needed guidance as to where to go next.

Termination was by far the more frequent choice in this sample population consistent with several studies in the literature (Kokler, & Burke, 1993; Rayburn & LaFerla, 1982; Rothman, 1986), but not all (Matthews, 1990). Only one mother whose husband was not interviewed and one couple chose not to terminate following





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diagnosis. Instead, these mothers had to have a cesarean delivery due to the baby's condition or presentation- Of the non-terminated pregnancies, one child was born with Spina Bifida and is still living; the other child had Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease and died within hours of his birth. Those who chose not to terminate felt abortion was "just not an option for us."

In choosing to terminate or not, the majority of participants felt they had no choice, that there was only one choice. "In my mind there was no choice" and "what we were doing ... was the best thing." One father described it as "a choice between terrible and horrible and whichever way you go you're going to have to suffer major consequences and there's no real ... win-win solution." In reality, there were only negative choices. For those who felt they did have a choice, all chose termination. Another father felt certain he had a choice and still isn't sure he made the right choice in terminating, but at the moment it was the choice he felt he had to make. This was a choice no one wanted to have to make and in fact, some became angry at being placed in such a position as to have to make a choice at all. As one woman said, I'm sorry that I had to make it. I'm sorry that I was ever presented with that situation." Another woman said, "we had to make a decision for our child that no parent should ever have to make." Still, another woman who had previously suffered years of infertility said, "we've fought to bring this child into the world and now we're in a situation of having to end her life." The decision to terminate or not was extremely painful for all. One father said, "it's an extremely difficult choice to make ... and not taken very lightly."





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Timing of the Decision

The timing of the diagnosis and the subsequent decision was different for different families. 'fhe two families who chose not to terminate did not have a definitive diagnosis until 27 and 28 weeks into their affected pregnancies. For one of these mothers, she believed, "it would never be a plan in my thinking" to terminate. The other mother said, "it just didn't seem right." 'fhe husband of this second mother felt they should "ride it through and see what happens." Although there are many states where 24 weeks is the maximum cut off for a termination, there are also a few places in the United States where it is legal to terminate much later. For both of these families, they had passed the cut off date for their states, and would have had to travel out of state had they chosen termination.

For most, the diagnosis was confirmed between 16 and 22 weeks. Some

couples took much time and deliberation in making their decision to terminate. One couple took over 3 weeks as one father explained,

We went back and forth and we talked to everybody that we could talk to
... because we wanted to make sure that we didn't rush into a decision,
didn't feel like we were pressured to make a decision. We knew we had a
deadline, but we wanted to make sure that we had gone down every possible avenue to find out all the information we could from all the
professionals, as far as what did the future look like, and then [1] still
even feel bad now.... It's definitely not the thing either of us ever wanted
to make a choice Eke that.

Another woman discussed how it took her husband and her "3 weeks to make our decision.... Both of us vacillated back and forth.... We pushed it further than they would have liked because I was actually 24 weeks when we went into the hospital."





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For others, the decision was made as soon as the diagnosis was made. "We really did decide in a couple of hours because they were telling us there was no hope." One mother described later regretting her quick decision.

I immediately thought of and began asking the ultrasound tech about, you know, what she thought like, you know, can I terminate this pregnancy? I mean I can't go on like this. I felt Eke I had cancer like I just needed to, to
cut this off of my body.

One husband explained, "when it became obvious in that second sonogram that the baby did not have kidneys, I mean basically right there and then looking at each other you know [we] said yeah, well we can't carry this to term." For still others, their quick decision came before they even became pregnant.

Before we ever got pregnant we had made a decision that if something
was wrong, you know seriously wrong with the baby not you know, not
missing an arm, not that that isn't serious, but something that would really
be a financial burden to the rest of the family or that was emotional, that we
would terminate the pregnancy. So we'd made that decision.

No one talked about being rushed into a decision, only how difficult it was regardless of how long it took or when in the pregnancy it occurred. Decision Rationales

Of those who chose termination, all but one woman found the entire decision making process very difficult. She described the decision of choosing termination as "the easiest decision I've ever made.... It was kind of a motherly protection. It was almost instinctive." Many described making the decision as somewhat altruistic aimed to prevent further suffering for the baby and themselves. One mother believed

that quality of life is very important and that ... I really believed that this
child would not have had a good quality of life. And I was fearful that if we
brought her into the world that we would not be able to care for her and I
could not in good conscience, as she grew we would not be able to care for
her, and we would have to delegate that responsibility to someone else.... I





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didn't think it was fair to put her through an incredible amount of pain and
suffering to correct what was a devastating injury, a devastating condition and
would never have allowed her to truly function. I think it went to a
completely nonfunctional person .... We went to see a neuro surgeon who
talked to us about all of the things that we could expect in this child's future and it seemed so cruel.... It was so cruel and so painful and ... I think that our reasons for terminating, well mine, was a combination of not wanting to put her through suffering and not wanting to put ourselves through that kind of suffering.... I've done a lot of soul searching over ... this and trying to figure out whether what I did was about me or about her and I think it was a
combination.

Many other parents made altruistic decisions to avoid pain and suffering of

the baby. One mother lamented her decision saying, "I was going to help my baby

versus going to kill my baby." Another "felt like if we bring a child into this world

that suffers terribly because we're too cowardly to take steps to spare this child

suffering then we're not good parents." Another mother described her motherly

instincts.

All of your ... mommy stuff I guess kicks in. It is very much a protective
thing I think .... I was very tempted to let him go to term. I was very
tempted because as long as he was inside of me he was alive and I could
protect him.

This mother made her decision to terminate for the baby's sake and not for her own.

She would have much rather chosen to keep her baby.

Other parents made altruistic decisions to avoid a dismal future such as

institutionalization for a child who would need a great deal of continuous care that

could be painful. One father said,

Because more than anything the one issue that I could not put to rest was that at some point or another that child would have to be institutionalized
amongst people who did not necessarily have her best interests at heart.
And as a parent I could not look at myself and say "yeah I could do that."
If I can't take care of my child at the level that child needs it shouldn't be
here and after I died I couldn't take care of that child. No matter how
much money I left, I couldn't be there and that baby was going to need





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round the clock assistance for the rest of it's life, and I couldn't bare to do
that with such a dismal forecast for her life.

Another mother expressed her concern for the baby's future pain, "We were afraid the baby was going to live and we'd have to watch him go through all these surgeries and procedures and that's all we could think about was the pain the baby was facing." Still another mother whose baby was diagnosed with Prader Willi's syndrome chose termination to spare her child what she believed would be a very poor quality of life: "to us it was totally morally acceptable and we couldn't think of a more loving you know, when a mother decides and makes a decision for her child, that's a loving thing."

The diagnosis of the baby influenced the couples' decision making process. If the diagnosis was presented as certain death many parents chose termination to speed up the inevitable. One mother whose baby was diagnosed with multiple anomalies said, "the deciding factor for us was the fact that the ultrasound said that they could only see two chambers of the heart and I'm smart enough to know that people can't live without a heart." When certain death was not a given, the dilemma was more troubling. For a couple in their early 40s and faced with a decision for a child with Spina Bifida, the uncertainty was very difficult. The husband said,

The biggest concern that we had was being older parents. It's much sooner
that we would not be able to take care of someone with these kinds of
problems ... because this child could live to be 50, 60.... So who's going to be able to take care of him and how do you prepare for that kind of stum ...
What kind of problems would he have? Would he ... be able to work and
provide for himself or not? And really no one can tell you ... the image you
get of your child being in a nursing home not able to take care of themself
and really all alone you know, because you're either not there or can't do
anything for them and that was just really hard to think of you know. What if it came down to that? I don't know if I can you know.... How do you go on





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to your final rest knowing that's the last thing you're thinking about, who's
going to take care of my child?

Some parents made their decision as a result of self-awareness and

recognition of their own limitations. Termination would relieve them from future responsibilities that they believed they would be unable to handle. Comparing herself to others, one woman who chose termination for a baby with Down syndrome said,

I would never say to somebody who wanted to keep a Down syndrome baby
[that they were] wrong. You know that's their ... I mean they're better
people than me. I just couldn't do it, you know. I couldn't do it on a lifetime
basis.

Choosing to terminate was a decision that no one "took lightly." These parents not only had to deal with the pain of making the decision to terminate or not, but for those who chose termination, they were also confronted with choosing the type of termination procedure.

Decision on Type of Termination

Obstetricians or perinatologists presented termination options to the parents. Occasionally a genetic counselor would make recommendations, but some of these parents were painfully aware of the options. Several authors (Hohnes-Siedle et al., 1987; Marteau, 1989) found that parents' decisions were affected by how information was presented and by whom. That did not seem to be the case in this study. Two options for termination included either to have a dilatation and evacuation (D and E) or induction which meant going through labor and delivery. Both options were not available to everyone. Those closer to 24 weeks had to be induced because it was considered the safest at that point in time. Those who were





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20 weeks or less frequently were given both options. Different professionals had differing opinions. One physician said that he tried to present both the "benefits" and the "risks" of each option. As he pointed out, other factors have to be considered such as gestation of the pregnancy, availability of the procedures and whether or not you want to study the baby to confirm a diagnosis. In some instances, professionals recommended the D and E, suggesting to the couple that this would 44spare us the pain ... somehow."

I think the physicians thought that they would be sparing us some pain.
You know like they could just make it go away. And (my husband) and I
knew that there was no going away. There was no pretending it just didn't
happen. And that we didn't want to pretend that it didn't happen and as much pain as it was going to cause I think we needed not to be in denial
that there had actually been a baby in our life and now there wasn't.

Induction. The majority of the participants ended up having induction of labor and had multiple reasons for choosing this, including gestation time as well as personal reasons. Parents talked about the need to say hello and welcome their baby into the world before they said their extremely painful goodbyes. "We needed that transition of being able to hold her and say goodbye and come to terms with, with all of that." Remembrances were vital in allowing themselves and others to acknowledge that their baby had lived. Mementos of the baby were important and were usually more available by going through labor and delivery. "You have footprints and handprints and pictures and you have your whole labor story that you can think about for yourself or share with somebody else if you had a mind to."

Some parents described how being able to parent their baby, even for a short time, was more humanizing. One mother said,





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1 didn't want to do a D and C [dilatation and curettage] or anything like
that. I'm so glad that I did that [induction for labor] because you know it
was a whole baby and you know we held him and baptized him and named
him

For most, the induction of labor provided an opportunity for bonding with the baby, and for others to see the baby and recognize that the baby was a person. "I put my baby finger in his hand so that I would always know how big his hand was holding onto my finger.... He looked exactly like my husband."

Going through the labor and delivery process helped some parents with

reconciling their painful decisions. One mother who had an induction described her need for others to see her baby as real.

A friend of mine that was with me at the time said you know you've got to
do this [terminate] ... you've got to stop this the fetus will never live
or something to those lines and I flew around.... I spun around on my heels [and said] this is not some fetus, this is my son and I have to now
make a decision for my son so it is very maternal.

This comment was similar to one made by Dearn (1998). Another mother said,

I think we really needed ... to see her as a whole person and to be a
family with her before we let her go .... We needed her to be real.... It
was very important to me that the health care professionals recognized that
she was ... our baby and not just a fetus.

The choices were painfully difficult, but on top of being difficult there were nothing but negative choices to choose from. For one father, it was very different. His wife was already at 24 weeks when they chose termination and they had no choice but to go through labor and delivery. He remembered it as being,

very difficult. I think partially because knowing the outcome was already a
negative one. To have to go through that even after we knew what was
wrong. It would have been a lot easier if that part of it didn't have to occur.





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Another father who had mixed feelings about his wife going through the labor process, left the decision up to her and recalled the procedure as "heart wrenching." One mother reflected on her own uncertainty about having seen the baby and her husband's desires to have had the opportunity to see the baby.

[My husband] wishes that ... he would have had the opportunity to see and hold the baby and sometimes you know, when we talk about it I make sure
that he knows how much the baby looked like him and things, and on the
other hand sometimes I think if I hadn't seen him it wouldn't be burnt my
mind, you know, his little face wouldn't be burnt in my mind like it is....
There is something to be said for either way to see them or not see them.

Still another father described their painful decision in choosing to go through labor and delivery.

This baby was, was severely injured and she deserved the best I and my
wife could give her and my family and that unfortunately the best that
was, was to be there with her. Just making the decision rips your heart out
but to hold her while she dies means that you at least understood your
decision. If you ... can't make your decision and live with the
consequences you're missing the point.

D and E. Induction of labor was not the best choice for an even when it was presented as such, as one woman who had a D and E at 17 V2weeks "quickly said I didn't want to deliver ... at the time I didn't think I wanted to go through a delivery and have a dead baby .... I think it was too painful at the time to think about delivering." She was offered her baby's remains following her D and E, allowing her to have a cremation and retain the ashes, which is uncommon with a D and E. Having the remains was important for her to allow her the opportunity to recognize her baby's existence. For another couple,

the genetic counselor was encouraging us to have labor and delivery
because they said if we did that they could do a full autopsy. And I just
drew the line, I'm like no, that's not an option. I'm not going through





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labor for a stillbirth. The idea of laboring and not delivering a live baby was
just too painful for them.

Parents who chose D and E needed to find a way to acknowledge or bond with their baby and say their goodbyes. Several were able to get more ultrasound pictures and a last look to say goodbye. Several couples were offered an ultrasound just prior to their D and E. One mother, whose baby had been diagnosed with anencephaly described how it was for her. "I said yes I wanted the ultrasound again. I wanted to be left alone [during] the ultrasound.... I did, I wanted to be left alone so that we could say goodbye." Her physician went one step ftirther to help this couple personalize their baby, making their experience more humanizing.

He asked "would you want to see pictures of a baby that was born with anencephaly," and I did so he went and got his books and brought those
pictures back, and I looked at those pictures and that helped put a face on my
baby I think.

The ability to gather these remembrances was in contrast to what several authors (Kenyon et al., 1988; Lloyd & Laurence, 1985; Zeanah, et al., 1993) reported in the literature. Families in their studies reported not having these remembrances.

Another couple who chose termination in two separate pregnancies for the same fatal diagnosis had a D and E for the first termination. The genetic counselor recommended a delivery in order to obtain a definitive diagnosis and the obstetrician "was saying 'no, no, no, I don't want her to go through labor.' I [mother] was saying 'I don't know what to do.... It was horrible." This woman described herself as on a "path of horror." The conflict between the healthcare professionals was overwhelming. In the end she described the D and E as "just horrible ... justthe whole situation, actually doing it, everything was just awful." She tried very hard to





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obtain her baby's remains but was unable to. This caused her additional pain and she suggested "that the hospital people need to have a better protocol for ... how to handle these very cherished babies." For her second termination of twins who ended up being diagnosed with the same disease (Congenital Nephrosis of the Finnish Type), the mother insisted on going through labor and delivery because "[fl wanted to see them. I wanted to hold them. And I definitely wanted something to bury ... even though the induction [for labor] was really traumatic,"

One couple who thought they had made it clear that they wanted to have an induction went to the clinic where their physician had arranged for them to have the procedure, only to find the doctor there only performed D and Es.

The doctor comes in ... and he's saying "take off your jeans," you know, "put your legs up in the stirrups. We'll insert the laminaria, and we'll do a
D and E tomorrow." And I said "whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a
minute," and I'm trying to discuss things with him, this is not the
procedure I want to go through. I want to be induced and he says "no, no,
no that's not what we do." And. I said "well then this appointment is
over," and I like got up off the table, zipped my jeans, my husband is
standing there thinking what's happening. He's just kind of dazed because he's in complete grief. You know, and I'm standing up walking out of this
clinic. The Dr. actually way laid him on the way out and said "Why
would you want your wife to go through all this pain" and he was berating him.... [My husband] broke the door on the way out. He was so mad, he
slammed the door on the way out.

One mother who had her labor induced heard other parents describing the D and E procedure at a support group. She said,

I can't imagine that. That to me is hell on earth, way worse than what I had
to go through. And all of [those who had a D and El think that what 1, the
way I had to do it was way worse than the way they had to do it.

Regardless of the type of delivery, for the most part these parents all had a need to be able to say hello and somehow have a parenting experience before saying





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goodbye to their precious babies. They needed to be able to acknowledge their child and the painful decisions they had made. Decision Reflections

Many of the parents reflected upon the decisions that they had made in the interview situation. Most of the parents interviewed at the time of their current pregnancy described their decision as I made the right decision at that point in my life for that baby." Feeling they had made the right decision was similar to parental responses described in the literature (Alder & Kushnick, 1982; Blumberg, 1975; Jones et al., 1984). One mother described it as, "we made the very best decision for [our baby] that we could have on the day with the information that we had." Although one couple who seemed adamant in the beginning that termination was right and they did the right thing, later revised their thinking and actually went through a long discerning process which included the help of a Catholic priest and a counselor to come to the conclusion that what they had done was wrong, "a sin," and in order to start healing they had to be forgiven and forgive themselves. Others struggled with the decision. One woman described her feelings of guilt as she continues to struggle with her decision to terminate. She described her feelings at times "of just total self hatred and disgust and ... I think I really did absorb the idea from Catholicism that there's never a good reason to do this. Even though I know I had a good reason." Although a large number of the participants in this study were Catholic, religion did not seem to play a major role in their decision. One nurse said,

The bottom underlying thing that's really concerning is just the
weightiness of the decision that we put on these people, that we allow
them to participate in the decision that 5, 10 years ago wouldn't have been a consideration and they do not have the external support in many cases to





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uphold that decision.... I do know though that the [parents] that have the
regrets, they are very deep and very strong and very profound so maybe
those just in my memory make more impact than the others. And
sometimes I think the regret happens because they were rushed to a
decision.

For some, the baby of their hopes and dreams was lost to them before they ever made the decision. One mother said "I feel like she was already gone by the time we decided to end her life. I mean she was gone to us in our dream." Most parents accepted the decision they made then, but could not say what they would do in their present or future pregnancy. They could only reflect back on what they had already done, because every situation is different, every pregnancy is different and parents said they are different because of their experience. One mother, speaking of her current pregnancy said, "when people ask if we would do the same thing [again], I have no idea. We're different people in a different time. This is a different child."

Consequences of Catastrophic Psychic Pain

Catastrophic psychic pain came from the overwhelming loss these parents

endured. The pain had consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence, devastation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hoping, aloneness, and stigma. Loss of Innocence

All participants felt a loss of innocence similar to what Bryar (1997) saw in her study. One woman said, "the biggest thing besides the loss of your child is the loss of your innocence." The loss of innocence is pervasive, affecting not only future pregnancies but other areas of their lives.

[This loss had] an impact on my life all together.... I mean that impacts
every area of my life. It doesn't just affect you know, the current pregnancy
and it's better today than it was right after we terminated but the fact that you
know, if [my husband's] coming home late from work, might mean oh my





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God he was killed in a car accident on the way home. And you know it's like the worse, the worse that you can imagine happened to you and suddenly you
know well gee, you know those terrible things that you hear happen to other people can happen to me and then you like expect thenL It's like you don't
expect the good things to occur anymore.

One mother talked about,

how deep a loss this is. I mean all the different kinds of things in life that it
cuts across. It cuts across your feelings about motherhood ... and maybe
your feelings about abortion, and your spiritual feelings, your image of
yourself There just were so many losses involved.

Other parents who had never before experienced such loss and exquisite pain

felt invincible in their innocence prior to their horrifying experiences. One mother

who had experienced the loss of two children with abnormalities said,

before this all happened I was invincible. I mean I had two perfect little girls. I had a nice husband and a nice house and nothing bad really ever
happened so it just really, reality hit. Anything can happen to anybody any day, and there's no protecting me or my family.... After [my baby] died, I
looked at people that walked around buying baby clothes and having baby
showers thinking gosh, I mean it's a sick thought but what if the baby dies?
What are they going to do with all this stuff? How could you go set up the
nursery'? You know, and it never entered their mind because it never entered
my mind [before my loss].

One father talked about his future expectations as being not, "what could go wrong,

it's what will go wrong. You know, you don't have any real expectations that things

are going to turn out good." Speaking of innocence he said, I want it back. I want

to be blissfully ignorant of all these problems." He went on to talk about wanting to

share the problems with others to warn them, but then, "do you want to take away

from people that innocence? ... Do you want to say don't think about it, but here's

what could go wrong?" He decided that wasn't good either.





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Devastation

Devastation was another consequence of the catastrophic psychic pain. To devastate, as defied in the Webster's New World Dictionary (Guralnik, 1974), means to ravage, destroy, overwhelm or make helpless. The catastrophic pain parents experienced with both the news of something being wrong with their baby and the loss of their baby or their dream overwhelmed many parents rendering them helpless. "What happened to us was just the worst of the worst." One father said, I was a naive Dad and just devastated when we found out something was wrong." Another father explained feeling ravaged. "Me months following the twins loss, every day was it's own private hell." Parents felt less than whole. One father said it's like you have a "hole in your heart that you need to fill." Another said it was a "huge sense of loss and a feeling of helplessness that nobody can ft for you. And even if you had all the money in the world you couldn't fix it."

The more intense parents felt their pain to be, the more devastated they seemed to be. A mother said, "my state of mind following our second loss, you know, I really was suicidal for quite a number of months, and extremely depressed and just quite not in my right mind, very irrational. Another mother said, "[the baby] died and my whole world fell apart." For another couple who went through two separate terminations for the same fatal abnormality over several years, the husband described the devastation of his wife. "She has been an emotional wreck, I mean just a derailed freight train for years and ... the loss of the twins only exacerbated that."





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This devastation was paralyzing for some and affected their relationships with their living children. One mother described her feelings.

I really had a hard time.... I just lay in bed and it was kind of like you
know, catatonic just staring into space and that was hard for the kids
because they would come in and try to talk to me .... They understood why I was sad and they were sad too but they you know, it was hard for them to
see me so shut down.

And another mother explained how in her devastation, feeling so helpless, she couldn't even be there for her living children.

[They] saw me ... totally paralyzed after [the baby] died. I laid in bed for
days and days and cried.... I was really angry because not only did I lose my
daughter the first time but I felt like I lost [my living daughters]. I couldn't be their mom anymore. I couldn't enjoy them because I was just sad all the time.... I mean it's just like you're in hell. I mean you don't think you can
ever get ouL You're so low you don't know how to get out. I say I don't
have to go to hell when I die because I've been there and I have. And I'm not
there now but I won't forget what it was like, ever.

Other ways parents described the destruction in their lives was, "it alters your being," "I hit rock bottom," "the ultimate in just low," and "I just thought ... I could crawl under the bed and I would curl up in a ball and I could die, because this is really awful. "

Changes in Spousal Relationships

The catastrophic psychic pain caused not only individual changes, but

changes in spousal relationships. Some couples had to work through some very difficult times. One man described how being so overwhelmed immediately following the termination affected his marriage.

Our marriage deteriorated horribly. There was even a point where I picked
up a gun and threatened my wife with it. We had horrible marriage problems.
She was totally fi7eaked out and I was just basically having to deal with the
overload of emotions.





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Afterwards, his wife noted how out of character his behavior was. Another father described how strained his marriage relationship became after the loss of their child which many believed was the worst case scenario that could happen in a relationship.

There's no question there's been a strain on our relationship. I think there
would be a strain on anybody's. There are times when I really don't want to
see or talk to my wife at all. And that never happened before, before you
know, we lost [our baby] and I never, ever thought we'd get a divorce, I
really didn't ever. I remember ... a couple months after we had lost her and I
was at a party with friends of the family and my nephew, he's 8 years old,
actually asked me flat out if I was going to get a divorce, and I told him flat
out 'no I'm not. I don't plan to do so.' But there's no question that ... we've
gone through more trouble than we should have.

One wife described the strain after the loss as, "it's been really hard and I'm surprised that we're still together some days because every month he doesn't know what to do with me." This woman's husband confirmed, "we came close to divorcing over the second time [of loss of baby] after what we went through." Several authors (Blumberg, 1975; V43ite Van-Mourik et al., 1992) reported marital stress and temporary separations for some couples in their studies.

One couple whose baby survived, but is sick quite often described a diminished relationship. The wife said, "I don't have a relationship with my husband.... I don't see my husband at all, hardly.... We have this 'see you in passing' relationship."

Two husbands discussed how much they wanted their wives back similar to responses Suslak et al. (1995) found. They noted how their wives had changed, they were not as they once were, because of what they had been through. "I [want] my wife back. [1] not only [lost] a child but I lost her for quite some time," and

since this has happened my wife has really been taken away and replaced by somebody who I don't know nearly as well.... I know I can't get the old





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[wife] back, that'll never happen, but I'd like to see a merrier version of this
one ... more often.

Ultimately most parents talked about how surviving their experience and the excruciating pain they endured made their relationships stronger, consistent with findings of several authors (Green, 1992; Jones et al., 1984; Bryar, 1997). One wife said, "I knew that if we had survived that [loss of baby] intact, still supporting each other, and we felt the presence of God in our lives like we did, that we could certainly survive anything else." One father said, "In ways of course, it's made us stronger as a couple because you know ... I sit back now and I think gee if we can do this then we can get by anything." Another father described how their experience deepened the bond in their relationship.

It deepened it. It burned away the trivialities. We would occasionally fight,
just like all couples, but we would occasionally get into a rip roaring fight
about something trivial. That hasn't happened very often since then. Most
things are seen to be what they really are. If they're important we simply
deal with it. If it's trivial we just... resolve it and press on. So in that
respect I think it's improved our relationship because it really helped us see
who each other was and is, and helped [us] to see why we fell in love and
why we respect one another.

One woman also shared how the lines of communication opened up for her husband andher, I do think that our communication skills have gotten just better, better, better, better."

Fear of Hope

Fear of hope was another consequence of the extreme pain, Many of the parents were afraid to allow themselves to hope. One woman said, "I think I'm afraid to hope really. Maybe I do have a few superstitions that if I hope that, it won't come true. So I kind of avoid it." A father described limiting hope in order to avoid






83

ftuther pain, CC simply wishing for more is a good way to get hurt and I've been down that road and I can't, I'm not sure if I can handle being crushed again," One woman described how her hopes "died" with the terminated pregnancy.

As soon as you get pregnant you hope you know, okay ... this one was going to be born the end of December so ... you have that hope okay. we won't go to South Carolina for Christmas cause we will possibly have a new baby,
just the hope that you already set in your mind. just all your hopes were
gone, you know they died.

Another father described how their hopes and desires are less now than before they ever experienced such pain following their pregnancy loss.

We talk about our concerns all the time. We leave hopes, I think we
left hopes go. I don't say we don't discuss them ever but ... they're less
of an issue. We sort of you know, it's a cross your fingers. It's like if you discuss your hopes, they're ... less likely to come true. So we, I
think we do less of that, and also, we've lowered our standards
considerably.... Our hopes, desires are less than they used to be.

Hope becomes limited for these parents after their experience with catastrophic psychic pain.

Isolation

Another consequence identified by many of the parents was that they "really [felt] alone" in their pain. One father described it as "most of my family members and friends ... treated [me] as if I should just go be on an island somewhere and when I'm better, I'll return to them-" These couples felt alone at a time when they needed others most. "There is a time early on when you think you're the only person in the world who's ever been through something so terrible." One woman who felt 44so alone and so isolated" had to drive two hours one way to attend a support group. Aloneness was experienced sometimes by a couple and sometimes by individuals.





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1 felt alone ... because [my wife] was trying to deal with her own pain ...
and my parents and everybody around us were so wrapped up in their own
grief that ... it's hard not to feel alone no matter how many people are
around you or how much they care.

One woman described a time during the termination, "I'm so grateful for [my husband's] role in this but at the same ttme I felt very alone.... I did feel a great burden that no one else could take it away from me." Another woman said, "I really felt isolated because I really needed someone who had been through what I had been through." Still, another man described how alone he and his wife felt as a couple during their termination when the nurse briefly stepped out of the room. "We did have to make the decision to do this alone and then all of a sudden the time has come [to deliver and] nobody else is there and that kind of hit me as being a little lonely."

For one woman, the isolation was directly imposed by health care

professionals who did not seem to understand how to help her. "I said I wanted to die ... and they (health care professionals) did the worst thing possible, put me in there (an inpatient psychiatric ward) isolated from anybody else.... Theywouldn't listen to me." Most felt very alone with their pain. One mother said, "I feel like I want to do something to help because it's so hard and nobody should have to go through this alone." The pain paralyzed some parents, not allowing them to talk openly concerning their experiences because of a fear of being stigmatized, thus increasing their isolation. The catastrophic psychic pain and its consequences made these parents' lives very difficult and different from what it had previously been. Stigma

Stigma surrounds the topic of termination as well as the loss of a baby by natural means. Goffinan (1963) described stigma:





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While the stranger is present before us, evidence can arise of his
possessing an attribute that makes him different from others in the category of persons available for him to be, and of a less desirable kind.... He is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one. Such an attribute is a stigma,
especially when its discrediting effect is very extensive; sometimes it
is also called a failing, a shortcoming, a handicap. (p. 3)

One mother, whose husband was unable to be with her at the time of the

delivery, described her sense of failure as her husband met her at the airport

on her return.

When I got off the plane, when he met me at the plane with 38 dozen
roses ... my first words to him were 'do you want me to stay, because I failed? Do you want me to go back?' And then, of course we stood
there like idiots sobbing for half an hour in the middle of the airport.

She felt she had failed and said, "I still do. I will forever." Another mother

described her feelings of shame.

I felt ashamed of having conceived a baby and then two more that had a
problem. That made me feel defective, substandard, not as good as
everybody else. And also I think a big part of my shame comes from feeling
like parents are supposed to know what to do and I was the parent and the
best I could do was to come up with ok I'm gonna put you to death. I
couldn't and no matter which way I looked, no matter how desperately I
wanted there to be something that was better, there never was, both times.
That was the best option and I just feel like I failed my babies. That I just
couldn't think of anything better to do for them than that. And so yeah I am ashamed of that. Just think that a good parent could think of something else
to do, and I just couldn't, I couldn't think of anything else.

Feelings of shame and failure reported by some parents in this study were similar

to those reported in the literature (White Van-Mourik et al., 1992).

Having a baby with an anomaly and/or terminating a pregnancy makes these

parents different from the "norm." As one physician said, the stigma regarding

termination "is a reflection of our culture and ... socio-political situation." A major

issue surrounding the stigma of termination concerned the fear of judgement these





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parents had believing others could not possibly understand what they had been through. This fear of judgement included fear of others accusing them of murdering or killing their own child. One woman feared sharing her story in a support group on the Internet because, "you get fanatics on there who are calling you murderer, and ... it's like they don't even get it." Another woman felt she always had to be on guard. Concerns about fear of judgement were consistent with what was seen in the literature (Gregg, 1993; Bryar, 1997).

Because there is so much stigma around abortion I feel like I'm living a life
of a lie that you know, there's so many people and there's friends and family
who don't know the truth, because there's such an emotional circumstance
surrounded with this that you know, I like, I'm always on my toes to be
careful you don't say too much, and you know, even the fact that we didn't
tell a lot of people.

This fear of judgement lead to parents feeling unable to talk openly about

their decision and/or loss. One woman described her fear of being stigmatized as "I felt kind of like I was, you know, living in fear that I would suddenly end up with a scarlet letter." Another woman believed,

very few people understood what we were going through... And I found out
quickly the responses that ... I didn't want to tell anybody that didn't have the medical background to try and explain medically what was wrong.... I
just don't feel people could comprehend. Then we would be judged more on
instead of grieving the loss of a son, I was afraid to get into the moral of
somebody say well you killed your baby, you had an abortion, which I never,
I don't believe in abortions. I mean my faith, our faith so it's just funny
when I got put in the situation. I didn't feel like it was so called an abortion, that we really felt like we were doing it for our son versus hurting him. That
it was more grievous on us to do this to him, that we were actually trying to
take care of him.

Some parents dealt with their own guilt concerning what had happened to them. One mother described her own feelings of guilt and how she projected them.





87


My family's Catholic and I just thought like my mother's going to be grossed out and offended. And just think that I'm a total sicko and whatever pain I'm in I deserve it and of course, she wasn't that way at all. But that was just I
think me projecting my feelings about what I had done onto her. Another mother described her guilt at feeling she had killed her child.

I'm not real comfortable with the decision that we made. It's really
hard for me to even admit that because I never thought I would do
something like that ... ending your pregnancy. It's just that they call
it like, it's like, I don't know, killing your child. 'Mat's what
sometimes I feel like we did. I mean it's very hard, but that's what it
is.

Another father talked about his wife's feelings of guilt. "I feel that she felt like she was ashamed and that there was something wrong with her." The impact of feeling stigmatized was so great for this couple that they moved from the neighborhood when their neighbors inadvertently found out about their loss.

Goffman (1963) discussed two types "of individuals from whom the

stigmatized person can expect some support" (p. 28). These included the "own" (p. 28) who share the stigma, or in this situation have been through a similar circumstance, and the "wise ... whose special situation has made them intimately privy to the secret life of the stigmatized individual and sympathetic with it" (P. 2 8), such as some health care professionals. One woman sought out a support group, the 46 own" where she would be with others in a similar situation, but was afraid to share her whole story at the first meeting.

It was real interesting people would go around and if they felt comfortable tell their story and finally well after the second meeting I went in and I told
my real story, not that I had a baby that was stillborn, but we had a baby you
know, that had problems, we terminated. And the next thing I knew after I told my story people that had already told their story were saying yeah, that's our story too, after they had just got done saying that their baby was
stillborn.





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Another woman, who, along with her husband, was in the medical field, also feared being judged by others. She described how she could talk about the termination only to medical friends, the "wise," because

they understood the medical part which I think being medical they
disassociate some of the social, you know treating patients you don't give
your social views when treating, when they make medical decisions. I think
they [medical friends] were a little bit better about not putting in their
opinions on [the] social issues of it [termination].

This stigma causes a change in the individual from that moment on. Goffman (19 63) suggested,

when the individual first learns who it is that he must now accept as his
own, he is likely, at the very least, to feel some ambivalence for these others will not only be patently stigmatized, and thus not like the normal person he
knows himself to be, but may also have other attributes with which he finds it
difficult to associate himself (p. 37)

One father described becoming a member of a great personal loss club, "the own":

we became members of the club we never wanted to join.... It's alinost like it's a taboo subject, but the minute you had a loss or a miscarriage or
something you know we found out we have a relative through marriage
that has had 10 miscarriages. You never find that out until you are a
member of the club.

Support groups were very important to some people because of needing to have others to talk to who could possibly understand what they were experiencing. Ahnost all became involved with a support group, at least via the Internet.

The stigma not only affected those who chose to terminate, but also those

parents who had a child with an abnormality that made the child different from other children. One mother with a baby with Spina Bifida felt rejected and stigmatized by some of the other mothers she knew in a church group.

A lot of the mothers don't talk to me anymore because they don't want to
have to explain to their children. They just completely dropped out...





89

Some of them dropped out when ... [the baby] was born because they didn't
want, [my baby] is G-tube fed and every couple of hours you have to feed her. Well it doesn't bother me, and if it doesn't bother the majority of the
moms, I'm going to feed her. I'm not going to go in a room and bide myself
because this is [my baby] you know, we're praying together. This is God's
gift you know. You would think that everybody would be on the same wave length, but they're not.... And wouldn't you know it, the very first week I took her to church some lady asked me not to sit in front of her. I said well
then you can kindly move yourself away from us and you can go talk to
Monsignor. And she was so upset with me and she did, she moved her and
her children away. But think of what she was doing to those children by
showing them. She's showing them that you know this isn't right, this isn't
normal, hey look, there's a baby, you can't do that in church, she doesn't
belong here, let's leave. And I don't understand.

Because of the stigma surrounding the termination issue, the loss issue, and the birth of a child who was different, most parents tended for the most part not to share their experience openly. If they did share their experience, they chose the people carefully. This finding was consistent with the findings of several other authors (Green, 1992; Gregg, 1993; Hodge, 1989; Suslak et al., 1995). When asked why she thought parents chose not to disclose information on termination one nurse said,

That people won't understand, abnost universally, you know. Here we
allow [the parents] technologic information to force them into a decision
society doesn't understand or support. It's very hard for them.

For almost all of the participants in this study, their past pregnancy became a secret, held close, shared in limited situations.

Summary

This chapter described the basic social problem of catastrophic psychic pain. This pain began with the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality in these parents' previous pregnancies. It was unexpected, intense, and never ending. Parents had to make painful decisions regarding termination and type of delivery. The pain had





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consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence, feelings of devastation and isolation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hope, and stigma.













CHAPTER 5
MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN

In this chapter I will discuss how parents were able to move forward, begin to think about a subsequent pregnancy, become pregnant, and forge through their subsequent pregnancy. In moving forward towards a subsequent pregnancy, the previously experienced catastrophic psychic pain came back to the fore-front for these parents as they were all too aware that what had happened to them in the past could possibly reoccur. This chapter discusses the process of how the parents managed their catastrophic psychic pain in a subsequent pregnancy. Parents put forth a tremendous amount of emotional labor (Hochschild, 19 83) to work through their pain to begin to heal and manage the recurrence of their pain and/or to avoid future pain enough to actually move forward and begin to think about getting pregnant again. "Emotional labour is hard work and can be sorrowful and difficult. It demands that the labourer give personal attention which means they must give something of themselves, not just a formulaic response" (James, 19 89). As one mother said, "I was so worn out all the time because we were carrying around all this."

What should be a happy time, a subsequent, often planned pregnancy, was fraught with tremendous stress and tremendous fear. "It's not happy and babies and bottles and diapers." These parents have lost their innocence, suffered devastation, experienced changes in their spousal relationships, are now afraid to hope, have felt



91





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isolated, and live with the stigma of their decisions and their losses. The subsequent pregnancy for most parents was "a very scary thing." Many authors reported markedly increased anxiety during a pregnancy subsequent to a loss (Armstrong & Hutti, 1998; Borg & Lasker, 1989; Phipps, 1985-1986; Statham & Green, 1994; Stierman, 1987). Four major sub-processes are useful in discussing how parents in this study managed their catastrophic psychic pain: emotional armor and going forward, limiting disclosure, suspending emotions, increasing attachment to the health care professionals and others. Social structural issues also affected management of the catastrophic psychic pain.

Emotional Armor and Going Forward The catastrophic psychic pain these parents experienced was not easily put

behind them The intense fear of experiencing additional pain caused them to look at a future pregnancy very differently from their previous pregnancy. Tremendous fear of the possibility of having to repeat the experience caused these parents severe anguish consistent with the findings of Borg and Lasker (1989). They had to steel themselves and manage their pain sufficiently to get to a point where they had enough strength and courage, in essence armor, to face another termination decision with a future baby. "The question would obviously have to be, any time you consider conceiving you also have to consider terminating, which is real difficult." One woman who had an immediate desire to get pregnant again following her termination "realized we can't even think about getting pregnant again until we can conceive of going through this whole nightmare again" which was consistent with findings reported by Borg and Lasker. This sentiment was shared by many of the




Full Text
PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS OF FETAL ABNORMALITIES:
MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN IN A SUBSEQUENT
PREGNANCY
By
PAMELA B. RILLSTONE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1999

Copyright 1999
by
Pamela B. Rillstone

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to acknowledge many individuals for their continuous support and
encouragement during the course of this research. I especially want to thank my
husband, Jere, and my children—Chris, Amy, and Ryan—for their loving support and
for the many sacrifices they made. I also want to thank my mother, Dolores Merrick,
my in-laws, Alice and the late Herbert Rillstone, who never failed to encourage me
when they could, and my aunt and uncle, Bobbie Jean and Richard Winkler, for their
continued faith and assistance. Many other family members and friends, too numerous
to mention by name, provided an unending source of encouragement and prayer,
especially Jacki Davis, Suzy Ludwig, and Kathy and Ed Leonard.
I began a process when I entered the doctoral program that culminates in this
dissertation that would not have been possible without the assistance of the members of
my supervisory committee—Drs. Felix Berardo, Karolyn Godbey, Sally Hutchinson,
James Wagner, and Marie Visscher. I particularly thank Dr. Hutchinson for her never-
ending guidance, encouragement, and strict adherence to scholarly standards.
Last, but by no means least, I would like to thank each of the parent participants
who were so graciously willing to share their most intimate stories making this study
possible, and the professionals who were willing to share their time and experiences.
iii

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
ABSTRACT vii
CHAPTERS
1 INTRODUCTION 1
Purpose of Study 4
Theoretical Framework for Grounded Theory Research 4
Significance for Nursing 9
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE 10
Prenatal Testing 10
Influences in Pregnancy Termination for Fetal Abnormalities 12
Attitudes Towards Termination for Fetal Abnormalities 15
Disclosure Issues 16
Termination as the Right Decision 17
Choice 18
Effects of Prenatal Diagnosis and Subsequent Choice
on Children and Families 19
Psychological Sequelae of the Choice 21
Follow-up 26
Subsequent Pregnancies 29
Summary 33
3 METHOD 34
Research Approach 34
Sample Selection 35
Sample Demographics 37
Data Collection 43
Data Analysis 43
Maintaining Rigor 47
Ethical Issues 50
iv

4 CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN:
THE BASIC SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM 53
Introduction 53
The Diagnosis 54
Diagnostic Consequences 57
Unexpected Pain 57
Intense Pain 59
Never-Ending Pain 62
Painful Decisions 64
To Terminate or Not to Terminate 64
Timing of the Decision 66
Decision Rationales 67
Decision on Type of Termination 70
Decision Reflections 76
Consequences of Catastrophic Psychic Pain 77
Loss of Innocence 77
Devastation 79
Changes in Spousal Relationships 80
Fear of Hope 82
Isolation 83
Stigma 84
Summary 89
5 MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN 91
Emotional Armor and Going Forward 92
Desire for Future Pregnancy 93
Playing the Odds 96
A Different Child 98
Limiting Disclosure 99
Secrets 99
Disclosing the Subsequent Pregnancy 103
What Pregnancy is This? 106
Suspending Emotions 108
Gathering Information 112
Accelerating the Diagnosis 115
Waiting Hurdles 118
Changing Expectations 123
Increased Attachment to Health Care Professionals and Others 125
Increased Attachment to the “Wise” 125
Increased Attachment to the “Own” 130
Social Structural Issues 133
Summary 138
v

6 SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS 139
Summary 139
Recommendations for Future Research 143
Recommendations for Practice 143
APPENDICES
A INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 146
B INFORMED CONSENT 149
C DEMOGRAPHIC FORM 152
D PHYSICIAN LETTER 153
E PARTICIPANT LETTER 154
F IRB APPROVAL 155
G IRB ADDENDUM APPROVAL 156
REFERENCES 157
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 166
VI

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS OF FETAL ABNORMALITIES: MANAGING
CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN IN A SUBSEQUENT PREGNANCY
By
Pamela B. Rillstone
August 1999
Chairman: Sally A. Hutchinson
Major Department: Nursing
Rapidly developing technological advances in the reproductive arena lead to
prenatal diagnoses of fetal abnormalities forcing parents to make life and death
decisions for their unborn children. The purpose of this study was to discover: a) the
basic social psychological problem experienced by parents faced with a pregnancy
subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate
following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and b) the basic social psychological
processes these parents used to address this problem. Symbolic interactionism
provided the theoretical framework while grounded theory was the method used for this
qualitative study. Two professionals and 22 parents were interviewed during a
subsequent pregnancy. Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic social psychological
problem identified. This pervasive pain began with the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality
in the previous pregnancy. The pain was unexpected, intense, and never-ending.
Catastrophic psychic pain resulted from the overwhelming loss these parents endured.
vii

The pain had consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence, feelings of
devastation and isolation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hope, and stigma.
With time, parents began to move forward; they thought about a subsequent pregnancy
and became pregnant. In order to move forward, parents had to manage their
catastrophic psychic pain. Four major sub-processes describe how parents managed
their pain; they developed emotional armor, limited disclosure, suspended emotions,
and increased attachment to health care professionals and others on the Internet and in
support groups who shared similar experiences. Social structural issues involving the
health care delivery system affected parents’ pain management. Health care
professionals need to examine how they support and care for these parents to avoid
causing further pain. These agonized, vulnerable, and underserved parents need
compassion and understanding. With the knowledge gained through this research,
professionals can better understand and guide these parents through their painful
subsequent pregnancy.

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Advances in reproductive technology may be occurring at a much more rapid
pace than many parents in our society are prepared for psychologically. Prenatal
testing for some inherited diseases or birth defects became available in the late 1960s
and early 1970s. This testing was made possible by the development of laboratory
methods that enable cells to grow from amniotic fluid. Further advances in
obstetrical procedures including chorionic villus sampling done in the first trimester
of pregnancy, amniocentesis done in the second trimester, fetal blood sampling,
ultrasound, major strides in DNA analysis and disease gene identification, and in-
utero therapy or surgery have not only expanded reproductive choices, but also
created often difficult challenges for women, couples and their families (Roberts,
1997). The prenatal discovery of birth defects and inherited diseases influences the
way women and parents make decisions about childbearing (Blumberg, Golbus &
Hanson, 1975). In fact, Blumberg et al. suggested that families may pay a
psychiatric price for this newly available information. As technologies continue to
advance, the risk of psychological trauma to these families, including a concern
about their future pregnancies, presents a significant clinical problem.
Sandelowski (1988) suggested that a case of conflicting paradigms exists
between nursing and reproductive technology. She cautioned that reproductive
technology is not only changing the experience of maternity, but also the
l

2
longstanding bond between pregnant women and nurses. The nurse’s role as
“empathic toucher” (Sandelowski, p. 43), the laying on of hands to comfort and treat,
is being minimized by this technology. The nurse is becoming more like the
physician, touching the patient primarily to obtain information (Sandelowski). In the
past, parents were unaware of fetal complications until the birth of their baby or
some time during the first year of life (Matthews, 1990). With the advent of
diagnostic testing during pregnancy and the legalization of abortion, parents are now
faced with making life and death decisions for their unborn child.
The subject of prenatal testing and the subsequent influences on childbearing
has been explored and studied since the early 1970s in literature in nursing, social
work, psychology, medicine, and genetics (Alberman, Kani & Stanwell-Smith, 1984;
Becker, Glinski & Laxova, 1984; Black & Furlong, 1984a, 1984b; Humfeld,
Wladimiroff & Passchier, 1994; Mueller, 1990). Many of these studies are limited in
scope and sample size. It was difficult to compare and contrast these studies because
they focussed on different research problems and frequently lack common measures.
Volumes of studies concerning termination of pregnancies for psychosocial reasons
(reasons other than fetal abnormalities) exist, but the literature review for this study
focussed on choices concerning “selective terminations” and their subsequent
sequelae. “Selective terminations” were usually much desired pregnancies that were
terminated for prenatally diagnosed fetal anomalies. The impact on these families
began with the diagnosis of the fetal abnormality and continued on long after a
decision was made to terminate or not to terminate the pregnancy.

Many researchers described what families experienced following a positive
diagnosis of fetal abnormalities and subsequently having to decide whether or not to
terminate their pregnancy. These descriptors included such wording as “emotional
3
upheaval” (Adler & Kushnick, 1982, p. 94), “the worst decision of my lifetime”
(Van Putte, 1988, p. 17), “emotionally devastating” (Green, 1992, p. 57),
“physically and emotionally painful” (Mueller, 1990, p. 286) “isolating” (Suslak,
Scherer & Rodriguez, 1995, p. 169), “complex and emotionally challenging” (Bryar,
1997, p. 560), and “far more painful or traumatic than anticipated” (Kenyon, Hackett
& Campbell, 1988, p. 98). White-Vam Mourik, Connor and Ferguson-Smith (1992),
while looking at psychosocial sequelae of second-trimester terminations of
pregnancy for fetal abnormalities concluded that “it remains an emotionally
traumatic major life event for both the father and the mother” (p. 202). Blumberg et
al. (1975) commented that “even when selective abortion is accepted as the only
alternative, and preferable to the birth of a defective child, the responsibility of
making the decision to abort may prove to be an uncomfortable burden for the
parents” (p. 805). Uncomfortable burden seems to be an understatement of what
parents actually experience during and following this profound life event. What is
the effect of this technology and the decisions parents are asked to make on their
future childbearing? Does this prenatal information and decisions parents make
impact how they manage subsequent pregnancies? Is this experience the same for
both the man and the woman? The current literature on prenatal testing and
pregnancy outcome does not adequately answer these questions. Parental concerns

4
during a pregnancy subsequent to having to choose to terminate or not to terminate a
previous pregnancy following detection of a fetal abnormality remain unstudied.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this grounded theory study was to answer the following
questions: (a) What is the basic social psychological problem faced by parents
during a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to
terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality? (b)
What is the basic social process used by these parents to address this basic social
problem? (c) What are the phases and their properties, the strategies and
consequences of this basic social psychological process? and (d) What are the social
structural processes that impact these parents?
Theoretical Framework for Grounded Theory Research
This study aimed to develop a substantive grounded theory about parents
experiencing a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to
terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality.
Research methods were linked to certain perspectives on a philosophy of science
(Hutchinson, 1993). The social psychological theory of symbolic interactionism
which grew out of the Chicago school of sociology provided this philosophical
foundation for grounded theory (Hutchinson; Robrecht, 1995; Schwandt, 1994).
The theory of symbolic interactionism, described by George Herbert Mead (1964)
and Herbert Blumer (1969), searches to portray and understand the process of
meaning making (Schwandt) and “posits that humans act and interact on the basis of
symbols which have meaning and value for the actors” (Stem, Allen & Moxley,

5
1982, p. 203). Symbolic interactionism can be thought of as a lens for understanding
human behavior (Becker, 1993).
Symbolic interactionism, according to Blumer (1969), is based on three basic
premises. The first of these is that human beings act toward things based on the
meanings that the things have for them (p. 2). Things include anything that the
person may note in his or her world such as physical objects, other human beings,
institutions, guiding ideals, activities of others and any situation persons encounter in
their daily lives. Blumer believed that contemporary social and psychological
science took meaning for granted and pushed it aside as unimportant or regarded it as
a neutral link between various factors responsible for individual behavior. In this
type of explanation, the meanings of things for the persons who are acting are either
swallowed up or bypassed in the factors used to account for their behavior.
Symbolic interactionism posits that the meaning things have for individuals is central
in its own right (Blumer). “To ignore the meaning of the things toward which people
act is seen as falsifying the behavior under study” (Blumer, p. 3).
The second premise is that the meaning of such things arises out of, or is
derived from, the social interaction that one has with fellow human beings. This
premise refers to the source of meaning. Traditional ways in which meaning has
been accounted for view meaning as being intrinsic to the thing that has it, or as
arising out of psychological elements in the person. In symbolic interactionism,
meaning is seen as arising in the process of interaction between human beings.
Thus, meaning is seen by social interactionists as a social product, as a creation that

is formed in and through the defining activities of persons as they interact (Blumer,
1969).
6
The final premise is “that these meanings are handled in, and modified
through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he
encounters” (Blumer, 1969, p. 2). The use of meanings by a human being in his
action involves “a process of interpretation.... Interpretation should not be regarded
as a mere automatic application of established meanings but as a formative process
in which meanings are used and revised as instruments for the guidance and
formation of action” (Blumer, p. 5). Blumer suggested meanings play a role in
action through a process of self-interaction. Stem et al. (1982) believed that
everyone’s lifetime study is learning the meaning and value of these interactional
symbols. It is through the meaning and value that these interactional symbols have
for the individual that he/she tries to interpret their world and the actors who interact
with them (Stem et al.).
The symbolic interactionist theory is organized around three central concepts
including the self, the world and social action (Bowers, 1989). According to this
theory, the human being having a self simply means that the person is an object to
himself, perceiving himself, having conceptions of, communicating with, and acting
towards himself. The self is not static but continually evolving. The process of self-
interaction puts the person over against his world instead of merely in it (Blumer,
1969). It “requires him to meet and handle his world through a defining process
instead of merely responding to it, and forces him to construct his action instead of
merely releasing it” (Blumer, p. 64).

7
The world is the second concept that is formational to symbolic
interactionism theory. Persons Uve in an environment or world of objects, and their
activities are formed around these objects (Blumer, 1969). Objects, for the symbolic
interactionist, are everything that can be designated to the self or reflected on by the
self. Professionalism and anxiety are no less objects than hats and chairs. No
inherent meaning is given to an object. Objects are defined by the meaning they
have for individuals and how individuals act toward them. The meaning of an object
may vary from one individual to another, from one social context to another and over
time. However, objects are not static things and evolve over time just as the self
does (Bowers, 1989). Bowers believed that “our ability to interact effectively
depends on our ability to understand the objects being designated as the designator
understands them” (p. 41).
Symbols, including both nonverbal and verbal gestures, also designate
objects in our social world. Individuals interact in a meaningful or predictable way
by designating symbols that are shared by those around them. As individuals receive
these symbols from others, they adjust their own actions accordingly. Therefore,
individual action, or social action, the third foundational concept in symbolic
interactionism, is always contextual (Bowers, 1989; Blumer, 1969). For the
symbolic interactionist, social action consists of the person and collective activities
of people engaging in social interaction. These activities make up the ongoing social
life of a human group, whether the group is a family or a nation. Social action takes
place within the process of social interaction.

8
In order to analyze or treat social action, the researcher must observe the
process by which it is constructed. The investigator must trace the formation of the
action by seeing the situation through the actors’ eyes (Blumer, 1969). That is,
observing what the actor takes into account and how he/she interprets this, “noting
the alternative kinds of acts that are mapped out in advance, and seeking to follow
the interpretation that led to the selection and execution of one of these prefigured
acts” (Blumer, p. 56).
Symbolic interactionism was an ideal framework to discover the basic social
psychological problem experienced by parents faced with a pregnancy subsequent to
a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to terminate following
the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and for uncovering the basic social
psychological processes that were used by these parents as they attempted to address
this problem. The symbolic interactionist’s perspective provided the underlying
theoretical framework for this dissertation because I was interested in how the
participants experience their identified problem, what the meaning was for the
participant. In this case, the focus was on the parents’ perspectives and social
interactions surrounding their past pregnancy, decisions made to terminate or not to
terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and their subsequent
pregnancy. It allowed me a way to enter the world of the participant and understand
it from the parents’ perspective.
Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss gave researchers a method developed for
the purpose of studying social phenomena from the symbolic interactionist

perspective (Bowers, 1989; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). This method, called grounded
theory (Glaser & Strauss), will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.
9
Significance for Nursing
As long as technologies continue to advance in the realm of prenatal testing,
while at the same time treatments and cures for the conditions diagnosed lag far
behind, parents will continue to be faced with heart wrenching decisions about their
unborn children. How do these decisions affect their future pregnancies? How do
nurses and other health care professionals support these parents through this very
difficult and emotional time? Qualitative research recognizes that human realities
are complex and focuses on the human experience through a holistic approach.
Careful attention is given to the contexts of human behavior with a high level of
researcher involvement through in-depth interviews with the participants. A
description of individuals living through events is produced by the data obtained
(Boyd, 1993).
By the use of symbolic interactionism through the grounded theory method ,
an attempt was made to enter the world of the parents investigated to gain a better
understanding of their perception of their situation. With this understanding of these
parents’ experiences, I identified the needs they shared with me and developed
appropriate strategies to assist other nurses and health care professionals to better
support these parents through this very difficult experience.

CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
We live in a fast paced society where new technologies are developed on a
regular basis. Certainly, this is the case for advances in technologies in the
reproductive arena. Through the use of prenatal testing, parents are given the
“opportunity” to discover if the fetus the woman is carrying has any diagnosable
abnormalities. With this information, parents are now being asked to make life and
death decisions for their unborn child. The information is just enough to make the
diagnosis, but unfortunately not enough to treat or cure the majority of the problems.
Such knowledge drastically changes the parents’ outlook on their current pregnancy,
as well as any future pregnancies. In this chapter, prenatal testing, influences on and
attitudes toward pregnancy termination for fetal abnormalities, disclosure issues,
termination as the right decision, effects of prenatal diagnosis and subsequent choice
on children and families, psychological sequelae of the choice, follow-up and
subsequent pregnancies are discussed.
Prenatal Testing
For most parents prenatal testing was agreed to not to discover something
wrong with their baby, but for reassurance that everything was all right and possibly
the bonus of discovering the baby’s sex (Green, 1992; Sandelowski & Jones, 1996).
In fact, women in Sandelowski’s qualitative study on choosing to terminate or not to
terminate, used words such as ‘routine’ or ‘regular’ to describe tests performed
10

11
during ‘routine’ prenatal visits for ‘normal’ pregnancies (p. 356). Evans et al. (1989)
predicted that first trimester genetic testing would be the norm for the 1990s even
though this has not proven to be the case. Although the majority of testing does
reassure parents, one to five percent of the time fetal abnormalities are detected
(Jones, et al., 1984; Raybur & LaFerla, 1982; Roberts, 1997; Timothy & Harris,
1986; and Zimmer, Avraham, Sujoy, Goldstein & Brohshtein, 1997).
Blumberg et al. (1975) suggested that families might not be adequately
prepared for these abnormal results. Families must be made aware that one of the
risks of amniocentesis (and other prenatal tests) is the possibility of the diagnosis of
a fetal abnormality, even though cognitive awareness of this risk is not equivalent to
emotional acceptance (Blumberg et al.). Even when the possibility of a fetal
abnormality is discussed prior to the amniocentesis procedure, most couples deny
this possibility and when a positive diagnosis occurs, they react as if they are hearing
for the first time that abnormalities can exist (Jones et al., 1984). Cox et al. (1987)
studied the psychological impact of diagnostic ultrasound and found that providing
increased feedback during the ultrasound scan significantly lowered both anxiety and
emotional experiences. Unfortunately, this research excluded ‘high-risk’
pregnancies and failed to discuss differences, if any, noted when the results were less
than normal. Sandelowski and Jones (1996) reported that both obtaining too little or
not the right information, as well as obtaining too much information, left women
feeling uninformed.
Other risks involved with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling
included fetal loss or abortion as a result of the procedure itself or the possibility of

12
misdiagnosis and termination of healthy pregnancies (Squire, Nauth, Ridler, Sutton
& Timberlake, 1982). Squire et al. reported on the outcome of pregnancy in 2036
women following the use of amniocentesis. There were 53 terminations following
detection of fetal abnormalities and 65 spontaneous fetal losses not noted as related
to the amniocentesis. Three normal pregnancies were terminated following the
misdiagnosis of neural tube defects. No information was reported on the experiences
of these families.
Influences in Pregnancy Termination for Fetal Abnormalities
Who chooses termination over continuation of pregnancy when a fetal
abnormality is diagnosed? The literature revealed conflicting information. Several
investigators reported that most women whose fetus was diagnosed with a genetic
abnormality chose to terminate (Kokler & Burke, 1993; Rayburn & LaFerla, 1982).
Rothman (1986) agreed that the overwhelming majority chose termination but added
that this might be, in part, because those who would choose not to terminate avoid
having the tests and facing the decision. In contrast, Matthews (1990) interviewed
20 women prenatally diagnosed with major fetal malformations. Eighteen of these
women chose not to terminate their pregnancies. In the majority of cases,
pregnancies terminated for fetal abnormalities are much desired or wanted
pregnancies (Donnai, Charles & Harris, 1981; Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al.,
1988).
Several authors reported on the influence of different types of prenatal
diagnosis and time of diagnosis in pregnancy on the decision to terminate or not
(Drugan et al., 1990; Evans, M., Pryde, Evans, W. & Johnson, 1993; Pryde et al.,

13
1992; Verp, Bombard, Simpson & Elias, 1988). Conflicting findings exist. Drugan
et al. found no difference in decisions to terminate or not in parents whose fetuses
were diagnosed with chromosome abnormalities by chorionic villus sampling (first
trimester diagnosis) and amniocentesis (second trimester diagnosis). They also
reported that most patients who had abnormal results on ultrasound were in the
amniocentesis group, and most of these chose to discontinue their pregnancy. This
would have one believe that ultrasound findings were not made early enough for first
semester diagnosis by chorionic villus sampling and once made and confirmed, even
in second trimester, parents most often chose termination for chromosome
abnormalities. Pryde et al. and Evans et al. also observed that fetal gestational age
did not seem to make a difference in the decision to terminate or continue the
pregnancy. On the contrary, Verp et al. concluded that parents are more inclined to
terminate all pregnancies with chromosome abnormalities diagnosed in the first
trimester, but when diagnosed in the second trimester, parents were able to
differentiate among the severity of chromosome disorders and did not uniformly
choose to terminate the pregnancy for chromosome abnormalities. According to
Verp et al., gestational age did make a difference in the decision to terminate or not
to terminate the pregnancy when a fetal chromosome abnormality was diagnosed.
Other researchers have reported varying influences in parents’ decisions to
terminate or continue their pregnancy (Drugan et al., 1990; Evans et al., 1993;
Holmes-Siedle, Ryynanen & Lindenbaum, 1987; Marteau, 1989; Meryash, 1992;
Pryde et al., 1992; Sell, Roghmann, Doherty, 1978; Tannebaum, Perlis & Hsu, 1986;
Verp et al., 1988). The severity of the abnormality or the fetal/neonatal outcome was

14
a major determinant for many parents. The more severe the diagnosed abnormality,
the more likely the parents were to choose termination (Drugan et al.; Pryde et al.;
Tannebaum et al.; Verp et al.). Drugan et al. noted that to a lesser extent
visualization by ultrasound of the anomalies was also a major influence. Mothers
who were given an ambiguous prognosis were more prone to continue the pregnancy
“hoping for the best” (Evans et al., p. 79; Pryde et al.).
The presentation of the information and how it was framed for the parents
impacted their subsequent decisions (Marteau, 1989). Holmes-Siedle et al. (1987)
observed that when post-amniocentesis counseling was given by an obstetrician,
more parents chose to terminate than when counseled by a geneticist. The majority
of women referred for prenatal testing tended to be older than 35 years of age (Adler
& Kushnick, 1982, Bryar, 1997; Holmes-Siedle et al.,). The findings on the
influence of age were conflicting. Holmes-Siedle et al. reported couples who chose
to continue their pregnancies tended to be older and had more previous children. In
contrast, Pryde et al. (1992) found no significant difference in patient age, gravity or
parity in relation to their decision to terminate. Tannebaum et al. (1986) also
observed that patient age was not significant in the decision. Bryar found the
“wantedness” (p. 560) of the pregnancy to be a greater determinant than age. In a
survey of female relatives of individuals with fragile-X syndrome, a cause of mental
retardation, Meryash (1992) noted that those women willing to consider termination
placed greater importance on family-focused factors than those who would not
terminate.

15
Ethnic background and religious affiliation were reported by several authors
to be an influence (Tannebaum et al., 1986; Zimmer et al., 1997). According to
Zimmer et al., religious people almost never terminate. They reported that one
reason for the high rate of termination found in their study may have been in the
secular population. Bryar (1997) noted that religion had a profound effect on her
participants’ feelings on abortion, making their choice more difficult. Meryash and
Abuelo (1988) surveyed women who were at-risk for having children with the
fragile-X syndrome about their attitudes toward prenatal testing and termination of
pregnancy. These investigators observed that Catholics were less likely to consider
termination than non-Catholics, although 56 per cent of their subjects were unsure as
to what they would do. These women may or may not change their decision when
faced with the actual choice.
Attitudes Towards Termination for Fetal Abnormalities
Attitudes of varying populations were examined internationally by several
authors (Drake, Reid & Marteau, 1996; Faden et al., 1987; Mao & Wertz, 1997).
Drake et al. looked at attitudes towards terminations for fetal abnormalities in
Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom and found that lay persons were less
likely than professionals to choose termination for fetal abnormalities. Portuguese
respondents were most likely to choose pregnancy termination with German
respondents being least likely. An interesting question raised in this study concerned
the way information was presented and the effect this had on parental decisions.
That is, whether such differences in parental decisions result from “health
professionals presenting termination of pregnancy in a way that is not concordant

16
with patients’ value systems” (Drake, et al., p. 134). The overwhelming majority of
490 women surveyed by Faden et al. believed pregnancy termination for fetal
anomalies was justified. These investigators noted a sharp rise in the number who
would opt to have the termination if the probability of the fetus affected with a neural
tube defect rose from 95 % to 100 %.
In China, Mao and Wertz (1997) surveyed 402 geneticists. The
overwhelming majority of geneticists agreed that they would terminate in the first or
second trimester for 25 of the 26 conditions surveyed. Only about one-fifth would
terminate for the 26& condition which was undesired gender. Some studies observed
that attitudes opposed to termination for birth defect reduction were less prevalent
with greater knowledge about prenatal screening (Sell, Roghmann, & Doherty, 1978)
and more education (Meryash, 1992). Attitude studies provide us with information
about how varied groups perceive these highly emotional issues. Such studies give
us an idea about how specific health care professional groups would oppose or
support parents’ decisions.
Disclosure Issues
Many parents found it difficult to tell others, not only of their decision to have
prenatal testing, but also about choosing to terminate their pregnancy for fetal
abnormalities (Green, 1992; Gregg, 1993; Hodge, 1989; Suslak et al., 1995). Suslak
et al. observed a support group for couples who chose pregnancy termination after
prenatal diagnosis. They learned that “The decision not to tell came from both a fear
of being judged for having committed a ‘sin’ and from the sense of shame and guilt
at having produced an abnormal child” (p. 174). Women in a qualitative study

17
believed others would assume they would choose pregnancy termination in the case
of fetal abnormalities and judge them for making such a decision (Gregg). Hodge
felt, from her own personal experience, that keeping the pregnancy a secret until
having the amniocentesis results would have cut her and her husband off from
support when the outcome they feared did occur. She found that the sympathy and
support of others helped them to survive. Bryar (1997) described the experience of
creating two stories to explain the pregnancy loss to others as “living a he” (p. 564).
The three women in Bryar’s study told others they had a miscarriage in an effort to
avoid dealing with second guessing or judgements from individuals who hadn’t lived
through the same experience.
Termination as the Right Decision
By far, the overwhelming majority of women and couples who chose to
terminate felt they had made the right decision and would do it again, if necessary
(Alder & Kushnick, 1982; Blumberg, 1975; Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al., 1988;
Kolker & Burke, 1993; Suslak et al., 1995; Van Putte, 1988). Suslak et al. who
observed a support group over 4 years with 142 clients noted most (no percentage
given) couples felt termination was the right decision. Of the 18 women in Van
Putte’s study, 15 chose termination and 3 did not. Only 1 woman in this study said
that she would not do it again. Adler and Kushnick studied 12 families and found
that 11 of the 12 would repeat the process if they had to choose again. Of the 15
families Blumberg studied, 77 % would opt for an amniocentesis in a future
pregnancy and repeat the termination, if necessary. Ninety-three percent of the 14
women and 12 men in Jones’ et al. study felt termination was necessary. All of the

18
20 couples Kenyon et al. reported on felt it was difficult, but the right decision.
There was reluctance to terminate the pregnancy, and most couples wished they had
never been faced with this extremely difficult decision, but expressed no doubt about
the rightness of the decision (Jones et al.; Kenyon et al.; Suslak et al.).
Choice
Yes, we can sit here and weigh tragedies and say that the tragedy of a baby’s
death is less than the tragedy of disability. Or the other way around. And
whichever tragedy one chooses as the lesser is the one you get. The chosen
tragedy.. . .Whatever a woman chooses, she often experiences it as ‘her
only choice’. (Rothman, 1986, p. 180)
Deam (1998) wrote her personal story about her termination for fetal
abnormalities for a lay publication. She said,
It is something you know in your mind, but in your heart... I can no longer
accept that it is all as simple as a choice I get to make because it is my body.
With choice comes responsibility. This was not some nonviable collection of
cells and tissue inside of me. It was a little boy who deserved to be
considered, (p. 131)
In Sandelowski and Jones’ (1996) qualitative, descriptive study, they
interviewed 12 couples and 3 women and listened to their individual stories of
choosing to terminate or not after learning that their baby was impaired. The results
of this study suggested that the participants “had often ‘backed into’, as opposed to
having chosen or refused, prenatal testing” (p. 353). The authors discerned five
emplotments of choice that varied depending upon where participants located moral
agency for their pregnancy outcomes. Individuals who placed moral agency in
someone or something outside of “themselves removed from themselves some of the
pain of bearing the responsibility for choice” (p. 359). These emplotments
interpreted how the participants’ narratives can be summarized as “nature’s choice,

19
disowned choice, choice lost, close choice and choice found” (p. 353). Those whose
fetuses were lethally-impaired and who had the option to terminate told a ‘nature’s
choice’ story, while a ‘choice lost’ story was told by participants whose fetuses were
viable, but did not have the option to terminate. For participants whose fetuses were
viable and had the option to terminate, a ‘disowned choice’ story was told by those
who continued their pregnancies, while a ‘close choice’ story was told by those who
terminated. Participants told a ‘choice lost’ and a ‘choice found’ story when faced
with lethally-impaired fetuses and given no option to terminate. Important
implications for clinical intervention and psychological wellbeing may be related to
the differences in emplotments of choice. Some of the burden of choosing seemed to
be removed by those who constructed their situation as not their own but as nature’s
choice.
Effects of Prenatal Diagnosis and Subsequent Choice on Children and Families
Limited research exists in the area of effects of prenatal diagnosis and
subsequent choice on children and families. Parents look for professional guidance,
especially with young children, about how they might tell them about the situation
without causing psychological harm (Suslak et al., 1995). Green (1992), from her
own personal account, found that being straightforward with children was the best.
Forrest, Standish, and Baum (1982) examined support after perinatal death and
observed children’s grief reactions to be brief, except where the mothers remained
severely affected for many months. The only other studies found relating to the
effects on children were conducted by Black and Furlong (1984a, 1984b) who
looked at prenatal diagnosis and experiences within families with children over four

20
years of age. These investigators found that about two-thirds of the parents told at
least one child about the testing. The children tended to be very interested and had
low to moderate anxiety levels. Extreme or more worrisome reactions were the
exception with a few children expressing concern of possible harm to the mother.
Several preschool children were frightened by overly graphic descriptions of the
procedure itself. Concerns voiced by the mothers were that the children might be
frightened and feel less secure about their own imperfections. However, mothers
reported few adverse reactions to prenatal testing by their offspring. Black and
Furlong (1984b) surveyed the experiences of 112 families and concluded that
families appeared to be adapting well to the new technology of prenatal testing.
Results also suggested that all age children should be involved in the experience of
prenatal testing, and that health care professionals need to be alert to the worries and
questions that do arise in some families (Black & Furlong, 1984b). If parents do not
do well, then children will not do well either.
The effects on marital relationships is another area in which there is limited
literature and inconsistent results. Blumberg (1975) identified that the stresses
related to prenatal diagnosis and pregnancy termination produced undesirable marital
consequences. The separation rate of 12 % of couples was reported as being due to
increased irritation, a lack of communication or intolerance (White Van-Mourik et
al.,1992). Eight of the 10 couples who separated were reunited by the time of the
interviews which occurred 2 years after the event. Kenyon et al. (1988) found that
women reported that their partners gave them the most support, although they felt
difficulties were exaggerated by the added stress of this event. Black (1989)

21
observed, even as long as 6 months following the loss, that some women had
difficulty communicating feelings about the loss with their partners. Black also
observed that their decline in quality and frequency of sexual activity was another
topic women found difficult to discuss with their partners. In another study (Elder &
Laurence, 1991), poorer resolution of the grief reaction was associated with poorly
perceived support from their partners. In stark contrast, other authors (Green, 1992;
Jones et al., 1984) identified that marital relationships became closer as a result of
this experience.
Psychological Sequelae of the Choice
The vast majority of research reported on psychological sequelae of couples,
especially women who were faced with the decision to terminate or continue a
pregnancy when diagnosed prenatally with fetal abnormalities. Most authors found
that these parents experienced a grief reaction similar to parents who have a
spontaneous perinatal loss (lies & Gath, 1993; Kenyon et al., 1988; Lloyd &
Laurence, 1985; Zeanah, Dailey, Rosenblatt, & Sailer, 1993). The process of
mourning is difficult because there is often no grave, no photograph and no focus for
the grief (Kenyon et al.; Lloyd & Laurence; Zeanah, et al.).
lies and Gath (1993) interviewed 2 groups of women following pregnancy
termination at 4 weeks, 6 months and 12 months. One group chose termination for
fetal abnormalities and the second group had no choice, but terminated for intra¬
uterine fetal death. The psychiatric morbidity rate for those who had terminations
was 4 to 5 times higher than the general population at 4 weeks. The rate was based
on the Present State Examination and Index of Definition representing increasing

22
severity of psychiatric disturbance. Morbidity had fallen off by 6 months although
the grief symptoms persisted. Lloyd and Laurence (1985) found that 22 of 48
participants were still symptomatic for grief at 6 months post pregnancy termination,
with 5 requiring psychiatric support. Blumberg (1975) reported on 13 families and
found the incidence of depressive symptoms to be 92 % among the women and 82 %
for the men. When compared to pregnancy terminations for medicosocial reasons,
Lloyd and Laurence (1985) and Dagg (1991) reported more distress following a
termination for fetal abnormalities. Termination of pregnancy for medicosocial
reasons are frequently referred to as abortions and included almost any reason to
terminate except fetal anomalies.
In a retrospective study, White-Van-Mourik et al. (1992) investigated
psychological sequelae of a second-trimester pregnancy termination for fetal
abnormality. Participants included 84 women and 68 spouses who completed
questionnaires 2 years following their terminations. All had emotional distress with
40 % of the women and 24 % of the men reporting coping problems lasting beyond 1
year. Factors found to influence these parents coming to terms with the loss included
parental immaturity (< 21 years of age), lack of supporting relationships, inability to
communicate needs, secondary infertility, and a self-perceived deep-rooted lack of
self-esteem before the pregnancy. The authors identified this loss of self-esteem in 3
areas, biological, moral and social. Zolese and Blacker (1992) suggested that the
poorer psychological outcome, which was not specifically defined, may be
understood in terms of bereavement felt for a wanted baby and/or guilt for having
produced an abnormal child. In contrast, Black (1989) reported significant

23
improvements over the first 6 months post termination. She found that those with
the greatest mood disturbances in the first month showed greater distress months
later. Jones et al. (1984) also found that few participants expressed any long-term
deleterious effects. Mueller (1990) reported on nursing care in the hospital and
suggested that bereavement began before hospital admission and continued
throughout their stay.
Bryar (1997) used a phenomenological approach to examine the experiences
of women undergoing second-trimester pregnancy termination for fetal anomalies.
A noted limitation in her research was her sample of only three women. Interviews
were conducted 4 to 6 weeks after their losses. She described these women’s
experiences as “one day you’re pregnant and one day you’re not” (Bryar, p. 562).
Her results summarized the transition from being a pregnant woman with dreams and
hopes for her baby and the future to a woman experiencing a loss of innocence. Two
intertwined processes were used to describe this transition, entitled “The Hardest
Thing We Ever Did” and “Saying Hello and Goodbye” (Bryar, p. 562). In contrast
to other studies, she did not observe depression and pathologic grief in her sample.
These women all experienced supportive spouses and felt the experience brought
them closer in their relationships.
In another phenomenological study, Matthews (1990) examined responses of
20 pregnant women who knew their baby had a major malformation. Eighteen of the
20 women chose to continue their pregnancy, although all of the infants except one
died shortly before the delivery or within the first few days of fife. From the
responses of these 20 women, Matthews developed the Expectancy of Loss model

24
consisting of 6 phases. These phases occurred over a period of time beginning with
suspecting a problem and continuing until after the birth. Phases included
uncertainty, the suspecting phase, verification, the fact finding phase, preparation,
the waiting game, reconfirmation, or revalidation, reparation, the readjusting phase,
and resiliency, future hope.
Women reported their major source of grief as being the loss of the dream of
motherhood and of a normal child. For men, the issue was related more to the loss of
a normal child (Suslak et al., 1995). Suslak et al. also suggested that men suffered
doubly. They not only lose their child but feel they “lose their wife as they knew her”
(Suslak et al., p. 175) before this event. Whether women lose their husbands as they
knew them, also was not addressed in this study.
Several authors observed anger and guilt in relation to the pregnancy
termination (Donnai et al., 1981; Green, 1992; lies & Gath, 1993; Kenyon et al.,
1988). Kenyon et al. reported that anger was the hardest emotion for women to
understand and cope with when experiencing this type of loss. One author observed
that 31 % of the women still felt angry and guilty about the termination 13 months
later. White Van-Mourik et al. (1992) reported feelings of shame and failure in 61 %
of women and 32 % of the men in their study. The discussion on secrecy earlier in
this paper also related to the guilt some parents seem to experience (Gregg, 1993;
Suslak et al., 1995). Many parents expressed feelings of guilt even when they
recognized termination was appropriate (Donnai et al.). Rothman (1986) chose to
use the word responsibility and not guilt, observing “Some women express feelings
of guilt, but all of them express ‘the inescapable sense of deep responsibility’.”

25
(p. 182). Kolker and Burke (1993) found, after interviewing a genetic counselor who
leads a support group for parents who make the choice to terminate an abnormal
pregnancy, that a support group is a good place for parents to put some of their guilt
feelings to rest by talking about them. Suslak et al. (1995) reported on recurrent
themes and observations noted in FATE (Feelings After the Termination
Experience), a support group for couples who had a pregnancy termination following
an abnormal fetal diagnosis. These authors, based on 4 years of observations in
FATE, believed this bereaved group of parents had “a profoundly positive emotional
experience” and were able to use this experience “to help understand their feelings
and move through their grieving process” (Suslak et al., p. 177).
Several authors identified other experiences that were helpful (Jones et al.,
1984; Kenyon et al., 1988; Kolker & Burke, 1993; Lloyd & Laurence, 1985; White,
1998). Kolker and Burke surveyed 120 persons, and conducted 12 interviews with
genetic counselors, 24 in-depth interviews with women who had undergone prenatal
diagnosis and subsequent termination for fetal abnormalities. They recommended
that it would be helpful if parents were given candid information and encouraged to
bond with their baby before they let go. Jones et al., in their interviews of 14 women
and 12 men who terminated their pregnancies for fetal abnormalities, found that most
of those who did not see their baby wished they had. Kenyon et al. reported that
parents who did see their baby found it important to confirm the presence of the
abnormality and to reassure themselves that the baby was not otherwise deformed.
Eleven of 48 participants, in a study by Lloyd and Laurence, named their baby,
usually secretly, but found this to be helpful in their grief process. Two parents out

26
of 20 buried their infant, while the other 16 reported wishing they had some sort of
ceremony (Kenyon et al.). Lloyd and Laurence observed that some parents would
have liked a burial or some other more formal recognition of the death. Many
parents expressed the desire to meet other parents who had had a similar experience
(Jones et al.; Kenyon et al.).
Follow-up
The literature on counseling explored different types of counseling with
multiple foci. “Grief cannot be prevented but may be shortened if coping strategies
are discussed in the context of skilled preparatory counselling” (White-Van-Mourik
et al., 1992, p. 203). The need for counseling and support is well documented
(Blumberg et al.,1975; Donnai et al., 1981; Elder & Laurence, 1991; Forrest et al.,
1982; Jones et ah, 1984). Hagar, Valley, Rayburn, and Carey (1997) found that
women undergoing second-trimester induction of labor for major fetal abnormalities
using intravaginal PGE2 had longer labors and required a greater amount of the drug
than terminations for fetal death. These authors found it helpful to counsel women
that the labor is longer and the amount of the drug required is greater prior to the
termination. Forrest et ah and Elder et al. identified a decrease in adverse emotional
consequences and appreciably shortened bereavement reaction with improved
follow-up and counseling. Genetic counseling was indicated for all couples who
experienced a positive diagnosis of a fetal abnormality (Lloyd & Laurence, 1985)
although not all couples were offered this option (Kenyon et ah, 1988). Tishler
(1981) described genetic counseling as being akin to informing someone that they
are going to experience a loss. Several authors identified that the best time to give

27
genetic counseling for future pregnancies is around 3 months post-termination as it
seemed counter-productive before this time (Elder & Laurence, 1991; Lloyd &
Laurence). Elder and Laurence found, after interviewing 69 women in South Wales
who had terminated a pregnancy for fetal abnormalities, that parents are usually still
too upset to take in adequate information to consider the future objectively when
genetically counseled sooner than 3 months. Supportive counseling on the other
hand should begin as soon as possible and continued post-termination (Blumberg;
Donnai et al; Jones et a; .Lloyd & Laurence;). Explanations and information should
be offered clearly and concisely in a direct, simple, and compassionate manner
allowing parents to make logical and informed decisions (Adler & Kushnick, 1982;
VanPutte, 1988).
Lloyd and Laurence (1985) identified that support was “remarkably sparse”
(p. 909) immediately following pregnancy termination for fetal abnormalities. “The
‘death’ was passed over, denied, regarded as a failure of pregnancy and the mother
was met by a conspiracy of silence” (Lloyd & Laurence, p. 909). Some women and
couples had indicated important people in their lives, even their own parents, did not
support their decision to terminate and even advocated against the decision (Kenyon
et al., 1988; Zeanah et al., 1993). Kenyon et al. noted two cases where there was a
permanent alteration in the parental relationship. Other authors found support to be
minimal or inadequate (Kokler & Burke, 1993; Zeanah et al.,). Montigny, Beaudet,
and Dumas (1999) found that although some families experienced feelings of support
from their social network, most in their study suffered permanent relationship losses
with colleagues, friends, or extended family members. Zeanah et al. observed that

28
feelings of alienation and abandonment were further exacerbated by physicians and
other health care professionals.
Less distress was identified by Black (1989) when greater support was
perceived. Those who felt supported received most of this support from their
partners, other immediate family members, and close female friends (Kenyon et al.,
1988). Jones et al., (1984) observed that 80 % of the men and women felt supported
by their family with virtually no experience of hostility or condemnation. Mueller
(1990), from her professional opinion as a practitioner and educator, suggested that
special nursing care protocols needed to be designed to meet the emotional and
spiritual needs of the family. Lask (1975) placed emphasis on the importance of
staff attitudes for support. “The couple must be treated by society as the bereaved
parents they are and allowed to mourn the death of their baby” (Kolker & Burke,
1993, p. 524).
Several authors made recommendations to improve current services. These
included early referral to a level three perinatal center which is equipped to handle
high risk pregnancies and neonates, information and early counseling, supportive and
well informed health professionals, consideration to physical pain relief, assistance
in memory making, anticipation of grief and assessment of the need for intervention,
identification of possible impediments to successful readjusting, importance of early
follow-up, and the availability of self-help support groups (Kenyon et al., 1988;
Lloyd and Laurence, 1985; Matthews, 1990;).

Subsequent Pregnancies
Little research was found about subsequent pregnancies in this population.
29
White Van-Mourik et al. (1991) reported that parents found hope for another
pregnancy of great importance and that successful subsequent pregnancies following
a second trimester termination for fetal abnormality tended to counterbalance the loss
of biological self-esteem observed and, to some extent, parents’ feelings of social
competence. Blumberg (1975) noted, “The birth of a healthy child also provides a
source of self-esteem and helps alleviate much of the guilt engendered by the
previous confrontation with genetic disease” (p. 807). The hesitation of some
couples to become pregnant again is due to their worry that the next baby will have
the same condition as the previous child (Borg & Lasker, 1989). Rothman (1986)
described one woman’s experience with a subsequent pregnancy as going into the
pregnancy too fast. This woman “advises others to wait, give themselves time” (p.
216). Unfortunately, the amount of time between the pregnancies was not given.
Rothman noted that time is not exactly on the woman’s side, especially those who
have prenatal testing related to their age. “The loss of a baby is what it is, a loss, a
tragedy. It is not a detour on the route to a healthy baby” (Rothman, p. 216).
Because a review of the literature suggested that the loss of a baby following
termination for fetal abnormalities was akin to spontaneous perinatal loss for parents,
subsequent pregnancies to perinatal loss was explored. Zeanah (1988), in his
literature review, found conflicting information regarding pregnancy following
perinatal loss. For some, a subsequent pregnancy aided women in resolving their
loss, but for others the pregnancy was a way of avoiding the loss and therefore,

30
impeding the resolution of mourning. Timing of the subsequent pregnancy was also
found to be conflicted. Zeanah (1988) advised that bereaved parents need to recover
emotionally and physically prior to conceiving. Most women have a difficult time if
they become pregnant while still mourning (Menke & McClead, 1990). Individual
recovery periods are unique and no specific time reference was substantiated by
research (Wallerstedt & Higgins, 1994). Some parents were warned by their
physicians against the possibility of the “replacement child syndrome.” This
syndrome refers to the subsequent child not being loved for him or herself as parents
who have not fully recovered from their grief may possibly, even subconsciously,
compare this child to the baby that died (Borg & Lasker, 1989).
Based on her review of the literature, Stierman (1987) reported that the
emotional drive to get pregnant again was quite strong, although rushing into another
pregnancy may put the parents and their newborn at psychological risk. Borg and
Lasker (1989) believed that the overwhelming desire to have another baby quickly
lessens as the urgency of this feeling subsides over time. Several researchers found
that an early subsequent pregnancy or surviving twin were factors associated with
prolonged maternal grief reactions or other psychiatric problems (Rowe et al. 1978;
Stieman). Wolff, Nielson, and Schiller (1970) reported that 50 % of the 50 women
in their study found that the resolution to their grief was in becoming pregnant again.
Wolff et al. also reported that previous loss of a baby did not significantly influence
the decision to become pregnant again. Garel, Blondel, Lelong, Bonenfant and
Kaminski (1994), whose sample consisted of 50 women, found no clear relationship
between the reactions following a miscarriage and the time between the miscarriage

31
and subsequent pregnancy to the experience and outcome of the subsequent
pregnancy. What Garel et al. did find was that the absence of history of infertility,
the women’s younger age and the desire for a child were all associated with a higher
probability of starting a new pregnancy. About half of the patients sought out a
different obstetrician for a subsequent pregnancy, not always due to dissatisfaction,
but sometimes to avoid associations with the unsuccessful pregnancy (Stierman,
1987; Wolff etal., 1970).
According to Menke and McClead (1990), if a pregnancy occurred shortly
after a perinatal loss, three emotional processes were functional. These included the
mourning for the loss of the infant, the bonding to the new infant, and the fear that
the loss will reoccur in this pregnancy. These authors suggested parents experience
complex emotions even if pathologic grief does not occur. Several authors
(Stierman, 1987; Borg and Lasker, 1989) reported that a subsequent pregnancy might
be marked by ambivalence. When asked if they had regrets about their subsequent
pregnancy, some women “expressed the wish that they had been able to enjoy the
pregnancy more” (Schwiebert & Kirk, 1989, p. 77). Most authors agreed parents
experienced markedly increased anxiety during their subsequent pregnancy
(Armstrong & Hutti, 1998; Borg & Lasker; Phipps, 1985-86; Robertson &
Kavanaugh, 1998; Statham & Green, 1994; Stierman). In general, parents reported
increasing anxiety as the pregnancy progressed, peaking just prior to delivery
(Kowalski, 1980; Phipps). As each important stage passed, parents held their breath,
depending on what the cause of their loss was (Borg & Lasker; Lieberman, 1998).

Families’ readjustment to their new baby may be helped through recognition by
others of their previous loss (Wilson, Soule, & Fenton, 1988).
32
Lieberman (1998), in an article for a lay publication, identified typical
behaviors she noticed in parents’ subsequent pregnancy to a loss. She suggested
parents play it safe, gaining as much control over details as possible, seeking new
medical strategies such as less or more medical intervention, and maintaining an
emotional distance from their baby. Lieberman also suggested helpful strategies
parents should be able to expect from professionals including extra indulgences from
health care providers such as more frequent visits, private childbirth classes for those
who “feel out of sync in a group class” (p. 60), and even possibly a connection to
others who have had a similar experience.
In a qualitative study, Phipps (1985-86) interviewed 15 couples who had
experienced a previous stillbirth or neonatal death and a subsequent successful
pregnancy. The interviews occurred when the age of the subsequent child was from
5 months to 3 years. The focus was on stresses unique to the subsequent pregnancy
and parental adaptation to them. Two general phenomena were identified—the task-
oriented approach to pregnancy and sensitization to negative outcomes. The task-
oriented approach, motivated by parental needs for control and self-protection,
described a qualitative difference in the way parents experience the pregnancy as a
whole. Parents portray an outwardly joyless quality as they engage in a process of
holding back, not becoming totally involved in this pregnancy as they had in
previous pregnancies. Sensitization to negative outcomes referred to the parents’
state of hypervigilance with a perception of their increased vulnerability and struggle

to control overwhelming fears (Phipps). Holding back and not becoming as
emotionally attached in their subsequent pregnancy was noted by several authors
(Armstrong & Hutti, 1998; Lieberman, 1998; Phipps).
33
Summary
The body of literature on prenatal testing and subsequent influences on
childbearing was not exhaustive. Many quantitative studies have been conducted
across the disciplines, some with contradictory findings. There was little evidence of
a theoretical basis for any of the quantitative studies reviewed. The few qualitative
studies reported were well thought out, although several had a small sample size
(Bryar, 1997). This is important as qualitative studies such as those by Sandelowski
and Jones (1986) and Matthews (1990) provide us with sensitizing concepts and the
beginnings of middle range theories.
The majority of the research in this area focuses on women. There is a
limited amount on couples and almost nothing that focuses exclusively on males.
Another area that is severely limited concerns the impact of prenatal testing and
subsequent decision making regarding fetal abnormalities on parents’ experiences
with future pregnancies. There was little found on the problems parents face in these
future pregnancies. It would be helpful to provide a theoretical foundation for health
care professionals to draw upon as they work with these parents during these difficult
times. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the social processes of
couples who become pregnant subsequent to the loss of a baby with a prenatal
diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. This research contributed toward filling this gap in
the literature.

CHAPTER 3
METHOD
Research Approach
The qualitative method used for this study was grounded theory, a method
developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) for researchers to study phenomena from the
symbolic interactionists’ perspective (Bowers, 1989). An important aim of grounded
theory is to accurately perceive and present another’s world (Hutchinson, 1993).
This method contributes to the development of middle-range theories through the
exploration of the richness and diversity of human experience (Streubert &
Carpenter, 1995). Grounded theory is an inductive approach that uses organizational
patterns and everyday behaviors to generate theory (Hutchinson).
An assumption of grounded theory is that people order and make sense of
their environment even if their world may appear nonsensical or disordered to
observers. People sharing common circumstances experience shared behaviors and
meanings that constitute the substance of a grounded theory (Hutchinson, 1993).
From the symbolic interactionists’ perspective, what makes individuals unique is
their ability to symbolically define their experiences and shape their actions (Wilson
& Hutchinson, 1991). Glaser (1978) suggested that to gain theoretical sensitivity, a
researcher must enter the research setting without a prior hypothesis and with as few
predetermined ideas as possible. Grounded theory deals with what is actually
happening, not what ought to happen (Glaser).
34

35
Symbolic interactionism was selected as the theoretical framework and
grounded theory as the method for this study because of the interactive nature of the
problem under study—that of parents’ experiences when facing a pregnancy
subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not to
terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. These parents interacted
with technology, their partners, other family members, their environment, as well as
health care professionals and the health care system. The past and present life
experiences of these parents determined their interactions. Grounded theory allowed
me to enter the parent’s world to gain a better understanding of their perceptions and
experiences.
Methodological strategies required for this approach accounted for change
over time and involved direct contact with the participants under natural conditions
(Wilson & Hutchinson, 1991). Grounded theory addresses social psychological
problems with the distinct advantage of finding natural solutions to the problem
under study (Stem et al., 1982).
Sample Selection
Sampling in grounded theory is purposive unlike quantitative studies that use
probability sampling (Morse, 1986; Wilson & Hutchinson, 1991). All members of
the population, in a probability sample, have an equal chance of participating in the
study and the results should be the same as if the entire population was included
(Morse). In purposive sampling, participants are selected on the basis of their
willingness and ability to articulate their insightful experiences on the phenomenon
being studied (Morse; Sandelowski, 1986). In grounded theory, sampling proceeds

36
on theoretical grounds and is termed theoretical sampling (Corbin & Strauss, 1990;
Sandelowski). This is a process by which data are collected to advance the emerging
theory. I selected sample members based on emerging findings in order to obtain
good representation of the theoretical constructs (Polit & Hungler, 1995).
Initially, a purposive sample included pregnant women and their partners who
were pregnant subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or
not to terminate, following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. The initial sample
came from an urban community in northeastern Florida. In the beginning, I recruited
these parents through the women’s obstetrician or reproductive endocrinologist. I
approached Obstetricians, geneticists and reproductive endocrinologists in this
community through face to face contact and/or a written notice describing the study
and asked for potential participants (see Appendix D for details). To participate
women had to be currently pregnant subsequent to a pregnancy in which a decision
to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality was
made. To be included the woman and/or her partner had to be willing to share their
experiences. Interviews occurred at any time during pregnancy in order to maximize
diversity of experiences in perception. Word of mouth or snowball sampling were
additional recruiting strategies used. Snowball sampling occurs when potential
participants are referred by current study participants (Morse, 1986).
After approximately 5 months of obtaining only 4 participants in a
northeastern region of Florida, I decided to recruit outside of this region. An
addendum (see Appendix G) to the original proposal permitted recruitment of

participants through a support network via the internet. The sample size increased
quickly.
37
A sample size of 24 participants was obtained over an 8 month period. This
included 13 women and 9 partners, and 2 professionals—a physician and a registered
nurse. Saturation was the determining factor for stopping data collection. Data were
considered complete/saturated when no new conceptual information was available
(Hutchinson, 1993). Saturation of the data started to become evident after the 20th
interview. Two professionals were then interviewed along with 2 other women to
establish confirmation of the codes.
Sample Demographics
The parents interviewed in this study ranged in ages from the youngest being
a woman at 25 to the oldest, a man at 47, and had a median age of 33 (see Figure 3-1
for details). All of the parents were married with lengths of their relationships
ranging from 2 14 years to 16 years (see Figure 3-2). The nationality of the majority
of the parents, (20), was Caucasian with the remaining 2 being Hispanic and Turkish.
All of the parents in this study were either in the middle or upper range in
socioeconomic status. Ten parents were in the $24,000.00 to $60,000.00 range with
the remaining 12 parents in the over $60,000.00 range. Everyone in the study had a
minimum of a high school diploma, but most had four year degrees or higher (see
Figure 3-3 for more details). Religious preferences for the parents in this study
varied with 9 being Catholic although not all were practicing at the moment (see
Figure 3-4).

38
Age Groupings
Figure 3-1 Participants by Age Category
<=3 Yrs.
5 - 10 Yrs.
Years of Marriage
Figure 3-2 Participants by Length of Marriage
11 - 16 Yrs.

39
Masters
17%
Partial
College
21%
Figure 3-3 Participants by Level of Education
Figure 3-4 Participants by Religious Preference

40
Participants resided in geographic locations all over the United States. I
interviewed 3 parents and 2 professionals face-to-face in Florida and the remaining
19 parents by phone in other locations throughout the United States. Internet access
allowed me the ability to obtain participants representing almost all of the regions in
the United States except the far Northeastern region. Although, the sample was
somewhat biased, representing mostly parents in higher socioeconomic classes over
the age of 24 with higher levels of education. Probably only those persons who have
the financial means and the educational background, which tends to make them
older, use the Internet.
The majority of the parents in this study chose termination of their previous
pregnancy. Nineteen parents, 3 mothers and 8 couples chose termination while only
3 parents, 1 mother and 1 couple chose not to terminate. The gestational age at
termination ranged from 17 weeks to 24 weeks (further details can be seen in Figure
3-5). One couple terminated their past 2 pregnancies for the same fatal condition,
Congential Nephrosis of the Finnish Type, 1 a singleton pregnancy and the 2nd a
twin pregnancy. The parents who chose not to terminate did not have a final
diagnosis until 27 and 28 weeks of gestation. One of these babies that was not
terminated died shortly after birth with multiple anomalies, and the other baby lived
with a condition called Spina Bifida. The majority of the parents in this study did
not have any other living children. One couple and 3 mothers who were interviewed
had 1 to 3 living children ranging in ages from 11 months to 16 years. For 8 couples
and 1 mother, the pregnancy they were in during the interview was the first hope of
having a child that would live beyond birth.

41
Parents in this study encountered many types of abnormalities and had to
decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. One woman and one couple
terminated for Down syndrome; one couple terminated and one woman did not
terminate for Spina Bifida; two couples terminated for Congenital Nephrosis of the
Finnish Type, one couple chose termination in two separate pregnancies for this
same syndrome; one woman and two couples terminated for multi-faceted anomalies
in their babies; one couple each terminated for Bilateral Renal Agenesis and for
Prader Willi’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by infantile hypotonia,
obesity, short stature, mental retardation and personality problems; one woman
terminated for anencephaly; and one couple chose not to terminate for Autosomal
Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease.
I interviewed parents for this study at any time they became available.
Mothers were from 11 weeks to 39 weeks gestation (see Figure 3-6). Referrals for
participants for the study came from varying sources; the majority came from one
support group called A Heartbreaking Choice (AHC), discovered via the Internet.
This group gave me permission to advertise in their quarterly newsletter. Seven
women found out about the research through AHC and informed their husbands, 6 of
whom became participants. The rest of the referrals came from different places; 1
couple each from a local physician, through another participant via AHC, and
through a SHARE newsletter (another national support group); 1 woman each from a
local colleague, a nurse in a local obstetrician’s office, and through a genetic
counselor who shared an RTS newsletter (still another national support group) with
her. Three of the women whose partners were not interviewed said that their

42
21-24 Weeks
Gestation Period
Did Not T erminate
<=17 Weeks
0 Participants
Figure 3-5 Gestation Period at Termination
<=12 Weeks
12 - 20 Weeks 21-30 Weeks
Gestation Period
31-39 Weeks
Figure 3-6 Gestation Period atTime of Interview

43
husbands were just too busy at the time. The professionals interviewed practice in a
high-risk obstetrical office in Northeast Florida. One professional was a
perinatologist and the other a registered nurse.
Data Collection
Formal, audio taped semi-structured interviews lasting approximately one to
two hours were the primary source of data for this study (see Appendix A for
interview questions). Interviews took place either at the participants’ homes, my
home, or over the telephone in a relaxed and non-threatening environment, that
allowed participants to share their experiences. I interviewed couples separately to
gain their individual perspectives. Interview questions proceeded from general to
particular and changed over time as the theory emerged. Eliciting fundamental
information to explore the phases, properties, dimensions, strategies, consequences,
and contexts of these parents’ perceived experiences was the primary focus.
Additional data included one woman’s personal journal. Field notes describing the
setting, observations, and any events of particular interest to the study were dictated.
I transcribed tapes verbatim as soon as possible so that no data were lost.
Data Analysis
In grounded theory, data analysis is continual and occurs simultaneously with
data collection. Glaser and Strauss (1967) first described this fundamental method of
data analysis as constant comparison. This method requires the analyst to compare
incident with incident, incident with category, and category or construct with
construct (Hutchinson, 1993). “Constantly comparing develops in the analyst a

clear, focused flexibility to keep transcending his own and other analyses until he
theoretically saturates his problem” (Glaser, 1978, p. 15).
44
Coding. Glaser (1978) suggested that ideational codes are the building block
of the theory. Open coding, coding the data in every way possible, was the first step.
That is, the data were analyzed line by line, constantly coding every sentence. The
codes identified during this process are called substantive codes. These codes are
considered level I codes and codify the substance of the data and frequently use the
same words used by the participants themselves (Stem, 1980).
Level II codes, also called categories, require the use of the constant
comparative method. Data were coded, compared with other data and then assigned
to categories or clusters according to obvious fit. As categories emerged Icontinually
asked three questions: “What is this data a study of?”; “What category does this
incident indicate?”; and “What is actually happening in the data?” (Glaser, 1978, p.
57). The emerging categories were compared with one another to ensure that they
covered the behavioral variations and were mutually exclusive.
Level III codes, called theoretical codes is a way to think of the data in
theoretical rather than descriptive terms (Stem et al., 1982). Open codes break the
data into small pieces, whereas theoretical codes weave the fractured story back
together again (Glaser, 1978). Through theoretical codes, the researcher examined
how the substantive codes related to one another as hypotheses to be integrated into a
theory (Glaser). Through this comparative process, I identified a core variable or
basic social process (BSP). Once a core variable was identified, selective coding

began with the aim of expanding and densifying any codes that related to it
(Hutchinson, 1993).
45
Basic social process. For a quality grounded theory, the discovery of a core
variable is essential. Rigorous analytical thinking combined with continuous
examination of the data eventually yielded such a variable (Hutchinson, 1993). The
believability of the core variable is dependent upon its tidiness, understandability,
and ability to explain most of the variation in the social psychological problems of
the research (Stem et al., 1982). Since BSPs are fundamental, patterned processes in
the organization of social behaviors occurring over time and irrespective of the
conditional variation of place, Glaser (1978) described them as pervasive. Glaser
identified two types of BSPs: basic social structural process (BSSP) and basic social
psychological process (BSPP). A BSSP describes the social structures in process
(Glaser). In the case of this study, these BSSP’s were those processes in the health
care system that affected the parents and their experience with the second pregnancy.
The BSPP illustrated social psychological processes as they continued over time
irrespective of varying conditions. “A BSSP abets, facilitates or is the social
structure within which the BSPP processes” (Glaser, p. 102). Most sociological
studies today focus on BSPP and assume BSSP without formulating the BSSP
clearly as a process. This study examined the BSSPs in addition to the BSPP, but
emphasized the BSPP.
An assumption of grounded theory is that each group shares an unarticulated
social psychological problem and this problem is addressed by a social psychological
process. Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic social psychological problem that

46
emerged from the data in this study which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 4.
Managing the pain was the BSP, or core variable, identified as the process these
parents used to cope with the catastrophic psychic pain, and will be discussed in
Chapter 5.
Selectively coding for this core variable required that I delimit coding to only
those variables relating to the core variable in significantly sufficient ways to be used
in a parsimonious theory. The core variable identified further guided data collection,
theoretical sampling (sample selection) and analysis (Glaser, 1978).
Memoing and sorting. Beginning with analysis of the data following the
very first interview or observation, memoing becomes a regular and crucial part of
the grounded theory process. Through memoing, researchers record ideas quickly
and spontaneously “to capture the initially elusive and shifting connections between
the data” (Hutchinson, 1993, p. 201). According to Glaser (1978) the prime rule in
memoing is “stop and memo” (p. 83) regardless of what has to be interrupted. This
was fundamental so as not to lose the thought as my mind raced on through coding,
sorting and writing. Memos were sparked by the data and were ideational, and in
this way were grounded. They were written freely, kept separate from the data, and
were easily sortable (Glaser).
Conceptualization of ideas was emphasized. While memoing, I questioned
the relationship of one code to another. The thinking process during this phase was
both inductive and deductive. Inductively, one conceptualizes while coding and
memoing and then deductively assesses how the concepts fit together. Through the
use of theoretical sensitivity and repetitive examination of the data, in which memos

47
become an integral part, both processes were aided. Literally hundreds of memos
documenting this thinking process were developed, and through repetitive questions
a theory evolved.
Sorting began once codes become plentiful and memos accumulated rapidly.
A core variable, or BSP, was identified that explained most of the behavioral
variation in the data. The BSP provided focus and direction for the sorting process.
Maintaining Rigor
Criteria forjudging the adequacy of qualitative research is somewhat
different from that used to judge more conventional quantitative methods (Guba &
Lincoln, 1981,1989). Guba and Lincoln, in keeping with the nature of qualitative
research and the naturalist paradigm, provided the researcher with criteria that
parallel the more conventional criteria of validity and reliability (Hutchinson, 1993;
Guba & Lincoln, 1989). These terms, established to evaluate the trustworthiness of
qualitative data, are credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability
(Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Polit & Hungler, 1995).
Credibility parallels internal validity and refers to truth value, the confidence
in the truth of the data (Guba & Lincoln, 1981, 1989; Polit & Hungler, 1995). A
qualitative study is considered credible when it presents such a faithful interpretation
or description of a human experience that those persons having that experience
would quickly recognize it from those interpretations or descriptions as their own
(Sandelowski, 1986). The technique of checking interpretations with participants is
called member checking by Guba and Lincoln (1989) and is used to verify the
multiple constructs the researcher identifies from the data. I shared study results

48
with a woman who had not previously been interviewed but was currently pregnant
following the termination of a previous pregnancy. She verified that the constructs
identified from the data were in fact, very similar to what she too had experienced.
Another process used to establish credibility is peer debriefing which
provides an external check on the inquiry process (Polit & Hungler, 1995). In peer
debriefing, the researcher checks data and interpretations with colleagues and/or
experts. The data and interpretations were shared with my major professor. Also,
the theoretical constructs discovered were shared with two professionals who were
interviewed. Both felt the interpretations were consistent with their clinical
experience.
Parallel to the more conventional term, external validity, is transferability.
Transferability refers to the generalizability of the data (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). The
concern with qualitative research is not statistical generalizability but analytic
generalizability. Analytic generalizability refers to the usefulness of the identified
concepts/constructs to explain a given situation (Hutchinson, 1993). The qualitative
researcher provides “as complete a data base as humanly possible in order to
facilitate transferability judgments on the part of others who may wish to apply the
study to their own situations” (Guba & Lincoln, 1989, p. 242). One way of
checking transferability is to have non-participants who have had similar experiences
review the generated theory. I interviewed two women after the theory was
generated in order for them to review the theory. They agreed with the findings, and
in fact, expressed relief that they felt so similar to the others.

49
Dependability may be thought of as parallel to the more conventional criteria
of reliability and is concerned with the stability of the data over time (Guba &
Lincoln, 1989). The uniqueness of human experiences and the importance of
situations that are not necessarily attainable through validation of the senses are
emphasized in qualitative research. Therefore, identical repetition is not sought but,
rather, variations in human experiences. Guba and Lincoln (1989) suggested the use
of the dependability audit to document the logic of process and method decisions.
Auditability of a study and its findings is possible when another investigator can
clearly follow the “decision trail” used by the researcher in the study (Sandelowski,
1986, p. 33).
Confirmability parallels the more conventional criteria of objectivity and
concerns itself “with assuring that data, interpretations, and outcomes of inquiries are
rooted (grounded) in contexts and persons apart from the evaluator and are not
simply figments of the evaluator’s imagination” (Guba & Lincoln, 1989, p. 243). In
qualitative research, the investigator is expected to be involved with the participants.
Comfirmability refers to the research findings themselves, not to the objective or
subjective stance of the investigator (Guba & Lincoln, 1981; Sandelowski, 1986).
In order to maintain rigor in this study, I participated in peer review of coding
and theory generation with my professor and other doctoral level nursing students at
the University of Florida. I participated in member checking with one specified
participant and maintained all field notes, transcripts, and theoretical notes for
auditing purposes. My interest in this study population was derived from facilitating
a pregnancy loss support group and providing counseling to parents who have had to

50
make decisions to terminate or continue their pregnancies over the past 10 years. In
addition, I have been a nurse for 22 years. To reduce the chance of researcher bias, I
kept a personal journal and notes during the course of the study to facilitate
reflection of personal feelings and insights. According to Sandelowski (1986), “the
credibility of qualitative research is enhanced when investigators describe and
interpret their own behavior and experiences as researchers in relation to the
behavior and experiences of subjects” (p. 30).
Ethical Issues
Nurses are patient-client advocates, where empathy, trust, and compassion
should encompass all endeavors, including research. Nursing has espoused to
deontological principles that humans be treated as ends in themselves and not as
means to an end (Munhall, 1993). Ethical considerations of fieldwork were
addressed throughout the research.
Participant confidentiality, anonymity, privacy, and autonomy were
maintained. On initial contact with possible participants, the purpose of the study
was explained and before beginning the interview process, an informed consent (see
Appendix B) was signed. Prior to initiation of the study, approval was obtained
through the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Florida Health
Science Center, Jacksonville, Florida (See Appendix F).
An ethical issue considered to be a possibility during the interviews
concerned the possibility of additional psychic pain for the participants as they
discussed their experiences related to the loss of their baby. It is important that
researchers dealing with bereaved persons have training in this area. In addition to

51
the experience mentioned earlier, I am certified as a Clinical Specialist in adult
psychiatric and mental health nursing and have taken multiple courses in dealing
with grief and loss. I know that emotionally charged topics require excellent
listening and empathy (Rosenblatt, 1995). According to Rosenblatt, “any interaction
about a loss has the potential to provide a new awareness, integration, and feelings of
healing” (p. 151). It is possible that through interviews, participants can move
through their pain and begin to gain a new awareness, integration and feelings of
healing. Although it was not the purpose of the interviews to provide therapy, some
participants seemed to have benefited from them therapeutically.
Participants learned they not only could refuse to be interviewed but could
stop the interview at any time. If the participant became upset, as evidenced by
her/his inability to talk or continuous sobbing, I reminded him/her that the interview
could be stopped. I could have referred the participant to a counselor, but this did
not become necessary. Many participants in this study had to stop talking on
occasion because of crying and general emotional distress. However, all participants
insisted on continuing the interview. In fact, all of the participants wanted to share
their stories and were glad that someone was willing to listen. One father said, “I’m
happy anybody’s listening to my story at this point.” One mother said it made her
feel good to “know that we were a part of something that’s going to help other
people.” Another mother said,
I find this [interview] incredibly cathartic . .. this helped me. It helps me. I
get one step closer to integrating this completely into my fife and it’s going to
be a lifelong process. So every time that I get these feelings out, I am forced
to work through them.... So every time I cry about... this child, is one step
closer to being completely healed. When I say healed, completely integrating
her memory, this event into my life in a way that will not be painful anymore.

52
Still, another mother said, “It’s like when we tell our story it’s almost healing in a lot
of ways.” And another, “every time I told the story, it made it a little bit easier to
accept and actually I think that’s a big part of my healing, [to] tell the story over and
over again.”

CHAPTER 4
CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN:
THE BASIC SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM
Introduction
Becoming pregnant, for many, is an exciting time of life filled with
wonderment and awe at new beginnings. When a couple decides to start a family or
expand their family, they usually go into the pregnancy with hopes and dreams of
having a healthy, perfect baby. Pregnancy is a time of change and growth while
preparing for this new life to become a part of the family. When parents are faced
with the possibility of something being wrong with their baby and having to make a
decision to continue or discontinue their pregnancy, their hopes and dreams are
shattered. Their fives are changed forever. Having faced the darkness, the worst case
scenario, the unimaginable in their previous pregnancy, subsequent pregnancies are
not lull of anticipation of joy but instead become wracked with fear and uncertainty.
The purpose of this study was to develop a substantive grounded theory on
how couples experience a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to
choose to terminate or not to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal
abnormality. Basic to the grounded theory method is the discovery of a core
phenomenon, which is both relevant and problematic for those individuals, that
accounts for most of the variation in a pattern of behavior (Glaser, 1978).
Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic social psychological problem that emerged
53

54
from the data in this study of couples who shared their experiences of a subsequent
pregnancy.
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the problem of catastrophic psychic
pain, laying the groundwork for a discussion in Chapter 5 on how these parents
coped with this problem.
The Diagnosis
Prior to being able to talk about their current pregnancy and their present
psychological state, all of the participants found it necessary to review their previous
experience that brought about their catastrophic psychic pain. The diagnosis of a
fetal abnormality was the beginning of their “nightmare.” The diagnosis was
discovered in varying ways, by varying professionals, and at varying times in their
pregnancies. For some, the first clue that something was wrong was through an
alpha fetal protein (AFP) blood test, for others it was through ultrasound and/or
amniocentesis. Not everyone was given an immediate diagnostic answer. One
couple, who later chose not to terminate, were made aware that there might be a
potential problem at their 20 week ultrasound. It was 7 more weeks before the
diagnosis of a rare but fatal disease, Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney
Disease, was confirmed. Another couple whose 16 week AFP came back “hugely
elevated” went through numerous ultrasounds and an amniocentesis finding non
conclusive evidence, only suspicions of a rare kidney disease. This couple only
knew “something was very wrong. This is very abnormal. The outcomes don’t look
good, but we don’t know what’s wrong.” It wasn’t until the autopsy results
following their termination that they found out conclusively that their baby had

Congenital Nephrosis of the Finnish Type, another extremely rare autosomal
recessive disorder.
Still another couple who was not scheduled for an ultrasound at their regular
obstetrician’s office “until about 18 or 19 weeks” happened to know a resident at one
of the hospitals in their town who scanned their baby for “fun” at 16 weeks one
Saturday night. The resident let the father know that night that “he thought it was
anencephalic.” They went into a specialist’s office on the following Monday and
had the diagnosis confirmed through a level II ultrasound.
In this study parents were confronted with multiple types of diagnoses,
including Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, Trisomy 18, Congenital Nephrosis of the
Finnish Type, Bilateral Renal Agenesis, Prader Willi’s syndrome, Autosomal
Recessive Polysystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD), and two couples were given a
general diagnosis of multiple anomalies which included multiple malformations of
major organs. In years past many of the diagnoses meant certain death for these
babies either before birth or shortly thereafter. Today, with advances in technology,
immediate death is no longer certain, but professional debates are common about
how long infants will live and what their quality of life will be with or without
medical intervention. Other diagnoses do not have a death sentence, but the question
then becomes one of quality of life for the baby and the rest of the family, resulting
in uncertainty for all involved.
Some parents were skeptical about the diagnosis and had a fear that the
medical professionals were wrong “because the ultimate fear of a person going
through what we went through is to ... have a dead baby presented to you that

56
looked normal.” As one father said, “sometimes people do make mistakes.”
Consistent with Kenyon’s et al. (1988) findings it was important for parents that the
diagnosis be confirmed “correct” at birth.
The news of the diagnosis sent one woman into limbo between two worlds:
Back in my ... world of I’m a woman who won’t have a problem with a
pregnancy, that world was kind of crashing down. But it hadn’t quite moved
into the world where abortion, terminating a wanted pregnancy was an option.
So I was in this ... space between those worlds.
Another woman described the day the diagnosis was made as “the terrible day.” She
went on to explain how she and her husband, upon hearing the devastating news that
their son had Down syndrome, “went outside the door and um, just both of us just
stood there in the hallway and just cried.” Hearing the diagnosis was only the
beginning of their pain for the parents in this sample.
After diagnoses some parents faced making decisions about conditions they
had never heard of before. Many of the diagnoses concerned extremely rare
conditions affecting only a very small percentage of the general population such as
“1 in 4,000” or “1 in 50,000”. Some healthcare professionals were not even familiar
with the diagnoses. Thus, acquiring knowledge became an important factor in these
couples’ experiences. They sought information about the diagnosis from everywhere
including professionals, libraries, bookstores, the Internet, and others who may have
been in similar situations. One woman discussed her way of dealing:
I start looking for information. Um, when we found out (the baby) had
ARPKD [Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease] we started
looking for information .... We actually went to our meeting with the
genetic counselor knowing more about the diagnosis than [the counselor]
did, which was a disappointment.

Parents believed that knowledge was fundamental to making the decision to
terminate or not and the type of termination they would choose.
57
While seeking information, parents were extremely vulnerable. One mother
sought out a bookstore for her reading materials only to find the section on grieving
the loss of a baby was located next to the expecting a baby section. She described
that experience as “It’s like here you are, you’re like more fragile than a china cup
and,... it’s like the last thing you can ... handle so I’m sure meltdowns in that book
section are very common.”
Diagnostic Consequences
Catastrophic psychic pain was the major diagnostic consequence for the
parents. Catastrophic means a disastrous end; any sudden and great disaster,
calamity, or misfortune; or an ignominious or total failure (Guralink, 1974). The
diagnosis completely violated parents’ previous thoughts, hopes, plans, and dreams.
They believed everything was fine with this baby, and then, “a ton of bricks was
dropped on [our] heads.” The word pain in many ways is almost interchangeable
with what some professionals would term grief, or at least a part of grief. The pain
was unexpected, intense, and never ending.
Unexpected Pain
The pain was unexpected. These couples went into their pregnancies with
happy-go-lucky attitudes, expecting perfect pregnancies, and they met disastrous
circumstances. One mother described it as “when you’re hit with something as
unexpected as what we were hit with, the news that we were carrying a baby with a
grave defect... it was a huge, huge shock.” As seen in the literature (Jones et al.,

58
1984), parents talked of being totally ignorant of the fact that something like what
happened could ever happen to them. “It was unbelievable shock, because you don’t
consider things like this are going to happen.” The diagnosis was an unexpected
assault “like someone was taking a two by four and just smashing you up the side of
the head.” Another mother who had dealt with years of infertility described it this
way:
Our last pregnancy was... an incredible miracle ... so we were looking
with incredible joy. And when we found out what was wrong, it was ... a
real shock because I was at incredibly low risk for complications. I had
... a glorious pregnancy up to that point and were just kind of hit out of
the blue. ... I had gone for a normal 20 week ultrasound. All the prenatal
work had been perfectly normal and when we had the ultrasound,... it was a
very strange experience. We just felt like, I think I died in that moment and
was reborn the next, as a totally different person.
This type of experience is just totally out of the realm of most parents’
reality.
Nobody teaches you in your life experience how to choose to end your child’s
life. Even if it’s you know a terminal anomaly, the baby is never going
to live, you’re still picking the day. Nobody prepares you for that in your
whole life. You know everybody goes to funerals and knows about relatives
or friends or people that die and yet people know how to do that.
Even parents who had knowledge of some types of fetal abnormalities were
unsuspecting of something like this ever happening to them. One woman with a
special education background whose baby had been diagnosed with multifaceted
fetal anomalies explained that “basically I had not even considered the possibility of
a fetal anomaly except for the ones, the types of genetic disorders you’ve heard of.
... I... was familiar with Down syndrome and other types of genetic disorders and
didn’t consider that to be something that I would ever terminate a pregnancy for.”
The shock was two-fold, first that they never expected to hear that their baby had any

59
type of serious abnormality, “deep down I just thought everything would ... always
end up being fine,” and second these parents never expected to be put in a position of
choosing to continue or end their own pregnancy, “I certainly never, ever thought
that I would ever have an abortion myself.” Never expecting to be in the position
they were in and feeling so different from others, many of the parents were uncertain
of where to turn in their pain.
Intense Pain
The pain was intense, severe, extreme. “It’s indescribable the depth of pain
in your soul. I mean it’s indescribable.” One woman described her feelings as
“extreme just like anguish.” At one point she felt suicidal and unable to function at
all. Another woman described her pain as “every day was so painful to live through .
.. I don’t want to keep living every day in this much pain.” A husband of another
woman who had described feelings of wanting to die said, “I think she just wanted to
stop the pain because she really hurt, really hurt bad.” The intensity of the grief was
so bad for one woman she “was pretty incapable of doing much more for anybody
else,... [and] wasn’t able to do anything else but work and cry.” This woman’s
husband described her as being “out of commission, basically.” The pain was so
intense for another woman that it even invaded her sleep, “one night I woke up at
2:00 in the morning and just had a screaming fit, it was just hysterical crying.” A
man described it as “the blackest time I’ve ever been in ... almost like falling into a
bottomless well and where there was no light.” “It was awful... I would never want
anyone I love to go through so much pain. ... No one should have to go through that
kind of grief.”

60
Spousal differences. The intensity seemed to be different for men and
women. Almost all agreed that the woman’s grief was somewhat more intense and
that it lasted longer than a man’s. One father explained how they both cried and felt
anguished, but that his wife cried more and experienced the loss more deeply. This
same father explained that “women are more naked to pain than men are because I
think they do have this very intimate relationship with the baby from the first
moment on.” Several of the fathers talked about wanting to be there for their wives
but “there were times when she wasn’t letting me in . . . almost too unbearable for
her to even communicate much.” One woman described the difference as “he says
it’s painful, but then I start thinking I don’t ever see you cry. ... He shows things
differently.” Another woman speaking of her husband said, “he doesn’t understand
how deep my feelings are.” One woman described how her husband put his grief on
hold
because every time he saw me crying he would rush to me and he
wouldn’t grieve himself and one particular night I was sitting in the baby’s
room rocking and crying and singing lullabies and you know flipping out
because I did this for months.
After much thought, one father described what he believes to be the reason
for spousal differences in grief.
[It’s] because when all is said and done through all of this the father has
what’s most important to him in the world and that’s his wife and she’s
safe and sound and healthy and with him. And the wife and mother does not
have what’s most important to her and that’s her baby because I think that...
in the order of importance to a mother is her children and then her husband
and then herself. And to a husband, it’s his wife, his children and himself.
So I think that’s why the grieving process is different and the depth is
different because of those two things. You have what’s most important to
you which is your wife but she doesn’t have what’s most important to her
which is her child.

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One mother described the differences she saw in how men and women grieve.
I think that the men have a tougher time than the women because everybody
focuses their attention on the women, on how they’re getting through it and
nobody I mean people would call here and they all asked how I was first....
I mean I was worried about my husband but I was more worried about me and
the loss. Where as I mean in society today men are still raised as the fixer
and the protector and they have nothing that they can do except watch you be
crushed. ... They’re helpless, and they’re also dealing with their own pain.
But then their own belief that they are supposed to be able to make it better
but then they can’t but then they’re in so much pain themselves but then she’s
feeling it and I mean we just feel it differently is what I think.
Similar to Kenyon’s et al. (1988) finding that women felt most supported by their
husbands, most all of the women in this study felt supported by their husbands,
and most of the men felt their wives supported them as best they could.
Guilt. As seen in the literature (Donnai et al., 1981; Green, 1992; lies &
Gath, 1993; Kenyon et al., 1988), feelings of guilt from having to choose the fate of
their unborn child were a factor for some that seemed to contribute to the intensity of
the pain. Guilt not only seemed to compound the pain but it was also an additional
type of pain. One mother said, “I think the thing that intensifies it to some degree is
there’s, I mean incredible guilt associated at the same time.” She also explained,
“nobody teaches you how to deal with the death of your child especially at your own
hands.” Being involved in the actual decision to end or not to end their child’s life
tremendously intensified the pain, “because you have to be involved and be an active
participant in the whole decision making process. It’s much, much, much easier to
have things happen to you ... as opposed to deciding that things will happen.”
Wantedness. Still another factor in the intensity was that the pregnancies in
which these couples had to choose the fate of their unborn children were, for the
most part planned, wanted pregnancies similar to what was noted in the literature

62
(Donnai, Charles, & Harris, 1981; Jones et al., 1984; Kenyon et al., 1988). One
mother described her pregnancy as “an extremely planned event.” All of the
participants in this study described their prior pregnancy as being a much desired
pregnancy. Even those few who had not planned the pregnancy were happy about
being pregnant and excited about having a baby by the time they were hit with the
news of serious problems.
Never-Ending Pain
Most of the parents described the most intense periods of pain being in the
immediate months following the death of their child. But even though the intensity
seemed to diminish over time, almost all described the pain as “it never goes away.”
As this pain never completely goes away, it becomes never ending. “It isn’t going to
go away and I don’t think anybody else understands what we’ve been through.” Not
even distance can separate these parents from their pain. One couple decided to
move across the country following their loss, but the wife explained the move was
not to run away because “there was no running away from what had happened, it was
... going to be with us forever.” One father talked about not being able to “replace
this child, it’s impossible, the loss is always there.” Another father described it as
always “in the back of your mind.” There seems to be some very painful reminders
for some. Like one woman who said, “it’s been really hard to see my niece who is
basically like two months younger than my son would be.... It’s a real reminder.”
This catastrophic psychic pain touches the very core of being in these
individuals and sends a rippling effect throughout their lives. One woman searching
for information read about how this experience impacts individuals for the rest of

63
their lives. “You know I didn’t believe what I was reading, and I was wrong at that
point in time. I know this will always affect my life.” Most parents “don’t want to
forget about it.” One woman said, “it’ll be a lifelong affair.” Another woman who
kept her baby’s ashes explained, “I have a feeling I’m going to carry around these
remains with me, and ... I told [my husband] I think I decided that whenever I die
[he] can just put these in the casket with me.”
This never ending psychic pain is similar to a concept found in the literature
called chronic sorrow. Chronic sorrow was first described by Olshansky “to explain
the parental response of lifelong, episodic sadness to the birth of a mentally disabled
child” (Teel, 1991, p. 1313). Teel adapted this definition describing it as, “a
pervasive psychic pain and sadness, stimulated by certain trigger events, which
follows loss (through permanent inaccessibility) of a relationship of attachment” (p.
1316). The sorrow is a natural response to a tragic fact: it recurs periodically, but is
not constant (Teel). One woman described it like this,
We have a little box that has all the baby’s things in. There’s still times, I
keep it in my room. I don’t open it often but sometimes, the other night I
just went to dust it and I started to cry you know. There’s times where it
comes back to you.
Another woman said, “ memories come up at the strangest times and we’re fine for
months and months and months, and then all of a sudden crash,... it still hurts a
lot.” A physician described what he sees with his patients.
It’s in your mind and right now it’s right here (points to the top front
portion of head) in front of you, in your eyes. Hopefully 5 years from now
it’s going to be back here (points to back of head). It’s still going to be in
your mind, but farther back in our memory banks where there will be
triggers that will bring it back, situations that will bring it back. And those
triggers and those situations are going to become less and less and less.

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One woman confirmed this as she said, “it doesn’t go away, you just learn how to
carry it in your head and have it not interrupt your everyday life and the stupidest
thing will set it off.... Sometimes I see babies that look like him and you know
[that] brings it back.” As one father said, “neither of us are over with the grief.... I
don’t think that it will ever be gone away so it’s you know going to be an ongoing
process.”
Painful Decisions
To Terminate or Not to Terminate
After the immediate catastrophic psychic pain that assaulted them when they
learned the diagnosis, parents had to go on and make an exquisitely painful
decision—whether or not to terminate their much-wanted baby. Being faced with
having a baby with abnormalities and having to make this decision concerning
termination is what sets these parents’ pain apart from other types of grief
experiences. All except one couple made their decision jointly and agreed on their
decision. The couple who did not make their decision together felt it was the wife’s
decision to make, although the husband agreed with her decision. The option to
terminate was presented to the couples mostly by their obstetricians but occasionally
in connection with a high-risk perinatologist and/or a genetic counselor. For some,
they already knew their options and just needed guidance as to where to go next.
Termination was by far the more frequent choice in this sample population
consistent with several studies in the literature (Kokler, & Burke, 1993; Rayburn &
LaFerla, 1982; Rothman, 1986), but not all (Matthews, 1990). Only one mother
whose husband was not interviewed and one couple chose not to terminate following

65
diagnosis. Instead, these mothers had to have a cesarean delivery due to the baby’s
condition or presentation. Of the non-terminated pregnancies, one child was bom
with Spina Bifida and is still living; the other child had Autosomal Recessive
Polycystic Kidney Disease and died within hours of his birth. Those who chose not
to terminate felt abortion was “just not an option for us.”
In choosing to terminate or not, the majority of participants felt they had no
choice, that there was only one choice. “In my mind there was no choice” and “what
we were doing ... was the best thing.” One father described it as “a choice between
terrible and horrible and whichever way you go you’re going to have to suffer major
consequences and there’s no real... win-win solution.” In reality, there were only
negative choices. For those who felt they did have a choice, all chose termination.
Another father felt certain he had a choice and still isn’t sure he made the right
choice in terminating, but at the moment it was the choice he felt he had to make.
This was a choice no one wanted to have to make and in fact, some became angry at
being placed in such a position as to have to make a choice at all. As one woman
said, “I’m sorry that I had to make it. I’m sorry that I was ever presented with that
situation.” Another woman said, “we had to make a decision for our child that no
parent should ever have to make.” Still, another woman who had previously suffered
years of infertility said, “we’ve fought to bring this child into the world and now
we’re in a situation of having to end her life.” The decision to terminate or not was
extremely painful for all. One father said, “it’s an extremely difficult choice to make
... and not taken very lightly.”

66
Timing of the Decision
The timing of the diagnosis and the subsequent decision was different for
different families. The two families who chose not to terminate did not have a
definitive diagnosis until 27 and 28 weeks into their affected pregnancies. For one of
these mothers, she believed, “it would never be a plan in my thinking” to terminate.
The other mother said, “it just didn’t seem right.” The husband of this second
mother felt they should “ride it through and see what happens.” Although there are
many states where 24 weeks is the maximum cut off for a termination, there are also
a few places in the United States where it is legal to terminate much later. For both
of these families, they had passed the cut off date for their states, and would have
had to travel out of state had they chosen termination.
For most, the diagnosis was confirmed between 16 and 22 weeks. Some
couples took much time and deliberation in making their decision to terminate. One
couple took over 3 weeks as one father explained,
We went back and forth and we talked to everybody that we could talk to
... because we wanted to make sure that we didn’t rush into a decision,
didn’t feel like we were pressured to make a decision. We knew we had a
deadline, but we wanted to make sure that we had gone down every
possible avenue to find out all the information we could from all the
professionals, as far as what did the future look like,... and then [I] still
even feel bad now. ... It’s definitely not the thing either of us ever wanted
to make a choice like that.
Another woman discussed how it took her husband and her “3 weeks to make our
decision. ... Both of us vacillated back and forth.... We pushed it further than they
would have liked because I was actually 24 weeks when we went into the hospital.”

67
For others, the decision was made as soon as the diagnosis was made. “We
really did decide in a couple of hours because they were telling us there was no
hope.” One mother described later regretting her quick decision.
I immediately thought of and began asking the ultrasound tech about, you
know, what she thought like, you know, can I terminate this pregnancy? I
mean I can’t go on like this. I felt like I had cancer hice I just needed to, to
cut this off of my body.
One husband explained, “when it became obvious in that second sonogram that the
baby did not have kidneys, I mean basically right there and then looking at each
other you know [we] said yeah, well we can’t carry this to term.” For still others,
their quick decision came before they even became pregnant.
Before we ever got pregnant we had made a decision that if something
was wrong, you know seriously wrong with the baby not you know, not
missing an arm, not that that isn’t serious, but something that would really
be a financial burden to the rest of the family or that was emotional, that we
would terminate the pregnancy. So we’d made that decision.
No one talked about being rushed into a decision, only how difficult it was regardless
of how long it took or when in the pregnancy it occurred.
Decision Rationales
Of those who chose termination, all but one woman found the entire decision
making process very difficult. She described the decision of choosing termination as
“the easiest decision I’ve ever made.... It was kind of a motherly protection. It was
almost instinctive.” Many described making the decision as somewhat altruistic
aimed to prevent further suffering for the baby and themselves. One mother believed
that quality of life is very important and that... I really believed that this
child would not have had a good quality of life. And I was fearful that if we
brought her into the world that we would not be able to care for her and I
could not in good conscience, as she grew we would not be able to care for
her, and we would have to delegate that responsibility to someone else.... I

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didn’t think it was fair to put her through an incredible amount of pain and
suffering to correct what was a devastating injury, a devastating condition and
would never have allowed her to truly function.... I think it went to a
completely nonfunctional person... .We went to see a neurosurgeon who
talked to us about all of the things that we could expect in this child’s future
and it seemed so cruel.... It was so cruel and so painful and ... I think that
our reasons for terminating, well mine, was a combination of not wanting to
put her through suffering and not wanting to put ourselves through that kind
of suffering.... I’ve done a lot of soul searching over ... this and trying to
figure out whether what I did was about me or about her and I think it was a
combination.
Many other parents made altruistic decisions to avoid pain and suffering of
the baby. One mother lamented her decision saying, “I was going to help my baby
versus going to kill my baby.” Another “felt like if we bring a child into this world
that suffers terribly because we’re too cowardly to take steps to spare this child
suffering then we’re not good parents.” Another mother described her motherly
instincts.
All of your ... mommy stuff I guess kicks in. It is very much a protective
thing I think.... I was very tempted to let him go to term. I was very
tempted because as long as he was inside of me he was alive and I could
protect him.
This mother made her decision to terminate for the baby’s sake and not for her own.
She would have much rather chosen to keep her baby.
Other parents made altruistic decisions to avoid a dismal future such as
institutionalization for a child who would need a great deal of continuous care that
could be painful. One father said,
Because more than anything the one issue that I could not put to rest was
that at some point or another that child would have to be institutionalized
amongst people who did not necessarily have her best interests at heart.
And as a parent I could not look at myself and say “yeah I could do that.”
If I can’t take care of my child at the level that child needs it shouldn’t be
here and after I died I couldn’t take care of that child. No matter how
much money I left, I couldn’t be there and that baby was going to need

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round the clock assistance for the rest of it’s life, and I couldn’t bare to do
that with such a dismal forecast for her life.
Another mother expressed her concern for the baby’s future pain, “We were afraid
the baby was going to live and we’d have to watch him go through all these surgeries
and procedures and that’s all we could think about was the pain the baby was
facing.” Still another mother whose baby was diagnosed with Prader Willi’s
syndrome chose termination to spare her child what she believed would be a very
poor quality of life: “to us it was totally morally acceptable and we couldn’t think of
a more loving you know, when a mother decides and makes a decision for her child,
that’s a loving thing.”
The diagnosis of the baby influenced the couples’ decision making process.
If the diagnosis was presented as certain death many parents chose termination to
speed up the inevitable. One mother whose baby was diagnosed with multiple
anomalies said, “the deciding factor for us was the fact that the ultrasound said that
they could only see two chambers of the heart and I’m smart enough to know that
people can’t live without a heart.” When certain death was not a given, the dilemma
was more troubling. For a couple in their early 40s and faced with a decision for a
child with Spina Bifida, the uncertainty was very difficult. The husband said,
The biggest concern that we had was being older parents. It’s much sooner
that we would not be able to take care of someone with these kinds of
problems . .. because this child could live to be 50, 60.... So who’s going to
be able to take care of him and how do you prepare for that kind of stuff? .. .
What kind of problems would he have? Would he ... be able to work and
provide for himself or not? Ajad really no one can tell you ... the image you
get of your child being in a nursing home not able to take care of themself
and really all alone you know, because you’re either not there or can’t do
anything for them and that was just really hard to think of you know. What if
it came down to that? I don’t know if I can you know.... How do you go on

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to your final rest knowing that’s the last thing you’re thinking about, who’s
going to take care of my child?
Some parents made their decision as a result of self-awareness and
recognition of their own limitations. Termination would relieve them from future
responsibilities that they believed they would be unable to handle. Comparing
herself to others, one woman who chose termination for a baby with Down syndrome
said,
I would never say to somebody who wanted to keep a Down syndrome baby
[that they were] wrong. You know that’s their ... I mean they’re better
people than me. I just couldn’t do it, you know. I couldn’t do it on a lifetime
basis.
Choosing to terminate was a decision that no one “took lightly.” These parents not
only had to deal with the pain of making the decision to terminate or not, but for
those who chose termination, they were also confronted with choosing the type of
termination procedure.
Decision on Type of Termination
Obstetricians or perinatologists presented termination options to the parents.
Occasionally a genetic counselor would make recommendations, but some of these
parents were painfully aware of the options. Several authors (Holmes-Siedle et al.,
1987; Marteau, 1989) found that parents’ decisions were affected by how
information was presented and by whom. That did not seem to be the case in this
study. Two options for termination included either to have a dilatation and
evacuation (D and E) or induction which meant going through labor and delivery.
Both options were not available to everyone. Those closer to 24 weeks had to be
induced because it was considered the safest at that point in time. Those who were

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20 weeks or less frequently were given both options. Different professionals had
differing opinions. One physician said that he tried to present both the “benefits”
and the “risks” of each option. As he pointed out, other factors have to be
considered such as gestation of the pregnancy, availability of the procedures and
whether or not you want to study the baby to confirm a diagnosis. In some instances,
professionals recommended the D and E, suggesting to the couple that this would
“spare us the pain ... somehow.”
I think the physicians thought that they would be sparing us some pain.
You know like they could just make it go away. And (my husband) and I
knew that there was no going away. There was no pretending it just didn’t
happen. And that we didn’t want to pretend that it didn’t happen and as
much pain as it was going to cause I think we needed not to be in denial
that there had actually been a baby in our life and now there wasn’t.
Induction. The majority of the participants ended up having induction of
labor and had multiple reasons for choosing this, including gestation time as well as
personal reasons. Parents talked about the need to say hello and welcome their baby
into the world before they said their extremely painful goodbyes. “We needed that
transition of being able to hold her and say goodbye and come to terms with, with all
of that.” Remembrances were vital in allowing themselves and others to
acknowledge that their baby had lived. Mementos of the baby were important and
were usually more available by going through labor and delivery. “You have
footprints and handprints and pictures and you have your whole labor story that you
can think about for yourself or share with somebody else if you had a mind to.”
Some parents described how being able to parent their baby, even for a
short time, was more humanizing. One mother said,

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I didn’t want to do a D and C [dilatation and curettage] or anything like
that. I’m so glad that I did that [induction for labor] because you know it
was a whole baby and you know we held him and baptized him and named
him.
For most, the induction of labor provided an opportunity for bonding with the
baby, and for others to see the baby and recognize that the baby was a person. “I put
my baby finger in his hand so that I would always know how big his hand was
holding onto my finger.... He looked exactly like my husband.”
Going through the labor and delivery process helped some parents with
reconciling their painful decisions. One mother who had an induction described her
need for others to see her baby as real.
A friend of mine that was with me at the time said you know you’ve got to
do this [terminate]... you’ve got to stop this ... the fetus will never Uve
or something to those lines and I flew around. ... I spun around on my
heels [and said] this is not some fetus, this is my son and I have to now
make a decision for my son so it is very maternal.
This comment was similar to one made by Deam (1998). Another mother said,
I think we really needed ... to see her as a whole person and to be a
family with her before we let her go... .We needed her to be real.... It
was very important to me that the health care professionals recognized that
she was ... our baby and not just a fetus.
The choices were painfully difficult, but on top of being difficult there were nothing
but negative choices to choose from. For one father, it was very different. His wife
was already at 24 weeks when they chose termination and they had no choice but to
go through labor and delivery. He remembered it as being,
very difficult. I think partially because knowing the outcome was already a
negative one. To have to go through that even after we knew what was
wrong. It would have been a lot easier if that part of it didn’t have to occur.

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Another father who had mixed feelings about his wife going through the
labor process, left the decision up to her and recalled the procedure as “heart
wrenching.” One mother reflected on her own uncertainty about having seen the
baby and her husband’s desires to have had the opportunity to see the baby.
[My husband] wishes that... he would have had the opportunity to see and
hold the baby and sometimes you know, when we talk about it I make sure
that he knows how much the baby looked like him and things, and on the
other hand sometimes I think if I hadn’t seen him it wouldn’t be burnt in my
mind, you know, his little face wouldn’t be burnt in my mind like it is....
There is something to be said for either way to see them or not see them.
Still another father described their painful decision in choosing to go through labor
and delivery.
This baby was, was severely injured and she deserved the best I and my
wife could give her and my family and that unfortunately the best that
was, was to be there with her. Just making the decision rips your heart out
but to hold her while she dies means that you at least understood your
decision. If you ... can’t make your decision and live with the
consequences you’re missing the point.
D and E. Induction of labor was not the best choice for all even when it was
presented as such, as one woman who had a D and E at 17 Vi weeks “quickly said I
didn’t want to deliver ... at the time I didn’t think I wanted to go through a delivery
and have a dead baby.... I think it was too painful at the time to think about
delivering.” She was offered her baby’s remains following her D and E, allowing
her to have a cremation and retain the ashes, which is uncommon with a D and E.
Having the remains was important for her to allow her the opportunity to recognize
her baby’s existence. For another couple,
the genetic counselor was encouraging us to have labor and delivery
because they said if we did that they could do a full autopsy. And I just
drew the line, I’m like no, that’s not an option. I’m not going through

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labor for a stillbirth. The idea of laboring and not delivering a live baby was
just too painful for them.
Parents who chose D and E needed to fmd a way to acknowledge or bond
with their baby and say their goodbyes. Several were able to get more ultrasound
pictures and a last look to say goodbye. Several couples were offered an ultrasound
just prior to their D and E. One mother, whose baby had been diagnosed with
anencephaly described how it was for her. “I said yes I wanted the ultrasound again.
I wanted to be left alone [during] the ultrasound.... I did, I wanted to be left alone
so that we could say goodbye.” Her physician went one step further to help this
couple personalize their baby, making their experience more humanizing.
He asked “would you want to see pictures of a baby that was bom with
anencephaly,” and I did so he went and got his books and brought those
pictures back, and I looked at those pictures and that helped put a face on my
baby I think.
The ability to gather these remembrances was in contrast to what several authors
(Kenyon et al., 1988; Lloyd & Laurence, 1985; Zeanah, et al., 1993) reported in the
literature. Families in their studies reported not having these remembrances.
Another couple who chose termination in two separate pregnancies for the
same fatal diagnosis had a D and E for the first termination. The genetic counselor
recommended a delivery in order to obtain a definitive diagnosis and the obstetrician
“was saying ‘no, no, no, I don’t want her to go through labor.’ I [mother] was saying
T don’t know what to do.... It was horrible.” This woman described herself as on a
“path of horror.” The conflict between the healthcare professionals was
overwhelming. In the end she described the D and E as “just horrible ... just the
whole situation, actually doing it, everything was just awful.” She tried very hard to

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obtain her baby’s remains but was unable to. This caused her additional pain and she
suggested “that the hospital people need to have a better protocol for ... how to
handle these very cherished babies.” For her second termination of twins who ended
up being diagnosed with the same disease (Congenital Nephrosis of the Finnish
Type), the mother insisted on going through labor and delivery because “[I] wanted
to see them. I wanted to hold them. And I definitely wanted something to bury...
even though the induction [for labor] was really traumatic.”
One couple who thought they had made it clear that they wanted to have an
induction went to the clinic where their physician had arranged for them to have the
procedure, only to find the doctor there only performed D and Es.
The doctor comes in . . . and he’s saying “take off your jeans,” you know,
“put your legs up in the stirrups. We’ll insert the laminaria, and we’ll do a
D and E tomorrow.” And I said “whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a
minute,” and Fm trying to discuss things with him, this is not the
procedure I want to go through. I want to be induced and he says “no, no,
no that’s not what we do.” And ... I said “well then this appointment is
over,” and I like got up off the table, zipped my jeans, my husband is
standing there thinking what’s happening. He’s just kind of dazed because
he’s in complete grief. You know, and I’m standing up walking out of this
clinic. The Dr. actually way laid him on the way out and said ... “why
would you want your wife to go through all this pain” and he was berating
him.... [My husband] broke the door on the way out. He was so mad, he
slammed the door on the way out.
One mother who had her labor induced heard other parents describing the D and E
procedure at a support group. She said,
I can’t imagine that. That to me is hell on earth, way worse than what I had
to go through. And all of [those who had a D and E] think that what I, the
way I had to do it was way worse than the way they had to do it.
Regardless of the type of delivery, for the most part these parents all had a
need to be able to say hello and somehow have a parenting experience before saying

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goodbye to their precious babies. They needed to be able to acknowledge their child
and the painful decisions they had made.
Decision Reflections
Many of the parents reflected upon the decisions that they had made in the
interview situation. Most of the parents interviewed at the time of their current
pregnancy described their decision as “I made the right decision at that point in my
life for that baby.” Feeling they had made the right decision was similar to parental
responses described in the literature (Alder & Kushnick, 1982; Blumberg, 1975;
Jones et al., 1984). One mother described it as, “we made the very best decision for
[our baby] that we could have on the day with the information that we had.”
Although one couple who seemed adamant in the beginning that termination was
right and they did the right thing, later revised their thinking and actually went
through a long discerning process which included the help of a Catholic priest and a
counselor to come to the conclusion that what they had done was wrong, “a sin,” and
in order to start healing they had to be forgiven and forgive themselves. Others
struggled with the decision. One woman described her feelings of guilt as she
continues to struggle with her decision to terminate. She described her feelings at
times “of just total self hatred and disgust and ... I think I really did absorb the idea
from Catholicism that there’s never a good reason to do this. Even though I know I
had a good reason.” Although a large number of the participants in this study were
Catholic, religion did not seem to play a major role in their decision. One nurse said,
The bottom underlying thing that’s really concerning is just the
weightiness of the decision that we put on these people, that we allow
them to participate in the decision that 5, 10 years ago wouldn’t have been
a consideration and they do not have the external support in many cases to

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uphold that decision.... I do know though that the [parents] that have the
regrets, they are very deep and very strong and very profound so maybe
those just in my memory make more impact than the others. And
sometimes I think the regret happens because they were rushed to a
decision.
For some, the baby of their hopes and dreams was lost to them before they
ever made the decision. One mother said “I feel like she was already gone by the
time we decided to end her life. I mean she was gone to us in our dream.” Most
parents accepted the decision they made then, but could not say what they would do
in their present or future pregnancy. They could only reflect back on what they had
already done, because every situation is different, every pregnancy is different and
parents said they are different because of their experience. One mother, speaking of
her current pregnancy said, “when people ask if we would do the same thing [again],
I have no idea. We’re different people in a different time. This is a different child.”
Consequences of Catastrophic Psychic Pain
Catastrophic psychic pain came from the overwhelming loss these parents
endured. The pain had consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence,
devastation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hoping, aloneness, and stigma.
Loss of Innocence
All participants felt a loss of innocence similar to what Bryar (1997) saw in
her study. One woman said, “the biggest thing besides the loss of your child is the
loss of your innocence.” The loss of innocence is pervasive, affecting not only
future pregnancies but other areas of their Uves.
[This loss had] an impact on my life all together. ... I mean that impacts
every area of my life. It doesn’t just affect you know, the current pregnancy
and it’s better today than it was right after we terminated but the fact that you
know, if [my husband’s] coming home late from work, might mean oh my

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God he was killed in a car accident on the way home. And you know it’s like
the worse, the worse that you can imagine happened to you and suddenly you
know well gee, you know those terrible things that you hear happen to other
people can happen to me and then you like expect them. It’s like you don’t
expect the good things to occur anymore.
One mother talked about,
how deep a loss this is. I mean all the different kinds of things in life that it
cuts across. It cuts across your feelings about motherhood ... and maybe
your feelings about abortion, and your spiritual feelings, your image of
yourself.... There just were so many losses involved.
Other parents who had never before experienced such loss and exquisite pain
felt invincible in their innocence prior to their horrifying experiences. One mother
who had experienced the loss of two children with abnormalities said,
before this all happened I was invincible. I mean I had two perfect little
girls. I had a nice husband and a nice house and nothing bad really ever
happened so it just really, reality hit. Anything can happen to anybody any
day, and there’s no protecting me or my family... . After [my baby] died, I
looked at people that walked around buying baby clothes and having baby
showers thinking gosh, I mean it’s a sick thought but what if the baby dies?
What are they going to do with all this stuff? How could you go set up the
nursery? You know, and it never entered their mind because it never entered
my mind [before my loss].
One father talked about his future expectations as being not, “what could go wrong,
it’s what will go wrong. You know, you don’t have any real expectations that things
are going to turn out good.” Speaking of innocence he said, “I want it back. I want
to be blissfully ignorant of all these problems.” He went on to talk about wanting to
share the problems with others to warn them, but then, “do you want to take away
from people that innocence? ... Do you want to say don’t think about it, but here’s
what could go wrong?” He decided that wasn’t good either.

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Devastation
Devastation was another consequence of the catastrophic psychic pain. To
devastate, as defined in the Webster’s New World Dictionary (Guralnik,1974),
means to ravage, destroy, overwhelm or make helpless. The catastrophic pain
parents experienced with both the news of something being wrong with their baby
and the loss of their baby or their dream overwhelmed many parents rendering them
helpless. “What happened to us was just the worst of the worst.” One father said, “I
was a naive Dad and just devastated when we found out something was wrong.”
Another father explained feeling ravaged. “The months following the twins loss,
every day was it’s own private hell.” Parents felt less than whole. One father said
it’s like you have a “hole in your heart that you need to fill.” Another said it was a
“huge sense of loss and a feeling of helplessness that nobody can fix for you. And
even if you had all the money in the world you couldn’t fix it.”
The more intense parents felt their pain to be, the more devastated they
seemed to be. A mother said, “my state of mind following our second loss, you
know, I really was suicidal for quite a number of months, and extremely depressed
and just... quite not in my right mind, very irrational.” Another mother said, “[the
baby] died and my whole world fell apart.” For another couple who went through
two separate terminations for the same fatal abnormality over several years, the
husband described the devastation of his wife. “She has been an emotional wreck, I
mean just a derailed freight train for years and ... the loss of the twins only
exacerbated that.”

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This devastation was paralyzing for some and affected their relationships
with their living children. One mother described her feelings.
I really had a hard time.... I just lay in bed and it was kind of like you
know, catatonic just staring into space and that was hard for the kids
because they would come in and try to talk to me... .They understood why
I was sad and they were sad too but they you know, it was hard for them to
see me so shut down.
And another mother explained how in her devastation, feeling so helpless, she
couldn’t even be there for her living children.
[They] saw me ... totally paralyzed after [the baby] died. I laid in bed for
days and days and cried.... I was really angry because not only did I lose my
daughter the first time but I felt like I lost [my living daughters], I couldn’t
be their mom anymore. I couldn’t enjoy them because I was just sad all the
time. ... I mean it’s just like you’re in hell. I mean you don’t think you can
ever get out. You’re so low you don’t know how to get out. I say I don’t
have to go to hell when I die because I’ve been there and I have. And I’m not
there now but I won’t forget what it was like, ever.
Other ways parents described the destruction in their lives was, “it alters your being,”
“I hit rock bottom,” “the ultimate in just low,” and “I just thought... I could crawl
under the bed and I would curl up in a ball and I could die,... because this is really
awlul.”
Changes in Spousal Relationships
The catastrophic psychic pain caused not only individual changes, but
changes in spousal relationships. Some couples had to work through some very
difficult times. One man described how being so overwhelmed immediately
following the termination affected his marriage.
Our marriage deteriorated horribly. There was even a point where I picked
up a gun and threatened my wife with it. We had horrible marriage problems.
She was totally freaked out and I was just basically having to deal with the
overload of emotions.

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Afterwards, his wife noted how out of character his behavior was. Another father
described how strained his marriage relationship became after the loss of their child
which many believed was the worst case scenario that could happen in a relationship.
There’s no question there’s been a strain on our relationship. I think there
would be a strain on anybody’s. There are times when I really don’t want to
see or talk to my wife at all. And that never happened before, before you
know, we lost [our baby] and I never, ever thought we’d get a divorce, I
really didn’t ever. I remember ... a couple months after we had lost her and I
was at a party with friends of the family and my nephew, he’s 8 years old,
actually asked me flat out if I was going to get a divorce, and I told him flat
out ‘no I’m not. I don’t plan to do so.’ But there’s no question that... we’ve
gone through more trouble than we should have.
One wife described the strain after the loss as, “it’s been really hard and I’m
surprised that we’re still together some days ... because every month he doesn’t
know what to do with me.” This woman’s husband confirmed, “we came close to
divorcing over the second time [of loss of baby] after what we went through.”
Several authors (Blumberg, 1975; White Van-Mourik et al., 1992) reported marital
stress and temporary separations for some couples in their studies.
One couple whose baby survived, but is sick quite often described a
diminished relationship. The wife said, “I don’t have a relationship with my
husband.... I don’t see my husband at all, hardly.... We have this ‘see you in
passing’ relationship.”
Two husbands discussed how much they wanted their wives back similar to
responses Suslak et al. (1995) found. They noted how their wives had changed, they
were not as they once were, because of what they had been through. “I [want] my
wife back. [I] not only [lost] a child but I lost her for quite some time,” and
since this has happened . .. my wife has really been taken away and replaced
by somebody who I don’t know nearly as well. ... I know I can’t get the old

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[wife] back, that’ll never happen, but I’d like to see a merrier version of this
one ... more often.
Ultimately most parents talked about how surviving their experience and the
excruciating pain they endured made their relationships stronger, consistent with
findings of several authors (Green, 1992; Jones et al., 1984; Bryar, 1997). One wife
said, “I knew that if we had survived that [loss of baby] intact, still supporting each
other, and we felt the presence of God in our lives like we did, that we could
certainly survive anything else.” One father said, “In ways of course, it’s made us
stronger as a couple because you know ... I sit back now and I think gee if we can
do this then we can get by anything.” Another father described how their experience
deepened the bond in their relationship.
It deepened it. It burned away the trivialities. We would occasionally fight,
just like all couples, but we would occasionally get into a rip roaring fight
about something trivial. That hasn’t happened very often since then. Most
things are seen to be what they really are. If they’re important we simply
deal with it. If it’s trivial we just... resolve it and press on. So in that
respect I think it’s improved our relationship because it really helped us see
who each other was and is, and helped [us] to see why we fell in love and
why we respect one another.
One woman also shared how the lines of communication opened up for her husband
and her, “I do think that our communication skills have gotten just better, better,
better, better.”
Fear of Hope
Fear of hope was another consequence of the extreme pain. Many of the
parents were afraid to allow themselves to hope. One woman said, “I think I’m
afraid to hope really. Maybe I do have a few superstitions that if I hope that, it won’t
come true. So I kind of avoid it.” A father described limiting hope in order to avoid

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further pain, “simply wishing for more is a good way to get hurt and I’ve been down
that road and I can’t, I’m not sure if I can handle being crushed again.”
One woman described how her hopes “died” with the terminated pregnancy.
As soon as you get pregnant you hope you know, okay... this one was going
to be bom the end of December so ... you have that hope okay... we won’t
go to South Carolina for Christmas cause we will possibly have a new baby,
just the hope that you already set in your mind. .. just all your hopes were
gone, you know they died.
Another father described how their hopes and desires are less now than before
they ever experienced such pain following their pregnancy loss.
We talk about our concerns all the time. We leave hopes, I think we
left hopes go. I don’t say we don’t discuss them ever but... they’re less
of an issue. We sort of you know, it’s a cross your fingers. It’s like if
you discuss your hopes, they’re ... less likely to come true. So we, I
think we do less of that, and also, we’ve lowered our standards
considerably.... Our hopes, desires are less than they used to be.
Hope becomes limited for these parents after their experience with catastrophic
psychic pain.
Isolation
Another consequence identified by many of the parents was that they “really
[felt] alone” in their pain. One father described it as “most of my family members
and friends ... treated [me] as if I should just go be on an island somewhere and
when I’m better, I’ll return to them.” These couples felt alone at a time when they
needed others most. “There is a time early on when you think you’re the only person
in the world who’s ever been through something so terrible.” One woman who felt
“so alone and so isolated” had to drive two hours one way to attend a support group.
Aloneness was experienced sometimes by a couple and sometimes by individuals.

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I felt alone ... because [my wife] was trying to deal with her own pain ...
and my parents and everybody around us were so wrapped up in their own
grief that... it’s hard not to feel alone no matter how many people are
around you or how much they care.
One woman described a time during the termination, “I’m so grateful for [my
husband’s] role in this but at the same time I felt very alone.... I did feel a great
burden that no one else could take it away from me.” Another woman said, “I really
felt isolated because I really needed someone who had been through what I had been
through.” Still, another man described how alone he and his wife felt as a couple
during their termination when the nurse briefly stepped out of the room. “We did
have to make the decision to do this alone and then all of a sudden the time has come
[to deliver and] nobody else is there and that kind of hit me as being a little lonely.”
For one woman, the isolation was directly imposed by health care
professionals who did not seem to understand how to help her. “I said I wanted to
die ... and they (health care professionals) did the worst thing possible, put me in
there (an inpatient psychiatric ward) isolated from anybody else. . .. They wouldn’t
listen to me.” Most felt very alone with their pain. One mother said, “I feel like I
want to do something to help because it’s so hard and nobody should have to go
through this alone.” The pain paralyzed some parents, not allowing them to talk
openly concerning their experiences because of a fear of being stigmatized, thus
increasing their isolation. The catastrophic psychic pain and its consequences made
these parents’ lives very difficult and different from what it had previously been.
Stigma
Stigma surrounds the topic of termination as well as the loss of a baby
by natural means. Goffman (1963) described stigma:
1

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While the stranger is present before us, evidence can arise of his
possessing an attribute that makes him different from others in the
category of persons available for him to be, and of a less desirable
kind. ... He is thus reduced in our minds from a whole and usual
person to a tainted, discounted one. Such an attribute is a stigma,
especially when its discrediting effect is very extensive; sometimes it
is also called a failing, a shortcoming, a handicap, (p. 3)
One mother, whose husband was unable to be with her at the time of the
delivery, described her sense of failure as her husband met her at the airport
on her return.
When I got off the plane, when he met me at the plane with 38 dozen
roses ... my first words to him were ‘do you want me to stay, because
I failed? Do you want me to go back?’ And then, of course we stood
there like idiots sobbing for half an hour in the middle of the airport.
She felt she had failed and said, “I still do. I will forever.” Another mother
described her feelings of shame.
I felt ashamed of having conceived a baby and then two more that had a
problem. That made me feel defective, substandard, not as good as
everybody else. And also I think a big part of my shame comes from feeling
like parents are supposed to know what to do and I was the parent and the
best I could do was to come up with ok I’m gonna put you to death. I
couldn’t and no matter which way I looked, no matter how desperately I
wanted there to be something that was better, there never was, both times.
That was the best option and I just feel like I failed my babies. That I just
couldn’t think of anything better to do for them than that. And so yeah I am
ashamed of that. Just think that a good parent could think of something else
to do, and I just couldn’t, I couldn’t think of anything else.
Feelings of shame and failure reported by some parents in this study were similar
to those reported in the literature (White Van-Mourik et al., 1992).
Having a baby with an anomaly and/or terminating a pregnancy makes these
parents different from the “norm.” As one physician said, the stigma regarding
termination “is a reflection of our culture and ... socio-political situation.” A major
issue surrounding the stigma of termination concerned the fear of judgement these

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parents had believing others could not possibly understand what they had been
through. This fear of judgement included fear of others accusing them of murdering
or killing their own child. One woman feared sharing her story in a support group on
the Internet because, “you get fanatics on there who are calling you murderer, and
... it’s like they don’t even get it.” Another woman felt she always had to be on
guard. Concerns about fear of judgement were consistent with what was seen in the
literature (Gregg, 1993; Bryar, 1997).
Because there is so much stigma around abortion I feel like I’m living a life
of a he that you know, there’s so many people and there’s friends and family
who don’t know the truth, because there’s such an emotional circumstance
surrounded with this that you know, I like, I’m always on my toes to be
careful you don’t say too much, and you know, even the fact that we didn’t
tell a lot of people.
This fear of judgement lead to parents feeling unable to talk openly about
their decision and/or loss. One woman described her fear of being stigmatized as “I
felt kind of like I was, you know, living in fear that I would suddenly end up with a
scarlet letter.” Another woman believed,
very few people understood what we were going through. .. And I found out
quickly the responses that... I didn’t want to tell anybody that didn’t have
the medical background to try and explain medically what was wrong.... I
just don’t feel people could comprehend. Then we would be judged more on
instead of grieving the loss of a son, I was afraid to get into the moral of
somebody say well you killed your baby, you had an abortion, which I never,
I don’t believe in abortions. I mean my faith, our faith so it’s just funny
when I got put in the situation. I didn’t feel like it was so called an abortion,
that we really felt like we were doing it for our son versus hurting him. That
it was more grievous on us to do this to him, that we were actually trying to
take care of him.
Some parents dealt with their own guilt concerning what had happened to
them. One mother described her own feelings of guilt and how she projected them.

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My family’s Catholic and I just thought like my mother’s going to be grossed
out and offended. And just think that I’m a total sicko and whatever pain I’m
in I deserve it and ... of course, she wasn’t that way at all. But that was just I
think me projecting my feelings about what I had done onto her.
Another mother described her guilt at feeling she had killed her child.
I’m not real comfortable with the decision that we made. It’s really
hard for me to even admit that because I never thought I would do
something like that... ending your pregnancy. It’s just that they call
it like, it’s like, I don’t know, killing your child. That’s what
sometimes I feel like we did. I mean it’s very hard, but that’s what it
is.
Another father talked about his wife’s feelings of guilt. “I feel that she felt like she
was ashamed and that there was something wrong with her.” The impact of feeling
stigmatized was so great for this couple that they moved from the neighborhood
when their neighbors inadvertently found out about their loss.
Goffman (1963) discussed two types “of individuals from whom the
stigmatized person can expect some support” (p. 28). These included the “own” (p.
28) who share the stigma, or in this situation have been through a similar
circumstance, and the “wise ... whose special situation has made them intimately
privy to the secret life of the stigmatized individual and sympathetic with it” (p. 28),
such as some health care professionals. One woman sought out a support group, the
“own” where she would be with others in a similar situation, but was afraid to share
her whole story at the first meeting.
It was real interesting people would go around and if they felt comfortable
tell their story and finally well after the second meeting I went in and I told
my real story, not that I had a baby that was stillborn, but we had a baby you
know, that had problems, we terminated. And the next thing I knew after I
told my story people that had . .. already told their story were saying yeah,
that’s our story too, after they had just got done saying that their baby was
stillborn.

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Another woman, who, along with her husband, was in the medical field, also feared
being judged by others. She described how she could talk about the termination only
to medical friends, the “wise,” because
they understood the medical part which I think being medical they
disassociate some of the social, you know treating patients you don’t give
your social views when treating, when they make medical decisions. I think
they [medical friends] were a little bit better about not putting in their
opinions on [the] social issues of it [termination]
This stigma causes a change in the individual from that moment on.
Goffinan (1963) suggested,
when the individual first learns who it is that he must now accept as his
own, he is likely, at the very least, to feel some ambivalence; for these others
will not only be patently stigmatized, and thus not like the normal person he
knows himself to be, but may also have other attributes with which he finds it
difficult to associate himself, (p. 37)
One father described becoming a member of a great personal loss club, “the own”:
we became members of the club we never wanted to join. ... It’s almost
like it’s a taboo subject, but the minute you had a loss or a miscarriage or
something you know we found out we have a relative through marriage
that has had 10 miscarriages. You never find that out until you are a
member of the club.
Support groups were very important to some people because of needing to
have others to talk to who could possibly understand what they were experiencing.
Almost all became involved with a support group, at least via the Internet.
The stigma not only affected those who chose to terminate, but also those
parents who had a child with an abnormality that made the child different from other
children. One mother with a baby with Spina Bifida felt rejected and stigmatized by
some of the other mothers she knew in a church group.
A lot of the mothers don’t talk to me anymore because they don’t want to
have to explain to their children. They just completely dropped out...

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Some of them dropped out when . .. [the baby] was bom because they didn’t
want, [my baby] is G-tube fed and every couple of hours you have to feed
her. Well it doesn’t bother me, and if it doesn’t bother the majority of the
moms, I’m going to feed her. I’m not going to go in a room and hide myself
because this is [my baby] you know, we’re praying together. This is God’s
gift you know. You would think that everybody would be on the same wave
length, but they’re not.... And wouldn’t you know it, the very first week I
took her to church some lady asked me not to sit in front of her. I said well
then you can kindly move yourself away from us and you can go talk to
Monsignor. And she was so upset with me and she did, she moved her and
her children away. But think of what she was doing to those children by
showing them. She’s showing them that you know this isn’t right, this isn’t
normal, hey look, there’s a baby, you can’t do that in church, she doesn’t
belong here, let’s leave. And I don’t understand.
Because of the stigma surrounding the termination issue, the loss issue, and
the birth of a child who was different, most parents tended for the most part not to
share their experience openly. If they did share their experience, they chose the
people carefully. This finding was consistent with the findings of several other
authors (Green, 1992; Gregg, 1993; Hodge, 1989; Suslak et al., 1995). When asked
why she thought parents chose not to disclose information on termination one nurse
That people won’t understand, almost universally, you know. Here we
allow [the parents] technologic information to force them into a decision
society doesn’t understand or support. It’s very hard for them.
For almost all of the participants in this study, their past pregnancy became a secret,
held close, shared in limited situations.
Summary
This chapter described the basic social problem of catastrophic psychic pain.
This pain began with the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality in these parents’ previous
pregnancies. It was unexpected, intense, and never ending. Parents had to make
painful decisions regarding termination and type of delivery. The pain had

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consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence, feelings of devastation
and isolation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hope, and stigma.

CHAPTER 5
MANAGING CATASTROPHIC PSYCHIC PAIN
In this chapter I will discuss how parents were able to move forward, begin to
think about a subsequent pregnancy, become pregnant, and forge through their
subsequent pregnancy. In moving forward towards a subsequent pregnancy, the
previously experienced catastrophic psychic pain came back to the fore-front for
these parents as they were all too aware that what had happened to them in the past
could possibly reoccur. This chapter discusses the process of how the parents
managed their catastrophic psychic pain in a subsequent pregnancy. Parents put
forth a tremendous amount of emotional labor (Hochschild, 1983) to work through
their pain to begin to heal and manage the recurrence of their pain and/or to avoid
future pain enough to actually move forward and begin to think about getting
pregnant again. “Emotional labour is hard work and can be sorrowful and difficult.
It demands that the labourer give personal attention which means they must give
something of themselves, not just a formulaic response” (James, 1989). As one
mother said, “I was so worn out all the time because we were carrying around all
this.”
What should be a happy time, a subsequent, often planned pregnancy, was
fraught with tremendous stress and tremendous fear. “It’s not happy and babies and
bottles and diapers.” These parents have lost their innocence, suffered devastation,
experienced changes in their spousal relationships, are now afraid to hope, have felt
91

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isolated, and live with the stigma of their decisions and their losses. The subsequent
pregnancy for most parents was “a very scary thing.” Many authors reported
markedly increased anxiety during a pregnancy subsequent to a loss (Armstrong &
Hutti, 1998; Borg & Lasker, 1989; Phipps, 1985-1986; Statham & Green, 1994;
Stierman, 1987). Four major sub-processes are useful in discussing how parents in
this study managed their catastrophic psychic pain: emotional armor and going
forward, limiting disclosure, suspending emotions, increasing attachment to the
health care professionals and others. Social structural issues also affected
management of the catastrophic psychic pain.
Emotional Armor and Going Forward
The catastrophic psychic pain these parents experienced was not easily put
behind them. The intense fear of experiencing additional pain caused them to look at
a future pregnancy very differently from their previous pregnancy. Tremendous fear
of the possibility of having to repeat the experience caused these parents severe
anguish consistent with the findings of Borg and Lasker (1989). They had to steel
themselves and manage their pain sufficiently to get to a point where they had
enough strength and courage, in essence armor, to face another termination decision
with a future baby. “The question would obviously have to be, any time you
consider conceiving you also have to consider terminating, which is real difficult.”
One woman who had an immediate desire to get pregnant again following her
termination “realized we can’t even think about getting pregnant again until we can
conceive of going through this whole nightmare again” which was consistent with
findings reported by Borg and Lasker. This sentiment was shared by many of the

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participants in this study. For this same woman even the act of getting pregnant
produced anxiety, what she termed “performance anxiety.” Another woman
described how she and her spouse had to come to grips with going into another
pregnancy as, “we proceeded as though it was going to happen again and which may
sound reckless for someone else, but to me it was um, it was okay.” And another
said, “we did wait until we both knew we were strong enough to make a rationale
decision to go at it again.” Even those who felt an overwhelming desire to get
pregnant right away were filled with fear and anxiety of repeating their past painful
experience. It was imperative that they steel themselves and have enough emotional
armor to go forward.
Desire for Future Pregnancy
Almost all of the participants desired to have a subsequent pregnancy, wanted
to have another baby, but deciding and getting pregnant again was no easy task.
Only three women had unplanned pregnancies. One mother who had very mixed
emotions about getting pregnant again found out she was pregnant on the 6 month
anniversary date of her son’s death. She said, “of all the days to be so excited, and
then so terrified and so sad, all of the extremes all at the same time. It was much too
quick.” One father talked about not really making a decision to get pregnant or not,
“it’s been more of a denial than a decision.”
Most couples agreed on the decision to start trying again but there were a few
who did not. One father, whose wife postponed telling him of their surprise
pregnancy for almost 2 Vi weeks, was initially angry that she waited, but when he
found out “all those emotions started coming back like oh God is this one going to be

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ok? Are we going to be burying another child? ... It was hard at first, hard because
of the uncertainty.” His wife’s reasoning for not telling him was that she felt he
would be excited and she was not ready for that. He felt ready for her to be pregnant
again, but she was not. The desire for a future pregnancy is intertwined with these
parents’ need for strength and courage, emotional armor at this point.
Another father, seeking to restore equilibrium in his family and thinking
another baby would help rebalance the family, said,
my wife feels I rushed it but... I feel that... I held out as long as I could,
quite frankly. ... The sooner we have a living child in this house, the sooner
things will be better than they are now.
One woman talked about how the death of her baby fueled her desire for a child. For
her having another baby “became an obsession.” Her husband tried to
encourage her to be content with the healthy children that we have.... But
she wasn’t willing to wait for that and this month and every month [she did
not conceive]... it was like we had gone back to the funeral. ... I mean she
was that depressed.
Another father felt the previous experience was so difficult on their marriage that he
wanted to wait. He felt they “needed some time to let our marriage congeal again
... but [my wife] wanted to get pregnant more than anything in the whole world.”
One father talked about becoming pregnant again as a turning point, a fork in
the road.
It was miserable. I’d say at least half the year. Um, no actually I’d say
straight on through to when she got pregnant and I’d say pregnancy was a
turning point but it wasn’t a complete turning point. It was sort of like we are
now veering into a different direction but it’s more of you know 30 degrees
off rather than a full 180 swing. You know, we never got to the 180 swing
but we’re more heading along in that direction.

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Most couples waited from 4 to 11 months to become pregnant. Those who
tried within a month or two were unable to conceive immediately, so they did not
achieve pregnancy until months later. Several couples, who had no difficulty getting
pregnant previously, were faced with infertility issues, and some even had
subsequent losses such as an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage prior to the
subsequent pregnancy they were experiencing during this interview.
Health care professionals had varying ideas on when the right time to
conceive again was, ranging anywhere from waiting through one cycle to waiting an
entire year. Physically the waiting time recommended was much shorter, one to three
cycles or months. When professionals considered emotional issues, they
recommended couples wait at least six months, and even up to a year or longer. One
mother said her physician recommended that she “should wait at least one cycle
before you try again.” She felt this physician “definitely had not dealt with people
who had terminated” because this mother was not “chomping at the bit to get
pregnant again.” Another mother said “I saw 3 doctors, got 2 different pieces of
advice, and the 3rd doctor said do what’s comfortable for you cause ... if you ask 10
doctors, you’ll get 10 opinions.” Another mother who found timing information in a
book said, “the essence of the message that I got out of it, if you decide to try and
have another baby just listen to yourself, listen to your heart and you will know when
it’s time.” The conflictive information parents heard in this study concerning when
to get pregnant again was similar to that presented in the literature (Rothman, 1986;
Zeanah, 1988; Wallerstedt & Higgins, 1994).

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One couple whose odds for having the same fetal abnormality were much
higher, one in four chance of recurrence, “took 10 months before we actually started
to try again.” It took this couple another 4 months to actually conceive. A mother
who termed her desire to conceive again as “pure obsession” due to her age
discovered that “when I did get pregnant, I realized even a year wasn’t hardly
enough.” And another who got pregnant right away said, “I’ve had to go through
anniversaries pregnant, not good.” One mother who had a difficult time trying to
become attached to her present pregnancy while still mourning her past pregnancy
said,
Get through the anniversaries before you have another baby. It was tough
on [my son’s] birthday ... you know I’m 6 lA months pregnant and you
know, the baby’s very wriggly and movey and I’m trying to mourn on a
baby and I’ve got another one wriggling around and it’s very, very
discombobulating, not even a word but it fits... a really bad oxymoron.
Parents desires to get pregnant again were as varied as the health care professionals
recommendations.
Playing the Odds
Physicians and genetic counselors shared with the participants what they
knew about the odds for recurrence for specific anomalies. Many couples felt as if
they played the odds once and had no reason to doubt that the odds were in their
favor, but after their experiences in their previous pregnancies, they now felt that the
odds were against them, “you’re no longer one in a million.” Where 1 in 1,000
looked like it couldn’t touch them, now 1 in 100 is almost sure to affect them. For
those who were facing 1 in 4 odds, there seemed to be almost no hope. One woman
said, “when I found out that it was like a 1.1 % chance of having a chromosome

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abnormality, I got really, really upset... my God, I didn’t realize it was that high.”
Her genetic counselor reminded her
that you have like a 99 % chance of it [the abnormality] not being, not
happening. So I tried to focus on like a 99 %, which is a pretty decent
chance.... If I had a 99 % chance ... of winning the lottery, I’d go out and
buy lottery tickets every day.
This woman’s husband explained that, “I can’t pinpoint anything specific except for
diffuse fear of all those things that can go wrong.” He recognized these fears as
somewhat irrational but he needed others to be more available to listen to him. “I
recognize [the irrational fears] and I wish, you know, people would accommodate
them a bit more.”
Another father whose baby had previously been diagnosed with Spina Bifida
explained it like this:
all your odds are greater. You’re no longer lin a million. Now you’re 1 in 20
or 30 or 40 or whatever it is. Let’s take folic acid, then you change it a little
bit, but you know you’re still at a much higher risk of something going
wrong. And plus then you’re thinking about the other things that go wrong, if
not this, then something else.
Probabilities just don’t seem to matter anymore for these parents. “The numbers
don’t mean squat once you’ve been the one in how many ever thousand people that
this will happen to.” Most parents came to the conclusion that wanting another child
outweighed their fears of not wanting another possible bad diagnosis. Again, parents
needed emotional armor to play the odds. As one mother said, “We both felt like
you know, no guts no glory, and you know we don’t know what will happen next
time, but if we don’t take the risk we’ll never ... know.” Her husband said, “it’s
worth taking the risk.... When you’re dealing with this kind of thing you don’t have
control and you might as well just hold on and go for the ride.”

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A Different Child
Some of the literature (Borg & Lasker, 1989) suggested that there was a
possibility of seeing the next child as a replacement child for the baby that died.
Parents in this study were adamant in that the subsequent child is a different child, a
child unto itself. They cannot ever forget their previous child or children, nor do
they want to. “I don’t want to ever forget.” One woman described a difficult time
separating her baby who died, from the baby she was now carrying.
I kept going in my mind this baby became . . . [my lost baby], ... I just had a
real tough time separating the two. Um, now that I think I know it’s a girl, it
makes it a little easier and ... I‘ve totally separated now almost to the point
that I don’t think of [my lost baby] very often, and there’s almost a little guilt
there.... You do so much to remember the child that you lost, and I don’t do
as much anymore, but at least now I totally separate the two.
Other parents described the pain they felt when they accidentally called the
baby they were now carrying by the previous baby’s name. This was upsetting to
them, the fear that somehow this would negatively affect their living child. Parents
reiterated the importance of never forgetting their previous child, but at the same
time they were sure they did not want their subsequent child to have to live in
another’s shadow. Parents had to gather strength and courage, emotional armor to
deal with this. One mother said,
I worry that when he’s bom and as he grows up, that I don’t ever want him to
think he’s not as special. I mean he’s always going to know he’s second....
I don’t want this child to have to fight a shadow and fight a ghost because you
never win. You can beat your big brother up you know. You can fight with
him and tell him he’s a jerk and you don’t like him. You can’t take on a
ghost and win.... I want [our previous baby] to be a presence which he is,
but I don’t want him to be an overshadowing one, because that’s not fair.

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Another mother described it this way:
This is a very different child. She feels different to me. The only thing that I
think of that’s related ... is that there is no other person on earth who is more
related to ... more connected to [the other baby] than this child is... She’s
closer to [the other baby] than either one of us and that... brings me some
comfort but I don’t believe that... the spirit of my first child is bom in my
second child.
Limiting Disclosure
Parents had to find ways to “limit intrusions” (Wilson, 1977) from others and
the outside world in order to avoid additional pain. One helpful strategy aimed to
manage the catastrophic psychic pain and limit unnecessary intrusions was by
limiting disclosure about their past pregnancy as well as their subsequent pregnancy.
The stigma surrounding their previous pregnancy set the stage for that pregnancy, or
at least the circumstances around that pregnancy, becoming a secret.
Secrets
Many parents found that keeping their previous pregnancy a secret was one
way to manage the pain. Keeping the secret regarding their past pregnancy where
they had to make very painful decisions helped to protect parents from increased
pain from judgement of others. This finding is consistent with the literature (Bryar,
1997; Green, 1992, Gregg, 1993, Suslak et al., 1995). Secrecy also protected parents
from having to witness pain or discomfort in others, that, in turn, increased these
parents’ own pain. Most of the participants in this sample made a conscious
decision about disclosing the circumstances surrounding the death of their baby,
ranging from one couple who were fairly open to another couple who shared the
whole tmth with only a select few people. Keeping secrets about her previous child
with an abnormality was not an issue for the one mother who chose not to terminate

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and now has an infant with Spina Bifida. Many shared with some, but all felt they
had to be cautious about sharing the whole truth regarding their termination decision.
Bok (1982), in her book entitled, Secrets, suggested that, “in seeking some control
over secrecy and openness, and the power it makes possible, human beings attempt
to guard and to promote not only their autonomy but ultimately their sanity and
survival itself’ (p. 20).
Parents described how secrecy allowed them to limit unwanted outside
intrusions and ultimately iurther pain. One father said,
One reason is to shield yourself against the outside world, and ... you don’t
want to make people feel uncomfortable when you’re talking to them, and
you don’t want to give them an opportunity to judge you, and you don’t want
to feel hurt when they don’t respond to you with sympathy... if they say well
you need to get over it and get back on that horse and ride again.... And the
other thing is until you’ve been there you can’t imagine what kind of a gut
wrenching feeling this is.
Another father said, “for me, it’s like, well with strangers, [they] don’t deserve to
know my story, that basically [they] haven’t earned the right yet.” One woman who
only shared the entire truth about her termination in a support group, not even with
family or friends, talked about keeping the secret as a self-protection mechanism.
I think a lot of it was protecting ourselves. Our genetic counselor advised us
not to ... tell.... She said that because you never know the reaction you’re
going to get and you need to protect your own ... self, you know, you can’t
deal with that.... I finally told my mother and it was real interesting. Her
comment was “well I wouldn’t tell very many people” you know, or
something to that extent. She never told my father.
Even the couple whose baby died after choosing not to terminate discussed
being cautious about talking about their previous experience, because, as the wife put
it, “usually people don’t know how to respond so they either run away or they just
get very uncomfortable.” Another woman shared her concern for those she told.

101
You have to make sure if you’re going to tell [people], you have to make sure
that you can fix them which is very odd considering they’re not the ones that
[lost a baby]. You know one sentence can make people very uncomfortable.
Bok (1982) suggested that “the control over secrecy and openness functions
... as a safety valve that allows partial control over privacy and human contact” (p.
37). One mother’s fear of future disclosure provided an example of the use of the
safety valve.
I just feel like if we share too much with [my husband’s] family, I’m worried
that you know, our subsequent child, or children, will hear about our
termination from one of them instead of from one of us in appropriate
circumstances. And I just feel like if they don’t know, then they can’t say
anything.
Some parents did not feel they would get the sympathy they so greatly
needed in the loss of their baby, if others knew the circumstances surrounding the
loss. One father explained his decision to withhold the entire story.
I would much rather they be sympathetic, if they’re going to be sympathetic,
I’d rather they be sympathetic on the level that someone I love died,
something that was very important to me was lost. And I don’t want them to
think about the circumstances under which there was a loss.... I would want
anyone that I told I had a loss to understand that I had a loss, not to read
anything else into it.
And another,
we needed the understanding and sympathy of losing a child and I think
... if we would tell them the whole story we wouldn’t have got that.... I
think in our minds there would be judging, but also ... we wouldn’t get
that sympathy and we definitely needed it. We lost a child.
One father felt he couldn’t share the truth about their termination with his own
mother and other family members for risk of losing their support.
Relationships [with my family] were a little strained at first but you know
unfortunately I haven’t been able to share [the termination] with them
because my mom is pretty staunch Catholic, and it’s like why go there. You
know she might be very supportive, I don’t know, but why risk it? It doesn’t
help me ... and it could make things worse.

One woman who had her termination out of the country because that was
where the unexpected diagnosis was made, found out quickly when she returned
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home that she could not share her story with everyone. A friend of hers who did not
know the details, and
only knew there were horrible anomalies and then I was in the hospital a few
days later... [She] flew to [my home] shortly after I got back for a visit.
[The visit] had been planned like a year ago, 6 months in advance anyway,
and her first words to me when she got off the plane were you can’t tell me,
you can’t talk to me about what happened to you [there] because I can’t deal
with it.
People were so wounded, so vulnerable and so raw because of their
experience; they lived with catastrophic psychic pain. It is such an exquisite pain
that people can’t talk about their secret, the secret about the birth, the death, and the
baby. It’s a secret that won’t go away. Not being able to talk about it, one mother
said, “I think that is one aspect of the whole hurt.”
The participants in this sample were adamant about not wanting to forget
their child, and about wanting others to remember, but most could not have open
conversations about their child, thus adding to their pain. “It’s not as rare as society
portrays it. It’s much more common. It’s just... not the thing you normally sit
around the poker table and talk about—pregnancy loss.” If the parents talked about
their secret, they felt they then became predictably stigmatized which increased their
pain. “It makes me uncomfortable to make [others] uncomfortable.” If parents did
not talk, they were still in pain. For some, talking to non-judgmental persons was
helpful. One woman found that most of the people she did tell the truth to were
“incredibly supportive. ... I think not hiding it from our closest friends and from our

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family allowed us to talk about it.” But keeping at least partial secrets was necessary
for self-preservation.
Disclosing the Subsequent Pregnancy
The secrecy of the past pregnancy carried over for most into the subsequent
pregnancy. Some parents shared the news of their next pregnancy rather quickly, but
the majority of parents chose to keep the pregnancy secret from most until they had
news that the baby would be “okay.” As one nurse said, these parents are “a little bit
more private about who they invite into the circle.” For many this was different
from their previous pregnancies. One woman compared her joy in sharing her
previous pregnancies to this one and said,
[My last pregnancy] was kind of special and you wanted every one to know,
and you were so happy, and you wanted every one to be happy too. And now
all I want is to have this baby and I don’t care if anybody’s happy for me.
Some had difficulty acknowledging their own pregnancy. One couple waited to
share their news until they were about 17 weeks pregnant. The husband said, “We
didn’t want to tell anybody we were pregnant. We didn’t want to, we barely
acknowledged it ourselves.”
Hearing false reassurance from others made sharing more difficult for some
in their subsequent pregnancies. These parents did not need or want false
reassurance. One mother said,
Why am I going to share with them this happy news? And I don’t want to
deal with their happiness because they’re going to run around and say “oh I
just know everything’s going to be ok,” and “lightening never strikes twice,”
that sort of thing, when I needed them to say “I understand you’re scared and
bad things happen.” I understand that, and bad things do happen twice in a
row and I do understand that. I didn’t want to deal with their denial you
know when I needed their support.

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For most not sharing with others early on about the current pregnancy was
also a way of self-protection, avoiding causing others pain if they were to lose again,
and subsequently avoiding adding to their own pain by witnessing others’ pain. One
father said, “why keep these people that love us and support us, why keep getting
their hopes up and then dashing them to the ground? It’s hard enough for us.” One
mother, with a history of 4 earlier spontaneous miscarriages and a termination, was
interviewed at 16 weeks gestation and had not disclosed her current pregnancy to
anyone, other than her husband, because she was anticipating another loss.
When I think of my mom, I don’t want to tell her yet because she’s known all
the pregnancies I’ve been pregnant [with] and for her and for my family it’s
the same thing, it’s a little bit of a loss for them too. And it’s like, I don’t
know, I just sort of want to wait and tell them when we’re just almost sure
that this is really going to happen.... It’s like when we lose the baby, I don’t
want to have to explain all that.
The only place this woman could openly express her pregnancy was her physician’s
office. “I look so forward to the Doctor appointments because I can be pregnant
there. It ’ s really wonderful. ”
Not everyone chose to wait to tell others. A few felt the only way to get the
support they needed was to share the pregnancy from the beginning, similar to what
Hodge (1989) described. One mother said, “we told everybody immediately....
The people who care about us will be there this time, too, if it comes down to that,
and it’s not going to.” Speaking of a friend who had also terminated, but chose not
to tell others, she said,
I think he was afraid that if they shared it... that it would make their grief
more intense and I had never believed that. I think that if, when you go
through a terrible experience that it’s better when people know because they
can ... be very loving and supportive to you, and I don’t think going through
it alone makes it any less painful. I think it’s less painful when you go

through it with other people. And that you allow them to be supportive of
you because that was the case for us.
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One mother said they chose not to hold back telling others because of their
experience of holding back with their last pregnancy (their second) based on
complications with their first pregnancy, which produced a living child now 4 years
I missed out on the one we lost in July of the excitement of telling people we
were pregnant and being excited those weeks that every day you’re pregnant
is every day you have with your baby and I missed out on that, and you know
sharing with other people. And so we’ve started with this one right away
telling people.
Another mother told select persons. She did not announce her pregnancy to the
general population until after finding out the results of her alpha fetal protein test at
16 weeks,
I told all of my friends the minute I knew I was pregnant.... I told my
coworkers because again I’m in a small office. I told my boss and my
coworkers when I was like 12 or 13 weeks because I wanted them to know
why I was going to be a nutcase for a few weeks as we were approaching this
test.
Most couples agreed, but some did not, on when the best time to disclose
their subsequent pregnancy was. One husband whose wife wanted to wait longer to
tell others said his wife
wanted to keep everything you know, quiet for as long as we had to wait until
we found out everything was okay with the baby. And at some point I had to
get permission from her to talk to ... one colleague of mine who is a very
close friend and she said okay you can go and talk to [my friend]. So I did
talk to [my friend]. This was around 2 months I think.
Another husband wanted to wait to avoid more pain for himself in case of a
miscarriage, but his wife told everyone immediately. He said,

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You want to select who’s going to know [about your loss] and so it’s much
easier to select who’s going to know if they never knew you were pregnant in
the first place.... I wanted to not tell everybody, initially.... And it wasn’t I
was contemplating termination, but it was more of it’s I don’t know. If
you’ve ever been in a situation and you know someone’s pregnant and you
ask, you make a comment like oh it’s not going to be much longer before
you’re [due] and they say yeah, my wife miscarried. Something like that. It
makes you feel like shit.
Deciding when and how to share their subsequent pregnancy with others was not
easy for most.
What Pregnancy Is This?
A common question parents heard when they became pregnant was, is this
your first pregnancy or what pregnancy is this for you? This question was a dilemma
for parents in this study.
The first question that anybody asks you is, is it your first, and from day one
I’ve said no. People who know us but don’t know what happened kind of,
they know we don’t have any children so they don’t know what to say back.
And so it makes it difficult.
Not disclosing the information is again a self-protective mechanism for many of
these parents. For some the intrusion is too much, and it’s just too painful to talk
about. Unknowing others sometimes pry, leaving parents hurting and vulnerable. A
nurse in her physician’s office asked one mother,
“Is this your first?” I’m like “well sort of,” I didn’t know what to say. And
she said “oh, well what do you mean?” She couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
She couldn’t help asking and she said, “oh what do you mean? Do you have
like a stepchild or something?” And I’m like “no.” She said “no, then
what?” And then I sort of, the problem is that when I started explaining it
you know, some of the time I start crying or I almost cry, at least my voice
shakes and you know, for people I don’t know I feel a little bit
uncomfortable.
Some parents found a way to acknowledge their previous children, but then-
needs were different over time. One woman who experienced two terminations for

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fatal anomalies in a singleton pregnancy and a twin pregnancy explained her
changing needs.
Where I was at the time, I had to publicly acknowledge them and I also had
to kind of in your face it to other people. You know you think you ask this
seemingly innocuous little question, but you don’t realize how painful it is to
me so I’m gonna make you uncomfortable, and I’m going to tell you that I
lost three little boys that I desperately wanted. Where I am now, I’m a little
gentler on people and I’m able to say,... “I’m pregnant with my first baby
that... has a good chance of surviving,” or something like that. I don’t
specifically give them the count of the other babies but I do find a way to say
there were losses. But this is the baby we’re having now.
For some, not acknowledging their previous child or children produced guilt.
I’ve done it a couple of times. I’ve said, “yes” when they said, “is this your
first baby?” If I’m in a hurry a couple of times I’d said, “yeah” and then just
moved on, but it brings it all to the front of my head later on that day and I
feel tremendous guilt.
For others the social context of the interaction and how much emotional energy they
had at the moment made a difference whether they told others or not.
It depends on the person. If it’s somebody you know, I’m probably not going
to see again or not have a real tight relationship with, I just tell them it’s my
first. I say ‘it’s our first child’ and just leave it at that.... But most of the
people I’m fairly close with know. And for the most part you know, those
people I’ll tell them “yeah it’s our second,” but somebody just in passing eh, I
don’t, no I don’t want to take the energy to have to explain it and tell them
they don’t have to worry about being sorry, so I just tell them “it’s our first.”
And,
I usually tell them that “we do have a son who died.” Once in a while I
won’t. It really depends on how I feel at the time.... You know, if I just
don’t feel like dealing with the person or talking about it I’ll just say, “yeah
this is my first.” Because when you say, ‘oh my second’ the next question is
you know, “how old is your first?” or something along those lines, and you
have to tell them “they’re dead.” And then you either have, I find that people
either run out of the room as fast as they can or they become very apologetic.
“Oh I’m so sorry I shouldn’t have asked,” and I think well you didn’t know.
So once in a while they want to know more about the first baby but usually
people don’t know how to respond so they either run away or they just get
very uncomfortable.

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Deciding how to answer the question of what pregnancy this was, was different for
different parents, and was based on the social context of the interaction.
Suspending Emotions
Another way participants in this study managed their pain was to suspend
their emotions in their subsequent pregnancy. This “holding back” was also
described by Phipps (1985-86) and Lieberman (1998). For many this meant delaying
attachment to the baby they were now pregnant with until they were sure everything
would be okay. One nurse described what she saw in her practice and said, “the
moms subsequently almost always have a delayed attachment, almost always.”
Delaying attachment as one mother said, “it’s absolutely a self-protection thing.... I
still believe it’s not going to be okay.” Another mother talked about her fears.
My only issue from day one [was] is he alive and he is alive and for every
moment he is alive I’m a happy person, and I know it could stop at any
second which is a horrible way to go through pregnancy.
A mother who experienced two previous terminations for the same fatal
diagnosis explained her inability to bond with this baby.
By the time the third time rolled around I was like I’m just not bonding with
this kid until I know whether or not the baby has CNF [Congenital Nephrosis
of the Finnish Type] or not.... I... didn’t think about her as a baby,
definitely didn’t project it to you know, anything further down the road like
having her. Um, lots of little special things that I had done when I was
pregnant the other times, picking a special song that I sang to them or a story
that I read to them in útero. I didn’t do that with this baby.... I feel badly
about that especially since she’s the one who is ... gonna be sticking around
for a while, but I couldn’t, I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t bond.
One physician acknowledged that in his practice these parents, “do not have the
sense of attachment or acceptance of the pregnancy.... It’s different because of

the past experience and I think it’s very understandable.... It’s a self-
preservation mechanism.” Another mother said,
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people expect you to, your friends and family expect you, once you get to a
point, to have some you know fim, and do showers. And people buy me
things that I keep in a little box in my garage, because I won’t have it in my
home and they don’t get that. You know, I won’t have another room waiting
for a baby that doesn’t come home.
Parents found varying ways to avoid investing too early in this pregnancy.
Some used denial. One mother said, “I was in denial that I was pregnant for a long
time, because I didn’t want to be pregnant. I did not want to have another baby right
now.” Another said, “I think that for the first 5 months of the pregnancy we were in
complete denial that we were pregnant,” and “panicky on top of it.” This couple’s
delay in accepting the pregnancy caused panic nearer the delivery because they
weren’t prepared. Some parents delayed preparations for delivery and readying their
homes for the baby, staying in the present. One mother said, “we’ve totally put
everything off. ... I couldn’t bare to look a little bit ahead until I was 8 Vz months
pregnant so I played one day at a time.” Another mother said that she “would have
less preparations. You know, I’m sure I’ll buy undershirts and things like that before
the baby’s bom, but... there won’t be any big stuff bought until after the baby’s
bom.” A father said during his interview at 34 weeks gestation, “I’m sitting in what
should be the baby’s room and there’s no baby stuff in here, so if he decides to come
early you know we’re ... absolutely, 100 % not prepared.” One couple had different
feelings about preparations before the baby’s arrival.
I don’t think I can plan for it like I had before. ... [My wife] wants to start
putting together a nursery and stuff like that and ... I’m just not into it....
[It’s] too reminiscent of preparing before and then having to take it all down
before [my wife] came home.

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Some coped by making what is normally a public event more private. One
mother said, “I don’t want a baby shower or anything like that. I just want it to be a
more private thing.” Some parents found other ways to keep their mind busy and not
focus on the pregnancy. One father said, “I’m not thinking about this pregnancy as
much as I was the last time.” “Keeping busy” helped him. Another father found that
focusing on his wife instead of the baby was helpful. He tried
to make sure [my wife] had all the food she could eat. I stuffed her silly.
Make sure she, as a vegetarian, we’re always very concerned about the
quantity of protein that she takes in so that was my job. I couldn’t do
anything else, but it was my job. And I worked real hard to do that so it was
easy to care for [my wife] and not necessarily the baby. I always knew the
baby was there especially as she was growing and growing and growing, but
it was harder, harder, really harder believing it til, until probably right in
there [at 5 or 6 months] because then you could get a feel for the child.
The question many parents faced was, “how much do you invest emotionally
... feeling something will go wrong?” It was difficult for some parents to believe
that they would get to keep this baby so they approached this pregnancy with
guarded apprehension. “We were both quite apprehensive and you know you sort of
feel happy but at the same time . .. you have these incredible fears inside you and all
that.” One mother talked about the ups and downs of her subsequent pregnancy.
“One day I’m excited and one day I’m scared and it’s been pretty much an emotional
roller coaster from the start.” Another father said that his wife
hasn’t been going through the tasks of pregnancy on schedule such that it is
and I don’t think I really have either. I think I’m ready for this baby to arrive,
but I think it’s been hard sometimes to really believe that we get to keep this
one because you know the only experience that we have is that we don’t get
to keep it. We get to go through a lot of the hassle and a lot of the pain and
then, too bad it’s not yours.

Ill
Another father said, “until we found out that everything was ok, [I was] very hesitant
to really get involved and make plans and do all those things that you did the first
time.” And another said, “at first I really wasn’t attached.... [We] kept our distance
this time just in case.” Still another said his “enthusiasm... has been more reserved
than [with] the first one.... I think partially because you know, probably [I have]
more enhanced concern about the outcome.” Some parents believed less attachment
was equal to less pain if there was a bad outcome so the “subconscious takes over
and puts up barriers.” One couple did not want to know the baby’s gender “until we
knew whether or not it was healthy” believing that by avoiding this knowledge they
would avoid attachment and possibly further pain.
In contrast to most, a few parents tried to avoid detaching and actually tried to
enjoy the anticipation of their baby’s arrival through their fear. One mother gave the
following advice to others,
I wouldn’t let anybody talk you out of enjoying some of the fun aspects of the
pregnancy just because you know that something can go wrong. I’m really
glad that we’re starting to set up the nursery. It’s like ... if we lose this baby
at 24 weeks, or we have a stillbirth, or whatever else can go wrong. That’s
going to be horrible, it’s going to suck hugely and there’s nothing that we can
do to make that any less painful, and if we haven’t taken advantage now of
this feeling that hey things are ok and we’re going to have this baby and
things are good. If we don’t take advantage of that and enjoy it and you know
do the fun things like setting up the nursery and figuring out where the
furniture’s going to go. And you know buying a pair of cute little baby socks
when you see them. If we don’t enjoy those little things now you know we’re
wasting these wonderful moments that are only going to come once. I mean
whether we have this baby or not, whether this baby lives or not, we’re only
going to be here once. We’re only going to be anticipating this child joining
our family once.... So if you feel like you can let yourself be happy then do
it. Because it’s irreplaceable and you won’t have any regrets you know if
something does go wrong. You won’t look back and say you know I held
back and I wish I hadn’t because you know I didn’t know I was only going to
have this much time.

Some parents intellectually tried to choose detachment but realistically couldn’t.
One father explained,
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beforehand I was saying I’m not going to allow myself to attach to this [baby]
until I know if it’s going to be around or not. That was a very academic point
of view, because the minute that we realized we were pregnant, I would say
that, it was really kind of funny almost the inverse occurred.... I allowed
myself to think more about this.
Another mother said,
it was only about 2 weeks after we found out I was pregnant this time that I
said to my husband I refuse to ... we’ll just see what the hell happens, but
we’re not going to find out the sex, we’re not going to name it. And then he
came home from work one day, it was only about 2 weeks later, and I said to
him, “you want to know what? I am so sorry that I’m being this selfish,”
because I believe that from the moment they implant these little guys, that
they know what’s going on. And I said to my husband, “nothing worse will
happen to us, even if the exact same problems come up or worse problems, oh
there can’t be worse problems because nothing worse can happen to us. Even
if we have to do the exact same thing again, it won’t be worse.” And I’m not
going to rip this baby off by not sending every single good vibe that I can....
It can all just be snatched away... in a split second, it can be gone, and I
don’t want to rip this baby off for as long as he’s got on this planet.
This same mother was not without fears though. She said, “I was worried for a long
time that I wouldn’t like him [my baby].” And, “I’m worried I’ll make this baby feel
like he’s not as important.”
Gathering Information
Seeking information and becoming as well educated regarding their situations
as possible helped most parents to further manage the pain and be more invested in
this pregnancy. “I read a lot and I think that helped me a lot.” A nurse described
parents in subsequent pregnancies as, “somewhat more intellectualized about
pregnancy.... They are very sophisticated next time around. It’s like those blinders
of innocence, they’re gone.” One father said, “we were actually very well educated

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on this diagnosis by the time the second go around came.” A physician pointed out
that,
these are people that when . .. they get to this ongoing pregnancy, by now
they are extremely well educated. They know a lot about these conditions.
They know a lot about this pregnancy and now we’re seeing a phenomenon
that we didn’t used to see 5,10 years ago which is the availability of
information out there i.e. the Internet, the computer. These people access
support groups, information, comments, which unfortunately not all the time
are good. You get a lot of biased opinions, anecdotal opinions and then these
people come sometimes better informed, sometimes misinformed but what is
common is that they in general have much more information that is more
available.
One nurse in the same practice said, “what happens often after these people have
gotten bad information they hear every other bad story and we’ve got to disprove
that every other bad story that they’ve heard could not happen to them also.”
Gathering information for some parents brought consolation, a sense of
control and a beginning in their healing process. As one mother said, “one way I
deal with things is I start looking for information.” Another mother said of her quest
for knowledge, “I needed the outlet for my energy because I needed to do something
and feel like I was doing something to start myself on the healing process.” And
another mother said, “I had a real need to understand exactly what had happened to
our first child.... If I could understand it, then I could control it and if I could
control it then I could prevent it.” One nurse said,
they’re the ones that are in the Internet and tell me about web sites that I
never knew that existed. Or we give patients at their new OB visit this packet
of information, and we just kind of blithely hope that they will read it all and
[these parents] are the ones that... would come back with highlighted
excerpts from you know articles and books. You know knowledge is power.
Power is an illusion.... Maybe the triad ought to be reading is knowledge,
knowledge is power, power is control, control is an illusion. But [these
parents] are a little bit more intelligent about the pregnancy subsequently than
they were the first time.

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Parents felt it was their responsibility to be more informed and take charge in
this next pregnancy. Some felt responsible for strategicing their own care. One
mother explained,
it’s all my responsibility I think to make sure I know enough to get the right
tests and take care of myself, and a lot of that’s my own personality, but in
talking with other women who have gone through similar things we’ve
realized that we are on our own. It’s up to us to ask the right questions, to get
the right help.
Another mother said,
I threw myself into researching this thing. I spent hundreds of dollars getting
articles from journals, medical journals and so on, on the diagnosis, and then
passing them on to the genetic counselor who had done some of her own
research, but obviously didn’t have time to make CNF [Congenital Nephrosis
of the Finnish Type] her full-time job. So I had shared all this info with her
all along .... We were hashing it out like we were planning a war or
something.
There were times when parents felt overwhelmed with too much information.
“A certain degree of fear” is carried forward and sometimes enhanced by the knew
found knowledge. One physician pointed out that, “some of these people, they
extrapolate and may have come across SIDs, or may have come across something
else.” As one mother explained, “that’s the horrible, horrible part is I entered into
this pregnancy with way too much information.” And “we just learned a hell of a lot
more about genetics and genetic testing and all this kind of stuff than we ever wanted
to know.” Fears didn’t just disappear. One mother described how she became a “big
grief section junky... for months. And in fact, even when I’ve been pregnant this
time, I find myself drawn to perinatal grief books because I think I have that kind of
residual fear.” This same woman felt like a “naive fool” in her prior pregnancy and
said, “when you’re going into this next pregnancy you don’t want to be, you’re not

115
naive anymore. You want to know what can happen.” She also felt the need to “get
as fully informed about all the possibilities possible.” These parents also found
information through sharing their stories with the “own,” (Goffman, 1963) other
parents who had “walked in their shoes.”
All of these parents wanted information and reassurance, but they needed
facts not just false reassurances. “I don’t want to hear everything’s going to be okay.
... I want the facts.” Information acquired by these parents helped to accelerate
testing procedures and maneuvering other hurdles at a quicker pace than the average
patient.
Accelerating the Diagnosis
A common way many of the participants found to minimize their pain and to
get on with their pregnancy was to accelerate the diagnostic period, thus shortening
the horrendous waiting time. “Every day is agony” was the way one woman
described waiting on the test results to find out if the baby she now carried would be
okay. Another woman described herself as “panicky” during the first 5 months of
her pregnancy waiting to find out if her baby was okay. “Every day is just such hell.
You’re waiting for every day to pass.” One mother said, “the first question I asked
when I went to see the OB was when can I have my first sono[gram] because I
needed to know. I wanted to know immediately.”
Almost all the parents in this study chose tests that had shorter waiting
periods, that could be done at an earlier date, or “pushed things up” to the earliest
date possible. One physician observed that “there is some request for earlier
intervention.” Parents are more knowledgeable and even make demands for earlier

116
testing. One mother said, “I’m going to have [the test] the minute I can.” Another
mother talked about having her amniocentesis at the earliest possible time, and the
waiting after. “I had discussed it with the physician and said I will have this test as
early as possible and I had it at 16 weeks and one day I think. And I called every day
[for the results].” Still another mother who had terminated a baby with major fetal
anomalies said,
all the problems were detectable by ultrasound on [my previous baby], so
yeah they ultrasounded me oh God, every 3 weeks right from 6 weeks and
... they did the big ... 15 week ultrasound,... but they sped it up for me.
They did it at 15 [weeks].
The ‘big’ ultrasound this mother was talking about is a more thorough ultrasound,
Level II ultrasound, usually done around 18 to 20 weeks gestation. Another
mother said,
we, against their ... better judgement did talk the genetic counselor into
letting me take the AFP at 15 weeks instead of 16 weeks and having the
amnio at 16 weeks instead of 17 weeks. So we pushed both those things up
by a week from last time.
Parents discovered that not only could they accelerate when they had certain
tests but they could also get quicker results depending on the test they had and when
they had it. Parents learned to “push harder on turn around times for test results.”
One father pushed for quicker results with a FISH test. He said,
there’ve been a couple of instances where ... the typical by the road answer
will be well you’ll have your amnio on Friday and you’ll have your results
the following Wednesday when all it took was a little bit of direct prodding to
realize we could take the amnio on Thursday and have the results on the next
day.
His wife added,
five days ... sounds like not a lot but an hour is a lot when you’re waiting to
find out whether you’re going to terminate a pregnancy... And that made a

117
huge difference for me. If I had been waiting 5 days, I would have been a
basket case.
Three couples chose chorionic villus sampling (CVS) over amniocentesis
because it could be done at 10 to 12 weeks as opposed to 15 to 16 weeks. Both CVS
and amniocentesis carry risks, although CVS carries a slightly higher risk to the
unborn child. Even a healthy pregnancy can occasionally end in a spontaneous
miscarriage resulting from either of these procedures. CVS also carries the
additional risk of possibly causing fetal abnormalities, the very thing these parents
are trying to avoid. Two of these couples had to travel out of town for these tests
because the technology wasn’t readily available in their area. One mother who
received good tests results explained that she had opted for the CVS, “otherwise we
would have had to wait to 15 weeks this time and I could not have stood that because
in my mind there’s no way this baby could be healthy.” Another mother said she had
the CVS because “I couldn’t eat.... I was ... just a bundle of nerves walking
around.” She later feared the risks of the CVS procedure to her unborn child.
Parents had to weigh the risks of each of the diagnostic procedures. One
father said, “actually it’s even hard to think about doing an anmio when it’s a risk of
1 in 200 chance of miscarriage so do you want to take that kind of risk even?” A
mother who chose not to have a scheduled amniocentesis following an ultrasound
where no anomalies were detected,
because I knew in my heart that I would be the one again. That if they
stabbed that needle into my body, because I was the one in however many
hundreds of thousands in February of ’98 that had these kinds of anomalies
with the baby, I knew that if they got me with the needle, I would be the 1 in
2 to 400 that loses a healthy child as the result of the amnio so I just said no
because I knew.

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Another mother, who chose not to terminate her previous pregnancy, chose not to
have any kind of testing other than sonograms with this pregnancy, because she felt
the other tests were “so risky, and I thought well you know, I couldn’t possibly live
with myself if I lost a baby because of the decision I made.” She began having
frequent sonograms at 14 weeks. Accelerating the testing was only one of the many
waiting hurdles parents had to deal with.
Waiting Hurdles
Many waiting hurdles confronted these parents. These hurdles included such
things as waiting for what seemed to be a protracted diagnosis, the possibility of
other complicating medical conditions, as well as the hurdles of the pregnancy and
birth itself. All of these hurdles fell within the context of these parents’ anxieties and
fears. The parents in this study had to jump these waiting hurdles. Most found their
fears diminished over time, but never completely subsided. They let their guard
down slowly as the pregnancy progressed, but it was not like it had been in their
more innocent days prior to their previous devastating experiences. One way some
parents protected themselves, thus investing less and keeping up their emotional
guard, was by not allowing themselves to believe that this baby would be okay.
One mother described her fear of hope while waiting for the CVS results in her
current pregnancy, which turned out to be healthy.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t hope. I didn’t do anything.... I was totally preparing
myself for the bad news and what we would do. I even made the
appointment with the physicians that would do the termination. I went and
scheduled those ahead of time because I knew we’d be up against the clock
again. I went out and bought private insurance that would cover that this
time because last time ... none of that was covered so financially that was
just another kick in the stomach so this time I was just, I had everything
prepared for the bad news.

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She was “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Still another mother believed “in my
mind there’s no way this baby could be healthy.” And another woman explained
overwhelming fears “that I won’t be able to open the door to happiness” while
desperately waiting to attach once the baby is bom.
I have struggled with the you know, this kind of conflicting feelings of I
thought this is what I wanted. Why aren’t I over the moon happy? And you
know, the answer to that is yeah, I really wanted a baby but I wanted a baby
without having to lose three first. And it’s just a lot of baggage that I’m
carrying around and trying to figure out how to balance that baggage
appropriately with this new healthy baby that I want to have be the center of
my universe. You know, how do I do that without feeling like I’m betraying
the 3 that aren’t here? Things like that.... I’m really nervous that because I
don’t feel this intense bond with her, with this little girl that I’m carrying, I’m
afraid that when I go through delivery that I’m going to be so sad, that I’m
going to be overwhelmed with these feelings from the previous delivery
experience and sad that I’m not having twins or you know that I can’t have all
four of them be alive and happy. I can only have one of them. What I’m
saying, I’m afraid I’m going to be sad. This is supposed to be my moment of
triumph. I’m finally having a healthy baby you know she’s going to be okay,
and I’m going to be sitting there feeling sad.... I hope that I won’t feel that
way because I... the therapist is you know, trying to convince me that it will
be you know you’ll probably feel both [sad and happy]. So I will just have to
hope that I do feel both. I think I probably will. I just think I need to trust
myself a little bit more and trust her a little bit more. I think this baby is
going to really bring a lot of joy into my life and I need to trust that she’s
capable of doing that and I’m capable of letting her.
Lieberman (1998) also described parents feeling a combination of sadness and joy
at the birth of their subsequent baby.
Waiting for the diagnosis for all the parents in this study was a “pretty scary
thing.” Parents talked about their painful waiting. “You know there’s a 25 % chance
that [the tests will] be bad so it was like the first 16 weeks were kind of like this dull
throb.” For some it was like “sitting on the edge ... many people were suffering and

really scared for us.” One father described the last few hours of waiting for the
results of their FISH test.
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From 10 to 11 it was as if the clock was moving in one quarter speed. And
then from 11 to 12 is when it really started to kick in. And I would say that
that was one of the most neurotic hours I had ever seen, because we were told
the day before that [the results] would be [available] right around noon. And
so between 11 and 12 was really, really ... well obviously indescribable.
And it was really funny because [my wife] said, “you know, do you think
we’ll be driving them crazy if we call.” I said, “no they’re going to expect us
to call and who cares if we’re driving them crazy?” So we walked upstairs to
where the speaker phone was and the minute I reached out my hand to get a
dial tone, the phone rang. And [my wife] wasn’t in the room and I picked up
the phone and it was the geneticist and she said, “I have good news.” And I
said, “hold on and I’ll put you on the speaker phone,” and she said, “we have
good news and everything looks fine,” and for about the next hour it was like
that explosive relief that is as indescribable as the prior hour. It was pretty
intense.
One nurse described how she sees parents who’ve been faced with past termination
decisions react while waiting for the results of their amniocentesis.
[The parents] are hugely anxious and ... sometimes we’ll get results in 8
days, most often it’s right around 10 to 12. That’s a horrible, horrible wait,
and they start calling on about day seven. And they’re on the phone every
day, and they know when the courier comes and they know when the drop off
of results are and they’re like, “are they here yet?” And I go “I’ll call you
when I see them.” You know, and then you almost feel like popping a bottle
of champagne and you can tell them “yes, they are ok” or they’re devastated
equally when they aren’t good.
The testing became steps or hurdles to overcome towards relief. One issue
that seemed to make things even more difficult for some was that in those early
months “time crawled.” One mother said, “I have to fight not to climb into a little
hole and just wait until it’s all over and see how it comes out.” Each test helped
decrease the anxiety “a tiny bit,” but the relief many times was short lived. Speaking
of going through varying tests, one mother said, “each one brings a little bit of relief
and happiness, but it only takes a week or two and then I start doubting again.”

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Some parents were faced with other hurdles such as other medical conditions
complicating their own pregnancies or the possibility that something different may
be wrong with this baby. One mother who had been diagnosed with gestational
diabetes said she hoped that she could
handle the diabetes and go through that and that’s another hurdle. Even if I
get good results from the amnio then we have to worry about the diabetes,
especially if it’s going to show up this early. Um, you have to worry about
stillborn ... so I just feel like we’re going to be so worried the whole
pregnancy. I just want it to be over so we can enjoy the baby and go on from
there.
Another couple received good news that the baby did not have the same fatal
diagnosis as their previous child, but at the same time they were hit with the
possibility that the baby they were now carrying might have Downs Syndrome.
When ... the genetic counselor got good results, she couldn’t resist calling
[my husband] and saying, “look do you want to know?” And [he’s] a little
braver than I am I guess. He said, “yes I do want to know.” And so she told
him “as far as the CNF [Congenital Nephrosis of the Finnish Type] was
concerned the results were very, very good.” ... So he got to be excited for
about a minute and a half and then she said, “but the odds for Down’s
Syndrome were elevated and that we should come in and do the amnio.” So I
felt really ripped off of my victory celebration there because you know, the
CNF odds had been eliminated but here we were faced with possibly a
different problem.
Fortunately for this couple further testing revealed the baby was okay.
For many the fears diminished over time, and as they received good news
from each test, but as one mother said, “you’re going to have fears and it probably
won’t alleviate those fears until you actually hold the baby.” The acceptance for
some was gradual, but as one father whose wife was 39 weeks pregnant at the time
of his interview said,
after the ... level III ultrasound, that’s what they call it now and we had
confirmation that the baby was ok it was truly, truly a blessing to know that,

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but like I said earlier it was still just as hard to believe that we got to keep this
one.... There’s only one way those anxieties are going to be silenced, and
that’s what’s going to happen in the next week I hope.
His wife shared his fears. “I’m still not completely, 100 % positive that we are
coming home from the hospital with a live baby that we will be responsible for...
the rest of our lives.” She went on to say,
early on I think I just wanted to make it day to day and I wanted ... to
survive the pressure ... the stress ... that we would be able to make it
through the worry and the stress.... I just wanted to make it through the tests
and ... then everything would be okay. Now I don’t think that’s changed
very much.
Another mother said,
I started worrying about other things but at least I wasn’t worried about Spina
Bifida anymore... Things that ultrasound cannot show. Um, is this child
going to be able to hear? Is she going to be able to see? I didn’t worry that
her heart was, that there were any problems with her heart, or her lungs or
um, her spine, or her brain, because those things . .. you can pretty much tell
on an ultrasound. But I was nervous about subtle things that you can’t find
like blindness or a hearing loss, cleft palate, things like that. Uh and that
lasted for a few weeks, and then I thought oh well, those are all things that we
can deal with. There’s nothing devastating in that. Yes it would be a tragedy
but we can deal with that kind of stuff. And I think by the time I got to about
28 weeks I was feeling much better and ... a friend of my parent’s threw a
baby shower for me. And ... I think that was the first time that I started to
think yeah we’re having a baby.
Still another mother finally began to feel good about her pregnancy and wanted to
hang onto those feelings and also to protect her child because her experience was as
long as the baby was inside of her, it was alive. She said, “I decided I just want to
carry this baby for the rest of my life. It’s kind of fun.”
Some parents were able to finally let their guard down closer to delivery.
One father was unable to feel any kind of attachment until between 27 and 30 weeks
gestation when they were certain this baby didn’t have the same condition their

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previous child had. Once they got to that point he felt his attachment was complete,
he said, “[now] I go to bed with my arm on her tummy.” Many parents felt they
were behind or needed to catch up once they finally found out the baby would not
have what their previous baby had. One mother after receiving good news said,
I didn’t have that sudden sense of relief so we definitely walked around in
shock for a week or so. And I think at that point we were going through the
stuff that I think most people go through when the stick turns pink. The oh
my God, we’re going to have a baby. At that point I was 16 weeks pregnant
so it was sort of a delayed reaction.
This woman’s husband said, “the reality is when you have to wait 16 weeks until
you know whether or not it’s a go, you’re in a little bit of a mental state. You’re 16
weeks behind the eight ball.”
One mother found in order to cope, she had to put the waiting hurdles in
perspective.
A lot of the time, when I would start to think geese this is making me crazy
waiting for the next ultrasound, or waiting for the next whatever is I would,
for me personally sit back and think about the whole experience and stuff,
and to put what I’m going through now into perspective. This is not that bad.
... You know, waiting to hear an answer is much easier than having to make
a decision or trying to find a way to cope without the baby you were
expecting to bring home.
Another mother explained “you have to learn kind of coping strategies to cope with
waiting.... I sort of counted down the weeks.... So just, you know whatever
psychological tricks you’ve been using on yourself to get through waiting periods in
your life.”
Changing Expectations
Still another way parents found helped to decrease their pain but also changed
their attachment to the baby they were now carrying was they changed their

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expectations with this pregnancy. For most parents this meant lowering their
expectations. Where in their previous pregnancies they dared to dream and hope for
the perfect child, they now only wanted a living child. One mother who had decided
she would not terminate again no matter what problems she faced with this baby
said, “that is why I have peace in this pregnancy, is that I no longer expect the
Gerber baby. And I have resigned myself to the fact that it may not be the perfect
baby.” A father said,
It’s kind of strange because I think the first time that we were expecting, you
don’t think about you know, you want a healthy perfect baby, and I never
have those expectations anymore. I just want to have a child or you know, a
son or daughter that can go through life and take care of themselves. You
know that I don’t have to worry about leaving him in a nursing home or
something like that, if they’re blind, if they’re deaf you know all those kind
of things don’t matter to me anymore. If there’s a cleft palate problem, I
don’t care you know. Those can be fixed and those can be trained and those
can be you know, you can get through life with those kind of problems.
In this pregnancy parents focused more on the child and not the dream.
Parents made comments such as, “our hopes, desires are less than they used to be.”
“We’ve lowered our standards considerably.” And, “I just want to hold a baby that I
know is going to five longer than I do.” One mother said,
with the other pregnancy, we really wanted a boy.... And it was a boy, but
this time we didn’t care. So I think we kind of felt selfish for wanting a boy.
... And you know, so we really [don’t] care, a boy or a girl would [be] you
know just fine as long as it [is] healthy.
Just having a baby that fives is enough for some.
All I want is alive.... I don’t care what’s wrong with this child if there is
anything wrong with this child. I don’t care. I want it alive. I want it to
come home, and I want him to come home with me.

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One father just wished for some sort of normalcy. “I was hoping just that the baby
would live. ... I guess my greatest desire is that my wife, myself, and my baby could
resemble a normal family, if there is such a thing.
Increased Attachment to the Health Care Professionals and Others
Parents in this study found still another way to manage their pain. They
discussed that by increasing attachment to their healthcare professionals, the “wise,”
(Goffman, 1963) and to other persons who had been where they were now, the
“own,” (Goffman, 1963) their anxieties were diminished
Increased Attachment to the “Wise”
Parents, in their highly anxious states, sought reassurance from their health
care professionals. Many parents needed to see more than one type of health care
professional and needed more frequent visits than the average pregnant patient.
I developed a really interesting relationship with all these medical people. I
stayed again with the same OB and the same genetic counselor. And boy
does that genetic counselor know me very well now, and I was able to
communicate to her things that I could and could not tolerate.... I got a lot
of telephone support from her and from the OB even who saw me much more
frequently than ... in a normal pregnancy with a normal person. I was no
longer normal. That’s for sure, and I think most OB patients in the first
trimester you know they see you once every 4 weeks or something. My
doctor was like you can come whenever you want. I’m going to schedule the
appointments for every 2 weeks to every 3 weeks, but if you want to come
more than that you can. Um, the genetic counselor and I were probably in
touch once a week. And it was just to vent a little bit, to go over the data.
Some parents were seeing both an obstetrician and a perinatologist in the beginning
giving them the extra visits and ultrasounds they felt they needed. As one mother
said, “with the sonograms and the frequent doctor visits, that has really kept me
sane.” One nurse said, “especially if it’s somebody that we had previously we now
have subsequently, well there’s a comfort zone with us or they feel more at ease to

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discuss what happened and they don’t in other places.” This nurse also agreed that
from what she saw in her practice these parents needed to be seen more often.
If you look at a chart of someone who has had a previous termination or even
a loss, there will be probably 50 % more interactions incidental to routine
visits for those clients than there will be for someone who hasn’t had that.
Other parents wanted their physicians to suggest different kinds of services to
get the enhanced support they felt they needed. If these services were not suggested,
they sought them out on their own.
On the one hand I’m excited and I want [the health professionals] to be
excited with me, but also I want them to acknowledge that I’m not your
average patient. That I’m not your just your average first time new mom.
That I’ve been through something really different than other people have
been and that... that’s going to color my experience. It’s going to change
the way I look at each phase. It’s going to maybe intensify some of the
normal anxieties that... I’m sure all first time moms are nervous about labor
and delivery but it might be really different for me, because the last time I
was you know, in this hospital I was having a D and E. So I guess I hope that
there would be some enhanced sensitivity to that and some willingness to
kind of maybe do some things out of the ordinary. You know if it means
letting me have some extra visits or just. One of the things I’m going to do,
I’ve been researching doulas you know childbirth attendants, because I do
feel like although I think my doctors are going to be great and really
supportive and I’ve heard wonderful things about the nurses at the hospital
I’m going to be, I just feel like we’re going to need that extra bit of
handholding both of us, me and [my husband]. And particularly I’m worried
about [my husband] because I’m feeling like ... if I’m worried about him not
being supported, that’s going to make it harder for me to get focussed. So I
think, I would love it if that was sort of a standard part that my doctor would
say to me is you know you should consider having a Doula. Now I’ve found
it myself but that’s something I would love if the doctor and the practice
would say you know you’ve been through a lot. This is going to be a really
exciting, a stressful experience for you and you might benefit from some
extra support and here’s some ideas.
Another couple hired a Doula Service during their 6a1 month of pregnancy for the
extra support they felt they needed.
When you find someone who can be unbiased and compassionate and loving
to you, [then] you should cling to them.... I think that’s been our link to

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sanity through this entire pregnancy are the Doulas.... They just helped.
They have been wonderful and their overriding message to [my husband] and
I has been you can do this.
Some parents found private counselors or clergy were the “wise” and
sought their support. One husband did not feel the need for therapy or outside
support, but saw his wife’s need for listeners, a community of sympathizers.
I don’t really need somebody else to [solve my problems]... but my wife, I
believe that my wife is different and she ... very much appreciated the
therapy she’s gone to.... If for no other reason that it’s somebody else who
can listen to her story. You know at least somebody who can... be sort of
sympathetic to it.... She needs more people like that, not fewer.
One mother offered advice to others to elicit the extra care needed.
I know I freak out a lot you know, if the baby doesn’t move for like an hour
I’ll think oh my God, so I would also tell [others] you know they need to
make sure their doctor is willing to give them the kind of care that they want
whether it’s going in whenever they feel they need to, more sonograms, or
you know, I know some places will give parents dopplers to take home to just
you know if the doctor’s telling them they’re overreacting and they need to
relax then ... I would suggest that they need another doctor or that they need
to tell the doctor you know, that they need more from them,... [because] I
figure you know, worrying does not help so if... your doctor can help ease
the worry, that’s very important.
A physician explained, “in the back of our mind we want to reassure the patient, the
patient wants to be reassured so yes we end up seeing the patient more often, doing
more ultrasounds, doing more procedures.” This physician realized different patients
approach their subsequent pregnancy with varying emotions and he felt it was his
responsibility to “understand those feelings and those emotions, not in my own
terms, in the terms of each particular patient recognizing that each person deals with
[their situation] in a completely different manner.” He described what he’s doing for
a patient in a similar situation right now. “I said to her whatever you want, whenever
you want, whenever you want to hear this baby we’ll do it.” This physician felt his

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role was not to change things but to reassure the patient in the best way possible. “I
have to accept people for what they are and how they are and try to help them deal
the best way.”
All of the parents in this study needed reassurance and needed extra visits at
some point during their pregnancies.
In between appointments of not hearing the heartbeat, even then you think
something’s happened you know. So I think anybody in my position needs
an amazing amount of reassurance, if possible.... I’ve even looked at stores
to see if I can find some sort of fetal heart beat monitor because I think that
would mentally help me.
Some physicians offered the reassurance without hesitation anticipating the
patient’s needs.
My doctor did a little quickie heartbeat for me every time I went and sent me
out once, sometimes twice a month to the ultrasound place.... I have five
videotapes ... of the ultrasounds, hundreds and hundreds of pictures. It was
funny because I haven’t had to actually ask for any of it.
A physician gave one mother her pager number, and even though this mother only
needed to use the pager on one occasion, she found that having it was “very
reassuring.” This same mother found the open door policy at her physician’s office
was also very helpful, as she was able to “pop in and listen to the doppler every once
in a while and leave.” A father felt reassured when their physician referred to their
baby “as a premium baby.... I think he understood how important this was.”
Not all physicians were willing or able to give parents what the parents felt
they needed.
Even if [the health care providers] think it’s a totally healthy normal
pregnancy, don’t treat me like a 20 year old woman coming through for the
first time.... I think acknowledging that I might be you know, anxious or
fearful or I think spending some time talking with me about different fears
and things like that. I think that would really help.

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Another mother said, “I’m probably the patient from hell. I ask so many questions
and I almost demand certain tests.... I do a lot to reassure myself.” This mother
found the extra care and connection she needed by seeing three different health care
groups.
I’m working through one, two, three different groups of doctors just because
no one will see me every week. You know there’s just no sensitivity there at
all but whenever I need to I manage to get an appointment and go you know,
go in and see somebody so.... One is an obstetrician. I’m seeing him, and
he’s the one that’s kind of been with us through the very, very beginning, but
... he’s so very medical and so ... if something bad would happen I want to
be connected with him. And then, I go to this wonderful group of midwives
because ... I’m like this earth mom and I want to have this most you know
and that’s how I really want to have so I connect with them and got
established with them. And then where we live very remotely, there’s a tiny
little clinic here that in case something happened I want to be established
there so the doctor knows me there. So I khid of rotate between all of them.
And I know that’s bizarre.
Some parents who did not feel their health care professionals were as helpful
feared being judged by them.
I personally don’t like going to the doctor very much and ... I’m always
worried doctors will think that I’m overreacting to something or imagining
things so it’s just the kind of person I am so I don’t like to sort of go unless
I’m sick. And every time I’ve gone to the doctor it’s like nothing. So it
would be nice to have them say up front call me if you have anything, or you
can come in just like that.... I don’t want to be this hysterical woman just
bothering them and using up their time.
Parents had varying needs in the frequency of their visits after receiving the
okay that this baby did not have the same problem as their last baby. One mother
who was at 25 weeks gestation during her interview shared how her need in the
frequency of her physician visits changed over time.
In the beginning it didn’t feel like enough.... Right now it feels like enough.
I can feel him move so I’ve got the reassurance he’s ok. Um, and I didn’t feel
like given like all this stress that I’ve been through this last year and

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everything like that, and now that I know his chromosomes are all good and
the ultrasound was good, the level II ultrasound was good, I kind of feel like
you know that I don’t want to press my luck. Maybe I should just stay away
from health care providers at this point in time because they just tell me bad
news.
Another father felt the care became “too routinized” after their test results came back
okay. He did not feel he could ask the physician for more visits as he shared his
fears.
But after [the tests results were fine] the routine we got into is ... not
sufficiently sensitive to people in our situation. Like I have to confess that
once in a while I get paranoid and it would be nice if I could ask [my wife] to
go and have the physician listen to the heartbeat or something like that....
We haven’t had a sonogram for about a month and a half or something like
that. It sort of makes you feel better to see the baby.
Some parents felt reassurance when the time came that they no longer needed the
extra attention. One mother said,
our genetic counselor assured me yesterday [when] I was talking to her that
we are so low risk now we have to let you fly. She said, “we have to let our
low risk patients fly,” so in hearing all that I’m getting more and more
reassured that we’re dealing with a healthy baby.
All of these parents needed that “enhanced level of handholding” by the “wise” at
some point in their subsequent pregnancy.
Increased Attachment to the “Own”
Another group the parents in this study sought for reassurance and support to
help minimize their pain through this difficult pregnancy included those who had
been where they had been, the “own.” Parents sought others with similar
circumstances, seeking connections which was consistent with the findings of Jones
et al. (1984) and Kenyon et al. (1988). They believed there was a “whole different
level of support that you get from somebody who’s been there.” They found these

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connections in varying places such as through the Internet, support group
newsletters, local support groups, and through stories of others in the literature. The
aloneness they had felt during and after their loss was helped by seeking out the
own.
My genetics counselor had given us a ... newsletter for A Heartbreaking
Choice, and I had really spent a lot of time reading literature, and she had
given me a lot, and I actually was going and finding more things and I was
reading them. And we subscribed to the newsletter and then it was in the
newsletter one time about the web site and so I went out and kind of checked
it out. But it was a year after the termination that I found A Heartbreaking
Choice and the Listserv and things like that. So, but even at that point the
one thing that I’d always felt and it had always been so difficult for me that A
Heartbreaking Choice changed was I felt like I was so alone, you know that
[my husband] and I were so alone out there.
There was just “something about being connected to people that really [got] it.”
One mother, who found several support networks through the Internet said,
I just had this huge need to connect up with anything I could, anything that
would be supportive or read other stories like ours or anything like that and
so I think the one was Perinatal Loss Center, Heartbreaking Choice, I’ve got
three or four other newsletters that come here and they’re all wonderful but
the Heartbreaking Choice is the one that just hits us right at you know, it’s
absolutely right on.
For many of these parents, they felt very different and the only people they
felt were credible or they could identify with were those who had been where they
had been before. One mother said,
I felt like nobody knows what I’m dealing with and I don’t want to have just
someone say oh it’s going to be okay. I want someone who’s gone through it
once.... I mean come on, lip service isn’t going to help at all here. So you
know, in fact, we joined the national organization of rare diseases and then
like two weeks later they sent the introductory packet back with a letter
saying you know these are the other people in our data base in the country...
that have the disease that you’re dealing with, and ours was the only name on
the fist. And when you see that and you hear how rare this thing is I was like
listen, if you’ve gone through it once let’s talk. If you haven’t then just

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please ... don’t give me the puppy dog eyes, because you’re not making me
feel better.
Another mother connected with a couple through the Internet.
We had connected with this couple ... and that was just wonderful because
they were already in the third trimester of a subsequent pregnancy that was
not affected. They had the exact same disorder that we did.... She was just a
wonderful person and we really bonded. They had had two losses which was
really different from us so in that regard it was scary but we also, we knew
that going in and we were prepared for that. But it was just great to have her.
She was a huge, huge support.
Some parents found attending a local support group was helpful and even
developed new friendships with those they had met through the support group.
Kolker and Burke (1984) and Suslak et al. (1995) also found support groups to be
quite helpful for parents. One mother said, “we started attending a subsequent
pregnancy support group, and we met a couple there that we’ve become very good
friends with and so that was also very helpful.” The mother who chose not to
terminate and now will have two children with Spina Bifida, found tremendous
support through a local chapter of the Spina Bifida Association. She also found a
need to connect with others who had similar experiences, both for her living child
and to get through her subsequent pregnancy.
Not all parents felt the need for outside support. One father said, “I’m not a
real touchy/feely type of person with strangers and you know, really to me the best
support group is a close friend,” and for him that close friend was his wife.
Oftentimes when people are pregnant they gravitate to others who are
pregnant, and share information through the sharing of their stories. But talking to
other parents who had been through or were going through a pregnancy without
having been where these parents had been was no help. One woman described it as

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“I’m not... just your average first time mom. That I’ve been through something
really different than other people have been and that, that’s going to color my
experience ... maybe intensify some of the normal anxieties.” Another woman
explained it this way,
I mean I just felt like I have a completely different experience of it than these
people. I mean I didn’t want to chit chat about morning sickness and you
know things like that, because to me those things are like nothing. ... I was
under a lot of emotional stress ... people are worrying about morning
sickness and stuff and I’m waking up every night imagining having to go and
you know kill another baby.
For all of the parents in this study, they found the “own” to be a tremendous support
in helping them to manage their pain as they progressed through their subsequent
pregnancy.
Social Structural Issues
Social structural issues were another area that affected how parents in this
study managed their catastrophic psychic pain. These issues became apparent from
the moment of diagnosis in their previous pregnancies and continued throughout
their subsequent pregnancies. Some of these social structural issues added to these
parents’ pain, making it more difficult to manage. Other social structural issues
helped the parents in this study to better manage their pain.
At times the bureaucracy was inattentive to the parents’ needs making it very
difficult for them to manage their pain. Insurance tends to dictate how often
mother’s are seen and by which type of physician—primary care or specialist.
Several women had to change primary physicians due to insurance changes even
after requesting no change. One woman, who had to change her primary physician
due to new insurance, asked to be seen by a high-risk obstetrician early on in her

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subsequent pregnancy. Her primary physician refused. She carried her last baby,
who had been diagnosed with Spina Bifida at 28 weeks, to delivery. Her baby in this
subsequent pregnancy was also diagnosed with Spina Bifida at 16 weeks. She was
convinced that the specialist who diagnosed her previous baby would have diagnosed
this baby much earlier if she could have been given a referral.
The first question I asked when I went to see the OB was “when can I have
my first sonogram?” because I needed to know. I wanted to know
immediately, and I didn’t want them to do it. I said I want to go to [the high-
risk group]... and I begged to go to [the high-risk group]. I wanted to go
back [to them] because I lost my primary OB due to an insurance switch so I
didn’t have her.... That really threw me for a loop. I lost [my primary OB],
and then well I [already knew the high-risk group from my previous
pregnancy]. I can stay with [them]. They’ve been with me even though it
was 28 weeks. I still knew them, they knew me, they knew my history, and I
was told I couldn’t go under my insurance unless I was high-risk. And they
couldn’t prove I was high-risk until... I had my next sonogram which they
couldn’t do until I was 16 weeks. So I was like seeing this doctor, I had no
idea. I had never met them. And I was so upset at that visit that I couldn’t
[go to the specialist], that I was like, there’s no way.... So I stayed there
until my 16 week sonogram which, of course, [the high-risk group] said that
“yes, we’ll take her on and we can deal with both of them like we did the last
time.”
The primary physician’s office personnel of this same mother fell short in meeting
this mother’s needs.
I went for my next visit the next month and they didn’t hear a fetal
heart beat and ... I knew right then something was wrong. I knew something
was wrong, and so I said how do we find out what’s wrong? And they said,
“well we’ll take you for a sonogram.” I said “here or at [the high-risk
group]?” My first question. “Here or at [the high-risk group]?” “Here.” Ok,
here and so they did it and of course, they couldn’t see anything. And they
could see the baby’s heartbeat, but they couldn’t see anything. If they had
sent me up to [the high-risk group] I bet they could’ve seen something and I
would’ve known right from the start. But they didn’t. To me what I heard
was ‘that’s not the way we’ve been doing things. ’
Finding skilled physicians for diagnostic testing presented another problem.
One mother found having a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) test was challenging.

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She had trouble finding a qualified physician and getting through the bureaucratic
red tape. “No one seemed to know anyone who did CVS.” The one physician she
had been referred to in her town, was not highly recommended. She and her husband
had to travel two hours to have the procedure which caused additional emotional
stress due to the distance and the other bureaucratic issues. Once they got to the
testing center, she said,
it [then] became an insurance issue.... The [insurance company] approved it
at first, [but the testing center] called to check on it and the insurance
company said “no.” And then you’re explaining to an 18 or 20 year old girl
on the telephone what CVS is, what happened to you before, why you need
this test and can you make a decision on this? No she can’t.... It’s just so
aggravating that even an insurance company would put somebody [through
this]. You have to jump through so many hoops to get to do something you
really didn’t want to do anyway.
The amount of emotional labor some parents expended to obtain good care was
tremendous. One father described this labor and the marital conflict caused by
problems within the social structural system.
We really had to push hard to get the testing done [in this pregnancy].
Insurance didn’t want to pay for it, didn’t want to cover it and we were put
off. But we pushed hard and it caused a lot of friction between the two of us
because of frustration with... insurance companies and trying to get that
stuff done. And I’m not as good at pushing equally as hard as [my wife] is
on things like that. She won’t give up, but she gets frustrated with me. So
that caused some problems between us.
Talking to strangers about personal issues was difficult for these parents. It
was difficult for parents to have to explain their past experience to several office
staff. Most of the parents in this study felt their physicians were attentive to them
but several experienced barriers. One mother said,
first of all, I’m supposed to rotate through [the physicians] during the
pregnancy, and I think it’s [a] really crappy idea, especially for someone like
me. I need someone who knows what’s going on. And secondly, you know,

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when you call [the office], you don’t talk to a doctor. You talk to like a
receptionist who says, “well what’s the problem,” and sends you to
somebody else. So you know, it’s just like this layer you go through that
kind of persuades you from calling them about something that may be minor,
or whatever, some little worry that you have. So there’s no sort of direct
access to the doctor.
Billing issues became another bureaucratic “nightmare” for one father during a
time in which he was trying to move forward through his pain.
There was one point when we were talking ... to somebody in the hospital
there in terms of how this [termination] was going to be processed and the
billing and all that, that was a real nightmare. I mean ... we couldn’t get an
answer.... I don’t know, we were being treated like just another client you
know as far as billing goes. I don’t think that was handled very well.
Terminations are not available through all obstetricians. One father talked about
the “nightmare” he and his wife endured going through picket lines at an abortion
clinic for their termination. They chose the clinic because they felt they would be
surrounded by others in a similar situation, the “own.” One couple, mentioned
earlier in this paper, thought they were going to a clinic for an induction of labor, and
was horrified when they discovered the physician only performed D and Es. This
couple went elsewhere with the help of personal connections in the medical field.
The husband said, “I cannot imagine someone who did not have the internal
connection to the medical community going through what we did. They would have
been stuck with the first doctor and that would have just been amazing.” His wife
felt that in the end they “received the best care in the world,” but “it was such a
disaster getting there.”
Terminations are also not available at all hospitals, and the cut off dates for
legal terminations in certain states became another social structural issue that

made managing their pain more difficult for some families. One couple was
living in a state that had a termination cut off date of 22 weeks.
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The reason I could not pursue [termination] in ... my town where I lived was
because the hospital recently [merged]. They [used to] do second trimester
terminations, but they had recently merged with a Catholic hospital on the
other side of the city, and part of the merger agreement was [they] will not do
second trimester terminations for any reason whatsoever ... unless the
mother’s life was in danger. And then you had to go through the ethics board,
and we did not have time because I was 21 14 weeks pregnant and I had like 3
days before the state would’ve said nope you don’t have a choice anymore,
you have to have this baby. And [my husband] and I were ... terrified that
we were going to get caught in this situation that we would not have a choice
anymore.
A decision that was very difficult had to sometimes be made in haste. Another
couple acted quickly when they found out the definitive diagnosis just before the 24
week cut off date in their state.
We found out on Friday finally after months and months of [the doctors]
trying to figure out what was wrong and then on Monday we started the
procedure so we were at the very tail end of what was legal in this state.
Another social structural issue one father described was how our society or
workplaces are not always able to support women who are pregnant subsequent to
the type of experience parents in this study were trying to manage. He said, “I
don’t think we have the social structure that would accommodate someone in
especially her condition [pregnancy] as much as we should.” One nurse talked about
how uncomfortable many parents like those in this study are around typically
meeting pregnant patients who had not been where they had been. The staff in her
office try to accommodate these parents by providing special private maternity tours
and other special requests.
It seems that [the parents] are less willing to invest in the social structure of
other pregnant patients. In other words, I don’t often have patients who had a

138
loss experience go back after a termination, they don’t want to go into the
maternity tours with everybody else. They don’t feel comfortable always
being around those other pregnant women. They feel set apart. I don’t know
if it’s because there’s this illusion of secrecy about what’s happened, and they
don’t want other people to know, or they don’t want to tell their story to other
people, but then there’s a very private situation. And so, often we’ll take
patients down and tour them ourselves or we’ll modify generally how we
would do things just to accommodate that [need].
The majority of parents in this study felt supported by their current health
care provider. For many, their previous diagnostic history increased the care they
received which in turn helped them manage their pain more effectively.
When we went in with the second pregnancy we got the extra special
designation of a high-risk pregnancy with complications. And I guess not too
many people get that, but you know, that is, if we wanted to go to the doctor
every week, boom we’re there.
Summary
This chapter explicated the basic social process of managing catastrophic
psychic pain. Parents managed by developing emotional armor, limiting disclosure,
suspending emotions, and increasing attachment to health care professionals and
others. Social structural issues also affect how the parents managed their pain.

CHAPTER 6
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Summary
Through rapidly developing technological advances in the reproductive
arena, parents are confronted with prenatal diagnoses requiring them to make life and
death decisions for their unborn children. The purpose of this study was to discover:
a) the basic social psychological problem experienced by parents faced with a
pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not
to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality, and b) the basic social
psychological processes these parents used to address this problem. Symbolic
interactionism was selected as the theoretical framework and grounded theory as the
method for this qualitative study. Two professionals and 22 parents were
interviewed during a subsequent pregnancy.
Catastrophic psychic pain was the basic psychological problem identified.
This pain was pervasive, and began, for the parents in this study, from the very
moment of diagnosis of a fetal abnormality in their previous pregnancy. It was
unexpected, intense, and never ending.
Parents had to make painful decisions. They had to decide whether to
terminate or not to terminate. The majority of these parents chose termination, 19
out of 22. Some parents decided quickly while others painfully deliberated for
weeks. Many parents chose termination for altruistic reasons to avoid pain and
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140
suffering for the baby or a dismal future for the child. Others made their painful
decisions as a result of self-awareness and recognition of their own limitations.
Regardless of whether the parents chose to terminate or not, all had emotionally
painful deliveries. Reflecting upon their decisions, most parents felt they made the
best decision with the information they had at the time. Only one couple regretted
the decision they made to terminate, but all wished that they had never been placed
in the position of having to make the decision.
Catastrophic psychic pain came from the overwhelming loss these parents
endured. The pain had consequences for the parents that included loss of innocence,
feelings of devastation and isolation, changes in spousal relationships, fear of hope,
and stigma.
The loss of innocence was pervasive, affecting not only future pregnancies,
but other areas of their lives. The devastation parents felt was paralyzing for some,
rendering them helpless and affecting relationships with others including their own
children. Spousal relationships were challenged, although ultimately most parents
talked about how surviving their experience and the excruciating pain they endured
made their relationship stronger. Many of the parents were afraid to allow
themselves to hope. In fact, hope became limited for these parents after their
experience with catastrophic psychic pain. Many parents felt isolated at a time when
they needed support the most. Stigma surrounds the topic of termination, as well as
the loss of a baby by natural means. Because of the stigma surrounding the
termination issue, the loss issue, and the birth of a child who was different, most

141
parents tended for the most part not to share their experience openly, causing them
additional pain.
Parents did begin to move forward. They thought about a subsequent
pregnancy, became pregnant, and forged through their subsequent pregnancy. In
order to move forward, parents had to manage their catastrophic pain. Four major
sub-processes are useiul in discussing how parents managed their pain: developing
emotional armor, limiting disclosure, suspending emotions, and increasing
attachment to the health care professionals and others. Social structural issues also
affected the management of the pain.
The intense fear of experiencing additional pain caused these parents to begin
developing emotional armor. They had to steel themselves and manage their pain
sufficiently to get to a point where they had enough strength and courage, in essence,
armor, to face another termination decision, if needed. Most of the parents desired a
subsequent pregnancy, although three women became pregnant before they were
ready. Parents felt they were playing the odds, although most came to the conclusion
that wanting another child outweighed their fears of not wanting another possible
bad diagnosis.
One helpful strategy parents found to manage the catastrophic psychic pain
and limit unnecessary intrusions was by limiting disclosures about their past
pregnancy as well as their subsequent pregnancy. Many parents found that keeping
their previous pregnancy a secret was one way to manage the pain. The secrecy of
the past pregnancy carried over for most into the subsequent pregnancy. Some
parents shared the news of their next pregnancy rather quickly, but the majority of

142
parents chose to keep the pregnancy secret from most until they had news that the
baby would be “okay.” All parents were selective about whom they told their
intimate stories.
Another way many parents managed their pain was to suspend their emotions
in their subsequent pregnancy. Parents found varying ways to avoid investing too
early in this pregnancy. Gathering information and becoming as well educated
regarding their situations as possible, accelerating the diagnosis, getting through
waiting hurdles, and changing their expectations were some ways parents found to
help manage the pain.
Parents found still another way to manage their pain. They discussed that by
increasing their attachment to the health care professionals, the “wise,” and to other
persons who had been where they were now, the “own,” their anxieties diminished.
Increased physician visits, increased sonograms, searching out additional services
such as Doulas, counselors and clergy were helpful. All of these parents needed an
“enhanced level of handholding” by the “wise.” Another group that helped minimize
their pain and provided reassurance and support was the “own.” These connections
came through the Internet, support groups, professionals, friends, and family.
Social structural issues were another area that affected how parents managed
the catastrophic psychic pain. Some of these issues added to these parents’ pain,
making it more difficult to manage. Others helped the parents to better manage their
pain. Bureaucratic issues such as insurance, billing, availability of skilled
professionals and services all made it more difficult for these parents. Late diagnosis
and early cut off dates for terminations meant that many times difficult decisions had

143
to be made in haste. Some parents felt society in general and workplaces in specific,
were not able to support people in their situations. The majority of parents felt their
previous diagnostic history increased the care they received in their subsequent
pregnancy, which helped them manage their pain more effectively.
Recommendations for Future Research
Further investigations should include studying:
• how parents manage subsequent pregnancy labor and delivery and the
immediate postpartum period,
• effects of the diagnosis of fetal abnormalities on spousal relationships
over time,
• effects of the diagnosis of fetal abnormalities on relationships with
other family members and support systems,
• parents’ long term attachment relationships to subsequent children,
• parents’ relationships to children born with fetal abnormalities,
• effects of long term care on parents of children bom with severe fetal
abnormalities who have to be institutionalized.
Results of these studies would be useful in guiding nursing interventions. It also is
important to investigate attitudes of nurses and other professionals working with
parents who have experienced a termination for fetal anomalies or are forging
through a subsequent pregnancy. Social structural issues and social interaction
issues need further elaboration. Interviews developed from this study should be
tested and evaluated.
Recommendations for Practice
Nothing in the literature speaks as clearly as the voices of the participants.
This research is important to the health care profession as it provides a substantive
grounded theory to help guide practice when working with parents experiencing a
pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to terminate or not
to terminate following the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. Nurses need to examine

144
their own feelings regarding these issues because judgmental attitudes only increase
the pain these parents experience. If at all possible, parents should not be rushed into
making a decision regarding termination or future pregnancy too quickly. They also
cannot be rushed through their grief. Parents need to know that their reactions may
be different from others, especially their spouses.
These parents require compassion and sympathetic understanding, as well as
an increased level of “handholding” as they move forward. Preparatory guidance is
helpful. Several parents suggested that it would be beneficial if physician offices
would hand out information packets providing literature on a) grief specific to fetal
abnormalities and having to make a choice, b) their specific fetal abnormality, c)
what to expect both physically and emotionally related to termination or delivery
issues, postpartum, and subsequent pregnancy, and d) resources on how to connect
with others in similar experiences such as support groups and the Internet. Some
parents recommended that it would be helpful if all the staff they came in contact
with were aware of their situation, so they did not have to keep repeating information
in front of others. It might be helpful to color tag these parents’ charts in some way
so that even the receptionist is aware of their circumstances, while at the same time
recognizing the importance of confidentiality.
Speeding up diagnostic testing and the waiting time for the results is crucial
because the uncertainty was extremely difficult for these parents. Assisting parents
with social structural issues such as insurance and billing would help. Allowing
parents easier professional accessibility and to come into the office regularly for
reassurance would be beneficial, as well as allowing for extra time during a visit to

145
better meet their emotional and physical needs. It might even be helpful to call these
parents on anniversary dates or other crucial dates acknowledging the difficulty
around these dates. A supportive listening ear, acknowledging their pain, and
providing guidance would go a long way toward diminishing the pain of these
parents.

APPENDIX A
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Interview Questions (For the Mother)
1. How has the decisions you made with your previous pregnancy affected this
pregnancy for you?
2. How did you decide, if you did, to become pregnant following the termination (or
non-termination) of your previous pregnancy?
3. How has this pregnancy been for you so far?
4. What sort of hopes or desires do you have about this pregnancy?
5. What kinds of fears/anxieties about this pregnancy do you have, if any?
6. What kinds of information did you receive from professionals about becoming
pregnant after your previous pregnancy? From family member? From others?
7. What kinds of issues or concerns are most important to you now?
8. What kinds of conversations do you have, and with whom, about this pregnancy?
9. Has this pregnancy affected your relationship with your spouse? If have other
children, your children? Other family members? Your friends?
10. What advice would you give someone else who is coping with a pregnancy
subsequent to having to choose to terminate or not to terminate their previous
pregnancy due to fetal abnormalities?
11. Is there anything others (nurses, other health care providers, family, friends)
could be doing to better support you through this pregnancy?
12. What do you want to tell others (nurses, other health care providers, family,
friends) about your experience?
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147
Interview Questions (For the Father)
1. How has the decisions you made with your partner’s previous pregnancy affected
this pregnancy for you?
2. How involved have you been with that decision?
3. How did you decide, if you did, for your partner to become pregnant following
the termination (or non-termination) of your previous pregnancy?
4. How has this pregnancy been for you so far?
5. What sort of hopes or desires do you have about this pregnancy?
6. What kinds of fears/anxieties about this pregnancy do you have, if any?
7. What kinds of information did you receive from professionals about your partner
becoming pregnant after her previous pregnancy? From family members? From
others?
8. What kinds of issues or concerns are most important to you now?
9. What kinds of conversations do you have, and with whom, about your partner’s
pregnancy?
10. Has this pregnancy affected your relationship with your partner? If have other
children, your children? Other family members? Your friends?
11. What advice would you give to another man who is coping with his partner’s
pregnancy subsequent to having to choose to terminate or not to terminate their
previous pregnancy due to fetal abnormalities?
12. Is there anything others (nurses, other health care providers, family, friends)
could be doing to better support you through this pregnancy?
13. What do you want to tell others (nurses, other health care providers, family,
friends) about your experience?

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Interview Questions (For the Health Care Professional)
1. Please tell me what your experiences have been with women and their partners
Who 1) previously made a decision to terminate or not to terminate their
pregnancy for fetal abnormalities; and 2) are presently pregnant.
2. What questions come to mind about working with these individuals?
3. What difficulties or problems do you have caring for these individuals in your
practice?

APPENDIX B
INFORMED CONSENT
Consent to Participate in Research
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
Pamela B. Rillstone
Principal Investigator
(904)743-8607
Topic:
Prenatal Diagnosis of Fetal Abnormalities: Parents’ Experiences with a
Subsequent Pregnancy
You are being invited to take part in a study. This consent form is designed to
provide you with information about this research and answer any questions you may
have.
What is the purpose of this study?
The purpose of this study is to talk with parents who 1) previously made a
decision to terminate or not to terminate a pregnancy for fetal abnormalities; and 2)
are currently pregnant. Health care providers do not always know what this
experience is like for you or how to support you through it. The confidential
information you share with me will be used with information from others in a similar
situation to help us to understand and better support women and their partners
through this experience.
What will occur if you take part?
With your permission, I will interview you privately about your experience
with this pregnancy for approximately 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours. Our conversation will
be tape recorded so that I can accurately record your story. The tapes will later be
transcribed. I may occasionally jot down a note as to trigger my memory to
something important.
What are the discomforts and risks you might expect?
There are no known risks from participating. It is possible that you could
become sad as you talk about your pregnancy. If you become tired or
uncomfortable, you may end the interview at any time. The information is
considered private and will only be shared in a general manner with my professor
and other nurses in a research seminar.
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150
Will the study cost you anything?
There is no cost involved for taking part in this study.
What are the potential benefits of the study?
You will have an opportunity to discuss your perceptions of what this
pregnancy is like for you.
By understanding more about this type of experience, nurses and other health
care professionals can do a better job in advising and supporting parents through
similar situations.
What alternatives do you have?
You are free to decline to participate in this study.
Will your privacy be respected?
Your participation in this study will be kept confidential and your name will
only be known to me. Interview notes will be coded and your name will not appear
in any publication resulting from this study. Your interview without your name will
be shared with my faculty advisor and student research seminar class. All data will
be stored in a locked cabinet. Please be aware that there may be situations in which
the FDA and/or the IRB Office may review these records.
What if there is an injury from the study?
There are no foreseeable injuries as a result of this study.
How can you get answers to questions?
Pam Rillstone, ARNP, MSN will be more than happy to answer any questions
you may have regarding this study or your participation. She may reached any time
by calling (904)743-8607. If she is not at home, you can leave a message on her
answering machine and she will return your call as soon as possible.
In addition, if you have any questions about your rights as a research
participant, you may contact the chairman, Institutional Review Board, University
Medical Center, 653 West Eight Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32209, through Ms.
Shari Shreve, IRB Committee Secretary at 549-3136.
Can you quit at any time?
Your participation in this study is voluntary, and refusal to participate will
cause no penalty or loss of benefits to you. You are free to withdraw at any time
without penalty or prejudice.
Are there any conflicts of interest?
No one will receive any direct benefit by your decision to take part in this
study.

151
Consent
Before giving your consent by signing this form, you have had a chance to
have your questions answered about this study, the inconveniences and risks, and
available alternatives. Based on this information, you voluntarily agree to participate
in this study. A copy of the entire consent form will be provided for you.
Your signature indicates that you have decided to participate in this study
having understood the information provided above. Participation is voluntary.
I, , hereby agree to participate in a
research study entitled “Prenatal Diagnosis for Fetal Abnormalities: Parents’
Experiences with a Subsequent Pregnancy”.
Participant Signature
Date
Person Obtaining Consent
Date
I have fully explained to the nature, purpose and
risks of this study, and have answered all questions to the best of my ability. To the
best of my knowledge, the participant signing this consent has had the study fully
and carefully explained and clearly understands the nature, risks, and benefits of
participation in this project.
Principle Investigator or Delegate
Date

APPENDIX C
DEMOGRAPHIC FORM
Participant’s Name Phone No.
Participant’s Address
Participant Gender female male Participant Age
Relationship Status single, never married married divorced
Separated widowed other
Race African-American Caucasian Hispanic Other
Length of relationship in years
Current gestational age in pregnancy Gravida Para
Number of other children Age of other children
Previous diagnosis of fetal abnormality type
What decision was made to terminate not to terminate
If terminated, at what gestational age
If did not terminate, situation with infant
If infant still living, age of infant
Have you attended a support group?
Which one, and how many times
Socioeconomic status less than $10,000 $10,001-25,000
$25,001-60,000 over $60,000
Educational Background: completed less than high school
High school graduate Partial college or technical/vocational
Standard college/university graduate school graduate
Completed graduate professional training
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APPENDIX D
PHYSICIAN LETTER
Date
Physician
Address
Jacksonville, FL
Dear Dr.:
Presently, I am working on my Ph.D. in nursing at the University of Florida. I am
currently beginning work on my dissertation entitled “Prenatal Diagnosis for Fetal
Abnormalities: Parents’ Experiences with a Subsequent Pregnancy.”
I am conducting a qualitative study that requires in-depth interviews with parents
during a pregnancy subsequent to a pregnancy in which they had to choose to
terminate or not to terminate following a diagnosis of a fetal abnormality. With a
deeper understanding of these parents’ experiences, I hope to identify better ways in
which we as health care professionals can meet their needs during this difficult time.
I am requesting your support of this study by giving the attached flyers about the
study to potential participants. Of course, their participation will be voluntary. If
you or your staff could give the enclosed information sheet to your client and either
have her call me or, with her permission, allow me to call her. With my 9 years of
experience working with families who are grieving a perinatal loss, I feel I am well
qualified to conduct these interviews in a sensitive manner.
Enclosed is a copy of the Informed Consent form that will be given to each of the
participants. If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact me at
(904)743-8607. I will be calling your office within the week to obtain your
approval. I would be glad to come and talk with you or your staff about the study at
any time. I look forward to talking with you.
Sincerely,
Pamela B. Rillstone, ARNP, MSN
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APPENDIX E
PARTICIPANT LETTER
’pamela B. 'TftSJl
(904)743-3607
Dear Potential Participant:
My name is Pam Rillstone and I have spent the past 9 years counseling parents who
have had difficult times surrounding their pregnancies and other types of crises. I am
currently enrolled at the University of Florida Nursing Doctoral program and am
about to begin my research. I have chosen as my topic to interview parents who are
currently pregnant following a pregnancy in which a decision to terminate or not to
terminate for fetal abnormalities had to be made.
In my clinical practice, I have found that this is a very difficult time for parents and
would like to have a deeper understanding of your experiences. I hope to identify
better ways in which we as health care professionals can better meet your needs
during this difficult time.
If you would consider being interviewed, please call me at (904)743-8607 to talk
further. Your participation in this study will be kept confidential and your name will
be known only to me. Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Pamela B. Rillstone
154

APPENDIX F
IRB APPROVAL
UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA
HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER/JACKSONVILLE
College of Medicine
Institutional Review Board
July 23, 1998
Office of Research Affairs
653-1 West 8th Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32209-6511
Tel: (904) 549-3136
Pamela Rillstone, AJRNP, MSN
College of Nursing
University of Florida
RE: EXPEDITED STATUS PROTOCOL
UFJ98-064 Prenatal Diagnosis of Fetal Abnormalities: Parents'Experiences with a
Subsequent Pregnancy
Dear Ms. Rillstone:
We have reviewed your request for approval of the above study under the classification of
expedited review and as chairman I am please to inform you that it is now approved under the
category of 3) Recording of data from subjects 18 or older using non-invasive procedures routinely
employed in clinical practice (i.e., weighing, testing of sensory acuity, ECG, EEG, thermography). It
does not include exposure to electromagnetic radiation (x-rays). You must inform the Board of any
modifications or changes to this research since they could affect its expedited status.
Your protocol is approved until July 23, 1999 at which time you will need to submit a regular
continuing review report in order to continue the study.
Thank you for informing the Board of your proposal.
Best Regards,
Robert L. Wears, MD, MS
Chair, Institutional Review Board
Lisa I.Leiden, PhD
Administrative Coordinator
Institutional Review Board
155

APPENDIX G
IRB ADDENDUM APPROVAL
UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA
HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER/JACKSONVILLE
College of Medicine
Institutional Review Board
Office of Research Affairs
653-1 West 8th Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32209-6511
Tel: (904)549-3136
MEMORANDUM
MPA m\266
August 19, 1998
TO: Pam Rillstone, AjRNP
Nursing
Department of
Division of UFJ98-064
FROM: Robert F. Percy, MD
Vice-Chair, Institutional Review Board
Lisa Leiden, PhD
Admin. Coordinator, Institutional Review Beard
SUBJECT: Approval of Amendment to Protocol Prenatal Diagnosis of Fetal Abnormalities:
Parents' Experiences with a Subsequent Pregnancy
Internet advertisement
We have received your revised protocol to the above-named study and/or its informed consent. The
Institutional Review Board recommends that this amendment and its informed consent be granted:
X Approval
156

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Pamela B. Rillstone received an Associate degree in Nursing from Mobile
College/Mobile Infirmary School of Nursing, Mobile, Alabama, in 1976; a Bachelor
of Science degree from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1979; a
Master of Science degree from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama, in
1984; and her postgraduate Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner status at the
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, in 1994.
During her nursing career, Pamela has been a Staff Nurse, Home Health Care
Nurse, Assistant Head Nurse, Obstetrical and Perinatal Nurse Specialist, Inservice
Coordinator, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Counselor, and she has taught at the
baccalaureate level in schools of nursing.
Pamela is the daughter of Dolores Pringle Merrick and Joseph Charles
Merrick, the wife of Herbert G. Rillstone, and the mother of Christopher Franklin,
Amy Nicole, and Ryan Joseph Rillstone. She currently resides with her family in
Jacksonville, Florida.
166




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