By Mathew Wagner, Education Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.
This post is definitely the most personal…and probably the most painful…I will write. One of the reasons I am so ardently pro-life is because of my experience with our second child. Early in the pregnancy, there were complications…bleeding etc. but nothing prepared us for the news when we went for our 13 week check-up that we would never get to meet the child we were expecting. There was no heartbeat. Our baby was in heaven waiting for us.
I don’t tell our story for sympathy, or for condolences. I tell it because our experience sheds a unique perspective on a topic many are not aware of—perinatal hospice and palliative care. These services are available across the state, some through hospitals, and others through private organizations, for the families who receive the devastating news of a diagnosis of a major medical condition for their pre-born child. It is important to be educated about what these services are, so you can best help those who need them at a time they most need your support.
Perinatal hospice and palliative care offer compassionate support for all involved when a baby is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Specifically, perinatal hospice focuses on the whole family, while palliative care is focused more on the baby itself. This support is provided from diagnosis through the baby’s birth and death and includes planning for the birth, making medical decisions about the baby’s care (both in utero and after delivery) and helping the family grieve with memory making like photographs or hand prints/foot prints.
While there are programs designed specifically to support a family during this tragic time (a list can be found here), perinatal hospice is not a place or program, it is a state of mind designed to honor the baby as well as its family. It is an alternative to aborting the pregnancy that significant research has found to help the mother and family heal emotionally from a devastating loss.
I’m not comparing our loss to the experience of a family with a child much further along who could benefit from perinatal hospice and palliative care. Any loss of life is difficult to handle, and I can tell you that every year on the anniversary of that ultrasound, that day is a challenge to get through. I can also tell you that the only way we have gotten through that day, and those anniversaries since, is by the love and support of friends and family.
I would ask you to be aware of those around you who may be in need of such services and support them in whatever way you can.
Editor’s note. This appeared at paprolife.us.