Life is full of pleasant surprises alternating with others that are painful. The painful events we attribute to the very essence of life, like the death of a loved one. We learned to accept such events as being out of our control. We mourn, cry and, eventually, time heals the emotional wounds and we remember the departed for the good memories we have of them. We never feel guilty about such natural events.
One of the most emotionally devastating events in a woman’s life is losing a pregnancy, an unborn child or a newly born shortly after delivery. The difference between a pregnancy loss and other life events is that, in pregnancy failure, the woman may feel guilty and responsible.
In our society, pregnancy is looked upon as a natural and normal event. When something goes wrong, the unspoken attitude is that perhaps the woman is not able to have a normal pregnancy. Since the woman herself never thought that her pregnancy might not be normal, she feels ostracized and guilty. Some time ago I wrote a blog on this site entitled: It’s Not Your Fault. You may want to review it since it is pertinent to what follows.
Most people take a proactive attitude towards their health. Health information is available all around us. Books, magazines, radio and TV programs, as well as Government agencies and private organizations, attempt to educate and inform us about our health, how to keep healthy, how to prevent an unhealthy situation. Most of us try to eat healthy, stop smoking or drinking excessively, exercise, and a multitude of other actions that we think will keep us healthy.
If we get sick, we don’t fall apart because we were supposed to be healthy. We try to learn as much as possible about what afflicts us, go to the doctor, take the prescribed medication, and hope our health returns to normal. In the vast majority of cases it does.
If you are pregnant, this sequence of events is skewed. Even before you got pregnant you “knew” that your pregnancy was going to be normal. So did your husband or father of the child, your parents, his parents and all your friends. Soon you will be making plans for your birthing experience, looking forward to your ultrasound to find out if it’s a girl or a boy, and making plans for your baby shower. Never, ever, did it cross your mind to ask your doctor or midwife –assuming you already started prenatal care- about what to look for in case not everything turns out not to be entirely normal. Chances are that, had you asked, they would have asked you back, why do you want to know? Many care providers are also brain washed by our society’s attitude, and don’t want to “scare” the prospective mother. They’ll deal with it, if necessary, when it happens.
This is, all around, a dangerous state of affairs. In a way it’s a deceiving game, betting on the fact that most pregnancies are normal. But lack of information can and will hurt, because you will be totally unprepared in the event there are problems. Needless to say, you don’t have to go to medical school to have a baby. You don’t need to know all the angles. You just need to be aware that, occasionally, things are not the way you want them to be. You’ll find out about the details when and if it happens. You don’t have to sign an “Informed Consent” when you get pregnant. In this case, a little bit of basic information goes a long way. Just the knowledge that not all pregnancies are normal will avoid the shock and despair if something does happen.
We offer and disseminate information on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a score of other public health problems, but not for pregnancy. This is the result of denial, societal bias and mores.
This societal attitude won’t change anytime soon. In the meantime, those pregnant women that unfortunately may fall outside the norm, are left to pick up the pieces struggling with their emotions and wondering what’s wrong with them. They were supposed to have a normal pregnancy.
SILVIO ALADJEM MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist and Maternal Fetal Medicine (high risk obstetrics) specialist, is Professor Emeritus in obstetrics and gynecology at Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine, in Lansing, MI. He is the author of “10,000 babies: my life in the delivery room” now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book stores. Dr. Aladjem published extensively in Scientific Medical Journals and wrote several textbooks in the specialty. Should you wish to contact him, you may do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read more of Dr. Aladjem’s posts on Imperfect Women by clicking here. Dr Aladjem also answers questions of medical interest related to pregnancy in a recurring post here at Imperfect Women. You can read more details about this feature and ask a question by filling out the form here.