Mothers and Miscarriages

I noticed this story in the NYT the other day.   It recounts a story told by former President Bush during an interview about how his mother reacted following a miscarriage.  

It’s not so much the story that Bush tells that interests me as the NYT discussion of it here.    They paper uses it as a taking off point for a discussion about miscarriages and their aftermath.   The story discusses the grief and yearning that women experience as well as the attachment that develops during or even before the pregnancy. 

What’s striking to me is that the story is focused so exclusively on the effects of miscarriages on women.    I assume in many cases, there is a second person involved who expected to be a parent of the contemplated child.   And quite often that person would be genetically related to the child.   Generally, had the child been born this person would be father.   Surely it is noteworthy that the experience of that person is unremarked on and effectively invisible.  

I’d like to offer several observations/questions here.  First, it seems to me that the focus on the women who experience miscarriages is readily defensible.  Surely the experience is different and far more acute for them.   The experience of being pregnant must be different from the experience of expecting a child to be born without being pregnant, even if the non-pregnant expectant parent is deeply involved in the pregnancy.    The pregnant women’s relationship to the anticipated child must be qualitatively different.     This, of course, is consistent with my belief that being pregnant matters and that this needs to be recognized somehow in our calculations about parenthood. 

Second, I cannot help but wonder about whether the experience of miscarriage is altered if the pregnant woman was not planning to raise the child and/or was not genetically related to it.   There are at least three different possibilities to consider here:  a woman pregnant via a donor egg who intends to raise the child, a woman pregnant via a donor egg who is acting as a surrogate and a woman  pregnant via her own egg who is acting as a surrogate.   I do not know if these populations have been studied–perhaps they are too small, too scattered and/or too new.   But I’d be interested in the findings.

Third, I wonder about the reaction of all the other individuals involved.  Most obviously, I wonder about the reactions of the non-pregnant partner, where there is one.   This could be a man or a woman.   Do the reaction of the men differ from those of the women?   Do the reaction of men who are genetically related vary from those of men who are not genetically related?   Again, I doubt there is much documentation of this, but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.

And then there are those involved even more tangentially–I’m thinking here of those who might have provided gametes–eggs or sperm.   Often–maybe even typically–they wouldn’t even know about miscarriages.   But if they did, what would it mean to them?  

I suspect there aren’t general answers for any of these questions.   And many may be  beyond the interest of anyone doing research.  perhaps the only important thing is the one I raised first:  being pregnant matters.

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4 responses to “Mothers and Miscarriages

  1. Let me add to the list- a woman pregnant with an unwanted pregnancy. I have known some women who were relieved to have miscarried.

    Thus, I agree that the anticipation of parenting the living child is part of the bond of pregnancy.

    On the other hand, I have worked in an abortion clinic and almost all the patients come out sobbing afterwards.

  2. Women did not always give up smoking, drinking or heavy lifting for pregnancy, Until the latter part of the last century, women continued to scrub and cook lift toddlers just as they would if they were not pregnant – maternal care giving really did not start until after the child was born; the cord is cut and there ends the woman’s former life as an individual deserving of privacy or a moment of personal peace. The bond women form with unborn children while pregnant I think largely depends on her emotional and physical state – it is an entirely psychological bond and I think therefore subject to psychological stresses. You have not really explored the subject of women who fail to bond with their own genetic unborn children while pregnant yet on this blog. Those women often have relatives spouses or romantic partners and close friends that fear for the health of the unborn more than she does, and those people feel helpless to stop her from doing drugs or over eating or behaving in some other less than motherly fashion. Those people have somehow developed a deeper psychological bond than she has for whatever reason.
    I feel strongly that the law should still recognize her as mother of a child that she herself created. Many women can’t control their behavior over their own body even when they are growing someone that will soon seperate and be an individual. Many women would never put drugs in their child’s body after the child is born were unable to control their addiction over their own bodies while pregnant. Those women should be watched by CPS but they should have the right to raise their own babies until there is no other alternative. I also feel women who loose their parental rights should have the right to return at any point and try to prove themselves fit to parent or at least have liberal visitation. Lack of connection while pregnant does not always mean lack of connection for life and I think courts should be sensitive to that to preserve the child’s family. The child should be protected for its safety but not lied to the truth should not be concealed from the child.
    Sometimes raising a child has a more profound impact on maternal instinct than pregnancy. Its individual I think. Difficult to slap a statistic on.

  3. I’m glad you noticed that about New York Times reporting. I wrote about this on my blog back in 2004: Do Men Have Children in NYT Land? They systematically write fathers out of the equation every chance they get.

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