Miscarriage and Stillbirth: The Changing Response

Article excerpt

Miscarriage and Stillbirth: The Changing Response. By Bruce Pierce. Dublin: Veritas Publications, 2003. 144 pp. $16.19 (paper).

I was not aware of it so much after my own miscarriage, but following the miscarriage of our first grandchild, I realized how many women carry the "great secret." Having earlier announced the joyful news to the congregation, I had to share with them the news of our daughter's miscarriage. The number of women who subsequently shared a similar story was legion. None of them had ever talked about it before. Too often, miscarriage is a secret buried more deeply with each passing year, festering silently and perversely filling the void left by a lost child. Now into this darkness breaks a book that cracks open the guilt and shame, imparting an empathetic witness to the devastation of this unique grief.

Miscarriage and Stillbirth explores all facets of the "great secret," naming the grief, affirming the loss of a child, and recognizing the wounding furtiveness often suffered by parents. Brace Pierce, a chaplain at the Toronto General Hospital and formerly the Church of Ireland chaplain at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin, has extensively researched the subject of this comprehensive book, which is simple (but not simplistic), readable, and comforting. It should be used by healthcare providers, pastoral counselors, and clergy. Most importantly, it will be helpful to families in their journeys of grief.

Avoiding conflicts over abortion and controversies over when life begins, Pierce focuses on the heart of pastoral concern: a mother and father, bearing the promise, once joyfully anticipating the birth of a child, are now bereft of their hopes and dreams. In one chapter, after he discusses the evolving understanding of this grief in the twentieth century, Pierce describes the journey's goal as "forging new bonds of relationship with the deceased child" rather than forgetting. Since a strong physical, emotional, and spiritual bond forms between parent and child during pregnancy, a unique grief results when the process does not result in live birth. In perinatal death there are no tangible memories, only the loneliness of not being able to share the common memory of a living child. Parents, observes Pierce, must say "goodbye" before they even say "hello. …