Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

We Want What's Best for Our Baby: Prenatal Parenting of Babies with Lethal Conditions

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

We Want What's Best for Our Baby: Prenatal Parenting of Babies with Lethal Conditions

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article reports on qualitative research into the experience of couples who chose to continue their pregnancies after receiving a lethal fetal diagnosis, and to embrace the parenting of their bab}' in the shortened time they have. This analysis of interview data is part of a larger research project describing parents' experiences of continuing pregnancy with a known lethal fetal diagnosis (LFD).

Keywords: prenatal parenting, lethal fetal diagnosis, LFD

Pregnancy is a complex bio-physical and psychosocial process in which the goal for a mother is good health for her baby and herself (Côté-Arsenault, Brody & Dombeck, 2009; Rubin, 1984). The father, in relationship with the mother, is also experiencing psychological and social development as well as physical changes across pregnancy as he anticipates being a father with his partner (Conner & Denson, 1990; Valentine, 1982). It follows then, that when the couple learn that their unborn child has a life-limiting condition, the pregnancy experience is profoundly changed. The couples in this study chose to continue their pregnancies after receiving a lethal fetal diagnosis, and to embrace the parenting of their baby in the shortened time they have. This analysis of interview data is part of a larger research project describing parents' experiences of continuing pregnancy with a known lethal fetal diagnosis (LFD).

Review of the Literature

Given that prenatal diagnosis of lethal conditions is relatively new, little is known about the parents' experiences of continuing pregnancy with these diagnoses. Personal stories in the lay literature and social media are increasingly evident (Kuebelbeck, 2003; Kuebelbeck & Davis, 2011) but published research is primarily retrospective and focuses on the events surrounding the birth and death of the babies (Chitty, Barnes, & Berry, 1996; D'Almeida, Hume, Lathrop, Njoku & Calhoun, 2006). Two exceptions were identified. Lathrop and VandeVusse (2011) reported that in retrospective interviews of 15 women, all called themselves mothers and their child baby and they each assumed maternal roles. Côté-Arsenault and Denney-Koelsch (2011) reported their finding of arrested parenting when couple's reported halted parenting behaviors in their pregnancy with LFD as expressed in one-time interviews. What is lacking is an understanding of what it is like for both parents during their pregnancy and over time. This study aims to add these perspectives to our knowledge.

The experience of pregnancy has changed a great deal in the last quarter century (Feldhusen, 2000). Prenatal care within current traditional health care systems involves prenatal testing including maternal blood tests and ultrasound screenings of the growing fetus (Abramsky & Chappie, 2003). It is through this testing in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy that some parents learn that the perfect baby of their dreams has abnormalities that may be life threatening (Rubin, 1984). This news shatters dreams, transforms the pregnancy, and propels most into recognizing that their anticipated parenting experience will be cut short (Côté-Arsenault and Denney-Koelsch (2011).

The parenting literature is by and large focused on the role of parenting after the child is born, when there is bi-directional interaction between parent and child (Deave, Johnson & Ingram, 2008; Virasi, Yunibhand & Chaiyawat, 2011). The assumption is that parenting is a long-term developmental process that continues and evolves throughout the life of the child. By contrast, most pregnancy scholars see pregnancy as the time for preparing to become parents (Ammaniti, Trentini, Menozzi & Tambelli, 2014; Deave, Johnson & Ingram, 2008) but there are a few who take the view of mother, and sometimes the father, as actively parenting during pregnancy (Bouchard, 2011; O'Leary & Warland, 2012; O'Leary & Thorwick, 2008). This is referred to as prenatal parenting. …

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