Microsoft word - 2.f.1)c. grieving childbearing issues part one.doc
GRIEVING CHILDBEARING ISSUES Part One
Birth To Three Newsletter, Eugene, OR: 1989
by Kathleen N. McGuire, Ph. D.
I would like to share with you my perspective on grieving, which I have developed
through my work as a therapist and through my own ten-year struggle withi nfertility. I
would like to share this because my own grieving has been the most profoundly enriching
experience of my life. Yet, prior to this experience, and certainly in the midst of it, I had
thought of grieving as only a negative, lost-time experience, better avoided if
In my own journey through grief, I was accompanied by a Jungian analyst and my
own work using Gendlin’s Experiential Focusing in the context of Listening/Focusing
self-help communities . I learned many, many things from exposure to the Jungian
philosophy, but most importantly, I learned that depression is a tunnel with light at the
other end. No matter how long or how dark the passage, there will
be an end to it.
Depression and grieving are also alchemical processes. The heat of the emotions burns
away the dross and leaves gold. Grieving is not just about loss. At the same time it is a
building. The very act of grieving through to a letting go builds new solid ground on
which to stand. Although this process is hard to describe, it is like the making of spiritual
Not the "You'll be stronger for It" (I don't want
to be stronger!) of our Puritan
heritage. Nor the "detachment" of Americanized Eastern philosophy (I don't want
detached!). But it is like these. It is a strength or ease in the world that comes from
learning that life is a process, that it does have peaks and valleys, that there will always
be more peaks and more valleys. It is a detachment that does not mean lack of emotion or
involvement but a greater ease in letting go, in moving through.
In speaking in this 'spiritual' way, I do not want to make light of the losses, especially
as these relate to pregnancy and birth and children who do not live. And I do not want to
take away the grieving and the validity of that infinite sadness. I only want to say that
there is a way through. That grief is a natural process, and, if you can allow it, it will give
you its own gift. And I only say this after going through years of grievous infertility,
divorce, the seeming loss of all possibility-only to emerge in the most glorious place of
happiness and simply having to say, "I would never have gotten to this
place, here, if I
had not been forced to go through the loss of everything that bore meaning for me in that
I would like to try to demonstrate from my own experience. Within my marriage, my
ex-husband and I tried to conceive a child, on and off, for ten years. I (we) went through
literally years of timed intercourse, hyper-awareness of bodily changes so that I was often
sure that I was pregnant, then the coming of menstruation, and the grieving for this
month's baby. Over and over again, the fantasied pregnancy and child, the loss and the
grieving. There were interludes when we stopped trying, and I underwent tests, and
surgeries. Finally, I was put on the drug Danazol to control endometriosis.
Simultaneously, I knew that I had to start plans to adopt a child should this attempt fail (I
The weekend that I started to take Danazol, my ex-husband's father died. We went
through the funeral and a couple of months. My ex-husband seemed withdrawn,
unavailable. I asked that we have couple's therapy, to find out how we could connect
around his grieving and to talk about moving forward with adoption plans.
At the first couple's session, he announced that he was leaving me. And he did leave
me that day.
He was overwhelmed by his own grief and could not handle the demands of
I felt as if I had just been notified that my husband and all of my children had been
killed in a car accident. I stayed with friends. I woke in the night and cried and cried and
shook with fear. I tried to figure out how to get him back, what to do. I cried all weekend
long and in between clients during the week. I cried and cried and cried and asked God to
help me through this (not because praying came easy to me but because I was desperately
We had time of reconciliation, then new losses. I looked desperately for a place where
I could have artificial insemination as a married but separated person, given that, at the
end of my Danazol treatment, I would have a few months to try to get pregnant before the
endometriosis came back. Somewhere in here, my cats died, I lost my apartment, the
transmission fell out of my car. Everything of my previous life was dying. I was sure that
I way dying. This process of grieving went on for over a year and a half.
However, eventually pushed out of the old apartment, as I had had to be pushed out of
the too-small marriage, I moved to a new apartment. It was better, more cheerful, rid of a
landlord-ogre. I made new friends. In my therapy, I discovered a sexuality related to
motherhood that I had never known existed and would not have known had I stayed in
my marriage. I lost ten pounds. I stopped being afraid to be alone and was really quite
And, finally, I adopted a baby as a single parent, the entire process, from firm decision
to a baby in arms, taking seven months. I've moved to a friendlier city, bought a house,
and am thriving with my child. I know that there will be other times of loss in my life,
other valleys, but I am less fearful. I have ridden major loss through to the end and know
that loss lived through builds firm ground on which to stand. I am a larger Self than I
would have been if not challenged by my grieving. And I am less afraid, more open to the
highs that can only come with the willingness to risk some pain.
In the next issue, I will describe how to grieve. Some books on childbearing and
Arthur, K. As Silver Refined: Learning to Embrace Life’s Disappointments.
Borg, S. & J. Lasker, When Pregnancy Fails.
Boston: Beacon Press, 1981.
Lerner, G. A Death Of One’s Own.
NY: Harper Colophon Books, 1980.
Limbo, R. & S. Wheeler, When a Baby Dies: A Hand book For Healing and Helping,
La Crosse, WI: Resolve Through Sharing, 1986.
Panuthos, C, & C. Romeo, Ended Beginnings: Healing Childbearing Losses.
MA: Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Inc., 1984.
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