A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

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A Gentle Reply To Chuck Smith From A Perinatal Bereavement And Hospice Nurse

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel, shocked listeners on his “Pastor’s Perspective” call-in radio program when he encouraged a tearful mother to abort her conjoined twins. “Nicki from Riverside” was the distraught caller who is said to be pregnant with conjoined twins -babies sharing a body but have two heads and that she was being pressured by her doctors to abort them due to their assessment that the babies would likely not survive the pregnancy or live beyond a day if carried to term. At no time did Nicki indicate how far advanced her pregnancy was or that her life was in danger from the pregnancy.

Tammy Ruiz a Christian perinatal bereavement and perinatal hospice nurse offers a gentle but sound professional advice to this conundrum.

I am a nurse with a specialty in Perinatal Bereavement and Perinatal Hospice; I care for women experiencing pregnancy loss, infant death, and pregnancies where the baby’s life is expected to be brief. To me, there were gaps in this discussion and I would like to fill-in a few of them.

There was a time not long ago when expectant parents who were given grave prenatal diagnosis had to abort or struggle with their challenge alone, completely unsupported by the medical community. Nursing textbooks from the 50s told nurses to not let parents even see the “monstrosities”. In the last decade, a new model of care has evolved in Medicine & Nursing…that of Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care. There are professionals prepared to interact with parents from the moment that an adverse diagnosis is made. This model of care is not available everywhere but there are websites and organizations who do long-distance mentoring to people who don’t have a program available locally.

To me, the most alarming words spoken in the interaction between the caller and Pastor Smith where it was stated that abortion was acceptable because the baby’s “life expectancy is bleak”. If we believe that God is sovereign in all things, why do we act as if He is absent in this?  In my experience, rationalizing that abortion is acceptable in the situation reveals our fear of death and the unknown and doesn’t give God the chance to shine His light into the darkness of the situation.

When I worked for a hospice that cared for adults, I went into that job thinking that the biggest change I would see was the transition of the patient from life to death. After watching the dynamics of a few families over the course of the illness and death, I found that the biggest change (in my opinion) was in the caregivers. The family members tasked with the minute to minute care of the dying person often went into it saying things like “I can’t give them medicine, I can’t do that dressing change, I can’t watch them die, I can’t talk to them about thier death, I cant deal with them not eating…” and little by little they learn to do things they never thought they could do. On the day of the death, the grief of the fresh loss was the most compelling concern, but right behind that was an amazing sense of accomplishment that I saw in the caregivers…they did something bigger than they ever thought that they could do; and I believe this accomplishment goes with them into all the future things they do in life. This is one of the reasons I do not believe in euthanasia…what if when a person said “I can’t___” and we respond “You are right, you can’t, let’s off grandma” …we would cheat that person out of probably the most influential event of their lives and leave them fully convinced that they “can’t”.

I have mentored many parents through a pregnancy where we know the baby will not survive long…this is a difficult yet transformative experience. I have seen powerful, loving, meaningful, sacred parenting done in a few minutes of life. The fact that a life will be very short does not mean it is less important, I argue that each of those minutes becomes then more precious.

Part of what I do is to pull off the dark cloak of fear and unknown and ask them what most frightens them about the pregnancy & delivery. “I am afraid of who I will become” (She became a rather amazing person). “Will the baby suffer?” (The disease processes that end life at birth are most often not painful but in the event that pain is a possibility, palliative medicine provides liquid morphine and sometimes even intranasal aerosolized fentanyl) “Who will be there with me?” (I will and whoever else you want).  ”How will we know what the baby needs?” (The baby will tell us, we just need to learn what they are teaching).  ”How will I tell my other children?” (It is best to tell them the whole truth and then let them nurture you, they are wiser than you think they are). “My friends and family are so freaked out they wont even speak of it”. (Give them time, God will put other people into your path for now)

Excerpted From: bryankemper.com

One response to “A Gentle Reply To Chuck Smith From A Perinatal Bereavement And Hospice Nurse

  1. Pingback: Chuck Smith Encourages Grief Stricken Mother to Abort Her Baby! | Pastoral Musings

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