Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No Psychological Risk in Children Born After a Stillbirth

This study on children (and their mothers) born after a stillbirth, is from July 2009 (hmm...am I a little behind? Yes.), but it's still interesting.

When I was pregnant with James, I (and my husband) was terrified that, among many other things, we would view the new baby as a replacement, or that we wouldn't be able to love him as much as we loved Ben, that my anxiety during the pregnancy would have a negative effect on him.

None of that came true: James is his own, unique individual, happy-go-lucky, sweet, funny, and one of the loves of my life. I can't imagine not having him here.

So I was interested in reading about this study, from The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, of mothers who experience a stillbirth and go on to have another child. It states that "There is no evidence that children next-born after stillbirth are clinically at risk compared to children of non-bereaved mothers."

But it goes on to say:

"However, the study did find evidence of less optimal mother-child interaction. Stillbirth can be a major psychological trauma to parents. Anecdotal accounts have suggested that children born subsequent to stillbirth of a sibling may be psychologically vulnerable. . . . 
The researchers found no significant between-group differences in child cognitive or health assessments, or in teacher-rated child difficulties. However, mothers in the index group reported increased child difficulties, in particular peer problems, and there were higher levels of maternal criticism of the child's actions."

I'm not sure I understand why a mother would be overly critical of her rainbow baby, but perhaps it's not for me to understand. All I know is I adore my rainbow baby, I'm no more critical of him than his sister, and that James has brought me more joy than I could have ever dreamed of after Ben died.

I know, without a doubt, just how damn lucky I am to have him. I wouldn't change him if I could and every day I say a prayer of gratitude to whatever gods there be that I have all of my children in my life.

For those of you who have had a rainbow baby, how do you feel about what this study says? Does any of it resonate with you?

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