When Pregnancy and Hospice Collide

Feb 10, 2011 | 0 comments

A recent online discussion at The Washington Post’s website, the Tell Me About It column by Carolyn Hax, looked at a young woman’s dilemma – she’s pregnant, lives far away from her parents, and just completed a visit on the East Coast with her father, who has had cancer for three years. He seemed relatively well when she left.

Shortly after she got home on the West Coast, her father was transferred into hospice to await the inevitable. She’s 33 weeks pregnant and wonders if she should make a mad dash back East to see him again.

When our cycles of living and dying converge, when Hatchings collide with Dispatchings, what takes precedence? How do we craft a good goodbye with these cards that life deals out? Hax offered some good information:

Even if you weren’t pregnant, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to travel to his side to say goodbye at just the right time. And being pregnant adds an extra reason not to make a “mad dash,” but it doesn’t preclude your going back for a short-notice but well-thought-out visit.

What makes sense now is for you to figure out what you’d want out of a return to his bedside. Do you want to make sure his whole family surrounds him when he goes? That, again, might not be something you can choose. Do you want to go once more to say goodbye? Then talk to your doc about traveling.

Or, are you confident he knows you love him, knows you’d be there if you weren’t 33 weeks pregnant 3,000 miles away, and maybe even would prefer that you stayed home and concentrated on your baby? Then give yourself permission not to go.

It’s obviously hard to think through intense emotions, but you have useful information available and you have a decision in you. It’s just a matter of slowing down enough to see it all.

A hospice physician also weighed in on the discussion with some good insights. Videotaping conversations and keeping in touch by Skype with video were two suggestions. Anyone have some thoughts on the topic they’d like to share?

A Good Goodbye