Editorial: Grief, Fear and Pregnancy
Creating a Haven in Troubled Times

by Jennifer Rosenberg

[Editor's note: This editorial appeared in Having a Baby Today Issue 3, Autumn 2001.]

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I am pushing my planned editorial on instinct and birth to a later issue in order to talk about what individual parents can do in these troubled times to create safe havens for our youngest children.

In pregnancy, we often tell pregnant women that being happy, reducing stress and eating a nutritious diet are the best things a woman can do to ensure the health of her unborn baby. But in the face of national or personal tragedy, all three of those things come under attack. Happiness is a thing gone by. Stress is constant as we watch and wait and our hopes fade. It is hard to be interested in food, and the foods we do crave are often less-than-nutritious comfort foods.

So how can you, a pregnant or nursing mom, make a haven for your child in the face of such an all-encompassing tragedy? In the face of fear of war, anger, grief and the ever-present human suffering? When I was pregnant, sometimes a Kodak commercial could make me tear up. Not pregnant, the sight of firemen and rescue workers braving collapsing buildings in the hope of being able to save someone—anyone at all—makes me weep.

There is nothing that we can say or do to minimize or reduce the scope of the tragedy at hand. But there are many, many things we can do to reduce the health effects of our own reactions without diminishing those reactions.

We need to attend to our basic needs. Consider each glass of water you drink, the vitamins you take, the food you eat to be acts of patriotism if that is what you need to do to get a balanced diet when you just want to crawl under the covers and eat chocolate. Consider every time you exercise to be a statement to our unseen enemy that we will not be weakened, we will not be undone by terrorism. The health of each individual body is as critical to our survival as any military strength or political muscle. Consider it also to be an act of self-love, a demonstration that you, a mother, are worthy and deserving of the best care.

We need to allow ourselves space and time to grieve. Do not stifle your tears. Do not be afraid to cry. But we also need to replenish ourselves; drink water to replace lost fluids.

Look for joy wherever you can find it. Even this black cloud has a silver lining. Look for the stories of heroism. Look for the stories of love. Look for ways of making good out of this great evil. As the dust settled last week, countries that have long reviled us—long-standing enemies—offered their hearts and support to our country. Let that hope sustain you, remember that there is also love in the world, and do not be afraid to bring your children into it. We cannot guarantee our children safety, but we can guarantee them that we will do our utmost to give them a haven filled with love and hope.

Let the stories in this newsletter renew your focus on birth and provide you with inspiration for your own pregnancy, your own labor. In the face of great hatred and sorrow, we must start at the very beginning of life—one child at a time—to create love and understanding. Gentle birth and instinctive parenting are good places to start.

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