• Fri. Aug 5th, 2022

Indianapolis lawyer creates support group for attorneys in pregnancy loss

In a two-day trial, family law attorney DawnMarie White suffered her first miscarriage.

Not realizing that she could speak to the judge in private, the young lawyer informed the judge in front of the opposing lawyer that she might need a break during the trial if her doctor’s office calls or if her body goes wrong. ‘stopped.

“For the most part, all of the lawyers were very nice and not necessarily accommodating, but they did what they could,” White said. “But there was a colleague who over the years, even still, has not been a very good colleague and tried to talk about it at inconvenient times to make me lose my game before the hearings.”

The following year, White and her husband had their first child, whom she describes as “healthy, happy and perfect.” But another pregnancy loss early last year has left White struggling over who to confide in.

“It gave me the impression that all of my colleagues know that this information about me may not be the best choice,” she said. “But I knew I needed support and we were locked in, so there wasn’t a lot of support anywhere.”

White eventually posted an article online about her experience, but it also left her wondering if another lawyer might be trying to use the information in the same way. Although she was referred to a local support group, White said the possibility of meeting a potential or opposing client might be uncomfortable later.

“I thought it would be really nice to have other lawyers who understood what I was going through and who I could talk to, but also, it wouldn’t be a problem in court,” she said.

After coming up with his idea for an attorney-based pregnancy loss support group with the Indianapolis Bar Association, White was given an emphatic “yes” to set it up.

A secure space

Offered through the IndyBar, the new support group provides a safe and supportive environment for up to six lawyers suffering from infertility and pregnancy loss. Participants can participate in peer-led and facilitator-led sessions during the group, which White says will be kept small to allow participants time to share and be heard.

Indianapolis attorney John A. Kassis, Wanzer Edwards PC and White’s firm, Emswiller Williams Noland & Clarke LLC, serve as financial sponsors for the group. The group facilitator is a licensed clinical social worker who helps participants engage by suggesting topics to get them talking and leads the group thoughtfully throughout the discussions.

Group meetings started in March and are held twice a month for four months. White said the participating lawyers have been supportive, empathetic and caring for each other.

“It’s kind of cool because even though (the group has only met) a few times, this is one of those situations where you start talking to someone about this experience that you share and there is has an almost immediate connection, ”she said.

White wanted the Pregnancy Loss Support Group to be a place for lawyers to remove the force mask worn in front of clients in a professional setting.

“I wanted a place where lawyers could come and be, whether they were unhappy, mad, frustrated, annoyed or happy. Anyway, ”she said. “They get to be the way they are.”



Speak in silence

It is essential to ensure that people who have experienced pregnancy loss have the ability to express themselves in the best way for their personal healing, said Jennifer Bute, Ph.D., and Maria Brann, Ph.D. ., professors in the Department of Communication Studies. at Indiana University School of Liberal Arts-Purdue University of Indianapolis.

In their research on communication about miscarriages, Bute and Brann discovered a culture of silence surrounding pregnancy loss. What’s interesting, they said, is that while no one seems to be talking about it, infertility and miscarriages are incredibly common.

“People are afraid in a lot of ways to talk about it because you combine things like death and reproduction and all these issues that are silenced anyway, and when you put them together people just don’t know it all. just not how to speak. about it, ”Brann said.

A recent series of three studies published in the medical journal The Lancet found that one in ten women miscarry during her lifetime. But while the traumatic experience is common, studies have concluded that the impact and consequences of miscarriage are underestimated, resulting in a “fragmented” and “inconsistent and poorly organized system of care and attitudes. To the loss of pregnancy.

Lancet researchers are calling for “a complete overhaul of the narrative around miscarriage and a complete overhaul of the medical care and counseling offered to women who miscarry.”

Finding the right words to say – or say nothing at all – is one of the first hurdles to overcome, Bute said. Validating someone’s experience is key to providing support, but well-meaning responses can often be more harmful than helpful.

“(For example), ‘Maybe it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘You can try again.’ These are messages that the women in our research described as not helpful, ”Bute said. “You could say, ‘What would you like to talk about? “Or” How can I support you? Or, just giving them space to speak while we listen.

White agreed, noting that people often look for clichés or platitudes that aren’t particularly heartwarming.

“It doesn’t help me when you say, ‘Your baby is a better place now.’ I think my arms are the best place for my baby, ”White said. “A lot of people unfortunately come from a good place, but they don’t always respond in a helpful way. “

Show support

While parental leave has started to appear in recent years in law firm policies for two new parents, rather than in traditional maternity leave, some law firms already have policies on the books specifically for parenthood. loss of pregnancy.

Taft Stettinius & Hollister has a pregnancy loss policy that allows at least two weeks of paid leave for employees who experience a miscarriage. The process is discreet and completely confidential, said managing partner Bob Hicks. The policy is aimed at all families and all partnerships.

“While we do disclose the policy and it is open, we do not disclose the results beyond someone we trust to administer it,” he said.

For White, her smaller law firm gave her the time and space she needed to heal emotionally and physically, allowing her colleagues to take charge of her workload during her last miscarriage during the pandemic. .

“It actually happened on a morning that I was supposed to be in a trial. So another lawyer went to Zoom and said, ‘She can’t be here, there’s a medical problem, we need a continuation,’ “she said.” I really have lucky to be with my business.

Seek healing

While some lawyers immediately responded to the idea of ​​joining the new pregnancy loss support group, White said others were more hesitant and some reached out but disappeared. It’s good and understandable, she said.

“Especially as a lawyer, it’s really hard to open up in this way about something so personal, especially with someone you don’t know,” she said.

If funds are available to hire another facilitator, a second round of the group will be organized in the future with availability for anyone who requests to join.

“I think it’s imperative that everyone has a place where people can share their thoughts,” White said. “It’s the kind of club you don’t want to be a part of, but you are and you are grateful to have the club around you. “•