I trudged through those steel doors of the labor and delivery unit, my legs weak, my body unstable. It wasn’t the pregnancy weight that threatened my balance, but the weight of fear and sorrow.
You guided me to the delivery room, the one that stood hidden at the very end of a long corridor. The one that I assumed had been reserved for patients like me. Patients who would certainly leave the hospital with empty arms.
I entered that room already in the final stage of labor, and at 20 weeks pregnant, we both knew that my baby would not be coming home with me. Just two days earlier, I had heard the beautiful sound of my baby’s heartbeat, but there was no way to tell if it was still resonating from within or if it had gone silent.
As the contractions shook my body, you held my hand. As the doctor confirmed the death of my baby, you wiped my tears. As I lay in that lonely hospital bed, my body hollowed out by death, your words of understanding spoke to my soul. For you too had experienced the loss of a baby.
You asked if I wanted to see my baby and I said “yes,” while admitting that I was afraid because the doctor had discouraged me from doing so. You encouraged me and acknowledged my fear, while assuring me that there was nothing to be afraid of.
After momentarily leaving the room, you returned with my baby, wrapped in a blanket, head covered in a pastel bonnet. My baby who weighed less than a pound. My baby whose own breath had ceased, and had caused mine to temporarily do the same.
I watched as you held my baby, unfazed by the appearance of a tiny being born 20 weeks too soon. You stroked those itty-bitty fingers and toes. You talked about those eyes. And you told me my baby was beautiful, although the rest of the world would likely have disagreed.
As you placed my breathless baby into the palms of my hands, I too became breathless, afraid to move for fear of causing my brain to become distracted from engraving my baby’s image into my memory. We talked about how much more time my baby should have had to grow. To experience life. To know the sister who was waiting for me to return home.
You told me that my baby’s early death did not take away from the importance of his life. Your words were authentic, but it was the look in your eyes that validated this important truth. You treated my baby like a human being and you treated me with compassion as I had unwillingly become a bereaved mother.
Your love and compassion shined brightly during the darkest night of my life. You acknowledged my pain along with the beauty of my baby’s short life. My heart had broken the minute my baby’s had stopped beating. And as you held my baby, you also held my heart.
And now, I hold you in my heart. For I will never forget how you handled the two of us with such care.
I’m certain that I said “thank you” before I walked out of that hospital room. But I wanted to say it again. Thank you.