Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birth Card

I sometimes think of grief as a place. It's a safe place where no one says anything "helpful" like, "Oh you'll have another baby." or "It wasn't meant to be." This grief place is big and has different areas. There's a beautiful garden for memories. There's a special boxing ring for beating yourself up. There's a meeting place where other grieving people show up for their own reasons and spend some time together. The meeting place is not in a church basement or a hospital social work department - it's in a cool café with good decaf lattés, a huge selection of herbal teas, and killer baked goods. My grief place also has a model of our hospital that I sometimes go into to think about that day. Early this morning, I was in that model thinking about what I would do differently (besides saving him from his umbilical cord).

The day Toren was born we were only there for about 8 hours. His delivery was "easy". The physical part anyway. I walked in that morning and walked out that evening. If he had lived, that would have made a pretty cool part of the story. I could be one of those moms who annoys other moms every time I mention it! Tee hee. Almost everyone we encountered at the hospital that day was kind and compassionate and gentle. I have complaints about two people but they don't work on the maternity ward. In my hospital model, those people get fired. Or, on a good day, sensitivity training.

There are a lot of little things I start with changing in my hospital model. Things that could help make better memories for parents, and I assume would make it easier for the staff to be able perform their duties during a very difficult time. It can't be easy to have to face parents in that situation.

Everything that happens after baby is born is crucial to the parents' grief process. In my hospital model, the birth cards are very different. When parents receive them, it doesn't add to their pain. Here are some details from the birth card we received for Toren:

This morning I was mentally designing a special birth card, one that doesn't have a cute picture of a stork delivering a, presumably, live baby. I could be wrong, but I've never heard of a stork delivering anything else. It's cute when babies are born alive, otherwise it makes me cringe. Perhaps a picture of a flower would work. Or something abstract. Actually, I wouldn't even mind a picture of a teddy bear. He was a sweet little baby after all.

We actually got two birth cards. The first one said "Baby Boy" with my last name. We hadn't decided on a name when we set out for the hospital. He was more than two weeks early and we just weren't prepared. (Man, were we not prepared.) I think the standard practice is to use the mother's name. That's fine. When I mentioned that his last name would actually be Pete's, they very graciously offered to make us another one. When we received the new one, I noticed that one of the fields which had been left blank on the original was now filled in:

According to wiki: "The Apgar score was a simple and repeatable method to quickly and summarily assess the health of newborn children immediately after birth  The Apgar score is determined by evaluating the newborn baby on five simple criteria on a  scale from zero to two..."

I can't come anywhere near imagining what the person who filled that out was thinking. Do newly bereaved parents really need to see this? Is this supposed to be helpful somehow?

I'm going to make Toren a new birth card. I can start with the one they gave us: Name of the hospital. Date. Birth weight, length, head circumference. I will leave out the space for "Discharge weight". It's always left blank so why have it there? Time of birth. Add a picture of a hummingbird or a teddy bear in the corner. Name of obstetrician. Name of delivering doctor. Nurses names, from what I remember. When I wrote my thank you cards to send to the ward, I had to guess at spellings and I kept doubting that I had gotten all their names right. It's hard enough to write that kind of thank you card without also having to worry about names. I wanted them all to know how much we appreciated everything they were able to do for us.

At this point, for me, it's all about minimizing regrets and creating memories and having outlets for my sadness. At least in my hospital model, in my grief place, I will be handed a lovely birth card for our sweet little boy.

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