See most people think of the Labor & Delivery unit as the happiest place of the hospital. And oftentimes it is.
But sometimes it isn't.
Sometimes we are hit with tragedy so mind-numbing that no one can explain. A baby no longer alive inside. A baby that survives only a few minutes. And it happens more than people know. But those parents who experience it...they know.
I got to know one particular set of parents experiencing this loss firsthand. I had the blessing of caring for them two days, a Wednesday and a Friday, a year ago May. I blogged about the first day, in fact. Read about it here as I explain how words are never enough. I remember several moments with them, but one stands out in particular. It was an embrace with the mother. I was helping her back from the bathroom, and she paused at the sink, swaying under the weight of the experience. I held her for what seemed like minutes, willing every ounce of my strength into her, her swollen belly making its painful presence known between us.
When you have experiences like that, you think about those couples often. Their faces etched in your memory forever. They will seem to appear in a crowd, and for a few moments you're lost in thought of where they are, how they are doing. Or you could actually see them, out and about, returning to a normal but changed life.
That was the case with this couple. A few months after they experienced the loss of their beautiful baby girl, I saw the father at Walmart. He didn't see me, and I paused for a few moments debating about whether or not to say hello.
Sometimes you don't want to spring memories on someone when they least expect it. I chose to walk away this time, not wanting to put him back in a moment if he wasn't ready. Instead I sent up prayers for him and his wife.
Months went by, over a year in fact.
And then yesterday, a coworker of mine was teaching a class to new nurse residents about our role in bereavement. She had invited some parents to come speak to the class about their experience. Unbeknownst to me, one of the mothers was this one I cared for.
My coworker informed her I was at work that day and asked if she would like to see me. Her answer was a shaky yes as she recognized the emotion and memories it would usher in. But she resolved that, yes, she would like to see me.
My sweet coworker came to get me, and as we walked down the hall to her, I knew exactly who it was.
After a quick hello, we embraced for a moment. Then, with arms still locked, she looked me in the eyes and, through tears, said the most beautiful things about the care she received from me. Words too precious for this screen, but they are forever etched on my heart.
I just kept thinking "She looks good. Really good." And she was strong, on the inside. You could see it in the softness and clarity of her eyes.
She shared with me the baby book she had made of their daughter. It was filled with momentos, written thoughts and memories, poems, and pictures of their sweet girl. I went through page after page embracing the tender moment of getting to talk with her about her journey through grief and healing. And how she is taking this experience to other mothers in similar situations. Even in her native country of Costa Rica! Teaching and educating about the grief process and rejoicing in the life that once lived inside her.
We chatted about life now, updates on her family and husband. We embraced a few more times. An embrace that has come full circle. It seemed she was almost giving back some of the strength received so long ago, a reminder to me of the power of God's healing. And the dear meeting came to an end.
I walked away fighting back tears, a heart so grateful it throbbed inside of me.