Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coping With Loss

This post was graciously written by Matt who blogs at The Playpen.

I know nothing about this subject. Do I have opinions? Yes. Am I comfortable sharing them with the world, knowing full well that, despite my daughter’s rocky and uncertain entry into this world, we are truly fortunate and blessed that things turned out the way they did? Not in the least.

Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of my daughter’s pre-term delivery, you can read about it here. To summarize, she was delivered at 32 weeks (3 lbs, 6oz) due to my wife’s increasingly threatening preeclampsyia. She spent six weeks in the NICU, but is now completely happy and healthy.

Unfortunately, there are many preemie parents who are not as fortunate as we were, and the topic of dealing with the loss of a child, especially one who was forced to enter the world through less-than-ideal circumstances is something that, frankly, I cannot begin to know how to broach.

I can say that I know what it is like to think you may lose your child. There is a phrase I have heard at least once a month since my little girl’s very first day of life. “The NICU is a rollercoaster.” It is a popular phrase because it is true. There were many times throughout her stay there when I felt I may need to begin the process of mentally preparing myself for the worst. There were also many times when I felt the same for parents of the tiny little babies living there with my daughter. Many.

I always wondered how I would behave and conduct myself were someone to lose a child there. I knew those parents. We talked. We looked at each other’s babies and discussed their health issues. We slept there at night, and sat quietly together in the morning–those times when the sunlight had just begun to flicker through the windows as the NICU still slept–when we all just sat in silence, thinking, reflecting and praying. We had a bond.

There were some close calls. I’ve spent a lot of time since thinking about what I could have possibly offered in the way of support had one of those parents lost their child. And I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I would have wanted had I. I have arrived at this conclusion. There would be nothing, nothing at all, that anyone could say to me to make me feel better had that unfortunate scenario played out. What I would have wanted, from the nurses, OT’s, social workers and other parents is comfort. I would have wanted people to listen. To give me their shoulder to cry on, but only if I wanted it. I would have wanted them to tell me that I shouldn’t worry about being strong for my wife at that moment, that it was OK for me to break down. I would have wanted someone to offer to go feed the dog, or sit with me quietly all night. I would have wanted someone to be angry with. I would have wanted someone to agree with me and tell me that I was being treated unfairly by life.

I was lucky. During those six weeks, all the babies made it, including my girl. But had they not, I would have made the best attempt to provide for those parents what I described as needing for myself. There is no possible way I can comprehend the heartbreak of losing a child, and hope I never have to. But I can promise you that I will do anything I can for those who do.

Matt Pfingsten is a St. Louis native who relocated to Los Angeles in 1993 to pursue a career in Marketing/Advertising. He has a daughter, who was born two months prematurely, weighing three pounds, six ounces. The early arrival of his daughter inspired he and his wife, Aline, to create RedSparks.com, an online baby boutique featuring clothing, gifts and accessories for micro-preemies to 4T. In addition, he and Aline co-author The Playpen, a blog dedicated to providing support, humor and resources to parents of preemies, infants and toddlers. His hobbies include playing guitar and piano, drawing, and chasing his daughter and dog around the backyard. You can also follow Matt?s daily microblog updates on Twitter @mattredsparks.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Matt.

matt said...

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to express my opinion on this issue. As I have commented before, this is a very touchy subject, and I applaud you having the guts to put it out there. Looking forward to reading more posts.