Wednesday, October 8, 2008
That's what the teenage girl's shirt said. "RIP Nevaeh" underneath a picture of the pretty little baby whose isolette I had walked past every day for the past three weeks. I had never seen this girl- obviously the baby's mother- before this day and, I won't lie to you, the whole event left me a bit appalled. To me, to my husband, to the nurses, to, well, just about everyone, it seemed a tasteless testament to this little child's short life. But perhaps it was the best way this 15-year old knew to pay tribute to one of her twins, now lost.
When our daughter was born on Christmas Eve, we climbed aboard the preemie roller coaster and certainly went for the ride. Lots of ups and downs awaited us over the next few weeks. Little C's health faltered and things got scary at times. We also watched babies around us come perilously close to letting go. But, for some reason, that first five weeks or so was like a honeymoon period. From all six combined NICU modules, no babies were lost. Certainly there were crises, but all those babies survived. We breezed through January, not without trial, but without any losses.
And then the first week of February came. Six babies died that week. Two from our module.
Nevaeh was the first of the six. You always knew when something bad was happening in the NICU. There are basically two reasons that the NICU would be closed off from visitors, even parents there to see their babies. Either a major surgery was happening and it was too risky to transport the baby out, or a baby was breathing his or her final breaths. At our hospital, you knew a surgical procedure was happening because they would stretch tape across the door and attach a surgical mask. When there was no mask but the door shade was down... well, it made your heart sink every time you saw it.
Over the next several days, I want to address coping with others' losses. While certainly not even close to losing your own child, it is a staggering experience and it can leave you feeling sad, guilty, confused, and (yes) lucky. I encourage any of you who have experienced watching a friend or acquaintance lose a child to add your two cents. Even if it's just to say, "I had no idea what to say." We knew three of the families who suffered losses, all to varying degrees. I'll share the stories of how I felt when it happened, how I got ahold of my own emotions and what, if anything, I offered to comfort the families. I'll also be sharing a thoughtful guest-post written by Matt who blogs at The Playpen.
Thanks for reading and helping me take on this very delicate topic.