: causing feelings of fear and wonder : causing feelings of awe
: extremely good
The day after I was supposed to give birth (see last post), was Valentine’s Day. It was also the anniversary of my grandpa’s passing 15 years ago. I knew, if there was going to be a day when I was going to be called to shadow someone for the perinatal hospice group “The Corner,” Valentine’s Day would be it. It’s the day of love and it’s the day that my favorite man of all time left us. My grandpa was the most caring, loving and sweetest man you could have met. He knew everyone; there wasn’t a place in or out of town he couldn’t go without someone knowing him. He was a kind and gentle soul and I wish everyone could have the opportunity to know someone like him. They are few and far between. I miss my grandpa daily and I’m always thinking of him. And I knew that he would have a hand in making my first experience with this perinatal group as comfortable as possible… So when I got the call that morning, I wasn’t at all surprised.
Hilary called me and said they had a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) at one of the hospitals and asked if I could meet her there. My heart started racing. I wanted to do this, but could I? The call came in around 8:30 and I had a physical therapy appointment at 9:30. I had to call and reschedule therapy for later in the day and after that was arranged, I called Hilary back and said that I could make it. I could do this. I got off the phone with her and forgot everything. I stood in my bedroom for a minute taking everything in. I was thinking, “How do I get to the hospital?” I couldn’t remember how to get to the hospital where I had been born, where I had been a hundred times, where my mom worked for over 20 years, where I had my miscarriages… I couldn’t remember. I started to panic. I sent my husband a text and then it was game on. I could do this. I finished getting ready and headed out the door. I’m not sure how I got to the hospital. I was praying to God, my grandpa, my babies and my Aunt to help me get through this and to help me help this family. I blindly arrived at the hospital and when I reached the ER of the hospital, I looked at my phone. The baby had been transferred from the hospital where I was at (Hospital A), to a different hospital (Hospital B) to be back with the mother. The mother had had the baby at Hospital B at 4:30 that morning. They transferred the baby to Hospital A because they have the best NICU in the area. Once the baby had passed on, they transferred the baby back to Hospital B. Hilary apologized asked me if I could go to Hospital B. I said yes. She sent another text apologizing again saying that this had never happened before and that she would be to the second hospital soon. I took a deep breath and headed in the direction of the other hospital. I was thankful that my first demise wasn’t at Hospital A. It was too close to home with memories of me being in the ER with my miscarriages, and since the meeting spot was supposed to be the ER, it would have been very difficult. I was thankful that I was taken in that direction to remember my little ones, though.
As I drove to the other Hospital B (which was about 20 minutes away), I took the back roads that I knew well, but hadn’t been on in ages. I went past my middle school, my grade school, my grandparents old house (a house I loved and spent tons of time at), even my preschool. And actually, before I arrived at Hospital A, I had passed my high school first. I don’t know why I found this amazing, but I felt so comforted by seeing all these places. I chronologically went back in time. All the buildings that I spent years in, all the places that I grew up. They lead me to this moment… and by having to go from Hospital A to Hospital B, I had to drive past them all. If I had gone straight to Hospital B, I wouldn’t have seen any of these places. This was a huge sense of comfort. My grandpa was with me on this journey. He sent me to Hospital A on purpose so that I would have a little more time to collect my thoughts, say more prayers and to see how far I’ve come. I wasn’t a little girl anymore. I’m so thankful for that extra 20 minutes.
I was the first one at the hospital. I was supposed to meet Hilary, the counselor, and Scott, the photographer. Once I’m done shadowing, it will just be the photographer and me. I’ll be doing everything that I’m watching Hilary say and do for these families. My job on this assignment was to just watch, take it all in, see how she did everything and just get acclimated to how they did things. Hilary arrived about five minutes after I did and she started to brief me on the baby and the family. The mom gave birth to the baby at Hospital B at 4:30 that morning (it was 9:30 by this time). The mom tried to deliver vaginally but the baby was too large… He was 12.5 lbs. His heart rate starting dropping and the hospital didn’t immediately take her for a c-section. When she was finally able to push him out (after they cut her and after he had no heart beat), they were able to resuscitate him. They air lifted him to Hospital A to the NICU. He died very shortly after arriving to the hospital.
When we arrived to see the family, the baby was still at Hospital A and we were still waiting on the coroner to bring the baby to Hospital B. The family was Hispanic and didn’t speak any English. We had to have a translator, which I think helped me process everything a little easier also. Hilary would talk to the mom and dad, saying how sorry she was and that she knew this wasn’t how they expected their day would go. The translator would then repeat what Hilary had said and the parents would respond. I think because we needed a translator, it made it easier on me. I couldn’t tell what the mom was saying, which would have been more heartbreaking for me. Obviously I didn’t have to understand what she was saying to see the heartbreak in her eyes and hear it in her voice. It was devastating. The father… I will never forget the look in his eyes. He was beyond devastated. He cried but tried to keep it together as best as he could. Their two other children were also there. The daughter was about 10 and the son was probably around 8. The kids were adorable and they were able to speak English well.
Before the baby arrived in the room, discussions on funeral homes and whether or not the family would donate the baby’s body for tissue. Hilary also discussed what we would do when the baby got there (after they had a little time with him). She told them how we would take hand and foot prints for them, as well as take molds of the hands and feet. We would also dress the baby (which, Hilary had to call her friend to quickly go buy an outfit for this little guy… The outfit that she brought with her was for a 0-3 month old baby; she knew it wouldn’t fit) and take as many photos as they wanted. The baby, Christian Isidoro, arrived about an hour after we did. When the nurse brought him in, she warned the mom that the baby was a lot darker when she had last seen him. She handed the mom the baby and the family came together at the bed and just sobbed. It was heart wrenching. The baby was big… a big, perfect baby. His complexion was a purplish brown… I don’t know if that was from the pressure being put on his head from the delivery or if this was rigamortis. He had big chubby checks and a full head of bright black hair. I’ll never forget his perfect lips and nose. He was perfect.
After about 15 minutes, Hilary asked if she could hold the baby and take it’s foot and hand prints. We have small keepsake boxes that we give the families. Each family would normally get an outfit for the baby, a bracelet or necklace for the baby, a bracelet for the mom, hat, booties, and a small blanket for the baby. They can get the foot prints and hand prints on the outside of the box, as well as having them on a piece of paper to keep inside the box. The molds get taken and put into the box as well. Hilary started by taking the molding clay out of the packaging and had the kids help her take the prints. They held the clay while Hilary pushed his toes and hands into the clay. She then took the hand prints and foot prints of the baby. During this entire time, Scott was taking photographs of this process for the family. When that was done, we were still waiting on the outfit for the baby, so Hilary asked if I wanted to help pose the baby for photos. I hesitated for a split second and then said yes. What I did was minimal… I moved the baby so that Scott could take better pictures of the baby’s hand and I pushed his little knees together to get a cute shot of the his feet. Because we didn’t have the outfit for the baby, there were only so many photos we could take until we had that. I then asked the brother if he wanted to have some pictures taken with his baby brother. He said yes. He laid his head next to his brother’s and touched his little hand. Scott took several photos of him and then his sister took her turn next to her brother. The kids just sobbed and sobbed… It was gut wrenching. After the sister sat up, I asked if she wanted to carry her baby brother to her mom. She said yes. I took the baby, wrapped the blanket all the way around him, and picked him up. He. Was. Heavy. Much heavier than I expected. I handed him to the sister and told her to be very careful and that her brother was very heavy. She had no problem bringing the baby to her mom.
Because we were still waiting for the outfit for the baby, Hilary asked if they wanted to have a priest come and bless the baby. They said yes, we put the call in for that. In the mean time, Hilary asked if she could pray with the family. Via the interpreter, Hilary prayed with the family. And I almost lost it. I started to head out the door and thought I would make too much noise, so I started to quietly pace and tune her out. Could I do that? Could I pray to God with other people? I can barely pray to God when I’m alone. How does she know what to say? The family sobbed and I was thankful for the breaks when the translator had to repeat the prayer in Spanish. I needed that time to calm myself down. A few moments later, the priest arrived and I stepped out of the room. I knew, I could not handle that again. I needed the break to collect myself before I completely lost it. From the hallway I could hear the mom’s sobs… She was crying so hard. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw five nurses and two people (male and female), both in suits approaching. I assumed they would be going past me, but when one of the nurses started to go into the room, I stopped her and told her the priest just arrived and they were doing a blessing. I asked if they could please wait until after that was done before heading in. I surprised myself by standing up for this family and giving them a little more time when the blessing was going on. I have no idea where I got the strength to tell these 7 people to please not go in the room.
The nurses scattered and the two suits stayed to talk to me. They wanted to know who I was and if I was with the family. I explained who I was with and what we did. I was talking to two high profile hospital executives and I thought they were there to console the family. I’m sure that’s why they were there on the surface, but I later realized they were there because they feared a lawsuit. I was a little slow on the uptake. They went into the room when the priest came out. They were in there only a minute, and told the family how sorry they were for their loss. When I mentioned to Hilary how I asked them to wait outside the room during the blessing, she said, “Thank you for being an advocate for the family.” They needed that time, and the family didn’t need them coming in at that moment.
Hilary’s friend showed up with an outfit for baby Christian. It was a six month outfit and it was blue with navy airplanes on it. Hilary had the mom hold the baby and had the sister and brother help get his little arms and legs into the outfit. It fit him perfectly. Scott took more photos of the family and it was getting time for us to leave the family (we had been there about 3.5 hours). Because they were donating the baby’s body for the tissue, the mom wanted to know how long she had with her baby and how long it would be until the baby would be laid to rest. The baby needed to be taken by at least 5:00 Pm because the tissue had to be harvested within 12 hours. We couldn’t get an answer as to how long until he would be laid to rest from there. After making sure we had one last family photo with all five of them in it, Hilary gave all of the family members a hug and told them again how sorry she was for their loss. Walking out of that room, knowing that eventually the mom was going to have to give her baby to someone and leave that hospital without him, was the hardest part of the whole experience.
I held it together the whole time, surprising myself. Whatever emotions I was going through, this family was going through it tenfold. Hilary told me that I would never forget this baby because he was my first and because he was such a big boy; he was the biggest baby that she had ever had and she’s been doing this for years. I remember thinking that I would never forget any moment of this entire day, but I also knew I wouldn’t forget any baby that I ever encountered through this process.
I talked to my husband that night about everything. The nights that followed were hard. I kept running the day through my mind and all I could see was his little face. I told my husband that I wish I could tell this family that they should file a malpractice suit… That they have rights that they probably don’t know about. I was tempted to contact a malpractice attorney, give them this couple’s name and number and tell him to call them and just ask about their recent delivery. I labored (no pun intended) over what to do… what was the right thing to do? I told my husband that maybe they shouldn’t go through a malpractice suit because they wouldn’t emotionally be able to handle it. What was the right thing to do? How do I be an advocate for this family? That’s what I was supposed to be, an advocate. What would I want if I were in their situation. Wouldn’t I want to know? Wouldn’t I want someone to tell me? My husband had a wonderful response… He said, “She would want him to be at rest.” And he was right. All that mom wanted was for her baby to be laid to rest. My job here wasn’t to go calling lawyers and get them involved in some huge lawsuit. My job was to comfort the family. And I hope in some small way I did.
I don’t like that this has to happen, but I do like the fact that I was strong enough to do it. I’m glad that my first baby in this hospice program was a big, healthy baby. I’m grateful for the way everything happened on this encounter. I believe having to go to two hospitals happened for a reason. I believe I got this big baby for the simple fact that if I saw a 15 week baby first, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle it. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Small things… like the room number being 490, a number significant to me, as well as the fact that everything was slowed down via translation… It all helped me help this family. And, in turn, it will give me the strength to be able to help many other families.