I didn’t change into scrubs. I wanted my role to be clear- I was there for support, a visitor. My hospital badge was the only tell of my other identity. I stood there in my skirt and ankle boots, making soothing sounds, giving suggestions and just simply being there for her.
This was her rainbow. I had been there to welcome her first born into the world six years ago. A few years later I welcomed her second, born sleeping, into the same hands that caught her brother. She knew her baby was going to die; an extra chromosome diagnosed midway through pregnancy foretold the outcome, but her the hurt and pain was no less than had her loss been a surprise. Now years later she was laboring hard for the rainbow child she nervously awaited. She had asked me to be with her at the birth, knowing my story and thus knowing what she was asking. I said yes, because that’s what you do for another babyloss mom.
Originally, when I figured I’d be ready for call by September, the plan was to induce her on my call day, but that plan had to revised when I came to terms with my inability to attend birth at this time. I gave her my cell phone and would come if I could. All day I saw patients and all day her induction poked along, her uterus waiting for my arrival before really kicking in. On my way to the hospital, I was on the phone with my fellow midwife.
“How are you feeling about this?” she asked, probing.
“Honestly? I’m trying not to think about it until I get there.”
Live in the now. The only way to survive. I knew this would be a test of sorts, to see how ready I was for birth. It was also a good faith show of effort. “See? I’m trying!” my actions shouted.
While she labored, I felt detached. I tried not to think about how just a few rooms away I had done the same for my baby; I tried not to think about what would come next. I was mostly successful- my feelings disconnected from my words and motions. I felt empty, like a robot, doing what I knew I was supposed to be doing. It didn’t feel good. I have spent many long nights, with laboring patients, feeling somewhat aloof- I hadn’t bonded despite my efforts- but I now felt disconnected on a whole new level.
After the telltale “I can’t do it anymore!” she started bearing down and I knew birth was imminent. I helped hold her leg, watching the glistening dark hair of a baby make its way down the birth canal. Baby tumbled out and the midwife brought him right up to her belly. After a tense moment of silence, the cry of a newborn pierced the quiet room. I slowly put down her leg and backed away into the corner, where I found a chair to support me. Tears rolled down my face and snot clogged my nose. I tried to sniffle quietly, embarrassed by my tears. I didn’t want to take any of the attention away from this mom and her rainbow but I sat there sniveling, thinking of my poor baby, who took her last breaths down the hall. Thinking how unfair it was that I have to live life without her, that her absence weighs so heavy on everything I do. Thinking how sad and angry this birth made me, when it should have been nothing but beautiful. Thinking how this scenario of a rainbow baby, of finding joy again in the delivery room, seems so unattainable. Feeling selfish and ruined.
Birth lost its magic.
Reading my thoughts, she said through tears of her own, “Meghan, it’ll happen to you. I promise. You’ll get one too.”
The baby went to the warmer to be weighed and as the nurse helped mom get into a dry gown in preparation for some skin to skin. I walked to the warmer and picked up the little warm, squirmy being. I held him in my two hands a few inches away from my body, walking to her and presenting him like a freshly baked apple pie. No cuddling, no warm body against my chest- those were things I did with Mabel and I want no other baby to taint those memories. I quickly delivered him to his mother, proud that I could say at least I held a baby. I tried.
I didn’t stay long. My work was done- her baby arrived safe and alive. I said my goodbyes, not wanting to talk about the experience with anyone. In a way I was glad some of my colleagues witnessed my raw reaction. I can usually hold it together in the office quite well, wearing the mask of normalcy that babyloss moms are all too familiar with, which is good for functioning but bad for letting people know how I really am. There is something more telling in watching my tender breakdown than hearing me say “I’m struggling.”
I went home to Chris, too spent to even debrief with him. All I wanted to do was hold my puppy. She’s not as docile as a baby, but she’s warm and fuzzy, and she loves me back.
Have you do something hard since your loss? What did the experience tell you?