Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Should's and Shouldn'ts of Labor and Delivery

I have put off blogging this.. basically because i dont know what to say or how to best explain the situations i've seen over the past few weeks.. but i'll do my best.
(note: the only reason i'm referring to these babies as 'its' is to keep confidientiality. babies are not 'its' to me :) )

A few weeks ago, i experienced the first 'fetal demise' in my internship. a 'fetal demise' is where a baby dies, either in utero, is born dead, or dies shortly after birth. as social workers, we are responsible for counseling the family, offering the family a memorium of their lost baby, dressing the baby to take its picture (if requested), calling the mortuary, making arrangements, etc so the pain of the loss isn't so hard on the family. WELL.. luckily, most of that had already been taken care of, and i came into the situation on the tail end of this experience. we had met in care coordination for our daily meeting, and were informed that a baby had been born with a certain genetic disorder last night and had died a few short hours after birth. we had been informed of this days ahead and were expecting this mother and baby to come sometime soon. After most of the arrangements were made, my supervisor and i went to go visit this family. the family was still with the baby when we had knocked on their door, 16 hours after the baby had died. apparaently the mortuary had just arrived and the family was saying their final goodbyes, so my supervisor and i stepped out, out of respect, and waited.

     After the goodbyes were said, we walked the man from the mortuary with the deceased baby out into the staff hallways so he could successfully reach the hearse without being stopped along the way. it was so strange to me...waiting in the elevator with this man, holding this bundled up tiny little child in a blue blanket, my supervisor pulled back the front corner of the blanket and we looked at this darling baby's face. the baby had a white headband on with a flower almost bigger than its own head! but it was darling. since the baby had been gone for 16 hours, i was expecting the face and coloring to look worse... but it looked really good, considering how much time had passed. the baby was full term...and my thought was... this baby should be alive. the baby looked like it should be breathing..but it wasnt. the baby should be moving and cooing and yawning and fidgeting...but it wasnt. i was so used to seeing babies in their newborn cradles in the hospital moving around and looking every which way and sucking on their binky and screaming their heads off....all i could think was, 'this baby should be moving'. but it wasnt. it was still...and it didn't feel like a baby. it felt like a body. waiting in this elevator with this sweet baby...made me feel like it wasnt a baby at all. it was sort of just an object...(and i do not say that out of heartlessness or coldness).....but it was strange to me to feel that and conciously say that in my head...and i didn't realize until afterwards that of course it didn't feel like a baby. it was a baby...but that sweet spirit left the night before, shortly after it made its debut here on earth. that spirit was not present when i looked into that little babys face. it had left, and spiritually, i could feel it. i did not appreciate the tiny signs of life present in a newborn baby until i saw this particular baby. i now take note of every head turn, every blink, every breath that these tiny humans take, whenever i get the chance.

Another baby was born about a week after that one, that particularly pulled at my heart. this baby was only at 24 weeks gestation. anyone who is a mom or knows their baby stuff, knows that babies cannot survive outside of the womb that young. it is nearly impossible to keep a baby alive and healthy when it is not done growing. This baby decided to come suddenly, and the birth could not be stopped. the baby was breech and quickly pulled out, feet first. immediately rushed to the NICU, our team started working on the baby. Later that of my supervisors pulled me aside to go see 'the 24 weeker'. i was shocked. i have never seen something that tiny, living and breathing. its skin was loose and wrinkled, it was bruised and red and spotted from the rough delivery and uncomplete gestation period. its hands and feet seemed much too big for its body, and the diaper placed on this baby was about the size of my abnormally small hand, and even it was too big. the ventilator the baby was on was shaking its entire body, which normally wouldnt affect a full term baby. this baby was on life support, occasionally moving on its own and breathing big puffs of air into its tiny little chest. it was so tiny, and new, and not right. this baby shouldn't be alive. it was too tiny to survive in this big world! i was in awe just watching it move. my supervisor told me the baby had severe complications and would most likely not live, but it had a few more days left of fight in it before we were able to assess the situation further and figure out how much brain damage was done (it was extensive, this child would most likely have little to no brain function at all). The family of the baby was very positive and we felt like they would eventually decide to take the baby off the ventilator and let nature take its course. I have not been back to the hospital since my last shift, and can only hope this baby is where it is supposed to be right at this very  moment.

I have learned that things often dont always go like we plan... especially when God's hand plays a part and His agenda and will is much, much bigger than our own.


Lisa said...

I knew I should have stopped reading this when I realized what it was about. It is the weirdest and hardest thing ever to look at the baby that doesn't have their spirit joined together. Also, I might add, that when my family went through this my sister made a comment about how grateful she was for the pictures they took of her baby and how she would never have thought of that had it not been suggested by the hospital. I noticed that you said it would have to be requested and I would suggest if you have any sway in that decision that it be something that is OFFERED to the parents. They are so caught up in their grief they most likely won't be thinking about that, and it is a very compassionate thing to provide.

Amylee said...

That's why a baby's cry is the most precious thing in the world- especially its first.

Stranger in a Strange Land said...

Yes, a good lesson, dear although it probably didn't feel like that at the time.

Kindest regards,