Nearly three years ago, when I found out I was going to lose my baby, I wasn’t feeling thankful for anything. I had spent 17 weeks preparing my heart to bring a new baby home, and I would spend the next 3 weeks preparing my heart to say goodbye. I walked into the hospital, in labor at just 20 weeks pregnant, feeling broken and lifeless.
The nurse assigned to me that night was years ahead of me in age, and with what I thought to be a stern look on her face, I didn’t think she would be able to relate to me. I remember being afraid that she would be callous and not understand the magnitude of my loss, the pain that I was in. Maybe it was her age that formed my perception. She was from another generation, I thought, and maybe she wouldn’t particularly care about the hardships of someone my age. Or maybe she had become hardened after years of being a nurse, no longer having the emotional stamina to work with care and compassion.
Those thoughts quickly came and went as the time to deliver my baby had come. My baby was born still that night and it was the most heart wrenching experience of my life. Despite my original concerns, there was no question that God had hand picked my nurse for me. It became clear that she was exactly the right person to assist a newly bereaved mom, and she provided amazing support during those hours I spent in the hospital.
Not only was she an advocate for loss moms, but she had experienced her own loss years ago. She shared part of her story with me and I was comforted by the fact that I was not alone, that someone genuinely understood what loss feels like. I was grateful that this woman, years ahead of me in age, could provide wisdom not only from her own loss experience, but also from years of working with loss moms. She knew that people wouldn’t know what to say or do, and that I would feel alone. She knew that this experience would change me and that I would never return to the person I had been before loss. She knew that I would want to see my baby.
Although my doctor had discouraged me from seeing and holding my baby, my nurse encouraged me to do those things. And honestly, I knew I wanted to do those things too, but my doctors words of discouragement had made me second guess myself. Her words had made me feel fearful of what I would see. My nurse gave me the courage to disregard my doctor’s words and before long, I was asking to see my baby.
My nurse stayed well past her shift in order to provide support while I spent a few minutes with my baby. I had asked her to stay because, over the course of several hours, she had earned my trust. And she stayed without complaint. Without seeming burdened. Without rushing through the process. She handled my baby with care, gently pointing out the beauty of this baby gone too soon. Tiny feet with tiny toes. Tiny hands with tiny fingers. Arms and legs, eyes and a nose. She told me my baby was beautiful, even though a baby born at 20 weeks gestation isn’t generally considered to be a thing of beauty. But she knew that I thought my baby was beautiful and she knew that hearing the same thing from someone else would matter. My nurse took pictures of my baby, knowing how important those pictures would be; the only tangible evidence that my baby existed.
In the midst of loss, I was thankful for a nurse who showed great compassion for me, someone she had never met, and would likely never see again. I was thankful for a nurse who took the time to sit with me, to talk with me, to witness my tears and listen to my sobbing. I was thankful for a nurse who handled my baby with care and wasn’t afraid to hold or touch a tiny baby that many people would be repulsed by. I was thankful for a nurse who knew the significance of my baby’s life and who understood that I was experiencing the worst night of my life. I was thankful for a nurse whose eyes welled up with tears, who hugged me and who did not treat my experience as “just another day at the office.”
In the midst of my loss, I was simply thankful for my nurse. And I still am.