Monday, October 29, 2012
We went back yesterday. To the Brigham and Women's Hospital. The NICU and Labor and Delivery floors hosted a Service of Remembrance. On the way in Josh and I were questioning how many people would be there. Clearly, sadly, we could not be the only family whose baby died there this year...yet how many would go to this? I really was hoping that there would be more than just a few families there - for some reason. Somehow I thought it might feel less awkward if all eyes were not on us.
The elevator doors opened to Maryann. Maryann who handed me my sweet baby Ethan to hold for the first and last time. The Maryann I handed my baby to after he died. The Maryann who placed her gentle hand on my should and said that Lord's Prayer with us as we baptized Ethan. She immediately embraced Josh, and then me. She warmed right up to Caroline, Jackson & Ryan - casually helping me wrangle them as we registered at the table.
I thought we might run into some of the staff we knew, I had hoped we would. But then there she was - one of the few people on this earth who had actually met Ethan. It was a bit of a punch in the gut when I saw her...part of me was brought right back. The last time I saw her she was handing us a light blue memory box, with a few momentos - a clip of his hair and his footprints. But then the love came forward and I was happy to remember that moment, and happy to see our Maryann. Turns out she is the one NICU nurse on the bereavement committee - just so happened she was assigned to Ethan the day we took him off of life-support.
I looked around and the room was actually a lobby. There were going to be a lot of people there. Perhaps more than 150 total.
They had volunteers to the side with kids' tables and activities. Caroline was very happy there.
The service started and one of the high-risk OBs did an introduction. He immediately started to cry, acknowledging that this is the one time each year he does so in a public speaking forum. He said that he is an experienced public speaker, yet appreciates that this is the one place he gets emotional. It's touching to see a distinguished man, of professional stature, crying at our pain.
A few readings later it was time for parent reflections. As discussed in an earlier post I had written something. 5 parents spoke, just five. Josh and I being among them.
I read my letter to Ethan. Cried during it, blubbered a bit at the beginning. The staff next to me were crying and lots of people in the audience were crying too. But I am proud that I spoke, it was the right thing for me. Then Josh spoke - he prayed actually. He wrote a poem, it was breathtaking. I am so proud to be his wife, to have had four children with him. I am honored really.
I looked out across the sea of faces there, all members of this terrible club we cannot escape. The pain was in the faces there, the sadness was palpable. But the love and strength in that room was undeniable. We all get up each morning, get out of bed and breathe in and out. Many there had other children present, though many did not. I saw the loving, longing looks of those in the room. Those who should have little ones to hush or entertain but did not.
Each baby's name was read as their families placed a star on the wall in their honor. There were 3 Ethan's named. 3 Ethans died. Unbelievable. There was a Samantha - that was the name we were going to give to Ethan if he had been a girl. There were 2 families who had all 3 triplets die...unbelievably devastating. The family sharing the table with us had lost one of their twins. There were a lot of babies honored and remembered.
Afterwards several people thanked Josh for his prayer...clearly he brought many a sense of peace. People thanked me as well, saying the words were reflective of their own pain and love. One man who spoke with me spoke of losing his daughter Jilly 3 years ago. Her name was Jillian, though they affectionately remember her as Jilly. You know, the love that goes into developing the nickname for your child. His sweet Jilly, gone far too soon.
Anyway, it was a beautiful day. The older kids left with a sock monkey each - a gift from some toy company. Ryan chose to finally experiment with his voice during the quiet service - figures. Jackson went to the bathroom a million times. But I wouldn't have changed any of it, besides our cause for being there. How blessed I am to have someone to hush, to have someone to take to the bathroom at inconvenient times. Trust me, there were many in that lobby who would longed to be the ones at the back of the room entertaining children.
Recognize your blessings all...and try to lesson your complaints. Parenting isn't easy, but you are blessed to have that responsibility. Be thankful that you are pregnant, even in its challenges. Be thankful that you have an annoying toddler throwing a tantrum. Please remember that, as there is a large club of people who long for that honor.
It was a lovely event. That's what the valet called it. "Are you here for the event?" Guess so. I am thankful we went.