I could only see the ceiling tiles as they rolled me down the hallway, the lights passing in fluorescent blobs. As we turned the corners, I worked to steady my hips on the wedge holding them at an angle upward so they were slightly above my head. The contractions that had been pulsating through my back all morning had subsided slightly as we made our way to the room.
Later, I would understand that the temporary relief was related to my son losing all the waters in his amniotic sac. Later, labor would continue anyway. Within 18 hours of arriving I’d be giving birth to my twins, at only 16 weeks and 1 day.
There is no denying that our world changed on that crisp April day. No way around the tragedy of it all. Our very much wanted, very hard fought for, very early twins were born before they could survive. But after immersing myself in the pregnancy and infant loss communities, and listening to the stories of so many untimely births, I appreciate even more the dedicated care of the nurses that cared for us in those days. And I want to thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for being angels in the room.
Thank you for treating us with humanity. Thank you for leaving terms like “fetus” and “miscarriage” to the doctors. Thank you for instead talking about my babies, calling them our son and daughter by their names. Thank you for calling the event a birth. Because it was. Because my body rocked with contractions. Because my children slipped out whole-bodied, complete, perfect, but unready. It may not seem like it, but your simple shift in words allowed us to embrace our birth experience. You allowed us to recognize that despite, being six months early, our children were born. They were still very much born.
Thank you for acknowledging their life as important. Thank you for providing us with hospital bracelets even though they didn’t fit their wrists. Thank you for giving us blankets, and teddy bears, and keepsake boxes. Thank you for taking pictures of us as a family and of them together as siblings. I look at those photos all the time. I framed one of my husband and I holding them. In the photo, you not only captured the heartache but also the wonder on our faces as we saw our first-born children.
Thank you for giving us the dignity of being seen as a family. Thank you for allowing us to stay for two extra days just so we could hold them. Thank you for entering quietly to check on how we were doing. Thank you not pushing to take them out of my arms but for gently securing them when I finally rested. And when I woke up after three hours, in the middle of the long night with a burning hole in my heart, thank you for retrieving their sweet bodies and handing them back to me. Thank you for letting me know it was OK to hold them and rock them and kiss them. Thank you for letting us bond with them for the short time before they would no longer be in our arms.
And I want to especially thank the charge nurse.“Schulzie,” she told us to call her. I don’t know if you remember me, but perhaps this part of the story will remind you: You rushed into the room 15 minutes after my son had been placed in our arms. The plan was to lay me back on my head in effort to save my daughter. I planned to lie there for three months. But as I held my son, my soul wracked with indescribable grief, my body started contracting again.
“Nurse!” I screamed handing our boy to my husband. You rushed in. You helped me lay back as my hands instinctually cupped her body rushing out. I wanted her to go back in. You swooped her up. And when you handed her to me, I looked at you and said, “But her heart is still beating.” With complete gentleness, you said, “I know, hold her close,” and covered my hand over her. You knew her heart would only beat a moment. You knew I would see it stop. You recovered that moment for me. I see your face and all its gentleness whenever I think about that.
But, you gave me even more.
You saw me and you told me. As your shift ended you sat on the corner of my bed. You didn’t tell me everything was going to be OK. You didn’t try to convince me that this wasn’t my fault. You knew I wasn’t ready to believe that. Instead, you told me the truth, “this just sucks.” You said there was no way around it, that it was unfair and sucky. You told me that you see lots of families come in, some that desperately deserve their children and leave without them. Some that do not. You didn’t worry about being couth. But then you looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t know why these things happen, but I can tell you one thing, those two babies are incredibly loved. You gave them that. You gave them so much love.”
Your words would echo through my mind over the next year and a half. Whenever I would feel the pain of failure pounding in my head, I’d remember you seeing the intensity of love. I’d remember that we had that. I’d remember your words on days when everything felt impossible. I’d use them to remind myself that I am still their mother and nothing could take away that love, not even death. And I use that to fight for our next pregnancy. I used that until I brought our rainbow home.
Thank you. Thank you for seeing that and speaking that.
Thank you for being an angel in the room.