Archive for the 'death' Category

Baby Alive

an essay by Dana Verdino

I got my first baby when I was nine years old. I named her Sara. I coddled her and I slept with her until my cousin threw her down the stairs and her head popped off. I was so mortified over my baby and its dangling head; I gave up on being a mother and buried Sara, now Baby Dead, next to our brook in the woods. It wasn’t until I met my husband and got married that I started to think about babies again. Babies that are really alive.

I dream that it comes out with a full head of brown hair and my husband calls everyone to tell them the news. I dream about dirty diapers and their rancid smells, the toys strewn about the house, and us around the kitchen table, a little life in a high chair slurping spaghetti. Then I wake up and go to work as a first grade teacher. I laugh with my children. I read them stories. I hold their hands. I wipe their noses.

Four months after our honeymoon I was pregnant.  I ran around the house waving a stick with two red lines. My husband and I, oblivious to the three-month rule, started talking about baby names and over the next few weeks, purchased miscellaneous baby books and told everyone about the baby-to-be. Big mistake. When we went in for my ultrasound, the doctor discovered “it” had stopped growing. He said it happens and there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it. I cried for myself and for my husband and for a tiny bean in my uterus that wasn’t entirely alive.  I cried for what we wanted “it” to become—a real, live, tangible, viable, growing, knowing baby. I cried for lost plans and lost diapers and lost spaghetti on a high chair.

Over the next two years there would be three more. Three more stories that I’d never finish; three more toilet burials. Four altogether. A total of eight months worth of thinking and planning, of imagining our next Christmas card, of browsing through the racks at maternity stores and Baby Gap. And a total of thirteen months in between, these months full of arguing, crying, seeking therapy, charting temperatures, tracking ovulation, and taking Prozac just to get through another month and another mourning.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. Every baby that was built inside me was defective. Not quite a woman, I was a baby-eating monster. Don’t touch me or you might catch it. It was humiliating. I’d lie down on the table, the nurse would slide a big xray wand into me, and we’d look up at the screen at a splattered mass of cells while the wall behind her boasted a collage of healthy looking fetuses. The nurse would say something like “I knew this woman and yadda yadda and then she was fine and now she has three children.” Then I’d go back to work, walk into my boss’s office with my eyes astray, and ask her for more time off.

Now I’m pregnant again and I can’t think straight, only in a snafu of red. Continue reading ‘Baby Alive’

Excerpts from This Whole Wide World is Just a Narrow Bridge by Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores

A Longer Transition

When I awoke, in a clean quiet room in ICU several hours later, nurses and doctors were coming into the room, asking me questions, making sure I was “out of the woods.”  The doctors told me that they stitched up my uterus “like a pot-roast.”  I asked Danny what had happened.  He smiled tiredly and didn’t tell me immediately.  When he did, I didn’t believe him.  Apparently, when I was delivering the afterbirth, because of the way the placenta was attached, it ripped away a part of the wall of the uterus (placenta ecrita).  I bled profusely.  I lost 80% of my blood supply and received 8 liters of transfusions.  Danny told me how terrified he was.  “They asked if you had advanced directives.”  Despite being quite familiar with such things from my hospice work, I hadn’t realized I would need these things before giving birth.  The line between birth and death is indeed quite thin.  “You were hooked up with all sorts of tubes to a respirator.  I was coaching you to breathe,”  Danny explained.

In my woozy state, it felt like the Akeda story in reverse, the story in Genesis in which Abraham receives a command to sacrifice his son Isaac, but is then spared from committing the awful deed at the last minute by an intervening angel.  I had vowed to do whatever God wanted of me in exchange for a child.  But at the last minute, the angels took pity and spared my life.

The nurse brought Sophie in.  She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I was devastated that she’d had to spend her first hours apart from me, deprived of a proper early attachment period.  She lay in a little glass-walled basinet near my hospital bed.  I loved watching her.  I also, frankly, loved when the nurses took her to the nursery to let me rest.  What would happen when it was time to go home?  Who would take care of her?  Where in the world was her mother?  . . .  Oh, yeah.

I’ve since thought about how wonderful it would be if there were a system similar to and as widespread as hospice, a care team who would come to the home to help care for the newborn as well as giving support to the parents.  True, there are postpartum doulas, whose job it is to support new parents and help with the baby, but they are not widely used (most people have probably not heard of such people —I hadn’t).  And they are not currently reimbursable by insurance.  Surely, this vulnerable postpartum period is similar to the vulnerability prior to a death: a time when all of the emotional resources of the family are challenged.  Research by Drs. John and Julie Gottman suggests that 2/3 of marriages suffer due to the stress that accompanies a new birth.  Divorce rates skyrocket in the first year after a child is born.  What a wonderful beginning it would be for new families to receive homecare after a birth.  How much it might help to prevent postpartum depression, child abuse and domestic violence, as well as lowering divorce rates. Continue reading ‘Excerpts from This Whole Wide World is Just a Narrow Bridge by Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores’




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