The reality is, one in four women will have (or has) experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Obviously, that statistic goes for male partners too.
Here’s another reality:
Most of the time, you can’t hold your own baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). At best, Dad gets to open a little porthole on a humidicrib (or isolette, or whatever your hospital refers to them as) and chat to his fragile newborn about sweet nothings. Steve had to do this sparingly with Ellanor. She used to go nuts at the sound of his voice.
Side-note: medical caregivers (particularly trainee registrars) seem to get a bit antsy about family exciting the bebe’s too much. As if it’s not a good thing… it’s not energy-conserving, I suppose. I just thought it was marvellous, that she responded to him so differently, further proving how HUMAN and REAL she was!, compared to the way she cooed and relaxed when she heard me. It was almost as though she wanted to get up and get outta there right then, the way she practically levitated off the bed at the sound of her Dad’s voice.
Another touch of reality for you: This is the face of a man who has just heard the little miracle in his arms, who has his fingers and toes and half of his genes and made it all the way here just to meet him, has a life-threatening congenital heart condition.
Of course, mums look pretty similar. When they’re there more often, they probably get a better chance of a hold outside of the isolette. But not much more frequently. In four weeks, I held my daughter about the same number of times as I have fingers on one hand. Not much to last me a lifetime, is it?
And where machines and tubes and needles rule the order of the day, mums have to step aside. A lot. Willingly, mostly. For without the intervention, the brief and rare cuddles would not even be a reality.
Recently, the memoir I have painstakingly tended as it has grown over all the months and years that my daughter has not, was called out for being “voyeuristic at best” and “like sitting in a psychoanalyst’s chair at worst”. I wondered, as I read the review from a gentleman in his latter years, whether he had ever known one of the 1 in 4. I bet he has known them. I gather he either doesn’t realise he has known them or he hasn’t been brave enough to stay with their story long enough to learn something new (perhaps even learn something about himself), otherwise he would have reconsidered his approach to me. I’ve long since grown enough within myself to ensure those sorts of opinions don’t hurt. Not so much as they might have once, anyway.
But I am mostly saddened to realise just how many people think that way. That there are people who hear/read a mother or father explaining their story about losing their child and think they are doing nothing more than treating the listener/reader as a counsellor.
The main reason I wrote the book is to give voice and validation to the people behind the statistics. It’s easier to shun numbers and overlook them. It’s much harder (obviously, like it was for that reader) to stand alongside a bereaved parent and say, “I don’t fully get it because it hasn’t happened to me, but I do understand that so many are like you – they have the same pain to overcome that you have known. Thank you for showing me.”
Have a heart. Before you click away from here, take a moment to remember: Someone you know has, or will, experience the worst pain a parent could ever know. No matter how brief their grief, or how they traverse through it and come out the other side to their new sense of “normal”, please don’t be so quick to flick it away. If you are in the position of never having known this pain, don’t be so sure you know how you’d cope with it.
Compassion, and consideration that no one way is the only way through anything in this life, is so very important to remember.
Please comment responsibly when communicating with a loved one (or stranger!) about something you don’t fully understand.
And because it’s Friday (and also because I haven’t done this in a while) I’m linking up with Grace for FYBF