Friday, February 25, 2011


A few weeks ago, we went to church. I often use church as a time to mediate/pray, I don't always focus on the sermon. So I missed the first part of our pastor's story. When he was in seminary, he spent 12 weeks as a chaplain at a hospital. The first week and the last week that he was there, he counseled families who lost an infant. He felt unprepared to help those families. He asked why? why him? His classmates didn't go through that situation.

Now in the 20 years that he has been at our church, he has given 3 funerals for infants and 2 memorials for stillbirths. Those 2 infants from his seminary years helped prepare him for other losses.

I started crying, I just wasn't expecting my Sara and the other babies I know to be mentioned in the sermon. I think I also cried, thinking 5 babies in 20 years doesn't sound like many. But 3 of those were in the last 4 years. One of the babies died when I was in my late teens/early 20s. The mother reached out to me after Sara died. Sadly I don't know who the fifth baby is. I haven't attended this church regularly, except for when I visited my family, since '94. I keep forgetting to ask my family about this baby.

While I cried softly, the woman in front of me turned around and squeezed my knee, asking if I was OK. She works with my friend B, B who lost her daughter - the 2nd stillbirth. It was a very sweet gesture.

I'm been thinking about how our blogs and the Internet in general change the way we grieve, we can grieve more publicly. I think of past generations who were encouraged to just forget the baby who died or just never speak of him or her again and to move on. Now we write about the process, those first days, weeks of raw pain to months and years later, how that baby continues to touch our lives. Recently I learn of a couple who lost their 4-month old daughter. I assume SIDS. The baby was at the babysitter's and she stopped breathing. The mother had a blog, writing about her daughter prior to her death. She has been writing now, getting 100's - 1000's of replies. I've read a few of the replies, most coming from mothers, not necessarily dead-baby mamas. I can relate to the sudden loss and trying to figure out where you fit in the world. Before the Internet, I would never have even heard of this family and their loss, now I could follow their story - are they in need of help? (it sounds like they have a good support system.)

**Warning - tasteless comments ahead.**

A few weeks ago, an old college friend found me on facebook. He is a stay-at-home-dad to his 2.5 y.o daughter. We talk about potty training and brief overview of what we've been doing for the last 10 years. I hadn't told him about Sara, just waiting for the right time. He mentioned that his wife worked at a children's hospital. I asked if she was a doctor. He replied back that she was a "pediatric pathologist - a cutter-upper-of-dead babies.". I was just shocked that he wrote that. He's 35, not 16, making juvenile jokes. I was offended. I think I would have been offended even if I hadn't lost Sara.

I wrote back "please do not ever refer to your wife's job in that way again. In Oct 2006, we lost our first child, Sara was stillborn at full-term due to a cord accident. Since then I have met too many families who have lost children. I found your reference to be tasteless. She plays an important role, helping these families find answers, it's not a joke."

I hope he feels completely awful, as he should.


Ya Chun said...

I think that is nice that the pastor recounted his involvements with infant deaths. Good to remind the congregation. And your fellow parishioner was really sweet.

Re the pathology comment, sometimes I think that the people that deal with that all the time do kind of have to keep it light (although maybe at home, not on FB). And I have noticed that when I reconnect with old high school friends, it does tend to be a bit juvenile - that's when we knew each other!

But, I totally would have been thrown too. I can't think about Serenity being autopsied. DH works in the hospital labs, and they have a social hour every week in the morgue. Needless to say, he has never gone. Who would go for pizza where their dead baby, or any friend or relative, was?

Kristi said...

Ya Chun - thankfully(?) it was a private message & not on my FB wall. I could not imagine going to a social event in the morgue.

My friend replied that he "trivializes" the situation to deal with the morbidity. I get that, don't most people use humor to deal with stress? But I don't share my possibly offensive comments with others.

He went on about how important his wife's job is. Yes, it is, but that's not the point. He ended by saying his own daughter was delivered with a true knot in her cord and looped around her neck.

I felt that last comment was uncalled for. Ethan's cord was around his neck, but thankfully we ended up having a C-section & he was OK. But I don't even dwell on the "what if" My friend's daughter is at home with him. My daughter's ashes are at home with me.

I don't know if he has ever used that reference to other people, describing his wife's job. If he had said that to my face, soon after losing Sara, I think my response would have been much more harsh.

He said that of the babies his wife has autopsized, he didn't know any of them. I think of all the lost babies I know of - friends & family, friends from my support groups, blogs - so many, I am always aware of families grieving a loss. This is what his wife does every day, does he just separate the fact that these "dead babies" are someone's heart, their lives?

jessica said...

Cutter-upper of dead babies? What a total ass.

Kristi said...

Exactly Jessica!