There were days, in those months following Zia’s death, when I would sit alone in the hospital parking lot and simply stare at the building in front of me.
With its height overpowering, the lingering stench of death still pungent in my nostrils, the ache of loss still raw and feral, weighing me down, keeping me rooted to the spot. There was nothing good to remember, all the happy memories were wiped clean off the slate and all that remained was the anguish. The loneliness. The silence. I watched the nurses through the clear glass and wondered about the mothers in labour, the babies born alive. A line was drawn, them and me.
I couldn’t stand the thought of ever walking into that hospital or seeing a familiar face, even my doctor. I wanted to leave it all behind, that awful experience that turned me into the monster I stared at in the mirror every day. I couldn’t for the life of me remember one good thing; one positive experience. Every time I drove into those gates, I remembered the pain and anger I felt. Everything was tainted by the fact that my baby died.
My experience in hospital was something I tried very hard to forget. I remembered the nurses who didn’t bathe my baby like they did the others. They didn’t even clean her up properly. They didn’t notify the lab that blood samples were not necessary from my baby. They didn’t tell the night staff that congratulations were not in order. They simply left me there to deal with those things all on my own. It destroyed my opinion of a profession I previously respected.
When Amie Lands contacted me about contributing to an anthology of stories to inspire, educate and motivate birth workers caring for patients experiencing pregnancy/infant loss, my first thought was to say no. I couldn’t see further than the anger of my own experience in and out of hospital. Reading the overview, I wasn't sure if I could contribute anything positive, considering that my overall experience in hospital was not a pleasant one. But the night before I was due to respond, I remembered just one thing. A single moment. I hoped that in sharing it, I would let healthcare workers into the hearts of the bereaved, and maybe change the experience for those who will sadly follow us on this road.
In the delivery room, my doctor and anaesthetist took care with my baby. Not as a stillbirth or miscarriage, but as a baby. They asked her name. A bereaved mother knows the significance of this simple act of acknowledgement and kindness.
I had so many regrets from that brief time I had with my daughter, so many things I wish were done differently. If there had been a book like this guiding those nurses, I may have a picture of my daughter to show her brother. This book truly restored my faith in humanity. There are wonderful people out there who are the reason families have something to hold beyond the pain.
Our Only Time is a beautiful anthology written by bereaved families for bereaved families to motivate, inspire and acknowledge maternal health professionals through patient stories. Families share the sacred time spent with their baby and offer insights into how health professionals positively impacted their experience. Also included are useful recommendations on how best to support patients through this overwhelming time.
The message this book conveys is powerful. The stories these woman share are relatable and inspiring—this is the kind of book that needs to be included in the training of healthcare workers everywhere.
What books have helped you during or after your loss?