It happens. Life. Death. I just happen to work where I see both at the exact same time. I’m trained to be the personnel who tends to your baby’s first breath. Rarely, my services are actually needed to sustain a life, but in the event it happens, I’m there. Along with a team.
This particular day I was needed. But not in the way I thought.
She was born many weeks too early to survive. Her little body pushed from her mother’s warm, loving interior, into the cold world. Her heart beating, trying it’s best to give it a shot, though her lungs were far too underdeveloped to oxygenate her vital organs. She lay still. Her nurse wrapped her in a warm blanket and handed her to her devastated parents to hold.
But after nearly an hour her parents were done. They asked the nurse to take her, do what you have to do, weights and measures. The nurse gently set her in the crib and started to walk toward the nursery.
I saw the look on the nurse’s face. Sad. Confused. Unsure. I asked if the baby was gone yet, she looked at me and said no. No? I asked confused. Why on earth did parents not want to hold their dying baby? I can’t imagine. Oh wait. I can.
I told the nurse I’d take her. I pulled the blanket that covered her tiny body. Still warm, I could feel there was some life in her. I carefully wrapped extra blankets around her so that the crib didn’t look empty as I walked in the hallway to take her to the nursery.
When I arrived I made my way to the back where there was privacy and a curtain. I took out my stethoscope and listened. Nothing. And then a very brief series of heartbeats. Irregularly fluttering in her little chest. She was still hanging on.
I walked quickly to the blanket warmer where I grabbed a nice warm blanket and I gently wrapped this precious baby girl in it. Her little head peering out from the swaddle I sat down in the rocker and began to rock.
But something told me she didn’t want to be rocked. She wanted to be held, but not rocked. So I stood up, walked around and held her close to my chest. I talked to her. I told her she was not alone. I told her I would hold her until the end.
After about a half an hour of walking with her in the crook of my arm, I assessed for signs of life. Again, the fluttering of a little heartbeat still present. I told her that I was going to weigh and measure her. I assured her that I was not going to do this because I was assuming she was gone, but that I do this for every baby. I took two sets of footprints, two sets of handprints. Then quickly I wrapped her back up in the warm blanket.
I looked around the nursery and miraculously it was empty now. The hustle and bustle of the day had settled and it was just this baby girl and me. I took a seat behind our desk with one of our swizzle chairs and gently back and forth we swayed. I began to sing one of the lullabies that I sing for my boys.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King… Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King… Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King… Allelujah Allelujah…we are going to see the King.
We swayed and sang for nearly 20 minutes. I had to stop myself from reaching down and kissing her tiny head that peeked out from the blankets. I listened with my heart, melting with gratitude that this precious girl needed me. To just hold her. To just be in my arms.
The time that we swayed seemed like hours. I imagined her body feeling comforted, warm, and loved. I reminded her that her mommy and daddy loved her very much. I told her they did the very best they could. I told her that she paved the way for her future siblings. I thanked her for being so beautiful. I told her that she mattered. I told her that she would not be forgotten. I told her that there will be peace that passed understanding.
I closed my eyes and rested with her in my arms. I hoped she could hear my heartbeat through the blankets. And when I opened them again. I knew she was gone. I could sense her energy had lessened, her delicate mouth began to open. It was time to assess her heart rate again. But instead I held her a little longer.
Indeed she had passed. A sadness came over me. But a peace filled my heart. I thanked her for letting me hold her. I thanked her for needing me. I sent my well wishes to her, her parents, and her future siblings. I asked her to say hello to my baby that was in Heaven and hoped he would usher her into her Creator’s loving embrace.
I was needed that day. Not in the way I’m used to being needed. And in the process, I realized that I needed her.
I was filled to the brim with gratitude, love, peace, and grace. The ache in my soul from losing my stillborn son almost four years before was soothed in her presence. She filled a gap. A wondering for me. She gave me the opportunity to BE in the moment of life and death.
An amazing baby with an amazing message, and for that I am so grateful.