I am participating in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge . The prompt for today is Nostalgia. While we usually associate nostalgia with happy memories, it may not always be the case. At times, it could be longing to go back to the past and reminiscence those moments of pain, simply because those memories are all you have of someone who lived in your heart.
Dr Rao was flabbergasted, this was a very strange request and he had no idea how to deal with it.
This was his first week in the Child Care Hospital in UK and it was very different than what he had dreamt about. Rosie a 24 year old had a still birth this morning. It was a normal pregnancy, everything was going on well. It would have been another day of a regular delivery but fate had something else in store for Baby Elisa. Complications arose during pregnancy, placental abruption is what it is termed in medical parlance. It means the placenta separates from the womb before the baby is born.
The atmosphere in a hospital on the birth of a child is usually a cheerful, boisterous one where one can hear laughter, tears of joy, the shrill wail of an infant amidst the cheerful banter of friends and family who have come to welcome the newborn. But sometimes, when Mother Nature has other plans for the baby and family, you see a contrasting scene which rips your heart apart. Just like it was during Baby Elisa’s birth. It was a still birth. There was a deafening silence which was followed by a heart piercing wail as the parents held each other and cried their heart out. There could be no bigger pain than that of losing a child- a child you nurtured in your womb for 9 months and dreamt each day of holding in your arms, cuddling it, singing a lullaby for it. When you have to face the harsh reality that you will never see the child look at you, clasp your fingers, cry, suckle- but all you see is a sleeping baby who will never wake up- it shatters your heart into a million pieces.
Being in the medical profession and seeing death closely, Dr Rao had learnt to move on, albeit with a heavy heart. The reason for the chaos in his mind today was not as much about the still birth of baby Elisa but the strange request by her beavering parents.
The funeral was supposed to be held after 2 days as the great grandmother of Baby Elisa who was in a different city wanted to have a last glimpse of her beloved great granddaughter. Normally in such cases, the baby’s body is preserved in the hospital mortuary and handed over to the family to perform last rites.
In India where Dr Rao had lived, studied and worked, the birth of a still child or death of an infant was treated quite differently. Most cases the mother was forbidden from looking at the baby. It will help in healing the pain if she doesn’t see her child. Once she sees it, holds it and cuddles it, it will be difficult for her to let go.
This is God’s wish, things will get better with time, you must try and get well soon and with God’s blessings you will soon be blessed with another child is what people told the mother. The baby’s last rites were performed and people moved on with their life.
But Baby Elisa’s parents did not want to do away with their dead child. They requested the hospital that they would like to take her home for 2 days before the funeral. The home which was longingly waiting for her arrival, her nursery and baby cot decorated with fluffy toys, a blanket to keep her warm, pictures that adorned the walls of her nursery and her tiny clothes which the parents had lovingly bought for her to wear.
A cuddle cot would be provided by the hospital which would preserve the body of the baby by maintaining the right temperature.
Dr Rao found this request very strange and disturbing, he had never heard of it. What’s the point in taking her home, letting her sleep on her bed or taking her for walks in a stroller when she is no more. The parents cannot live in denial. They have to accept this fact. By clinging on to her lifeless body, this will only make their healing process difficult.
He was wrong, he soon discovered when he spoke to the Head of Department and sough his view. Though this concept was alien in India, in the UK it was often used as a means to help grieving parents to say good bye and help in their healing process. Studies had shown that separating the parents from the dead baby only worsened their grieving process and they were often not able to overcome the loss completely.
In fact, giving them time with the baby, letting them create those first and final memories with their little one, by doing all those things they dreamt of doing like cuddling the baby, having dinner, placing the baby in the bassinet, in fact changing diapers and clothes as well – this made them more prepared in saying a final good bye. Their child was not just a thing of imagination in some corner of their heart, like a dream you see and the next morning its gone. Their child was real, someone they created a few precious memories with, these memories which would last them a lifetime.
Baby Elisa was allowed to go home with her family. Dr Rao was still not very convinced about this practice, it sounded a bit spooky to him as well. Imagine sleeping with a baby by your side, a baby who would not wake you up in the middle of the night for feed. A silence that no parent would ever want even in the wildest of their dreams.
He went for Baby Elisa’s funeral 2 days later and when the baby’s parents hugged him and spoke about the past 2 days, he saw things in an altogether different light.
“The past 2 days have been extraordinary. We know this sounds odd to you Dr , after all Baby Elisa is dead. It’s not that by prolonging our good bye or keeping her with us at home would make her come alive. But we are glad that she came home, the place where she belongs. She slept in her baby cot, we covered her with the quilt her great grandmother had lovingly knit for her. We also took her for walks in the stroller and last night we had a family dinner where both sets of parents and close friends came to have the final supper and bless Baby Elisa. We knew the time had come to say our final goodbye to our beloved child. The last 2 nights we hardly slept a wink, we kept looking at her peaceful face with eyes shut tight. For a moment I thought, the stillness of the night will be shaken by her cries as she wakes up for her feed but I knew that was only me wishing for a miracle. The past 2 days we created many special memories with her, which we have locked in our hearts and the lens of our camera. She is not someone we forget over time and move on with life. We may have more kids in future but she will always be an integral part of our memories and the ones we have created in these 2 days will help us move on with our life knowing that our little angel is with us in our hearts.”
This was a complete revelation for Dr Rao. He dint know what to say, he just squeezed their hands and went to say his goodbye to Baby Elisa.
Author’s Note: This post has been written in memory of a baby who was very dear to God, so dear that God took it away before it could experience the cuddle of its Mother and embrace of its father. This post is not meant to hurt the sentiments of anyone. The practice of taking still born or dead babies home by grieving parents is common in the West. It helps parents deal with the emotional trauma of losing a child. Although nothing can ever take away the pain of losing your child, but the memories created with the baby for a few days help in emotional healing of the parents.