Once in a while, something so horrible happens to someone, that it makes you stop and wonder how you got so fortunate as to not to have ever experienced it. We get so hyperfocused on our own large lives, that it takes witnessing someone else’s pain, to make you stop and think, “I have much to be grateful for”.
It’s been a year since the last time I held a baby with no heartbeat.
Last night I stood in the morgue, holding an eight pound baby, and I wept. I had wrapped her, so carefully, padding under her back, and a pink hat on her head before wrapping her in more blankets and layers. She had died inside her mother a few days before. Her small body was fragile and I handled her with a delicate fear that I would hurt her further, just from my touch. I didn’t dare dress her, but I chose a pretty, lacey, yellow blanket to cover her with as I had carried her through the back hallways, and down.
A security guard was with me. He made nervous conversation, and when he unlocked the place where I was going to leave her, he motioned to a high shelf, and told me to put her there.
“I can’t”, I said. It wasn’t the shelf I objected to. She was too fragile for me to lift her up that high with my hands, I told him. He didn’t understand. I tried to explain how bad things were for her. “She’ll break,” I said.
“She won’t break,” he said.
“You haven’t seen her,” I said, “I’m not putting her up there. I’m not doing it.” I started to cry, hot and angry tears, and the security guard looked as if he might cry as well. I held onto her for a minute, and then I laid her on one of the chrome-colored gurneys he had insisted was reserved for adults.
I spent the rest of the night taking care of her mother. There was nothing I could do. I gave her cranberry juice. I rubbed her legs, gave her pain medicine, listened to her talk about her family.
“It’s times like this,” she said to me softly, “that I feel bad for people who don’t have anyone. I think, ‘what if I was homeless? What if I didn’t have anyone to call? No support at all?’ I don’t know what I’d do.”
And then, as I left the room so she could sleep, this woman who had started her day expecting to give birth, and ended it with her daughter in the morgue, said to me, “Thank you. You’re awesome.” I stepped into the hallway, and tried not to cry. This mother, was not lost in herself. She was the one who was awesome. All I did was get her some juice, and wish that I could do more.