Friday, September 19, 2008

A hard night

Whew, I am exhausted. It is about 1am and though that is not unusual for me to be awake at this late hour, it is not the source of my exhaustion. I'm drained.

I just got back from the hosptial where I work as a chaplain. The work shift itself was not difficult, just long. It was about 11:30 when I got home and I was hungry because I'd only had a salad for dinner. I scrounged up some leftovers and nuked 'em, loaded up a show to watch on my laptop when *beep*beep*beep* my pager went off.
I called in to find out what was up and the operator told me, "They need you in Labor & Delivery.... please hold and I'll connect you."

My heart sank. Usually, when I get paged in the middle of the night to come back up to the hospital, it is not good news, but to get paged to Labor & Delivery meant that a baby was dead.

All death is tragic, but the death of a newborn/stillborn seems especially pointless and difficult.

The patient was just weeks from full term, with all indicators being that the baby was healthy... until earlier today. When I got to the floor, the nurse gave me additional information... they are a young couple, no other children, no family nearby... she is in shock...

What do you have to offer someone in that situation? There is an expectation that the chaplain is going to have some words of comfort, some insight that eases the pain. The only reference point I have is a miscarriage that we suffered when our first child, Mary Hannah, was about a year and a little bit old. I remember being devastated. I remember thinking that I *shouldn't* feel so bad, after all, it wasn't even a fully grown baby. I remember thinking it was a little creepy that the fetus was still inside Amelia, no longer alive. We had to schedule the procedure for several days later. I remember .... it was awful. And this... this situation I was walking into... I can't even begin to imagine how much more terrible it must be for this young couple.

I talked with them and prayed with them and tried to plant seeds of ideas of things they're going to experience in the coming days; emotions and hurdles and well-meaning friends and family who will offer platitudes and empty comfort. I reminded them that God is still good and he loves them very much. That, being a Father, he knows the pain they are in, even if I can't and no body else can hope to understand. I encouraged them to mourn a baby, a real, fully formed baby that deserves to be honored, remembered and cherished. We asked God to give them peace knowing that He is holding the baby in His arms now.

I left their room and encouraged the nurse who called. Not every night in Labor and Delivery is a night of joy.

I returned home and checked Ethan's blood sugar... 314... that is high, so I gave him some insulin. Tiptoed into the girl's room and gave them both kisses on their foreheads and watched them sleep for just a minute. I looked around their rooms at their mess, their toys, their clothes and was filled with gratitude to God that I had three messy, noisy, fussy miracles to love and hold.

God be with that young family. God be with me and help me to bring your comforting love to hurting people in a tangible way. Thank you, God, for loving us all.

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