Last month the remembrance gathering for all the parents of babies who have died in the NICU was held at the hospital where I work. I have never attended before, usually because I don't work many weekend day shifts, but since I wasn't crazy busy and rushing back, I decided to take part of my lunch break and go down to see what it was like.
The first family that got up, I recognized right away. Their son died 5 years ago after it was decided that nothing more could be done to ensure he led a quality life. His parents (luckily?) got to take him home to spend time with him, which is where he died. I remembered how, as this Mom was preparing to take her dying son home, she cried about how "all my friends who are pregnant will have their babies, but I won't have N.".
Even as a relatively inexperienced NICU nurse this statement stuck with me, and weeks later, I remember crying in my laundry room folding clothes, thinking about how this couple's life was unfolding without N. That mother's lament, for what would never be, was the first time that I think I really understood what it would be like to go home without a baby; the never ending sense of loss. Unfortunately, it was a feeling I would become much more intimately familiar with a year later as I mourned the loss of my own tiny son.
Last weekend when I saw this couple again, what immediately struck me was that they had a baby daughter with them...who was easily less than a year old. They had waited over 3 and a half years to get pregnant again. Whether this was out of choice or circumstances, I don't know, but I found myself wondering what they did in the interim. How did this Mom cope with those friends who had kids, when her son had died? Was it hard to wait so many years feeling like a 'non' parent? What made them feel 'ready' again? Was she still friends with those she was comparing herself to all those years ago? Because now I know, without a shadow of doubt, that when she sees those friend's children, she can't help thinking about N.
It was with this in my head that I went back to work, and met the parents of the baby I was looking after that day. From the morning report I got on him, his mom and the circumstances of his birth, I knew that his parents had a previous loss due to pPROM at 22 weeks. Even the acronym gets my hackles up. As I chatted with them and walked Dad through changing his son's diaper, I saw it...the name and the tiny footprints tattooed on Dad's inner arm. It's the dead baby parent gang sign. We belong to the shittiest club ever, yo.
I comment on the tattoo, told Dad how nice it was. Mom immediately chimed in that she had an identical one on her arm. She smiled. Appeared proud. Years ago, before Aidan I probably wouldn't have mentioned it. You know, not wanting to remind them of their dead child and all (ha!). Now, I know better. It's lovely to have your dead child, and the love you have for him or her, acknowledged and remembered.
The overlap in my personal and professional life is staggering to others. I was an NICU baby, my son was a preemie and died, my daughter was a preemie and lived, I've worked there for many years. I don't believe in fate...but sometimes I have to wonder.
It's an odd life...but it's mine.
Do your personal and professional lives overlap? If so, is this fulfilling? Do you wish they overlapped more or less?