Monday, June 3, 2019

Birth trauma memories you just can't forget, #259

"Oooh, she's beautiful." 

I sat in the funeral service, listening to the voice pouring out of an iPhone. My friend's cousin Miriam had passed. She was an ebullient woman full of light and love, the kind to handmake 400 bunny ears for the students in her school for an Easter play. She'd been sweet and encouraging to Max since he was a tot. Now her son stood on the podium holding out his phone so everyone could hear what his mother had said when she came to the hospital to meet their daughter, who'd been born at 26 weeks.

I listened as Miriam cooed at the baby. "You're perfect, just the way you are," she said, and I felt a twitch in my heart. If only we'd had someone in our life who had spoken to Max that way in the NICU.

While my mom is super-loving and effusive, we tried not to involve her during Max's NICU stay as we didn't want her to freak out (she's a professional worrier). My dad had more of a handle on what was going on, but he was a man of few words. And then, a relative stopped by and commented to a nurse, as she looked upon Max in the incubator, "My children were never like that." I wasn't there—I heard about it afterward.

Yes, someone said that. To this day, I can viscerally feel the pain that comment caused me. And  I knew that it was a bonehead thing to say, and not meant in a cruel way. Still, it felt like salt on an open wound. I was so vulnerable, so lacking in hope and full of anxiety about what the future held for Max. It's one of those things from that time that I've never forgotten.

Miriam instinctively knew the right words (see this list of 6 things not to say to NICU parents.) That day at her service, I felt grateful that her son had her to say those words to him. Miriam's spirit shone through the service. At the end, when someone quoted the Beatles lyric "The love you take is equal to the love you make," I thought: yes.

Image: Flickr/Omar

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