by Peggy Sweeney
December 22, 1983
There were no words to describe the gut-wrenching emotions I felt. As I awoke from the anesthesia, I pleaded with the nurse to tell me that my baby was alive; that my body had not killed this child of mine. She stroked my face and as we both cried she explained that my tiny baby had died due to an ectopic pregnancy. The child was not viable and I could have died had they not performed the surgery. To me, what died that day was not a medical term, an embryo or a fetus. It was my baby.
I knew it was my fault. I knew I had done something wrong and God was punishing me. I tried to withdraw into a protective shell, but they wouldn’t let me. I sobbed uncontrollably. I screamed, cursed, and rejected the comfort of loving arms. I wanted to die. When I returned home from the hospital, my family and friends calmly ignored the fact that my baby was very real to me and had died. They stressed that, because it was Christmas time, it was imperative that I be happy and joyful and feel blessed in spite of this tragedy for the sake of my three living children. I faked it. I pretended that they were right and went about my life as if nothing was wrong. Nevertheless, deep inside my heart a tiny hole burned with a passion.
Several years later, I attended a professional workshop about neonatal and infant death by Joy and Marvin Johnson (Centering Corporation). The focus of the workshop was to educate the hospital’s obstetric doctors and nursing staff as well as bereavement educators and counselors about the best practices for helping bereaved parents whose child had died before birth or shortly after birth.
As Joy and Marvin gave us pointers on how to help those grieving an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage, I slowly felt the pangs of those horrific days in 1983. Without warning, I began to sob. As the tears streamed down my face, I was asked to share my story. It suddenly occurred to me that I had never grieved for this child. I was encouraged to give my baby a name, something I had never thought to do. Since I did not know the sex of my baby, I chose the name Noel, that could be used for either a boy or a girl. A name that would always remind me of their short life and the special day they were born during the Christmas season.
Copyright Peggy Sweeney