I really wanted to attend my SHARE support group last night. The meetings are bi-monthly and a chance for me to talk with other parents that have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. When I attended the last meeting, the group was a mixture of parents with very recent losses (even only a few days prior) and others like me, who were further out. It is also a chance to see the friends that I have made through this club that I never wanted to be a part of.
However, yesterday I woke with horrible congestion. I had slept poorly the night before as a result of the mounting pressure in my cheeks. I pulled out my Neti Pot and Mucinex, but could not get much relief.
I waited as long as I could to make a decision, but finally opted not to go. I usually arrive home from the meetings emotionally drained and past my bedtime. Nearly every meeting includes new members and there is sharing of our stories and experiences. I carry not only my own grief and pain, but those of the other people in the room. Add physical drain to the emotional drain, and it felt like “too much” for one night. I was sad that I would not be there.
However, right before the meeting was scheduled to begin, I received a message from the bereavement coordinator. As a result of the parent panel that I participated in recently, the hospital had changed one of its procedures. The coordinator had contacted the Mother-Baby unit and described how the techs working had no idea of prior losses since they did not receive an individual report on each patient.
During the panel, the other mother and I had both described our experiences in Mother-Baby and the casual “How many other children that you have?” Her experience in Mother-Baby had been after her son passed away when he was 16 hours old, and mine had been after giving birth to Autumn and still cringing at that question. I couldn’t had a lump in my throat during the three days post c-section in the hospital and every shift change having to say to the new staff “I have three children…”
The only time that I responded otherwise when I had to fill out a form for the hospital records and indicate how many prior losses. The number was wrong, and I had to correct the records person who came to collect the form. At that point, she told me of her own loss of her son, at 22 weeks. She was familiar with the SHARE support program. She rolled up her sleeve to show me the tattoo she had in honor of her son. I told her that I had a tattoo on my back with the birthdates of all of my children.
The coordinator told us that a “huddle” is done with all staff at the start of a shift with information on all of the patients on the floor, and now that information is included in the huddle. Staff will know going into the room whether or not the mother has experienced a prior loss.
So even though I did not go to group last night, I felt like the day still held a way of “reaching into the wider world” for me.
Positive change is incremental. But it matters. One storyteller at a time, one story receiver at a time, one memory at a time.