This afternoon, Ellen, the chaplain from our Fellowship came to visit Mom. She comes about every two weeks and spends a couple of hours sitting and talking with Mom. It gives me the chance to run off and do errands Mom would want to tag along for but it would be “difficult” to have her there, or so I can work away in my office and Mom has some diversion. I often pop down when she first gets here and before she leaves. Today, I ran off to the landscaper’s to pick some plants for the front garden and then went up to work.
Before she left, I came down and spent a few minutes talking with her. She is also a chaplain at one of the hospitals in town. Ellen mentioned that they had their annual service at the hospital’s perinatal memorial garden last night. I wish I had known. I would have asked to attend.
When I had my miscarriages, they were too early (16 weeks for the first, and 8 weeks for the other two) for this to be done. All I had for the first was a few items that had been given to us – a pair of baby moccasins that I had bought, and the ultrasound. The hospital that dealt with me didn’t have any perinatal bereavement program. I didn’t even get any comforting words from the doctor who removed the dead foetus — on Valentine’s Day. The only kinds words I got were from the intern who was very kind and supportive. He was very nice. They had no support groups and there were only support groups for family bereavement which was really geared to those who had lost children or adults. There was nothing for people who experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. I haven’t really had a chance to mourn and, for obvious reasons, I have only bad associations with Valentine’s Day.
Ellen was mentioning that she is involved with a program at the hospital which deals with perinatal death — miscarriage and stillbirth. The chaplains offer counselling and support, as well as offer the chance for parents to hold their baby, provide a “memory box” and photographs of their child. It may sound somewhat ghoulish to some but I can assure you that for many, many parents who will never have memories of their child, it can be really comforting.
They have several volunteers who dress the baby so it can be taken in to the parents if they want, or just for photos to be taken if the parents want them. They take plaster casts of the hands or feet and when the baby is returned, put all the items into the memory box.
She said that they are always looking for volunteers. It isn’t something many people want to do. I said that it was very much something I would like to do and asked her to consider allowing me to volunteer.
Ever since the time when our Kosovar friends’ baby died and I assisted during the preparations for the funeral (assisting the women who wash and prepare the body for the funeral and washing the washcloths and towels and returning them to the mosque), I have thought that I felt so comforted to be useful and that I did something which truly helped the family. This program at the hospital would afford me not just comfort for my own heart but also to feel that I was of use and help to others who are experiencing the same thing I did. In a way, being able to do this would ensure that others don’t have to go through what I did in not being able to mourn or to be comforted.
There have been so many things, both paid and volunteer, that I have wanted to do that have been quashed by people and circumstances.. Finally, something seems to be working for me.
When I was married, I wanted to study to become a Doula. My ex made such a stink about how it was “too expensive” (a total of $600 at a time when both of us were working) and would take “too much time” (2 weeks part-time classes) and wouldn’t bring in any money (I would have worked part time on top of helping with deliveries) that I was forced to give up the idea. When my marriage ended I just couldn’t afford it. Now, instead of seeing them into the world, I will be seeing them out. Seems appropriate, really.