Once upon a time, someone did something nice for me.
It was this past April. The person was Amy, the volunteer bereavement coordinator at the hospital where we had Christian. The thing was putting together the memento box I so dearly love.
The box changed a lot of things for me – first and foremost, it gave me direction and purpose. I wanted to help make these boxes for others when I felt ready.
Yesterday I was having a very emotional day. Good feelings and sad feelings. Mostly I felt like I wanted to start helping. I do so much better when I help. So I called Amy. She told me its a very nice idea, but she has pretty much everything she needs and she rarely gets called in to make a box, so she wasn’t sure what I could do. Suggestion #1 was to make tiny baby gowns, much tinier than the one Christian wore. There are lots of people who donate diapers and hats and blankets, but Amy said the majority of the babies she helps with are born between 16 and 18 weeks gestation. They’re about the length of your hand, and it’s hard to sew something so little.
Suggestion #2 was that I contact the Timpanogos hospital. Amy had offered to provide her services there a while ago, but the nurses said they took care of everything and maybe she could just give them her supplies. She declined, since many of the blankets and clothes are made by families who lost babies at the Payson hospital (where Christian was born) and are intended for other families at the same hospital. But, Amy said, they might be ready for someone now.
So I called Timpanogos. The labor and delivery nurse said they actually had an infant death this morning and were just talking about how nice it would be to have someone there to help, since usually the nurses and techs take care of things. Suggestion #3 was that I get in touch with Angel Watch, the group they call when there’s an emergency situation.
I got ahold of Carolyn, the director of Angel Watch. She’s based more in Salt Lake and gave me suggestion #4: that I call Heather, who heads up the Utah Valley branch of Angel watch and who also oversees a group called Common Bonds that meets once a month in Provo. I’d heard of Common Bonds, and we actually went to one event – the day before Mother’s Day, they had a brunch and balloon release. I put my name on the email list but never heard anything from them.
Heather was very nice but told me apologetically that they have two full-time employees who take care of things in the hospital, and they don’t allow volunteers to go. Suggestion #5 was that I make a blanket to donate.
These are all good things. Making blankets and diapers and gowns – all helpful. All kind. All thoughtful.
But allow me to be bitter for a moment. What made the box special for me was that it was put together by a mom who’d experienced the loss of her baby. She joined me in my suffering. She took pictures of Christian and made casts of his hands and feet. Regardless of who made the gown and blanket that Christian wore, Amy was the one who was physically present and who used her experience to provide a meaningful gift.
I’m not saying this well. Basically, anyone can make a blanket. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever lost a baby or not. And a nurse could have done all the things Amy did. But they were meaningful because Amy did them. She knew what I was going through. She knew how important that box would be.
So I find myself more than a little heartbroken that there’s no way for me to accomplish what Amy did. It isn’t a matter of recognition or praise I want for my efforts – it’s the idea of joining another family in their suffering, because it will mean more from me than from a nurse who’s never lost a baby. It’s the role I can fill. It’s what I can offer.
And I’m sad that no one wants to accept my offer.
To be overly dramatic, I feel like I’ve lost my meaning now.