Tuesday, November 13, 2007


As I left the labor and delivery ward to recover in another section of the hospital, my nurse gave me a hug and complimented me. "You have carried yourself with such dignity and grace," she said, sounding like she was choking up.

I was touched. That compliment has stayed with me for several days.

I can't choose my trials, but I can choose to be...classy.

George Bernard Shaw was wrong. The difference between a lady and a flower girl IS how she behaves.

Although I certainly appreciated being treated as a lady. The staff provided us as much dignity, privacy, and support as possible.

The best part of the hospital experience was discussing theology, religious history, and politics with a lay Roman Catholic volunteer grief counselor. He came in and started a well-rehearsed spiel about how stupid it is to say "You won't be given more than you can handle." I'm afraid I interrupted with 1 Corinthians 10:13. (Let's hear it for Scripture Mastery! I had the passage memorized, even fifteen years later!) I acknowledged that it said "temptation," not "trial," but I believed the principle applied.

So, after he blinked a bit, he started asking us about our faith. He was obviously expecting a spiritual crisis, and was further surprised to discover that we weren't having one. Emotional crisis, definitely. But not spiritual.

I did really well until he asked about names. At that point I explained about the still-indeterminate gender and started to cry.

He backed off and we fell into a discussion about LDS theology, Catholic theology, the Great Schism, history of Christianity, authority of the Pope, women in the priesthood, married clergy, a potential Vatican III, and politics.

I told him I wouldn't judge all Catholics by Rudy Giuliani if he promised not to judge all Mormons by Mitt Romney. Seemed like a fair exchange.

It had been years since I'd had such a good religious discussion. I found myself enjoying it. Sadly, the cleric apparently decided he couldn't do anything for us and should go minister to others rather than continue to discuss his own personal hopes for married priests in his lifetime.

The second-to-worst part of the experience was sitting in the foyer, waiting for a bed to become available, and watching pregnant women pace the hallways, and newly-delivered mothers wheeled past us with their hours-old babies.

It was at that point Jon and I started doing futoshiki puzzles to distract ourselves.

The worst part of the hospital experience were the first minutes after the baby was delivered.

It happened so quickly. Suddenly I called for the nurse, and within sixty seconds, the baby had emerged. It was almost painless. One nurse took the baby for examination, the doctor, who had been paged, arrived (to late too deliver, even though she came promptly), and the other nurse patted my hand and said, "I'm so sorry."

That was when I started to bawl.

She came out with the amniotic sac still intact. They actually broke my water -after- delivery.

The doctor came to talk to me a few minutes later. She said it was a girl, the cord was wrapped around the neck, there was the tapered section in the cord, there was swelling and discoloration, and her "presentability" was iffy.

So then Jon and I had to decide if we wanted to hold her. I cravenly let Jon hold her and then asked him to tell me if I wanted to hold her or not. By the time he was done, I had calmed down and decided I did want to hold her, even if her condition was...poor.

We called Mom, who came to the hospital and held her briefly before she was whisked away for testing.

My greatest regret in all this is that we could not afford to give her a proper burial. My greatest frustration was that it took over 24 hours for the hospital to give us a coherent answer about how the body would be treated. I shuddered to think of my baby being tossed in a dumpster like so much garbage. Of course, there are bio-hazard issues, but that was how I felt. In the end, she was examined, then autopsied, then incinerated with other medical "waste."

The nurses did treat her body with respect, and I felt reasonably peaceful about letting them take her. But I very much regret we don't have a grave to visit. It just wasn't...practical.

I hate that word. What I wanted to do was move Heaven and Earth. Fight with the insurance companies, fight with the hospital, go into several thousand dollars' worth of debt. Sadly, I just didn't have the emotional (or financial) resources to put into it...and I didn't have time. I begin to see how funeral homes can take advantage of grieving families. With a deadline looming, it's hard to make calm, rational decisions. (Especially while grieving; I've noticed I've had trouble concentrating, choosing a book, even reading a book. The lay Catholic minister called this 'impaired executive function.')

I can only hope Marian will understand.

I think she will. I imagine her as a quiet, gracious, dignified spirit. One who will forgive easily. One who will extend mercy...and grace.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I love you Gail! Really, you have no idea how much I've admired you throughout this entire ordeal. I completely agree with the nurse who said you were "classy." You've been hurt, obviously--but you haven't really complained or moped or cursed God. Instead, you've adopted this attitude of hope for the future -- which of course is what the entire gospel is about!