Hello, my name is Dr. Peter Rothschild, and I thank you for the opportunity to be part of this memorial service. Until January 1st of this year I called myself an obstetrician, a profession I treasured for 27 years. Over those many years I delivered thousands of babies, but at the end of my obstetric career if asked what most satisfied me, I would say it was navigating families through the difficult situations surrounding pregnancy loss.
Your baby was an important part of who you were; a member of your family and remains an integral part of who you are today. From the moment you first found out you were pregnant, you were flooded with a cascade of thoughts and emotions. What will I have? A boy or a girl? How will having a baby affect my life, the life of my family, and my relationship? What will my baby look like? All these questions flooded your psyche at the very instant you realized you were pregnant. That life had impact and it had VALUE!
And even as you carried the baby, your attitudes changed. You were more careful about what you ate, adding vitamin supplements and avoiding alcohol. You read about changes in your body in books and on websites. You learned about baby care and began browsing baby sites for equipment. Even then that baby became the center of your life- had an impact and became a valued part of your life.
You dutifully went to your prenatal visits and followed your doctor’s advice. Your weight was increasing at the appropriate rate. Your measurements and lab work were normal. Some of you had sonograms giving you pictorial and video imagery of your growing baby invested with your love. You proudly carried your baby with an altered gait along with your other bodily changes. That baby impacted who you were and you valued that baby as if you were carrying it in your arms.
And then that dreaded day came. For some of you it was signaled by unexpected bleeding, for some a change or loss of movement, others an abnormal sonogram or inability to hear a heart beat. That day will live in infamy for you and your loved ones. Your life was impacted that day, forever stamped with hopes lost, dreams spent for naught. And many of you now and then wonder what value that little lost life had?
Now, I didn’t reminisce or reflect on your painful experiences to dredge up painful memories. What I would like to do is discuss recovery. So often, women have tremendous guilt wondering aloud “Why me? What did I do to cause this horrific event?” “What is wrong with this vessel I call my body that I couldn’t sustain the pregnancy?” The reality is in the majority of cases you had nothing to do with the loss of your baby. No more to do with the loss than with the creation of the life. Grieving mothers will typically turn their life upside down trying to find something they did to harm their baby and lead to the loss. More often than not, after an exhaustive medical evaluation to find the etiology, it is concluded the loss was a random event. History supports that notion; as most couples will go on to give birth successfully in the future.
Tears are a healthy way of expressing deep anguish. Torrents of tears early on will give way to inexplicable tearful moments, all helping to allow your heart to heal. Talking with friends, a social worker or counselor are all beneficial ways to express your sadness. Journaling your thoughts can be therapeutic and allow you to read through your previous entries to assess changes in your feelings and measure progress.
Communication is important. While men tend to deal with the loss and move forward, women tend to suffer the grief for longer periods of time over months and years. It is not uncommon to experience sad emotions on the anniversary of the loss or expected date of delivery for many years down the line. Expectant fathers feel tremendous helplessness during the loss of their baby. Helpless to control the situation, to reduce their partner’s pain or even frustration at the inability to hasten the healing and grieving process. Seeing your loved one in pain makes many fathers uneasy. In many cases this could be the first time in their relationship that physical and emotional pain has been witnessed. Often men trying to appear strong will hide their emotions behind silence with a stiff upper lip. As part of the healing, mother’s need to query their mate and ask, “How are you doing?” It is important for couples to express feelings to each other to continue their recovery.
The way your friends relate to you will change. Most people don’t know what to say, say the wrong thing, or will not speak to you at all. Forgive them for their inept ways and understand they are also feeling your loss in their own way.
Children experience the loss of a baby in a unique and personal manner. From their perspective they witness mom crying, dad quieter than usual and moodiness in the household. They often have questions that need answering. They may wonder, “Did I do something wrong?” “Do mommy and daddy still love me?” “Why did baby brother or sister die?” “Am I going to die as well?” In your own, personal, family manner, depending on the age of the child, this may be a good time to discuss dying as a normal part of life. But most importantly, it is a time to come together as a family and share the grieving process together.
Those of you here today are doing a very important thing. In memorializing your lost child you are beginning a remembrance of a family member. The impact of the loss will impact the way you experience your other children, it can favorably affect your relationship and make you closer. How you remember your baby will mentor your other children on how you value human life.
Sadly, today is not the happiest day in your life, but a very important day in your life. For you have figured out the true impact of life is not measured in days, weeks or years. Your baby, now in a heavenly place, is still with you every single day in a special place in your heart where it is influencing and affecting the very fabric of your daily life. You are forever changed in ways only years from now you will appreciate. Today, in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I am sorry for your loss and pray for your continued recovery.