Today I heard a tragic tale from someone I count as a friend. They had seen that I had been shortlisted for a Butterfly Award for my work with parents who have lost their babies (see my profile here: http://www.thebutterflyawards.com/index.php/voting/userprofile/revdavidsouthall ).
It started as a friendly good morning hug and a chat about the glorious weather and then she said: “I wish you’d been around 49 years ago!” I looked puzzled and so she explained why: “I was pregnant with my fourth child, and my Son was stillborn. There was no one to support me and when he was born I didn’t even get to hold him! It was barbaric and inhumane! And then they said: “we’ll bury him for you” – and that was the last I knew. My guess is that he was buried with 6 or so others but I just don’t know. I don’t even know where my baby is buried … and I never had the chance to grieve.”
49 years ago … and it still leaves its mark!
49 years ago…and when her husband died recently she had a plaque in honour of her Son put on his gravestone: “RESTING ELSEWHERE.”
49 years ago and the questions persist.
We hugged and said our goodbyes.
And I was left with the questions:
How did this practice come about?
Who thought it was a good idea: medics; midwives; society?
Were the midwives compassionate?
Was any thought given loss and grief and bereavement?
Was the system to blame?
And the comparison struck me hard. Just the other day I took a funeral of a little one. Tragic, desperately tragic. Always desperately tragic! But this couple had been supported by our Specialist Bereavement Midwife and by the Chaplaincy. They had been able to hold their little one and spend time with her. They had photos and a lock of her hair; handprints and footprints. They stayed for a couple of days in a special hospital room on Delivery Suite without the noise of other babies around them. They had a full funeral service planned by them with my help; and they will get on-going support from the Hospital and other helping agencies.
How different the world is now. But then 49 years is not that long ago is it?
And it set me thinking …
Are there things which we are doing now which will be seen in the future as barbaric and inhumane?
Are there practices which we will look back on in 50 years’ time and shudder to think that we were part of it?
Are systems in place which militate against compassion and humanity?
It seems to me that the real geniuses in the NHS are the ones who spot these things ahead of time; who see into the future and say:
“Hang on a minute…can’t we do this another way; a better way?”
I wish someone had done that for my friend 49 years ago…
but because I can’t turn back the clock, I hope there are visionaries and future-gazers looking now.