I’m doing paperwork, speaking on the phone, visiting on a ward, or I’m on call at home watching Neighbours or fast asleep at midnight ……….. and the pager goes.
I call the switchboard and the operator says “Hello, Marion, Labour Ward wants you”. The line goes silent as she connects me and my heart sinks in anticipation of what I will hear. “We’ve got a lady here whose baby has died and she wants you to bless the baby”. I ask a few questions to get an idea of how this awful thing happened. How many weeks was she? And IUD, a termination for abnormality, a still birth? A spontaneous loss? The answers add to my understanding, but do not change the awfulness of what has happened. But I ask anyway to give the midwife the chance to speak of what she has just been involved in – death and sadness where she is dedicated to bringing life and joy into the world.
I respond to the call and make my way to the Labour Ward. Through my mind flash scenes of other similar situations and I pray that I will be able to get alongside these parents. I ask for sensitivity to know how to behave, what to do and say. I pray that I will not do or say anything that will add to the pain and sadness. These are people I have never met, I know nothing about them, I don’t know what will help these particular parents.
I meet the midwife and enter the delivery room. My heart goes out the grieving mother who has no baby to hold and love, and whose eyes are red with weeping. I say who I am and shake the proffered hand. We talk of how it happened, Mum tells me of the moment she first realised something was wrong, when the faces of the doctors changed. Once started the story pours out with feelings of shock, disbelief, anger. The questions – did I do something? The comments – I’ve been so well, sailed through the pregnancy.
I listen and listen and share the despair. And when it feels right I bless the baby.
“Depart, little one, out of this world in the Name of God, the Father, who created you.
In the name of Jesus Christ, His Son, who died to redeem you and in the Name of the Holy Spirit who ever lives to sanctify you. May your rest be this day in peace and your dwelling place in the very presence of God Himself’.
I sign the Blessing Certificate and offer the on-going support of the Chaplaincy, not just if they are religious or Practising Christians, but to all, if they need it and I remind them that Sands is there too.
It’s time to leave and I slip away. I pop back to my office for a quiet moment or two (before the bleep goes again) and I feel exhausted, drained and heavy. I have shared some of the hardest moments of this family’s life and I feel privileged.
Senior Chaplain (Free Church)