Rachel Whalen had the heartbreaking experience of losing her baby during delivery. It’s a situation that every expectant mom hopes she’ll never be in. After Whalen went through this devastating loss, she didn’t keep the experience to herself. Instead, she decided to talk openly about it and work through the pain and discomfort without trying to hide it all away.
In the end, she taught us all about the power of compassion.
Whalen’s loved ones did their best to comfort her after the loss of her baby girl, Dorothy, but it was the nurses who tended to her after the tragedy that helped her pull through.
Sympathy and condolences aren’t enough to heal from something as life-changing as the loss of a child. It takes time and a strong support system, and a lot of love. The healing can be life-long. Many of the nurses Whalen saw during her stay in the hospital performed small acts of kindness and care that helped her start to pick up the pieces of her heart.
On Facebook, Whalen shared how much they helped her with a poignant open letter.
To the nurses, Thank you for saving me. Your skills and your knowledge saved me from following my daughter into death, but it was your compassion that guided me back towards life. The humanity you demonstrated is what brought me back into life; you made it possible to think about living after death. For this, I owe you my love and deepest gratitude.
Thank you to the nurses who always made sure my husband had enough pillows when he had to stay in my hospital room. And thank you to the nurses who let him sneak popsicles from the freezer. You recognized that this was an experience for him and that he also needed your care.
It’s easy to forget that it’s not just the mother who experiences the loss — the father does, too.
Whalen’s doctors saved her life that day physically — but the nurses were there to save both mother and father from falling into a despair that there is no returning from. Sometimes in order to save someone’s life, you have to do more than care for their body. You have to care for their wounded spirit, too.
The nurses guided them through the worst day of their lives.
Thank you to the nurse who came with me when they rushed me to the ICU from Labor & Delivery. Thank you for being my advocate when I couldn’t speak up because I was too busy fighting for my life. I’m not sure I would have lived to see my daughter if you hadn’t been there.
Thank you to the nurse who taught me how to fill my bra with ice packs when I needed to suppress my milk after my daughter was stillborn. I also want to thank you for holding me as I wept at the burden I could not release. Your embrace did nothing to lighten the heaviness in my breasts, but you brought a glimmer of light into my very dark world.
Thank you to the nurse in the ICU who came in to clean me up after my daughter died. Thank you for taking the time to help me wash my face and brush my hair. I can still sense how it felt to have you smooth my hair back into a ponytail, it was a touch that wasn’t a poke or a prod. It was a gesture.
It’s natural to want to curl up in a ball and just hide from everything when going through a trauma like this. It’s natural to want to stop doing anything for yourself. Self-care is hard, but it’s so important for our healing.
When Whalen was unable to care for herself, her nurses were there for her.
They acknowledged her precious little one, and how hard it was to lose her so soon. They called Dorothy by her name, and asked Whalen about her.
Thank you to the nurse who crouched by my bedside and asked me about Dorothy. Thank you for knowing how important it was for her to be real even though she was gone. I will never forget the way you leaned in, just like we were friends, and asked: ‘Do you want to tell me about her?’
Thank you to the nurse who dressed my baby and took her picture. Thank you for making sure her hat didn’t cover her eyes and that her hands were positioned so gracefully. That picture means the world to us.
Thank you to the nurses who took the time to read my chart before shift change. I want to thank you for learning our names and learning the name of our daughter before you walked into my room. It meant so much to hear our names spoken together. It made us feel like a family.
It’s so difficult to know what to say to someone who is grieving, and “sorry” can feel like it’s just not enough. Being there for them and letting them know it’s safe and okay to feel whatever it is they’re feeling allows them to experience their grief honestly.
We are so grateful to these nurses and people like them who help care for us during our darkest moments.
Thank you to the nurse who slipped quietly into my room on my first night without Dorothy so that you could hold my hand. Thank you for whispering to me your story about your own child who was born still. Thank you for being the first person to lead me out of the isolation one feels after losing a child. Your presence felt too good to be true. I’m still not convinced I didn’t dream you up just, so I could make it through that first lonely night.
Finally, I want to thank the nurses who saw me through my pregnancy with Dorothy’s little sister. Even after Frances came into the world, you never forgot that someone came before her. You knew that the birth of Frances did not make me a first-time mother. It made me a mother of two.
Rachel signed the letter, “Gratefully, The One You Brought Back.”
This story originally appeared at Goodfullness.
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