The Hall of Shame
“I used to believe that prayer changes things. But now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.” (Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
What was seen as I was rolled down that hospital hallway, empty armed, less than 24 hours after delivering my dead baby? There were so many people in the waiting room with flowers and balloons anxiously awaiting what I didn’t get. The sound of a lullaby played over the intercom, signifying a baby had been born. Not for me. Not this time.
What did I see? A future lost and my heart in unbelievable pain, as the events of the day prior continuously replayed in my mind. I saw the image of my lifeless baby lying in her cuddle cot, soon to be wheeled out of the hospital room after my departure. I saw the last time I would really ever “see her.” I saw my tears swelling up into my eyes, crashing down onto my postpartum body. I saw my arms empty, folded over my deflated womb. I saw a blur of emotions and figures as I attempted to bury my hands into my tear swollen face, wanting to hide my shame, my reality, my existence. I didn’t want anyone to see that my baby wasn’t with me. I didn’t have diapers, or swaddling blankets, or a proud Daddy by my side. I had heartbreak. I had loss as I was wheeled down that hall of shame.
Did they know what happened? Did I want them to know? Couldn’t there be another way out? Another way to escape this hell? I realize now that this was the first of many experiences of “real life” outside of those hospital room walls. (Whatever real life is anymore, anyways.) Of hiding. And pretending. And ignoring. And “moving on.”
I hated that moment of utter shame, and for some reason my heart is revisiting that space of heartbreak tonight when I felt complete despair and profound confusion. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and yet, I felt like I was being punished. I wanted to die in that moment.
Into the elevator, and down to the first floor, then wheeled to the car to sit in the passenger seat with an empty car seat behind me and my husband. No baby to sit next to on the ride home. No baby to unload when we arrived back. No baby to nurse on the sofa. No, instead, we had a funeral to plan the next day.
I had given birth only 20 hours earlier. I was actually discharged within twelve. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to leave her. To face life. To move forward. To be pushed down that hall of shame. I might as well have been paralyzed in that wheel chair, for my fear gripped me so.
Tonight I’m sorrowful and angered in remembering that moment...the exodus. As far as I could see, there was no freedom waiting for me on the other side of it all. Where was my cloud by day and fire by night? I was lost. Blinded. Dumbfounded. I hadn’t taken it all in, yet. Why did I leave so soon? Would there ever have been a “good time” to walk away from her? She was NEVER coming home.
The holidays have forced me to face that reality again. And, honestly, I feel like I’m drowning in the sadness I sulk in. But why can’t she be here? Why can’t I be holding her? What can’t her demands prevent my sleep, rather than my grief ruling my days and nights?
My prayers didn’t change anything. My begging didn’t bring her back to life. My pleading didn’t affect the outcome. I was in fact pushed down that hall of shame, and I’ve had to live every day that has followed, putting one foot in front of the other attempting to get through it and to “the other side of it.”
Freedom will come. Joy will brim. Hope will remain steadfast.
But for now, for now the days are long. The nights can be unbearable. Grief is running me ragged. Rest and self care are priority. And waiting...waiting is what I do most.
I remember that hall of shame, and I see how far the journey has been from that moment. And still, it continues.
And I, I am still breathing.