Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't forget to say...congratulations

I go back to St. David's a lot. It's the hospital where the twins were born, the place where I have had all of my cancer surgeries and the home of the Breast Cancer Resource Center. I am running there at least once a week while we plan Graphic 4: the Art Bra Fashion Show to benefit the BCRC. But that's not what this post is about.

Each time I swing around the drive to pull into the parking garage, I pass the main entrance to the hospital. And each time, almost any hour of the day, there is inevitably a new mom waiting to leave the place with a newborn infant in tow - eager to position that stupid, ungainly baby carrier in the back seat so she can sit next to it and ooh and ahh while some husband, partner or chauffeur drives them home. There are balloons, there are smiles. And each time I see this, I still cringe. It's been almost 5 years, my twins are healthy and thriving and it seems like eons ago that they were born 3 months early and so very, very ill. Evan called them little grey squirrels at just 2 lbs each. And the hardest day of my life up until now - even harder than cancer, even harder than finding out that Zelda was born blind, and perhaps rivaling the pain I felt when my Dad died - was the day I left that hospital without my newborn twins. I was so pissed off that day. I was so angry at those other happy moms.

My friends and family were wonderful. They brought food, they brought flowers but they were afraid. We were afraid. They tiptoed around the questions about the "non-perfect" children, they mourned our "loss" of an idyllic birth experience...And it was hard. It did suck. Our friends were reverent and concerned and worried about us and the babies. I loved and appreciated all of them for it despite my feelings of guilt about going into premature labor and overwhelming post-partum depression.

But the other day, I ran into a friend. He and his wife just had a baby born with Down's Syndrome. I looked at him and smiled knowingly. I asked him how she was doing, empathized over the lengthy NICU stay but most of all I said "Congratulations! I am so happy for you and your wife and your new daughter."

We are so lucky. I am so lucky to be a mom. Whatever the experience, whatever the birth, please don't ever forget to say those words...they mean more to the parents than you'll ever know...tell them "Congratulations"...

6 comments:

Tamara said...

Now THAT, ma chère, is SPOT ON! I am helping to run a NICU parent resource and support group at your other Texas hospital – the one our children once briefly shared. I always begin our sessions with “Congratulations”! And people think I am nuts (well, mostly just the staff I work with :-) Every birth, every life, however brief or complicated, should be celebrated – parents should never be robbed of the most sacred, joyous moment that their child enters this world. Bravo, Gail!

Kristen Elliott said...

This is interesting timing on your post. Last week I delivered a baby with Down Syndrome. She is in the NICU for a few things, but getting better everyday. She is beautiful and perfect. I just kept repeating this over and over to the parents. I congratulated them over and over. When one of their friends contacted me asking what they could do, I told them to congratulate them on their beautiful baby girl. I can't imagine them hearing "I'm so sorry" and nothing else. It was a day to celebrate, and certainly grieve somewhat, but years from now, when their hearts are healed, I want them to look back and remember the joyful day that her birthday was.

Anonymous said...

wow, this really hit home for me. I also often go back to the hospital where my son was born (actually my husband goes there every day , that's where he works) and every time I feel that same cringe . I drop off my husband for work and I see the bench that I sat on and sobbed as I went home without my baby boy who was being transported to the childrens hospital. We still didn't even know that he had toxo, just that something was wrong and they didn't know what. That's just what I needed, someone to tell me congratulations ...you are so right

Sadia said...

This is the first time I've visited your blog, but this post hit home. The first time I visited a friend's child in the NICU, my daughters were three. The smell of the soap reduced me to tears. My twins are healthy, happy, and whole, but I've never forgiven myself for their premature birth. Yes, I know that there's nothing to forgive, but those emotions ... they're hard to explain if you haven't been there.

The worst thing to hear, over and over again, was "What's wrong with her?" Nothing. Nothing's wrong. People come in different packages.

Gabe Hodziewich said...

Gail - I have just seen all of this for the first time and I am both stunned and saddened by the news of your illness. It has been so long since we have talked I didn't even know you were in Austin. I am happily retired (as of four years ago) from St. Andrew's (23 years in all) and living quietly in Silver Spring. I couldn't find an email, so I hope that this brief message finds you well (I hope), and happily enjoying your beautiful kids and your boutique. With much love and fond memories, Gabe Hodziewich

Nanette said...

this post was written on the day of my bc diagnosis - a mutual friend just pointed me to your blog and i have spent all morning reading :) i live in austin too and been aware of your journey in that austin small town way, we have similar circles & common friends. I love love love reading about fellow warriors "THRIVING" as i am about to start chemo it is sometimes hard to envision it for me. i appreciate the inspiration. I hope we meet someday :)

Nanette