There is Art as well as Science to caring for the parents of a child who has died, either before birth or afterwards. Countless mothers and fathers and those close to them silently grieve with little resolution over the loss of their pregnancies, newborns and children. Seeking reprieve from their sorrow, they cry and yearn for solace and hope, many times for years following their loss; cries that are but a muted weeping of despair as a child so longed for is not born, or is not born alive, or dies during childhood. Pained by these losses, their lives seem devoid of hope. The joys expected from normal childbirth and child-rearing turn to sorrow. We as physicians share with them in this tragedy as now the balance between caring for the well being of the child shifts to caring for the tolling physical well being of the mother and father, the agony of their emotional well being and that of their immediate family. The shadow of their grief will be indelibly imprinted in their minds and souls. Death may strengthen or threaten to tear apart the bonds of their relationships with friends, family and themselves. We, their physicians must recognize the impact of these losses, be the first responder in this time of need, and abet the healing process, no matter how long and difficult. The loss of a child brings to us pain that is primal and endures forever. Poetry enables us to ask why even when we already understand how. It permits us as as healthcare providers, witness to the frailties of our humanity, to abet healing through the very core of what makes us human, our language and our personal emotions. Following is a short poem I wrote that I would like to dedicate as a prolog to the original poetry that follows, to all parents and family visiting here today. It is entitled Tiferet.
First online as Hygeia® and the Hygeia Foundation, Inc., Maternl© and Hygeia Health Systems, LLC has now re-introduced this program committed to the promise of its original mission to comfort families who have endured the tragic loss of a pregnancy or newborn child. Hygeia® established and maintained a global, in-kind caring community in which thousands participated and shared their stories of loss and hope. As did Hygeia®, Maternl© will provide a sense of "belonging" and a safe place to share your thoughts and heal. This will be accomplished through a network of local, national and international support groups, social media and original writings, eassays and poems by the founder and author, an obstetrcian and poet. Hygeia® grew to become the largest online database of its kind-over 30,000 families-online, and by virtue of its size, the registry permitted others to find another parent / family with a very similar loss as their own. Hygeia®was taken off line for several years and now with renewed energy and a new, more current platform, the refreshed content of Hygeia® is returning to the digital community with the Organization and programs of Maternl©. This effort is to re-connect those who first joined, and connect new families who might benefit from sharing thoughts with other new families as well as reach out to those who experienced losses up to 19 years ago to relate how they have been able to grieve, remain hopeful and endure.
Each year in the U.S. 30,000 infants die within the first 28 days of life. (1 in 144) and 25,000 (1 in 123) are stillborn. One in five families experience the pain of miscarriage (approx. 900,000). The impact of these losses is great, affecting parents, surviving siblings, grandparents, extended families and friends. Talking to one's health care provider and accessing the full range of physical and psycho-social support required is often a challenge. Although bereavement support is available by mostly branches of national organizations, the support is fractured and difficult to access. Families reaching out for support, or experiencing a recent loss, require support which is available when they need it, not when the monthly support group meets. Families desire and require support that is tailored to their specific needs. For example a family who has lost a child and is considering conceiving again or coping with subsequent pregnancy has very different needs than a family trying to make decisions regarding funeral arrangements for their recently departed child. All individuals searching for solace should have access to appropriate resources. maternl© brings these resources to those in need using the domains of:
"Reaching out and trying to make people more aware of
the grieving that comes with any pregnancy loss or infant loss,
is wonderful. And making a place for us to go, and share our
experiences with people who will listen and understand is wonderful
too. When I read all the stories about all the pain and heartache
that is felt worldwide it saddens me but in a way comforts me knowing
I am not alone. Strangers we may be, but yet we are connected by a
common thread the loss of a child and that makes us all soulmates."
( Excerpted from a former Hygeia user)
In prayer we plead return,
And in dream, awaken!
We fall to stare at gleaned grasses
Scattered about forgotten fields,
Singed by a senseless lot,
And thirst to cry forever.
We will not be draped In the blanket of loneliness called solitude.
For deaf of song and absent of vision
Of who we are and who are our children,
Its veil will descend, then disappear.
We are "alive together".
The margin between breath and breathless
Is narrow, like twilight and darkness.
Moments of simple thoughts
Become ageless memories.
There is triumph to taste,
Love to embrace;
Havens of hope to inhabit.
Soon, the curtains of chaos
Will rise with the setting stars
As memories of joy
Bond with joy itself
And we will smile once more,
At last to breathe a painless sigh
Of what is love.
Michael R. Berman, M.D.
Founder and President
Wednesday January 20th 2021