About the Poetry of Maternl
by Michael R Berman, MD
The first song on earth
Was a child's cry,
A canticle of absolute beauty.
Each note a bequest for eternity;
Ageless music of heart-sounds
And first-breath sighs
The promise of humankind.
My Poetry is about hope and despair; about celebration and sorrow. But mostly, it is about hope. Forms of expression implicit in symbolic language; poetry and verse, song, prayer and ritual, have served a role in all cultures and societies to dispel the tears and foster the healing of death and human loss, suffering and despair. Why does poetry triumph as a source of enduring inspiration and hope?
Though our spirits may fade and our viscera bleed, we are enabled by the agents of our humanity empowered by ancestral song and promise (Berman, 1999)
Comfort may be achieved through the transfer of the poet's feelings into the reader or listener's mind. It transports the reader from the distractions and influences of the outside world inward to the internal rhythms and solace of the personal soul. The poet becomes a healer and his poetry his staff. Through verse and meter, free of inhibition yet full with expression, the poet may articulate a sensitivity and empathy and provoke this introspection and inner peace. A poem is transformed into a message of hope. There is wonderment and magic in the words of a poem. Each word is selected for its individual meaning within the context of the entire poem. A few properly selected words can move the reader to tears and awaken the primal emotions of joy, promise, despair and hope. A poet should evoke emotion in his work and write as if each poem is written with the poet's last words.
The language of poetry, within the broader context of its 'parent body' (literature,) has always had as its great themes, love, loss and death. The inclusion of hope to these thematic elements is worthwhile if not essential for, (as humans) we have the capacity to bring hope to a despair that is uniquely created by our humanity and our human conditions.
As an Obstetrician, my professional career has involved a striving to bring comfort and healing to children, born and yet to born, and to mothers through their years of childbearing and beyond. It has been the cause in my life. I have been uplifted by the triumphs of birth and healing and depressed by the failures. Yet I have always tried to look beyond the failures in search of the triumphs. I have counseled patients at the darkest times of their lives, when their children have died, and I have turned to the comfort of personal reflection, poetry and self-expression to better help me help my patients. I have learned that by writing down thoughts which might elucidate my feelings more clearly than the spoken word, I have become a better physician.
"By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings on this planet and what we mean to each other." Rita Dove
"Only those within whose own consciousness the suns rise and set, the leaves burgeon and wither,can be said to be aware of what living is." Joseph Wood Krutch
Some thoughts about caring for the Loss of a pregnancy or newborn
When the outcomes of our patient's pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death, we struggle to find the right approach to break the news to them, treat them medically and/or surgically, help them recover physically and emotionally, and console them in their grief. Most of us have not been taught to provide this bereavement care. We learn fast that there are hospital nurses and social workers, bereavement counselors and therapists, support groups and religious ministries to whom we can refer our patients for immediate bereavement care and subsequent follow-up. We can do the D and C and we can attend and assist in the birth of the baby who has experienced an intrauterine death. But then, for many Obstetricians, we refer our patients for bereavement care. When we hold in the palm of our hand an 18 week fetus immediately after our patient miscarried or attend the stillbirth of a term pregnancy, our intellectual knowledge and rational thought fade as we struggle to find the right words to say. Unlike the repetition of performing a surgical procedure, no matter how many times we have experienced a loss with our patients, it does not become easier.
Although the stillborn baby which might have been born viable represents the greatest emotional and management challenges, we must recognize any loss in pregnancy as a life-altering event for our patients. The care of the patient experiencing a Pregnancy Loss is a paradigm for what we do as physicians. It tests not only our clinical skills and judgments but stretches the fibers of the human aspect of caring very thin. Although we might ask, "how can we heal when our patients' children are incurable, when they are suffering or when they die or what do we do when the advanced technology that has become a part of our black bag fails", we must understand that we can heal by providing comfort , empathy and hope. As bad as this experience is for our patients, we can make it better. If we remain aware that we are the link between the stillborn baby and the bereaved family, that we were the first to touch and hold their child, albeit their stillborn child, then we can share this with them, remember this with them, and from this point forward, heal with them. The bond we form becomes the unbreakable fiber, which strengthens and indeed cements our role in the doctor-patient relationship.
Born silent, born still,
With the beauty of an angel,
Elizabeth passed from my waiting hands,
Into the hearts of her parents.
First breath, last breath,
A body full of love;
Youthful, hopeful, anticipating.
Now a body full of sorrow.
Elizabeth: a mother's child,
Embraced by three mothers,
Gave tiny footprints, inked mementos of
What might have been.
Yet as with life itself, we are
Guided by fleeting moments of
And promises dreamed.
The veil of death’s darkness
Will disappear like melting snows
Mercifully, prayers will turn
Cries into song,
Loneliness will fade.
Life will move on.
Elizabeth has touched us all.
But her death will not harm us,
For she has summoned the secret wonders
Of what means love.
And we have now become her children.
Could I have died so soon,
So soon that my cries
Were silenced in your womb?
So soon that I'll never touch
Your breast nor feel
Your hands caress
So soon that you never got
To sigh and cry
Sweet tears of joy,
For your first child,
Your first born boy?
Could I have died so soon?
I suspect not,
For I felt the passion
Of your love around me
As my heartbeats slowed,
As I lay motionless,
I heard the misery
In your cries that
I would not be born alive
And wondered, why?
Yesterday father, you fathered me.
Today dear mother, you birthed me.
I was there, You were there.
We all stood witness.
I heard your whispers,
That you love me.
I heard you tell each other
How beautiful I was viewed
In my eternal quietude.
I even felt your soft caress
As you held me to your breast.
On this morn, mourn not for me.
With ethereal grace I have a name.
I have a home, I have a life...
To live through all eternity.
I no longer see the stars; I am the stars.
I no longer breathe the wind; I am the wind.
I am the sweet smell of honeysuckle after an
I am the dew on the rose petals in early
I am harmony and I am peace.
I am love.
In sorrow, my mother and father cry,
But they need not fear. For I am strong.
My heart is whole and in union with my soul.
I understand my fate and I smile.
For nature's will is my destiny
And my guide through eternity.