By Dianne Kemp
I am not sure why I was always drawn to moms who had some type of grief during their childbirth experience – but I was.
One day while working I overheard of a young mom in labor who was only 25 weeks pregnant. They could not stop her labor so she was going to have a very tiny baby who would be born alive but not live. I did not know this patient so I stayed away from the labor room.
I stopped into the Special Care Nursery late in the day and saw a tiny baby under a warmer. I asked the staff about the baby and they said it was the daughter of the teen mom. The baby weighed 10 oz. The staff told me that the baby would not live and that they were just waiting for her vital signs to stop. I went over and looked at this tiny infant – she was naked under a warming light – so tiny and helpless.
I decided that I had to hold this baby. I could not imagine letting her die so alone. I asked the staff if her parents had seen her or held her. I was told that the family did not want to see her at all. I then asked the staff if it would be alright if I held her. They kind of rolled their eyes at me – I was always the one with the far-out ideas, but they said it was OK. I went to the closet and found tiny clothes that were kept on hand for infants whose parents did not have clothes that would fit their tiny bodies. I found a little undershirt and sleeper, and a few blankets. I then carefully put the smallest diaper I could find on the baby, along with the shirt and sleeper. I found a tiny pink hat and put that on her too. I wrapped her in the blankets and picked her up. I turned the rocking chair toward the corner of the room and sat down.
I do not know how long I sat there – but I talked to her and sang to her the whole time. She was so perfect and I told her that she was loved and wanted and that she was perfect and safe. I heard people in the background asking what I was doing but I did not care – tiny baby and I were in our own world.
After a while, tiny baby gave up her tenuous hold on life and sighed her last breath. I held her for a little while after that and then told the staff that I was going to go and talk to her parents. I left tiny baby under the warmer, dressed.
I went to the labor room where the mom and her family were grieving this loss. I told them that I was a nurse and I had just held their daughter while she died. I told them how perfect she was. After asking a few questions, the mom asked if she could see her daughter. I went back to the nursery and put a warm blanket around tiny baby and sprinkled a bit of baby powder on her so her mom could remember that wonderful smell. I took the infant to her mom and stood in the corner of the room. First mom, then dad, then each of the grandparents held tiny baby and marveled at her beauty. They kept her with them for about an hour and then said goodbye.
After taking her back to the nursery, I took pictures of tiny baby with a disposable camera (the parents would take it home and develop the pictures when and if they were ready), I did tiny foot and hand prints and cut a lock of her blond hair. I took off her tiny hat too. I put all of this in a large envelope and asked the staff to give it to the parents and tell them to open it when they felt they were ready.
I have been a nurse for 40 years and I think this is the moment I remember to be the most rewarding and the one I will never forget.
Dianne Kemp was born in Detroit and moved to Lexington at age 9. She received her Associate Degree in Nursing Science in 1972 from SC4. And a Bachelors in Healthcare Psychology from Graceland College (Iowa) on 1996.
Dianne’s career developed from her love of babies. She was a Maternal Child nurse for 45 years – developing and teaching childbirth and parenting education classes, working as an RN in Mother Baby Care and was the first lactation consultant in the county. She is now volunteering as a chaplain at River District Hospital since losing her vision in her left eye due to a retinal detachment in 2010.
Dianne is the proud mother of three children (one who was disabled and passed away in 2007) and two grandchildren.
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