Protecting Life in a Neonatal Wing


Pregnant with my seventh child, I was bedridden in the high-risk, neo-natal wing of the maternity ward for a week while waiting for a housekeeper to come to run my home and help tend my six children. I faced 6 months of bed rest but that one week gave me perspective and kept me from sinking into self-pity. The other two women in my room were desperate to keep their babies in uteri and finally become mothers. One of the two had suffered five miscarriages. She was stuck in a ward room for months, only going home after the birth of her baby.

Secretly we all feared that we would lose our babies. Suddenly our fears materialized as a high-risk woman’s baby died in her womb. That poor woman had to endure an induction and labour for hours, only to push out a dead baby. The pain in that wing of the hospital was tangible. Tears ran down women’s’ faces as they grieved with their neighbour. It did not matter that none of us had even glimpsed her face. Nurses as well as patients mourned for a sister who was loosing her newborn. I became so nauseated with the awful vibes that pressed in on me that I ended up retching over the side of my bed with ice packs on my head to relieve a migraine. Thank God, after the delivery, they moved her to the maternity wing where she was given a free, private room. We all sighed with relief when the nurses told us that the hospital understood the need to shelter grieving mothers from others who cuddled and nursed their babies.

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My generosity petered out after a few weeks at home. My only outing was to a high-risk appointment every week. Church was even out of the question, so Michael brought home communion and the readings each Sunday. I remained in prone position, eating while propped up on one elbow with my food cut into small pieces. The high-risk doctors let me use a regular toilet and have a quick shower every morning. In those days, we had one large, heavy T.V. in the living room, a black dial-up phone on the hall wall, no stereo system, no computer and the bedroom window was cloudy, so I could not look outside. In frustration I phoned my doctor one morning after my shower,tching over the side of my bed with ice packs on my head to relieve a migraine. Thank God, after the delivery, they moved her to the maternity wing where she was given a free, private room. We all sighed with relief when the nurses told us that the hospital understood the need to shelter grieving mothers from others who cuddled and nursed their babies.

“But I don’t feel sick. I feel fine and my kids need me!”, I wailed.

Baby Girl Ultrasound

My usually laid back, jovial doctor explained my situation in graphic detail,

” You have a huge clot, 4 cm thick, 6 cm, wide from the top of your womb where the placenta tore down your entire right side. The last time this happened at the Civic was two years ago to a woman who had four kids at home. They both almost died . We had to call the archbishop in to explain to her that it was more of a sin to her remaining children if she foolishly died along with her unborn child.”

Listen to me. Keep this image in your mind. Imagine that here is a gun pressed to your temple, cocked waiting only for the slightest movement to set it off. Lay in bed and do not move!”

Well that got my attention.

The hardest aspect to my forced “vacation” was letting go of control of how strange women cleaned my home, washed laundry and made meals. I endured terrible cooks and inept, lazy house cleaners but at least my kids could still lay down beside me as I read to them and helped with homework. It almost seemed orchestrated because God seemed to delight in my inactivity; He had ample time to teach me to let go, trust and to allow others to serve me.

The end result of my confinement was a beautiful baby girl with huge black eyes and black hair that stood straight up. Sh is now a gentle artist/ philosopher whose dark eyes sparkle with life and joy.

5 thoughts on “Protecting Life in a Neonatal Wing

  1. Wonderful story of life at its most vulnerable time when our emotions are high and it’s a hard fall when it happens. Nothing more precious than motherhood at the beginning of each new life.

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