There is one story I wrote that still chokes me up every time I read it. How could it be that something that happened over 40 years ago could still feel so raw?
I walk down the hall of that ten-room pediatric unit in my mind—passing the linen closet on the left, the utility rooms on the right and a room directly across from the nurses’ station with a huge glass window for the sickest children. There weren’t pediatric intensive care units at the time and hospital rules prohibited parents from staying overnight. I, along with my nurses aide, had full responsibility for all the babies and children over an eight-hour night shift. I was twenty-one.
It was in that linen closet that the baby, covered with a blue baby blanket in an isolette, was left to die. I had all but forgotten about him until his story began to pull itself up from the catacombs in my brain, shake off the cobwebs, and demand attention.
I like to think that by writing Baby in the Closet I have honored his short life.
Thank you Hospital Drive for giving Baby a home.
Oh my, Marianna! What a wonderful nurse you are and such a poignant memory. This post brought back a similar memory to me.The picture you painted with your writing skills was so real. My story took place as I was a 22 year old nurse working in the OB unit in a small hospital. There were days when I worked L&D, then scrubbed up and took care of the newborn in the nursery and then did post-partum care for the new Mom. Other days, I was assigned to a specific unit. While working in the Nursery one day, I was informed about an anencephalic newborn in a back room at the end of the hall whose parents didn’t want to see him. He also was apparently left there to die peacefully. He had a beautiful little face but no skull or brain. Someone had placed a little hat on the top of his head .He also had a blue blanket. I was pregnant at the time and was hoping I was carrying a healthy baby. I gave him a little sponge bath, and baptized him.There was a syringe nearby and sterile water, so I wet his tiny little lips, and then cuddled him before I put him back down. Somehow I think even then, I was destined to become a hospice nurse. I went to check on him many times during my shift. I never did find out when he died. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and letting us share with you.
Thank you Joan for telling your story. You were more sensitive to your baby than I was.
It makes me so sad to even just read this; I can’t even imagine experiencing it firsthand. You’re a much stronger person than I am!
You have honored his short life Marianna. And that is extraordinary. One forgotten, abandoned child remembered. Bravo.
I totally agree with you, Carol. Marianna honored his short life. And dear Marianna, every time you passed that baby boy’s room, you sent him love!
When we at Hospital Drive read “Baby in the Closet,” we knew immediately we wanted to help it live in the world. Thank you, Marianna, for sending it our way. We’re honored to feature it, not only in this fall issue, but also in our “Best Of…” issue that will come out in the spring.
Wow, what a powerful story. It tells of a different time, a time maybe when we didn’t frame things as ethical dilemma. It’s good to know we no longer have to make those choices, but have we gone too far the other way now? We have convinced the general public that death is avoidable, all diagnoses curable, that quantity is better than quality of life. Perhaps if we shared more of these stories in women’s magazines and journals, we could help people imagine the reality. Or is it too harsh? Sleep well Baby!