People stood quietly in a small semicircle around carts of books, chattering softly in an air that felt immediately more somber than most other events at UMC. In the Family Birth Center, small plastic-wrapped welcome packages containing a bright yellow rubber ducky sat on top of a book titled Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The book was illustrated with the same child-friendly yellows, oranges, blues, and greens adorning many of the hospital’s common spaces. Outside, through the large windows on the south and west of the room, dark clouds linger at far distances in the sky, somehow balancing the theme of the meeting with the fresh array of colors inside, with the sincere whispers shared, occasional smiles, and the books. The attendees have come to honor the dedication of a new Bereavement Library, coordinated and assembled by mothers that lost their babies tragically after birth.
President Ronald Reagan established October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He said in his dedication, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or a widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.” His sentiments, in some ways, reflected the statements by the cohort of mothers responsible for the development of the Bereavement Library. One mother admitted, “There are so many of us that suffer in silence.” A library, a naturally communal place, though one of quiet activity and knowledge, seems an appropriate memorial. The unique book selection serves as a small comfort for those beginning the grief process and a point of awareness to those that have not suffered as some mothers do, preventing, as the mother said, a “suffering in silence.” Each book serves as a voice, reminder, and buoy on unsteady waters that healing comes, even if it spans over an entire lifetime.
After each contributing mother shared their unimaginable experience of losing their child, there were tears, hugs, and even short applause, recognizing the strength it takes to speak on such a sensitive topic. The attendees were encouraged to examine the books, and most did, plucking one of the thin, broad-faced, and colorful titles from the rack and combing quietly through the pages. The titles are subtly indicative of why everyone’s come: Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You and On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, I’ve Loved You Since Forever by Hoda Kotb, and Don’t Forget to Remember by Ellie Holcomb. In some ways, the titles evoke the solemn services UMC nurses provided to mothers who lost their children. The presenting mothers explained how nurses provided them with small mementos for remembrance, including locks of hair, photographs, or molds of tiny feet. Though small gestures in the face of such immense loss, these artifacts are eternal and loving reminders of what they had more than what they lost.
There, in the center of the shelves of books, was a small placard, an artifact, too, meant to seal the emotions and thoughts so prevalent for anyone experiencing this unwanted journey. The glossy, black placard with gold, italicized text reads, “You keep track of all of my sorrows. You have collected all of my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” The verse is Psalms 56:8. Beneath the verse, the placard reads, “In memory of: Noah, Harrison, and Carrigan.”