Thursday, May 26, 2011

Privilege of Remembering Baby

The headline reads: Mother Sues Hospital over Photos Dead Son.
According to News5 at WTWLdotcom "someone" sent Heather Werth a photo album with pictures of her prematurely born son who died at sixteen weeks. The young mother is suing the hospital over Abuse of a Corpse. The female anchor person on News5 asked her colleague, "Why did she (the mother) keep the pictures if they were so upsetting to her?"

The answer could give ammunition to the hospital's lawyer and those who recommend the making of pictures after a baby has died. They'll say: "She may not want them now, but she'll be happy she has them later.

To which I would say, that doesn't matter. What matters is the way the album was delivered, especially since Heather Werth told the hospital staff she didn't want them to take the pictures.

I can very well imagine Werth's shock opening the album and seeing pictures of her baby dressed up and modeled in different poses.

We have two Polaroid® pictures taken of Ariane Eira by Margreet the delivery nurse. Anneke our delivery coach took a few photographs of us holding our sweet little girl. Those pictures are precious and we keep them in a special place. But we can choose when to see them. And let me tell you, there have been times where looking at them was unbearable. 

To send an album in the mail the way the hospital did defeats the purpose of memorial photography. There's no solace in receiving such a present.

To repeatedly re-experience a traumatic delivery is not at all uncommon. Penny Simkin founder of DONA likened this to PTSD. This is a "natural" occurrence. To have the imagery pushed upon you may trigger episodes that may been tapering off. In Heather Werth's case to wake up and go to bed "seeing" the pictures of her dead son in her mind may not be the same as PTSD linked to a traumatic delivery, the effect is the same.

Incidentally Tracey Hill-Bensalem told me the other day that she wrote about her research for a story in which a baby is stillborn. She Google-ed "what does a stillborn child look like?" looked at pages upon pages, and was touched by the sadness of it all. In response to her post I wrote how I (and I'll add here like to) remember our little girl.

Our Ariane Eira's eyes were closed, her lips burgundy rose petals dropped on pale smooth skin, she had the tiniest blond curls as if set around sprigs. Her limbs, fingers and toes were long, like her daddy's, her nails mother of pearl. No peep, no breath, still sheer perfection.

For some reason suing is the M.O. in America to get attention for unwanted practices, I don't know if that's the way to go when doing so may only prolong the suffering, but I do think a reprimand at the address of the hospital is in place, if only to make clear not everyone wants the same.


This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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