October 28, 2008

No idea what to do

Sometimes life throws up situations and I realize I have absolutely no idea about how best to handle them.

One came on Monday when a young woman came into the clinic to tell us that her sister had just given birth to a stillborn baby. Her water had broke and they were on their way to the maternity ward at the government clinic up the hill when the woman had been forced to stop and give birth in a field. (It is generally known that we do not do births - or try not to, at any rate - but we could have given them a ride if we had known. I got the sense the situation had developed very rapidly.) Jenny was out for a moment so I went up to the their shack to which they had returned with the corpse. It was so small - the birth was two months pre-mature - and wrapped in a towel on the floor.

How would you handle this situation? How would you handle this situation while working in another language?

I had no idea what to do so I followed the advice in that familiar saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi - “first do what is necessary, then what is possible, and soon you are doing the impossible.” I inquired about the health of the mother, which, given my lack of appropriate vocabulary, would have been comical if it hadn’t been such a tragic moment. But she wasn’t bleeding and had delivered the placenta and seemed to be physically alright. Then we decided to call the funeral home to come pick up the baby.

Jenny came back a bit later and checked the mother again and was generally a reassuring older presence. I realized the mother was younger than me and her sister about my age. They had no one to fall back on to support them and comfort them with the wisdom of their years. And here were the three of us trying to figure out what to do with a stillborn baby.

Who put us in charge?


Heidi said...

Yeah, that's a tough one. But you were present and calm, which is pretty much the lion's share. Sometimes there is no right thing to do but just to be there with someone. Good job, Jesse.

Anonymous said...

Well done Jesse - I serve on the perinatal bereavement team at hospital I work at. A still born and the family is never easy to deal with. I always rely on prayer to lead me through the situation. Tough stuff - Well done! -- Jane

MaryB said...

I can't imagine a more understanding, compassionate presence than you, Jesse. It's good you were there. - Mary Brennan

Marie said...

God knew who to send to them at the moment of great tragedy - and you responded to the call to be a "visible prayer" to God in their need. You were the incarnation of the Comforter.

A heartbreaking but holy time - you did just what needed to be done - you were there caring and hurting with them as was the God who sent you as his messagner at just the right time.

Prayers and blessings

Janet said...

Ditto to all the above comments.
My heart breaks at these circumstances.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Janet Coyne