Thursday, 17 April 2008


A very touching story from a heart of neonatologist (

Our rounds the other day were accompanied by the sound of weeping. It was nothing complicated. A baby had been born too soon, struggled for a few days, and now was breathing his last, and the family was devastated.On a somewhat related note, the wife of my nephew recently miscarried at the end of her first trimester.

When I heard it, I just threw up my hands. Why, I wondered, does it always seem that the couples who have trouble conceiving are the ones who lose the pregnancy?

I can think of hardly anything appropriate to say to them.After years of seeing various types of pregnancy and newborn loss, I have decided that there are really no good words of comfort at such a time.

The loss is so final, so absolute, so irrevocable, that only time can lessen the wound and even then often not completely heal it. We can express our condolences to the family and offer to do anything we can for them, but beyond that we seem relatively powerless.

Although it's true that a miscarriage may have occurred because the baby was defective, that's hardly of much comfort and might only bring up a worse feeling. The religious may take comfort in the thought and words that it's God's will, but in the acute stage of death and separation that, too, is of only limited help. Such scenes of loss are also a reminder to me of how huge a thing it is when a child dies.

I frequently write in this blog about decisions regarding resuscitation of very premature babies. We realize what an enormous sadness it can be to save a child who then suffers through life, but we can never forget either the enormity of a death. It, too, affects parents forever. If I never see again the universal sign of grief of a mother or father stretched out over an incubator, their head laying sideways on it with despair on their face as they grieve their lost newborn, it will be okay with me.

But I'm sure I will, and I'm sure I will again feel at such a loss for something right to say. We will offer words and gestures of support, but they will seem simply too small.

Moral of the story : I am glad I am not a doctor!

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