Episode 207, “Faith,” is based on just that – faith. Faith in a couple, faith in the future, faith in a new life, faith in seeing each other again. But at the heart, the very core, is the story of a mother and her child. A mother and the loss of her only baby, Faith. Watching Claire’s heart-wrenching story unfold made me think a lot about how we approach the untimely departure of ones so small – how things were, how much they are the same, and how much they have changed. Why would I connect to a topic so emotionally difficult to stomach?
Let me take a short detour a minute if I may. When I went to college – the first time – I graduated with a degree in elementary education. I never had the opportunity to teach full-time, but I loved teaching. l enjoyed being able to pass on what I had learned to my students and always thought I would return to teaching.
But it wasn’t meant to be. After a detour through the retail world and two kids, I decided I wanted to go to nursing school “to help women have babies.” So, I did it! In my thirties, I headed back to school and became a nurse. When I went to interview for what I thought would be my dream job, life stopped me. Well actually, corporate downsizing did. The position I so badly wanted had become over saturated, and the only place that I was able to go was the NICU. Neonatal Intensive Care? How in the world would I ever be able to do that?
But I followed MY faith and took the position. I was told initially to give it a year. As we celebrate nurses in my profession with National Neonatal Nurses Day (Sept. 15), I am proud to say that I am in my fourteenth year taking care of the smallest of patients. I also have the privilege of caring for their families – their mommies and daddies. One just never knows where one will end up. Faith.
As caregivers, nurses are taught to treat our patients and their physical being first, followed closely by that person’s spirit. Being a NICU nurse, I am also charged with caring for the parents of my small patients. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes comforting moms and dads during a time of loss. I had the privilege of caring for a baby not too long ago. Her name? Faith. Admittedly, I had never been to the funeral of any of my patients in the 11 years prior to my caring for baby Faith. I only took care of her for a short time, but the impact that she and her little spirit had on my soul is everlasting. Her mom and dad were very grateful to all of us. Her brother – her twin –Dalton, has gone on to thrive and be an adorable, inquisitive, happy toddler.
But why did I feel the need to go and pay my respects to Faith, my tiniest of patients?
I’ll never really know; I’m only happy that I did. She and her family will always have a special place in my heart. I only felt it strange that of all the babies I’ve ever cared for and lost, the one that I did attend the funeral for shared the name of the baby of our dear Claire’s little one. Now I know that I cannot compare the show to life – believe me, I know! I live it everyday. I just find it to be oddly serendipitous that the names would be the same. I had heard when you get a sign like that, that they are called God winks. I like to think that Claire and Faith were a God wink from Melissa and Rick’s baby, Faith.
As a person who is responsible for the very life of another’s child, I sympathize first with Monsieur Forez, and then with Mother Hildegarde. Part of the responsibility I hold when I am at work will, at times, include going to high-risk deliveries. We know going into these deliveries that most often we are attending just to err on the side of caution. We may need to do some intervention, we may not. Some babies will take a trip to the NICU; some will be fine and get to stay with mom. For some, we work very hard to get them to take a first breath, and it never happens. This is the saddest of times.
|Photo courtesy: Candida’s Musings|
When I attend a delivery like that, our team will begrudgingly walk away with tears in our eyes. How can that be? How can a time of joy and elation be brought to a crashing halt with one phrase? “Time….” With this type of outcome, our team retreats back to the babies we have been successful to resuscitate, and we put more into those little warriors that are fighting so hard to go home with their families.
As I watched Outlander, Mother Hildegarde had to tell Claire that her baby was “morte ne” – born dead. Right then, I cried for the babies from whom I have had to walk away. I cried for the nurses and doctors caring for the mother who have had to tell her that her baby did not survive. Somehow hearing “morte ne” doesn’t sting this English-speaking girl’s ears as much as “born dead.” I am grateful for those who have to care for the mom who never gets to hold her living, breathing baby. And then I think of what I get to do in what, at first, had become my profession but has now evolved into what I believe is my calling.
This brings me back to Claire and Faith and Mother Hildegarde and Fergus.
In our hospital, if a family experiences infant loss, the family is encouraged to spend as much time with their baby as needed. Some families never want to see their baby without life, and that’s OK. That is when her nurse will step in and become the one who is with that baby as she pumps the last beat of her heart. The nurse will sit and hold and rock that baby, knowing that the baby will never be held like that again. It is an emotional time, but it is also very comforting. I wonder if the sister who was at the birth held Faith for any amount of time? I would imagine she did.
But if a family chooses to hold the baby, to stay with their little one until the last breath, then we allow them time and space to do so. A wonderful group of my coworkers, led by nurse Cami, have even been working on taking pictures of the babies and families. When I tell people about this, some get a little creeped out. But then I explain to them that those parents holding their baby for just those short moments is the only time they will hold their baby – that they will not have photos of a first birthday, first day of school, first dance, driver’s license, graduation, wedding… the list can go on. These are the only memories these parents will have of the little one that mom carried in her belly for whatever time she was able to. Sometimes we will have a baby for a few short hours, other times the baby will live for months, fighting. And then when their work is done and the fight is gone, they go to sleep.
Having a baby is a life event.
Having pictures to remember that event is a way of our life now. I’m happy that I have compassionate people around me who recognize that and are willing to dedicate their time and energy for the families to remember.
It made me think, wouldn’t it have been lovely if an artist could have done a sketch of Faith for Claire and Jamie? Jamie never got to see his little girl. Never got to hold her. He wasn’t there and could not do these things. But Claire was able to hold and rock and sing to her. Play with her hair. Count her fingers and toes. That was a very forward-thinking concept for Mother Hildegarde to allow Claire to see and hold her baby. Even as recent as the mid-20th century, when babies were born stillborn, parents were not able to hold them or even see them. It was believed to be better for the families to put “it” behind them and move on. Viewing, holding, cuddling or even singing to the baby was thought to cause too much additional trauma to the family and was never encouraged.
I am happy that we have adapted this practice to allow families to grieve… to allow them to acknowledge their baby existed. It is so needed for healing.
When they finally show Claire holding Faith, the baby is clean and wrapped in a blanket. Part of my responsibility is to prepare a baby for the next phase. If possible, we will bathe the baby. We will take footprints, cut locks of hair, dress the baby. This is all for the parents to know that WE recognize that their baby did exist. That their baby was a living person with personality – believe me, some of the littlest are the most feisty, while some of them have a gaze that will melt your heart. Both of these traits describe my baby, Faith, who I talked about earlier.
|Photo courtesy: Beth Wesson|
For the longest time, when one of our littlest ones passed, we would place a garment provided to us by a manufacturer on the baby. They were nice, but they weren’t very personal. I had seen an article about a nurse who would make infant gowns from donated wedding gowns. She would tear apart and reconstruct gowns in which to bury babies who had fallen asleep.
I mentioned to a coworker of mine that, upon retirement, we should do this. She does seamstress work, and I only dabble in sewing. Rose Ann, that very special nurse, took the idea and ran with it. She has assembled a team of volunteers, mostly other nurses from our unit, who will take apart, cut out, sew and embellish these very gowns through an organization called Littlest Angels. Most of our babies are so small when they are born that there are no clothes on the market in their size. These gowns provide something that the parents can have their daughter wear as they take those beautiful pictures.
On some occasions, Rose Ann will provide two gowns for our littlest of angels – one is for the family to have the baby in for the time being and then to take with them as a remembrance; the other is then placed on the baby for burial. The families are forever grateful and cherish those gowns.
I imagine that Mother Hildegarde placed Faith in just a blanket. What else would she have had?
Mother Hildegarde also said that she named the baby so she could be buried in the church cemetery. Going back through history, babies who were stillborn were usually not even named. Those babies were placed in unmarked graves. Those families were told to move forward and forget. By giving the baby a name and giving her a burial, Mother Hildegarde was giving life to Claire’s baby. Claire says that in naming the baby, Faith, that “Mother Hildegarde has a very odd sense of humor.” But I believe she was sending Claire a message. Also she was taking great chances in the eyes of The Church that would not have been allowed. But she had Faith.
Probably the part in this story that is most true to life now is when Claire finally makes her way home. The house is there to greet her and mourn with her. They have all suffered a loss. Just think about the last person you knew who was expecting. How close were you to that person? Did you see her everyday? Did you see her growing belly, knowing that there was a little person in there? Did you wait with anticipation for that little person?
|Photo courtesy: Outlander Online|
Now imagine never getting to see that precious baby. You would suffer loss as well. That is what is going on with Fergus, who would essentially be Faith’s brother. That is what is happening with Magnus and Suzette, who had been at Claire’s side for all of this time. They mourn for Claire, they mourn for Faith and they mourn for themselves.
Each year in our hospital, we have a memorial service to remember those babies who made it to our unit, but never made it home. You see, we have suffered loss too. We cannot compare it to the family, but we mourn as well. We also have this service as a support for the families. To let them know that we remember their baby.
In my church, our priest always says that we remember our loved ones who have passed so that God can remember. What a beautiful sentiment. I know that this service will never replace the loved one lost, but can help keep the memory alive.
Even though we do not see or hear Jamie and Claire speak much of Faith again, I hope that they do remember her – keep her memory alive.
Lastly, Jamie is able to visit the grave of his stillborn baby girl. He leaves an Apostle Spoon of St. Andrew with her so she has something Scottish with her in this foreign land. Many times I have been to the grave of a loved one and left something small behind as a gift to that person. For me, it is just a way to help me feel like I am not leaving them alone. I’m sure Jamie knows he most likely will never be able to visit her grave again. This is also his way of leaving a piece of him with her, possibly, as a way to protect her. Again, grieving the loss is a modern idea, but who else would be more forward thinking that Jamie and Claire?
So much has changed in our approach in helping families cope with the loss of a little one. I am sure some of the forward thinking sentiment in this story is because it was written in modern times, but we are still reminded of the way things were. I am grateful to be able to provide a source of refuge and peace for families who need it. And I am grateful to Diana Gabaldon for delving into this story and offering a glimpse into this sad, lonely world that too many have to experience.
Have you ever connected with Outlander, or another show, on a deeply personal level?