Leaving the hospital without your baby

Before things went wrong I had mapped out a scene from our future.  I think every parent does. Whether it is your baby’s first smile, how you will look pushing your baby in a stroller, or taking your child to their first day of school.  I suspect the image is different for everyone. For me, it was a picture of being wheeled by my beaming husband to the front doors of the hospital clutching three baby boys. Heads would turn and everyone would say, “Triplets!”

As an OB/GYN I have seen it a lot. The father or partner nervously sprints to the car and as the mother passes by cradling her precious bundle, almost everyone smiles and remarks on the baby. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of a newborn. The mothers are like beauty pageant winners, clutching a baby instead of roses, their faces beaming with excitement as they glide through the hallways as if they were taking their first turn on the stage before an adoring crowd. I really wanted that wheelchair ride. But no one looks at the mother without a baby. We are the invisible.

I still come and go from a hospital every day, just as I done for more than 20 years.  To this day I have to turn away when I see those smiling mothers as they glide towards the hospital doors as it reminds me of how I felt getting into our car so many years before. I can never escape it.  It is a visceral reminder of all that was lost. There are some wounds that never heal.  I know it is not their fault that my pregnancy did not go as planned, that after months of intensive care I left the hospital with two critically ill boys instead of three healthy ones, but I cannot help it.  It is a reminder of all those original dreams long discarded but not forgotten.

A mother should never have to leave the hospital without her baby.

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14 Responses to Leaving the hospital without your baby

  1. Kristine says:

    This made me tear up. You capture that moment of leaving the hospital well. It is special. And, I can’t imagine leaving without my baby. <3

  2. Danielle says:

    Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe it! I have never put it into words like that. But you’re right, no one even seems to care when a mother leaves without her baby.

  3. Deborah says:

    You are so right…there is nothing quite like or as painful as leaving the hospital without your baby. It felt so wrong for me when I had to leave Aria and I always felt that when I would leave her for the night in NICU. Thank you for sharing so honestly and so gracefully.

  4. Macarena says:

    On feb 18th 2010, I left the hospital without my son, Tomas Andres, it was and it is the most painful moment and time of our lives. I can feel him with me every single second of my day, but it hurts, but at the same time we are full of hope and faith that next time we will leave the hospital with our baby and with our little angel, who will always be with us…

  5. Melissa says:

    I completely relate. It was so painful during my daughter’s five-month NICU stay to see so many moms walking gingerly while proud dad carried out the newborn, gifts, balloons. I waddled out clutching my C-section scar and nothing else. When the baby finally got discharged, there were no balloons, and there was an oxygen tank. It’s a very very different feeling.

  6. This brings back so many memories, I couldn’t agree more leaving the hospital without your baby is so heartbreaking.

  7. jodie says:

    I remember when I had to leave my baby…. we were staying at the Ronald McDonald house and could see the hospital from the window in our room. My husband and I would cry ourselves out looking through that window many many times.

  8. Frances says:

    Leaving the hospital without my son on Sep. 1 2010 was the most painful thing I had to deal with outside of all the statistics given to me regarding delivering a baby at 23 / 24 weeks into a pregnancy….

  9. Adell says:

    People talk about a mothers guilt but when it came to trying to divide my time between a healthy 3rd grader, one twin recently graduated from NICU and the other twin still walking the knifes edge of a 24 weeker, I was not prepared. Like Melissa I felt the constant sting of happy parents and family members with their huge babies delicately wrapped and surrounded by gifts, flowers and balloons! I felt jealousy, then shame. I tried to explain my hurt to my husband, ‘No one celebrates when you have a preemie, they hold their breath and pray’. It is a testament to the power and strength of mothers and fathers who continue walking though those hospital doors, smiling at new mothers through their own tears and facing each day with a bottomless well of hope and faith.

  10. Jennifer Gunter says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is even harder when one baby comes home and the other one is still in the hospital.

  11. Chelsie Flinn says:

    The worst feeling in the world other then the day you deliver an extremely premature baby is having to leave your baby in the hospital. But…..having one in the hospital means you have one to leave. It means eventually (hopefully, thank god for the technology to help save your precious baby) you will be bringing your baby home. My 25 weeker was in the hospital for almost 4 months. The hardest 4 months of my life. But I am very grateful for my walking, talking, fit throwing, screaming, laughing, happy, smiling 2 year old irregardless of how long it took to get him home! He is my miracle

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  14. chris says:

    Hello. My name is Christopher Eber, and recently a good friend of mine gave birth to her child prematurely. She, like many women, had difficulty connecting to her child, for fear of hurting the child, and yet she was also afraid to leave the hospital.

    For that reason, I am currently working to understand the complex relationship between parents and their premature children. I hope to be able to understand this topic well enough to create a solution which may help mothers to connect to their children more immediately. This 10 question survey is hugely important to my research for this design.

    Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this post and for contributing from your own first-hand experience.


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