Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dying As Healing?

It has been almost four months since I last posted. The gap is not due to having nothing to say. It may be due to too much to say and an inability to find the words to say it. I could blame it on a busy summer, since it has been a busy summer. It may be that I’ve entered some different phase or way of grieving. Quite possibly it’s a combination of all of those things. (More on all of this soon – I hope!)

I’ve started a number of posts in the last few months without finishing any. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received an email newsletter from the nurse organization AWHONN (Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nursing), which included a link to an article entitled A TransformationalJourney Through Birth and Death by Maureen Cavanaugh, DBioethics, MS, MAHCM, RN. The article is about a childbearing woman whose beliefs regarding birth and death challenge the nurse author’s (and her staff’s) concepts of care. Both the story of this particular woman’s journey and the struggles of hospital staff to let go of some nursing care beliefs and adapt care to meet the needs of this expectant, and then new, mother is what makes this article so remarkable.

It was a shock to read that the article’s subject, the expectant/new mother, was dying and had little time left to live. Still, this “high risk” mother was excited about her soon-to-be-born baby and believed in no or as little as possible intervention for her baby’s birth. The dying mother’s desires and the nurses’ usual practices initially seemed poles apart. During the subject’s prenatal and postpartum stay, a number of the nurses began to question “usual” practices and adapted care as much as possible to meet the mother’s desires for this birth and the time she might have with her baby. Never have I felt more proud to be a registered nurse myself as when I read of these nurses as they overcame beliefs based on routine versus research evidence and then worked to individualize nursing care and ensure the best possible experience for this mother.

As I came to the end of the AJN article, I looked at the references. A couple came with links to the referenced articles, which I took so I could learn more. One reference discusses the baby’s mother and her philosophy of birth and death, and I was struck by something journalist Jennifer Gish wrote. “Doctors looked…and saw the 42-year-old was dying. Renee… told them she was healing. Dying, she'd say, might just end up being part of that process.”

Dying as part of the healing process. Wrap your head around that. I know I’m trying to do so.

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