Bad Chaplain

This has been one of those great weekends of unexpected wonder. I spent all day at the beach. I went to bookstores. I saw old friends. It was just wonderful. And I have the sunburn to prove it. And the boy is out of town -- but there have been some very cute text messages. It goes without saying that he's cute.

And then, I arrive in church today. Early as I still had to do the list of prayers. Or at least, print the list of prayers. I wasn't the slightest bit excited about my sermon -- but oh well. We sing. We call ourselves to worship. The list of prayers from the narthex arrives in my lap. I let out some unexpected inappropriate noise as I read that one of our newer members is in the hospital after her water broke at 6 months. Obviously, I left church and went to her side. (After worship, don't worry.) She was in labor. Might I add, I've never been remotely near a woman while in labor. I was clumsy. I felt awkward, but I wanted to be there. i wanted to know that she had support -- that God was with her even though this didn't make any sense. She was going to be operated on. I was overcome and left. This was something I learned to do well in CPE. I could always leave. Getting there was harder. I had promised I would come back, but the more I thought about it today, the more I talked myself out of it. They weren't ready to talk. They didn't need me yet. So, I'm going in the morning. I don't want to smother them -- but I admit I have no idea what to say. Do premature babies survive? Is this dire? Am I too optimistic that their first wedding anniversary might be their son's birthday? I don't know how to prepare myself for this visit. I don't even know what to think.


Anonymous said...

Many pre-mature babies do survive. It all depends.

I hope things go well for this couple.

Teri said...

I hardly think this is a story of you being a bad chaplain!
To answer your question about survival...well, sometimes. I did CPE first in the largest women's services hospital in the south. I learned there that a baby can *usually* technically survive on its own at around 24 weeks (when lungs develop) though it's pretty dicey. My cousin Max was born 10 weeks early and he's now 3, healthy, and ridiculously intelligent. But sometimes things don't go that well and you end up explaining to your presbytery why you baptized a dead person (well, I did--you don't have a presbytery...). But no matter what happens, you are a great person to be there with them, reminding them they're not alone, that there is community and there is God, holding and loving them. Praying for you...

Teri said...

wait...Max was born 13 weeks early. sorry. And he's still great. :-) He had lots of company in the NICU, too--many babies who are thriving just like he is. They have reunions and everything.

Songbird said...

This is a tough one, indeed. I'll be praying for them and for you this morning.
No one "knows" what to do in these situations. Love them, offer baptism (no matter the outcome) or a blessing. Prepare to be amazed at how tiny a preemie can be. Pray with them, I know you are good at that, and it's probably something they can't do for themselves right now, regardless of outcome.
Hugs to you this morning.

more cows than people said...

you have good wisdom here. survival is possible, very possible. it may be a rough couple of months for this family, but with God's grace may all be well.

love them, pray for them, and let the Spirit guide you and them.

(((pastor peters)))

LittleMary said...

go and be with them. just be. they can tell you if they want you to leave. or if you feel like they want you to leave you can ask. you are a good ministry of presense kind of person. you are a good pastor.

Kelly D said...

I found you in my Google Alerts for Premature Babies. My twin daughters were born 10 weeks early (30 weeks). Sounds like your member's baby was around 26-28 weeks. Generally, babies born around 28 weeks have the same survival rate as full-term babies. However, the possibilities for complications or long-term disabilities is greater.

Here are my opinions/thoughts on your blog:
1. If you told them you would return, then do so. She is probably feeling guiltily because her baby was born too soon so you not returning could be devastating.
2. Try not to cry or get too emotional about how tiny and frail their baby looks. Not that you should pretend everything is okay, but they are experiencing enough emotion that they need you to be strong.
3. You mentioned you don't know what to say - so don't say much. Say simple things like "God is watching over you and your family." or "We are praying for you." DON'T tell them it will be okay.
4. Do let them know they can contact you for support.

Best of luck to you and this family.

esperanza said...

Hi, I'm a pastor and my baby was born 10 weeks early (6 1/2 months or so). I agree with the good advice above. But also prepare yourself (if you are even allowed to see the baby) for lots of wires and tubes and obnoxious alarms. It's hard to focus on the little life and his or her parents. There are SO many babies in there that also need prayers and care.

Blessings to you for being with this family. They will need you also as the weeks go on. There will be ups and downs...the roller coaster of it all is particularly difficult.

Susie/NuevaCantora said...

How scary. I hope things go well for them too.