At 34-ish weeks pregnant, I took a tour of the birth center where I would be delivering my second son. My second rainbow baby. A planned surprise after trying nearly three years to conceive our first son.
The lady who gave me the tour seemed a bit ditzy. I found myself smiling and nodding a lot as she spoke. Our conversation veered off topic multiple times and began to drag on. I asked her if I could bring my own diapers, to which she happily insisted they had plenty of diapers and that I didn’t need to bring my own diapers like it was such a convenience for me.
She was thrown when I explained that my husband and I cloth diapered and that we were very particular about which disposables we used in our babies’ first days of life. She chimed in that her child could only tolerate Pampers. She didn’t get it. I sensed that she had no experience with infertility. That was okay. More smiling and nodding.
Next, she led me down a long hallway connecting the Labor and Delivery rooms to the Recovery rooms, stopping to show me the nursery and a red button mounted on the wall just outside it.
“After your baby is born, you can push this button, and it will play a lullaby overhead for the whole hospital to hear.”
How sweet. I remember sometimes hearing a lullaby play through the overhead speakers at one of my clinical sites in X-ray school when I was 19 years old. Everyone would stop momentarily, smile, and exclaim “A baby!” I can’t say I imagined this lullaby playing for my own babies one day, but I thought it was a sweet gesture. I thought the mother must have felt so proud and blissfully happy in that moment.
The hospital where I worked for 5 years after graduation didn’t have a birth center, so of course, there was no occasional lullaby playing overhead. Thank goodness because as a large hospital in heavily populated San Diego, that lullaby would have been playing all day, every day.
I can imagine how triggering that would have been throughout my 3-year battle with infertility and loss. I was triggered enough as it was, asking each female patient of childbearing age if there was any chance of pregnancy, checking their charts for hCG levels, explaining possible risks vs. benefits to patients who were pregnant and protectively dressing them in all the lead skirts and aprons their baby bumps could physically hold.
After my first miscarriage, I couldn’t even look at a pregnant patient or a newborn patient. Thankfully my coworkers understood and took over my role as “baby expert” for a few weeks until I could hold my professional composure with these special patients.
I knew I wouldn’t push the button. Another smile and nod for the tour guide. Having been both the naive teenage college student not yet ready for children and the triggered mom-in-waiting, I knew the short, soon-forgotten smiles of hundreds of people wasn’t worth the hours or days or lifetime of pain that innocent, celebratory lullaby would cause the silent sufferers of infertility and loss.
I knew they would go home to their partners and rant about that stupid lullaby and how they were going to push the crap out of the button when they finally got their baby. They would know exactly how many babies were born that day. A lot. It was spring.
If they were like me, they might think something along the lines of, All these women, popping out babies in the springtime like animals. How annoying… Maybe that will be me next spring. That gives me a few more months to conceive. For a moment, that realization would bring relief from all the pressure to conceive, followed immediately by the crushing pain.
It wasn’t worth it.
Five weeks later, an aide escorted ¾ of my little family to my Recovery room, with me in a wheelchair and my husband pushing Theodore along in his hospital bassinet. She angled my wheelchair toward the red button as if expecting I would push it for sure, then said excitedly, “Now you can push the button and tell the whole hospital you’ve had a baby!”
The whole hospital. How many people was that? How many of those were battling infertility or had recently experienced a loss?
The button– red and proud inside a metal box that contrasted in color and texture against the baby pink wall– was surrounded by plaques of footprints and their corresponding baby names. I wondered what all their stories were.
What obstacles had their parents encountered– or not encountered– on their roads to conception? What were these babies’ birth stories? Which of these babies were rainbows? Which ones were angels? Which ones were multiples? How big were their feet now, and what did those feet allow them to do? How happy were they in their homes? How grateful did their parents feel every day to have these blessings in their lives?
“I’m not going to push the button, but can I get a picture of it as long as I don’t get any of the baby names in it?” I knew from working at a hospital myself that her only objection to my taking a picture would be a patient privacy issue. I guess I worded the question correctly because she said yes with only the slightest hesitation, almost imperceptible.
She didn’t ask why. I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted her to. How would I answer? Maybe a simple, “Personal reasons.” This wasn’t meant to be an awareness opportunity. It was a silent act of solidarity with my fellow Mothers of Angels. An act of compassion for those whose hearts raced and faces flushed and eyes watered every. single. time. they heard that bittersweet lullaby play overhead.
So I got my memento of the button I might have happily pushed in a different life but couldn’t bring myself to push in this one. I hope that by sharing this story with you, you know that in those silent moments devoid of lullabies, someone is thinking of you.
In those silent moments devoid of lullabies, someone is thinking of you. Click To Tweet
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What are your thoughts on this hospital tradition? Would you push the button?