UPDATED: Deleted the other stock image and have now included actual leaf picture we saw that day.
At the hospital today, got introduced to the leaf with a rain or tear drop sign on a patient’s door, which signifies a loss related to pregnancy. The door was partially open but it was so quiet in there, it was like the grief was radiating out towards us. That mother would not be taking her baby home with her. Devastating.
The leaf did not look like this picture. It was a single leaf in a shape similar to a slightly cupped hand with a single full and rounded drop towards the end. Somehow, the picture seemed apt, yet, I wonder how it is for that family when they see that picture. Although the picture is discreet, obviously, you don’t want staff or students coming in and asking, “so how’s the baby doing?” it still seems to magnify the loss. It certainly magnified it for us.
From talking to my neighbor at length about the loss of her son after 45 minutes of life, holding him until he died, in the midst of all the pain having to arrange a janazah and burial, having to explain to all the people who saw her pregnant that there was no new baby, the sign on the hospital door never entered the conversation. I realize it’s devastating to see (I saw it as a candy striper way back in the day), but I imagine that most of the families inside those rooms are so full of grief that they don’t even register the discrete sign. I find the whole thing almost beautiful, really — it’s one small gesture of gentleness, the hospital sheltering families in one tangible way through some of their most difficult moments.
I can appreciate that perspective and that was my gut reaction while in the hospital. While doing research for this short vignette, I came across some forums where some women lamented how the gender of their child wasn’t fully recognized by the leaf picture. Years ago, I linked to an essay on NPR by Karla Holliday: Giving a Name to the Pain of Losing a Child.
I had no idea about this sign.
It is kind of the hospital staff to try to shelter the woman during such a devastating loss.
Surely there’s some wisdom in using a symbol that’s not gendered? Some pregnancies fail before the gender can be ascertained, after all.
I was having a conversation with a friend about this and decided to search to find out exactly what the leaf stood for. His wife had a still birth around 25 weeks and one of the things that stands out most in his memory is the leaf they put on the door…
My sincere condolences to your friend and his wife for the loss of their child. The memory and emotion of seeing the leaf picture on the door of the mother’s room has been the most lasting from my OB-GYN clinical experience.
I had that exact picture on my door ten years ago. I still have the card and look at it every so often. It was such a blessing to know that the hospital cared enough to let others know the inconsolable loss we had suffered (my daughter Grace was born at 23 weeks weighing 1lb 1 oz and lived for 26 minutes). This year we took snacks and goodies to the L&D staff – while I only had my grief to bear – they’re borne the grief of so many angels.
I had a similar card on my door during the birth of our son. I did not know about it when it was first placed on my door. My nurses told me about it and then my husband mentioned there was one also on the door across the hall from us. I so wanted to run across the hall and gather that mother up and grieve with her. Because of the images on the doors, we were able to share (through our nurses) information that led to her baby being handled and cremated by our funeral home. Our nurses and the staff had no idea it was even an option until we informed them this was what would happen to our son. Our funeral home handled both of our babies with the utmost care, dignity, and love…all at their expense, not ours. I could never repay them for their kindness in our time of need. I truly appreciated the card on my door and saw it as a blessing.
I’m at the hospital with my daughter. I just saw the leaf on a door. It broke my heart. This labor has been so hard and long so far. My good friend just lost her son due to a traumatic full turn labor. My heart breaking for her. Now watching my daughter through this labor has hit a different cord than the last. Prayers for all.
I had a stillborn in 2012. I had no idea the leaf was on my door. I think it was my cousin who came in and explained to me that it was in the door and what it meant. Reading these breaks my heart. It’s devastating to go to the hospital pregnant and leave with empty arms and heart. Mother’s Day is tmrw and I pray we all have a peaceful day💐