His Parents Would Not Hold Him

When I was younger (in my twenties), I worked for two years as a hospital chaplain at a renowned hospital on the west coast. I was assigned to the NICU and the Labor & Delivery units. Our hospital treated the sickest babies in the nation. I saw so many precious little ones die from disease and birth defects.

I have held in my hands babies of 18 and 19 weeks gestation. Perfectly formed, and so beautiful. I have dressed babies like that in doll clothes knitted by old ladies; taken their pictures and made clay impressions of teeny tiny feet for grieving mothers and fathers.

I sat in a rocking chair one night, in the wee hours, after a baby boy was born too early. He had multiple birth defects and was not going to survive. His left arm appeared backwards. His heart was on the wrong side of his chest, with no rib cage over it. I could see his tiny heart beating erratically through his skin.

His parents could not, would not hold him, despite my pleading with them, and I would not let him lay there on a warmer table and die alone. So I held him for 45 minutes, and  sang to him, and kissed him, and prayed for him as his heart slowly stopped and he was gone.

His name was Thomas. I was too naive at the time to think of it, but I have often wondered since then if he was aborted and that’s why his parents would not hold him. I guess I’ll never know.


Jennifer Hartline is a Senior Contributor to The Stream and has been published extensively at Catholic Online and at Catholic Stand. A proud Army wife and mother of four children, she is studying theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.

More from Jennifer Hartline

I Can Offer My Own Sadness

Last night before bed, I was sort of dreading today because it...
Read More