I Wish I Could Tell You…But I Can’t
By James H. Cunningham 
I wish I could tell you…
about my being in the delivery room
sharing in the anticipation, intimacy…
and tragedy of my son’s still-birth,
but I can’t…
fathers were not allowed to be present
for cesarean deliveries.
I wish I could tell you…
about seeing and holding my first-born son,
life-less though he was,
but I can’t…
no one encouraged or helped us to consider
this. Our guilt was considerable.
I wish I could tell you…
about the mementos we treasure like
photos of Chris, footprints, handprints,
identification bands, locks of hair,
still-birth certificate…
but I can’t…
no such things were offered
no such concrete memories exist.
I wish I could tell you…
about the support and guidance we
received from the hospital staff,
but I can’t…
though I believed they did the best
they could for the times, their support was
minimal and guidance non-existent
as I remember it.
I wish I could tell you…
about the literature we received to
educate and affirm us for the grieving ahead,
but I can’t…
we received nothing to guide us.
Consider how much literature we would have
received if our baby was born alive!
I wish I could tell you…
about our mutual sharing of a meaningful
but I can’t…
no one suggested I had options to the routine
of burying our child three days later
even though his mother was still in the hospital.
I wish I could tell you…
about the support of our family and
friends and our involvement in a
bereaved parent group,
but I can’t…
after the first week our friends tried to
help by not talking about the experience
and no bereaved parent group existed
or if it did, we never learned of it.
I wish I could tell you…
How my wife and I understood our different
ways of coping, upheld each other, and grew
closer together through this sad time,
but I can’t…
at best, we weathered the experience,
had two subsequent children and
divorced eleven years later.
I can tell you a few things like…
-an O.B. nurse, friend who came in
off-duty to assist with the joyful
delivery turned tragic event
-three of my associates who came to wait
with me for the blessed event and
who instead shared my shock and
tried to contain my hysteria
-an O.B. doctor who took time and did
his best to share his feelings and
his understandings of why Chris died
-a tape I made of the funeral service for
my absent wife and a photo of the
closed casket – the only concrete
mementos we have
-subsequently, through the pain of it all,
this child has had a significant impact
on my life, personally and professionally.
I wish I could tell you…
that I could go back and do it differently,
but I can’t…
such is reality; I can forgive it,
learn from it, accept that we did the best we
could ad the time and go on living.
I wish I could tell you…
that never again will anyone experience
a newborn death,
but I can’t…
such is reality; I don’t like it and
I don’t understand it.
I wish I could tell you…
parents who experience a newborn death
today have all the support, affirmation,
options and education they want in the midst
of their grief.
but I can’t…
such is reality; though there has been
much improvement in many place, too many
bereaved parents still receive inadequate
support, are told not to grieve, lack options,
receive little guidance or education and
therefore, suffer even more.