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This baby lived for only 45 minutes, but it was a lesson of love

PARENT HOLDING CHILD'S HAND
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Every life, no matter how short, has dignity.

What is the sense of giving birth to a child who will die after maybe a dozen, or several dozen, minutes? This is a question people have to face at times. It’s not about getting into a discussion about the possibility of terminating a pregnancy, but about a much deeper reflection on the meaning of life and death in general.

The baby lived 45 minutes

And although these are questions for which there are no simple answers, sometimes life itself explains a lot, offering the most valuable lessons. The employees of the Special Hospital Pro-Familia in Łódz, Poland, received just such a lesson when, in the perinatal hospice wing, this little baby was born.

The entire family waited for the baby to be born — the mother and father, two young brothers bearing gifts, two grandmothers, two grandfathers, and the mother’s sister. They came from far away to meet the baby. With them, I was a witness to 45 minutes of life. This is how long a school lesson takes; this out-of-school lesson taught me that love for a child is unconditional, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “The parents couldn’t give their child roots, so they gave him wings,” we read on the webpage of the Gajusz Foundation, which runs the perinatal hospice.

“We are thankful for another miracle, which changes the dramatic moment into an intimate greeting and a goodbye,” the staff of the center added.

That the child may leave this world with dignity

This is the purpose of this organization — to make every effort possible to ensure that, in this emotional situation of the birth of a little human who is about to die, they can offer the most comfortable conditions for a peaceful goodbye. They want to “ensure that a woman has privacy, and that her child can depart with dignity,” a longtime midwife, Nikoleta Broda, told me when commenting on the initiative of midwives from the University Clinical Hospital in Wrocław to create a special wing for women who decide to give birth to a terminally ill child.

What do such women and their loved ones need? Above all, respect and privacy, ensured by creating a special place, separating them from the mothers giving birth to healthy children.

“As midwives, we treat the child being born simply as a child. If the baby is alive, the mother gets to hug it and feed it. If it is stillborn, we clean and dress the baby and give it to the mom so she and the family can say goodbye,” said Nikoleta Broda.

The compassion and love for life seen every day in places like this hospice remind us that our dignity comes not from how long we live, nor how much we achieve, but from what we are: human beings, created in the image and likeness of God. The more we recognize and love that dignity in all people, especially the weakest, the poorest, and the most vulnerable, the more we express and become worthy of that dignity which we too have received by the very fact of existing.

This article was originally published in the Polish edition of Aleteia, and has been translated and adapted here for English-speaking readers.

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