When there is someone on labor and delivery who has lost their baby and is in the difficult process of laboring to deliver that baby, or someone who is delivering who has previously lost a child and wants us to be aware so we can honor their past, we put a note on the outside of their door so that everyone entering the room is aware. This creates a sensitivity and empathy for the family’s experience and allows us to support them as best as we can. I recently read a note on a patient’s door that left me in tears with heartbreak for a stranger’s devastation. I began to think about how different everything would be if we all approached each other with the insight that everyone has hidden parts of their story that we can not appreciate when we meet them. We should treat everyone with compassion knowing that the person on the other side of that door who has experienced devastating tragedy could be someone we have had a casual encounter with.
Imagine all of the times you have interacted with someone and judged them solely based on what you witnessed at that moment in time. Their physical appearance, mood, actions, how they spoke, their responses, how their kids looked or acted, or who they were holding hands with. Imagine how your response to that person would have changed if each of us were wearing a note that told the world about the most hidden parts of our inner selves- our insecurities, struggles, traumas, weaknesses, and grief. We have created so much distance between us that we have trouble recognizing ourselves in others. We are taught that vulnerability is weakness so we compartmentalize and hide the parts of ourselves that make us most human.
Once we all start sharing more of ourselves then we can really see and hear each other and provide unconditional support. I have started to share parts of my journey and struggles but there are still many pieces that I have yet to work through. I have to treat myself with grace and give myself more time for self care and reflection before talking about them openly. However, I want to know that when I am ready to share I am part of a community that will embrace me for who I am. I want to know that I am surrounded by other thoughtful people who will support instead of judge me. In the meantime, I will try to remember that with every interaction I have on the other side is another person with their own hidden pieces and a note on their door that I have not yet read.