Every so often there are organ donor videos that circulate Facebook that really put me back in this place of deep reflection on my decision not to donate my son’s organs. It’s a place where I feel both regret and gratitude for my choice. After only minutes of holding my four-month-old’s body and trying to wrap my head around his death, when the hospital staff asked about organ donation I just sobbed into my husband’s chest and said, “I don’t want them to cut him!…” In that moment, all I could think about was his perfect little body being taken from me and damaged.
I’ve always considered donating my own organs. But my child? Most people don’t think ahead like that. If I had thought about it… If I had more than that moment to comprehend his sudden death… If I understood that I might spare parents the devastation I would continue to feel, perhaps my decision would have been different. When I watch hospital dramas where a child’s death saves the life of another, or a real-life story of families meeting the person whose life was saved through their child’s organs, I question my choice. I feel remorse when I’m in touch with families whose baby died without an organ donor, feeling a sense of responsibility on my shoulders for not doing my part.
Yet in the same breath, I savor the hour or more that I was allowed to hold my son and say goodbye. Such a sacred time with him in my arms and my husband singing “Taumafai“, setting the foundation for our faith, grief, and healing. With those memories, the last for us with our son, it’s also hard to regret our decision. During these moments, I’m able to be gentle with myself. I can understand–remember–how difficult it was to still be processing the loss of our only child, while simultaneously being asked to hand our son to strangers. It seemed an impossible task.
How deeply I admire families who choose to donate those precious organs.
How deeply I understand that torn hesitation to hold your child instead.