I know that every parent thinks their child/children is/are the most beautiful. I never really fully understood or appreciated this until I saw Sebastian.
The labour and delivery process are very blurry for me, between being completely numb and detatched, I was on a cocktail of medications that made me sleep the majority of the time. I remember them moving us to the labour and delivery area.
Brian tried to encourage me to eat something, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to, and I fell back asleep.
I’m not sure how long I slept for, when I suddenly woke up and had to be sick. Afterwards, I told Brian that I think this means it’s time. He paged our nurse, who came in to check me and discovered I was fully dilated, it was happening. I remember a mixture of terror and “how am I going to do this?” settling in the pit of my stomach. If not for Brian, I don’t know how I would have ever done it. He was my rock, while trying to grasp his grief and what was happening at the same time.
Down the hall, I could hear another woman in labour, screaming loudly. The OB on call was the only one, and we happened to be delivering at the same time. Our nurse, Betty, was the one that actually delivered Sebastian. I can’t remember if it was just before or just after he was born that we heard the cries of the baby down the hall. It was like someone ripping my ribcage open, slicing my heart each time I heard that baby cry.
It took about 30 minutes of pushing for Sebastian to come. Betty took him to the little newborn weighing station, and cleaned and swaddled him for us, and put a little blue knit hat on his tiny head. She turned around with tears on her cheeks, and told us how beautiful he was. Then she brought him to us, and laid him on my legs. I can still feel the weight of his little body, and the immediate wave of tremendous love and pain somehow mixed into one.
Then, I looked down at him. I think I audibly gasped. There he was, perfect. The most beautiful little boy I’d ever seen. We slowly unwrapped the blanket, to look at his little feet and hands. His plump little belly. The brush of fuzzy blonde hair on his head. I can still smell him when I close my eyes and remember. Brian held him, but I decided not to. To this day I don’t regret it. Feeling him so active for so many months, I couldn’t hold him being so still. I knew I wouldn’t have ever been able to deal with knowing what he felt like in my arms, not like that. I know it would have haunted me.
I don’t know how long we spent, looking down at him, memorizing every part of his face, his fingers and toes. Touching him and trying to figure out what happened. Dreading having to make the decisions about to come.
There was never any question in my mind that we would have him cremated. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being alone in a cemetery somewhere. I cried the whole way home about how terrible I felt that he was going to be alone between the autopsy and the funeral home taking him. It still really bothers me to think of to this day.
The hospital was really good to us. As I’ve said before, our nurse, Betty was amazing. She made sure we were given a memory box for him. A lady or group hand paints these beautiful boxes for families that lose babies/children. Inside it they put a little receiving blanket, a tiny premie sleeper, the hat she had first put on him, the measuring tape that she used to measure him, what would have been his hospital bracelets, the card that would have been on front of the cot he would have had, and a paper with his hand and foot prints on it, as well as the recordings of his weight, measurements, etc. They also put in a few pamphlets about loss and grief, and a schedule for a local grief group. It was a really thoughtful gesture that we really cherish and are so thankful for. I never would have thought to ask to get those things, and I would have later been devastated. Betty also offered to take some photos of him for us with a polaroid camera they had at their nurses station. We decided against it, because we would rather remember him from the ultrasound photos we have. Sometimes I kind of wish we’d taken at least one photo, but in the end, I know we made the right choice for us.
The OB on call when Sebastian was born, I could tell, was unprepared for a stillbirth. We hardly saw him, except to check me now and then, and to deliver my placenta and make sure I wasn’t bleeding or anything. I don’t remember him really spending much or any time talking to us. I don’t blame him, or feel any ill feelings towards him. I’m sure he just had not often dealt with delivering a baby that had died, or perhaps was having a hard time controlling is emotions. Either way, it’s nothing I fault him with.
The funeral home was above and beyond. They offered us any service that we wanted for him, completely free of charge. If we had decided we wanted a burial, they would have given us whatever casket we picked, as well as taken care of running the obituary for us. They were so kind, it really helped to not have to worry about any of those preparations.
Brian and I are very private people. We mostly keep to ourselves, and are often dubbed “shy”. We talked a lot about having a funeral or not. Even though we had decided on cremation, we still toyed with the idea of some sort of ceremony.
In the end, we decided against it. We’re not religious, and we were mourning in our way at the time. However, I’m planning on a memorial this year. Five years to the day that he actually died. I don’t have a lot of plans, yet, but I hope it will come together the way I’m imagining. We’re planning on building our home in the next year or so, and I’m going to look into if we can mix some of his ashes in with a concrete mixture of some kind, to make a walkway to the waterfall at the back of the property. Alas, I digress.
Leaving a hospital without your baby in your arms, is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever mentally endured. My body was telling me I had a baby, and that I needed to feed my baby. Unfortunately, nobody went over engorgement with me, or encouraged me to pump the milk. I now know I could have pumped and donated that milk to the hospital, for preemies or sick babies or for moms who weren’t producing milk. Instead, I spent several days in crazy amounts of pain, sobbing so angrily at my body betraying me like this. It was producing all this milk to care for my baby, my baby that died, that my body let die.
It was a while before we received the autopsy results. All they really told us was that Sebastian was perfectly healthy, developing perfectly. Their best guess based on test results and the cord being tightly wrapped around his neck twice upon delivery, was that blood flow had most likely been cut off. It was a “fluke” thing. Otherwise, if we so decided, we should be able to go on to have healthy, full-term babies. It’s such a bitter-sweet feeling to get some form of answers. We were (and are) eternally grateful that we are able to continue with future healthy pregnancies, but we didn’t want another baby. We wanted our baby, our Sebastian.
And now, having Adelaide, it doesn’t make the hurt or missing Sebastian any less. It just makes it different. That’s kind of how I’ve found this process works. For me, at least. Different. That one little word has brought me so much pain, struggle, strength, and joy in such ways through this journey.
To anyone feeling like the dark days will never end, hold on. You are not alone. Your baby/babies make a difference every day. I won’t patronize you by telling you it won’t hurt forever. But, I will tell you that you can find the strength to go on, and that is the best legacy you can give your child(ren).
And most importantly, be kind to yourself. Grieve whatever way works for you, for as long as it takes for you. It’s okay to be a mess. It’s okay to cry and to hurt, and to miss your baby with everything inside of you. You are not alone.