So, the question is, are we still celebrating?
Honestly, the last several days have been full of the deepest grief and pain we have ever experienced.
But, it has also been full of some of the most beautiful moments we have ever been allowed to be a part of. This post is small piece of those beautifully painful moments.
There’s something about raw emotions. Where I live now, we don’t see many of them. Except maybe from my kids when the cookies are gone. Again.
But for some reason, the idea of being open and honest with pain and grief aren’t always witnessed or expressed. Not that this is necessarily wrong or bad. But sometimes it can give the false idea of someone being “okay” with something that they aren’t really okay with. In fact, they can be so desperately in pain in the innermost parts of their soul, and trying to suppress it only seems to make it worse. So in no particular order are my moments, Because way too many can relate. And so many of you want to try.
In the moments before he was born, my husband told a joke. In between contractions. In that small moment of time where there is no pain. But he didn’t finish until the tightening began again. I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t smile. But I gave him a wink. Apparently I attained “my-wife-is-my-hero” status again with that wink. I love making that man happy.
In the other moments before he was born, when the morphine I had taken to enjoy a little visit with my girls a few hours earlier was no longer working and had worn off, and yet, I was still saying no to the epidural, my pain level was intense, but I wanted it. I craved it. It was yet another memory I’d have of my sweet son in my body. And I knew it wouldn’t be long before he arrived. I wanted to deeply feel every moment. But I still kept the anesthesiologist in the room outside my bathroom door.
I delivered Kyle myself. In a tub of warm water. It wasn’t my plan. Well, actually it was my original plan way back when I got that first pregnancy test. Twelve months ago. Being pregnant for almost fourteen months gives you lots of time to think about what you want in a birth experience. And what I had was more beautiful than I could have imagined. I delivered him after 13 hours of laboring. Only 2 of those hours being so intense that I had to focus on breathing and relaxing and letting my body slowly bring my baby closer to my arms. He was born only a few contractions after my water broke. And I grabbed him myself. The doctor knew I was ok. He stood outside the room. It was me, my doula, and my husband. And my little boy. He was in my hands against my chest and I’ll never forget the feeling of his tiny head in my hands pressed close into my bosom. He was warm and when I finally opened my eyes, all I could see was his head full of dark black hair. Just like his sisters’. But I already knew it would be there. I had seen it two weeks ago.
There were no sounds. No one said a word. No one gasped. No one breathed. I didn’t even hear the clicks of my sister’s camera.
The only sound was my sobs. And perhaps a few tears from my support team.
My sweet boy never uttered a sound.
After several moments of pure silent bliss bouncing between complete happiness and painful despair, the doctor said, “I really need to make sure you’re ok. Let’s get you out of this tub and on the bed for a second.” I don’t remember much about that moment, except for the nurse laying down towels for me as I walked across the wooden floor. I carried my son. My husband was scared for me. But I wasn’t. I was so close to heaven. In fact the little body I was holding was just filled with a soul that had left for heaven not 36 hours before. I felt like I was on the front porch of heaven peering in the windows.
Natural birth is such a beautiful thing. Most beautiful in that as soon as the baby is delivered, the pain is completely gone. That makes the moment so much more perfect.
My body recovered without too much trouble. My doctor expressed his sincere condolences and said, “you take as much time as you need.”
It was a long time before I peeled back the blankets to see his tiny little face. His little eyes had opened. They were black as night. His little mouth was open – look down at the “O” key on your computer keyboard. That’s the size and shape it was. His tiny nose was so small I can’t compare it to anything more than perhaps the size of a little black bean. But it was perfect. His tiny fingers were everything i could have imagined. And those fingernails. Almost fully grown. And long. His fingers were beautifully long. He didn’t get that from me.
I slept with my sweet boy for an entire night. There was more blanket to hold than him. But the warmed blankets kept his tiny body from getting cold. And my tears and kisses kept his uncovered face from getting cold too quickly. But it still grew cold too quickly.
We played his music. Almost non stop. We spoke words to him. And at times we didn’t. I held his body that would have never been able to dance or walk or crawl. It only kicked. And I thought about him dancing and walking and crawling in heaven. At that very moment.
My sister took many of these beautiful photos. As painful as it was, she labored in love, to give me something money could never pay for.
I had another beautiful friend who labored over many footprints and handprints and clay molds of his tiny hands and feet for me to hold forever.
I held him again and just breathed. Happy moments to remember with my son.
Not more than 16 hours after my son arrived, I watched a stranger walk into my room. With one of my tender nurses. “The funeral home people have arrived.” She said as she let him in the room. I thought I’d have to sign papers. I’d have more time. But, no. Everything had already been taken care of. I passed my baby quietly to my husband who handed him to that gentle stranger.
When you’re giving your child his last kiss, where do you place it?
Do you watch him leave or don’t you?
Not more than 19 hours after my son was born was I being wheeled out of the hospital. Hands left painfully empty. That’s the second time I’ve been there. The first time though, I had a second chance to leave the hospital with full arms. Her name is Chloe.
Not more than 32 hours after Kyle was born, was I walking into a funeral home to sign release papers. I got to hold him again. He looked like an angel. It’s so difficult to see your son’s name at the top of a death certificate. Or the little blue and red flags waving in the rain and the wind marking your son’s spot. Generously given in love by another grieving mother. So that my son could be her son’s friend. Forever. Now we both feel a sense of comfort.
He had so many gifts. He was laid in his sweet little white casket on a fluffy white pillow surrounded by a tiny blue blanket. In a tiny blue and green crocheted hat – another labor of love from a stranger. In a beautiful white gown. Like what he’s wearing now. That gown was a love labor from a sweet friend – who stayed by my side from the minute I arrived at the hospital until just a few hours before I left. It was perfectly white. She stitched it with the tiniest blue and white smocking – and a robin’s egg blue ribbon on the sleeves. He wore the tiniest blue cloth diaper. The small safety pin was almost too big for it. And he only needed one pin. Yet another labor of love given by a stranger. I’d like to think diapers aren’t in heaven. It just messes up my idea of heaven. But if they are, they probably look like the one he has on now.
I saw him today. Just to make sure he was ok. To make sure his gown was straight. And his hat was on right. It’s so tiny. But it’s still too big. I didn’t want him to look like a smurf! So I went to see him. And I cried. It was the last time on earth I could be his mother.
I held him. I held his hand until it was warmed again. It was so cold. He’d been on ice overnight. We danced. I danced with my little boy. In the chapel. While the soft music played.
I prayed over him. With his dad. For a long time. Even though my God knew everything about my son before He arrived, I felt the need to tell God everything I knew about my son. And I did.
I kissed him one last time. On that tiny little nose.
And I walked out with my husband after we read a few passages from the little Bible on a side table in the chapel.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me,
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad.
I blew my son a kiss goodbye.
And I walked out the door.
And I’m ok. Only because of God’s grace.
Tomorrow, I will bury my son in a quiet service filled with balloons, guitar music, lullabies, and my family. And I know that I will be ok. Because at this point, I know nothing else except to set the Lord before me, to keep him at my right hand. Because I wouldn’t survive being shaken.
So, am I celebrating? No. But, am I joyful. Tearfully, yes. And as scared as I was about my reaction to the events I knew were coming in my near future, my God did not fail me.
And He won’t fail you.
- Psalm 16
And while tomorrow is a private service to mourn our loss, our open service to express our joy in the beautiful gift we were given is coming after the holidays. We will keep everyone updated.
We have also had many requests for those who would like to express their condolences in a tangible way. If this is something you are interested in, we have set up a memorial fund in our son’s honor. I’ll explain more about it in a later post, but for now, the info can be found here.