Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The delivery room

After we had spent quite a bit of time holding Benjamin Susan came back into the room and got us ready to go back to our room on the Ante Partum wing. She helped me get into the wheelchair and get all of the stuff we had brought into the room for the delivery, which was not much. We were expected to leave Benjamin in the room while we made the move and a nurse would bring him to our room after. Brian would have nothing to do with this. I was still a little out of it, so I wasn't really sure what was going on. Brian decided to stay in the room with Benjamin. There was no way he was going to leave our baby in the room all alone, it didn't matter that he wasn't alive, that was just not right! So Brian stayed with him while I went back to our room. Later he told me that during this alone time with Benjamin he talked to him and told him everything he wanted to say, he showed him outside and what little sunlight there was on the dark rainy day. He kissed his forehead and said his goodbyes. This makes me cry. I can only imagine the heartache he felt alone in the room with Benjamin. I can also imagine the heartstopping love he felt for him in those few moments. I am very grateful that he had that time alone with him. Glad for both of them.

Again, I don't remember much of the time frame here. I was so sad, so hormonal, so heartbroken. But also filled with so much love and adoration for our new baby boy. I wished SO badly that I could turn back time, I still do. To just go back one week, only one week. Why couldn't that happen. Why could I not just go back to the moment his heart stopped and somehow fix it. Why couldn't I save my baby boy. Why did this have to happen. I think part of me might have been holding out some hope for the news to be wrong. That he would be born
and the shock of it would start his heart again. Or that the ultrasound was just wrong. That it just didn't pick up the heartbeat for some odd reason. That our baby was NOT dead. That he was just being a stubborn kid, like his older brother. I don't think I really believed that he would be alive, but of course I had that slight deep doubt. I think every mother would. You do not want to believe that this baby that you have carried for 8 months, that you have loved and wanted so badly, could be dead. That you wouldn't know. I mean, he was growing inside of me, he was part of me. How could I not know that his little heart had stopped. It just wasn't right.

I'm not going to get into the time frame stuff. Instead I am going to share with you how the hospital deals with stillbirths. ('Deal with' sounds horrible, clinical maybe. But it's the easiest way to say it. And I'm going to say 'the baby' instead of Benjamin, it's too painful a visual any other way). After the baby is born and the family gets some time to spend with him, the hospital staff takes the baby and wraps him in blankets. He is then placed in a fridge behind the nurses station. This way the baby's body will stay in a good condition. This is done because the family is able to see the baby any time they want for the next three days. When I first heard this I was slightly horrified. I thought it was morbid. Why would I want to have my baby back days later? Wouldn't he be cold and deteriorating? Wouldn't he start to smell? Why would I want that memory. Plus I couldn't get the thought of his body being in a fridge. I imagined him laying next to someone's balogna sandwich or something. It was just a horrible thought. Not something I wanted for my baby.

But when it happened? The comfort I felt knowing I didn't have to say goodbye to him right away? Knowing I got to see him any time I wanted, day or night, for the next three days? It was right. It felt right. It gave me a little bit of peace.

The nurses on that floor were wonderful. I could not imagine the experience without them. They were all so loving, so compassionate, so understanding. One of the nurses, Mary, was on shift almost every day that I was there. She was wonderful. One of the first nights I was there she came into my room and I just started crying to her. Telling her it wasn't fair, and I didn't know how to get through this. That I couldn't imagine giving birth to my dead baby and then continuing on with my life. How do I go back to any form of normal after that? She told me about her niece that had a stillbirth, how she made it through it all. Mary is a religious woman, something I am not, and she told me that she would pray for me every night. She sat in my room and talked to me for quite a long time, until another nurse came and found her. She gave me a hug every time she saw I was upset. After Benjamin was born she came back on shift that night. When I saw her in the hall I asked her if she had seen my baby yet. She told me she hadn't had a chance yet, but she would as soon as she could. Then later when I saw her she told me she had seen him and he was absolutely beautiful. Which he was.

Another nurse on the floor, we never could remember her name so we just called her 'the pretty one', also stands out in my mind a lot. And not just because she was so pretty! She was young, probably around my age, and she talked to me like a friend. After Benjamin was born I wanted to write him a letter but had no paper. I went to the nurses station and asked for some paper. One of the nurses handed me some scrap paper. I started crying and said I wanted to write a letter to my son. The Pretty One told me she would bring me some computer paper to my room. When she brought it in she was so kind about it, asking me if I had enough, if I needed anything else, if I wanted to talk. She had such a kind, sweet voice and just exuded warmth and compassion. Everything a nurse on that floor should be.

That afternoon we had a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep come to the hospital. This is an organization made up of volunteer photographers. They come and take photos for families who have lost a baby. Our photographer, Heather, came around 3pm and we had the nurses bring Benjamin back to our room. This was the first time I had seen him again since we first had him taken away. It took a while for the nurses to bring him into us, but when they did he was wrapped up in a few new blankets that were donated for this situation. One was a beautiful small crocheted white blanket. It was quite small and just behind his head. The other one was a light blue soft blanket with satiny edges and satiny appliqued wings on it. I still don't know who donated these, but they were both beautiful. I was glad to see that he wasn't just in the standard blue hospital baby blankets.

Another wonderful nurse brought him in. This part makes me weep again. She brought him in and laid him on our bed. I had asked them to put him in a standard white hospital gown. The ones our hospital has are stiff white cotton and I just loved them on Jackson, they weren't overly nice and they weren't anything special, but they were what newborns should be in, so I wanted Benjamin in one too. She told me that they had looked for a gown to put him in but they were all too big (I'm not sure why that is, since he was 6 pounds 3 ounces). But they had found another gown. A lacy one. But it was purple. She was disappointed with this too. Then I mentioned that Susan had brought us a gown to dress him in. It was the same exact gown, only blue. So I asked the nurse to change him into that gown. I wish I had been able to do it myself, but I was so scared that moving him that much would 'compromise' his body and I would be horrified. I am so glad I asked her to. She was wonderful. As she rolled him over to untie the purple gown she talked to him. Like he was a living little person. She told him what she was going to do and spoke so softly and lovingly to him. She was very gentle with him and it amazed me. When she finished changing him I thanked her. I thanked her for being so gentle with him and for talking to him. Her response was 'of course I would, he's a person'. I have a photo of this nurse. The photographer caught her in one picture and she is comforting me. It is one of my favorite photos. It captures the wonderful care I got from all the nurses during my stay.

Heather (the photographer) had asked us if there was anything we specifically wanted her to take photos of, or anything we didn't want. I told her to just take pictures, anything she wanted. I had no clue what I wanted. I also had no shame at this point. I didn't care what I looked like, I didn't care if I looked horrid from crying. I just wanted photos of my son. Whatever else was showing in the photo I was fine with. She explained that she would take photos and then she would touch them all up to remove the bruising, the peeling, anything like that. Then I would get them all on cd a few weeks later. As she was taking photos I asked her to take one with our camera. I wanted a good photo of him to tide me over until we got hers in the mail.

She took tons of photos. She took ones of me holding him, ones of Brian holding him, ones of Benjamin alone, ones of his feet, his hands, his head. Everything. We barely even noticed her there. I was so caught up in just looking at him, holding him, kissing his forehead. Memorizing every feature about him.

My parents had arrived shortly before Heather got there. They had brought Jackson with him. They were out in the hall during the photo session, entertaining Jackson. We had decided that we didn't want Jackson to see Benjamin. This decision is one I question often. It breaks my heart that my boys never met. That Jackson will only ever know Benjamin through photographs, that he has never actually seen him. But at the same time, he is too young. He would not understand what was happening anyway. I just don't know how to feel about it.

Brian went out into the hallway to get my mom. My parents had not seen Benjamin yet, he had not been brought into the room yet when they got there. My mom came in and I handed Benjamin to her. Watching her hold him and cry hurt. It was so upsetting to see how upset she was that she would never see her second grandson alive, that this was the only time she would ever get to hold him. I don't know why that hurt so much, but my heart just ached for her. Here I am, just having given birth to my stillborn son, and I was hurting for my mom. I cannot imagine the pain she was in for me. As a mother herself, it must have been horrible. I am glad Heather got some photos of my mom holding Benjamin.

After a few minutes my dad came into the room. My mom gave Benjamin to him and he held him for a while. I cannot remember if my dad cried. I imagine he did, but I don't want to remember that. I don't want to imagine my dad holding my son and crying. It's just too much. We don't have photos of that since Heather had already put her camera away (she had started putting it away before my mom came in but I asked her to take some photos of my mom so she pulled it back out). I don't know how long Heather was taking photos. I lost all track of time. I know it was a long time tho and I am so thankful that she spent extra time with us.

We decided to have a nurse come then and take Benjamin away again. This is the only way I can say it. It sounds horrible to say 'take him away'. But it's better than the alternatives. I didn't want him to go, but at the same time I was worried about having him in our room too long.

After everyone else had left I was alone in the room with Heather (I think it was just the two of us anyways). I told her that Susan had mentioned she had lost a child too. I asked her if it gets easier. We talked for a while and she was so sweet. And so honest. She didn't give me the bullshit answers of 'it will get easier' or 'the pain lessens after time' 'time heals all wounds' and all that. She told me that it will always hurt, but you find a way to deal with it. Since that day we have become email friends and I hope to be friends with her in real life too. She has been a wonderful support to me.

I am going to end this post now with her wonderful photos. If you don't think you can look at them then do not scroll down. They are raw photos. They are real photos. They are some of the most personal photos I have. But they are my son and they show the love we have for him. And the pain we were in. Keep in mind as you look at them, that even tho they show such intense heartache we also feel intense love. Love for our sweet baby Benjamin. Love that will never fade. The heartache has lessened into a dull ache but the love has taken it's place.

This photo is one of the most raw photos I have ever seen. Even though it shows the pain I am in so intensely, it is one of my favorite photos. Looking at this photo brings me right back to that moment. I can almost feel his weight in my arms, imagine his face so clearly, imagine the feelings that were consuming me at that moment. So although it is a hard photo to look at, it is also one of the most treasured ones to me.

The photos of his feet do me in. Every time I look at them I get a little teary. His feet were so perfect, perfect little toes.

1 comment:

  1. These are Beautiful and Cherishable memories of your son Benjarmin..I honestly haven't seen anyone else Angel except for CHASE and your Benjarmin..I wish I has Photos of CHASE..but the only closest one of him was taken a day or two after he was with the Creator..Again he is Beautiful..Your Friend AMBER