Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The days following his birth

I was allowed to stay at the hospital for as long as I felt I needed to. I'm sure at some point they would have kicked me out, but I decided that I wanted to stay until my milk came in. I knew that was going to be a very hard day for me. I breast fed Jackson until he was 9 months old. I had wanted to continue until he was 12 months (at least) but he went on a nursing strike at 9 months and I got bad advice from my doctor. By the time I realized that it was just a nursing strike, not self-weaning my milk had dried up. I did everything I could to get my milk supply back up but once it was Jackson refused to nurse. He had discovered how great the bottle was, he got to be lazy about eating and was not going back to the boob, lol! So breastfeeding for me had been such an important thing for me and during my whole pregnancy with Benjamin I was really looking forward to nursing again. So I knew that when my body produced milk it would be very emotionally painful to me. Here was my body finally producing milk again, without medications, without constant pumping, and I had no use for it. No baby to nurse. Plus when the milk comes in, so do the postpartum hormones. So I was staying in the hospital until my milk came in. I wanted to be able to be there and stay in bed crying if I felt I needed that. I didn't want to be home where I had to get out of bed, where I had to be a functioning mommy to Jackson.

I was also dreading the moment that I had to say my final goodbye to Benjamin. I didn't know how I was going to do that. How do you hold your baby for the last time, knowing you will never see his body again. Never feel the weight of his body. Never get to kiss his forehead again. Never get to feel his skin against yours. How do you do that? If someone had been able to tell me how to prepare for that and how to accept that reality I would have been very appreciative. Unfortunately no one can prepare you for that. We had Benjamin brought to our room a few times on Tuesday and Wednesday. Brian felt that he had already said his goodbyes to Benjamin and as he put it, they 'were good'. He told him everything he wanted to and felt at peace with it. I did not. I could not bear the thought of watching a nurse take him out of the room for the last time. I thought it would break me. That I would be clinging to that nurses leg wailing and sobbing at her not to do it; not to take my baby away from me.

Thursday morning came. I had decided Wednesday night that I had to go home on Thursday. I was just delaying the inevitable. I could not stay in the hospital forever. Being there was not going to change the fact that I still had to go home and resume some form of a normal life. I still had an amazing toddler at home that needed his mommy. I still had a life outside the hospital. I remember saying so many times to Brian "I don't like this new reality; this new life". It's true. I wanted so badly to go back to my previous happy pregnant self. I didn't want to be the mom of a dead baby. The horror story that pregnant women fear. The woman that people pity and are scared to talk to for fear that somehow my 'affliction' will rub off on them. My baby was dead and I hated that fact more than I have ever hated anything. I just wanted my old life back.

Brian's mom flew in on Thursday. He went to the airport to get her and while he did I wrote a letter to Benjamin. I wanted to remember all the details of my pregnancy with him. All the details of his birth and the following days. I wanted to remember exactly how I was feeling, the pain, the love, everything. I wrote 6 pages. But still it didn't feel like enough.

Once Brian and his mom came back we asked the nurses to bring Benjamin back. This was going to be the last time we saw him. I was scared of how he would look. The last time we had seen him (Wednesday afternoon) he was starting to deteriorate a lot. He was starting to look like a little old man, all wrinkly and puckered. It was not how he should look. And he was starting to smell. That broke my heart. I was scared that Barbara (Brian's mom) would be horrified by him. I knew, deep down, that she wouldn't be; he was her grandson after all. But I was just worried that she wouldn't be able to see the beauty that he was. When he was brought into the room the nurse handed him to me and I held my sweet boy. Then I handed him to Barbara. She held him and cried. I was so thankful that both of Benjamin's grandmas got to hold him and his little body got to feel the love and warmth of their hearts. I can't say more about that, it just brings me to tears.

Before Benjamin had been brought in we had been talking about how I wanted to donate my breastmilk to a milk bank. I had been debating this idea for the last few days and decided that I did want to do it. I hated the thought that my body would produce milk and I would just let it dry up. If my baby couldn't have my milk I wanted some other baby that needed it to benefit from it. It was something good that could come out of this nightmare. There is a milk bank in Vancouver and I had already found a brochure about it in the maternity ward. Brian's mom offered to buy us a breast pump, which was amazingly generous and very appreciated.

After Barbara said her goodbye to Benjamin Brian held him again and said his goodbye. Then he placed him back in my arms. The two of them left to go and pick up the breastpump. This was it. This was the last time I would hold Benjamin. I wrote this a few days after I got home from the hospital. Some of it I have already typed again here, but I cannot type it all again, so I'm just posting it here.

Saying Goodbye

The day I had been dreading was finally here. The last time I would see and hold my sweet baby Benjamin. I was terrified. I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to let him go, that it would just be too hard, too painful. That it would just hurt too much.

Barbara had just arrived a little while before we were to see Benjamin again. We wanted her to be able to hold him and meet him. I was worried that his little body would have deteriorated a lot since the last time we saw him. I was worried that he wouldn’t look like himself at all, that it would be hard to look at him. That it would be hard for Barbara to see how perfect and beautiful he actually was.

The nurse brought him into the room. She had reswaddled him and I was so thankful for that. She was one of the best nurses on the floor and when I thanked her for redoing his blankets she was so matter-of-fact about it. Simply said ‘of course I did’. The last time we had seen him he was sinking really far into his blankets and was looking so small and was getting hard to see. Now he looked proud and big again, the way he should look.

My fears about how he looked were somewhat confirmed. His face was a lot more drawn in and wrinkly. He looked like a little old man, not the beautiful baby he was. But he was still Benjamin. He still had the adorable little nose, beautiful lips, dark hair, and creased little eyes. I didn’t care how he looked, how he smelled. I got to hold him again, and just feeling his weight in my arms and getting to pat his bum and rub his back and touch his face and hair… That’s what I needed, that’s what was important.

Barbara held him for a little while, she cried, she said it wasn’t fair. That’s all anyone can say. That it’s not fair. It isn’t fair. He should not have died. It should not have happened. I am having a hard time accepting that it did happen. That it’s not fair but it’s how it is. My sweet baby is dead and it sucks, but I got to know him for 36 weeks and I got to hold him many times after he was born and no one can take that from me.

After Barbara said her goodbye Brian held him for a while. He felt he had already said goodbye, had already said all he needed to say. He handed Benjamin back to me and he and his mom left the room so I could say and do all I needed to do.

It was hard, God it was so hard. There was so much I wanted to tell him, so much I wanted to share with him. This was going to be my only chance to tell him everything face to face. I already had gotten into the habit of talking to his picture every morning and randomly through the day just talking to him, but this was the last time I could gaze at his beautiful face and talk to him.

As I sat on the bed cradling my sweet Benjamin I told him how much I loved him, how much this was not fair, how much he was loved by everyone, how many people he had touched and how many people were saddened by his death. I told him how great a life he would have had, how I hoped that the short life he did have was good. How I hoped he had felt nothing but love and security. I sat and just looked at him and patted his bum and rubbed his back. I did forehead-nose-chinny chin chin on him. This was something that we have done with Jackson since he was born and I always imagined doing it on Benjamin, and watching Jackson do it on him too.

Then I sang him our bedtime songs. I sang him ‘Douglas Mountain’ and ‘Mr.Moon’. I kept messing up the lyrics because I was so caught up in watching him, but he already knows the lyrics. He listened to me singing them for 36 weeks already as I rocked Jackson to sleep every night. Then I sang him ‘Boom Boom Ain’t it Great to be Benjamin’. That song was the one song that would calm and relax Jackson when he was a baby. No matter what was going on it made everything better for Jackson. I hope it had the same effect on Benjamin. I hope that if he was somehow there with me in that horrible hospital room that he could hear that song and feel safe and loved.

I wanted nothing more than to lay down with him beside me in my arms and snuggle with him. Those were the best times when Jackson was a baby. While Benjamin and I laid there I told him all about his brother and all about his daddy. I told him what a great big brother Jackson would have been to him, how he would have taught him so much and how Benjamin would have looked up to him. I told him how much Jackson would have loved him and how much he would have loved Jackson. I told him what a fantastic dad his Daddy was, how much he loved him and how badly he wanted him. I told him he would have had a great life, full of love. I told him that even though he had not had a chance to live outside of me that he has forever changed our lives. That his dad and I were arguing a lot lately but he has brought us closer, he has made us stronger, and we are so thankful for that. He has helped this family and brought us back to how we should be. He will always be such an important part of this family.

I told him that his Daddy and I will go on to have more children when we are ready. That this in no way means we are replacing him; that we could never replace him. He will always be my second born son, my sweet baby boy. All of our children will know about him, they will know they have another brother who is not with us. They will know his name, they will see his pictures, they will feel the love we have for him.

I showed him outside, held him in the sunlight for a few moments. I wanted him to feel the warmth, I wanted to see him in the sunlight. I showed him the flowers we had received. I wanted to show him the beauty that there was in the world. I wanted him to see and feel nature.

I held him for a few more minutes and told him how much I loved him, how much I would always love him, how special and important he was to me. How much I would miss him but that I would eventually not cry as much or be as sad but that did not mean I didn’t love him anymore or miss him any less, it just meant that I was coming to peace with the unfairness of it all. I would always think of him and always have a huge place in my heart for my sweet baby Benjamin.

I felt ready. I buzzed for the nurse. The pretty nurse came in to get him. She was the youngest nurse there and one of the most compassionate ones. I was able to joke around her and cry around her and she would adjust to however I was feeling. She was a great nurse, I was glad it was her I was handing him over to for the last time. She came over and stood beside me for a few moments, just rubbing my back and told me he was beautiful. I talked to him a little bit more and told him I loved him so much. Then I kissed his forehead and told her I was ready. She asked me if I was sure and I was. I knew I had to say goodbye at some point and I knew I had said everything I had wanted to say. I felt a sense of peace and comfort with him. I knew I didn’t want to see his little body deteriorate any more. I knew it was time. I placed him in her arms and kissed his forehead one last time and tucked the blankets all around him. She gave me a little hug and took him out of the room.

It was hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be. I felt good about it. I felt it was the perfect goodbye to my sweet Benjamin.

And that's all for today's post. I think that's enough for today. I don't know about you, but now I'm a sobbing mess.

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