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I wrote this shortly after the fact, and it was posted in my pregnancy group birth stories forum, and it is also posted in my blog. But I thought I would share it here too. For, while it was a terrible day, it was also a beautiful day. It is heartwrenching, but at the same time I look back with fondness, too. Who knew so many emotions could live inside one day.
Part 3 - The Long Night
Immediately after they took Devin I layed back in bed, exhausted mentally and physically. The midwife was sitting there, waiting. I really wasn’t aware of much, but I know that after some minutes had passed she gave a gentle tug and I felt the placenta slither out of me. The midwife checked me and told me I had one tiny tear that she wasn’t even sure needed a stitch, but she decided to put one in just in case. I barely noticed. She quickly felt my uterus, said it was all good, and left.
Den and I cried for a good while. He kissed my forehead and told me that I was amazing. I was so happy I got through it without an epidural. I was just in awe of what my body had done, what I had just accomplished. I spent many years fearing childbirth, and now suddenly I was on the other side.
My body started shaking shortly after. I realized it must be the crash of my hormones – I hadn’t been prepared for that, as we had never made it to the class on what happened after birth. I couldn’t stop shaking for around half an hour. It was very strange feeling.
I was impatient for them to remove the IV. I asked the nurse if she could take it out, and out it came. I got up to go to the bathroom and she showed me the pads, the mesh underwear. I don’t really remember it hurting too bad… I actually felt quite good, physically. I certainly didn’t feel like I had just been through labor and given birth.
We were encouraged to order dinner before the kitchen closed for the night. So we did.
A little later I realized that I smelled really really bad. BO in the worst way. Den encouraged me to take a shower. I didn’t really want to – I think I wanted to just lay in bed and do nothing at all – but he finally convinced me. It felt wonderful. I felt clean, and in some ways released. But when I stepped out I left little watered-down droplets of blood on the floor, reminding me of my wounds.
The nurse shift changed and our new nurse introduced herself. She told us she’d be with Devin all night, taking photos and footprints, dressing him and getting him ready and that we could ask for him at any time of the night and she’d bring him. She was so very sweet. We both knew that we wanted to see Devin again, but there was the unspoken understanding between us that we didn’t really want to do it yet. We were scared. So we let her go and take care of him while we watched TV in a daze.
At 10pm she came in and said that she was done and asked if we wanted to see him. I swallowed my fear and said okay, now was as good as any time. She left to get him. I heard his cart squeaking as she wheeled it down the hallway. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do. Den and I clutched each others hands. It felt like I couldn’t breathe. How do you face meeting your dead son?
The nurse showed him to us, quietly said how beautiful he was. Den and I cried.
She handed him to me. He was swaddled in a blanket, a knit hat on his head. I took him gently, held him in my arms like I would any newborn. I cried and cried, so much I couldn’t see his face through my tears. I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to see his imperfections. I felt him in my arms, the heavy weight of a baby, MY baby. I hunched over and rocked him and bawled. I thought my heart would break in that moment, that it would literally shatter in my chest.
Someone – her? me? – set him down on the bed in front of me. Den and I just looked at him. Looked at his nose, his mouth, his little fingers. I couldn’t stop staring at his fingers. I stroked them gently with my fingers, I put my pointer finger underneath his, as if he was a newborn holding on. I asked the nurse if she could get handprints for me, I really wanted prints of his little fingers. She said yes, of course, she would do that for us.
We didn’t take long. I really have no idea how long he was with us, but it wasn’t very long in the grand scheme of things. We didn’t unwrap him to see his feet or his body… I guess in many ways I was just too scared. He’d been dead for days and it hurt so indescribably much to see his skin like that. sometimes I wonder, but most of the time I am at peace with what we did.
Den kissed his fingers and then touched Devin’s forehead with them. We said goodbye to our son and the nurse took him away. She said we could see him anytime we wanted, that he would be nearby with her, we just had to ask. But we never did.
Den crashed after that… I could see all the energy leave him, everything he had was just gone. He unfolded the chair into a bed and pushed it right up against my hospital bed. We clung to each other that night. I have never felt so close to my husband, so absolutely desperate to never ever be let go. We couldn’t physically cuddle in the bed situation, but we layed with our faces inches apart, holding hands.
He fell asleep. I layed awake for hours. The room was dark, but there was some very soft lights glowing. I stared at the octagonal recessed ceiling, memorizing the shape of the ceiling tiles. The thoughts wouldn’t leave me, the pictures in my mind… my heart beat loudly in my chest. I felt like I was in some horrible nightmare that I couldn’t get out of. I heard a baby cry down the hall. I turned on the TV to watch Law & Order.
The morning came slowly, and I was glad when it did. It seemed a lot easier to handle things in the light. At 6am my night nurse came in to say that she was going off shift and if it was alright that they’d take Devin now to the morgue. We said it was fine. She brought in a Certificate of Birth and Devin’s memory box, a small box covered with handmade paper, with his clothes and footprints and photos. Den’s name was spelled wrong, but she did a new one for us. I wanted everything to be just right. After she left I opened the memory box and looked at the little things that were Devin’s. We cried some more. We didn’t look at the photos. I couldn’t, yet. I touched the box softly and put it carefully aside.
We ordered and ate breakfast. The day nurse came in to check on me, make sure I had everything I needed, make sure my uterus and blood pressure were good. She said we could leave anytime. We were in the middle of watching a movie – Second Hand Lions – so we stuck around. It was a fantastic movie… we found ourselves laughing. It was so strange. It felt good to laugh, to forget for little brief moments, why we were in the hospital. It was uplifting.
As the movie ended I got dressed in my sweatpants and sweater that I had worn to my appointment the day before. I stood at the mirror and stared at myself for a while. The clothes were the same, but everything – everything – was different. We gathered up the few things we had… my purse, the memory box… and walked out of the room.
On the elevator was someone with a baby in a carseat. I didn’t look. I stared at the buttons. I squeezed Den’s hand. We walked past the gift shop and out into the sunlight, holding hands.