Our Story, Part 3
4 hours with our son
As I lay touching his nose so carefully, I could barely think. What do I do with his still pink body, his little nose, but his sleeping eyes? He was absolutely perfect. There was nothing wrong with him, no deformity the ultrasound had missed. The only thing they had mentioned was the cord. I asked if that was it, had the nuchal cord killed my son? The nurse nodded, but the doctor said no. It wasn't a question we would have answered that day. And it wasn't a question that would ever be answered "for sure."
Kim asked if she should take him away, clean him up, and bring him back. I said yes. The doctor was still working on me. I needed stitches. I had progressed fast. I looked to my left and saw the nurse put a little diaper on him. She was wiping off all of the blood and whatever else was on him so carefully.
At one point she picked up his leg and when she let go, it just fell back on the table. I looked away. That fall to the table was what truly drove home that fact that our son was dead. A living baby would have left that leg suspended in the air. Or kicked it around. But our baby....it was limp. It just fell.
I asked how long he had been gone for, probably just a day or two. He was in great condition, I was told.
The doctor tells us we did an amazing job, that I showed grace and we were an amazing couple. He said to make a follow up appointment, shook my hand, and was gone.
The nurse brought me Curtis wrapped in a dark blue blanket with yarn knotted in various locations. I am sure it was made by some sweet volunteer for the dead baby program at the hospital. But, truth be told, it was an ugly blanket. All of my pictures of Curtis have this ugly blanket in it. I was too scared to ask him to be wrapped in the fuzzy blue blanket in the diaper bag. The blanket we had anticipated him using right after his birth. The blanket my mother in law had given us. So the ugly, non fuzzy, blanket it was. When Kim placed Curtis next to me, she stayed, with her arm still near him and tears ran down her face. I can still see her face, her wet eyes, looking at my baby boy. It meant a lot to me that she felt real emotion for our son.
After Kim handed us Curtis, I sat up, and took a long look at my baby boy. I felt....nothing. That breaks my heart to write. I didn't know what to feel. Do I feel sad? Do I feel angry? Do I feel relieved delivery is finally over? Do I feel happy that I finally get to see his face? So I just felt...nothing.
Craig sat next to me on the bed just look at this face. He looked like he felt so much more. He looked like he felt love. He looked at me and said "I wanted to learn how to change his diaper."
My heart opened up and I felt it all. I felt the overwhelming love that mother's feel for their babies. I felt proud. I felt excited. But, it was so much to process when it surrounded a baby who was dead. That was an issue I faced, and continue to face, in the wake of his death. Being proud of my stillborn son. Something most people don't understand. I was a new mom! I wanted the world to marvel over the perfection that is my baby. But no one saw that. But me. I saw that.
I saw that on May 31st, 2006 and I see it to this day.
We sat looking at Curtis. Holding him. Spending a short amount of time the 3 of us. "Should we have our families come in?" I asked Craig.
"No. Not yet," He looked at me confused. I admit, I was anxious. I wanted them to come in and meet him. Even though he was gone, I wanted to show him off.
Eventually we invite our families to come in. I remember them pouring through the delivery room door, me holding my son. Each and everyone looked terrified. Wondering about what the next step would be.
At some point while I was in labor, we had asked my brother in laws to go to our car and bring in the diaper bag. We had also asked them to go to our house and let out our dog and bring that outfit from my mother in law that was on the counter.
We gave my dad the camera and he started taking dozens of pictures. The pictures tell the story of our 4 hours with our son. Each person, with the exception of my grandfather, holding our son. Each person with tears in their eyes. Makeup less faces. Each picture with each person looking distraught. My memories of this time are because of those pictures.
There is a picture of me and Craig holding our son. Our faces our flat, our eyes puffy. Staring at the camera. And then, there is a picture taken right after where I realize that I should try to smile. That I am holding my son, damn it. I am holding my son that I waited 9 months for! So I force a smile, it isn't my true smile, but it does reflect some of what I was feeling that day. I know most people don't understand that, however spending 4 hours with my baby boy was a reason to smile.
We have dozens and dozens of pictures. Kim has been taking some, my dad has made sure to take plenty. I am so scared of holding my son, that I never unwrap him. I never look at his feet myself. I never touch his hands myself. When they laid Curtis on me, I never took my eyes off of his face, so I never even verified for myself he is a boy. A fact that escapes me until months later. And when that fact smacks me upside the head, I cannot shake it. I cannot shake the fact that I am a mother of a little boy and I have never seen that boy naked.
We had a video camera with us that day. It was packed in the diaper bag. After all, I was 40 weeks pregnant going into my doctor's appointment. We opted not to take it out, something I regret. It is one of many regrets I have over that day. We did dress Curtis in the outfit my mother in law had bought a few days before his birth. A blue onesie and matching pants. The onesie stating "Thank Heaven for Little Boys."
The nurses get footprints and handprints. They clip some of his barely there hair. I get a copy, our moms get a copy. They do as many things possible that day. Normal things, normal moms get. But I have to cram it all in just 4 short hours.
We had numerous phone calls that days and a few flower deliveries. We were told that the Catholic priest in town would not do a baptism since the baby was dead. My Catholic in laws were horrified. The hospital offered their chaplin to do a blessing, which we agreed to. Two of my sister in laws hurried to the hospital and made it in time to be a part of the blessing. I remember the kind chaplin using a sea shell to hold the tiniest amount of water and pouring it on Curtis' head. I know he said some kind things. Said some kind prayers. But I wasn't paying attention. He told us how sorry he was and left.
It was now after 8pm and our families started to say our goodbyes. My grandparents had left before the blessing, my grandfather struggling with his emotions. My parents hugged us and gave Curtis one final kiss on the head. My in laws tell me how wonderful I am, how amazing I have been that day.
Kim was getting ready to leave, she had stayed late to be a part of the blessing with us. The next nurse, Mary Beth, was also part of the fetal demise program and said she would help us do things like get foot print molds.
They take Curtis away on occasion. Testing various things, taking blood, a sample of his skin. Trying to figure out what happened. We opted against the autopsy. I don't want to put his little body through that. I can't have them open him up. I just can't. I don't want to imagine that. The cord killed him, I am convinced at that point.
We have to decide on a funeral home. We have to decide what to do with his body. Whenever we are ready, they will call the funeral home and they will come get him from the morgue.
The nurses offers a free service from the company that takes photos of newborns. We can get some other pictures of Curtis, they will take them for free and send them in the mail. I say yes, I knew I wanted as many pictures as possible. I ask them to take off his hat because we don't have any pictures with is hat off. They take him away for these photos.
They bring him back and it is just the three of us. Craig sits on the chair with him, just holding him, looking at his little face. Tears. So many tears. Eventually he is placed in my arms again. His little face is starting to change so much. His mouth is starting to fall open. Blood is starting to come out of his nose.
The time is coming.
"He is starting to change. I want to remember him like this. A perfect baby."
Craig nods. He agrees. We sit on the bed together, the three of us. We tell Curtis we love him. We tell Curtis of all the plans we had. We tell Curtis about the dog. How they were going to be partners in crime.
Then we call the nurse, put our baby boy in her arms, and allow her to take him away forever.