11/19/14 7 days after Leaf's birthday
With the Denver memorial service behind us, closure with all the people that loved on us, and winter looming, we felt the mountains and the comfort of our sweet home calling us. Leaving my sister's house was hardly tolerable. We all had so enjoyed living life together for the past month.
We left Denver with a little screaming 2 year old, hollering to my sister & brother-in-law, “No kissy-kissy! No say goodbye! No!” He didn't want to give goodbye kisses because he didn't want to say goodbye. I was frustrated with him for not buckling up... for about 5 seconds, then I realized that he felt the same as I did. He wasn’t being disobedient, he was acting the exact way I felt. We were all sad to close this chapter in our journey. Every experience that happened was one experience further away from the day we held our little Leaf, and the more she became a memory and not a reality. Ahhh, we all had to take a deep breath. We did need to get a move on though. The owner of Heflebower Funeral and Cremation Services was meeting us to give us Leaf's ashes. He had been so considerate through the whole process, and had specifically been recommended to us because of how amazing he is with people going through infant loss. Turns out, after talking with him several times, he and his wife had suffered 2 infant losses. He went out of his way, offering to let me come see Leaf, days after she passed away, and again when we were arranging a time to get Leaf’s ashes, he offered to drive across town to meet us along our route out of town. It felt like a craigslist deal in an odd way, but it was healing to hug the guy that held our baby before she was cremated. He comforted us how he could in this situation. Another sweet, thoughtful person on our journey.
* Side note
If you are in the middle of your journey, know that it's very challenging mentally to digest losing a baby. Some mommas need to see their baby the next day, or for several days afterwards. That's ok, and very normal. There are "cold blankets" and "cooling cots" (made by CuddleCots) that help preserve the baby, to allow the family more time with baby. Isn't that such a beautiful and thoughtful idea? It's also a perfectly reasonable things to ask a funeral home, if you can see your baby before he/she is cremates/buried.
After we sat in the truck for a few moments, I instinctively put Leaf’s ashes to my chest. I could picture her little body curled up against my chest just as I had held her in the hospital. Her delicate body felt a little safer when she was nearer to me. As I put her ashes up against my body, I felt more complete, like my body was whole again. I made Brian do it too. It was like we were all back together and could finally go home… It was impossible to just set her in the cup holder, so I put her ashes inside my shirt and zipped up my hoodie just enough to stay secure. There she would stay the rest of the trip. Can I just keep her there all the time? That’s where babies belong, right?
The drive felt full of different emotions, like a pot of stew. Such sadness, that we were leaving behind our friends and family and saying goodbye to this part of our story. Was it
possible to be grateful though, to be through the ambiguity? A sprig of relief, to have walked through the challenging unknown. There was a hint of dread, knowing we'd just barely started our grief chapter. The tiniest bit of curiosity & hope popped into my thoughts; would we survive this heartache? Would we ever be able to open our hearts to want another little one? And a pinch of peace could be found layered into all the intense emotions: reassurance that we'd been carried this far, we'd surely be carried the rest of the way.
Once we arrived home, I couldn't figure out where to set Leaf's ashes. Setting her on the kitchen counter or side table just felt wrong. I just kept her against my chest, in my shirt. It may seem silly, but it felt right. Brian’s dad made a gorgeous piece of art out of twisted wood, to hold Leaf’s ashes…which we would put her in eventually.
* Side note, there is a company called Vitrified Studios that makes PRECIOUS personalized pottery urns for babies (or adults, or pets). A LOVELY gesture for a friend in this sort of situation.
How do I know we are insanely loved by our little mountain community? When we walked into the house, I was speechless. The house was spotless, down to the sinks & the toilets! All the towels were washed and the linens changed. What sweet little fairies did this? The dishes were all done, and the compost was even taken out. I flashed on the state the house must have been in when we left for the ultrasounds in Farmington that morning, a month ago. I was flown out directly from Durango. The house was probably a tornado since leaving for the whole day with a toddler is a challenge. Wow, the fridge was cleaned out and restocked with our favorites.
I felt so absolutely spoiled! Raw milk, cheese and butter plus an abundance of organic produce, goat keifer & yogurt, and delicious tortillas! AND there was a warm crockpot FULL of yummy dinner goodness and all the fixings in the fridge. The surprises didn't stop- someone dropped off lunch, and someone else came and dropped off “essential” food items, all in the brands we usually buy! So thoughtful. We were beyond words, feeling very well-loved and supported. It felt like we had a corset of support girding us, so that we (Brian, Cord, and I…and Leaf) could just “be” for a while, as we adjusted to the new reality. I feel like at any moment we could reach out and get 27+ hands reaching back towards us. Again God loved us exactly in how we needed it, down to the personal details.
We felt like God was there, at the house with us that day we got home, with His hand on our shoulders as we walk through the spotless empty house and put away all random baby stuff. He was there as we took a comforting shower in our own home and crawled into bed together as a family. He’s was there as we started to put the pieces of our hearts back together. He intentionally sent love our way through each person that called us, comforted us, and just let us cry.
I want to be honest... I didn't really want to see people quite yet. I'm an introvert, and I was empty. I didn't have any energy to socialize. The church office was great at telling the congregation how we were doing during this journey. And they were understanding when we didn't want to go to church right away after getting home. Unfortunately, I did have to go to the grocery store eventually and in our small town that meant seeing familiar faces. The last time I was in town, I was having a "healthy" pregnancy. There was a lot of catching up with people to be had. Also, I just felt so awkward in my being. I was early postpartum and didn't have a baby to show for it. It was just me in my body, with no reason to be fluffy or all that comes with being postpartum. I didn't feel put together, and couldn't fathom how I'd get there. I was a mess, and that's all I could be.
And yet the showering of sweetness did not stop... for a long time, like a month. Meals piled on meals, and they came every other day with out fail. I had to put a table out on the deck, for all the pans and plates. There were gifts as well as food. Flowers, personalized items... the showering was abundant. Friends came over and played with Cord, and let me cry. This little doll is made by Baby Be Blessed, and was sent to us by String of Pearls perinatal hospice. It can be personalized in hair color, gender, clothes, etc. The baby's name goes on its tummy, along with a scripture of choice. It was a sweet visual to remind me we DID have a baby, and that her name was Leaf. We set this little doll right next to the beautiful wood sculpture Brian's dad made, along with all sort of other sweet gifts people sent.
We printed the photograph of the leaf Brian took, on canvas. It was the picture that had given us Leaf's namesake.
Interesting what my devotional said that following morning:
“Leave outcomes up to me. Follow me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think or your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a restless place, take time to be refreshed in My presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me. You already know the ultimate destination of the journey: your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to me.”
Side note... Isn't that the hardest lesson ever? Leaving the outcomes to God? I don't know about anyone else, but if I put in a lot of work to do something, I am surely attached to the outcome. In this situation, we got pregnant and I assumed we were going to have a "healthy baby" because that's what we expect. That's what society expects. That's all we talk about. We don't talk about the joy in the imperfect... The possible purpose of each situation regardless of the outcome. As a mom and a midwife, I know all too well the taboo on an "imperfect baby". It's a conversation stopper. Just the idea of it makes a momma’s heart break. In some instances, it's deemed reason to stop that pregnancy and try again for another. I wonder if we could take a moment, though, and insert the idea that all babies, all the miscarriages, all the cleft lips, all the anomalies and the diagnosis, all losses of all sorts, they are all perfect. They all have a purpose. That's hard to stomach,isn't it? All parents want their kiddos to have all the benefits in life, and if they start out with a birthmark on their face, society will shun them. It's hard to stomach what the purpose might be when a kiddo will be teased. Or what's the purpose in a baby dying right after birth? Or before birth? These are the lessons we've been looking at intimately the past 8 years. I can tell you, it's powerful and beautiful... in time.
Next up, our local memorial service, finding our new normal... It wasn't perfect, or pretty all the time, but it did get easier...