My sister got Cord to us around 6:30 in the morning after Leaf was born. As soon as Cord got to the doorway, he ran to us! He was so eager to hold Leaf. From the side of the bed he reached up and held each hand at a time and said, “My hold one hand, two hand,” and smile up at us.
Then he outstretched his arms, reaching up towards the hospital bed and excitedly said,
“My hold baby Weaf! My hold baby Weaf!.”
He sat next to me and held her like such a proud big brother. How precious those innocent moments were… he kissed and loved and touched his little sister. He held her hands, and kissed her some more. He rubbing her belly, and talking to her… It just kills me to think about how precious that time was… not sure why, but it burns and aches in my heart to remember how incredibly sweet and incredibly fleeting that time was…
The NICU doctor came in, and was firming up our plan of care for our bleak situation with Leaf. The doctor assessed Leaf and informed us of our reality. Brian stood beside me, tears streaming down his face, staring at Leaf, and asked, “So then there’s not much we can do?” My heart broke because he felt so hopeless and helpless. We both knew well ahead of time what our options would be, and what most likely we could & wanted to do. This was like his last effort to redeem the lost situation. I think he knew the answer to the question before he asked it, but how can you not ask it, right?
Around 9:30am Leaf took her final breath... She spent her last minutes in my jacket up against my chest, just like I used hold Cord. She was very calm and seemingly comfortable. For the fast few hours she would periodically not breath for maybe a 30 seconds- a minute, and then would dramatically gasp for air. It made me sick to my stomach every time she did that, and in a way it was a relief when she finally gave in & stopped breathing altogether. I kept rubbing my nose against her precious face telling her how much I loved her, and we each told her it was ok for her to go. We told her she was going to live in heaven with Jesus, and that we would meet her someday in heaven when we could all be a family again. I’m not sure exactly why she lasted as long as she did, but it was both a blessing to spend time with her, and super hard to see her having such a hard time. It was peaceful when she did go. We balled, and held her, but there was a peace that filled the room. Brian held her and told her to go sit with Jesus. This touched my heart because he was being so strong regardless of the fact that he had just met this little angel girl of his. Brian mentioned that, for guys, something happens the moment guys see their child for the first time in real life, a switch turns on for them, and they are automatically in love. To fall in love, then for her to be taken so incredibly fast, and then to leave without her; what a devastating reality that must be… And as the protector of the family, Brian was unable to protect her from a fate that was he couldn't control or fix. He had NO control over her sweet little life. Oh man… that must’ve been an impossibly challenging situation for him.
After Leaf passed away, the next thing we did was made some memories from all the kits we'd been given. The hospital, String of Pearls (perinatal hospice organization), and other people sent us SO many memory kits/sets. What a little blessing that was. Just add that to the list of little ways that God made this impossible situation bearable.
The nurses were so sweet. They helped is do all the things. I would've been a mess trying to read all the directions and figure out all the "kits". They thought of everything. These are our favorite memory making ideas:
Casting of Leaf’s hands and feet in molds (pictured on top)
Multiple hand and footprints, in a variety of places; some in Brian's bible, some on separate pieces of paper (I would've loved to have a canvas to put prints on)
A "certificate of birth" from the hospital, since it kinda tricky getting a birth certificate for Leaf since she passed away. We did manage to get an official one, just because we wanted one. It does say "deceased" on it, which is fine.
Necklace made from a mold kit of Leaf's little fingerprints (it was free for people loosing babies, and we loved how it turned out
Locks of hair to keep as a keepsake
A bunch of things that we had at the birth (hospital bracelet, diaper, umbilical cord clamp, laboring belts (to listed to baby's heartbeat and monitor contractions)
There are a variety of great memory-making projects that can be done with the placenta. I know it's not for everyone, but also it's an option, so I'll mention it. Also, can I just say how amazing the placenta is? It's an organ made specifically by your body, to support your baby. It protects the baby from mixing your blood with his/her blood, but delivers all the nutrients it needs. The science behind how it works is beautiful. This amazing organ sustained your sweet little one, and after you have your baby, it's life is over as well. So many things to be done with it:
Plant it under a tree in remembrance of your baby
Simply take a picture of it, for your memory book
Dehydrate a portion and put in a necklace (like they do with ashes)
Make placenta art with it (or have someone do that for you
Involve the kiddos. Make paint prints of it, and let the kiddos make a picture of whatever they want out of it (tree, sun, world, etc). Frame these in a series?
Placenta pills. You are still postpartum (some swear by their benefits to help prevent postpartum depression and their nutrient benefits)
*I'd recommend putting your placenta preferences in BOLD PRINT in the birth plan (if you want to keep it). Unfortunately, my placenta was taken to the lab and placed in fomadehyde before I could get to it. It was a very unfortunate mistake on their part. Yes, I was sad, because although I hadn't decided what I was going to do with it, I still wanted to keep it.
Family drove through the crazy storm to meet and say goodbye to Leaf. It was such mixed feeling in the room. It's just not that normal to meet a baby that's dead. Is it sweet, or is it sad? It was also such a very precious time that we chose to share with others. I felt very protective of our incredibly short time with Leaf, while she was alive, but I did feel a little more relaxed once she passed away. I'm not sure if that was logical, but that's just how I felt. I know God protected that time for me, because nobody could get there any sooner because of the storm. At this point in the day, I started to feel very tired because I had only slept a short amount of time overnight and hadn't eaten any breakfast yet. I sat down and ate some breakfast while everyone held Leaf. It was altogether overwhelming on all levels.
After we got Leaf's hands and feet dirty from the memory making items, we gave her a bath. Giving her a bath was part of our memory making plan. We identified bath time as something special we could do with her, that felt very nurturing and sweet. We brought our homemade oil that we used with Cord's bath time (coconut oil soaked in lavender, roses, and calendula). At first Brian thought it was very hippy dippy, and wanted us to use baby oil for Cord's bath time, but now it’s just our favorite ever. Leaf's bath time was absolutely hard, and yet healing and sweet at the same time. Seeing her little body limp in my hands, like a rag doll, cleaning all the creases, washing her little black curly hair… . Cord helped put the special “oily-oily” on her. What a precious time… and now we have pictures to look back on.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep...
A company called “No I Lay Me To Sleep” has volunteer photographers that take
pictures of baby and family when babies are stillborn or dies soon after birth. Our sweet photographer came and took pictures around 11:15am (driving through the blizzard), and just loved on us in our delicate state. She was so gracious and kind. These photographers take the pictures & edit them to make the purple skin color not so dark , and make it a more "normal" appearing color (also using black/white photos). Now we have memories of our precious Leaf where she’s not all purple. I can enjoy her little facial features without being sad that she’s not getting enough oxygen. I can see her little nose and enjoy its shape and not be distracted that it’s so cold. I can appreciate her little tiny fingers and not hurt for her that they are so cold and purple. It was one of the most healing memory-making things we did.
Time to leave...
After all was said and done, Brian and I packed up. It was time to go. I'm not sure how we came to this conclusion, if we decided this or if we were offered to stay another night (side note, I'd highly recommend staying overnight, and getting follow up care since you JUST had a baby). I looked around. This was the room we met and said goodbye to our baby...I had to take some last pictures of the room... maybe just one last attempt to capture the space we were in for such a short amount of time, but a time we'd hope to never forget.
Time to say goodbye...
Yuck. It was impossible to leave our brand new, tiny, delicate baby. The moment we handed Leaf over to the nurse was the hardest moment of my life… I thought it was hard when people held Cord for 5 minutes when he was a newborn- no comparison. Leaf was dressed in the most comfy soft pj’s, a super soft wide pink headband with a big fluffy bow, and the soft blanket I made her. Brian held Leaf one last time before giving her to the nurse. Crying and
unable to hand her over, he handed her back to me. We cried. I literally felt nauseous, I asked if we could walk her to where she needed to go (the cooling frig on that floor). We could have, but that room was right around the corner. Brian suggested we just say good-bye there. I just had to hold her again, but also I just kept crying.
This was impossible.
I finally handed her over. I could barely stand so I held Brian’s hand. We kissed Leaf again, and cried uncontrollably. I felt so weak. Finally we turned together to walk the other direction, down the hallway... We walked away from our little girl, to never hold her again. We were beside ourselves. I felt the most intense pain in the bottom of my stomach. Every inch of my body was against leaving Leaf behind. Brian and I put one foot in front of the other, hand in hand, tears streaming down our faces, to do the hardest thing in the world… This just felt so very wrong.
We left the delivery floor in a trance, crying as we passed people getting on the elevator. We couldn't have cared if we wanted to... I felt like a zombie, tears falling down my face as we walked by more people in the lobby. I wiped the uncontrollable tears streaming down my face as I looked at the barista to ordered a vanilla latte (I almost ordered a decaf... no need for that anymore). Just reminds me to remember, you never know what people are going through, and to give them the grace to be in their situation..
Next up, leaving the hospital, the sleepless night, the new perspective, and time with loved ones as they held space for our sadness.