The Moments After Leaving Leaf at the Hospital
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
You know that time immediately after your world is shaken fiercely... I think this is what we call shock, because it feel like you're in some sort of a trance, with the world moving very slowly. We probably shouldn't have been driving in this state... Bless Brian's heart, he drove silently with tears streaming down his face. I remember just sitting there, tears falling down my face uncontrollably. How do you take a step forward? It's impossible. How do you leave a loved one behind? The desire to have time stand still was a new & desperate feeling, because every moment that passed, was a moment farther away from the moments we had with our baby...
After driving for 20 minutes, I called my good friend Missy, who had been my confidant through this journey, the one person I could handle keeping up to date, while updating the blog for everyone else. I was easily overwhelmed by repeating the journey numerous times to people, so she was it, outside of the family, for the most part. Sitting in the front seat of the truck, I cried out over the phone, "We just left the hospital! We had to leave Leaf at the hospital...!" Tears gushed out of my eyes. The deep pain in my stomach made me half over in my seat. Oh, what a deeply desperate moment... And she met me there. Sweet sweet soul. She cried with me, and wasn't overwhelmed by my complete and utter heartache...
Family & friends met us as the house. I didn't want to go inside. I didn't want to be near others, I just wanted to cry and sleep. Everyone wanted to love on us though, and it's probably a good thing. What a blessing to have brave friends & family in our life during this time. They held us, literally, and cried with us, and helped us laugh for our sanity, and also because our sweet little 2-year old needed some silliness. It had turned to winter since we'd been at my sister's last. There was a sunny sky, but a layer of snow covered all the leaves we once threw in the air. The sunny deck was a little less cozy-looking. The fireplace took its place, and we all sat around, sharing this sacred space... the delicate time right after sending our sweet little one on her journey, alone, to Heaven.
We would need to be in town for another week, while the cremation was being processed (try explaining the cremation of their sister to your other kids as they get older... it's not very easy to simplify the concept). We decided to have a memorial service while we were in Denver to help give closure to us and the incredible group of people that supported us locally in our journey. My amazing sister Leah planned it, and hosted it at their church there in Golden. So many dear, sweet people came out of the woodworks and loved on us in the past month, and we really wanted to see them all one last time. It was utterly exhausting, but I'm so glad we did it.
*If you're in this situation, and someone will do all the planning for you (and it feels tolerable), I'd recommend saying yes to a memorial service.
Before we had Leaf, I signed up to donate my milk to a milk bank, for those mommas that need breast milk for whatever reason (there are so many). This was a good way to make a lovely gesture out of a crazy situation, right? Someone brought my pump up from home. I spend some time each day after we had Leaf, attempting to collect milk and encourage my milk to come in. Did I really want to do this? I thought I did... It was for a good cause. But it was a lot of time to dedicate, when I wasn't sure this was a good way to spend my time and energy. The first few days I pumped a few times a day. Not much milk came out, but then again, a newborn's belly is tiny. But also I was in an incredibly stressful situation. Maybe the stress would prevent my milk from coming in. Maybe I wasn't pumping enough to mimic a newborn's feeding pattern... Maybe not having a baby on my chest was keeping my love hormones from doing what they needed to do for my milk to come in.
The Morning of the 14th (2 days postpartum)
We all slept well last night. I woke up at 5am after sleeping soundly (so thankful). Cord hopped into my bed to cuddle, and he fell back asleep. Such sweetness to have him to cuddle with in this weird time of not having a newborn on my chest. (By the way, this is a REAL thing. It's called Broken Heart Syndrome or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, and it temporarily causes the heart's left ventricle to enlarge in response to the loss of a loved one, which leads to many other physical symptoms). My mind was starting to turn on in the early morning. I quietly went upstairs. The house was dark & quiet, so I made a fire and some tea. The constant processing over the past couple day and a half was overwhelming, so we processed in waves. I had so many thoughts running through my head this morning. I felt I needed to capture every detail of the past few days. Now I felt like I had come to some place of clarity.
"I wonder if my milk will eventually come in? Moms usually dread their milk coming in, as it's another reminder they don't have a baby to breastfeed. Many people gave me all the things to stop my milk from coming in. Maybe my milk won't come in, kinda like the crazy fact that I don’t even feel like I just had a baby (down there). Maybe it has to do with the fact that Leaf was just shy of 4 lbs, or that the labor was so calm, or maybe just a sweet present from Jesus.
I really feel like He said, “Ok, I’ll allow my precious little family to go through this, and yes, I’ll make beauty from tears, but I will also buffer them in every way. I will give them a compassionate team of professionals to walk with them, their amazing family to support them through this, comfy living arrangements so they can relax for the time they are not in their own home space, time to prepare mentally for what was to come, a super strong & very thoughtful group of believing friends to ground them and care for not only their physical & monetary needs, but also their need to be held up spiritually, a precious organizations that empathetically coordinate and fund all the details of situations like this (cremation, etc), and I will bless the mommy physically so she doesn’t have a terrible labor or have to deal with much physical pain after having a baby.”
Just a sweet thought I keep having."
Loving on me.
My sweet sister took me to get a massage and lavender foot bath, noise therapy, amongst other things. It was so lovely, even though I cried the whole time. Maybe the crying was the productive part. It was a private space, with lovely women, conducive for me to be with my feelings, regardless of how raw they were. I pray a blessing over those sweet women that held space for my messiness, just days after saying goodbye to our little one
I decided I wanted to make something sweet for Leaf's upcoming memorial. I went, all by myself, to Hobby Lobby. I needed to be alone. I stood in front of the section with little charms and momentos. I felt tears falling down my face. People walked by. I didn't wipe the tears away. Again I thought to myself, "You never know what people are going through". This same moment has come back to me many times since then. I try to remember this when people are angry as well, not just sad. I stared for a long time, at nothing, at all the sweet little things.I'm not sure it was wise to be up and about just a couple days postpartum, but I also didn't really feel any need to be in bed. There was no baby. I wasn't breastfeeding. There was nobody needing me... .
Mommas, I would recommend resting. Remember you are postpartum. It's very important that you rest, for a week (minimum). Not breastfeeding is even more of a reason to rest. If you don't have a baby breastfeeding, your uterus is not going to "clamp down" on the blood vessels left open by your placenta as well as it ought to. Rest will help the bleeding decrease & the uterus "scab" heal. I know it's hard to sit, rest, and sleep without a baby in your arms to hold or breastfeed, but give yourself a couple weeks before you go on a walk or to the store. At 6 weeks postpartum my midwife said my uterus was still where it would be expected at 1 week (not healing). I'd been far too active in trying to "move on". Be with your postpartum body as well as your grief.
Journal entry 11/15/14
"Tomorrow we’re doing a little memorial service here in Denver. What a weird thing to have to do, in light of grieving and being in the pits of despair. Luckily my sister is amazing and has taken care of organizing everything. All I want to do is sleep and cry and be with my little family..
Who wants to plan a funeral after they've lost someone. I’m sure a funeral is healing, but it’s just not where I’m at right now.
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that our baby isn’t coming home with us...
That we won’t have a baby carseat in the back of the car....
That I’m not going to be breastfeeding for the next 2 years, and that I don’t get to “wear” my baby Leaf like I did with Cord...
That we don’t get to hunker down for the winter with our little newborn ...
That we don’t have to adjust our sleeping arrangements to accommodate a newborn...
That I won’t be having endless sleepless nights ahead...
That there won’t be a newborn in our bed to wake up to...
That I won’t have to figure our how to manage 2 littles in the grocery store or while running errands. Ugghh…
Sweet 2-year old moments
"Yesterday Cord grabbed a bag and was walking around the living room saying, “Bob-bye kissy-kissy mom. Going to work. Going to work. Going to see baby Weaf.” How can something like that be so precious and so painful at the same time? I asked him if he wanted to go see baby Leaf, and he said, “Yeah,” so matter-of-factly. We read this book to him last night called “We Thought We Were Getting a Baby, but We Got an An Angel Instead”, and
tonight he ruffled through the stack of bedtime books, held up the book proudly and called out , “Mom, baby Weaf book! Read baby Weaf!” Again with the aching heart… I smiled and said, "Great book buddy, hop up here and we can read about baby Leaf". He’ll see us looking at pictures or videos of Leaf, and he’ll say, “Hold baby Weaf,” and we tell him how he held her so well the other day, and how he was such a great big brother. Again with the tears and the aching in the heart. Will he really get the chance to be a big brother someday? Will he get to play and argue and be rambunctious with another sibling? He’s so darn tender and seemingly ready for a sibling. I suppose God knows best, and has intended us to have more one-on-one time with our little Cord for now. To be honest though,
that does bring me comfort. I LOVE our little 2-year-old, and do look forward to feeding into him more, and getting to know him better. A little part of me wondered (like I’m sure all parents do) how I was going to pay as much attention to him with new baby coming. Well, I suppose I don’t have to feel so conflicted anymore."
People say funny things.
Oh boy, at this point, I could write a book. There would be a chapter on what not to say to a grieving person... . A woman said something to the effect that, “Things work out or happen perfectly", in regards to our situation. Wow, I was not ready for that sort of statement just days after saying goodby to Leaf... And since I wasn't at that point, it actually hurt my feelings. Brian said, “That’s just silly. The perfect way for all this to work out is to take our baby girl home with us. She needs to be in her carseat in the back seat with Cord.” I looked over and my heart ached as tears streamed down his face. Dang, this is just so stinking hard…"
What should/could the lady have said? It's best to just hold space for the person in grief. I know, we want to fix things or help them see the silver linings. Not your job. Hold space. A touch on the knee or shoulder is lovely. A consoling smile. Or "I'm so sorry". Or "I can't imagine how you must feel right now". If the person starts shedding a tear or becoming upset, you can say what you see, "you must be so incredibly sad" or "It's understandable to be upset, and it's ok" or "I'm right here for you if you want to talk about it". Trying to help someone arrive at the end goal is not going to be helpful, in fact it may be hurtful. Holding space for where they are, is most validating, and will in turn help them move on through.
"Each person's grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to eb witnessed. That doesn't mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining." - David Kessler
Next up, we get Leaf's ashes, say goodbye to our Denver community, and head back to our precious mountain town. What would we find? Oh, the sweetness in the midst of the storm.