When you are pregnant, you have all of these classes that you take and are offered to prepare yourself for your upcoming arrival. You take the birthing class, the CPR class, the breastfeeding class, the car seat installment class, parenting styles 101. Anything topic. Everything. And you do anything and everything you can to learn about your child’s arrival and how to keep them safe once they do arrive. That’s your job isn’t it. To keep them safe. What they don’t tell you in any of these classes is that you might not take a baby home. Your baby might die. You may never get to breastfeed them. You may never use that carseat you so dutifully installed. You may never get to parent them. They definitely don’t tell you about all of the decisions you will be required to make the moment your baby dies.
Do you want to be induced now or go into birth naturally? (Wait what? That’s even a thing? You want me to go home 5 days before my c-section, knowing that my baby is dead inside of me?)
Do you want to see a chaplain? (I don’t freaking know! I don’t have a religious bone in my body! What would a chaplain do for me? Pray for me? What if I don’t want prayers right now?)
Do you want to have an autopsy done? (Wait. What? Your going to cut my baby? Hurt him more than he already is? But would you have a better chance of figuring out what happened? Is it covered by insurance? Will we have to pay a ton of money?)
What do you want to do with the body? (What do you mean? Cremation? I’ve never imagined making this decision! If he isn’t cremated, where will he go? My grandparents were, so is that what we do?)
What type of memorial service would envision? (A memorial service? We thought we were going to bring a baby home and have a bunch of visitors celebrating the birth of our child. Not lock our doors and avoid everyone because our baby stayed at the hospital.)
Would you like for a professional photographer to take pictures? (A photographer? Taking pictures of me looking like this? I have never been in so much pain in my life. My eyes have bags underneath them. I can hardly keep them open I am so exhausted. “You will treasure the pictures forever.” Treasure these? Treasure looking at the day my life was shattered into a million pieces? Your going to take pictures of a dead baby? What?)
Do you want to speak with a lactation specialist? (A lactation specialist? How will she help me now? I can hardly focus. I can’t understand what she is saying to me? My milk is going to come in. What will I do when it does? Will I force it to stop, and suffer through the pain? Will I pump for who knows how long and donate Simon’s milk to another child in need? Do I have the willingness to support someone else when I can hardly keep my own head above water?)
Are you okay with us taking the baby while you rest? (I spent 9 months with this baby growing inside of me. I wasn’t ready to part with him for one minute. But I can’t keep my eyes open. I feel like I am going to die. Go ahead. But bring him back soon, please.)
Would you like anyone to meet the baby? (Who wants to hold a dead baby? He’s not moving. He’s still. He can’t open his eyes even though we want him to so badly. He hasn’t been cleaned up very well as his skin is so fragile. HIs head is so fragile. He is changing before our eyes. His lips are turning black. His fingernails are turning black. What is happening to my baby? What is happening to my life? Wait, you don’t want to hold him? He is yours, all yours. He is perfect. He is beautiful. Are you scared of him? )
Do you want foot molds made? (Foot molds? What are those? What would we do with them? Where would we put them?)
Do you want us to take the baby and you leave the hospital, or do you want to the leave the baby in the room and walk away? (The simplest question, with the deepest meaning. Do we leave him and walk away, leaving our child forever, walking away from him. Do we want to watch someone wheel our child down the hallway, take him away from us for good, never to see him again? Ugh. This one still kills me to this day.)
The ashes will come in a white plastic box, do you want to buy an urn? (An urn? All of your urns are the size of adults or children. Here is a small one. Oh, he doesn’t fit, oh, it is made for a pet. A pet? You have pet urns but only 2 baby urns to choose from? You want us to stand here and look at this magazine and choose an urn? Do we even have time for this? The patience for this? My head is about to explode. I don’t want a teddy bear urn. I don’t want a child size urn. I don’t want some crazy ornate urn. I want something simple. Something “us.” Something “Simon.” This was one of the best decisions we could have made.)
I can’t even think of the rest, but I know there were so many more. No one ever told me the types of decisions I would be making. No one prepared me for any of these questions. No one even told me that babies can die after 20 weeks. After 30 weeks. After 38 weeks, 5 days before their scheduled arrival. I swear I thought stillbirth was a thing of the 1800s.
We did the best we could. We made the right decisions with the information that we had. The cloud and the fog that surrounded us made each of them more and more difficult as they came. We continue to make difficult decisions everyday, here’s hoping we are making the right ones.