This post was written late last night. I couldn't hit publish until I went back over it today, after I could get a little distance from it. If you are at work, you may want to wait until later to read it. There is a possibility you will cry.
I held a dead baby today.
It was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had.
It was the most agonizing thing I've ever done.
My sweet, sweet book club friend delivered her baby, Isabel, this morning, after the baby's heart stopped beating in utero yesterday. For months now, we've known the time would come eventually, but in the back of our minds hoped and prayed it wouldn't.
This wasn't something anyone could completely plan for. There is no telling how a mother will react in this situation. Over the months since the baby's diagnosis of Trisomy 18, we discussed what she was going to do. How she was going to prepare. Not once did we discuss what we, her friends, were supposed to do to help her. We simply waited for her to lead us. Five hours after delivery, she sent a signal.
Along with a picture, she texted, "Our sweet baby girl. I'd love for you to see her."
Fifteen minutes later, I found myself sitting in the hospital parking lot. I wanted to go to the room. I wanted to be there for my friend. However, I was really nervous about doing so. I'm not known for being the best in sad situations. My friends don't call me first after a tragedy. They call me a day or two later, when they are ready to forget about it all and simply laugh.
There wasn't going to be any laughing in this room. This wasn't a day or two after the tragedy. It was mere hours. And was still happening. I didn't know how I would handle the situation, and I most certainly didn't want to make it worse by saying the wrong thing.
I stalled. I called COW. I called another book clubber, asking when she would be there. Should I just wait for her?
Finally, though, I pulled myself together and went in.
At first glance, the room appeared very much like any other delivery/recovery room. Basinet, grandparents and other family scattered around, Mom in hospital gown, Baby wrapped snuggly in a blanket, nurse checking in. Yet after a closer look, it wasn't the same at all. No diapers under the basinet. Tears in everyone's eyes. No balloons or flowers. The nurse didn't actually check the baby. There were no baby sounds. There was a whole lot of quiet.
It was all very surreal.
After I hugged everyone, Grandma handed dear little Isabel to me.
She was beautiful.
A two and a half pound, darling girl. She had a whole mess of fuzzy hair under her knit cap (that a nurse had knitted while my friend labored). She had perfect, miniature hands, with tiny little fingers that fit across my fingernail. Her skin was soft and flawless. Her eyes were closed, making her look like she was simply sleeping.
As I held her, I realized I was swaying. Such a natural thing, to rock as soon as a baby is placed in your arms.
I was there for two and a half hours, and in those hours, I said maybe 20 words. I listened. I listened to my friend tell the story of Isabel's birth. I listened to relatives talk. I absorbed every emotion in that room. The grief, the uncomfortableness, the sadness, the peace, the concern, the hurt. Most especially, though, I felt the love. So much love was in that room.
I feel so blessed to have been there. To see the love and support and gorgeous things that happened in that room. To see family and friends come together to console each other, to honor a tiny angel, and to grieve for what was lost.
The nurses did a fantastic job taking care of my friend. The little touches, like knitting a cap and taking photos and putting together a memory box, made it all a little bit easier for my friend to bear.
As I walked out, I felt like I was leaving a tiny little island of tranquility.
But within seconds, I was smacked with reality.
I realized the wise ways of the nurses. They had put my friend at the very end of a long hall, and kept the adjacent room as the "family room" for overflow visitors. It was just a nice way of keeping laboring women with live, crying, cooing babies as far from her as possible.
As the day went on, I became more and more depressed. For all these months, I have been in a kind of denial, never fully believing that this day would come. But deep down I knew the time was getting closer, and the pain of it all has been oozing out.
I've been receiving texts and emails and comments from people worried about me, saying my recent posts have been abnormally down. I've been reacting to things with much more emotion than normal. I've been sarcastic and negative, which is very unlike me. (Soccer post would be a perfect example, I think.)
Walking out of that room, out of that hospital, people were behaving as they always do. No one cared that in a room four floors above them, a mother and father just lost their precious baby girl they have wanted for so many years.
My mood and my energy drained as the day went on. Seeing people at pickup laughing and acting like nothing horrific happened to someone they know about did me in.
At one point, I wanted to scream. Why the hell doesn't the world stop when parents lose their baby?!?!? Why can't everyone just take a day off to cry and acknowledge the loss?
But no, life continues on, whether we like it or not.
You'd think that after today I'd be home hugging and loving on my kids like crazy.
I was simply beyond exhausted, and the emotions I had witnessed and felt were building like a wild fire. Standing in the center of the chaos that is my home after school, I became completely withdrawn from them. I just wanted to be in a room alone.
I didn't care that my own kids needed fed. I didn't care that there were soccer practices to attend. I didn't care that Phoenix needed pants to wear to school.
I didn't care about anything except what was happening in that hospital room.
Precious Isabel, her mother, her father, her siblings. That's what I cared about. Soccer is pretty insignificant next to something so tragic.
All night I have been praying for them. All night I've been asking God to help them get through this.
He will, I have no doubt, but it's going to be a long road that will get harder before it gets easier.
Tomorrow will be the hardest day for my friend. They will take her baby from her, and she will have to leave that hospital. She will walk the same hall I did, but instead of simply being smacked by reality, she will be beaten to a pulp by it.
Please, please pray for my friend and her husband.
My friend did make it home from the hospital today. They are now in the throws of planning a funeral service while also taking care of their three other children. Keep the prayers coming please.