I can't believe it's been almost 5 months since my last entry. I have wanted to sit down and write so many times, but I just couldn't. I'm sure there's some psychological reason for it. It's probably because writing about our second day with Elizabeth brings up a lot of strong emotion. There are things about that day that are still hard to talk about, but I think it will be good for me to share it now.
I shared in my last post about our wishes for a home funeral. Early the next morning at the hospital we got started on the logistics of getting our baby out of there and back to our home. There was no reason for me to stay any longer. I had a natural childbirth and was feeling physically fine. So, we called down to the chaplain and explained that we would like to sign any necessary papers to leave with the baby. Needless to say, that didn't go quite as planned. My doctor had not called ahead to let them know of our plans as he said he would. The chaplains acted like they had never heard of such a request and that it was totally impossible and against hospital policy to leave with our baby.
I called my mom in a panic, completely upset. I wasn't thinking clearly and needed someone else to help me figure this all out. She called a friend from church who is a lawyer and asked for advice. Our friend Monica called me at the hospital. She was so sweet. Grief causes something I like to call "mushy brain". I had it for awhile after losing the baby. It feels like your brain is moving so slowly and just doesn't process anything the right way. This is how I felt when Monica called and she was very gracious. She basically explained to me very gently that if we wanted to have the home funeral, we were limited on time and that trying to fight this legally could take awhile, so she made a call to a family friend of hers that owned a funeral home in town and asked him to help. He offered to send a car to pick the baby up at the hospital, sign any necessary paperwork as the undertaker, and then allow us to come to the funeral home and pick her up. I felt relieved and scared at the same time. This meant that I would have to let her go with someone else for awhile out of my sight. It was better than the alternative.
So, I called the chaplain again. This time there was a new guy that had just started his shift. He was a very nice man who genuinely seemed to understand how I was feeling about letting her go. That made it even harder for him to to explain to me what would need to happen next. He told me I had two choices. Choice A - When I am discharged, leave the baby undressed laying in the crib, shut the door and someone will come pick her up and take her to the morgue. Well, that was NOT an option. I am still her mother and do not feel the least bit comfortable leaving her lay here naked alone in this room. So, what is the second choice? Choice B - We will send someone from the morgue to get her before you leave but she will still need to be undressed and they will carry her out of here in a body bag. WHAT??? That suddenly seemed to make choice A look a little better. I asked him if there was not some other way. He insisted that it was hospital policy. Again, the poor guy felt terrible, but had to do his job.
A few minutes after he left we started gathering our stuff and preparing to leave. I undressed the baby, but left her diaper and hat on and wrapped her back up in the blanket. It may be hospital policy to fully undress them, but I didn't care. I left her there with dignity. I called the nurse to let her know we were going to leave. She came in to say goodbye. I was a wreck! It was the hardest thing I had had to do so far. It wasn't part of the plan. I didn't want to leave her there with strangers. I cried uncontrollably. The nurse cried too and promised me she would stay with her until the person from the morgue arrived. It made me feel a little bit better. I hated that moment. Hated, hated, hated it!!!! We were leaving there with our arms full of baby stuff and no baby. I actually sobbed pretty loudly the whole way to the car. I feel kind of sorry for the people in the elevator with us now. At the time I didn't care.
We had an hour or so to kill before we could pick the baby up so we went to get some lunch. It seemed weird to go out to lunch. I was grieving so hard and didn't want to treat my body to anything satisfying, but I couldn't deny the hunger. I hadn't really eaten much at all in the hospital and was starting to feel it. It felt so strange to sit in a restaurant and watch the happy people all around you. Happy couples, happy families. It seemed like the world should be silent right now. Everyone should stop smiling and laughing and recognize that your precious child has died. But, the world doesn't stop, it just keeps moving without her.
After lunch, we drove down the street to Keenan's Funeral Home. We knocked on the office door and were greeted by one of the sweetest, most gentle and loving men I've ever met. I will NEVER forget him. Tom Keenan. I would guess he was in his 80's. White hair and very thin. He invited us in until the baby arrived. We sat on a couch across from him while he asked us about her. We told him our story and he cried. I was a little surprised at first. He's done this everyday for most of his life and yet he still cried with us. He told us about the losses he had experienced in his own life. It was a rather lengthy list of family members very close to him, including his wife. He even showed us pictures of her. You could see the love in his eyes as he talked about her and I understood how he could have so much compassion for us. He knew what it's like to lose someone you love more than anything. The car arrived and we went out to meet it. He actually sent the hearse and an employee dressed in a full suit to pick her up. I thought it was very generous considering he wouldn't accept a dime from us. He showed us downstairs and asked us to wait there.
Jodie warned him that I didn't want to see Elizabeth in the body bag. So, they carried her in the room and laid her on the table before I entered. I was pleased to see that they had left her hat and diaper on. Jodie and I began removing her silk dress from the garment bag and worked together slowly to dress her in it. We put her pretty silk ballet slippers on her little feet. All the while, Mr.Keenan stood to the side weeping and rubbing his nose with a tissue. When we finished, we laid her in her casket and shut the lid. I hugged Mr.Keenan so tight and thanked him over and over on our way out the door. Finally, we were taking our baby home.
I was exhausted when we got home. We had some visitors that night including my brother-in-law and Heather and Wayne. They brought us a cedar chest with Elizabeth's name on the top as a gift from her parents. It's beautiful and one of my most prized possessions. Heather went upstairs and helped fix the baby's bonnet. We safety pinned it to make it smaller and fit her head better. She also helped me make some more hand and foot prints. Finally everyone went home and it was late. The boys were staying with a family friend and the house was really quiet. I needed to get some sleep. Everyone would be arriving for the funeral the next day and I needed to get up early to prepare the house. I laid the casket in the floor next to my side of the bed and tried to get some sleep.
I think I slept for a good 3 or 4 hours. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. I turned over and stared at the little casket in the floor through the glow of the alarm clock. Finally, I grabbed my pillow and blanket off the bed and laid down next to it. I opened the lid and stroked her soft little arm and cheek until the sun began to rise. There were birds singing loudly outside the window. I felt as if she was listening to those birds sing with me. Now I think of her every time I hear birds singing in the morning.
I don't know if it's the holidays, the darker days, or maybe my pregnancy hormones, but lately I find myself desperate to hold her again. Desperate to kiss that little button nose. I wonder what she would look like in her Christmas dress, staring at the lights on the tree. I still think about her every day. We have a stocking for her and we plan to get her first Christmas ornament to match her brothers. The boys still talk about her all the time. We all miss her so much!