She Needed Me…(my submission piece for LTYM)

 

It happens.

Life.

Death.

I just happen to work where I may see both at the exact same time. I’m trained to be the personnel who tends to a baby’s first breath. As a nurse, rarely my services are needed to sustain a life, but in the event it happens, I’m there, along with a team.

This particular day I was needed. But not in the way I thought.

She was born many weeks too early to survive. Her little body pushed from her mother’s warm, loving interior, into the cold world. Her heart beating, trying it’s best to give it a shot, though her lungs were far too underdeveloped to oxygenate her vital organs. She lay still. Her nurse wrapped her in a warm blanket and handed her to her devastated parents to hold.

But after nearly an hour her parents were done. They asked the nurse to take her, do what you have to do, weights and measures. The nurse gently set her in the crib and started to walk toward the nursery.

I saw the look on the labor nurse’s face. Sad. Confused. Unsure. I asked if the baby had passed yet, she looked at me and said no. No? I asked confused. Why on earth didn’t parents want to hold their dying baby? I can’t imagine.

Oh wait. Yes, I can.

The overwhelm, the horror, the grace, and fortitude that came to reside in my soul after the 26 hours of labor I had to deliver my own stillborn son came flooding back in an instant. I held my breath and swallowed hard.

I told the nurse I’d take her. I pulled the blanket to the side that covered her tiny body. Still warm, I could feel there was some life in her. I carefully wrapped extra blankets around her so that the crib didn’t look empty as I walked in the hallway to take her to the nursery.

When I arrived, I made my way to the back where there was privacy and a curtain. I took out my stethoscope and listened. Nothing. And then a very brief series of heartbeats, irregularly fluttering in her little chest. She was still hanging on.

I walked quickly to the blanket warmer where I grabbed a nice warm blanket and I gently wrapped this precious baby girl in it. Her little head peering out from the swaddle I sat down in the rocker and began to rock.

But something told me she didn’t want to be rocked. She wanted to be held, but not rocked. So I stood up, walked around and held her close to my chest. I talked to her. I told her she was not alone. I told her I would hold her until the end.

After about a half an hour of walking with her in the crook of my arm, I assessed for signs of life. Again, the fluttering of a little heartbeat still present. I told her that I was going to weigh and measure her. I assured her that I was not going to do this because I was assuming she was gone, but that I do this for every baby. I took two sets of footprints, two sets of handprints.

For I know all too well that there will not be any first day of preschool pictures, a first lock of hair, or a first visit from the tooth fairy. Then quickly I wrapped her back up in the warm blanket.

I looked around the nursery and miraculously it was empty now. The hustle and bustle of the day had settled and it was just this baby girl and I. I took a seat behind our desk with one of our swizzle chairs and gently back and forth we swayed. I began to sing one of the lullabies that I sing for my boys.

We swayed and sang for nearly 20 minutes. I had to stop myself from reaching down and kissing her tiny head that peeked out from the blankets. I listened with my heart, melting with gratitude that this precious girl needed me. To just hold her. To just be in my arms.

The time that we swayed seemed like hours. I imagined her body feeling comforted, warm, and loved. I reminded her that her mommy and daddy loved her very much. I told her they did the very best they could. I told her that she paved the way for her future siblings. I thanked her for being so beautiful. I told her that she mattered. I told her that she would not be forgotten. I told her that there would be peace that passed understanding.

I closed my eyes and rested with her in my arms. I hoped she could hear my heartbeat through the blankets. And when I opened them again. I knew she was gone. I could sense her energy had lessened; her delicate mouth began to open. It was time to assess her heart rate again. But instead I held her a little longer.

Indeed she had passed. A sadness came over me. But a peace filled my heart. I thanked her for letting me hold her. I thanked her for needing me. I sent my well wishes to her, her parents, and her future siblings. I asked her to say hello to my baby that was in Heaven and hoped he would usher her into her Creator’s loving embrace.

I was needed that day. Not in the way I’m used to being needed. And in the process, I realized that I needed her.

I was filled to the brim with gratitude, love, peace, and grace. The ache in my soul from losing my stillborn son almost four years before was soothed in her presence. She filled a gap. A wondering for me. She gave me the opportunity to BE in the moment of life and death.

An amazing baby with an amazing message, and for that I am so grateful.

 

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The pack of three…

Who knew that a little pack of three toothbrushes could cause such empathy, love, and heartache to roll around in one’s heart all at once?

It all started with a family outing to Target in which there were a few million items we needed. It was fairly simple. A present for a child’s party, some half and half, some soap, you know how it goes. Next thing you know, the whole cart is full of crap you never knew you needed.

After we got home to unload, the kids want to try out their new toothbrushes. Hubs had grabbed a pack of three toothbrushes that were on sale. They were excited to brush their teeth with something new!

While my seven year old was looking at the box they came in, he examined it and said aloud, “If Baby Bailey were still alive, there would be a toothbrush for him too.”

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And there it was.

My son remembering his brother.

The one we lost 5 years ago.

The one who never got to choose his favorite superhero toothbrush.

The middle one.

And what I love so much about it? Is that he remembered without any mention of it from me, though it’s never far from my mind.

There should be three boys. I know. He knows.

And they each chose a toothbrush on either side, leaving the middle.

Just where Baby Bailey’s place in our family is.

Sometimes it’s just a lot…

I cry.

Because I am loved.

Because I have loved.

Because I have won.

Because I have lost.

I am blessed.

I am wounded.

I am healed.

I am broken.

I am healing.

I am blissfully raising my children knowing they are nothing short of a gift. I am deeply aware of the milestones we pass. I beg my mind, my heart, my soul to download them all so I’ll never forget. The smell of their hair, their cries, their little fingernails, their silly giggles.

There are days when I struggle with the ache in my heart from having it broken into a million pieces when my baby was born still. And the shattering of faith that ensued. I struggle with difficult times in a way I never used to. I can’t shake bad news off like I could before. Or I find myself disconnecting completely.

Lately, I can’t disconnect. I have to share my emotions. I have to hold my friend’s hand while she grieves her dear husband who took his own life a few months ago. I think of her trying to live on and how difficult it is to maintain normalcy. It hurts. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to live. I remember.

Somedays I miss my old, naive self. The one that doesn’t get it.

The one who thinks that people live forever.

The one that thinks that only old people die.

The one who thinks that I can make it through anything.

The one who fearlessly went into the field of nursing.

But I know better.

And when you know better, you do better.

I can only pray that all the broken pieces have taught me enough to get through all of what lies ahead.

And be thankful for the angels who light the way.

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The crocheted blanket…

Although I can offer my condolences to a family who just lost their newborn baby, I cannot fix the reason I am offering my understanding and love in the first place. I have no answers most of the time. All I can do is share that they are not alone, that their baby matters to them, to us, and the world. 

I remind them that there is no right or wrong way to integrate this loss. Some insist from the very minute they learn of their baby’s demise that there will be a tattoo. Even if they aren’t tattoo kind of people. Others refuse photos initially, but give in after they hear our pleas. 

They are very tastefully done. 

They are in black and white.

They become absolute treasures.

They are all you will have left.

It’s all true. There aren’t crawling pictures, preschool photos, or graduation invites. The family walks out of the hospital one less family member than they walked in. There is no soothing balm for that.

The space this baby leaves is a chasm that I try to bridge as a caregiver. I always take two sets of footprints and handprints. Just in case if something should happen to the one set you have. I try to find a lovely lotion I can put on the blanket I wrap the baby in, sometimes in dire need to cover up a horrific smell, other times to help mom “bank” her memory of her baby. 

I remind you to hold your baby for hours and hours if that feels right. There is no need to rush to the morgue. And, if you change your mind and need more time with your baby, I will go get your baby from the morgue and wrap him or her in warm blankets to help the chill go away. I will encourage you to just BE with your baby. Examine every finger and toe. Kiss her cheeks. Nuzzle his neck. There will never be another time. 

And when the time comes to say goodbye, I will take your beautiful baby, and with grace and dignity I will wrap him up, remind him that Mommy and Daddy love him very much, thank him for his presence, his gifts, his spirit, and send blessings to the parents who’ve just joined the club of Empty Arms, Broken Heart.

I will then take a deep breath and wonder about the person who took the time to crochet the beautiful blanket that I just gave to the mother. The blanket that was wrapped around her baby’s body. The blanket which will become the catcher for all the many tears to come. The blanket which she might sleep with, just to be close to her baby who now lives on in her heart and spirit.  That person who spent all that time crocheting the blanket and donated it to our hospital, had no idea what a gift she gave. I for one, am grateful.

It’s Wednesday and I thought of you…

I thought of you today as I was raking all the beautiful fall leaves in the backyard.

I thought of you today as I ran my hand through your brother’s hair and felt the warmth of his skin.

I thought of you today when I glimpsed your ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.

I thought of you today as I saw the hummingbird drink from the feeder by our kitchen window.

I thought of you today as your brothers were chasing each other around the house in their underwear and diaper.

I thought of you today as I rocked your brother to sleep, and as your Dadda read to the big brother before bedtime.

I thought of you today when I woke and saw the misty fog and felt the cold breeze.

I thought of you when the sun peeked out of the clouds and your brother said it was pretty.

It’s Wednesday and I thought of you…

She Needed Me…

It happens. Life. Death. I just happen to work where I see both at the exact same time. I’m trained to be the personnel who tends to your baby’s first breath. Rarely, my services are actually needed to sustain a life, but in the event it happens, I’m there. Along with a team.

This particular day I was needed. But not in the way I thought.

She was born many weeks too early to survive. Her little body pushed from her mother’s warm, loving interior, into the cold world. Her heart beating, trying it’s best to give it a shot, though her lungs were far too underdeveloped to oxygenate her vital organs. She lay still. Her nurse wrapped her in a warm blanket and handed her to her devastated parents to hold.

But after nearly an hour her parents were done. They asked the nurse to take her, do what you have to do, weights and measures. The nurse gently set her in the crib and started to walk toward the nursery.

I saw the look on the nurse’s face. Sad. Confused. Unsure. I asked if the baby was gone yet, she looked at me and said no. No? I asked confused. Why on earth did parents not want to hold their dying baby? I can’t imagine. Oh wait. I can.

I told the nurse I’d take her. I pulled the blanket that covered her tiny body. Still warm, I could feel there was some life in her. I carefully wrapped extra blankets around her so that the crib didn’t look empty as I walked in the hallway to take her to the nursery.

When I arrived I made my way to the back where there was privacy and a curtain. I took out my stethoscope and listened. Nothing. And then a very brief series of heartbeats. Irregularly fluttering in her little chest. She was still hanging on.

I walked quickly to the blanket warmer where I grabbed a nice warm blanket and I gently wrapped this precious baby girl in it. Her little head peering out from the swaddle I sat down in the rocker and began to rock.

But something told me she didn’t want to be rocked. She wanted to be held, but not rocked. So I stood up, walked around and held her close to my chest. I talked to her. I told her she was not alone. I told her I would hold her until the end.

After about a half an hour of walking with her in the crook of my arm, I assessed for signs of life. Again, the fluttering of a little heartbeat still present. I told her that I was going to weigh and measure her. I assured her that I was not going to do this because I was assuming she was gone, but that I do this for every baby. I took two sets of footprints, two sets of handprints. Then quickly I wrapped her back up in the warm blanket.

I looked around the nursery and miraculously it was empty now. The hustle and bustle of the day had settled and it was just this baby girl and me. I took a seat behind our desk with one of our swizzle chairs and gently back and forth we swayed. I began to sing one of the lullabies that I sing for my boys.

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King… Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King… Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King… Allelujah Allelujah…we are going to see the King.

We swayed and sang for nearly 20 minutes. I had to stop myself from reaching down and kissing her tiny head that peeked out from the blankets. I listened with my heart, melting with gratitude that this precious girl needed me. To just hold her. To just be in my arms.

The time that we swayed seemed like hours. I imagined her body feeling comforted, warm, and loved. I reminded her that her mommy and daddy loved her very much. I told her they did the very best they could. I told her that she paved the way for her future siblings. I thanked her for being so beautiful. I told her that she mattered. I told her that she would not be forgotten. I told her that there will be peace that passed understanding.

I closed my eyes and rested with her in my arms. I hoped she could hear my heartbeat through the blankets. And when I opened them again. I knew she was gone. I could sense her energy had lessened, her delicate mouth began to open. It was time to assess her heart rate again. But instead I held her a little longer.

Indeed she had passed. A sadness came over me. But a peace filled my heart. I thanked her for letting me hold her. I thanked her for needing me. I sent my well wishes to her, her parents, and her future siblings. I asked her to say hello to my baby that was in Heaven and hoped he would usher her into her Creator’s loving embrace.

I was needed that day. Not in the way I’m used to being needed. And in the process, I realized that I needed her.

I was filled to the brim with gratitude, love, peace, and grace. The ache in my soul from losing my stillborn son almost four years before was soothed in her presence. She filled a gap. A wondering for me. She gave me the opportunity to BE in the moment of life and death.

An amazing baby with an amazing message, and for that I am so grateful.