"Can I have the honor of holding your baby?" the nurse asked as I handed my daughter over for the.very.last.time. I watched myself from outside my body as I handed over my most precious girl while the world slipped from under my feet.
Isabella was the greatest nurse and she gave the biggest hugs, the kind that envelop your whole body and you wish would hold you forever. The day my daughter left us, Isabella's shift ended at 3pm but she knew what we felt aware of, today was the last day with our daughter alive. So when 4pm rolled around for our daughter's next round of meds, Isabella was waiting for the call that our daughter had died.
She entered so respectfully, explained what to expect in the moments after death and asked if I wanted to bathe my baby girl for the very last time. I was scared but also knew I wasn't ready to say goodbye, so I followed her lead as the expert, since obviously she was.
She warmed the water, she steeped sacred tea (which turned out to be Starbucks Zen) and she gently placed my daughter in the bathwater. She taught me the sacred ritual of bathing my daughter, the last act I got to perform as her mama with her earthside. It was breathtaking and my honor to perform this ritual, and it was devastating. I dressed my daughter in her last diaper and most beautiful gown, the one that she was supposed to wear home. Instead, I held my daughter with her weight upon my chest for hours as I stared out the window watching the sun fade and the moon appear to light the night.
And finally, reluctantly, the time had come. My husband and I were exhausted. After 33 days of limited sleep and heightened anxiety, we decided to say goodbye.
That walk down the hall, I knew what was coming and I wanted to stop time. My broken heart was just beginning to feel the magnitude of what was to come. Isabella's words were the only reason I could stomach handing over my daughter. It was "her honor" to hold my sweet girl.
And then I proceeded to vomit.
Isabella was only one of the many amazing nurses that cared for us during the time of our daughter's life. Her commitment so greatly positively impacted us during what can only be defined as the most beautifully heartbreaking time of our life. Because of the support we received, we are surviving. We have survived the unsurvivable.
Nurses are human, too. I can only imagine how any of the workers felt when they left work that night to be welcomed home by their families. But, combined with devastation and heartbreak, I will never forget how I felt that night. I felt loved. I felt Isabella's love for my daughter. Her words will forever be remembered, it was her honor to hold my beloved child.
You just read an excerpt from my upcoming book Our Only Time. Our Only Time was created to motivate, inspire and show appreciation for maternal health professionals through experiences told from a patient's perspective. Through heartfelt stories, families share the sacred time spent with their baby — whether in utero or after birth — and offer insights into how health professionals positively impacted their experience. Also included are recommendations on how best to be supportive of patients and what types of actions to avoid during this devastating experience.
Through these incredibly intimate stories of loss, health professionals can better understand a grieving family's experience and become equipped to support bereaved parents when they leave the hospital without their baby. Health professionals will come away with new insights on how to guide parents, empowering them to have the least amount of regret during this loss, and allowing for the greatest chance of healing in their grief as they re-enter the world.
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I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.