Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And We Say Goodbye

While I was delivering the placenta, my mom arrived at the hospital. She came in crying and sat down and waited. Cole was still in the warmer with our nurse who was doing Cole's footprints and hand prints. After she ran the chromosomal tests, our wonderful nurse told us that Cole did not have a heartbeat (this was not surprising). She then began to describe Cole to us. She told us all about how tiny he was, about his little face, about his hands and feet, and about his skin. She did it in the most gentle, loving, patient way. Then, she wrapped Cole up in a tiny white blanket and brought him to us.

I was able to hold him first and I don't remember how long I was able to hold him in my arms before I handed him to Mr. Howard. It felt like a long time, but I wonder if it felt longer to Mr. Howard. This, again, was so different than with Connor. With Connor, we passed him around and everyone got to hold him within his first hour of life: Me, Mr. Howard, my sister, my mom, my dad, and then back around again. This time, there were only three of us in the room and when it was our turn to hold Cole, we were quiet and didn't want to pass him on. We stared at his tiny little face in wonderment and silently acknowledged the unspoken reality: this was it. This was the last time we'd hold him. This was the last time we'd see him (here on Earth, anyways). This was the last time we'd ever dress him or wrap him in a blanket. We studied his features, trying to memoize everything. These 4 hours are an absolute blur to me. I know that Mr. Howard held him while I slept and I held Cole while he slept. I know that at some point Cole had to leave for his photographs and that at another time they attempted to get better hand prints of him. I know that there weren't a lot of tears during this time, because it was so unbelievably surreal.
I had imagined that they'd put Cole in my arms and I'd burst into tears. I imagined that I would sob and sob and sob while staring at him and that there'd be no way I could ever smile in a photo with him. But this was not the reality. While I was holding him, I was quiet. Somber. No tears. While I stared at him, I looked at his features and decided he had his Daddy's nose. No tears. Somber. I posed for a photo with him and smiled. How could I not? I was holding my son. I was holding my precious baby. I was holding Cole. This was the little boy I had wanted to meet from the very minute I had found out I was expecting. There was happiness amidst all the sadness because we had given birth to a precious baby boy. I look at the pictures now and see me smiling with Cole and can't understand it. I have no happiness now when I think of him. I think this is perhaps one of the big differences between losing a child who is older. I don't have any fond memories or funny stories. So even though in the moment I was happy holding my son, I look back and see only pain and sadness.

After maybe about 4 hours of holding him, we decided that it was time to say goodbye. I will not describe why, but I am sure that you can understand why we had a limited number of hours with him. When we called the nurse to come, it was the hardest moment I had experienced ever in my life. I did not want to hand him over and yet I knew I had to. The nurse lovingly swooped him up in her arms and spoke to him, "Okay, sweetheart, it's time to go" she said as Mr. Howard and I bawled. She talked to him from the time she put him in her arms until the time that she stepped out our door (I'd like to think she talked to him all the way to the morgue, but I do not know). "Mommy and Daddy love you," she said as she continued to walk towards the door. "Come on, sweetpea" we heard as we took our final glimpse at our son in her arms.

Hardest. Moment. Of. My. Life.

Even as I recall it now, I'm brought right back to the pain. It is so odd to feel so guilty about needing to send Cole's body to wait for an autopsy, even though I knew I had no choice. But I wanted someone else to make that decision for me. And yet, I didn't want anyone to tell me when to give up my son. There was no right thing to do in that instance.

To give you an idea of how tiny his little feet were. Here is a photo of our wedding rings and his footprints.

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