It is 4 am and I am awake with the baby. She is not a baby anymore, but she is my baby and she is wide awake. I am frustrated with her, but then I think of her older sister. I think of my oldest who I would give anything in the world to be up all night with. My mind starts wandering back to that place, the place where it goes when things are quiet and the world is still. My mind starts wandering back to that Summer day 6 years ago.
Here I am, 26 years old and am sitting in a cold sterile hospital room holding my baby girl, wiping her face around the tubes that were put in to help her breathe. Singing to her one last time, cutting a lock of her hair, smelling her, feeling her back where it is still warm, trying to believe she is still alive. Then it is time. I know it is time. I have to leave. As I choke back a sob, I leave my baby's lifeless body on the hospital bed, open the glass door and walk away.
Saturday morning started much like every other. I woke up with the sun and with my sweet Emma crawling up and whispering in my face. Letting Jeremy sleep in, Emma and I got ready and walked to Weight Watchers. She played with people's water bottles, got super dirty (seriously, those carpets never get cleaned!), and entertained the masses.
We went home and I got online. I posted a bit in my due date forum, talked with my dear friends, read what others had written and then wrote something really important. On that day, I wrote on the ICAN board, Today I am going to be happy. This was really important because for the last 8 months I had really been struggling with the fact that I'd had a c-section. I had really struggled with the fact that I was going to have to fight to have a vaginal birth when I had another baby. I was tired of struggling though, I was tired of feeling like a failure. She was born, that was all that mattered. So, that day, I decided to be happy.
“It's your Mom and Dad's Anniversary, we should go over there. Plus your sister wants to see us and Emma before she takes off to the football game”.
We got our things ready and headed over to see Jeremy's folks. 30 years they'd been married, we needed to celebrate with them. Emma had dirt under her nails and dirty knees from our excursion that morning, I wiped off her knees and decided to clip her nails after her bath that night. I grabbed a few diapers and wipes and we were off.
We arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's house and Emma immediately started crawling around. She ate Cheerios, the decision to buy outlet guards was made and she did a huge poop. About an hour or so later, she was exhausted and ready to nurse. She nursed for an hour. I remember that hour so well. I played with her hair, was disgusted at her nails, and just loved on my baby.
When it came time to lay her down, I tried putting her in the playpen, but she just wouldn't have it. She had always slept on our bed with us, so I put her on the bed upstairs.
“Honey, we're going to get some Winter clothes for Em, Children's Orchard just put out their good Winter stuff today. She's upstairs sleeping, call on your Mom's cell if she wakes up and I'll come right home”.
An hour later I returned with bags of cute clothing that would never be worn.
“Is Emma still asleep? I need to go check on her” I said.
“I just did 10 minutes ago, she was fine. But if you want to you can”. My father-in-law replied.
I didn't want him to think I didn't trust him, so despite the feeling in my heart and the voice in my head that said, “If anything happens to her I'll never forgive myself”, I didn't. I showed him the clothes we bought and sat down enjoying the silence that comes before my baby woke up.
3 minutes later...
“Kim, there's something wrong with Emma, I found her like this”.
I will never forget what my Mother-in-law said that day. I screamed for Jeremy when I saw my baby, who didn't look like my baby anymore. When I looked at her and knew her Spirit was gone.
The Paramedics were called, they worked so hard, we sped to the hospital, “faster, faster, faster” I prayed.
In a room at the hospital, the doctor comes in and tells me she's gone. I hit him. I cry. I make phone calls to tell my family. The Social Worker asks where we want to bury her. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I just want to see her. I just want to hold my baby. I just want to wake up from this nightmare.
What do I do now? We went home with Jeremy's sister and her friend. I asked her to post to my due date forum about Emma. They needed to know. They were my family.
When we got home, I walked in the door and just didn't know what to do. Her smell was everywhere, permeating every bit of where we lived. Her highchair ready for her to sit in, diapers in the pail waiting to be washed, the books and toys she's played with that morning, her clothes, our bed...everywhere I looked I saw Emma. But it was so silent. My breasts were full with milk and had no one to feed. The silence overwhelmed me. Where was she?
Jeremy's best friends parents came over. They had a baby die also. I asked her, what do I do now? I am so lost. I just don't know what to do now.
A friend called, one who was in my due date forum with me. She had a baby die in utero at 19 weeks. I sobbed to her, what do I do now?
I talked to the organ and tissue donation people. So surreal. I couldn't believe this was my life now. I couldn't believe that just 5 hours ago my life was normal and now it was changed forever.
We couldn't sleep, we couldn't eat. We just held each other and cried. We talked, we cried. Finally we both fell into a fitful sleep only to wake up and realize our nightmare was real.
“Your Mom and Stephanie will be there today. They are renting a car and will come right over”.
The immediate aftermath is frenzied. Making arrangements, where to bury her, buying a plot, designing a headstone, flying to Utah, what to bury her in, who to call, what to do, what to do, what to do.
Jeremy's Parents dealt with the funeral home for me. My Mom, Jeremy's Mom, my Sister-in-law and someone else (but I don't remember who) dressed her. A friend of my Mom's came and did hand and foot molds of her for us. I just existed. As much as I didn't want to, I kept going.
I remember so vividly the pain. First there was the physical. The obvious pain. My breasts were so swollen and rock hard. They were hot and huge and hurt at all times, especially when someone would hug me...which happened a lot.
Then there was the pain that was not so obvious. The searing pain of loss. The feeling of being completely empty inside and filled with darkness. The knowing in my head that she was gone, but waking every morning frantically looking for her.
I can see myself sitting on the floor of the living room, the warm sunshine streaming in through the window. My sister Stephanie is trying to get me to eat and suddenly the tears come. They start silently going down my face. I am thinking of trying to feed Emma solids and know that it will never happen again. Then my body starts to shake with sobs. I cry, I scream, I beg, I plead, I bargain with God, just anything to get her back. It doesn't help, she is gone. I scream so hard to try to erase the emptiness I feel inside. I wander around my small apartment searching for her. Expecting her to be in another room, sleeping or hiding or just waiting for me. She is not though. The reality is too much to bear. The reality that she is at the mortuary, cold and lifeless, I just can't take it. I scream again and again and again.
Slowly the tears stop and I can breathe again. I imagine this is what contractions feel like. They come, build up slowly, peak and you think you can't do it anymore, and then subside. I am finally laboring, laboring my grief.
It has been 6 years 8 months since Emma died. I would be lying if I said that I didn't miss her anymore or that it is easier. It is not easier, it is just different. I have learned to live with a hole in my heart. I have learned to laugh without feeling guilty, I have learned to love without fear of my children dying. I have learned to treasure moments and to not take my babies for granted. But it still hurts. I still cry, I still long, I still miss her.
In the days, weeks, months and years that have followed Emma's death, I have played the worst time in my life over and over in my mind. That truly was the worst time of my life. The most painful, the most trying, the absolute hardest thing I have ever had to endure.
And what I find is that I am not done enduring it. I will be enduring this for as long as I live. This is part of me, part of my life, part of who I am.