My son was not the first dead baby I held in my arms.
Crazy, isn't it?
He was not the first dead baby I washed, dressed, took photos of, or sent down to the morgue. And, if I can ever find the strength to go back to my old job, he likely won't be the last.
There are lots of Babylost Mamas and Dadas out there. I remember a few particularly 'busy' couple of days in the NICU where we would run out, or come close to running out, of the plaster we kept on hand to make feet & hand moulds for the babies in our care who were dying. Nurses would be running around asking each other about the bereavement cart where all the memory making supplies are kept. "Do you have the Bereavement cart? I need it in room 1". Then someone else would respond "Oh, check room 4, I think so-and-so is almost finished with it". Seriously, we would have multiple deaths happening almost simultaneously in different parts of the unit. Multiple Babylost Mamas and Dadas all around me, issued their passports to this 'land of suck' in the space of a few hours or days.
So I knew even before Aidan was a reality, that babylost happens to people. Many people. I just didn't really believe it could happen to me. It wasn't that I didn't think of it happening. I imagined it. Very vividly in fact. Probably in many more shades of technicolour than most first time mommies. My job as an NICU nurse afforded me ample opportunity to ponder what it's like to be in the sad minority who don't take home a baby after giving birth. Add that knowledge to my heart defect, which has never left me with the illusion that bad things can't happen to me.
So it almost surprises me that I can still feel a sense of shock that my baby died. I am surprised at my own surprise. That I still stop short sometimes thinking, "really? No wait, REALLY?...Hold the phone...you MUST be joking...MY baby died...really MY baby?!" I really actually thought that because I worried so much about something bad happening, that I went over it a hundred times in my mind, that I imagined how sad I would be, and how painful it would be, that somehow, that worry, would protect me from it ACTUALLY happening.
I know, you are shaking your head at my own naivety. And really, naive is never a word I ever would have associated with me. I am not blissfully ignorant of the tragedies that life doles out willy-nilly to some (and not to others). But, I honestly thought, deep in my heart of hearts, that maybe, just maybe, no, probably, we would have a completely normal and healthy pregnancy. Despite my initial cautious attitude, and guarded happiness, even after the first 2 or 3 big bleeds, I really thought things would be as Dr. R. said..."fine".
On the other hand, I sometimes can't believe how prepared I was. When we found out about my placenta condition, we turned to Dr. Google. However, beyond telling us that it affects about 0.05% of all pregnancies, and that the outcomes were "poor", Google kind of threw up his hands and said "I got nothin'". When Google can't find happy stories for you, you know you're screwed.
So, I research Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photography, something I had been familiar with in my job, but now knew that I might need it myself. I ordered the smallest baby clothes I could find off of a preemie website. Just so my baby would have something to wear that I picked out, and I prayed that the little package would arrive in mail in time (they did). I packed a hospital bag at 21 weeks, "just in case". I researched how far along in pregnancy you have to make it in order to qualify for maternity leave (2o weeks). I'm sad to admit this, but I looked into cemeteries and cremation, while I was still pregnant. I started reading dead baby blogs, just to know what to expect, in case, while Aidan's heart was still beating. I did all this while still arranging and discussing doctors appointments for weeks 24 and 26 of my pregnancy. I did this while still signing on to check my "Due in August 2010" baby board. I imagined Aidan being born, if not healthy, at least with a chance, while still planning for him not to be here.
I guess what I am trying to explain, in my round-about kind of way, is that Aidan has shown me how worry/optimism, shock/acceptance, agony/joy can all exist in the same space at the same time. Although I worried about this pregnancy, and will likely worry more about the next one, I also had hope for Aidan, just as I will have hope the next time (please please please) the pregnancy test shows two lines. Just as I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact my baby died, I have also searched for knowledge and wisdom from mommies out there who have experienced it too. And just as much as it hurts deep in my soul (or whatever you want to call it) that Aidan is gone and won't come back...I would never, ever, no never, trade the time I had with him for anything else in this whole world.