Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Feeling is Healing - Part 2

Shortly after I started this blog I did a similar post to this one where I shared some of the constant feelings that are a daily part of my life as a bereaved mother. Each month brings something new - new feelings, new thoughts, new fears - I keep praying for a new reality, but we all know that isn't going to happen. My reality is this: I am still mad, still sad, still confused, still hopeful and still thankful. 

Today marks three months since Olive came into our lives. Sometimes these three months seem like eternity, and other days I can breathe in her smell and feel like it was just yesterday.

I'm mad.

I'm mad at the random driver on the street who doesn't use his blinker, the person who doesn't hold the door open for me as I'm walking into a building, the cashier for being so cheery.
I'm mad that there are already "Baby's 1st Christmas" ornaments flooding the aisles of stores I shop at.
I'm mad that I don't get to dress Olive up as a little green olive for Halloween this year (complete with a pimento hat!)
I'm mad at myself for being so critical of my postpartum body.
I'm mad at myself that I continue to live in this postpartum body and don't do anything to change what I don't like.
I'm mad that I had 12 weeks at home and only in the past 3, when it was finally time to return to work, my mind and body decided to boycott sleep.
I'm mad that my exhaustion is due to the same lingering thoughts that continue to wage war in my head instead of newborn sleep regression.

I'm sad.

I'm sad that I don't have my baby.
I'm sad when I see pictures of babies Olive's age, knowing that she'd be reaching some of those same milestones now: smiling, cooing, holding her head up better.
I'm sad that the heartache of losing her feels like it's being replaced with self-pity.
It makes me sad when I meet my friend's babies, and realize that the play dates I dreamed of, the friendships I anticipated our children having and the new bonds we would form as mothers will never happen - at least not with Olive.
I'm sad that I'm missing out on more than just motherhood, but a new sisterhood that is only shared with mother's of earthly children.
I'm sad that I haven't experienced a sleepless night pacing the floors, rocking a baby.
I'm sad that I don't get to experience breastfeeding or blowout diapers.
I'm sad that I'll never know if she likes baths, despises tummy time or gets the hiccups because she eats too fast.
I'm sad that I can't feel her little fingers around mine, hear her noises as she sleeps or wipe a tear from her eye.

I'm confused.

I'm still confused about what to do with the nursery.  It's now half packed (which I never should have done alone), and as much as I thought that was the right thing to do, now I'm not so sure.
I'm confused about what I need from my family and friends.
I'm confused about what I need from my husband.
I'm confused about what my husband needs from me.
I'm confused about what to do for the holidays - how do I properly acknowledge our daughter in our holiday card, preparations and celebrations?
I'm confused as to when we should have more children.
I'm still very much confused by the realm of heaven.

I'm fearful.

I'm fearful that the fact we still don't have autopsy results means that something is wrong with me.
I'm fearful that the months without her are becoming harder - time is not healing this wound, it often feels like it's making it worse.
I'm fearful that I'm becoming more angry, bitter and judgmental towards people or situations rather than forgiving and understanding.
I'm fearful that God is losing his patience with me because I am trying so hard to stay close to him, yet I still struggle at times with trusting him. (I know God isn't actually losing his patience with me, but I feel that way sometimes because I know I'm losing my patience with me! - see what I'm thankful for below)

I'm hopeful.

I'm hopeful that God's plan is unveiling itself even if I don't completely understand it.
I'm hopeful that reading my bible and spending time with God throughout the day will continue to strengthen me and give me the wisdom and patience I need to accept that plan in it's own perfect way, in it's own perfect timing.
I'm hopeful every time I leave church.

I'm thankful.

I'm so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you.
I'm thankful for the stories you share with me - stories of sadness, pain and hope.
I'm thankful that I'm not alone on this journey.
I'm thankful for new friends I've met - even if we've only "met" through Facebook or email.
I'm thankful that my husband is patient with me - it's not easy living with a hormonal rollercoaster for a wife.
I'm thankful for our sweet dog, Layla, who seems to know exactly when mama needs someone to cuddle with.
I'm thankful for the cards, notes and messages letting me know that 3 months later you are still thinking and praying for us.
I'm thankful that Olive's life and death has made it's way into your dinnertime conversations, your daily interactions, your bedtime prayers.
I'm thankful for a best friend who makes sure there is something in my mailbox every month on the 29th - reminding me that Olive is having the best birthday ever!
I'm thankful that even though I don't understand heaven, have a faith that is tested and a soul that is weary - I have a savior that is forgiving and gracious.

You see why I refer to it as a rollercoaster - these are DAILY thoughts. Daily joys. Daily pains. Daily struggles.

One minute at a time turns into one hour at a time which turns into one day at a time.

Try to sleep.
Wake Up.

I know that this past month has been emotionally exhausting - I returned to work, we welcomed my nephew into the family and are preparing to welcome a niece soon.  Friends and family members are having major surgeries, the medical bills finally stopped and the holidays are fast approaching.  My mind is racing, my heart is heavy and my body is tired - I've been thrashing about in the wound instead of sitting still in it. 

I don't like feeling this way, but I also recognize that it's a part of the process.  The goal is to grow from it - even the ugly parts. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for continuing on this journey with me.  XoXo

Monday, October 20, 2014

Twelve Weeks Later, I am a different Nicole

Usually I find myself writing to you from a sad place or moment that triggered something deeper, something that leads me to need healing.  I can find that here, this is where I lay it all out and hold myself accountable to those feelings.  It's easy, most days, to want to dig a big hole in my heart - one that's bigger than the hole already there - and bury these feelings deep down.  I know, as well as you do, that burying them doesn't do any good.  Eventually they'll make their way back to the surface, and at that time, it might be too late.

I've noticed that about myself through these past 12 weeks.  I've never been someone to hide my feelings but when it comes to loss like this, there were times I felt that hiding them would be easier.  Easier than facing my fears, easier than having to explain myself, easier than crying every single day. If I could just shove those feelings down, choke back all of those tears and put on my happy face maybe I would believe it myself.  For some people that may work - for a while, at least.  Not me.

I'm returning to work tomorrow.  Months ago I would have told you that the thought of returning to work made me want to throw up.  Today I find myself looking forward to it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still very anxious and uncertain of the unknown, but isn't that how we are with any new situation?  I may be returning to the same workplace with the same co-workers, but I'm not the same Nicole.  And it took these 12 weeks for me to see that.  It took these 12 weeks for me to really be honest with myself and allow myself to grieve properly, to come to peace with all of this. 

I've had some really low days.  I had days that I needed to lay in bed until 11am, force myself into the shower where I would just sit and let the water wash over me.  Who needed soap?  I wasn't going anywhere.  I just needed the shower water - to wake me, to wash me, to refresh me.  The shower became my hiding place - where I could cry, wail and collapse.  A place where I could feel sorry for myself. The first few weeks after Olive's death I would sometimes take multiple showers, just so I could escape.  Those were the weeks I couldn't bring myself to talk to God - we were beyond talking - all I could do was yell at Him.

Man, did I yell.

Twelve weeks.  Twelve weeks ago my life turned upside down.  And I'm still standing.  I'm still here, still broken, but still here. But HERE looks a lot different than it did twelve weeks ago.

Today showers serve their normal purpose.  Today I don't lay in bed as long or cry as often.  Today I can find joy in the every day.  Today I'm on speaking terms with God. Lucky for me, He's a forgiving guy.

He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:13-19-22

It's so very easy to get caught up in the sadness and grief.  I still find that there are days where I feel awful, but those days are also different than they were 12 weeks ago.  Back in early August those awful days were driven by heartache, now they seem to be driven by self-pity - the "woe-is-me" attitude.  It's so easy to deceive yourself into thinking the world is against you - that every Facebook picture is meant as a dagger to your heart, that every "unfair" circumstance is a punishment from God.  I have allowed the devil to tell me so many lies, you wouldn't believe the things I have contemplated believing!  Yes, every day is still a battlefield.  A battle of wills - but I'm stronger now than I was 12 weeks ago.

I am a different Nicole.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law. I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:28-30

God and I have a new relationship.  We've always had a relationship, but it's different now - which is why I'm different.  It's a relationship that is a work in progress, a relationship I've learned isn't secure if I only pay attention on Sunday mornings.  A relationship that can't survive if I only spend a couple minutes each night talking to God as I fall in and out of sleep. 

Could you imagine what your marriage would be like if you only talked to your spouse one hour a week?

What if you only had a 5 minute conversation with your client or customer each day?  And during that 5 minute duration you were only half paying attention?

It's hard to have a relationship with someone if you don't feel like they are paying attention, or you don't feel like the love is reciprocated.  I have chosen, the last 6 weeks or so, to see "the hand of God in everything" - and what a difference that makes!  He's in the changing color of the leaves, the vastness of the skies, the rain that falls and the wind that chills.  Even though my human brain can't fully comprehend everything He controls, I know it's still controlled.  This world, this life, my life - He's in control when everything feels out of control.

I've learned that my relationship with God is one that I have to work at like I do any other relationship in my life.  In the past it's been a relationship of give and take - He gives, I take.  And after I took, I gave him none of the credit.  I have a wonderful marriage, supportive family and friends, good health, a beautiful home, money in my bank account - all things I thought I controlled.  Sure, I would praise God every once and awhile for those blessings - but I took them for granted, foolishly assuming that the marriage was there because I worked at it, the money was there because my husband and I hadn't foolishly spent it, I was healthy because I worked out and ate right.  Don't get me wrong, those things are important - and I certainly have a role to play in all of them, but I don't have ultimate control.

You learn that when your marriage is rocked to the core and you have to depend on your spouse more than ever.  You recognize that when what should have been a simple birth that you budgeted accordingly for now triples in cost, draining much more out of your bank account than you had planned for. You learn that when the very creation you lovingly created is taken from you in a moment's notice. 

Dependence on God isn't a sign of weakness, but rather the strength I need to get through another day. So, while I'm uncertain of what tomorrow, next month and next year will bring - I know that God's hand is in all of it. In church on Wednesday this song was sung - the message came at just the right time, as it often does. 

The perfect wisdom of our God
Revealed in all the universe.
All things created by his hand
And held together at his command.
He knows the mysteries of the seas;
The secrets of the stars are his.
He guides the planets on their way
And turns the earth through another day.

The perfect timing of his ways
Along the path of righteousness.
His Word a lamp unto my feet;
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And, Oh, the wisdom of the cross
To save the helpless and the lost-
He chose the fool to shame the wise
That all the glory might go to Christ.

Twelve weeks ago this would have just been another hymn - today it's my prayer. I hope it becomes yours too.

O grant me wisdom from above
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has its place
Within this tapestry of grace.
So through the trials I'll choose to say:
"Your perfect will in your perfect way."

*"The Perfect Wisdom of our God" 2010 Gettymusic

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Auntie Nicole

To my sweet nephew and unborn niece:

It wasn't too long ago that your mommies shared the good news that you were coming!  What an exciting time for our families - new babies to love on, cousins that would grow up together to become lifelong friends.  My heart rejoiced that our lives were taking us all down this path together and that I'd be able to share stories and swap ideas with both of your mommies.  It made me so happy that I wasn't going to go through this alone.

It's been 11 weeks since your sweet cousin Olive went to be with Jesus.  Your mommies came and showed us love and support, but deep down I wondered what her short life and death meant for them as well.  I wondered how I would be able to show them the same love and support when it came/comes time for you to be born. 

The truth is, this has been hard. 

I struggle daily with how to show them support without seeming like I'm over-doing it or making anyone think I'm doing it because I feel like I have to.  I struggle with how I'll get through the first holidays or watch babies so close in age to my Olive grow up in our family.  I struggle with how to be the cool, fun aunt and still be Olive's mommy at the same time.  I battle thoughts in my head that Olive will be replaced or overlooked because she is no longer here. As Olive's mommy, my only job left is to protect her memory. So my promise to you is that I will share her with you.  I will tell you of your cousin Olive and how much fun you would have had together!

I want you to know that you are loved.  I've loved you from the moment I found out about you, but it may take some time for me to show you love the way I want to - the way you deserve. 

Baby E - I want so much to wrap my arms around you and snuggle you and take in your beautiful smell. Sweet boy, I'll get there - I promise.  Being in the NICU with you brings back too many difficult memories, after all, you're in the room right next to where your baby cousin was.  The beeping of the machines, passing the hallway where she was carried home to heaven - it's all so overwhelming right now.  Your uncle got to hold you last night, he held you for the both of us.  He later said to me, "how can anyone be sad holding a baby?"  My heart breaks that I've not felt the weight of you in my arms yet - but I am sad and scared. Let me assure you that the thought of holding you isn't what makes me sad. I didn't get to hold my own baby for very long and that makes me sad.  I'm scared that holding you will somehow erase the weight of her in my arms.  I know that is so silly, but it's how I feel right now.  I know that I'll come around - I just ask that you be patient with me.  And know that when I do finally hold you, I probably won't ever want to put you down!

Baby girl - when I found out that Olive would have had a little girl cousin to grow up with my heart broke.  It broke for her, it broke for you and selfishly, it broke for me.  We didn't know that Olive was a girl before she was born, but I knew that Olive's other cousin was a boy and that eventually we'd find out what you were too.  I had hoped, that whatever you were that you were the same as Olive  -so when we found out that you were indeed a girl my heart was heavy for what could have been. I secretly hoped Olive was a girl before she was born and I would daydream about buying you both all kinds of fun, girly things.  I dreamed of family vacations visiting one or the other, where the two of you would play all day and then fall asleep giggling at the thought of something so silly just like I did with one of my cousins. I imagined when we would find out what you were that I would go to the store and send you a package from your cousin and I - letting you know that we were patiently (or impatiently) awaiting your arrival.  The truth is, I can't walk into a store without covering my eyes as I pass the baby section. I can't bring myself to buy you a dress or cute tights with ruffles on the butt - not even a pink toy. But I'll get there, I promise. And after I'm able to practice holding Baby E for awhile - my hope is that my arms will long for you too. 

I know you're little now, and won't even know or remember that I didn't hold you right away or send you a frilly dress at the announcement of your gender, but I know and it makes me sad.  It makes me sad that a part of our family will always be missing, sad that you'll never know your cousin Olive, sad that none of us will get to see all of you grow up together the way we had hoped.  But I'm also very excited- excited to see the joy you will add to our family, excited to watch you grow into extraordinary people, excited for the love and healing you will bring to me and your uncle.

Be patient with me. There will most likely be a day, maybe months or years from now, when I'm stopped in my tracks at something you do or say. I may find myself watching you do something that will bring tears to my eyes, or hear you call out to your mamas and wonder what my life would have been like if Olive were still here.  I'm sure that I'll hear her in your laughs and squeals, and that I'll feel her in your hugs and kisses. 

And it will make my love for both of you grow deeper and deeper still.

Auntie Nicole

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Olive's Life Story, Part 2

I don't recall how long Olive was on my chest.  Our midwife was toweling her off and patting her back since she had yet to breathe.  After a moment, they took her and laid her on the bed to suction her nose and mouth.  Her body looked limp.  Her eyes were open, but she was not present. I could see meconium coming out of her mouth and nose as the midwives all chanted, "Breathe baby, breathe."

I was holding my breath.  They asked us to talk to her, "talk to your baby, Nicole."

I sat there.  Silent.

I looked up at my husband, his face as confused as mine.  We both sat there and watched as they tried to save her.

I finally spoke, "C'mon sweet girl, let mama hear you cry."

"Sweet baby, you can do it - just let us hear you cry."

"Oh God, please....let her cry.  Please God, I'm begging you, let her cry!"


I heard one midwife say that she was having a hard time getting a suction on the oxygen mask.  Then the paramedics came.  It was at that moment that I knew she was going to the hospital.  The promise we'd be eating dinner with our baby was gone.  She was leaving - I would not get the birth I had wanted.

In the midst of the craziness, everyone remained calm.  They attempted CPR, but were unable to intubate her due to the fluid in her lungs.  One paramedic was on the phone with an ER doc at the hospital asking what they should do.  I wanted to scream at him, "how do you not know what to do?!" But I didn't.


They told us they needed to move fast as she had already gone too long without oxygen. My husband got his shoes on and left with them.  I lay back on the bed wondering what just happened.  Sirens.

I was told that I would be released from the birthing center once I was cleaned up, had gone to the bathroom and eaten something.  I tried to do all of those things as quickly as I could.  I needed to get to my baby.  She needed her mommy.  I still could not comprehend what had happened.  I knew, having an out of hospital birth, that there may be a chance one or both of us would need to be transported to a hospital.  We had mentally prepared for this.  We HAD NOT prepared for the worst - to us- a hospital transport was the worst.  Death was not an option.

As I was getting cleaned up my husband called.  He was using phrases like "do not resuscitate" and "call a chaplain to baptize her", he was talking like she was going to die.  One doctor wanted to call time of death but another found a weak pulse. That meant they were able to move her to the NICU.  He told me she had gone about 30 minutes without oxygen, she still made no sound. My daughter was not going to die. I told him to just have them stabilize her and I'd be there as soon as I could.

Silence.  I hung up the phone and one of the midwives asked if I wanted to pray.  I said yes, and so we prayed. 

I went to the bathroom and they brought me some toast with peanut butter to eat.  The last thing I wanted to do was eat, but I knew if I didn't, they wouldn't let me leave.  I gagged down the toast.  They sent someone in to sit with me, a sweet woman who I would later realize belonged to a Facebook community of mothers that I had previously joined.  She sat in the rocking chair while I ate my toast.  I thanked her for sitting with me and asked her if she had children. 

I called my parents. I told them that they had a granddaughter, but that they needed to meet us at Children's hospital.  It didn't look good.

About that time I was told that I was able to leave - with strict instructions to take care of myself.  One of the midwives and a doula drove me to Children's.  I was wheeled up to the NICU and found my husband and inlaws sitting in the waiting room. My husband looked so sad.  There didn't seem to be much news, other than she was stable and on a cooling blanket, where she would stay for the next 72 hours.  Our midwife had arranged for us to get a room in the NICU so we could sleep there and be close by.

My husband wheeled me into her room, we still hadn't named her.  There laid "Baby Girl Smith" with wires and tubes, but she was gorgeous.  The most beautiful baby I had ever laid eyes on.  My daughter. I asked the doctors some questions about what they were doing.  At that point we just got pretty general answers - she was stable and they would monitor her over the next few days to see how she was doing.  I held her hand, she squeezed back.  My husband would tickle her foot and she would curl her toes.  Later they would tell us that she didn't have these reactions, but I felt it - she felt us.  I will not let anyone take that away from us.

I told her that mama was here and that she was so beautiful and strong.  I told her how much I loved her and that there were a lot of people praying for her.  My heart was heavy - but full.

When we returned to the waiting room there were many more people - my grandparents, parents, siblings and other extended family.  The waiting room would remain full for the next 24 hours - we were so loved.  That evening I went to bed hopeful.  We went back to our room and chose a name for her - a name I had been in love with, even though my husband had been unsure.  As we spoke, we agreed that Olive Elizabeth was perfect.  My husband went back to see her one more time and to tell the nurses that Baby Girl Smith had a name.

The next morning we received a phone call from the on call doctor who had treated Olive in the ER.  She informed us that the initial ultrasound of her head showed severe tissue damage in her brain and the EEG had shown no brain activity at all.  I believe that started to solidify things for my husband.  I, on the other hand, was still holding out for a miracle.  Surely God would save our daughter.  I prepared myself that she may have some disabilities, but death was still not something I would entertain.

That morning I took a shower and as I looked down at my empty belly I fell to my knees.  "Take me.  Take me instead.  I can't do this.  I am not strong enough for whatever this is - I did not sign up for this."  I wished she was back inside me - where I knew I could take care of her.  Afterall, when she was in my belly - that was the safest she had ever been.  Even though these doctors and nurses were well trained, they WERE NOT her mother.  I was her mother.  I couldn't save her anymore.

Throughout the day I was either at her bedside or with family.  My husband chose to either be at her bedside or by himself.  He was beginning to shut down and I could sense that this was going to be a long road.

That afternoon we were given news that there was more organ damage than originally thought.  Olive's pH levels were off, her blood pressure was weak and they were increasing her meds, even though they thought that was really just a bandaid.  The doctor didn't sound hopeful.  That made me so angry - why were all of these people talking to me like my child was going to die?  This was Children's Hospital - they save babies all the time, and babies much smaller and weaker than mine.  My baby was full term, a whopping 8 lbs 2 oz.  She had good color and we had a healthy pregnancy - just use the machines and medications that you have available to you and SAVE MY DAUGHTER!  It was that simple.

It was not that simple.  That evening we were told that we needed to make some difficult decisions.  Olive's cooling blanket had begun to warm her.  She was unable to maintain her body temperature and that was when we knew she was losing her battle.  Our pastors came.  Olive was baptized, many people were able to meet her and pray over her.  They were able to hold her hand and kiss her sweet head.  She was so very loved.

The doctors told us that we needed to decide when to move her to a more simple ventilator.  Once we did that, we would be able to hold her until she passed.  We might have hours, we might have days - no one knew for sure.  The only thing that stuck in my head was holding her meant letting her go.  My husband wanted to move her that evening, he felt like we knew our fate and just needed to face it.  I, on the other hand, couldn't bear to do it.  We hadn't slept more than a few hours in the last two days, we had barely eaten and were still running off of adrenaline.  If we were going to get the possibility of a day or more with Olive, I wanted to be rested and able to hold her all day long.  And then I told him the truth - I was mad at God.  I was so very angry at Him.  I didn't understand how He let me carry her for 9 months, feel her moving inside me.  How could He let me go through 15 hours of labor and birth her in a beautiful and peaceful birth and then take her away from me?  I would not give her back that easily. 

We stayed at her side until midnight that night and then decided to get a few hours of sleep and move her in the morning. 

At 1:00am our phone rang.  I will never forget that call.

"Ms. Smith?"
"The doctor is requesting you and your husband at Olive's bedside."

I hung up.  My heart sank.

My husband was already awake.  I put on my robe and we made our way downstairs.  They told us what we already knew.  Olive's blood pressure was dropping and she was maxed out on the medication they could give her.  She had spared us both and made the difficult decision for us.  She was ready.

It took about an hour and half for them to get her ready - they removed as many of the tubes and things that they were able.  A sweet nurse came in and made a mold of her feet and some other crafty things.  Things I knew they were doing for us so that we would have memories.  My heart broke.  We hadn't even made memories yet!  All of our "memories" involved terror and heartache, hospital machines beeping at us and a lifeless child.  Now we'd be sent home with a small box of "things" that they would call hers, her "belongings".  Old people have belongings, people who have lived a full life have belongings - babies don't have belongings.

They put her in a gown and wrapped her in a swaddle blanket that I had packed.  These were items that we were supposed to put our healthy baby in.  Items that would keep her warm in the birthing center - extra items in case she pooped or peed on something else she was wearing.  These items were not packed for her to die in.  Yet that's the purpose they would now serve.  She was going to die, and these "items" would become part of her "belongings."

They escorted my husband and I into a private room with a couch that pulled into a bed.  Shortly after they brought her in to us and laid her in my arms.  What a glorious feeling!  The weight of that sweet baby felt so right - so natural.  This was the weight I should have felt moments after birth, and now I was clinging to her, not knowing if I would have minutes, hours or days.

They got us situated and left us.  I told her how proud I was of her and how much we loved her.  I apologized that we would never paint our nails or go shopping for princess dresses.  I thanked her for making me a mommy.  We fell asleep.

I awoke to a doctor coming in to check her heartbeat.  It was still there, so she left us alone again.

I remember thinking that I was so very tired, but I couldn't bear to sleep.  I wanted to soak up every minute that I could.  I stared at her, I touched her cheeks, her nose, held her hand.  How could this be happening?  Flashes of everything I was losing were staring me in the face - she would never learn to ride a bike, never go to school or learn to tie her shoes.  She would never have a first date, a bad grade or a boo-boo.  I would never attend a field trip or girl scout meeting.  Birthday parties for Olive were now going to be about celebrating how old she would have been, instead of how old she is. How were we going to do this?

The doctor returned again and found her heartbeat. They left us.

I moved her over to my husband.  I wanted him to experience the weight of her on his body, in his arms.  I wanted him to be able to have that memory too.  I wanted to see him hold her- something I had dreamt of for so long.  I wanted to see him be her daddy.

The next time the doctors came in, it was harder for them to find her heartbeat. They sent 3 more doctors in before they found it. I knew it must be weak. I knew it wouldn't be long.  We were not going to get the days we had hoped for - 2 hours was all she was going to give us.  I could tell.  Each time they came in, more and more life had left her body.  I could see it in her color and feel it in the temperature of her hand.  We didn't have much longer.

My husband fell back asleep.  Trying not to wake him, I had our final mommy/daughter moment.  I told her that it was Ok to let go, that she should go be with Jesus.  I knew He was waiting for her and she was going to be so very happy.  No pain, no suffering, no fear - just paradise.  I held her hand and we did what we would have done every other night had she been able to live.  We prayed.

Now I lay me
Down to sleep
I pray the Lord
My soul to keep

If I should die
Before I wake
I pray the Lord
My soul to take

It's OK sweet girl.  Mommy is here and we will be OK.  I love you so much.

The doctor's returned.  I heard her ask a nurse for the time.  5:25.


They removed her tubes and turned off the machines.  For the first time since that moment at 5:18pm, 36 short hours prior, we had the opportunity to just hold her.  As soon as she was free I brought her to my chest and clung to her.  My husband had his arms around us both and we just sobbed.  Sobbed into her lifeless body.  After I held her for awhile I gave her back to him.  We just sat there, holding our daughter's shell.


About an hour later the doctor's returned, we discussed a few things and took her back to her room in the NICU.  We called our family and tried to sleep.  At this point it was 6:30 in the morning, I didn't know what that day would hold but knew I needed to try and sleep.  When we left the hospital we were given a pink and purple box of her belongings - the thermometer they used to check her temperature, the smallest little blood pressure cuff that I'd ever seen, a diaper (not used), her name bracelet - Baby Girl Smith, the mold of her feet, the hat, gown and blanket she was in when she died.

Those "belongings" have become the very things I now use to comfort me.  Every single night I open that box.  I hold her gown up to me, I run my fingers over those little feet and I bring that blanket up to my face - just to breathe her in.  Her smell is hospital smell, but it's still her smell.  Every night I take myself back there, every night I tell her that we're doing OK and that I wish her sweet dreams.  Every night I ask God, even though I'm certain it works differently in heaven, I ask Him to let her know I love her. 

I know she doesn't need my love anymore.  She has more love than I ever would have been able to give her on this earth. But I still ask.  I ask Him, even though I know she is happier than she's ever been and loved more than she could ever have imagined, I ask Him to give her a little extra.  He doesn't have to tell her it's from me - since that's probably not how it all works up there, but in His own heavenly way, I ask Him to do this.

And I will for the rest of my earthly life. 
This is the only physical connection I have to her.  This gown, hat and blanket have her DNA on it - making her real.  She was here, albeit a very short time, she lived and she died.

My arms may be empty but my heart is full of love for her.  My daughter.  My firstborn.