the aftermath: the precious little time we had

After giving birth we stayed in the delivery room for a few more hours. Nurse M came in regularly to massage my uterus and check my bleeding. Other than that we were left alone to hold and admire and cry over our lifeless daughters.

When we went to another room where we’d stay the night, a couple with their newborn baby crossed our way. A cruel reminder of what we’d just lost, times two.

We spent almost 24h in that room, and yet I cannot say much about what we did. Cry. Hold our babies. Hold each other. Cry some more. It was the first time I saw my husband sob like this. He was completely devastated, shaking, unable to stop crying. I tried to comfort him, it hurt me to see him hurt. It took a while – days at least – for both of us to learn that we need to allow each other to cry, to grieve, to let this acute sadness out. Maybe it also just took a while to be comfortable with so much raw emotion – with my own feelings, there’s no way out, but feeling so utterly helpless in the face of his grief, shortly after feeling just as helpless because I couldn’t save my babies, was hard. We’ve both learned to be together through the sadness now, to be with the other but not try to stop the tears.

Both nurse M and the doctor who delivered our babies came to say goodbye at the end of their shift. I’m so grateful they took the time to talk to us again, to show us some extra kindness that we needed so much. The doctor also encouraged us to try again when we were ready, going over some basic options and encouraging us to talk to an MFM. Perhaps for some people this might seem inappropriate, but while we’ll always miss A & C we were still longing for a living child as much as before, if not more.

In addition to their little hats, the hospital had given us two tiny blankets. As they had always been together inside me, we kept them in the same blanket. But then we saw that the second one had stars on them, so after taking the footprints we wrapped them in this one (see picture below).

They had also given us a memory box with some material to take footprints. The nurse for the evening was supposed to help us take them. Unfortunately she was clearly uncomfortable with the fact that our babies were dead – the only negative experience we made in the hospital, everyone else was kind and supportive and going out of their way to help us. She wanted to take the babies to another room to do this. Um, no. I ended up doing the footprints myself, though she was helpful with some of the technical aspects, like how to prepare the material and how to make a flat surface. And then I think all the involved parties were glad when another (lovely) nurse was in charge of us for the night.

We had one more difficult task ahead before we could go to sleep: we needed to inform our families. Each of us wrote a few words to parents and siblings, attached some of the photos of our girls and us, and hit “send”. We’d both so have loved to send a different announcement…

The night itself was okay. I declined the repeated offer for pain medication – not that I was trying to be tough, I just didn’t feel more than mild cramps. H slept on a convertible armchair for a few hours, then crept into my bed. It was good to be close, and reaffirmed our desire to go home the next day. L&D is not an easy place to be when you’ve just lost your babies, although we were lucky and only heard a few newborns cry, and didn’t see any other than the one at the beginning of this post.

One question that seemed to be surprisingly difficult to answer was whether we’d get birth certificates for the girls or not. We hadn’t decided on names when they were born, and in part decided to think of some just in case we’d need them for the papers. Looking back, I think it was the right choice for us – it feels more personal to talk about A and C rather than Twin A and Twin B. But I can see that for other parents, not having names may be easier.
Our social worker eventually found out that we wouldn’t get birth certificates, though we could ask the state to send us certificates of fetal demise (and doesn’t “birth certificate” sound a million times better?). She, the social worker, had actually been meeting with us since we got to the hospital, I just haven’t written about her because we didn’t “click”; H found her downright annoying. But she did supply us with a lot of helpful material, from a leaflet with the sad title “What to do when you’re not going to breastfeed” to a list of mortuaries in the area, and advice which tend to charge less than others. We also got two little booklets, on pregnancy and infant loss and on grieving as parents, but I’m a little ashamed to admit we haven’t read them yet… we’ve just been exhausted.

The hospital also offered to send a professional photographer to take pictures of our babies, and of us as a family. I believe this photographer offers to visit all families with new babies, but while most would need to pay for the pictures, babylost parents get them as a gift. I showered and got dressed first, which made me feel a bit better, at least physically. She was kind and calm and took some pictures of A & C with far better light and quality than my phone ever could, and then some of the four of us together. They are heartbreaking and treasured.

The midwife in charge didn’t have any concerns in letting me go home, so we hugged and cradled our daughters a few more times but slowly started to pack up our belongings. It was hard to leave them, even though there was nothing we could do for them. The lovely nurse we had during the day, who had supplied me with extra maternity pads as I obviously hadn’t stocked up on them, hugged us and said “Take your time. I’ll stay with the babies.”

I’ll leave you with one of the last pictures we took of A & C, with the toys I had bought for them. They underline how tiny our daughters were – the trunk and tail are made to be grabbed by a baby’s hand. But, being so colorful, the toys also add a cheerful element to the photo. It gives me hope, somehow. This is the background picture on my phone, and most of the time I smile when I see it, see them.

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17 thoughts on “the aftermath: the precious little time we had

  1. I’m so glad that you had good nurses to take care of you! How nice that the hospital took some professional pictures of your beautiful family. I picked up the pics the hospital took of my sister’s son and I was disappointed they didn’t do a better job. What a precious time to have all together and to make their footprints. Your daughters are the sweetest; love the pic with the toys.
    Hugs to you and your hubby!

  2. I remember packing up and leaving the hospital with my daughter, and I can’t tell you how heartbroken, how much I am crying right now to think that you had to pack up and leave without your daughters. I am just so, so deeply sorry for your loss, dear woman.
    That is a beautiful picture of your beloved girls.

  3. What a beautiful picture to remember your girls by. I am so glad that (mostly) everyone was so kind, caring, and helpful while you were at the hospital. I am so sorry that you had to go through all of this. You have an amazing spirit and it is inspiring to hear you sound so hopeful for the future in the midst of such tragic loss.

  4. Oh honey, so beautiful, and so very sad. Their sweet little toys are perfect–you can see those little guys love their girls.

    I am grateful to your hospital for many things, but particularly for not taking the girls away. I imagine it’s a soul-destroying tragedy either way, but somehow it seems easier to leave them than to have them taken away.

  5. My heart breaks for you and your girls. They are so beautiful. While the time spent was much too short, I am glad that you at least had some time with them to hold them. What a great idea to wrap them together – it was only after we had left the hospital that I realized we should have been doing that with Conner and Benjamin while they were alive. It would have been comforting to them.

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