balloons and ashes

One of H’s cousins went through a similar loss as ours, pPROM at 18 weeks and then the birth of her tiny daughter two weeks or so later. When we met over Christmas, one of the things she said that stayed with me was that she found it so terrible having to leave the baby in the hospital, instead of taking it home to bury it in the garden.*

We don’t have a garden, but that moment of having to leave the room with my babies to never see them again on this earth was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. We had a wonderful nurse that did everything she could to make it a little easier for us, but of course, it was still hard.

We had decided relatively quickly to have the girls cremated. The social worker had given us a list of mortuaries. Calling them was hard, especially since the receptionist at the first place asked why I was calling after I had given him a summary of the situation. But at the next place I got a lovely woman on the phone, who immediately expressed her condolences and gave me what seemed like a reasonable quote, but said that she’d talk with her supervisor to see if they could do it for less. Ten minutes later, she called me back to tell me they could cremate our daughters for 250$.**

I initially dreaded not just the call but also the visit and the paperwork, and halfheartedly considered asking friends to do it for us. But I’ve come to realize that this was one of the few things we were actually able to do as A & C’s parents. We won’t ever get to write notes as for why they didn’t go to school last Monday, but, hard as it was, we got to arrange their cremation. Because we are their parents.

They really tried to make the paperwork as easy as possible for us. Getting all the names correct was important – after all, these were among the few official documents we’d ever get with their names in print. H and I have different last names, and the girls have his. “Usually the babies are under the mom’s name”, she said. Do you know what’s wrong with this sentence? “Usually”. There shouldn’t be anything usual about this.

A week or so later, I went back to pick up the ashes. With the nomad scientist life, finding a suitable permanent place for them seemed difficult. We decided to scatter their ashes at sea – we both love the sea, and after a while they will be “close to” us in all sorts of places across the world. I sobbed when I got into the car. I didn’t want to scatter my children’s ashes, I wanted them here with me, alive. H repeatedly said we didn’t have to go. Once I had calmed down, we drove down the coast and found a bay between two banks of fog. The water felt like it was freezing cold. We stayed to say goodbye, and then to watch a beautiful sunset.

I’m not sure why these memories are coming up so vividly now. Perhaps because we are considering a beach vacation, and the beach, like so many other things, now reminds me of my daughters?

When we left the ER recently, we passed the gift store, and H said he had been hoping so much that the next time he’d be in the hospital he’d be able to go into that store and buy a little present for me and our child. I was already pregnant again, and hopeful that we’ll bring this little one home, but that showed me how hard it is for him. Peering through the window, we considered which of the balloons*** he could get us, come November.

* She had her first child without any problems, and later brought home another daughter after getting a cerclage in the 2nd trimester (by choice, it wasn’t clear what caused the pPROM, but she did get her rainbow baby, which is the most important part).

** I have since heard that some places take care of stillborns for free. It’s not so much about the number for me though. I think any form of supporting parents in this terrible situation is more appreciated than we may be able to express in that moment.

*** I have never had or bought one of these huge colorful printed balloons, but we’re so ready to celebrate that a smiley-flower or a gigantic butterfly seem appropriate. I so hope we’ll get there.

12 thoughts on “balloons and ashes

  1. This has me rembering. Leaving her behind; arranging her cremation. I don’t have a garden either, but often wish I’d buried her at the base of a big red cedar in the park next to us.

    I want those big showy balloons for you, too.

  2. Oh how I hope you get that smiley balloon in 7-8 months. It’s floating there with your names on it, I just know it.

    I can’t imagine having to deal with the formalities associated with losing your sweet girls. I’m glad that people were generally supportive of you. I remember calling to ask about a bereavement airline ticket after y grandmother passed away (NOT the same!) and the woman on the phone was extremely rude. I wanted to punch her. I’m glad that you’ve encountered solid professionals.

  3. So much heartbreak for you and H. And yet, so much hope. I just want the day to come where a whole bouquet of balloons are delivered to your door, and you receiving them half awake from having nursed your newborn half the night. I continue to hold so much hope for you and H, and little Strawberry. And I honour your beautiful girls and their precious, much too short, lives.

    1. Exactly – so much of both, heartbreak and hope. The mind boggles, and the heart doesn’t quite know what to do with all those feelings. I’m so glad to have you all here who understand – many people around me seem to think that everything’s fine, now that I’m pregnant again…

  4. Our funeral home did do it for free. But I couldn’t bear to leave the hospital with out him. My oldest was a preemie, so even though he came home eventually, it was still incredibly hard to leave the hospital with out him every day for weeks. So when the time came with Noah, I knew I couldn’t do it. So we drove him to the funeral home ourselves and said our goodbyes there.

    I hope that you find a fabulous balloon.

  5. “that moment of having to leave the room with my babies to never see them again on this earth was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. ” Totally makes me cry. I’ve thought about you guys going through that moment again and again.

    Thank you for sharing the story of A and C’s ashes. It’s a really tender and intimate story, and I feel happier knowing that they are everywhere. That you and H and their brother or sister will be able to dip your toes in to say hello. But as you say, so many things in this story should never have to happen to anyone, there should be no plans or policies or any of it.

    You deserve so many balloons. I am visualizing enough to lift a house, little Strawberry. Just hang in there, growing and thriving.

  6. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this at all. I pray that just like H’s cousin, you will be bringing home your rainbow baby as well.

  7. I just happened upon your blog through another and felt compelled to ask you to please reconsider a preventative cerclage at 13 weeks. I’m currently on my third cerclage and have only had living children with them placed, had a very similar loss and early issues/symptoms as you, and a vague undetermined diagnosis. I initially didn’t want to for the same reasons you stated but I’m so glad I went through with it. It is a protection against infections I had with my loss and any possible IC. I was told after our loss to wait at least 6 months until we got pregnant again in order to allow my body, uterus, cervix to strengthen to its fullest potential. We didn’t, only waited four months and it caused major issues and I was lucky to get an experienced surgeon who knew how to adjust the cerclage (and added another stitch as well) to provide the best support to my cervix. Even if the lengths are good now, that can change so suddenly rendering a wait and see approach useless. In the states, all three of my surgeons (90 years experience combined) have never had a failed preventative cerclage and never experienced a loss during the surgery. Antibiotics are given IV during placement, removal, and birth. Cerclage is not as precarious as some believe and the docs here can’t understand why anyone with our history would choose to not have one placed. I’m probably telling you things you already know and have weighed but I couldn’t bear to see you and your sweet husband go through this again without at least saying something and trying. Your blog is so touching and so familiar. I hate that we have been through this. Take care.

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