My son spent 35 days in the NICU before he died. He had three surgeries and only a few ‘good’ days before he died in my arms. On one of those good days, I was able to give him a sponge bath. It was the only bath he would ever receive. For twenty minutes I lovingly cleaned his swollen body – maneuvering around his ventilator tube, chest tube, ECMO lines, and incision. I talked to him, cleaned him up, and was able to actually be his mother.
I was given a small, blue medical basin to help with his bath. I took it home for a souvenir to remember, and threw it with the bathtub supplies we had for his healthy twin brother. I had no idea that almost eight years later it would be the only thing that has touched all of my children.
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The blue basin has spent the majority of its life in my bathtub – helping me bathe my children. First it was my son’s twin brother. Then a few years later, his little sister who is named after him. Another baby girl born five years after his death is the last one of my babies to bathe with her brother’s basin.
It only hit me a few months ago that this simple blue basin would come to mean so much. I’ve given a lot of baths in my life, but the one I gave dead son means the most. And every bath I have given since, ends with a rinse on the head with that blue basin. It’s been used as every imaginable bath toy – from a hat to a pool for Barbies, to an island and a waterfall. The blue basin has been an integral part of baths for many years.
As a bereaved mother, I spend the majority of my days balancing intense grief and the joys of raising healthy children. I often hold back tears and wonder how life would be if I had them all. Family pictures are never complete and perfect moments are never truly perfect.
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Societal norms expect me to be ‘over’ his death by now, which is something I will never be ‘over.’ I feel like I am constantly being judged for the way I grieve. Time and some thick skin have proven to be my friends, and I no longer apologize for still being sad.
Nowadays, more people than not never mention his name, or ask how I’m doing. We are a family of six, when you can only see five.
Because of this, it’s very rare to have a simple reminder of my son. When it hit me that this plain blue basin is the one material thing that has been a part of each of my children’s lives, I realized how much I cherish it. In a few years I know it will be time to put away the bath toys as my living children grow. I’m not sure what I will do with that blue basin, but I know that I will never let it go. It is a simple, almost daily reminder of the little boy who doesn’t get to grow up, but who stole a piece of my heart and who I will always love, and of whom, I’ll never let go.