We saw her for the last time the evening before, at the chapel of rest in the local funeral directors, I don’t regret my decision to see her, I just regret not reading to her; or holding her a bit longer.
When we walked away from the hospital the day she died, she had begun to lose her natural colour, the colour drained from her tiny body within minutes. The infection (Sepsis) was so high; it overwhelmed every single inch of her. When we were offered to visit her I was unsure; I had visited my Nan in the chapel, but declined to see my dad. Being in the healthcare profession in my past life I wasn’t immune from seeing bodies after their hearts had stopped. I was terrified of the emotions that would arrive upon seeing her. Thoughts to how she would look only brought back the memories of that day.
I desperately wanted to see her, but I was desperate not to. My husband had already made his mind up – he knew in an instant that he would want to see her one final time; I always admire his strength. Torturing myself about choosing the right way; being her Mum it should have been an easy choice but it wasn’t.
We walked to the undertakers, held hands tightly and I repeatedly said, “I don’t know what to do; I don’t know what I should do”. We sat in the office waiting to be called; all we ever knew from the previous months was waiting in clinics with a pregnancy bump, now the waiting room was dark and dreary. When they spoke our names, my husband rose to his feet; without thought, I followed…
Visiting the chapel for any loved one is a massive decision. But for me, the decision felt so different to the ones I’d made when visiting adult relatives. There is nothing to prepare you for that next step. We can all share our own experiences of inside the room; describe what there is, but it still won’t be enough to prepare anyone.
As hard as it is, talking it through as a couple and through the baby loss community can certainly help. Nobody can make the decision for you, but it can help to know how others dealt with making that final visit. (If they did).
After my initial uncertainty, I was very relieved to have visited her, I just wish that we could have spent more time with her. A lot of funeral homes do allow you to visit more than once; so if you feel you need to then don’t be afraid to ask.
There are a few things which you can never be prepared for.
One is how tiny the coffin is. You could never imagine there ever being such an item let alone how tiny they come – some are even tinier than the one we had.
How cold they are. The warmth they once had, soon become a distant memory. I certainly wasn’t prepared for how her skin felt beneath my fingers; I fully expected her to have some kind of warmth, her to still feel like she once did. I will never forget that.
How different she smelt; the baby smell was lost; I had hoped it had been locked into her – forever. But it wasn’t. Everything about our baby was different, but she still maintained who she was.
There certainly is no right or wrong way with how to deal with that final visit. It really is a final goodbye; life is a long time to live with regret.
Photo Credit: Author.