Three days his body stayed. Three days I got to mother him. Just how I wanted to.
My son died on my chest two hours after birth. We knew he would not be long in this world.
We knew that just like his big brother, he was going to Heaven.
Even though he was gone, I wanted to experience the fullness of motherhood that I’d so longed for with my tiny boy.
As much as I could. As much as “they” would let me.
And let me they did.
His bassinet looked like every other baby’s on my floor. Except for his had bags of ice underneath the blankets.
The nurses created a cooling bassinet just for him.
Just for me.
He stayed in my room, my perfect teeny boy. Right by my bedside. We “slept” next to one another that first night.
Sometimes, I would wake up and put my hand on him, just like I’ve done in the night for years with his other brother and sister.
I’m not sure what I expected, and of course, he was cold. But he was there.
The day after he was born, I asked my husband to take him out of the bassinet. “He’s wet,” my husband told me.
I reached out my arms and took his little soaking body from my husband.
The ice had melted and he had been sitting in a little pool of freezing water.
My heart nearly exploded with grief and tears fell down my cheeks. “He’s been cold all this time. Laying in a pool of water. Alone without his momma.”
I called the nurse and she came in.
She took one look at my face and she knew. She’s a momma too. I’ve never seen someone move so fast to help.
I started stripping him down, worried that he was too cold.
He’d been dead for a day and I was worried about his temperature.
Because that’s what mommas do.
That same night as I held his little body, I realized he wasn’t looking good, and I began to fear that his body would fall apart in my arms.
I called the nurse in again. “I think we should consider another option for him so you can get as much time as possible,” she told me.
The cooling bassinet was no longer working to preserve his body.
I swaddled my boy. I kissed his cheeks.
Put on his tiny hat so he wouldn’t be “too” cold.
I cried big giant tears over him and told him I was sorry.
And then I hobbled down the hall with his body.
Put him in a basin lined with baby blankets. Made him comfortable.
And watched as his nurse put him in the fridge.
The next morning I asked for his body immediately. “Honey, anytime you want him, you just push this call button and we will get him right away and bring him to you.”
Nurses are angels on earth. I don’t even know how many times I pushed that button, but they brought him to me every time I pushed it.
Every nurse carried him in and delicately handed him to me, knowing the precious cargo in their arms.
Every nurse smiled and cooed. They told me how perfect he was.
They loved him with me.
They let me be his momma. Three days they let me be his momma.
When his big brother died, his body was taken from us 8 hours later and we left the hospital an hour after that, empty-handed.
I told my nurses about that experience and how much it hurt to leave with my arms empty.
“Do you want to carry your son out when you’re discharged?”
I couldn’t even believe that question. That’s an option?? Yes! Of course!
The morning it was time to leave, my son was brought to me one last time.
Our things were loaded up and put in our car, and the wheelchair was brought to my room.
I cradled my little boy so carefully, and we made the trek outside.
I kept my head down to avoid eye contact with other patients.
I snuggled him and wished for that hallway to never end.
When we got outside, I gave him one last kiss and handed him over before getting into the car to head home.
They let me be his momma until the very end.
I’ll always be his momma. No longer being able to mother his physical body doesn’t change that fact.
But I will never forget squeezing a lifetime of snuggles and kisses into those three beautiful days.
I got to do with him what I had always wished I’d been able to do with his big brother.
I got to keep him.
I got to hold him.
I got to kiss him.
And I’ll always be grateful for that.
Photo credit: Laura Mullen, volunteer photographer with NILMDTS
My name is Kaila Mugford, wife to Jamey and momma to 4 sweet babies: Samuel, Mira, Edward, and Gabriel. My motherhood journey began and ended with grief, as Samuel and Gabriel were both given fatal prenatal diagnosis at their 20 week ultrasounds. We decided to carry to term and both died within hours of birth in my arms. Mira and Edward bring us joy every single day and we are grateful to be raising them this side of Heaven while at the same time grieving the loss of their brothers. I blog about our journey of joy and grief at kailamugford.blogspot.com.