Today was a good day. I’m still incredibly sad, but the pain is a little less sharp than the day before and the day before that.
I woke up early to take Ada’s clothes and blankets, plus the hand and foot print supplies, to the funeral home. At about 2:30pm, they called me and told me she was ready, that I could see her today. I hadn’t yet decided if I really wanted to see her. I thought I had until Friday to decide. For one it seems so morbid, plus we all know how biology works. She wouldn’t be as beautiful as the image I have in my mind from the hospital. Even the few pictures the nurses took at the hospital don’t match my mind’s image.
At the babyloss group meeting, I asked the parents what they would do if in my situation. Some said they hadn’t seen or held their babies and that they will always regret it. Others said that they did see and hold their babies, even though they weren’t the plump pink infants that they had hoped for. So, I made the decision – yes, I wanted to see her. By 3:00pm I was dressed and out the door.
Ada was dressed in her little preemie clothes – still way too big, but the staff member had kindly used the safety pins that I included to make them sort of fit. She was wrapped in the pretty pink blankets that I had bought for her. She was in a shoebox-sized box, but it was made from beautiful paper that had dried flowers pressed into it. She smelled of baby powder that I had fluffed her blankets with the night before. She was resting on a pedestal that had the happy bear towel laid upon it.
She was so perfect. I noticed how strong her pointy little chin is – she certainly has my chin! Her feet and hands are so tiny! With little finger and toe nails! Her feet are as long as my thumb from the first knuckle to the tip (on my computer this image is about life-size). I took a peek under her tiny hat and saw that she had just a little downy light brown hair on her head. It was so soft. This may sound strange, but I’m so proud of my baby girl.
I was sort of scared at first, but the staff member at the funeral home told me it was ok, that I couldn’t break her. I picked Ada up and it felt so right. We had a few pictures taken together, then we were left alone. I think I spent about an hour with Ada. It seemed to last forever yet was much too short. I used an iPhone app with a photo timer to take more pictures of us together, and some of her with the stuffed wolf that Brandon brought me while I was in the hospital. I cried a lot at first, but once I got past that, I started to feel almost peaceful.
I talked to her, held her hand, told her how much I loved her, and I sang to her a lullaby that my mother sang to me. I never before realized how sad this song is, but it is so utterly appropriate here. I had written out the lullaby by hand and slipped the paper under Ada when I laid her down and swaddled her in the blankets.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away
The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and I cried.
I will treasure my photos forever, and while they are too personal to share now, I plan to use some of the services available to parents of stillborn babies to get images that reflect what is in my heart so I can share them. Heartprints Photo Retouching is a donation-based service that can re-color and smooth photos. She doesn’t have samples on her site, but I asked for some via email and they are amazing. I already sent her the photos from the hospital, and I can’t wait to send her some of the new photos. I haven’t yet made a donation, but if you would like to make a donation in Ada Bodnar’s name that would be very kind. A woman at the babyloss group told us about Portraits by Dana, who creates pencil drawings and can also help smooth over some of those rough edges, plus can even draw baby in a different position, etc. It’s a little pricey, but based on the images on her website oh-so-worth-it. She also told us about Personalized Baby Blocks, which I’d like to get for Ada eventually as well.
Caution: this next part might be TMI (too much information) for some people. I thought about leaving it out, but just in case a mother out there is going through the same hard decisions that I am, I want to include the information so she can make better informed decisions.
Now, it wasn’t all roses. There are a lot of things that anyone who is considering visiting their baby at the funeral home should know, and of course there are a lot of variables that will be different for each situation. Ada had passed away about a week before delivery. She probably had some skin injuries during delivery, and of course those couldn’t be healed. She had an autopsy, then was stored in a mild formaldehyde solution (I’m so glad for the baby powder on the blankets, which covered the smell a bit). Since we knew we wanted her cremated, she wasn’t embalmed but was refrigerated. She was very pale and her skin was sloughing off in some places. She wasn’t laid out flat on her back, having been curled up in my womb, so she was leaned on one side. Her hand had been raised to her cheek, and made a deep imprint. Her face wasn’t fully developed, with one eye closed and one partially open. Last but not least, remember that babies sort of look like aliens until pretty late in pregnancy.
Despite all of that, she was beautiful to me and I am so very glad to have held her and sang to her. I feel like the experience brought me some much needed closure. I didn’t want to miss my chance to hold Ada while I could – I think I would have regretted that always. Now I have no regrets, at least with regard to this. I also got the hand and foot prints that I desperately wanted, plus imprints in clay. Her little feet were still a bit dirty from the ink! The prints aren’t perfect, it’s hard to get imprints from tiny curled up appendages, but they are much better than the ones from the hospital.
At the end of the day, Ada is my daughter. I will always treasure those moments we had together, even though she had already passed.