Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shared Sacred Place

As my niece's due date gets closer (2 1/2 months away now), I am thinking more about how she is to be born at "Lily's hospital."

Honestly, I am nervous about how it's going to feel on that day. It seems wrong, almost dishonoring to Lily, for my family to have happy memories in the sacred place where I birthed my silent daughter and had to leave with empty arms and an empty carseat. I don't know that I would ever want to go back to that same hospital myself to give birth in the future, let alone going for someone else, let alone for the little girl who is taking Lily's tangible place as the eldest living grandchild and niece in the family.

Lily's "I was born at Rex" newborn shirt. I had seen it in the gift shop while I was
pregnant and knew I wanted to get it when Lily was born. Well, obviously, I never
could have dreamed she'd be born not alive, but I still wanted it because she was still
born at Rex. I mentioned it to my postpartum nurse and she sweetly brought me
one. It now remains tucked away in Lily's memory chest.

I don't how how I'll sit in that waiting room where I know my family and Lily's father and his family awaited news on the birth of our precious girl who would never take a breath. It breaks my heart to think of them surrounded by joyfully expectant families, with pink or blue congratulatory balloons. They were puffy-eyed and broken-hearted. It seems wrong for grieving families to be put in the same room with happy families. It somehow makes the pain of loss cut deeper, when you see all these families around you, knowing that every year on that date, their little one will share a birthday with your child. Only yours will forever remain a baby.

So yeah, I'm not sure how I'm going to sit in that waiting room. I feel anxious just walking through when I go to the hospital. And not to mention the area outside where a man is there to install infant car seats. Throughout my pregnancy, when I would go to my prenatal appointments in the building next to the birth center, I dreamed of when I would soon be wheeled out of the birth center, showing off my new baby. It would finally be my turn. Only, I never got that moment. Instead, I was wheeled out with only a few tangible keepsakes to remember my daughter. My mom and I had gone to get her car seat installed a few weeks before she was born. And out of all the times we had seen him out there, he wasn't there for some reason on the day we went. Ironic seeing how we didn't need it installed anyways.

Will the happy moments shared with my niece overshadow the moments shared with my daughter in the same hospital walls? Will people think of her instead of my girl when they think of that hospital? Will Lily be pushed even farther back in people's minds and hearts? Will my extended family visit my niece in the hospital, even though not one of them came from VA to NC to be with us in the 10 days between Lily's birth and when we went to Crozet for Lily's celebration of life service and burial? Though how much more support people need when their baby dies instead of lives.

I used to not even want to go to that hospital. But now, I can see how God has been giving me opportunities to go, to help me get used to it. Over the past year, I have had the blessing of getting involved with the Perinatal Bereavement Committee. There are monthly meetings that I try to make it to, as well as going on Lily's birthday to take comfort boxes and red-velvet cupcakes for the nurses (something I want to make a tradition on Lily's special day each year. Red-velvet of course because of my Valentine's baby shower). I have also been asked to share a couple times about my girl and my experience at the hospital, to help medical professionals learn how to better care for others who've lost their babies.

Going to the hospital multiple times over the past year has helped me warm up to the idea of going in May for my niece's birth. However, it has been about Lily each time I've been. I have been asked to speak about her by nurses who know and speak her name. When I go for another baby's birth, I'm not sure how it'll feel.

At the meeting at the beginning of this month, I was talking about these things with Sandra, one of the wonderful nurses I've gotten to know, and my friend Heather, who is also involved with the Bereavement Committee there after giving birth to her daughter Addison, who was stillborn about a half a year before Lily. Anyways, they were so sweet and affirming. And Sandra said when Kala goes into labor, that I should let her know and see if one of the nurses I know can be Kala's nurse that day. How kind of her to not only understand that it may be difficult for me, but to also be thoughtful in making it as gentle as possible on my heart. I would love if Sandra could be there that day, knowing about the first little girl in my family who was born there 6 years ago. We also talked about how if I need a "break," I can go visit the new memorial garden that is to be dedicated sometime this spring.

Not only will I be thinking about Lily being born there, but how much I wish she were there to meet her little cousin, who I'm sure she would be so excited to meet. I wish I was telling Lily how neat it is that her cousin is being born at the same place she was.

I just realized this week that Lily and my niece are almost the exact same ages apart as me and my cousin, Anna, who is just over 6 years younger than me. I've always loved her so much and have enjoyed having a couple cousins that age (my cousin Hope, who was adopted from China, is the same age). Anna is Daniel's younger sister. Daniel is Owen's dad (Owen was born 3 months before Lily). We called Anna, Hope, and my sister Emma, "the little girls." Still do sometimes. I am sad Lily will be missing out on that cousin relationship. I am sad they will never take pictures together like this one of me and Anna.


I will also be thinking about how much I long to have more babies, more cousins for my niece. I don't want them to be 10 years or something apart. I want them to be close in age, close friends growing up together. And I have no idea if and when that'll happen.

For now, I am trying to see past my immediate feelings, and realize that my family will tell my niece about Lily and she will love her in her own way. I am remembering that God has all the future grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and children in my family planned and I can rest in that plan.

And Lily is just sharing her hospital with her cousin. It can be a shared sacred place. Maybe the joyful memories will help ease the more painful ones. One birth doesn't have to overshadow another. They are both irreplaceable parts of our family.

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