Okay, maybe a little longer than a “micro” blog post. I started writing and discovered I had more to say than I’d realized. Trigger warning for talking about my experiences with PPROM.
The first weekend I was in the hospital after my water broke, among all the other tumultuous feelings that come with being told your child is almost certainly going to die, I was having some regrets. My pregnancy had been a disaster from such an early stage that we hadn’t bought anything for the baby. The nurses at the hospital had reassured me that they had clothing and items carefully put aside for situations like mine, but I felt bad that we hadn’t had enough courage to get even the most impractical, whimsical item to celebrate this baby. No onesies, no stuffed animals, no little books this time. I thought by not ordering the items I’d feel better but instead found myself terribly saddened at not having anything for my child.
I kept this to myself. It was too late, I thought. I couldn’t exactly leave the hospital dripping blood and amniotic fluid to go find something and since I’d been told I’d be in labor most likely within 48 hours ordering something wasn’t practical either. On Sunday night, however, I received a package. It had been over-night shipped on Friday afternoon when we had gotten the terrible prognosis and had actually arrived on Saturday, but had gone to the wrong unit initially.
The package contained eight beautiful hand-knitted baby washcloths that spelled out “Baby (our last name)” and a soft, handmade jungle-themed flannel receiving blanket. My aunt had made them for us when we’d told her we were pregnant and felt that despite the fact that our baby would almost certainly die, these items had been lovingly crafted for this baby. This baby deserved to get a present. It is among the kindest gestures I’ve ever received, the way she honored our baby as deeply loved and wanted in that unspeakable hour.
“When the baby comes,” I told Arthur, “we will wrap him or her in the blanket. Then I am going to keep the blanket. I am going to want something soft to hold that touched our baby in the next few months. We can use the washcloths to gently bathe the baby once we are ready to do that.” Nothing, of course, makes a situation where a baby is probably going to die okay. It did make me feel slightly better that I would have this gift, this blanket made especially for our baby that reminded me of how much our baby was loved.
E lived, much to everyone’s complete surprise and happiness.
The washcloths went to our new apartment and the blanket sat in E’s NICU room, but we generally used the hospital blankets that could easily get thrown in with the hospital linen when E soiled them. We hadn’t had a chance to acquire a washer and dryer yet, so I couldn’t take anything home to wash initially. I didn’t think about it much. Having a baby in NICU is busy and stressful.
When E finally came home the second time, my mother came out to help us with E, which we appreciated. One evening, E had spit up. We were changing her outfit, and realized we needed to get her neck and face wiped down. My mother came back a moment later with a damp cloth and started gently cleaning E with it.
It was one of those lovely hand-knitted washcloths.
I blanched. I almost stopped her. Those washcloths were special – special in a way I couldn’t put my finger on, certainly not fast enough to explain my reaction in a way that felt coherent. Instead, I took a deep breath and watched as she tenderly wiped away the mess, carefully cleaning out E’s neck folds and soft skin.
It occurred to me how I’d referred to E since the day she’d been conceived, more so once the bleeding started and especially after my water broke. If the baby lived, if she came home, if, if, if. I’d been saving these for that disaster.
It’s hard to explain the mentality to people outside the infertility and loss communities. I still marvel at the ability of many women to assume everything will go right with their pregnancies. It amazes me to watch people who can unconditionally connect with a pregnancy, who can ignore, reconcile, or don’t even see the specter of loss that always hovers in the corner of OB offices and hospital rooms. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to recognize that specter, but I wasn’t merely recognizing. I was living in thrall to it.
E is here. She is loved. She deserves to use these gifts that were always intended for her.
I went over and helped bathe my daughter.