After she arrived, her tiny little body was taken over to the baby station in the corner of the room. The bag of water she was in was still fully intact so the nurse had to break that to get her out. She was so perfect and beautiful, but lifeless.
We welcomed our family back in to spend time with us. I can’t even explain the overwhelming feelings that were in that room that night. Our families had experienced plenty of deaths, but never the death of a baby. No one knew what to do or what to say. We all just did what comes naturally when you see a tiny baby, we held her, kissed her, whispered to her how much we love her, and relished every moment with her, knowing those moments would soon be gone.
My sister brought the kids back down to meet their baby sister. They were unsure of how to react and what to do too. Toby broke down a couple of times, Lilly sort of floated in and out of the room taking it all in but at the same time not.
The photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep came and spent a long time taking pictures for us. What an amazing gift that was. She was so sweet to Sophia and to us. She did a beautiful job of capturing the night. Those pictures mean so much to us.
As time went on our family members cleared out and the photo shoot wrapped up, eventually it was just Mark and I and Sophia. Mark sat down next to us and read some scripture to us. I simply could not take my eyes off of her. Looking back at all the pictures I am always looking at her. I just wanted to burn my little angel’s face into my head.
It was after midnight when the nurse came back in and took some more pictures for us. She had given Sophia a bath earlier in the night and was nothing short of wonderful. After her photo shoot she took Sophia into the bathroom to do molds of her hand and foot. I remember laying in the bed, absolutely exhausted like I have never felt in my life. I was watching the nurse do the molds and could see Sophia’s little hand and foot draped over the bowls. She had her own little manicure and pedicure.
The nurse informed us that we were allowed to spend as much time as we wanted with Sophia. When we were ready we just had to let her know and she would call the funeral home to come and pick her up. We lay in bed for a long time just holding her. As the night turned to early morning we were running on fumes and I literally could not keep my eyes open any more. We could also tell that the condition of Sophia’s precious little body was deteriorating quickly. At some point in the early morning hours we called the nurse in to let her go. The time is a blur but eventually someone from the funeral home came and took her away in a little basket. I felt like my heart left the room with her.
Mark and I attempted to sleep as we were both completely exhausted in the worst way but sleep came and went. There was just too much to process and come to terms with.
The next morning we talked with our nurse for a long time about what to expect from there on out. She cried with us and told us we were welcome to stay for as long as we needed to. On the one hand we just wanted to run and get out of there. But on the other hand we could barely think of leaving the only place we had ever held our baby girl. Leaving the hospital was one of hardest parts of the whole ordeal.
Eventually we did leave but I think I have a mental block of those details. I just remember getting home to a quiet, empty house and crawling into bed, still hoping to fall asleep and wake up from this nightmare.
The following day and week to come were filled with funeral prep and details. Things I never fathomed having to think and talk about. Stupid little things like trying to find clothes to wear to my baby’s funeral were nearly unbearable. Picking out a casket for a baby. How do you do that? My milk came in the day we picked out her cemetery plot, 2 days after her birth. Talk about cruel. Not only could I not nurse this baby I had looked so forward to feeding but then I had to figure out a way to endure that pain and discomfort through the days to come until I dried up. My body was so confused. Not only was her funeral emotionally draining but it was physically painful for me to try to hug so many people while totally engorged with milk.
I still don’t know how we managed to simply function during those days. I truly believe that our Lord literally carried us through each step because if left to my own devices I would have been curled up in a dark corner somewhere.
We managed to make our way through the celebration of her life that following week and it was truly the most beautiful funeral mass I have ever been too. Every song the choir sang sounded like a lullaby for our sweet baby. So many things came together in the weirdest way during all of that time. Little details that we thought about came to be just as we had hoped. I can’t begin to go into all of those little things but it just all fit together perfectly.
Certain images and feelings are burned into my memory. One of those images is of Toby, our 8 year-old son, who stepped forward to help lower his baby sister’s casket into the ground. That is something that no child should ever have to experience. But it is a part of our life now. It is a part of who he is and will be from now on.
After the visitation and short prayer as we were preparing to close the casket I held Sophia one last time. Mark walked with me around the altar to the tabernacle, under the crucifix. I held our baby girl up to offer her back to the one who made her, the one who she has always belonged to. As my knees weakened and I crumbled to the ground I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort. A comfort that could only come from Him. A comfort that only His mother could give me. I knew at that moment that my soul was infinitely connected to theirs. I knew what it was like to offer up my child. To lose so much but to gain so much too. Sophia had won the race, she had made it there to where we hope and pray we get to someday. She made it home.
Nearly 15 weeks later we are still trying to figure out how to live this new life. This new normal. The one without the baby we were so eagerly anticipating. The one with grief and sadness and tears. We will learn though, eventually. Each day we wake up and thank the good Lord for another day and ask him to help us carry on in this life. And He does.