When I was lying in the hospital bed in L&D before we had been admitted, I knew my mom would be making phone calls to my family. I imagined them hearing the news and I wondered what their reactions would be. I thought about how I would react if I were on the other side of the phone, and I hated that my family would be going through pain because of me. Some of them were on a beach vacation and I felt guilty for ruining it. It seems ridiculous now, but I was lying there in the bed thinking, “I ruined their vacation.” I know if it was the other way around, I wouldn’t feel that way, but it’s just one of the million crazy things that crossed my mind in those early moments. I also thought that I was disappointing everyone; that somehow I was to blame for what was happening and I had let all of them down. It’s irrational – I know that now – but at the time, I was overwhelmed by guilt.
We didn’t have many visitors in the hospital. My parents and Danny’s parents were there, my grandpa was with us, and my cousin’s wife. She came from California to see us just for the day, but she was at the hospital at the most difficult time in our lives. I know it couldn’t have been easy for her to see us in the post-partum room, but I am so grateful that she was there for us. I’m also very glad that our parents had the opportunity to see and hold Hannah in the hospital. For all of us, those are precious memories that can never be replaced or repeated.
After we were discharged, we had one night of just our parents and my grandpa with us. Members of my extended family were already on their way but they had a long drive ahead of them. I hesitate to call them “extended” family, because to me, that’s just a technicality. I live two states away from my family but it wasn’t always that way. I’m an only child but I never felt alone because I was surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins, and I saw them often. They sometimes seemed as close to me as my own parents, and my cousins are the closest things I have to siblings. These are the people I needed and they all dropped everything in their lives to be with me. As soon as they got that middle-of-night phone call they canceled plans, left vacations, called into work, drove all night or all day, spent money they may not have had to spare – all so they could be with me and my family in our time of need. I don’t even think I can accurately explain everything my family did for us while they were here. They cooked, cleaned, shopped for groceries, took care of our son, gave us space to mourn, and lifted me up when I didn’t think I could go on. They also did something I didn’t think was possible – they helped me smile again. There’s no way to thank them for everything they did.
Danny and I spent the week arranging Hannah’s funeral. It feels like a distant, blurry memory. I was in pain from the birth, then my milk came in. It was a horrible, agonizing reminder of what I had lost. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I could barely gather enough energy to take a shower. It all seemed like too much to bear. I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn’t. I never, ever imagine planning my baby’s funeral and it was devastating. Everything we had to choose was so tiny: tiny casket, tiny funeral spray, tiny dress for her to wear. I wanted everything to be perfect since it was the last thing we’d be able to do for her. We placed very special items with her before she was buried, including a locket, a blanket, a teddy bear, family photos from when I was pregnant with her, and letters from Danny and me. I also kept thinking we’d never get to spend money on dance lessons for her, or prom dresses, a first car, college, her wedding – the least we could do was make sure the funeral was nice. So, we chose a beautiful spot where we would lay her to rest. Up on a hill, next to a fountain. When we walked up there, we felt calm and peaceful. We saw other families visiting loved ones and their graves were very well maintained. Even now, when we visit her, I know we chose the right place.
She was buried one week and one day after she was stillborn. And then it was over. Most of my family had to leave, Danny eventually had to go back to work, my milk dried up. I had to refocus on taking care of Derek. It was an abrupt transition and I was still grieving. I still am. Life has moved on, and we’re moving with it, but it isn’t easy. I know I still have the support of my family and that really helps, but the grief work is something I have to do, for the most part, on my own. I feel fortunate to have to many caring people in my life and I hope they know how much they mean to me.
I think of Hannah constantly. All day, every day. Some days I can remember her without breaking down; other days, I cry a lot over any little thing. I never know when that helpless, hopeless feeling will hit me. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to turn back the clock, to erase everything that happened to us once she stopped moving. But I know it’s not possible, so I try to focus on the time we did get with Hannah. I try to remember how happy and excited we were. I look at pictures of us in the hospital with her and I think about how wonderful it felt to hold her in my arms, even though I knew I couldn’t bring her home. She’s still my daughter; my beautiful, perfect little baby. And even though she’s not here with me, nothing can change that.