Niobe left a comment on my last post, about the woman I recently met who lost a baby in 1963, who had nothing of her son, never even saw him. Unlike (I presume) many of us, Niobe chose not to see her twins, not to have any of their things after they died. It got me to wondering if I could have done that myself with Ben.
I didn't want to hold him, initially; neither did my husband. We were so afraid of what he might look like, didn't know until after the placenta had been delivered, why he died, so we had no idea what to expect. Would he be deformed? Would he look...strange? How do dead babies look, after all? I can't remember if the nurses gave us the choice to see him or not, I just remember the fear, and not wanting him. As the nurse approached us with him, I wanted to tell her to go away, but I didn't, and I don't know why.
Instead, I held him, as they seemed to expect it of me. And once I realized he didn't look strange (though his coloring was all wrong), I wanted to hold on forever. I know every mother thinks so, but my god, he was beautiful. He didn't have much hair, but what he had was medium brown. His hands and feet were so long, and he was skinny, just like his dad. Before they took him away, the nurse unwrapped him for us, because we were too scared to do so, and I'm so glad she did. Those moments with my son, as hard as they were, are so important to me now. The photos, the outfit, the blanket, the things they gave us to take home, priceless. We don't look at them every day, they sit in a box for most of the year, but I think I would die without them.
We also have his ashes in an urn, sitting in our living room. Most people we know - the few who do know we have them - are weirded out by this, but one or two of our friends get it, this need to have him close. After we left the hospital, my husband and I felt so guilty, so empty, because we left him. We left him. I cannot tell you the power of those words on my heart. My therapist would later tell me that we had no choice, and she's right, but as a mother, you don't anticipate, you don't ever want, to leave your child behind. Not like that. Bringing those ashes home was so important because finally, Ben was with us.
Now, however, I've been feeling that maybe it's time to find another place for his ashes; a place I can go to and remember him, talk to him. Maybe home isn't the right place any more. I worry that I am clinging on too hard, maybe it isn't healthy, but then again, I think I'm the only one to know what's right for me. And I would also say that I needed his things in that first year to make me believe he was real and to help me cry when my body and emotions were just too numb to do it on my own. So no, I couldn't have done what Niobe did, but again, I'm just so grateful that both of us had the choice.