July 1st, 2014 – This was the day the doctors told me that my son Weston no longer had a heartbeat. This was the first day of a new life I hadn’t planned for and never wanted. That same day with my husband by my side I was induced knowing that at the end of a grueling 20-hour labor Weston would be born asleep. I would never get to see him open his eyes. I would never hear him cry. I would never get to watch him grow into the young man I had dreamed he would become.
I can’t describe emotion that overcomes you in the moments after you find out you’ve lost your child. Confusion, agony, fear, panic and a bottomless wretched sadness all relentlessly beat you down into your hospital bed until you’re paralyzed. The doctors and nurses are talking to you in slow motion. They ask you questions and you’ve forgotten how to speak. They hand you an intake form and you’ve forgotten how to write. All I remember thinking was “I can’t do this. I won’t do this”. But I had to do it, and I did.
Sometime after my induction was started a bereavement counselor came to talk with my husband and me to discuss our “options”. Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, NY has a perinatal bereavement program and we were told that once Weston was born we had the option of holding him, brushing his hair, bathing him, taking photos, and bringing him with us into the recovery room in a “special chilled Moses basket” and we could spend as much time with him as we wanted. Our initial reaction to everything was WHY? Why do we want to see our dead baby? I don’t want to hold him. And what the heck are they talking about with the chilled Moses basket? We just wanted everything to be over. This was a nightmare and we wanted to wake up as quickly as possible.
We made no commitments that we were going to “play along” with any of these options. It all seemed too strange and too surreal.
Once Weston was born though, the entire story changed. All of our confusion fell away and the only thing we wanted was to see him. Once the nurse handed Wes to me, nothing existed but him. This was my son and he was perfect. For a long while my husband and I just sat and cried over him brushing his lips and cheek and forehead with our fingers. We played with his tiny little fingers and toes, kissed him, and marveled at his perfect little features. We ended up having him baptized, took pictures of him and with him, and when the time came we took him upstairs with us in his chilled Moses basket. There was no choice to me made anymore. There was no option for us. We HAD to spend as much time with him as we possibly could because once we let him go we would never see him again.
I came to find out weeks later that this chilled Moses Basket was one of two Cuddle Cots in the U.S. and we had the great fortune to have access to one. It was discreet and quiet and the Moses basket beautifully masked the chilling pad.
The Cuddle Cot gave us the irreplaceable gift of time. We all have limited time on earth with our loved ones but when decades are condensed into hours every extra minute is precious and necessary. We were granted time in a quiet and private place (after all of the drama of delivery) to say goodbye to our child (and all of the dreams we had for him). We were granted time to just look at him and memorize as best as we could his beautiful form. We were granted time to call our families so they could come and visit us and spend the time they needed to both meet him and say goodbye to him. Humans aren’t hardwired to accept birth and death in one day. It’s not natural. It’s unfair. It’s so many indescribable things. Families that have to suffer this agonizing experience should be treated with as much compassion and time as possible.
Most parents are blessed to have many memories and experiences with their children to reminisce over on nights when they’re missing them. The only experience I will ever have with my son is the time I spent with him in the hospital after delivery. Having access to a Cuddle Cot gave me the opportunity to spend several uninterrupted hours with him so that I might carry that ONE and ONLY memory of him with me for the rest of the days of my life.
ILY Weston Elijah 7/2/1