They left me alone. After you were born and we had taken pictures and they checked all my vitals and everything was as okay as it was ever going to be, they all packed their things and went away. My sister had been up all night. I told her to sleep.
They left you in the bassinet by my bed. It was tall, and I couldn’t reach your body. I lay there on my back with my hand on the edge of the plastic rim, as close as I could come to touching you. I was tired, but there was no sleep.
The room began to darken. I don’t know how long there had been in the bustle after your birth, but now the windows were not so bright, the sun nearly set. Everything came rushing back, and it was real again, you were gone. It was the first time I cried that day.
Alexis* got up and stood by me. She rubbed her hands along my back and wiped my tears. I wanted nothing more than to hold you.
I don’t know why I felt I needed to ask permission, but the nurse was very sweet. She asked if I wanted to sit up in bed or on the couch by the window. I just needed to feel your weight in my arms. I lay down on my right side and stretched my arm under your head. She was so careful with you, placing you gently like you were still alive. I held you and cuddled you and I finally found the strength to sleep.
I slept in bursts. They checked my vitals all the time and helped me to the bathroom. The first time, I worried about leaving you in the bed. I wondered if they thought it weird that I didn’t put you back in the bassinet. I guess that was my recognition of reality, the realization that there was no reason to worry, the worst has already occurred. Sometime in the night, I moved you with me onto my other side. Holding your body was how I got through that first night of your loss.
I asked Alexis to take more pictures, overnight and again in the morning. These were personal, raw and real and only mine.
The midwife came back in the morning. She was in regular clothes, she had come in just to see me. I wonder now how common that is, how often doctors are touched by these events. She is burned in my memory, am I burned in hers? I still remember her voice. She told me it was okay to stay. She had already cleared me, medically, but I could leave when I was ready. I wanted to tell her I would never be ready. I never wanted to leave you.
I look back on this time now, and wonder if I was “normal”, if the way I spent my night was “okay”. I hate that I think about these things. I did what I needed to be with you. I did what I needed to be able to let you go. I will never let you go.
I love you.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy.