I guess the hospital sees this a lot. I couldn’t nail down an answer from the social worker, but judging by statistics, it must be at least weekly. They have a whole protocol. They put you in a private room, assign a personal nurse. They were beautiful, by the way. They were the first ones to call me “Mama.”
People talk on TV about the newborn smell. The top of the head, something hormonal. When they gave me my son, he was wrapped in a blanket. He was wearing a knit cap, because his head was sunken in. This is actually common (I pushed for 4 hours). It’s something that happens, but only living babies recover from it. I never took off that knit cap.
I peeked under a bit. I wanted that smell. I wanted something stronger than the silence at his birth. His skin did still retain it. He was so newly dead. I could almost close my eyes and just pretend.
I came home from the hospital with boxes and bears. I came home with that blanket, that tiny knit cap. I put them in a plastic bag to carry when I travel. I slept with them under my pillow on a cruise.
There are also other blankets, and also other clothes. Part of the protocol was more than one memory. When I left, I couldn’t stand the thought of him naked. Those clothes came to me later, in another plastic bag.
When he was first born, my son had that newborn smell. But here is the secret other parents don’t know. When I picked up that second bag, it was also comforting. And everything in it smelled like death.