Dr. Forbes came into my hospital room late Friday night, after my morning delivery. He told me that if everything went well with me physically during the night, he would discharge me the next morning so I could attend my baby's funeral. I asked him if that was safe for me and he told me yes. I was beside myself that I would be able to go to James, Jr.'s funeral! I ate my supper and anything else the nurses recommended to make me stronger. I wanted the "go ahead" from the doctor the next day! I needed to show my strength!
The next morning came and I was discharged!!! Before leaving the hospital, my mother-in-law (MIL) came into my room.....room 202, I'll never forget that room number. I was alone when she walked through my door, crying to myself. How normal was that? Very normal for a new mother whose son was to be buried that day! She was very stern asking me why was I crying. I said that I missed my baby and was crying over my loss. She told me that I had better stop my crying, my baby had died yesterday and from now on she had better not see me crying anymore! What had happened yesterday was over and I needed to get on with my life for the sake of my husband, James, and everyone else. Nobody liked being around a grieving woman. I could not believe my ears! Why would she say that? I told her it was normal for me to be crying and I would continue to do so, as nicely as I could utter the words. It wasn't exactly as if I had control over my spilling tears! Then, she left my room. I thought to myself how she was acting so strangely. She was otherwise such a compassionate woman, but now she was acting just plain mean. James came in shortly, and we were on our way out of the hospital.
Funny how all of the mothers appeared to be leaving with their newborns at the same time. It seems the staff would let the mother leaving with empty arms go first to spare her watching the other happy mothers with their arms wrapped around their babies. But no, dig it in and twist the knife already in my heavy aching heart and empty arms by putting me in the elevator with these other mothers full of laughter and joy. Look, I am truly happy for them. I wouldn't wish my pain on my worse enemy. No one should suffer like I was! I mean, James and I were so numb with grief that we couldn't make small talk or force a smile if we tried! As for the other mothers, how could they have known that our son had died? Thank goodness for finally being able to get into our car and drive away.
We didn't drive home. Instead, James took me straight to the funeral home so I could be with our son. Embedded in my heart and mind forever is what happend next. As we pulled up, I saw my sister-in-law and my best friend, Jenny with her. James got out of the car and came to my side to help me out. I was slow moving since I was carrying with me a zillion stitches. As we were taking baby steps inching our way towards the doors, my sister-in-law spoke out that we should just go and not come in to see our son because he looked really bad. What? She could see my son and I couldn't? Who was she to tell me that my son "looked bad?" I remember just falling against a tree and crying against the bark with cars passing by. What could have happened to my baby to make him look so bad that I shouldn't see him? He was perfect yesterday. Jenny motioned for us to come on in and we did. I truly loved Jenny and still do. The funeral home director, dear Mr. Branch, had a chair by the casket waiting for me. We came closer and looked into the small white casket. There was our beautiful son. He still looked perfect! He seemed to have a tiny smile on his lips. His hair was light brown. He looked so much like my sister's son, Todd. There was a small triangular tear in his skin on his left wrist, but I already knew about that. It happened right after delivery. Was that what my SIL talking about? It was so small in the scheme of things! I reached in the casket to touch my son and felt his cold skin. I straightened out his already straightened outfit, the blue one with the kite on it. Where was his yellow pillow that played "Rock-a- bye Baby? He needed that! Where was the white receiving blanket to warm his cold skin? I asked for these comfort items that belonged to James, Jr. to be here in his casket for him! James quietly told me that his mother said, "not to waste them because we would want them for our next baby!" What? I am the hurting mother of this child and I should be the one making decisions for my baby! Why are people making everything so much harder for me? I was trying to be nice and considerate of them. Give me just a little break here please! Who knows better for me and my son than me, his mom? I was mad now mixed in with the grief. There was nothing in the casket but my son, and all I wanted was some baby things with him. My bottom was hurting, my heart was hurting and now I was angry. This was not a time to provoke a mother looking at her dead son. I reached into the casket to pick up my son to hold him. I heard gasps from around the room. What people??? I am just going to hold my son that after today I will never be able to hold again! He was heavy, so Mr. Branch was about to help me when "you know who walked in", my MIL. She stopped everything saying it was time to leave so we could eat before the funeral. She was frying chicken and needed to get home to attend it. She wanted plenty of food for all of the people (she meant my large family) who were coming in. Forget the chicken! Let the neighbors who were willing do it! The last thing on my mind was food! She was this child's grandmother! Didn't she want to come see him or comfort her own son who had tears in his eyes? Mr. Branch looked at me and my MIL and said if I felt I needed to hold my son, he would stay by me and James and take us home if needed. Then my MIL said that if I wanted to go to the funeral, I needed to get home and rest and get some food in my body. Now, she had been an RN in her earlier days, so James looked at me like maybe we should do what she says. Not wanting to cause any trouble, I went along with what she said. James and I closed our son's casket because we wanted to be the last ones to see him before his burial. I don't know why, I just didn't want anyone else touching or messing with him. With that we left to go to my MIL's home where we would be staying.
The first thing I noticed when we drove up to my in-laws home was that there was no white wreath on the house signifying that there had been a death in the family. I was told that my MIL decided we wouldn't have the wreath since it was only a stillborn baby. She preferred not to have the wreath on her house. That was a defining moment for me. I had given birth to "just a stillborn?" Was that all it was to her? My perfectly formed full term son was a baby! A real baby! A human being! Things started adding up to me and I should have never gone into her house. I should have had James take me straight to our home. One of the reasons Dr. Forbes had released me was because he knew she had been a registered nurse and I had to agree to go to her house. But I still should have gone to our home where we had some control! I shuffled my way up her long brick walk way and in I stepped not realizing how much I would regret it a few hours later. I pushed my food around on my plate and went upstairs to rest. James stayed to greet friends and my family as they arrived. I asked James what time would we be leaving to go to our son's 2:00 graveside funeral. He said he would let me know as soon as he knew.