The hospital room was quiet after Rayna left. Family and friends trickled out with hugs, tears, and well-wishes until Nick and I were left alone. What to do now?
Showering was a priority. Saturday had been a typical warm summer day, so I put my hair in a ponytail and hadn’t bothered to wash it knowing it would just be sweaty again. I was planning to wash it and curl it on Sunday for my baby shower. It was now Monday night and I hadn’t washed my hair since Friday morning. Even being tired from labor and in the throes of grief I was still a decent human and wanted clean hair.
I didn’t shower for long, terrified I would stimulate milk production, which happens whether your baby is born alive or dead, but I showered! I acknowledged the place labs had been drawn, and the imprint in my arm from the IV port. I felt my squishy, empty belly. I showered and emerged feeling new and human again. Nick later said, “Your hair smells good,” while we watched a movie snuggled in the hospital bed. I proudly replied, “I washed it!”
Overnight I became very aware we would soon be leaving the safe cocoon of the hospital room. You know, the room I literally had not stepped outside of since Saturday night. Everyone who came into our room knew. Knew our baby died. Knew me. Knew Nick. Knew our family. I could assume people on the outside knew as well, but they hadn’t been there with us. The world inside the room had stopped, and I felt safer without the spinning. I was afraid to leave. I had a shower, toothpaste, hospital underwear, meals delivered to me in bed… did I really need to leave? I started to cry with this running through my mind. Our kind nurse for that night came to offer comfort, to sit with me in my tears. She didn’t say much, she didn’t have to, but she was there.
We were given a lovely little keepsake box filled with memories of Rayna. It is soft, shiny, and ties closed with a pretty little ribbon. Inside is a card from our amazing providers. The dress and hat Rayna wore in family pictures. Her footprints and handprints. A lock of her hair. The long strips of paper used to measure her length. A certificate of her dedication to God. A tiny baby ring that was too big for her baby-sized fingers. So many treasures.
I was doing well medically, but we could have stayed in the hospital for a few more days from an insurance perspective. The idea was considered, but we knew it was time to go, just as we had known when it was time for Rayna to leave. Intrinsically knowing that staying longer would only make leaving harder. So, with that box, it was time to leave.
In the afternoon, Nick and my dad loaded up our car with all the stuff we’d managed to bring into the hospital room; luggage and clothes intended for vacation, snacks, and more. It was then time to leave. I ventured out, carefully clutching the keepsake box and the blankets Rayna had touched. My arms weren’t holding a baby, but I would not allow them to leave the hospital empty. Down the hall I saw the little waiting room where I imagined the conversations, prayers, and tears of our family when they were in that space. In the elevator I recalled the reverse ride, going up, not long before we learned she died. Walking the last corridor, avoiding the gazes of people in the emergency room, shaking as we moved through the automatic doors into the other world, the world that had not stopped.
We arranged ourselves in the car and Nick turned the key in the ignition, me still clutching the keepsake box. Putting the car in gear made the world start spinning again, wheels literally in motion. The same radio station we had on when driving to my parents on Friday, when Rayna was alive, was still in range. As we began to leave the parking lot and retreat to my parent’s home, the station played See You Again by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth. So many tears fell down my face; sound did not come out when I tried to sing along, but in my mind I changed the lyrics:
It’s been a long day without you, my girl
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again
You are smart readers; you know at this point it had been a day since Rayna was delivered, one day since we said goodbye. A long day. There have now been many days, both long and short, and we hold tightly to the hope of seeing Rayna again and telling her about all the ways she is loved. In the three months since that drive, the gift of that song continues to remind us of our baby girl and gives us great comfort when it plays. Nick even heard it in Menards the other day and paused to think of Rayna. I feel it always comes on the radio just when I need to hear it.
Do you have a song reminding you of Rayna? Or a song that brings you comfort when you are facing trials or loss?