The days following hospital were emotionally exhausting, and despite receiving numerous gifts and bouquets of flowers (I think we counted eleven in total), I was feeling completely numb. I was blaming myself for Sebastian’s passing and contemplating everything I did during pregnancy – was it because I wore jeans that were too tight for my emerging belly? Or was it because I had that one serving of soft-served ice cream in a milkshake? Whatever it was, I knew I was the reason. I just had to await the autopsy results to prove it.
Meanwhile, life went on for everyone. We received about 10 messages a day from family, friends and colleagues. We did not have a day where we were left alone, someone was constantly arriving at our door and if they didn’t, we had to go somewhere. Some of those things were mundane (like buying cat food), some were significant like registering Sebastian’s birth and finally changing my surname so I shared it with my son and husband, and others were really hard – planning my baby boy’s funeral.
When we should be negotiating a room colour, or purchasing some nice sheets for his bassinet, we were instead being shown two different types of coffins. One looked like a box put together by me in year 10 woodwork, and the other, albeit still a box, had more shape and some patterns on it. Of course, we chose the latter and James decided we should get it in a baby blue colour. I requested for a balloon release and selected the church in which I was baptised in when I was a child. It sounds silly, but everything had to be perfect. It was the only thing we could plan where Sebastian’s body would actually be present. It was the only event that would solely be about him – I had to make sure everything was as good as it can be.
During the planning session, 3 days after I delivered him, we were asked by the funeral director if we would like to see Sebastian again for a “viewing” (what a horrible word, like he is an exhibit). I looked at James and my Mum with a glimpse of hope – this would help me have closure, if I could just kiss his little cheek one more time, get one more photo to look at and just know that he is OK. My mum and my husband warned me that he wouldn’t look like he did at the hospital and I would have to prepare myself, I said I would think about it. Within an hour of the meeting finishing it was all I could think of. If I could just be there for Sebastian, whenever I was able to, I would. If it would allow me to show him that I cared about him and miss him so much, then I would do it. I decided that I would and I harassed my mum to call the funeral home back constantly until it was confirmed. It is what got me through the next couple of days before I could see him- I was literally counting down the hours, I couldn’t wait to hold him again for what would be the final time.
That same day I had emailed the Genetic counsellor from the children’s hospital and she informed me that Sebastian’s body arrived at 8am the following morning after delivering him (I felt relieved that the hospital kept to their word and that he had left before I did). I was panicked that I would never get the blanket and beanie he wore on the Monday night, but the counsellor was able to locate the beanie and ensure it was given to the funeral home (it now sits on a shelf in my bedroom). She also informed me that Sebastian’s body would be available for release the very next day as the autopsy was complete. I was relieved – it was the worst feeling sitting at home and not knowing when it would occur (you wouldn’t let your child have an operation and not sit in the waiting room – this was no different to me), and to know he would be home soon was even more exciting. I felt empty without having him with me.
The next couple of days went by, we didn’t really do anything – It didn’t feel right to do anything. The only place we went was back to our favourite picnic spot. My beautiful husband knew what significance this place had for me and as I was in tears all day, he ordered a pizza and off we went. It was dark when we were there, and despite a lot of families being present, I could hide in the darkness with small glimpses of a smile over what I believed were little signs from Sebastian that he was OK (you will have to read about it in a later post).
The following Monday, one week since Sebastian was born, we were buying an outfit to wear to his funeral (I was insisting I would buy a blue dress) and then attending the venue for his wake to ensure everything was finalised. When I was buying the blue dress, I dreaded the sales lady asking me their rehearsed line, “was this for a special occasion” as I knew I would not be able to hold back the tears. But, at the same time I wanted to tell her, I wanted to tell her that this was the most special and saddest occasion I have ever been to as it was my son’s funeral. But I didn’t, she never asked. Was probably a good thing as it would have been awkward. I just hated that the world was moving forward and going about not knowing what tragedy had happened.
On the same day, when my emotions were overwhelmed, I had passed what looked like a very large amount of tissue, in fact it was later confirmed that it was part of the umbilical cord. Freaked out, I called the birthing unit and spoke to a midwife – she instructed me to go to my GP or emergency straight away (I went to my GP, showed her a photo of what I passed and she sent me to the hospital).
At the same time, the funeral home called my mum and advised her that it would not be a good idea for me to see Sebastian. She said that his body was quite decomposed and that it would not be in my best interest. This made me so angry and sad at the same time. Who was she to tell me I could not see my son!? This was my last opportunity to hold him. This was what was getting me through my days. This was the only glimmer of hope I could clutch on to. And why tell me this today when I have to go to emergency? My mum told me that she would do whatever I wanted, and my husband told me that he couldn’t bring himself to see him like that, but advised me to go as he knew how important it was for me, “he will probably look the same, the staff probably haven’t seen a little baby whose body looked the way it did”, I knew he was right and as we were leaving when I was still thinking about my answer, I saw a tiny little rabbit in the carpark near the door to the venue. Another rabbit!! I knew straight away that I was going to see him. And that was that. It was booked in, I would see him tomorrow!
My trip to emergency was nothing too alarming; however it was surreal to be there again one week on from delivering Sebastian just upstairs from where I sat. I was so scared that they would need to give me surgery to remove retained material and I would be placed in the women’s health ward again, and not be released until after Sebastian’s funeral. I had been on antibiotics so the usual symptoms were not present, but I was prepared to skip my own medical needs so that I could see my little boy the next day and then farewell him at his funeral the day after…
They took me straight in when we arrived and inserted a cannula into my arm as I had low blood pressure when I stood up. Thankfully, they sent me home and told me I had to come back for an ultrasound the next day (which I didn’t do until after the funeral, 3 days later, in case the results relied on me having to have surgery). Whilst I was scared about needing a D&C to remove the material in the later days, my main concern was to get through the next 48 hours. The next day I had severe cramps and some bleeding and we were concerned that I needed to go back to the hospital, but I just took some pain killers and went to bed – nothing was going to stop me from seeing my boy! (Just for the record, the scan came back with only a small amount left and therefore did not require surgery).
I had managed to get through my first week as an empty-handed mum. It was such a devastating week with so much going on and so many new experiences we would have to become accustomed to. For instance, when we were in emergency a lady had asked us about our son and what we named him, it was in front of a room of patients and nurses. I just looked at James in shock, I wasn’t prepared to be asked. James answered “He didn’t make it”, and the lady apologised and I informed her his name was Sebastian. At the same time the nurse gave me a sorrowful look, she was already aware of the situation, but could tell how hard it was for us to answer.
We wondered how we would answer questions in the future regarding whether we had any children. It is a hard question because it will make a normal situation turn awkward if we told them the truth that we have a son in heaven, but if I am to answer and say I don’t have any, I would be betraying Sebastian and only lying to myself. This question hasn’t been asked of me yet, but I plan on always replying with “just the one boy, he is in heaven”.