I held Kate for the first and last time. We couldn't see her. She had to remain in the bag she came in. It's simply been too long and her little body can no longer be exposed to the world. We took in a pink and white blanket--so very soft and so very fuzzy--and that was wrapped around the bag. I knew it would be hard. I was weeping before she was ever brought to me. I'd lobbied for the chance to hold her but everything in me screamed that I should run away before it was too late. Still, my heart reminded my head that I needed to do this because, now or never.
She was brought in to us. I turned. Suddenly, my senses were on overload. My body, numb. All I could focus on was what I felt and saw and smelled. Standing in the doorway was a woman and our pink blanket. But the blanket didn't look like a baby. It was a rectangular shape, the bag poking up at right angles at the top. I wanted to go. She was placed in my arms. Freezing cold. It was like I was trying to snuggle a bag of frozen food. And she was the wrong way. There's only one way for me to hold my babies. With their heads safely cradled in the crook of my left arm. I sat down and immediately switched her. Then I inhaled deeply. It smelled like a college science lab.
I fought the urge to push her into Troy's arms. My daughter is in here. She is wrapped up in this blanket. The baby I was going to bring home and love and hold and raise. She is here and this is my moment. Forget what I feel, tangibly. Think of the fact that right now, she is in my arms.
We held her and we cried--a lot. We whispered. Troy kissed me. Kissed me like both our lives depended on it. We took pictures. We stayed for awhile, like that. And she started to feel less like a bag and more like my baby. I began to discern daughter from plastic and I gently moved my hand over her. I rocked back and forth, back and forth, as though she were alive and crying. Then I asked Troy if he wanted time alone with her.
I closed the door gently behind me. I heard my husband begin to weep. He's not much of a crier, that man I married. Until Kate, I think I'd seen him lose it less than a handful of times in eleven years of marriage. It has slain me to watch him mourn his tiny daughter with the two inch feet. Slain me and made me fall more deeply in love with him than I ever imagined possible.
After awhile, I gently knocked on the door and entered. He handed our baby to me and then he left. And I will be eternally grateful that we both recognized the need we each had to be alone with her. I'd had the dream of spending lazy mornings with her while my boys were at school, snuggling together on the couch, my baby moving with the rise and fall of my own breath. I longed to do it just once.
I pushed three chairs together, laid down, and placed her tiny body on my chest. I cried. I prayed aloud. I talked to her. I held her tightly. My body was warming her. I didn't notice the sterile science smell anymore. It was just my daughter and me. Suddenly I realized that my heart was thundering inside my chest as she rose and fell with my every breath. And when it pounded, for a moment, it was unclear whether it was hers or mine.
My heart will beat for yours. You are safe in the arms of Jesus and so, here on earth, my heart will beat for both of us.
In that moment, mother's heart pounding while baby's holds still, I felt a peace wash over me. Suddenly I knew that I could grieve and dream, laugh and cry, stand still and run wild, all at the same time. I feel like God whispered into my soul that it is alright to hope. Good, even.
I stopped crying. We stayed like that for some time. Just her and I, the sweet girl I long to see at the gates of heaven. Then, her daddy knocked softly on the door and came in. Our tears were dried and we talked to her, telling her about her brothers, deciding the nickname Kater-Tot might have happened one day, insisting to her that she was the quietest of all our babies.
After two hours, it just seemed like it was time to go. I could have stayed forever in that space with my little girl. But she wasn't really there anyway. She is with my Savior. And though I long to have her breathing in my arms, I know the care He takes of her. I know that He was holding her in Heaven while I was holding her body on earth. Tonight, I choose peace.