As we were preparing to leave the hospital the day that Mia died, we were shell-shocked. I felt like I had already melted through the earth- it felt like my body was packing up our stuff robotically without me in it. We had already met with a few people who coached us through bereavement issues immediately after she passed away. I went to the nurses' desk in the Pediatric ICU and asked, "We are planning to leave soon. Is there something we need to do before we leave?" The nurse shook her head. "Do I need to sign something?" Again, she shook her head with a strange look on her face. "Do I need to let someone know when that we're leaving?"
Finally, she said, "No, you can just go."
My heart broke. We didn't have a baby to take home. Her carrier seat was sitting ready in our minivan to take her home, but we left her at the hospital. The coroner then funeral director would take her from there. She would never again be mine to hold. Just a few joyful months before on the day after Easter, we had dressed her in a pale pink newborn outfit with a white kitten on her bum. Underneath her outfit was a onesie that read "Daddy's Little Princess". Our biggest worry was how to get our perfectly healthy baby girl home without getting in an accident. Now it felt so wrong to be leaving the children's hospital without our beautiful girl. It had been about 30 hours since I had found her not breathing. Her chubby arms and smooth skin showed the thousands of hours I had cared for her.
Our whole life had changed so quickly; the future felt impossible. As I walked the path of hallways to get back to the front entrance, I looked at the people around me. Did they know? Could they tell that my world had just shattered? Were they worried about their child's broken leg or were they also losing their child?
We walked out of the front doors to go to our car. My entire body tingled with anxiety: How could I go back home? How in the world would I go on living? It felt like I would have to learn how to walk again. Breath again. Everything looked new- the sky looked huge, each individual hair sensed the breeze. I remember looking up and crying out to God with a painful lump in my throat, "Oh, my daughter, my daughter. How can I live, Lord?"
My feet moved mechanically over the lines on the asphalt, and I was immediately reminded(I'm paraphrasing): "I lost my Son. I know what it feels like to lose a child, dear Ruth. I know how it hurts. My Son suffered untold agony for people who did not deserve Him. Mia didn't suffer. I was there with her." I felt like curling up in His arms right there in the parking lot. As I have many times since she died, I longed to be in God's presence so much I felt it in every fiber of my body. He knows what I feel like! I could feel Him right there with me. Oh, how that longing to be in God's presence has made the rest of my life feel like an eternity.
A few moments later another important realization dawned on me. It may sound too theological for hurting parents, but it was a needed reality check for me: We all deserve eternal death for our sins. A perfect God created us, yet we broke our tie with Him by choosing our own way. We deserve to be destroyed. It's only because Jesus died for us that Mia can now be in Heaven in God's presence. One day, the longing I have to with God will be fulfilled!
Derrick and I managed to climb into our vehicle and drive home. It felt like it took forever. I read some of the bereavement literature and the advice for bereaved nursing moms. There was road work being done. Cars passed us on their way to who-knows-where. Everything moved around me like a dream. I knew I needed to see my sons and tell them what had happened to their beloved baby sister. I had a strong convinction that I needed to limit the trauma for them. We had been counseled that they needed to know that we would be alright. They needed some semblance of normal family life. If not for them, I would have wanted to stay with Mia forever.
(To be continued...)