At 8:53pm tonight, it will be exactly six months since I held my beautiful Kathryn as she took her last breaths and returned to God. There’s not one second of any day that I don’t think about her and miss her, that I don’t feel cheated out of something, that I don’t wish that I could just wake up on September 28,2011 and go to the 20 week ultrasound and see two healthy baby girls…
In case you’re wondering, I’m never going to just “get over it.” I cannot see beyond the grief of my infant loss.
December 12, 2011. It knocks the breath out of me every time I think about it. We knew she was not doing well from early in the morning. By 9am the doctors had already pulled us into a private conference room to let us know it did not look like she would make it much longer. They were going to give one “last ditch effort” to help her by inserting a needle into the pocket of fluid around her heart and draw out as much of the fluid as they could. We waited on pins and needles, hoping for a miracle. She survived the procedure, and for awhile her stats looked a little better.
We called our long time friend of the family, a Methodist Minister, and by Providence (as my sister would say, NOT by luck!) he was available to come to the hospital and baptize her. She was baptized at 11am. My older sister, our minister’s wife, Jeff, and the nurses and I, witnessed JM baptize our baby using a tiny seashell. It was beautiful and gut wrenching all at once.
Throughout the day, Kat’s stats continued to decline. I sat and talked to her, put my hand on her tiny little leg and told her that she had done what she could. She saved her twin sister’s life, and if she needed to let go, she should do it. She was no longer moving around or showing much signs of any fight… just fatigue.
It is the policy of the NICU that everyone has to leave for shift change between 6:30 and 8:30 pm. Kathryn had made it through the day, and I still had hope that she would make a miraculous recovery. However, when the phone in my hospital room rang at about 7:45pm, those hopes were immediately deflated.
My husband hung up the phone, told me we needed to go upstairs to the NICU immediately, and he and my mom helped get me into a wheelchair. The elevator ride and walk to the NICU seemed to take an eternity. As we got up to the scrub in station, one of the nurses came out, grabbed me by the arm, and said “Don’t worry about that now” and pulled me back toward Room 2, where Kathryn was losing the struggle for her life.
For some reason, I was very concerned about my wheelchair. The strange things that go through our minds in moments of crisis.
We got over to Kat’s isolette, which was surrounded by privacy dividers, and two nurses and a doctor joined my mother, my husband, and me. I don’t remember exactly everything that was said, because the blood was rushing in my ears so loudly and I thought my heart would explode through my chest, but the gist of it was that she was not going to make it much longer and we had two options. One, we could go ahead and disconnect her from everything, take her out, and hold her until she passed. He recommended this option. The second option would be to wait until her body gave out on its own, they could perform resuscitation, and then we would be able to hold her after she was gone. Neither my husband nor I liked that option. So, very quickly, they began to unhook wires, lines, pull out the arterial line, and wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to me. My second oldest sister had arrived by this time as well.
I don’t know how long Kathryn was actually with us. I know that I felt her take one breath for certain, and because I could tell she was going fast, I gave her over to my husband quickly, so that he could hold her before she left us. He says he also felt her take one big breath. And then she was gone.
And so was a part of me. I remember holding her and sobbing, and having somewhat of an out of body experience as I heard this terrible moaning sound, and wondering who was making it, and then realizing it was me. I remember feeling the intense pain as my incision seemed to be tearing open as I sobbed uncontrollably. And I remember looking at that sweet face and thinking she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Her features were perfect.
The details of the rest of the night… at some point my other two sisters and my dad showed up. We were all able to hold Kathryn and sit with her in a private room. After a little while the doctor came into the room and listened to her heart and declared “She is resting.” I looked at him and said “You mean with the Lord???” I needed a much more definitive pronunciation that just “she is resting!!” He nodded his head. He left the room, the realization fully set in that my baby was gone, and I remember sobbing out “God, please don’t take my “Tiny” too!!” (referring to her twin sister, who was only 1 lb 10 oz at birth.)
After a little while, the nurses asked my husband and I if we would like to join them as they cleaned her and clothed her. My husband and I helped the nurses bathe and change her, and then they took pictures of her. At the time I thought that was so very weird and was kind of freaked out by it, but now, I am so grateful that we have those pictures. They wrapped her in a blanket and gave her back to us to spend some time with her before they took her away for the funeral home to come collect her precious little body.
I couldn’t tell you how long I sat and held her that night. On the one hand, it seemed like hours, and on the other hand, it feels like I only had minutes. I do remember when we decided it was time to let go, the nurse came in to get her, and I told her “You will have to take her from me, because I will NEVER just give her to you.” She took her from my arms and left.
My baby girl was gone.