I just got back. I was at a (what do you call it when you go to the funeral home to pay your respects to the family but it's not a funeral yet? Is it a wake, a visitation, or calling hours?). Anyway, I was at one of those. One of Chuckles's day care teachers had a son who only lived two weeks. It was her first and only child. The medical and funeral bills are staggering for a single mom who works at a day care. And she had a c-section and had to stand there and receive visitors. I heard her recite over and over his birth stats just like any proud mother who was seeing people for the first time after the birth of her baby.
Did you know that they have a special book for you to sign when you go to a baby's wake? Instead of the cream colored pages with gold letters, it's all bunnies and duckies and flowers and butterflies, and I am just horrified for her. It's the loss of hope and dreams that makes this hardest. Every dream a mother has about what will my child look like, what will he be when he grows up, is what is lost.
He had a congenital birth defect that was known prior to his birth; however, the severity was not fully realized until after birth. He was given excellent prognosis and was supposed to live. So, she has a nursery set up, and a car seat, and a stroller, a layette washed in Dreft sitting in the dresser drawers, and books and stuffed anoimals all waiting for her at her house. And when her maternity leave is done, she goes back to work at a day care with everyone else's healthy, live children.
For those of you who have never attended a visitation for an infant, let me tell you that it is hard. The fact that tiny coffins even exist freaks me out in ways I cannot describe. Of course, after Chuckles was born, I was constantly aware that he could die, but it was abstract. I had a fear that he would die, but I never had the concrete fear like the reality this mom is now living. This mother had to pick out a tiny coffin and those cards with the name and dates on them and had to pick, instead of a going-home-from-the-hospital outfit, a funeral outfit, which by the way was very cute (blue with bears and a matching hat).
So, as you can tell, this was an open casket affair. He looked fine. He looked like a sleeping baby. He had fat hands and chubby cheeks and eyelashes. His mouth was pursed up just like a baby's mouth. He was laying on a blanket his grandmother had knitted for him. He had a few stuffed animals around him that you could see had been with him in his isolette. Occasionally, his mother would glance down and stroke the top of his head or touch his tiny baby hand with all those itty-bitty finger nails. And, I know a lot of people find death creepy, but I say, "Touch his head because you'll never get to do it again."
And since this was her first child, what is her answer to the question: "Are you a mother?" or "Do you have any children?" At the end of the day, what does our society call people who have no children in their house at night but who would do anything to make that not so?
And, saddest of all (as if this wasn't sad enough already), she doesn't know what color his eyes were because he only opened them half-way one time and all she could tell was that they were probably dark. But she'll never know.