On Saturday I attended a memorial at Balboa Hospital for all the babies that died in the NICU this past year. It was really lovely. The NICU staff did a wonderful job honoring each little life that came and went too soon. I was not sure what to expect but didn't want to miss out on any opportunity to remember my girls. I was truly touched by what I saw and heard and so glad that I went.
When I walked into the chapel I could feel the invisible mix of emotions. Immediately my eyes were drawn to a table with 10 or so handwritten name cards on it. I scanned it for my girls' names and found them. Aubrey on the left side, Ellie on the right. I had to resist the urge to run up to the table and place the cards side by side. I didn't like seeing them separated.
I quietly took my seat and listened. I could not hold my tears back. A flood of emotions came over me. I remembered how I felt those weeks in the NICU. I remembered how my heart broke when the doctor told me that they could not stop my labor and if I wanted to give my babies a chance I needed a c-section immediately . I remember how concerned the doctor was when I started to cry. I looked up at him with eyes filled with tears and asked, "This isn't good, is it?" He shook his head and softly answered "No, it isn't, but we will do all we can, I promise." I always appreciated his honesty. I never saw him after that. I have always wondered if he knew what ultimately became of my girls.
The days that followed were full of fear, concern, frustration, and heartache. I think the NICU nurses could always see the pain on my face when I came to see the girls. We were all worried but we tried hard not to lose hope. The staff took amazing care of them and, even though they probably never knew it, they took amazing care of me. Every visit to see my girls meant leaving them again, and I hated leaving them. I didn't want to be away from them. I didn't want them to be scared or lonely. Mostly I was terrified I may not see them alive again. But I knew the nurses and doctors were doing all they could for them, and more importantly, I knew those nurses loved my little girls.
My instinct was confirmed at the memorial when two of my girls' nurses got up to share their experience in the NICU. They talked about the bond they form with the babies and families, and how hard it is on them when they lose one. That they strive to provide the best care they can so they never have to question if they did everything they could for a baby that doesn't make it. And every lost baby hurts, it never gets easier. I could not help but hurt for them. I can not imagine doing their job day in and day out, but I am so thankful that they do it and for the dignity and love they showed my girls all those days in the NICU. They could have chosen to simply do a job, to save themselves the pain of losing a child that was not even theirs, and go on with life un-impacted. But they don't. Instead they chose to let all the babies, even the ones that pass away, leave footprints on their hearts. I was so comforted knowing that they remembered my girls, that my girls mattered to them, that my girls were loved by them.
When the service was over my son and I went to the front to collect all the girls' things. I wanted to keep their name cards for their scrap book and bring their roses home with me. Dustin walk proudly down the isle with a flower in each hand. We were the only family there with two flowers.
As I was walking away I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Do you remember me?" I heard a voice say, "I am so glad you could come." Of course I do. There stood Dr. Ling. She hugged me and I cried. How could she think I would forget her? If only she knew that I could never forget her. A mother does not forget the doctor who disconnected her little Ellie from life support and placed her in my arms. Dr. Ling also gently removed all of Ellie's tubes and tape after she passed away while keeping a blanket around her because I tearfully requested to not let Ellie get cold, despite the fact it no longer mattered. And as my husband and I were leaving that evening after saying goodbye to Ellie forever, Dr. Ling stopped me in the hall and put an arm around me and said she was sorry. All I could do was cry. I could tell she was sad too. I knew I would never forget Dr. Ling and her compassion that day nor the care and concern she had for my girls those days in the NICU.
There is no doubt in my mind that God hand picked every single doctor, nurse, and social worker that we came in contact with during those traumatizing days. My night nurse Rianne was a godsend. She didn't even know me, yet she lovingly stood at my bedside as I cried over the fear of losing my babies night after night. There was an amazing woman who worked on the floor I was on, who sat on my bed with me and told me that she lost a baby 28 years before and that God healed her heart. She held my hands and prayed with me for hours on my last afternoon in the hospital. Each nurse in NICU patiently cared for my girls and each doctor watched closely over them. I will never know the amount of silent prayers that were lifted up in that NICU asking God for the same miracle I was begging for. I may also never know if any of them cried when they returned to the NICU for their next shift only to find empty incubators. In the meantime I remain deeply thankful for the love they showed my girls and my husband and I and pray for the opportunity to someday say thank you.
God has been so faithful to send His comfort. Since my first tear dropped I have been surrounded by an outpouring of love and support that did not stop when we left the hospital. People I have never even met brought us meals, flowers and books. Thousands of people in all parts of the world covered our family, and my precious girls, in unceasing prayer. Family and friends rushed to our side. Every doctor and nurse did all they could. And all of you that read this blog have done more than you will ever know to comfort me. I am deeply grateful for all of you who have walked, and continue to walk, with me. You have blessed me. I have been truly comforted.
Matthew 5:4 "God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted."