Sometimes my deepest regret is that I never anticipated any of it. I never expected to lose you so I didn’t know what I was supposed to have done, when I did. Which parent ever plans ahead to lose a child? I wonder if I had had one more day to even process the fact that you were gone, would I have had a chance to plan things like your funeral better. Everything just happened so fast and we couldn’t think fast enough. I found out that morning and by the afternoon, I was holding you in my arms. Today is the day I left the hospital last year empty from the inside out, just an empty womb and empty arms to match.
I came home with no baby sleeping soundly in my arms. There was no family to greet us, no aunts buzzing about the kitchen cooking post birth meals I never quite cared for. There was no excitement heavy in the air. No, instead I came home from discussing our funeral service preferences with a family member who was also a pastor. The funeral director assured your dad while I was still in hospital that when we arrived on the Saturday morning you would be bathed and ready for us to change you and continue on to what no parent should ever have to endure, your funeral.
We woke up early on 20 July 2013 and I wrote my final letter to you, in your memory book which I kept during my months of pregnancy. I drew a picture of you, your dad, your brother and I, the only family “picture” we would ever have. I wrote how much I love you, how much I miss you and how sad I am that you will never read any of the letters I wrote to you over the months. I read each page and I remembered you, our “small baby”, I remembered our amazing months together. Your dad and I picked out your yellow baby grower, grey white and yellow hat, a yellow vest and yellow and green socks. We put those in a carry bag along with your yellow teddy bear, polka dot soft blanket, powder, baby wipes, nappy and a towel.
It was a sad and cold morning, we heard that song by Savage Garden playing on the car radio “I knew I loved you before I met you” and dad and I slowly danced to it under the first morning sunshine, missing you, wanting you to come home. How ironic it was that that song was playing. The rest of the morning was filled with us getting ready, welcoming family who would take care of your brother at home while we were gone. There was a deep foreboding sadness in the air. I cannot say I felt anything in particular personally; there was more of a numbness which felt like it could creep into my very bone marrow. I couldn’t feel the cold, I wore those dreadful combat boots and winter coat which were both a sickening reminder of our loss.
I never expected to see you the way I did, lying on that cold table, wrapped in a dirty blanket and left there, with no-one tending to you. No-one gave you a bath or got you ready as was agreed earlier in the week. No-one treated you with the tenderness you deserved. I cried into your dad’s chest and I couldn’t understand why anyone would do this to us, to you, a little baby, how can they disregard you this way. I felt the anger and shock rising within me one again; it was like losing you all over again. I touched your tiny body and I rubbed your tiny hand under my fingers which was still across your little chest. There was no time and no decent facilities to bath you in. So dad and I cleaned you with baby wipes and dressed you as best we could. And we placed you in a tiny white casket with purple lace which I hated so very much. You looked so snug in there though with all your special items. We kissed your tiny little face one last time and we closed the casket. That was the last time I ever saw you Zia. I held onto dad as he navigated those stairs, up to the chapel in the funeral home. We were greeted by family and sat in the front pew. I just stared at the casket the whole while wondering whether I was in some sick dream I would wake up from.
I listened to a song playing in the background, something by Hillsong, a popular gospel group. The sermon was passionate, filled with talk of how you were rejoicing with god in eternity, something to that effect, how you were waiting for us to meet you there, smiling, saying mummy, daddy don’t be sad, I am with the lord now. The “usual” funeral sermon aimed at motivating us not to kill ourselves from the grief. I sat mostly motionless, never looking around at anyone, never smiling, tears streaming down my face, just staring ahead. My sister read a letter I wrote to you while I was in hospital, I wondered whether I had actually written that. Your grandfathers sang “Tears in Heaven” and then the service was all over. We drove to the crematorium and dad and I watched as our baby’s casket was pushed into a furnace, not the old kind with roaring flames which lashed out when you open the door, no this was the upgraded version, I hated it all the same. We sat outside for an hour waiting for your ashes; yes that is how long it takes these days to cremate a baby. Daddy went in and helped gather your remains. I don’t know how he did that but I guess he needed to and he wanted to and I am so glad he did.
That act reminded me of the day you brother was born and how your dad went after him when the nurse took him out of the theatre, just to make sure they didn’t swap him out with some other baby. I realised it was his way of doing the same thing for you. It would be beautiful, if it wasn’t just so damn sad. Oh Zia, now all that remains of my beautiful baby girl is in a tiny box within a box within a top drawer, like your casket, it too is surrounded by your special things, clothes, socks, bibs that read I love my Mommy”, “I love my Daddy”, “I love my brother” and so many other things which we have collected over the months. Beneath the box is your death certificate and hospital forms, funeral home receipts, all those painful reminders.
And yes, sometimes my deepest regret is that I never anticipated any of it. If I had, I would have held you a little longer, a little tighter, kissed you a lot more, said I love you a hundred times over, I would have sourced a funeral home like the one I learnt of months after you were gone, I would have sang you a song, …you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away… I would have remembered to cut off your hospital band and took many, oh so many pictures. I would have brought a baby bath and bath you for the first and last time, I would have done anything, anything at all. I just never anticipated any of it