Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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R is for Regrets (I really, really want a redo)

R is for Redo - Unpacking Grief

There was a point where, every single night, I would have trouble falling asleep because I was re-living the day Calvin was born and trying to make it right in my head over and over. I would imagine everything I would have (should have) done differently.

I kept thinking about how I should have insisted that they try to take Calvin’s footprints or how I should have offered to take them myself. I would have this conversation in my head, and sometimes I would end up with a perfect, tiny set of footprints. Other times, I would just have unrecognizable smudges, but it didn’t matter because I would know they were his. On bad nights, it felt like the nurse lied about his feet being too small and just said that to not tell me that his lower body was missing; those nights I hated feeling so morbid.

I would think about how I should have opened his blanket and looked at every part of him — I didn’t even see his hands or feet. I felt like he was too fragile to touch. I only knew his weight through the blankets. That same fear about his body being incomplete, I felt it at the hospital. I was holding Calvin after I got out of surgery to remove the placenta, and I started to open up his blanket. Then I froze with fear. I think maybe it was the anesthesia still messing with me. I wish, I wish I could go back to that moment with a clearer mind.

R is for Redo - Unpacking GriefOne of the photos from the disposable camera the nurse gave us. We went home holding this memory box instead of our baby.

I agonized (I still do sometimes) over not holding his hand in my fingers. I feel so jealous, and sometimes like such a failure, whenever I see photos of a baby’s tiny hand on their mommy’s fingertip or when I see photos of babies holding their parents’ wedding rings. If he wasn’t too fragile to be dressed and cleaned up by the nurses, then I should have been able to touch him — Why couldn’t I have figured this out then?

I would also get frustrated with myself over not having more photos of him. Why didn’t I think to take pictures? Why didn’t I ask someone to bring a digital camera? Why didn’t I use the entire disposable camera on photos of Calvin?

My biggest regret from that day though is not sharing Calvin with our family. If I could only change one thing, as much as I would love to see his hands and feet, to kiss his little fingers, I would choose to go back and let my family see and hold him. I would allow them that physical connection of knowing his weight in their arms and being able to look into his face directly, not just through photographs. I would imagine Calvin held by my family and cry at the thought of how I fractured their relationship with him. I keep telling myself that we chose what was right for us at the time, but I feel like I robbed my family of knowing my son a little more. It still really hurts thinking about this.

With each of my babies I wish I could have a redo. I wish I could go back do some things differently. I wish I had my own “Ground Hog Day,” so I can go back and do right by my babies, so I could do right by me, so I could do right by everyone else I love, so I could have had a better chance of keeping them.

What is your biggest regret?

If you could go back and change things, would you? What would you do differently? How has this regret affected you?

This post is a part of a series called Unpacking Grief, which I began as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.

Crystal is a mother-wife-writer whose explorations include parenting, grief, food, and semi-crunchy living. She is currently an MFA in writing student, a content editor for Still Standing Magazine, and the technical editor for Switchback.

0 thoughts on “R is for Regrets (I really, really want a redo)

  1. I could have written your words myself Crystal… And I am so sorry for the pain that you (and I) are in. I regret so much that we did not get pictures or our sweet baby boys, and I regret that we did not get their footprints either. I am however very happy that we asked my mom be in the room with me while I was delivering the boys. We knew that Maxwell had already passed, but we were not sure if Miles was going to be born alive and I wanted my mom to be there to help me and comfort me, and meet our baby boys that we had seen so many times on ultrasound playing together. Miles and Max were both born dead. Shock, devastation and pure heartbreak are the words i use to describe those moments. Its all still a bit hazy for Aaron and I, but I vividly remember holding them and the angelic look on each one of their faces, like they had gone away to a much better place than here… and that helped me let go and kiss them goodbye. I remember how good they smelled, and how soft their skin was, and how chubby their cheeks were even for being only 23 weeks… Sometimes I will just sit and talk with Aaron or my mom about how beautiful they were, and it helps keep their memory alive always.

    God bless our sweet boys… Calvin, Miles and Maxwell. They are shining down on us Crystal… All my love and prayers, Rebecca

    1. Rebecca, I’m so glad that your mom was with you and that you can speak with her and Aaron about them in this way. I open Calvin’s memory box once in a while to smell his blanket and gown… 2+ years later and they still smell the same. I like to picture our boys (along with the other GBJ babies) playing together and smiling down on their families. Love you.

  2. Crystal, I wish I could put my arms around you and persuade you to be easier on yourself. I wish I could do that for all of you sweet girls here who are grieving and regretting.

    I am a retired childbirth educator and a nurse. I have seen so much joy in my career, but tragically so little advance in helping new parents through these awful times.

    First remember you were not yourself. You all were entirely too vulnerable to make any kind of rational decisions. And would have been even with a good outcome. With a loss you are set that much further back into primitive survival mode. And family and friends are often too shattered to think clearly as well. No one can make ideal choices in these situations. Letting go of blame, for yourself and others involved, lets peace in.

    Another thing I would gently suggest is to try to be aware of the unconditional love your child would have for you, no matter what. Let them love you. Love yourself.

    I will keep you all in my prayers.

    1. Marie, I appreciate that you point out that, even if we had good outcomes after delivery, we would still not be ourselves. It’s difficult thinking how out of it I was–but I realize that there is no way I could have possibly been as clear as hindsight allows. Thank you also for the gentle reminders to let our babies love us and to love ourselves. It’s easy to forget that. And your prayers are most appreciated.

  3. I cannot imagine what you have been through, or the emotions you must have felt that day and continue to live with. But what I do know for sure is that you cannot condemn yourself for anything you did, or any decision you made. You did your best, under the most horrendous of circumstances, and you cannot blame yourself for those things that you regret. Your child was, and is, loved by you, and that is more important than anything you did or did not do. Whether you have tangible things like footprints or not, nothing you did or didn’t do can take that away the fact that you are his mother. You have been through so much, I pray that you will be kind to yourself and allow yourself to let go of the things you regret. I also pray you will be patient with yourself in your grief. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  4. Wow, my heart is just breaking for you and all the other women who have shared similar stories in the comments. I never thought about that side of losing a baby during delivery, of the part of not knowing how to handle the last moments. I plan to do doula training next year, to assist mothers during birth, and I will try to remember your words so that if I am assisting a mother who loses her baby, I can support her through the process and help her to not regret those moments (just by making suggestions for photos and things, not by forcing her into anything, obviously). I send love & light to all of you as you walk with your grief. I’m sure your babies are smiling down on you to know how much they were & still are loved.

    1. Raven, thank you so much. Your sensitivity and compassion will be greatly appreciated. The nurses and doctors made all the difference–they made Calvin’s delivery special and really honored him and his little life. I think suggestions and giving them opportunities to change their minds will support them very much.

  5. Oh Crystal. I regret my family not seeing my babies as well. I regret not getting Shyla’s handprints and insisting they get Jakin’s prints or molds. They told me the same thing…he was too fragile. I have so many regrets as I look back at both of their births. But I know that no matter what I would have done, I would have regrets. Getting only hours with them was not enough to fill in all the desires of my heart. Much love to you.

    1. you’re so right, my friend, especially when you say “Getting only hours with them was not enough to fill in all the desires of my heart.” i think we would need a lifetime with our babies for this–and we will have eternity with them someday ♥

  6. It made me sob reading this. But I wanted to say Thank You, for teaching me how to be less selfish and a little more compassionate. I was angry when Mom first told me we couldn’t see Calvin because I thought it was the hospital that was saying that. When she then explained it was what you & Louie chose, it stopped me in my tracks & I wasn’t angry anymore, though, I was a little heartbroken. It made me think more before I speak and gave me so much respect for parents in general and understanding that each parent needs to make his/her own choices. And it humbled me to respect your wishes instead of grieving over my own selfish need to see him in hopes that it would lessen my own pain. Thank you. And thank you for validating my grief as his auntie because I do think about him everyday. I wanted to hold him and tell him I loved him so badly so that I could feel like I knew him and that he knew me. But because of how much I love you & Louie, it has made it all okay and I am happy that you guys did what was right for you and your family. I love you guys!

    1. ((hugs)). thanks, sis. it’s really hard for me to know that i deprived you guys of holding, Calvin, and i wish i could change that. i appreciate that you respected our decision, as hard as it was. we know how much you love our babies. love you, too.

  7. Most of this I could have written myself… so many things went so wrong (a lot of things went right too though but there are regrets)

    I was transferred from delivery to gynecology before he was born due to emergency cases. I don’t regret accepting the transfer, as me and the emergency-case were was so coordinated I actually saw her going in for emergency c-sektion as I was taken out from surgery. Her babies were evidently alive. Even though I don’t know how it turned out for her it would have killed me if I hadn’t agreed for transfer when this was her best chance of delivering live babies. Aleksas was already dead. Still, the transfer ended me up with nurses normally doing late abortions on at least somewhat willing women. They did their best to swtich to deliver a dead baby whose mother was crying and cursing her way through termination, but things were lost.

    I wish I had asked them to take his footprints. I wish I had asked them to wrap him up. I wish I had held him. I wish I had washed him up and let the water restore what was deformed by laying without water for hours (I just didn’t know that might have changed in water). I wish I had taken a camera with me, instead I have only three pictures of him taken with my mobile phone. I didn’t even pick him up from the plastik bowl they put him in… I wish I had taken separete pictures of his perfect feet, as the ones I have are so bad I can’t zoom in on them. And even though he was delivered into my hands I half an hour later was afraid to touch him again. I wish I had. I so wish I hadn’t let him lay there in the hospital bowl. I wish I had given him something. I wish I hadn’t felt so much like I bothered people and had called up the hospital-church to leave him the little knitted blanket my mum wanted to give him. I didn’t. And it still haunts me a little.

    1. FC, I’m so sorry that you were moved from delivery, that must have been so difficult. I did not know about the water either (just until you commented it). I’m sorry you don’t have more photos–I’m sure the ones from your phone are so precious to you. I’m sorry that you are haunted by the blanket… even in your grief, you were thinking of others and inconveniencing them. There are things that went right for us, too; I guess we must try to focus on those things and let go of the regrets. Maybe when we are ready…

  8. I remember being so afraid to touch Elena, I wish I had cherished every inch of her. I also regret not asking them to collect samples from the umbilical cord to contribute to the research being done on Potter’s Syndrome, I was afraid to ask because I thought they would say No.

  9. I think I could have wrote this message myself! I regret the exact same things you do…. plus…. I regret not having held Thea in my arms.

    I wish my head was less confused and that I could have thought straight!

    1. Maria, I’m sorry you didn’t get the chance to hold Thea in your arms. It’s so hard to think straight with everything that happens. Maybe we just need to advocate for hospitals to be more prepared. ((hugs))

  10. I read your words and I cling to every word you have written about regret. At my support group, I am one of the rare cases where NOTHING went right at the hospital I delivered Joey. We regretted so much telling the staff that we could not handle seeing her. I wish they kept asking… We regret signing a piece of paper for the hospital to cremate her not knowing we wouldn’t see her ashes. I see pics of NILMDTS org and I long for those beautiful pics with Joey. I have numerous regrets and they extended my grief for a long time because it made me feel like my own daughter didn’t get the validation she deserved.

    1. oh, Patty, big, big hugs! i’m so sorry. and i do agree that regrets extend the grief. you do such a beautiful job of remembering Joey. i’m sorry the hospital staff didn’t keep asking you. we actually said no at first. then we said yes. then we weren’t sure. then we finally said yes. they kept reminding us that we could change our mind. just try to remind yourself that you made the best choices you could have at that time.

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