12 hours

12 hours. 
From when they placed her in my arms to when I left her laying on the table at the mortuary. 
12 hours was all I had. All I'll ever have. 

Holding Willow in my arms I looked her over inch by inch. She was a beauty. Her skin was coated in the thick white vernix, the most I had ever seen in person. Lucky little baby. I gently rubbed it into her skin. 
I wiggled my finger into her fist, wishing she could squeeze it. Her hair was lighter then K & S but not as blonde as W, maybe even a little red. I could see the other girls in her face. Her legs were long, her nose was like mine. I wondered what color her eyes would be. Her mouth parted open just slightly. I kissed her. Wake up little baby. Please. 

The older nurse that was present for the end of my labor and delivery stayed behind once everyone else has cleared out. She was an angel. She and Randy cleaned Willow up a little a took her foot prints, a small lock of hair. They began collecting a few things for a memory box the hospital gives you to bring home your... memories. 

The Dr/nurses told me I could hold her as long as I wanted and then they could take her when I was ready. They explained to me that I could make arrangements for her to be picked up by a local mortuary. 
No. That didn't work for me. See I was in Placerville. Still living in Vacaville. About to move to Georgetown. So.. No.  
I'm not leaving her here and I'm not leaving here without her. End of story. 

There was several nurses in and out talking about options and making phone calls. At first I got a No. But I counter offered with a No. Then I got a maybe, again I counter offered with a No. Then I got a "It was going to take some time to sort out" I said I'd wait. 

It had been a long night. Randi & Sarah packed up & said their goodbyes. Chris was asleep on the couch. The nurses suggested I get some sleep too. They turned out my lights, and closed my door and there I was all alone. Holding my sleeping baby. 
It was so quiet. 
I cried and cried and cried some more. I let down all my walls, all my guards. I was all alone & it was all sinking in. The quiet was killing me. 
I've never cried like this before. Sobbing, choking, loud, messy crying. 
**months later when I saw Maleficent for the first time and the scene where she wakes up and discovers her wings are gone. That scene hit me. I instantly began sobbing with her. I knew that feeling. Watching her mourn her wings, that's how this moment looked, how it felt. Raw emotions. 

I attempted to pull myself together. Nope, not ready yet. So I cried some more. I was so exhausted. So hormonal. So broken. I couldn't sit up and hold her anymore so I laid down with her next to me on the bed. I could barely keep my eyes open but there was no way I was taking my eyes off of her. This was all I was gonna get and I wasn't going to waste it sleeping. 
I touched her and talked to her. I sang. I cried. I peeked at her eyes. They looked blue. I lost it again. I would never see her eyes, she would never see mine. 
Don't fall asleep. Don't fall asleep. 

"With heavy hearts Chris & I welcomed our sleeping baby girl Willow Reese into the world this morning. She was absolutely perfect & I feel blessed to be her mother"
I sat back up and began making phone calls. I called local mortuaries. Gathered information. Explained my situation about being in between homes. I took notes. 
I called the mortuary in Vacaville. The one we had used for Dad just a few months before. They could pick her up at an extra cost but not that day. Orrrr I could bring her in myself. I called the nurse in & we went over all the info I gathered. She was still trying to figure out how to get past all their red tape but  this was a good start. 

My mom & Carly arrived. They didn't recognize me at first. I shuffled to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I didn't recognize myself either. I was so swollen & puffy (but that's another blog post) We cried. They held Willow. I shared our story. We brainstormed more ideas. 

An hour or more passed and my nurse came in with good news. While several people were making several phone calls during the morning, a Dr. on another floor heard about what was going on. She had been in a similar situation and offered her help. She drafted some paperwork and they brought it in for me to sign. Basically releasing Willows body to me. I was very happy. 

Things start to speed up at this point. Now, I was offered to stay as long as I wanted. A night or even two but with every few minutes that passed Willow appearance began to change. I knew the longer I held her... well, it wasn't going to be easy.
*I've tried to write more about this but I can't
I called Vacaville back and they could accept her into their care but only during a certain window of time because they had services planned for the day. I'm not one to waste time so... Ready Set Go. I requested our discharged, showered & began packing up my things. 

I had birthed in a hospital twice before, and both times I walked out holding my baby but this time my feet were so swollen I chose to take the wheel chair. 
As the nurse wheeled me out of labor and delivery several nurses gave their condolences. When we got to the elevator a guy in scrubs congratulated me. I smiled and thanked him but the nurse slapped him in the arm. I heard them whisper & he apologized quietly.  

The nurse wheeled me out to Carly's car. It was a beautiful hot sunny day. The light blinded me. I covered Willows face to keep her out if the sun & out of sight as other people were passing by. Chris loaded our things and I climbed in the back seat. I held her as we made our almost 2 hour drive to Vacaville. I kept my eyes on her the whole time. I could feel my time running out the closer we got to home. Like sand running out of an hour glass. I wanted to stop time. Keep driving.

                                                     our car ride home 

When I tell this part of my story in person I get the same reaction everytime. Everyone is amazed by my strength and my decision to bring her home the way that I did. On that day it never crossed my mind that this would be considered unusual. There was no other option in my mind. I couldn't walk out of there without her. 

When we got to Vacaville we stopped by my grandparents house for a short visit so they could see Willow. In the time that it took me to drive home my grandma had been to the store to pick up an outfit and blanket and then to the mortuary to fill out all of the needed paperwork and cover the costs of their services. This was a huge weight off of our shoulders. I'll never be able to thank her enough for that. 

When we arrived at the mortuary we were given some time in the office to say our goodbyes. I laid Willow out on the table and slowly began dressing her.  It hurt to stand. It was hard to see thru the tears and my hands were shaking. I dressed her so slowly. The one and only time. Taking mental notes of how she looked. Burning her face into my memory. She would be cremated in what I dressed her in. I felt a strong urge to leave something of mine with her. I would have her hand prints, a lock of hair and eventually her ashes but she had nothing. Nothing of her own, nothing from me. I wasn't prepared, I didn't have anything. I took me a minute but I realized I was wearing the two Amber bracelets I always wore on my left wrist. I had C unscrew the yellow one and I placed it around her neck. It was a perfect fit. She looked just like her sisters now and I was so happy to share something of mine with her. I still wear my orange one and when I look at it I think of her. 

I took one last picture and said my goodbyes and then completely lost it all over again. I couldn't decide if I should just grab her and run or if I would stand there forever. "I can't do this" "I don't want to leave her" "I don't want to go home without her"  Chris wrapped his arms around me and I buried my head in his chest. He started walking towards the door, walking for me. We went straight to the car. He put me in and drove us home. I'll never see her again. My time was up. 

My body was exhausted. My head felt like fog. It had been a 24 hour roller coaster ride. No heartbeat, Stillbirth, Saying goodbye. This was all so fucked up. When was this nightmare going to end? Not quite yet.. I still had to go home and talk to my kids.. Ya know, the ones I last saw two blog posts ago jumping on the trampoline, eating popcorn. The one who were counting down the days til they would circle the birth pool and welcome their new sister.
"We arrived home last night empty handed but to a house full of love & my closest friends with their offerings of herbs, tinctures & yummy food.
My eyes burned & my heart felt like it had been ripped from my chest & broken into a million pieces. I showered, crawled into bed and one by one the kids came in to lay with me and hear the story of baby Willow.
I had no clue how to explain to these litt
les who were so eager to welcome home our new baby that she was no longer with me & I didn't know why.
My wise & beautiful friends circled around us offering their silent support & tissues as we hugged & cried & cried some more.
I was amazed at the strength of my children. Every one with their own personality coping in their own way & offering comfort to me the way they knew I needed it.

My heart was still broken but I realized many of its pieces were sitting in that room grieving with me just like you all have been as well.
THANK YOU everyone for reaching out to me. I don't think I can do this quietly or alone"
photo by Aryana D
"Motherhood is the #infinite relationship to all things. It is a collection of all skills aquired from simply living this #life and #guiding others through it. There is #divine strength derived from #Motherhood unlike any other conduit from this #world to all others and it can be witnessed in so many everyday instances. It is the #rain watering the #earth, the #food feeding a hungry #belly, a #mother offering her condolences through the grief of her own. I witnessed such divinity today that I am not the same as I was yesterday. I love you, Janeen Rose. You are pure #beauty beyond #poetry.  You are #strength beyond all #myths and your #love is eternal beyond anything I can comprehend." -Aryana, my dearest friend

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