Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Alexander's Pillow

When I left the hospital on February 28, 2012... I left with a brown paper bag.  It had handles and was about 11 x 14 if I had to guess the size.  Inside, there were pamphlets about grief and baby loss, and a few pieces of paper that the hospital printed out with funeral homes and resources around the city.  There was a box with an imprint of Alexander's foot that one of the nurses had done.  She told me to bake it that night to be sure the mold would keep. 

Tucked under my arm was a pillow.  It was the saddest thing I'll ever remember - leaving my room, walking towards the elevator with a little white lace pillow in my arms instead of a baby in a car seat.  I had a breakdown as we turned the corner to the elevator after leaving the double doors of the Mom and Baby unit.  My mother, stepmother and Daniel were with me.  I know my mother was leading the way, and my stepmother was right in front of me.  Daniel was beside me and I lost it.  I saw the elevator and saw my belongings and I lost it.  My stepmother turned around and embraced me and said, "awe, this isn't how you imagined leaving the hospital, was it?".  I hate her a little for it.  I looked over her shoulder at my mother whose eyes were full of pain.  I wanted to be hugging her.  I wanted so badly not to be in my stepmother's embrace - the woman who talked about traffic and boarder security control when she first sat at my bedside in the late night on February 27th - I wanted her gone actually, but was too fragile to speak for myself. 

But I think at that time, another family came around the corner.  An Asian set of parents with their new born baby.  I for some reason collected myself at the sight of them.  Maybe not to scar them?  But maybe more not to give hints to my reality and embarrass myself.  But I think I put the white lacy pillow in the paper bag at that point and we continued to the elevator and we all split off - and I somehow ended up riding home with my stepmother.  My mother went to the drug store to get maxi pads and witch hazel, and Daniel went to the funeral home we had quickly decided on.  How the FUCK that all happened the way it did is beyond me.  I rode back with my stepmother and actually made conversation about my brother's latest deal in real estate because I didn't want to lose my mind hearing another "some things happen for reasons we cant explain or know..." line of bullshit from her.  Again, how I ended up in the car ride home with her... I don't know.  I just know I needed to be home and out of the hospital and I needed to just keep moving and not deal with any logistics of this aftermath in was in. 

Anyway, back to the pillow.  I didn't know what was inside. One of the nurses who was looking after us on the 28th told me what was included in this little take away package. But I didn't ever see it. 

I opened it the night of the 28th.  After everyone was gone, and it was just my mother and Daniel home with me.  I wanted to get the foot print baked, and in going through that brown paper bag for one thing, I went through it all - the pillow included.

This little pillow has sat on the top shelf in our bedroom closet.  It has been opened and cried over hundreds of times, for countless hours.  But it has always been packed up and put away in that very same place.  Alexander's ashes are in a green reusable bag given to us by the funeral home right next to the pillow.  For nearly 3 years, that little top right corner of our closet has been for Alexander's pillow and ashes.


Inside, there are 2 blankets that Alexander was rested on while a nurse took pictures of him.  I haven't opened those very many times.  And when I've inspected them, I get the feeling he was only ever near them or rested on them while he was resting on a hospital cloth.  I don't see any afterbirth or blood anywhere.  There's also his birth information, hospital bracelets (never used), his little hat, hand and foot prints and a picture a nurse printed from the "office" printer (read: bad quality). 

 It has always all stayed in this order of arrangement (seen above, not what I typed out).  In the first year, I would cry on my bed with his pillow next to me, usually open just like this, taking one thing out at a time, for hours.  Every time I would put it away, I would feel the same hurt.  (When I put it all away today after taking pictures I felt the exact same hurt).  I cry every time I go at it for any reason.  I cried today.  I'm crying now as I write this entire post. 

This is probably the biggest heart breaker I have physical access to.  All these little things are all I physically have let of him. 

hospital bracelets, never used

The only thing Alexander ever wore.  This hat, provided by the hospital.  Probably my most sacred possession.  I try not to admit to that, as I don't want it to one day disintegrate out of no where.

When opened, you can see the blood and afterbirth.  Not seen, the millions of tears I cried over this little knit item

His birth information

This is the only documentation I received for Alexander when we left the hospital.  We left with him nameless.  One of my biggest regrets is not settling on his name AS SOON as he was born.  I felt it silly almost.  As in what does it matter?? I could change it, erase it, can it, redo it a million times and no one will care!   I was so short sighted and angry at this time.  Oh, if I could do it all again, and make it right.  As wrong as it all is, I wish I had the sense to do some things right.

A pretty close second, if not tied for first in what I cherish most from what's left behind:  his prints

How I wish those little fingers could have been wrapped around mine

I wish his prints were done more formally, and not in the fashion of here is what's left of your dead baby.  One of his footprints is cut off, and his hands weren't placed to capture their full print.  I try to forgive the nurses who I know tried their best.  I know this wasn't easy for them to put together for me.  They were regular L&D nurses who (I'm pretty sure) volunteered to take me on as a patient when the news spread the floor that there would be a stillbirth soon.  But if I had known how much I wanted/needed to study his little prints, I would have done them myself.  Among numerous other things I wish I had done myself that day.
But this is what I have left.  All things that ever touched the skin of my first born baby boy, that's it.  All in Alexander's Pillow. </3


  1. Oh Veronica. My heart aches for you. These photographs are so precious and beautiful. Alexander's beautiful hat, his dear hand and foot prints. Those hospital bracelets . . . ah me.

    Sending you so much love for another mother with ashes on the top shelf of the bedroom cupboard xo

  2. I have a hat with a bit of Anja's afterbirth, blood on it, too. You know, that hat is so fucking ugly. I feel terrible saying that because it was made by volunteers with the best of intentions, but really, it is so terrible: but she is on it. It has the only bit of her that is left in the world and that hat will go to my grave (or the crematorium) with me. Yes - I get this post. Every word of it. I have crappy photos, and poor footprints (no handprints), and hospital bracelets never used. Oh, Alexander: you sweet, sweet boy: you were here. Once upon a time, you were really here and your mama loved you so very much. Sending love to you for February, Veronica, and to Alexander, wherever you are.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It's heartbreaking that we only have these tiny mementos to remember our babies.

  4. Wow. I didn't expect to learn so much in this one post. I had so many emotions going through and reading it.

    It's insane how we remember the silly details about what you conversed about with your stepmother when you left the hospital. I also had an encounter with a family leaving with their newborn babies (WHY DON'T THEY SHIELD US FROM SUCH THINGS... ARE PEOPLE REALLY LEAVING WITH NEWBORNS EVERY EFFING MINUTE? I MEAN, REALLY).

    Those hospital bracelets pained me to see. Because does it really matter to wear them? We never got a HUGS tag for Andrew (because who wants to steal a dead baby or mistake him for their own?) and we never got one for Benjamin (because he was in the NICU). We did get one for Claire. It felt so amazing to finally have that one thing that made me feel like the rest of those moms... just for a single day.

    I do love how there is visible wear on that hat. And I love the pillow. Sure beats the box decorated with a dog, dog bones, and a dog house (I am not a dog person and this holds the contents of my memories from my dead son???). But really, that pillow isn't enough and never, ever will be.

    I hate that his prints aren't perfect. It's wonderful that they were done, but almost done to get it over with. :/

    I hope you show the moulds on the next installment.


  5. Wow. Alexander's pillow is beautiful. His certificate of life--I love that. Make sure to make quality photocopies of his hand and footprints (they won't smudge or fade). I did do my own prints and I'm glad to have them but it really doesn't change anything or soothe my heart any more than yours. Thank you for sharing Alexander's things. Big hugs!!