August 19, 2017 is the day that I held my daughter for the first and only time. It’s sweet Tinleigh Layne’s birthday. How do I adequately express the intense highs and lows of one of the most incredible yet hardest days of my life?
I think I’m going to start by talking about the single hardest moment of the entire journey and I’m not putting this out there to gain pity or to shame nurses, by any means, but I do want to raise awareness that there is a lack of sensitivity and education around perinatal loss even within the medical community. Without my loss doula guiding the nursing staff, they wouldn’t have known how to support me and I had the privilege of having one really great nurse and then the disdain of having one incredibly insensitive nurse. And it wasn’t as if one of them had more training than the other – the difference between the two of them was that one of them was willing to learn and take my lead and ask me what I needed and the other nurse was there to push her own opinions on how I should and should not labor and birth and didn’t trust me when I told her my daughter was about to be born.
Looking back on it, I’m sure the nurse was just uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle our “situation”. As a result, my daughter was born without one single medical professional in the room – not one. My doula had to exit the room, as my daughter laid between my legs (her cord was too short to bring her to my chest), to ask a nurse to join us and ask her to call my OBGYN. The nurse then entered my room, incredibly flustered, and did nothing. My deceased baby laid between my legs for what seemed like forever (my husband thinks it was somewhere around 20 minutes but I’m not sure) until my OBGYN arrived and breathed sensitivity back into the birthing space and finally provided some dignity back to Tinleigh. Like I said, I’m not sharing this to shame anyone but I do think it is necessary to raise a level of awareness because loss moms and families deal with this regularly and most of those families don’t have the type of support we were blessed with.
Moving on to the blessings of that day: my OBGYN is incredible and she gently picked Tinleigh up and wrapped her in her blanket and handed her to me. I had processed through this moment so many times in preparation for her birth. If I’m being honest, there was a level of fear to see Tinleigh for the first time. The doctors had made it clear that she had significant deformities, that her body would be fluid filled, that she had a large cystic hygroma on the back of her head. I was so worried that I’d look at my daughter for the first time and be weirded out, for lack of a better description, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to live with myself if that was my first reaction. I remember processing through this with my counselor one evening and she said the most powerful thing. She said “I want to encourage you to watch Kiptyn’s (our son) reaction to seeing Tinleigh for the first time because he’ll be able to see her through God’s eyes” and then she prayed with me to help me surrender up my fear and to ask God to see Tinleigh through His eyes too. I’ll never forget the first moment I held her and looked at her because I saw nothing except for my beautiful, perfectly imperfect baby girl. I’ll never forget the first moment her daddy held her and displayed a level of vulnerability I hadn’t seen before. But more than any of that, I’ll never forget the moment her brother saw her for the first time with such an innocence and admiration that is unmatched other than by God himself. Kiptyn was intrigued with her and kept removing her blanket because he wanted to see her – all of her. I remember sobbing as I thought back on the words my counselor had shared with me. Tinleigh was perfect in God’s eyes and we were blessed to experience that.
There’s so many other memories I have from that day and I’m not sure how to summarize them all because they all seem so important but I’m certainly going to try.
I remember gathering as many hand and foot prints as we could because they’d be the only ones we’d ever have. I remember my mom keeping it together for me and I’m not sure she really allowed herself to feel what she needed to that day, outside of when she excused herself to do so privately in the hospital chapel. I remember my dad walking into the room and taking Tinleigh and I just melted into his arms. I remember my husband’s parents arriving and the hug that my father-in-law gave me. I remember my brother meeting her and telling him “I’m really glad you’re here” and he replied saying he was really glad he was there too. The fact that he could be there on that day continues to be a really big deal to me and I’m forever grateful that God’s timeline worked out the way it did to allow that to happen. I’ll forever remember Darby, my sister, meeting Tinleigh and her sobbing and displaying so much grief and sadness because she truly loves being an auntie. I remember sharing cake as a family and celebrating Tinleigh’s short life and Kiptyn thinking he was in heaven eating cake at 8 in the morning. I remember our family circling the hospital bed as Dustin read the prayer we had drafted thanking God for Tinleigh and asking for grace as we navigate our grief individually and as a family. I remember knowing that I needed to say goodbye to Tinleigh but hesitating every time because I only got this one chance to be with her – I’d never get a redo. While I remember my sister, Tori, meeting Tinleigh, more importantly I remember trusting Tori to be the person to take Tinleigh out of my arms for the final time and take her to the nurse, with the support of my doula, to derobe her and say the absolute final goodbye. I didn’t trust anyone else and Tori, similarly to Kiptyn, is always able to see the beauty in situations and I knew she would honor Tinleigh. I couldn’t have imagined handing my daughter over to the nurse myself and feeling like I was leaving her in the care of strangers. Lastly, I remember walking out of the hospital after over 24 hours, my arms empty and my heart broken.
My precious Tinleigh Layne, I could never adequately express my gratitude for all that you came here to teach me. You may have been small but you were and are mighty! I’m certainly glad that you chose me to be your mom. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.