Pulling away from Mott's, having no idea where we were going or what we were doing, it felt so unreal that we had just "lost" our precious baby girl. The feelings are truly indescribable!
I know that everyone handles shock and/or grief in their own way and to some, the way one handles it may seem extreme or odd where it feels totally normal to the person IN it at the time. So, what we did next may seem odd to some, and that's okay, but again, Adam and I felt totally "lost", needing time to absorb what just happened and just grasping at whatever gave us comfort in the moment. We ended up at a University of Michigan gift shop called The M Den and there we scooped up some clothing items. We felt a "connection" with Michigan now and we will forever so I guess this was one way for us to "never forget". I recall going into a dressing room to try on some sweatpants and upon looking into the mirror I was horrified at what I saw. I looked horrible with my eyes swollen, puffy, red and the size of golf balls yet at the same time is didn't care what ANYONE thought! I didn't have much "care" about anything! After leaving The M Den, we called Tom and Margaret to let them know we were on our way back to the Ronald McDonald house.
When we got back, Chloe was entertaining herself in the playroom and I just hugged and hugged her. Margaret and Tom sat with us but we didn't really exchange a lot of words, after all WHAT could you even say? Tom did, regretfully, inform us that we were not able to spend the night again there at the house since we no longer had a "patient" in the hospital. While I understood and even now I understand it's policy, it also was just very hard to digest because we just went through the hardest thing EVER a parent goes through I felt like we were getting "kicked out" during the worst part of our life! So we had to go pack up our room and find a place to go. Sure we could go "home" but our "home" is in Evansville, a 9 hour drive ~ not something we wanted to do at this time. We could go "home" to Kokomo and stay with parents or other family, but we didn't want to do that either, we just wanted to be "alone" and didn't WANT to leave Michigan ... yet. Honestly, we didn't know EXACTLY what we wanted, we just knew we weren't ready to leave. After packing up the cars, we said our goodbyes to Tom and Margaret and reassured them we'd call them but that we just needed some time alone together as a family. We all loaded up into our cars and drove away from the University of Michigan Hospital ~ yet another bittersweet and difficult moment for us!
We ended up spending the night one more time in Michigan at one of the hotels we'd stayed in before during our many trips to Mott's. We just hung out, ate dinner, and set Chloe up in her pack and play to "play" and sleep while Adam and I tried to find comfort in our own beds; clutching onto items that belonged to Izzy. Exhaustion eventually overcame our bodies and we slept and slept. I know for me, my "sleep" was jolted awake many times by pain, panic, tears, and pure gut wrenching emptiness. Bound by ace bandages around my breasts, an abdominal binder for my stomach and incision area accompanied by the agony of this unthinkable and unbearable loss ... each of which were constant reminders; painful horrific reminders that Isabelle was NOT in my and Adam's arms. Not to be TOO graphic, but with EACH shower I took, having to waste what was supposed to be nourishment for Isabelle, proved to be physically and overwhelmingly emotional moments for me that I was not prepared for. With each gut wrenching cry I felt pain in my abdomen and incision and I just wanted to die, I wanted it to just all go away I didn't know if I could overcome this feeling and to come out on the "other side" in one piece, a good wife for Adam and a good mother for Chloe ...
I was in a million pieces and had no idea how to make them fit nor where they belonged.
It became a ritual for me, the painful triggers and reminders with each shower and the process of bounding my body back up afterwards ~ that process left for Adam to do, to bind my fragile body back together. As bad I wanted to to all end, for the milk to quit coming in so I wouldn't have that trigger and for the painful incision to heal; at the same time I felt like once that all ceased, I'd start "forgetting" and that also frightened me. How long would I endure this routine, this process? I also thought to myself how "terrible" I looked when I peered into the mirror and thought about what strangers saw as they looked at me, but then thinking they don't SEE what is under this clothing I wear, they don't see what's behind this worn out looking face sporting puffy eyes, swollen feet and this slow moving individual, they have no idea nor have any reason to judge. Nor do I do ANYONE I may "wonder" about as I look at them. My views and feelings have been forever altered! "Unless you've walked in my shoes" ... has a whole new meaning to me.
Then came the "phone call". The dreaded funeral home phone call. Adam handled it all; VERY well I might add. Arrangements were made to transport Isabelle to Kokomo and a meeting set up for us to go to the funeral home for further arrangements. I can't begin to imagine where his thoughts or mind took him, like mine did to me. All I do know, is that HE WAS MY ROCK and still is to this day. I just hope I am that for him.
Not sure where we were headed from our hotel room in Michigan, or what we were going to do next.... we drove "around" and landed up in Target. Why? Well, who really knows. Numb and dazed, we just "window" shopped I guess and walked aimlessly through the store. Suddenly, Adam and I were separated, I alone and he had Chloe. I found myself nearly frozen and feeling panic overwhelm my body. There I was staring at infant clothing I turn to run away and I am smacked in the face with infant toys and other "infant" related items. I was surrounded and felt totally out of control of my entire body, emotions and felt totally lost in a store I once found "fun" to go to. I bolted out of area eventually, into the main isle way and found Adam. He knew just by looking at me and glancing up at the store signage where I'd just come from. He said nothing to me, but instead held me up as I cried in the middle of the isle and he gently guided the cart holding Chloe and I away from the painful reminder. I could care less what passerby's thought ... I didn't even notice other people at this time. Eventually I regained my composer, and we walked along together from this point on. We decided to leave, and started walking to the exit, but Adam stopped, turned the cart and us around because he noticed we were headed STRAIGHT towards the baby section again.
So there we sat in our car out in the parking lot of a Target store unsure of where to go next or what to do. Staring at our GPS wondering what we should type in. Crazy ideas popping into our heads of places to go or things to go see perhaps Chicago.. we could see a Cubs game or walk around Shed's Aquarium, or find another spot in Michigan to site see, or just drive and see where we end up. We just knew we weren't ready to go "home", face family and friends or talk about ANYTHING, we just wanted to be alone and spend some time together, cry together, and just BE.
We ended up driving towards "home" or towards Kokomo again... not sure exactly if we'd end up there. We even neared the exit that would take us to Chicago and debated on if we'd turn off or not and it all came down to if there was a Cubs game that we could go to. If there was, we'd exit and if not, well we'd just drive "home". I say "home" in quotes because nothing felt like "home" to us at this point.
It's weird, the feelings that come over you after such a huge loss like what we just experienced. Honestly, it's no wonder that "outsiders" might think we're "losing it" or worry about us because our thoughts or choices may seem totally rash and unplanned to anyone else but to us ~ it made total sense! How long this "behavior" would last .... no one, not even us, knew the answer.
When we called family, we told them we were okay to ease their minds. When asked where we were, we just gave vague responses, like "we're still in Michigan" or "we are in Indiana now" but never gave an exact location. I guess we just didn't want to be "found" or something... or have people come for us. We decided to go ahead and head for Kokomo, and just get a cheap hotel there because we didn't want nor feel like staying with anyone. Again, we didn't want, or were ready, to "talk" about it or go over everything that had happened, we needed OUR time to process and absorb everything and felt we needed to do this alone as a family and to spend time with Chloe.
It was very late when we arrived to our hotel room. We got Chloe set up again, and settled in for the night.
To be honest, I can't really remember much else other than telling the family we were in a hotel in Kokomo, but didn't divulge which one we were staying at. We did go visit my mother and going to visit Adam's parents and at some point we checked out of the hotel and stayed with family.
Over then next few days we had to go to a local funeral home to finalize arrangements. Wow, that WHOLE situation sucked! Its nothing anyone wants to do for a loved one, let alone their own child! We did what we had to do though!
I did get a gift, a huge gift ~ a blessing some may call it? It was one of those situations where it was a friend of a friend of a friend sharing our story about Izzy and it got back to a mother who'd lost her son. This lady's name is Audrey McCormick and she and her husband Gabriel started a mission called "David's Gift" (named after her son who passed too soon; here's a link: http://www.davidsgift.org/ ). Her mission, a nonprofit charity, helps families who've lost a baby or small child with funeral expenses. I called Audrey the night before we were to meet with the funeral home to make our arrangements. Not sure what to expect or what I needed to do, I was anxious and nervous to call, but gave it a shot. Audrey was so compassionate and empathetic and wanted to offer her charity to me. There were no forms to be filled out, no questions asked, just simply tell the funeral home about her charity and provide them with her phone number and address. Since is was such short notice, Audrey didn't have the change to mail out the brochures to me to give the director of the funeral home, so I just had to print off the home page of the charity. I was in total Aww, and couldn't believe this was happening. We really had no idea how we were going to pay for a funeral and God sent us Audrey ... SUCH a blessing! I will pay it forward one day, and donate to her wonderful cause!
So here's the other hard part we had to do, write our daughter obituary.
I also want thank the staff of Sunset Memorial Gardens for helping us with this photo of Izzy; without her breathing tube! Thanks to David McWhorter, for all your help, patience and support and the entire staff for the wonderful care that they took of our precious angel! I also thank the man who had to stay at the funeral home until we left. Letting us spend as MUCH TIME as we needed to with Izzy, never making us feel pressured to hurry and leave. I don't think we left until after 11pm! So THANK YOU again!
I won't go into all the details or the personal emotions of the whole experience of Izzy's viewing and funeral ~ as I am sure you can imagine those days were hard and a blur for me. A few things do stand out though! SO many friends and family came to wish us well and give their condolences; I was so touched by the amount of people at the viewing as well as her funeral the next day. After the funeral my mother-in-law had gotten silver star balloons to release for Izzy. She passed them out to people on the front steps of St. Pat's church and we all release them. Later I was told that the construction crew that was across the street stopped their work, took off their hats and stood in silence across the street as we did this and until the hearse drove away. Then I was told by my sister-in-law and brother that after it seemed all the balloons had flown away, suddenly a group of them appeared, all tied up together ... a group of 4 (if I recall this correctly) to me it was a sign for the 4 days she was here on Earth with us.
The whole situation, the viewing and funeral was so surreal for me and my husband. Our priest did a wonderful job on the eulogy for Izzy and I wish I had it in writing ~ it was so very touching! Among the many great things he said, one thing in particular still stands out and that was that even though Adam and I knew our baby was sick before she was born, we made the choice to give her life even when death may or may not have been in our future. WE GAVE HER LIFE and she changed our LIFE forever!
Sept. 17, 2012 - Sept. 22, 2012