I went through a little box of Cory’s stuff a couple days ago. It is very small and everything in it is tiny, just like he was. There is an itty bitty blanket and matching hat that someone knit and donated to the hospital. There is an unimaginably small hospital bracelet that was still too big for our baby and we had to wrap around his waist. There is a measuring tape marking his length, tall for twenty weeks with legs that went on forever like Morgan’s. There are his mini footprints and handprints on a sticky name tag. There are his ultrasound pictures from ten weeks when we first heard his heart beat. It sounded so strong and determined. It was the best sound I had ever heard. There are his ultrasound pictures from the day before we went to the hospital, the day we found out he was a boy, the last day we thought everything was perfect and healthy and normal. There are some pictures that I hate. These are unflattering pictures of me holding Cory after a night tilted backwards and forced to remain stationary, after a night of so many medicines, and horrific contractions, and desperately trying not to push.
At the bottom of the box, there is a little stuffed elephant, a few loose pieces of paper, and a small card with a train on it. The elephant was a gift from one of our nurses. It has Corban’s full name, height, weight, and birthday on it. The train card was also from this nurse, sending her thoughts and prayers with us and signed with her contact information. She stopped by as we were being discharged, hugged us both, and cried with us. The other loose papers are the well-wishes and contact information from our other nurses. Nurses that promised to help me stay pregnant as long as my body allowed. Nurses that came in before their shift started and after their shift ended to check on me, even though I was not their patient. Nurses that held Cory and took pictures of him in silly outfits that prompted my first attempts at a laugh after we knew he would not survive. Nurses that held my hand and pushed my hair out of my face and twisted straws in strange directions because my mouth was so dry and my lips were cracked and bleeding. Nurses that held my hand and my legs when the doctor told us that our baby had no pulse and that we’d never be able to hear that strong, pounding heartbeat of his again. Nurses that stood next to me with tears streaming down their face while I screamed and wailed that he could not be dead, that it was not fair that my son was taken when we had been waiting for him for so long and wanted him so badly. Nurses that found us toiletries, and found our family food, and asked if there was anyone they could call. Nurses that constantly told me how strong I was and how sorry they were and how much this all sucked. Nurses that stood with heads bowed as we prayed that God would do something miraculous and then repeated our amens. Nurses that begged us to keep in touch and to call if we needed them, even if it was the middle of the night.
None of my doctors were very emotionally involved, for whatever reason. Maybe it was too much for them. Maybe they had seen too many babies die and too many mothers cry. Maybe they had the odd patient with a pregnancy loss every couple of weeks and had learned not to get too attached, too involved. However, the nurses were our saving grace. I will forever be grateful for the nurses that did get involved. They cried. They laughed. They invested in us emotionally. They were as all in as we were. You may not have even been able to tell that they were not my mothers or my sisters or my close friends if it weren’t for their scrubs. They embraced us and loved us. They embraced Cory and loved him for the final days of his much too short life. I do not know how we would have made it through those harrowing hours without them. International Nurses Day is in a week. I think, often, we take nurses for granted or undervalue them. They are the indefatigable lifeblood of our healthcare system. They deserve so much more than they get. While nothing could have made the loss of our son tolerable, our nurses got awfully close. Their kindness and generosity of spirit will remain with me for the rest of my life. When I think of Cory, I think of them.