This post is part of a ten-post series I’m sharing about the life and loss of our son, Afton. Click here to read more of Afton’s story.
In the weeks leading up to Afton’s birth, I started reading some books on life with a newborn.
One of the things that I loved was this idea of giving your baby a comfort item – something that would help them fall asleep on their own. Sleep! Newborns! , right? Because three weeks ago, I was still a normal person who worried about things like how we would get our baby to sleep.
The idea is that you (mom/dad) sleep with the item, for example, a blanket, and after a day or two, it absorbs you – your scent, your breath, your skin – and that’s what makes it comforting to your baby.
“Isn’t that the sweetest idea, Bjork?” I said. “Let’s do that for our baby.”
In the chaotic hours after Afton was born, I found myself laying in a hospital bed holding a small fabric heart from the NICU. It was cut a little crooked, with a chintzy printed fabric, likely made with lots of love by a hospital volunteer. There was a note pinned to it instructing me to wear the heart against my skin for a day or two before placing it in Afton’s isolette, so that even in the days ahead when we could not hold him yet, he would be able to sense our presence. I immediately tucked it into my shirt. “It’s just like the book, Bjork!” I said. “Just like our plan.”
Except then things didn’t go as planned.
Yesterday morning, I tucked that fabric heart – the one I’ve been dutifully wearing every second of every day since the moment Afton was born – underneath my baby’s still hand. I wrapped the edges of the heart around his tiny body, and then I swaddled him nice and cozy for the last time on this earth before laying him to peacefully rest in his tiny casket.
We buried Afton with a few things: handwritten letters, pictures of us, pictures of Sage, a blanket from his grandma, a book that his daddy read to him.
But the thing that makes me feel most like a good mom to Afton was burying him with that crooked little fabric heart tucked up right against his chest.
My mind knows that Afton is gone, that he can’t feel or smell anymore. But my heart says so surely: good job, mama. He has his comfort item. Your baby knows that you’re with him forever.