‘When you (and your nursery) are left empty, messy and unfinished’: Mom’s anguish after baby’s stillbirth

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“After we delivered Cayden and said our goodbyes, we were thrusted back into the world emptyhanded. People were moving fast, going about their days, but we were stuck in mud. As we drove home to our safe space, I had an empty belly, memory box on my lap, and a constant flow of tears occupying my cheeks.

My parents had left the hospital before we were released so they could get situated in the guest room and prepare lunch. What I didn’t know at the time was that they were really just babyproofing our home. But not in the typical way you would expect for a living baby. They were babyproofing our hearts. Trying to place anything baby-related up in the nursery, out of plain sight. They pulled the nursery door shut in an effort to shield us from more pain. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter if the door was open, closed, decorated or burnt down, I ran to the bathroom weeping at the sight of it.

‘Why the last 365 days after delivering my son silently sleeping were the worst and best days of my life.’

Courtesy Kailey Clymer

That door was the gateway to Cayden’s eventual safe space within our home. The room where we would change his dirty diapers, rock him to sleep, roll around on the floor, nurse him, and dress him up in cute little outfits each day with probably five more wardrobe changes after that. It’s where we were going to learn together, how to function as new parents on little sleep, while cuddling a warm, fresh-smelling baby. But it’s still empty. It’s still messy. And it’s still unfinished. The very characteristics of our new normal, our new lives without our first son. In the days that followed, I learned how to approach his nursery, while peeling back the layers of my emotions. And as I sit on that very nursery floor typing this, I would like to encourage you to do the same.

It took time for me to open the door. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t give the door dirty looks or roll my eyes at it, like someone who was just incredibly and personally rude to me, telling me there’s no chocolate left or something. I even angrily threw my pregnant body pillow, a Snoogle, into the room because there was no use for it anymore. Twenty-seven days after Cayden’s death I opened that door. But I wasn’t ready for it. I went in to iron my skirt on the ironing board but everything froze, including me. My eyes scanned the room making mental notes of the crib that wasn’t put together, the empty car seat, his belongings, and the changing table. I quickly shut the door and accepted my wrinkly clothes. Empty, messy, unfinished…and wrinkly, that’s me.

Courtesy Kailey Clymer

Right before we found out about Cayden’s death we had picked out a new carpet for the nursery. Three months after that, we had it installed. This meant we had to clean out the room of his belongings. I was pretty strong about it the entire time until one of the worker’s asked if ‘this was going to be the baby’s room.’ I refrained from answering, and cried instead. The tears didn’t last long though because of an idea that came to me thanks to God. The nursery became our Prayer Room. A place where we go to God with the big and small, doubts and worries, struggles and thanksgiving. We’re going to start filling this emptiness, cleaning up the mess, and continue to write our story no matter how unfinished it may seem through prayer.

Courtesy Kailey Clymer

As we draw closer to the date of Cayden’s death one year ago, I can admit the nursery is not my favorite place to be in our home. How could it be, when I’ve had mornings where I was perched up against the wall in there staring at new clothes in the closet, sobbing? When I’ve been in the fetal position in the middle of the floor clenching the teddy bear that was in Cayden’s casket at our 3-person funeral viewing? Where I’ve stood at the window in the dark, gazing out at the stars pretending I was up late at night soothing my son to sleep? So, no it is not my favorite place to be, but even though Cayden couldn’t grow in here, I have.

Courtesy Kailey Clymer

We’ve made some minor changes which helped give a fresh start, displaying his memory box and belongings on the changing table, and I vacuum in there every once in a while. In fact, we are about to put the crib together for the first time so my baby nephew can comfortably stay over on the one-year anniversary of Cayden’s death. Talk about filling emptiness! I am also in the process of gathering ideas to create a picture wall of scripture versus, quotes, and photos of Cayden. I can’t believe it took me one year to get to this point, but I also can. It’s a tough journey that no piece of wall art or new carpet can erase. But by doing these small things, I’ve found that it keeps your heart moving forward (never moving on), and your eyes looking upward.

Courtesy Kailey Clymer
Courtesy Kailey Clymer

Grieving mother, father, family member, friend, you may have to avoid the nursery like I did for a little while. Maybe you even have to move out of your home? You have to do what is best for you, your family, and your heart on any given day. But please, do not keep tossing your grief, sadness, depression, and anger in that room and locking the door. There comes a point when we have to open it to let air in, and most of all, the light. The day will come when you will find strength to do it. Because that little child walked into your life, and it is up to us to leave his or her footprints all over ours.

No matter how dark and empty my days or that nursery may seem, this little light of mine [insert Jesus, Cayden, your child’s name] I’m gonna let it shine!”

Courtesy Kailey Clymer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kailey Clymer, 29, of Pennsylvania. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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