Every mom dreams of holding their child. The first cry, the first skin to skin, the first nap on mom’s chest. I hear all the time women say, “hold them while they’re still little.” There are arguments about holding and rocking your children to bed when they really should be self soothing. You wonder what is right. I always thought I’d be the mom who sleep trained and was more carefree. Now that I’ve lost a child, I can’t imagine that will be the case.

When I served as a chaplain I was able to see these first moments in the least opportune ways. I saw mom’s hold their children for the first time when the child was already a few weeks old. I saw children so fragile that a wrong twitch could send them into cardiac arrest. Out of all these experiences, the most difficult one to see was mom’s hold their children for the last time. I worked on the quality of life team where we provided pediatric palliative care. I became all too familiar with the physician telling parents, “It’s time to hold.” We all knew what it meant. It was time to hold their child while they transitioned from this earth to heaven.

Holding your child while they die is a parents worst nightmare. As I’ve continued to process the loss of our pregnancy I’ve connected with other moms who have children who were born still. These are children who passed in the womb and the parents gave birth and held their precious bodies as they clung to wishes and dreams and processed the greatest loss. I can’t imagine what these parents must have gone through.

I’ve wondered what this means for parents like us. We’re the parents who had children who died early in the womb and with whom we’ll never hold in our arms. This isn’t better or worse than a child born still, it’s just different. It’s still the loss of a child. I’ve tried to process what it means that my child died and how that is connected to a child passing in their parents arms. Maybe my child didn’t die in my arms, and isn’t it still possible that I held them within my body? Maybe a doctor didn’t deliver my child and place them on my chest, but didn’t I still keep them safe as they went to be with Jesus?

I never had a doctor tell me “It’s time to hold.” I didn’t get a heads up. I didn’t know when my child was passing. I only know now that they are gone and that I kept them safe and loved up until their last moments. I know that I’ll love that little sweet pea forever. I know that their dad and I will spend the rest of our lives knowing that that baby was held tight and that through the worst of situations and even my own death, God will hold me too.

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