A Child Life Specialist from the NICU came up to visit with us as well, to provide support, advice, and recommendations on how to best share the loss of a baby with the other children in the home. We talked a lot about Isabel and Josiah and where they each are developmentally. She provided us with some recommendations on what language to use and also provided us with some really helpful children's books that are written specifically to help siblings deal with the loss of a new baby who they were expecting to come home and live with them. After reviewing all the information she provided, Luke and I talked privately and decided ultimately, especially for Isabel, that it would be good to have them come and meet baby Abbie in person, to be able to see her, touch her, hold her, and have that physical memory and photographs to help them continue to process this loss as they grow.
Our wonderful nanny, Kalli, brought the kids up to the hospital in the evening, and left them with us for awhile so we could have some private time as a family of five. We knew Josiah's attention span would be shorter, so Kalli stayed at the hospital and took him back from us after a little bit, so we could spend some additional time with Isabel explaning the events of the day to her at her level and answer any questions that she might have. This extra time was really helpful to have with our firstborn daughter and her curious spirit.
Isabel's was thrilled to learn that she had a baby sister (she had been convinced from day one that the baby was a girl!), and then when we explained that Abbie was just too little and sick and that she wouldn't be coming home with us and instead went to live with Jesus right away, Isabel crumbled into a solid few minutes of sobbing (which made my tears flow also). We gently assured her that Abbie was in a better place, and we would see her again one day when we are all in heaven. This seemed to help her. Isabel has a very vivid picture of heaven in her mind, and talks about it often. She is convinced it will be filled with all the things a little girl would love...princesses, mermaids, Barbies, etc. So I told her that when we are all there someday, she will get to show Abbie everything and they can play together as sisters. I look forward to seeing that day, when Isabel gets to be a big sister to Abbie the way she has been dreaming of doing for the past 5 months since we have known a new baby was coming.
Isabel wanted to see all of Abbie's body parts (her arms, her feet, her tummy, her back, her bottom) - almost as if she wanted to make sure she was a real baby and not a very lifelike doll. This reinforced our decision to have her meet Abbie physically, because we would not have been able to answer these types of questions had Abbie not been there with us. At the end of our visit, Isabel held Abbie and sat beside me in the bed while I read her the book Something Happened, which is a children's book written for families who have experienced the loss of a baby. The words in this book were very soothing to my heart, Luke's heart, and hopefully Isabel's heart as well. When Luke took the kids home for bed that evening, he once again read this book separately to each of them, helping them to each understand about their baby sister in their own unique way. We have been told by many that children grieve over weeks and months just like adults, so we will continue to help each of our children process our loss for as long as they need us to.
As a friend reminded me last night during our time of prayer, I am now, and always will be, a mother of three children. We will honor Abigaile's memory by continuing to teach our children about the love we have for her, as they grow older and we experience all the joy that there is to come in watching the two of them grow and live their lives. Isabel, Josiah, and Abbie have all been true blessings to us, and we are proud and humbled to have been chosen to be their parents. For God to have entrusted these precious ones to us for a time, when He loves them even more than we can understand or fathom, is truly an amazing thing.
Love and blessings,
The Christenson Family