My family has nicknamed the day after Brielle was born as “picture day.” This was the day that the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer came. We had a bittersweet time taking pictures of Brielle. This picture is of my Dad holding Brielle in one of her pretty dresses (Lauren gave us this one).
“The night before a girl with Rachel’s gift had come in and talked to us about things and she had swaddled Brielle very well. I kept wondering if Brielle would have really liked that, she liked swimming so much, but I couldn’t ask Brielle what she wanted. I may never know what she would have preferred.
Chris (the bereavement coordinator) talked to us about Rachel’s gift stuff. She made sure we were being taken care of and came to do molds of Brielle’s hands as well. I believe Jamie showed up while Chris was there. (Brielle’s hands had become stiff after she died and were hard to get molds of. By the next day her hands were soft again. I kept her warm because I snuggled her so much and it made her limber again.) Chris did a beautiful job with the molds and her hands came out wonderfully. She had to get two molds because Brielle’s hands were so big for a little baby. She would have been a very tall girl! Jamie stayed a while and talked with us, she loved on Brielle and commented on how beautiful she was and then left to get back to her job.
I would nap a lot and would sleep with Brielle. (Personally, I’m not a big fan of co-sleeping, but I figured there wasn’t any harm in this case, Brielle was already dead.) And nothing made me happier than to have her in the crook of my arm. I’d wake up and see her sweet little face, I’d rub her cheeks, and squeeze her closer to me. Both Chris and Jamie had commented on how limber Brielle was and how warm and wonderful it was that my warmth and love had kept Brielle feeling alive.
My family arrived in the early afternoon. Everyone loved on Brielle and held her when they got to the room. When the photographer arrived we started with Brielle’s bath. Mom and Grandma helped a little, but David and I did as much as we could. Mom and Tessa had positioned the bathing stuff on my food table as close to me as possible. I moved to the edge of my bed and David and I began her bath.
We washed her little chest and started on her face. Her face took a lot of time and work, I hadn’t anticipated that. I got her hair and face clean and cleaning off the blood revealed the most beautiful dirty blonde hair. It had little strands of gold in it, it’s precious. It was long too, like two inches! And had the sweetest curls. I was mesmerized. Her poor brain was in such rough shape. Her head had not developed well at all. She had maybe 5-10% of her brain (frontal lobe, although it looked like there were multiple lobes inside). You could even see straight through to the brain stem. Her brain and head are beautiful. And it amazed me that she was capable of so much and yet had so little brain matter to work with. It really boggles my mind.
After I’d cleaned her face, we put her in the basin and cleaned off her front side. David did such a good job and was very gentle. Mom was a huge help too and helped support Brielle as we worked. I thought Brielle looked adorable in the basin. The way she laid there made her look like a baby in a hot tub. I washed her little back and David did his best with her little bottom. I helped him with that. She has the cutest booty.
Grandma helped on my side to bathe Brielle and put her strawberry lotion on. Grandma was so tender and gentle with her. I appreciated it so much. I put on her pink diaper and requested pictures of her in the diaper. I know that may seem like such a small thing, but it’s those small things that I miss doing with her. After that we took pictures in her pink bloomers and her silk bonnet. It was a good thing we had that slightly too big diaper too. Brielle’s butt is so tiny it wouldn’t fit properly in the bloomers, she needed some padding!
She looked absolutely beautiful in her bloomers and bonnet! She took my breath away. It made me happy to see her in her outfit. I had dreamed of how cute she’d be in both of those things. She was then changed into her ballet outfit. That was a tight squeeze! Her legs are so long that she really didn’t fit into her preemie outfits. Mom and Grandma had to change her into her outfits, I just couldn’t do it by myself. The photographer helped pose and position her. We took a picture with the Silver Slippers book (the first book she liked) and she looked darling. It broke David’s heart to see that his little girl wouldn’t get to wear these clothes alive.
She was then changed into her white lace preemie outfit with her white micro preemie hat. She had such a tiny head. That outfit fit the same and they had to really squeeze her in. I put my necklace with the heart pieces that Emily gave me around her neck. We took pictures in this outfit with all of her special gifts. Her quilt and blankets from the ladies at church, her special toys that had been gifted to her, her special jewelry, etc. She looked so precious. The photographer left after that and said she’d get the pictures back to us and they’d all be in black and white. Dad also took a lot of pictures and I’m excited to see those.
After she left we continued pictures. We took one more set of pictures of Brielle in her mermaid outfit. That was so cute! I loved her in her sea shells. Grandma and Mom had to bend her legs and were very thankful that her butt was so tiny, otherwise she wouldn’t have fit into her mermaid tail! Brielle has such long legs, arms, feet, and hands. She would have been tall. I love that about her. She has such a strong body. I held her in her mermaid outfit and I smiled so much. She looked amazing in it and it made me happy. It also made me really sad. I remembered our Halloween together and how I had dreamed she’d be alive in this outfit.
Then we took pictures of Brielle in her white wedding gown/burial dress (this is not the dress we used at the funeral) that Lauren had given us. It was very princess looking. But it didn’t fit Brielle! Her shoulders are too broad to fit into that little dress! I thought that was hilarious, Brielle would have been a strong girl! Grandma and Mom did their best to fit her into it. Her bonnet, everything, just looked beautiful on her. I am one proud Mama! We all took pictures with her in that outfit. I’m glad we did, that outfit was just gorgeous on her. It also broke my heart, and it broke David’s heart to see her like that. So beautiful, but so sad because she’s gone. So many dreams and plans we wanted to share with her and they’re gone.
My family left not long after that to have dinner. Grandma was going home the next morning, so she said her goodbyes to Brielle, David, and I. She was beyond wonderful with Brielle. She had helped Mom with the house and Bernice and she was tender and loving to Brielle. She would say things like, “Come here sweet girl, you poor baby, beautiful little girl” etc. She would fuss over Brielle and speak so sweetly and gently to her. She teared up and cried more than I’ve seen her do in my whole life (Grandma isn’t the emotional type). We all saw a side of Grandma that we had never seen before. And I was sad to see Grandma go, it was really nice having her here. It meant a lot to see how much she loved Brielle.”
(Some of Brielle’s pictures from her picture day, where we dressed her up in her cute outfits and took pictures together as a family. Pictures by the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer will be labeled NILMDTS. Dad touched up Brielle’s skin in a lot of these pictures to even out the mottling. Fun fact, he used my skin in the pictures to even it out, Brielle and I had the exact same skin tone.)