As soon as Fr. Bill Young arrived (previous pastor -St. Thomas More, current at St. Vincent De Paul - houston, tx), Mitch and I took him in to meet our girl. Fr. Bill blessed her first. And as we surrounded her nicu box, Fr. Bill held her feet, and studied her stats. He asked for all the details, which we spared none and we shared why we'd called him there, since she had already been baptized. We did as we knew to do...seek wise counsel. We knew in our hearts what God was asking of us..but we also needed the reassurance of someone wiser than us. I just remember Fr. Bill saying..."this is not what God wants for her life. This is not what He wants for YOUR life. You can let her go. You can feel no guilt about the right thing here. The technology is here to prolong her life, but what kind of life will that be. no...she can go home now. " Mitch let out a sob. I turned to him, pulled myself to his side. It was like he had been holding his breath the whole time, and as Fr. released us from our burdens of feeling like we were giving up on her, not fighting for her hard enough, Mitch could finally breathe. I saw the pain of what was to come as well as the relief of not having to watch her suffer any longer..all in that moment.
*mitch's baby sister, Melissa, died on his 14th birthday, of Leukemia. She was 12. I know the memory of her life and the memories that he missed getting with her was wrapped up in this pain. God gave the milbrandt family a little joy back when our first boy, Travis, was born ON Mitch's birthday, and Melissa's resurrection day, 19 years later.
We walked Fr. Bill out and met all those still waiting to say their goodbyes to us. We hugged everyone, told them we'd update them as the night went on. It was around 4pm, as best i can recall. My mom, mitch and i walked down, got some chickfila, and headed to our room to talk about the plan for the coming hours. Mitch made sure i was settled in the room and then told me he was going down to spend some time with Cana alone. I hadn't realized it, but up until that point, mitch still hadn't had ANY time alone with his daughter. That broke my heart. He left me with my mom, we ate. I asked her if she could understand, we needed to do this..just mitch and I. We didn't want other family in the room with us. We needed to let her go..together. just the two of us. She understood completely. Said she'd had a full hour alone with her, told her goodbye. I was grateful she was so supportive of our decision. I called my dad, and he was getting ready to head back out to see us. I told him no. He breathed a sigh of relief. My dad hates funerals, and hated that we had to have the memory of letting her go and all that would mean for us...and what it would look like. but he didn't want the memory himself. I free'd him of it. Told him I'd call him later with updates.
Around 620, i headed down to NICU. I walked my mom to the elevator, and walked myself, alone to do the inevitable. I remember time slowing down. I remember all the noise evaporating. I remember everything i saw, clearer, and at the same time, i remember nothing but the carpet beneath my feet. Alone in the hallway, my heart spoke to God's. I felt peace, i felt anxiety. I felt relief, i felt...fear. I felt alone. I felt His presence. I felt weak. I felt like i was floating the entire way there. I felt like I had cement cinder blocks around my ankles. I felt everything. But i felt nothing.
"God...i do NOT want to do this. I miss the "burden" of not wanting to go work out. I miss the burden of not wanting to get up early in mornings. I missed what i thought was the hard stuff in life. But this...this was unfathomable. To have to turn off a machine and watch my child, my baby, who not 2 days prior was safely within my belly, to watch her breathe her last breath. How was i going to DO THIS? I don't WANT this memory, Lord." Never before was i more in line with Christ and His cross. Never was it clearer to me, that i was suffering WITH Christ. I was right in the garden. I was sweating blood. I was begging God...if it be your will Lord, PLEASE let this cup pass before me. I CAN’T do this.....and He said "not without me, you can't."
I got to NICU, and held Mitch's hand and they began the process of moving us to the private room. it took a while, about 20 minutes. By now, it was around 6:50pm, just before shift change. Our nurse amber, took me to a room as they were getting Cana ready to be moved, and let me pick out a gown she could wear, that had been donated to NICU, so we could have the memory of seeing her in a dress. So we could take pictures of her. Also, while we were gone, they did a cast, a mold of her hands a feet. She still had some of the white casting clay on her hands, under her nails. They took us into the private room, and we turned off as many machines as we could without hurting her...we left her oxygen on as long as possible. We dressed her in the dress and took pictures. I've held back on posting those...and haven't shown hardly anyone in the family because to me, the Trisomy was fully noticable and she didn't look the same as the day before. Also, because i wasn't able to breastfeed her, the jaundice was really taking hold and she was very yellow. I don't see much of the life in her as i'd seen previously. So it's hard for me to look at these. But i wanted to assure you, all the pics you see here, every pic ever taken of her, she was alive in them all. And for that, i'm so grateful.
Amber asked us if we wanted her to stay. We didn't want to make her..she had a family of her own. Looking back, i wish we had let her stay. Since we opted for comfort care, they gave her some meds, and ....this is the hardest part,....this is when we feel she really left us. It all happened so fast. Mitch held her first, i took some pics. We were just talking to her, kissing her, praying the Our Father, and the Hail Mary. We had asked them to turn off the heart monitor so we didn't have to hear it flat line. They had it on outside the room. Amber left, we thought. About 5 minutes later, she came in...and said "it's happening faster than we'd imagined. She's going...." Mitch and I broke..."please...give her to me." Without a flinch, she was in my arms...
"cana. we love you. we love you so much. you. are. perfect. I'm sorry you didn't get to meet your big brother. pray for him. pray for all of us. You run to Jesus, baby girl. you RUN to Him. You don't have to stay here. We love you enough to send you home. I'm so glad you get to go. I'm so glad you stayed with us so long. I'm so grateful we got to meet you. You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful. "
I kept my fingers on her chest. I couldn't see it moving up and down, she wasn't breathing. but i could feel her heartbeat....every so often. After a while, she took one last gasp....and the heart beats stopped. It was around 740pm. A nurse came in, and apologized for interrupting. He said he needed to check her, that they were no longer getting a heart beat on the monitor. He put a stethescope on her and confirmed it was just more like "electrical firing" than beating. She was gone. He stood there for what felt like a full minute, just awkwardly waiting for...we don't know what...so i asked him "are you calling it? i need to know the official time." He said yes. It was 745.
We stayed with her for a bit. Sometimes i wish we'd stayed longer. Sometimes i am assured we stayed just the right amount. But we both felt holding her now was just...too hard. She was gone. God's mercy was present. God gave us everything we'd asked for. A full term pregnancy, a live and natural birth, great doctors, a baptism, wise counsel, an end to her suffering, a peace that we loved her right back to His arms.