I Left The Hospital With a Box Instead of My Baby

a box

We left the hospital with a box.

I went into the hospital when I was 28 weeks pregnant. I was there for monitoring and bedrest. I was there to deliver my baby. She would most likely be early, but I was assured she would be fine.

At 30 weeks pregnant, I found out she was gone. They told me there was no more heartbeat. She was dead–stillborn. So, after my baby left forever they gave me a box. A white box with a green bow containing a few of her belongings.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

We were supposed to leave with a baby–a living, breathing, adorable baby. A baby to take home and love and raise. One that we would watch grow up into a toddler and a child and a teenager.

But we left with a box.

A box filled with beautiful keepsakes that I didn’t ask for. They were not what we wanted and they were all we had left. I resented that box. I wanted nothing to do with that box.

Who could ever want a box when they were supposed to have a baby?

It didn’t matter how beautiful the items were or how thoughtful the intention. All that mattered was I entered the hospital expecting to bring home a baby and I left with a box.

That box felt all wrong in my hands, but still, I couldn’t put it down. It was all that was left of the life we lost. It was all we had left of our baby who died. There was nothing in that box that I wanted but it represented all I had ever dreamed of.

We left with a box.

Not a baby. Not our child. But with a box.

No one smiles at you when you leave the hospital carrying a box. No one really looks at you. Or maybe they do, but you can’t be sure. It’s hard to look at anyone when your arms feel so empty and life feels so uncertain.

I didn’t want that box.

I wanted my baby. I wanted to leave the hospital with my baby. I wanted to place her carefully in the car. I wanted to carry her through the doorway of our home. I wanted to set her down in our crib. I wanted to begin our new life together.

But I came home with a box.

A box that I hated and loved all at once. I hate what it stands for and I love that it belongs to her. I hate that it exists and I love that it reminds me I’m not alone. It’s a box I never wanted and one that I will carry with me forever.

So to the people who say they can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child, I say this: Think about what it was like to bring home your baby and imagine what it would feel like to bring home a box instead.


This post originally appeared at An Unexpected Family Outing, published with permission.

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Rachel Whalen is a writer and Kindergarten teacher who lives in Vermont. She is the mother of two daughters; 2-year-old Frances and Dorothy who was stillborn in 2016. Since Dorothy's death, Rachel has used her writing to advocate for others who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. Her writing has been widely shared by Still Standing magazine, Pregnancy After Loss Support, the Today Show, and Her View From Home. In sharing her story, Rachel hopes that she can let others know they are not alone in their heartbreak and their love for their child. Connect with Rachel on Facebook, and see more of her writing on her blog.