Told by: Tara
To tell the birth story of Jared, I really have to start much earlier. I have always known that I would not have children…not because I didn’t want to, but because I have PCOS which causes infertility or at the least, makes conception very, very rare. I knew that I could get pregnant, since as a teenager I had an early miscarriage. Because those who suffer with PCOS have very sporadic periods, I can’t say exactly how far along I was, but by inspecting the baby, I would say I was between four and six weeks pregnant. A couple years later, as a young married woman, I had another early miscarriage, again, about the same time frame. Another three years later, and I had an anembryonic pregnancy, which lasted about 3-4 months. Again, it’s hard to say exactly, without knowing exactly when one’s period is going to happen, and then even when it does, being fertile doesn’t mean “14 days later”. That being said, I knew it was possible to become pregnant, but the likelihood was less than a 1% chance for me and my circumstances. My husband and I resolved ourselves to knowing we’d be one of the childless couples who long to have children. My husband and I were married for eight years when I settled into the fact that we weren’t going to have children (that is better read, I gave up on God, thinking that it was not something that He meant for us). So I gave up and resigned myself to this knowledge. I truly began to think of it as a good thing…it was so convenient for us to simply “pick-up-and-go” whenever we wished. Moving was easy. Camping was easy. We weren’t like others our age (and younger) who had multiple children, who had to arrange for babysitters and schooling and bigger cars, etc, etc. It was just us. No kids, no pets. Easy. Simple. From the beginning of 2011, I became sick. Not with any illness I could put my finger on, just “under the weather”. Nauseated and tired all the time. This is not normal for me. I don’t get sick. I can go years without getting any sort of cold or flu. We celebrated our 13th anniversary in January. My husband booked a hotel and flights to southern Nevada. I was sick the entire time. Not very romantic. I slept most of the time. And when I wasn’t sleeping, I was just not feeling well. In late February, when I still wasn’t feeling any better, he suggested that maybe I was pregnant. Yeah, right. He knew better. We can’t get pregnant, remember? But to ease his mind, I went to the grocery store and got a test. The next morning, March first, I got up at 4 am to test (that was my normal wake-up time). I swear that was the longest 3 minutes of my life! The stick didn’t lie: two lines. I went into the bedroom and woke my husband up. “Well, that thing in the bathroom says we’re pregnant.” That woke him right up. After an initial day of absolute shock, he became the happiest man I have ever seen, he literally had a spring in his step and a permanent grin on his face. He told everyone at work. We both worked at the same company, so suddenly I had all these people coming up to me to congratulate me. It was overwhelming at first, but I got into the groove of things. This time, we knew within a week or so of when I got pregnant, since I had been charting my periods since 2003. We knew my last period was the last day of November, so we probably got pregnant the middle of December. One of the women at work was also pregnant and we joked that we were within days of one another and wondered who would have their child first. My husband and I tend to be pretty natural-minded people. I did not go to a doctor. I was going to have this baby at home. No ultrasounds. No doctors. Nothing unnatural, after all, God designed a woman’s body to birth. I did everything right. I read many, many books and blogs. I talked in great length with a friend of mine who shares much of the same mindset as we do. She had one of her children, unassisted and at home. Just her. I wanted that kind of empowering birth. I may have done everything physically right, but emotionally, I wasn’t excited about having a child at my age. Remember I said that I got used to it just being me and my husband? I liked our lifestyle. I wasn’t resentful; I just wasn’t on cloud nine like my husband. It was what it was. I was pregnant and our lives were about to change big time. Near the middle of April, I was starting to get into it, though. That was when I came to realize that while waiting for God to bless us with a child for so long, I had truly just given up on Him and built a wall around my heart to protect me from the constant ache of wanting children. To protect my arms from the constant ache of wanting to hold my children. It was with this realization that I came to completely fall in love with the baby growing inside me. To see the miracle of what he was (for I knew he was a boy). I enjoyed my husband’s change in attitude. Normally he’s upbeat and cheerful, but now it was like joy on steroids! It was contagious to everyone around us. So I fell in love with our baby. I began to see myself as a mother, not just a wife. I reinvented myself, so to speak. I looked forward to a beautiful natural birth and raising our child. I hoped that this baby would open my womb, in a manner, to make way for many more children. People were always asking if we had picked out names yet. No, we hadn’t. We had months to go, after all. No rush. Yet strangely, on the 19th of April, I was sitting around, not really doing or thinking anything in particular and the name “Jared James” randomly came to my mind. Yes, I thought. That is what I will call this baby. I didn’t tell my husband, but kept it to myself. I began praying for our baby by that name. On the 21st of April, I was sitting on the toilet. I thought that I needed a bowel movement, but nothing was really happening. I pushed a few times, since I had been a little constipated for the last week or so. While I was sitting there I felt something pushing into my vagina. It was not a bowel movement, but I needed to go. I freaked. Something wasn’t right. Put my finger inside and felt something thin and rubbery pushing down. I pushed back with my finger while doing the strongest Kegel I’ve ever done. Whatever it was pushed back up. There was some bright red blood after that, but not a lot. Now, what I thought had happened, I had heard before that some pregnant women, if they are constipated might push too hard and their bowel can push through into the vagina, since the skin separating the vagina and colon is super thin. I read that those women who experience it are able to push the colon back on the right side of the wall, by doing just exactly what I did. So, I was a little freaked out by that and refused to go to the bathroom again until it was an absolute “emergency”. I ate a bunch of fiber foods. My husband was worried, but we both thought that it was the same thing. That was pretty late at night (for us – like 6pm), so we went to bed shortly after that. The next morning, I went to work, but I wasn’t feeling very good. My guts were uncomfortable. I thought it was because I had to poo so bad but was holding it. I had eaten nothing but fibery stuff for breakfast. I did actually end up going to the bathroom at work and it was a normal (albeit, soft) stool. But I thought maybe I kinda overdid the fiber and gave myself a gut-ache. To be safe, I decided that if I still felt bad on Monday (since the 22nd was a Friday) then I would go to a doctor. While I was sitting at my desk, I was really uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit upright. I had to lean way back in my chair, which made typing difficult. I stuck it out until about 9 or 10 am then I told my manager that I was going home. I told my husband and he asked his manager if he could go home too. She said yes. We came home and I laid back in my recliner for the rest of the day, since that was the most comfortable position. When I would get up to go to the bathroom, there was always blood, but not a lot. I was feeling really “crampy” like when I have diarrhea. If I knew better, I would have realized that the “cramps” were coming in intervals. They were not strong, but they were painful. My lower back was hurting too. I stuck it out all day long. My husband was concerned, but we really did not think that anything crazy was happening. We just thought that the blood was a reaction from my colon being pushed into my vagina like that. When we went to bed, I lay down and that made me more uncomfortable. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom even more. I went in and sat down and that thing pushed down again. This time, I was not able to push it back. I became pretty scared because I thought that my colon was just going to fall out of me or something. I told my husband we needed to go to the hospital. Fortunately, we live 7 blocks from the hospital, so we drove right over there. I was crying and in pain. I was trying to hold what I thought was my guts inside my body. I was so scared. We went into the ER. When the ladies at the front desk asked if I was pregnant, I said yes. When they asked how far along, I said I didn’t know but probably 18-20 weeks. They put me in a wheelchair and literally ran me up to the maternity. I kept thinking, why am I being taken to the maternity ward? There’s nothing wrong with my baby, but my guts are falling out of me! The cramps were coming so strong and I was crying out every time one hit, which was very frequent. I’d say they were less than a minute apart. They took me into a room and asked me to get on the bed; all I wanted was for my pants to come off because they felt like they were impeding me. The doctor came in less than a minute later. The first thing I remember him saying was “we’ve got a baby coming out”. At that point, I think I went into shock. It was way too early. My baby could NOT be coming yet! I’ve never seen a nurse put an IV in so quickly before. I was crying and just looking into my husband’s eyes. I felt like I let him down. Like I’d failed him. He held onto my hand and just looked back into my eyes, glancing down between my legs every minute or so. With his other hand he stroked my hair. I remember crying and saying over and over “not again” remembering the previous miscarriages and the anembryonic one in particular. The doctor asked me what I meant by “not again” and had I had other babies. I said not like this, not like this. The doctor told me to give a little push and then a minute or so later to give a big push. The baby was born feet-first and in the sack, so the last big push was for his head. The doctor examined the baby for a minute or so, and told us that there was nothing they could do, it was too soon. The baby was alive, with a beating heart, so they cut his cord and handed him to me. I remember begging the doctor, if there was anything they could do for him. In that moment, as I looked into his beautiful face, I realized that I would do anything for this baby, my son. They let me hold him. One of the nurses checked his heartbeat every five or ten minutes. Somewhere in there, they told me to push really hard, to get the placenta out. They pushed on my stomach really hard, but it didn’t all come out. The doctor tried to manually remove the last bits that wouldn’t come out, but he couldn’t. My son lived for 33 minutes after I gave birth to him. He did not fight. He looked so peaceful and beautiful. He weighed 9.8 ounces and was 9.75 inches long. He looked perfect to us. At one point one of the nurses asked me if he had a name, I looked at my husband and then back to her and said through tears, I had thought to call him Jared. After a minute, my husband said that he wanted to call him Jared James…the very name that I had thought of just 3 days earlier. The doctor and nurses left us for a while, I think they gave me something to help expel the last of the placenta. I’m not really sure because I was in shock and everything is pretty hazy. I just remember staring at my little boy and then at his daddy and then back again. And crying and crying. After some time, the doctor came in and said that we needed to get that placenta out because I was bleeding way too much. He tried to remove it manually again, because I had expressed that I do not agree with surgery for my own body. He was able to touch the placenta but could not grab it to remove it. He pleaded that I let him do a D&C to remove it. My husband told me that I needed to agree. He didn’t want to lose me too. So I signed the paperwork and they took me to the OR. When I woke up, I was in the birthing room again. The nurses had taken Jared away to make hand and feet prints on his live birth certificate. They also made little foam imprints in the shape of hearts. One for his hands. One for his feet. They put a little tiny knit hat on his head and wrapped him in a warm blanket. They brought him back to us and said we could stay as long as we wanted. Jared’s daddy laid out on long chair thing and tried to sleep and I lay with our son and got some sleep on and off. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was looking at Jared, crying, always crying. Sometimes his daddy would hold him and he was crying so hard. When the nurse had first handed Jared to me, and I looked at his face for the first time, I felt something burst in my heart. It was love. It was a love that I didn’t even know existed. It was the love of one’s child. When he died, I felt that love in my heart as if it were attached to a string and that string was going further and further away from me. I didn’t know such love was possible. And as I was giving birth, and I was looking into my husband’s eyes, saying I’m sorry, I fell in love with my husband all over again. A deeper love than I had ever had for him before. He tells me that it was the same for him. That he fell deeper into love with me too that night. So while we lost our son that night, meeting and saying goodbye in just a few short hours, we also gained something as well. We gained love in ways we never knew was possible. When it was finally time to walk out of that room, it was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. We wanted to take him with us, but since he was born live, the law says we can’t. It was so hard to walk out of that room. A photographer had come and had taken pictures of Jared, for free. She was so gentle and loving as she moved him. She showed so much respect. The nurses were also so kind. They cried with us and told us what a beautiful son we had. That he was the smallest, most perfect baby they’d ever seen. They might say that to everyone, but it meant a lot at the time. Since the hospital is a religious hospital, the staff generally are religious themselves, and it really showed. Our two nurses wrote us a card and told us that they would be praying for us. The doctor is Catholic and he said that he also would pray for us. Even the anesthesiologist was kind and gentle. You could see in each one of their eyes that they had empathy for us. It was healing in a way, since neither my husband nor I have trusted the medical field because of previous horrible experiences. Jared’s incredibly short life has taught us so much. Since then, we’ve found out that I have an incompetent cervix, which is why we lost him. We also learned that I have a blood-clotting disorder. We have learned to love deeper than ever before. People we never knew cared have reached out to us. Some that we thought were friends have abandoned us. We have an empathy and sympathy for other parents who have lost children. We have learned to lean on others more. We have learned how to grieve in a healthy way. And a greater trust has been placed in our God.
Tara’s artwork, entitled Grief, can be found at stillbirthday’s Beyond Words section.
A photo of Jared is held with babies who reached 20 gestational weeks. You can click the link to see these photos.