It is really not easy for me to share this story, which ends with the loss of our baby. I just hope it will help to share. Maybe it will just help me, maybe it will help others, too.
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In spite of exclusively breastfeeding our first born, only four months after he was born, I unexpectedly became pregnant again. It was during this pregnancy that we moved south to be closer to our parents. When we first came to town we moved into a room in the house of an elderly lady. Family Man’s mom made the arrangements for us. It had its own bathroom and we shared a kitchen with the woman and her copiously shedding black cat. This black cat lived in the kitchen where it had access to the attic through a hole in the ceiling of the pantry.

I kid you not, everything in the kitchen had a fuzz of black cat hair all over it, from the stove, to the spoons and pans, to the inside of the refrigerator. And the elderly lady, a Buddhist by practice, would secretly smoke cigarettes in her room, believing that no one knew any better because she had lost her sense of smell and did not realize how it stank! Still, we were putting up with all of this and planning on staying there for a while. The rent was as much as we felt we could afford, and everything else here was much more expensive. However, as our land lady explained to us, after we had been there for half the summer, we could only stay until the end of August. Apparently that was the deal from the beginning and we just hadn’t been made aware of it. We were shocked! Family Man and I had been planning on working and saving money here. That plan would never come to pass.

When August ended we had to move out. We moved up the hill, into the dark basement-like downstairs apartment of a couple, a doctor and an EMT, who had a daughter the same age as our son.

When our baby was ten months old, right before we moved, I weaned him. I feel a little sad about it still, thinking about how young he was. I myself was only breastfed until six months of age, so at least I had surpassed that, but I still think he might have been too young. I had just turned 25, and I was six months pregnant with our second baby and being forced to move due to circumstances that were beyond my control.

Our new rental, on top of never getting any direct light and always being dark and cold, was also three times as much as we had been paying to rent that room. We really did not know how we were going to get by, but here we were in the town where Family Man was happily raised. We had his parents to babysit and Family Man had work house painting. We decided to try and give it a go.

No rest for the weary, as they say. Soon after we had moved – was it too much stress? – my body went into labor. I was only 26 or 27 weeks along in this pregnancy. I was first taken to Marin General Hospital, where they were unable to stop the onset of contractions, so I was transferred to the medical hospital at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) which has facilities for babies born extremely premature. After one night at UCSF, a sad reality began to unfold from which it is obviously far too late now to escape. If only… Family Man and our son, only 11 months old, had been at the hospital with me all night long. My sister and my dad had arrived, too. From my perspective, everything was stable, the contractions had not stopped, but they had not increased overnight either. It was early in the morning and no doctors had been by to check on me yet. I told Family Man he should get our child  out of the hospital and take him home to his parents, at least. The two of them left. That was our first mistake.

I should explain that I had found a midwife to help me deliver this baby, but I had found her late in my pregnancy and did not know her well. I opted to not ask her to come assist me in the hospital when I went into early labor, because the truth was, I felt like we just could not afford it. Our money situation was really tight after our forced move. This decision to not get the help of our midwife I regret as much as anything else which might have altered the ultimate outcome. That was our second mistake.

Late in the morning, the doctors finally showed up in my room. They claimed that my contractions could not be stopped and I would need an emergency cesarean section to save the baby from potential prolapsed cord during a vaginal birth. With no midwife and no Family Man I was at the mercy of the doctors with only my dad and sister for support. I was handed a release form to sign for the c-section. I recall so vividly, my hand holding the pen poised over the paper, I said out loud, “I do not want to sign this.” I should have refused. I should have waited. This was my third mistake.

My heart aches and my tears are flowing as I try to write this now, six and half years later. I did sign the form. I did have the emergency cesarean. My sister stayed with me during the operation. We called Family Man, who dropped our son off with his parents, turned around and came straight back to the hospital. I think he arrived around the time I was done in surgery. Our precious preemie was hooked up to life support and put in an incubator in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We named him Judah Aves. He was tiny, like a little newborn bird. He weighed just under two pounds. He lived for ten days. We spent as much time as we could in the NICU watching him, talking to him, singing to him. I only got to hold him twice.

Mom holding newborn baby Judah Aves

We got all the grandparents a pass to see him, in the NICU, when he was one week old.   When he was ten days old, Family Man and I came to the hospital in the morning. The nurses told me my dad had come the night before to see him, using the pass he had. My dad had stayed for a few hours. I called him to find out why he had come without asking me first, I did not really get a satisfactory answer. Though I know my dad’s actions came from a place of love, I still felt hurt and violated. This was my baby, most delicate and precious creature; I wanted to make choices for him, to mother him to the fullest, but I would not get to make any choices for him. I could not save him. That day our baby Judah died. The nurses let me hold him, for the second time, and after a short while, his heartbeat (as indicated by the monitors) was slowing. The nurses put him back in the incubator. I should have held him close to me. He was leaving us and neither of his parents nor any of the nurses or doctors could stop it. Family Man and I stood together watching him as life left his little body.

He was a perfect tinier version of our first son. A blessing that left almost as soon as it was given, leaving us bereft and heartbroken. Nothing of the birth or life affixed to machines had gone according to our wishes or desires. We wanted to go back and change everything. And we just had to let go.

Judah Aves was buried in the church cemetery with a pretty view of the lagoon around which the road curves, coming into town. It was sad to think of his ten days of life being such a struggle, but as I told the nurses, he spent six whole beautiful months growing inside me, as close as two people could ever be, so that was what I chose to focus on, in the end.

And we had to just let go.

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