As she opens her journal, Jessica Garbacz recalls why she wrote in it in the first place. She never wanted to forget the details surrounding an event that would change her life forever. She pages back to the beginning, in May of 2017. She was happily going to her 10 week ultrasound. She and her husband Ben were excited to welcome their third child into their family of four. She had two healthy pregnancies with both of her children; her son Landon (5) and his sister Olivia (3), are adventurous tikes who love the outdoors, swimming at the cabin, and riding the four-wheeler around their neighborhood. Their beautiful home is set outside the city on a large lot with beautiful foliage, a fun play set for the kids, and an incredible view.
Jessica began the story by sharing that although she had heard a healthy heartbeat at her 10 week ultrasound, she remembers feeling scared because she had some spotting on the morning of her 16.5 week routine appointment. “I did have a little spotting with one of my previous pregnancies, but both of those were healthy all throughout, so I tried not to worry about it. However, I was worried about the fact that I had stopped gaining any weight after the initial few pounds I had put on. This worried me. I asked my Mom and sister to say a prayer for me before my appointment.”
At her appointment, her doctor was unable to locate the baby’s heartbeat. This doctor, whom she had seen with her previous pregnancies, was safe, reassuring, and caring. She got the ultrasound machine and Jessica recalls a distinct look of fear on her face–a look she could never forget. The doctor saw that the baby was curled up and would not allow for a check. She was sent to the large ultrasound room, where the technician was also unable to detect movement or heartbeat. Her tears began instantly, as she realized the baby was no longer alive.
“Why is this happening? What could I have done differently? What did I do wrong?” Were just a few of the questions stirring amidst Jessica’s mind. She called her husband who was in shock and “never expects these kinds of things.” She cried as the doctor explained that it was nothing she did or nothing she could have prevented. These things just happen and each reason is different from one Mama to the next. She was heartbroken.
The doctor explained that because the baby was so far along, she was unable to schedule a D&C and Jessica would have to deliver the baby. They discussed some scenarios of what to expect. She and Ben would come to the hospital on Thursday morning and she would be induced to deliver the baby there at the hospital. Because of its size, she would only need to be dilated to [approximately] a four in order for the baby to pass through. Jessica described to me the pain of that day. How so many questions continued to float through her mind, yet she was forced to make decisions like, “Should we bury the baby and have a ceremony? Should we cremate the baby and spread its ashes?” amongst other things. She tried to stay busy as she prepared for the next day.
That night she felt contractions starting. “They were sort of like period cramps–mild, but I could tell they were getting stronger.” She knew she didn’t want to end up in a situation at home, so she and Ben headed into the hospital. Upon arrival, her cervix was still closed. Although having contractions, the hospital suggested they go home and rest and come back in the morning when she was scheduled to be induced.
Her kids were at their grandparents house overnight, so Ben and Jessica were able to sleep that evening. When she woke up early the next morning she felt fluid coming out of her. As she walked to the bathroom, she could feel the baby coming out. She remembers, “I screamed, ‘Ben!’ so loud. I was able to grab a towel and catch the baby between my legs. Ben came in and was panicked and wasn’t sure what to do, so he called the hospital. The hospital instructed us to call the paramedics; I was crying and had to sit on the floor with the baby between my legs, still attached to the cord. There was so much blood everywhere and we weren’t allowed to cut or clamp the cord because we didn’t have the right tools, and I could have bled out. The cord didn’t look like a normal baby cord–it was only about a foot long and was so thin. I was shaking and crying, while still contracting.”
Shortly after, there were ten new people in their home to help. From paramedics, to firemen, they were able to help Jessica cut the cord and place her baby boy safely on her chest. She remembers making a joke while she was breathing during one of the checks, “I haven’t been able to brush my teeth yet, I’m sorry!” and was able to have a laugh. What a positive attitude, if even for a moment. She told me how every person in her home that morning was so incredibly caring, and one of the paramedics even shared with her that she also lost a baby at 13 weeks. The paramedic offered her a pain pill for the contractions, but she declined. She shared, “I remember thinking that I wanted to feel all the pain of what happened because of the incredible guilt I felt for losing him.”
Jessica and her baby boy were taken to the hospital by ambulance where she was admitted. The paramedic was able to convince her to take the pain medication to help her relax. She hadn’t passed the placenta yet, so the doctor encouraged her to try and go to the bathroom. Once there, Jessica delivered the placenta. It would later be tested for infections or problems that may have caused this devastating loss, but the results showed no significant information.
She told this story with such strength. Jessica and Ben, after a lot of consideration, decided to have a graveside ceremony and burial for the baby at their church. And to keep his memory in their hearts, their family created a memorial in their yard. A beautiful blooming blueberry bush, a blue solar light, and a rock that says, Believe.
Mamas are such amazing beings. To show such love and care while grieving the loss of this little human being, Jessica unfolded another layer of her maternal powers. She said, “I definitely experienced the stages of grief: shock, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. I believed that everything happens for a reason before, but I wasn’t ready to think about that yet when this first happened. Initially I blamed myself for the loss and questioned, questioned, questioned. After several months I came to accept that everything happens for a reason, that this baby wasn’t mean to be born alive on Earth, and that God has a plan. Having faith in these beliefs has helped me heal and allowed me to forgive myself and give myself grace. I still wonder what happened sometimes and still think about the baby often, but I am more at peace with not knowing and I do not feel guilty. I am at peace with what has happened.”
What an amazing Mama. I am proud to call her one of my longest and most beautiful friends–Inside and out. 💜
In memory of: Baby Garbacz. A little boy weighing 1.23 oz. and 13 cm long 💙 June 8, 2017
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So strong Jessica. Thank you for sharing your story, Mama T
Thank you for sharing your personal story with strength and courage.