Carried to Connect: Babywearing Memories Live on After Infant Loss

As October and National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month are coming to a close, we wanted to share a personal story of infant loss that is close to our hearts. Earlier this year, one of our own at Baby Tula experienced an incredibly difficult loss in her family. As our community rallied around her family, we were amazed by the amount of love, strength, and bravery that we saw. This continues by the willingness of Kara and her family to share their story. We have incredible gratitude and love for them.

Babywearing, while convenient, sometimes necessary, and an amazing way to bond with your baby, has also helped to form memories that will last me forever. For this, I am so grateful for Babywearing. But, let’s start at the beginning.

My husband, Trevor, and I are infertile. Doctors have never been able to determine exactly why, so we have earned the classification, “unexplained infertility”. After five long years of fertility treatments, several doctors and clinics (in different states), we became pregnant during our first round of IVF. Sadly, we miscarried our first baby at 9 weeks (after seeing a heartbeat the previous week). Our third frozen embryo transfer thankfully worked, and we now have an energetic, sweet, and funny three-year-old: Henry.

After Henry turned one, we decided to start trying for another baby. We tried naturally for a while, but that never seems to get us anywhere. We then moved forward with IVF at a local clinic. Unfortunately, two full IVF cycles (and three embryo transfers later), we were not pregnant. After some research, we decided to switch to a very large and successful clinic about three hours away. This proved to be the right decision for us, as we became pregnant on our very first embryo transfer: with twins!

We weren’t anticipating twins, even though we had transferred two embryos. We had transferred two before, at the other clinic, to no avail. So although we knew it was a possibility, we definitely didn’t expect it. Yet here we were, getting ready to grow our family from three to five. Minivan time!

I couldn’t wait to babywear my second child. After the discovery of the twins, my Babywearing future changed dramatically. I spent a lot of time researching how to tandem carry newborn twins. I added long wraps and several ring slings to my Babywearing stash. I packed wraps in my hospital bag (something I didn’t do the first time around!). I could not wait to bond with my babies, and to hold them close to me.

I had a wonderful, uneventful pregnancy. My labor and delivery went exactly the way I had hoped. There were no complications, and no NICU time needed for my babies. My girl, Avery Monroe, was 7lbs 13oz, born first. Oliver Talbott, my sweet boy, was 7lbs 3oz, and born 11 minutes later.

I started Babywearing the twins soon after they were born. A large percentage of the photos I took of the babies were Babywearing photos. And while tandem wearing wasn’t necessarily the easiest, it was definitely useful during that early newborn phase, when both babies crying simultaneously was common. There were a handful of times that I successfully got two crying babies to sleep by tandem wearing. Talk about feeling like Supermom!

And my Babywearing dreams really came true when Ula asked if my family would want to participate in a Tula product photoshoot. Of course I want my babies to be Tula models! Our shoot was scheduled for Friday, July 8. The twins were four months and one week old.

The week leading up to the photoshoot was more stressful than our normal stressful weeks. Oliver came down with a cold and ear infection, and Avery had some possible pinkeye going on. We made a couple trips to the pediatrician that week, and I was up many of the nights holding and rocking sick babies. But, by Friday morning, they were both feeling better, and we moved forward with the photoshoot.

We drove to a beautiful nearby state park, with a sandy beach area on a gorgeous lake. It was a chilly day, for July, so once I got Oliver nice and snug in a Kangaroo carry, I kept him there for the majority of the shoot. My husband, Trevor, wore Avery, and Henry spent most of his time throwing pebbles into the water. Oliver got hungry, so I nursed him, and the photographer even captured some photos of that. Little did I know just how special these photos would be.

After the photo session, we packed up and drove back to town. On the way, we dropped the twins off at their babysitter’s house. This was the last time I’d see my baby boy alive.

At 4:30 p.m., after tending to as much work as I could fit in those several hours, I left my house to go pick up the babies. As I was about halfway there, I received the phone call that haunts me – and will forever haunt me. It was the babysitter, telling me that Oliver wasn’t breathing. That I need to get there now. He was taking a short nap, and she went to wake him up to get him ready for me to pick them up, but he wouldn’t wake. The ambulance is on its way, and they are doing CPR, but he’s not breathing, and hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

I drove furiously to the babysitter’s house. I ran red lights, stop signs, passed people on the shoulder of the road. Through my tears and palpable fear, I managed to call both my husband and my mother-in-law. They both immediately left to head to the babysitter’s.

When I arrived, the ambulance was there, and he was inside of it. They would not tell me anything, they would not answer my questions. I fell to my knees in the grass, pleading, “Please tell me something. Please tell me he’s breathing.” But nothing. Then, they grabbed some medical equipment from the second ambulance, and told me they were intubating him for the ride to the hospital. And they left.

My mother-in-law had shown up by that time. We went in to the house and got both of the car seats (because, I said firmly, that my son WILL be coming home to me in this car seat), and grabbed Avery, and took off to the hospital. The state trooper who responded to the call would not let me drive, so my mother-in-law drove us to the hospital. She couldn’t go as fast as either of us would have liked, because Avery was in the car, and of course we had to be safe. But I was willing us to be there, to go faster, for the sea of 5 o’clock traffic to part ways so we could get to my sweet Oliver.

My mother-in-law dropped me off at the emergency entrance. They let me run right in. I frantically told the person at the front desk that my infant son was brought in, not breathing, and I need to see him. She walked, ridiculously slowly, to the door, and then finally opened it and let me in. I ran down the hallway, head on a swivel, searching for my husband (who had turned around and followed the ambulance as he saw it drive past him in the other direction), searching for my baby.

I found Trevor, sitting outside of the triage room, head in his hands. I shouted, “what’s wrong? What’s happened? Is he dead?” He just looked up at me, his tear-streaked face, and I knew. A doctor (or nurse, or grief counselor, I have no idea), came up to me and explained that they were trying to get Oliver’s heart to restart, but they were not having any luck. I said I want to see him, and I walked in the triage room.

I immediately reached out and held his little foot (it was all I could get to, as this was a teaching hospital, and Oliver was surrounded by people). They continued compressions for maybe two minutes after I got there, then called his time of death. I collapsed to the ground, wailing. They tried to offer me a chair, but I just brushed them away. A chair would not bring me any comfort.

I stripped off my t-shirt and stood there in my nursing tank, and asked to hold my baby boy. I wanted to feel his skin on me. They wanted to clean him up first, as he had a dirty diaper. I told them no, I would do it. And I changed Oliver’s diaper for the very last time, with tears clouding my vision, my chest heaving and my hands shaking.

We held Oliver for hours that night. We cried, we reminisced, we cursed. And then we tried to hold it together so we could tell Henry what had happened. A conversation I don’t wish on anyone.

A day that started out so wonderful, with photos of both Trevor and I wearing our precious, much-loved, and much-wanted twin babies, ended in such trauma and tragedy.

I often go back now, and look through the photos taken that day. Of me wearing Oliver in that Kangaroo carry. His chubby cheeks hanging out over the wrap. His little, sweet legs poking out. His precious little head. Our last nursing session ever, professionally photographed.

Babywearing was such a huge part of my four months and one week with Oliver. So many of the photos I have of him are of me wearing him. I will treasure the many (many, many) photos I took of him always.

And now, I wear Avery a lot. I wear her in my Love Noir ring sling, the same that I wore him in so many times. Even though there are some wraps I haven’t had the heart to bring back out and wear her in, I still have them, folded, on my shelves. I will never part with them, as when I look at them, I remember the feeling of wearing Oliver close to my heart, in that fabric.

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