October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The Motherhood Collective Grief Support Group meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month and all are welcomed with open arms.
At the Motherhood Collective, we recognize that not all pregnancy stories have happy endings. We're committed to supporting women through their childbearing years and while we understand the pain of labor and empathize with that 2 am feeding, sometimes the grief of motherhood is far greater. Stories about infertility, miscarriage and child loss are stories of motherhood, too. We are thankful for those of you willing to share your personal experiences, especially the painful ones. It's our hope that stories like these will help mothers connect with and support one another. Thank you, Jessica, for agreeing to tell your story. --TMC --
Joziah Cruz Gonzalez, child number 6 for us as a blended family, was born on July 5,2013, but he was already being held in the arms of Jesus. We were 3 days away from welcoming our baby boy by induction into the world on July 8, 2013.
Rewind to March 26, 2013, this was the day that everything changed and what set the course for the events of Joziah’s birthday. Jon (my husband) and I were on the way to UVA for an appointment to see a genetics counselor and ultrasound technician, because our doctor believed there was a thickening of Joziah's neck which was characteristic to Down Syndrome. Five minutes outside of Charlottesville, our front right tire blew. I normally, in all of my pregnancy hormones, would have been the one to jump out and examine the damage, get mad, call and yell about our defective tires we had just bought two weeks prior to this date. But, this time, after we pulled over, I sat still in the drivers seat with my seatbelt still around me uncomfortably while I called UVA to explain we were 5 minutes away and would be there ASAP. To me, this was a little bit of a stretch of truth because Jon is not too savvy when it comes these things with 4 wheels and a motor…God, bless him. :) He found the spare tire then came back to the passenger side to show me his instruction manual that he found. He began to hand me the instructions and that’s all I remember until about 30 minutes later when I woke up to several people around me.
A woman hit us at 63mph without ever touching her brake. Jon was launched through the air, over the guardrailing and into a pile of sterile snow which saved his leg that had been sliced open by the guardrailing. I was unconscious. My first memory was waking up to people around me and my coffee spilled on my leg. I was pregnant and coffee was my craving and it was gone! I was more upset about that than anything else. It didn’t ever register to me that we were in a bad wreck until I touched my belly and it all came out in a long winded round of fired off words that probably didn’t make any sense to anyone. I was trying to tell someone that I was pregnant and to help my baby and asking for Jon. No one would give me any information about him. We took the ride to UVA by separate ambulances. I was in labor, Jon was listed as serious condition, but I didn’t know the extent of his injuries.
After much pleading, crying, begging, and sobbing, the head nurse wheeled us into a room together for 30 seconds to say hi and touch hands before he was sent into surgery to put his leg back together. I was sent out of the ER after having all my clothes cut off of me and glass cleaned off of my back and was moved to Labor & Delivery followed by a large group of neurologists. The head pain was terrible, the dizziness was debilitating, and I was still in labor. That evening, I begged to see Jon. I needed to see him. They wheeled me down to see him and I got about 10 minutes in before I was falling over in my wheelchair and couldn’t talk anymore. I was so confused about everything…it was like my memory was ripped out of my head. It was so hard to make any sense of what was happening. I knew that I had suffered a brain injury/severe concussion, bleeding in my head, fractured sinuses, partial placental abruption with a blood clot above the placenta; memory and balance were gone which won me a very sexy walker and a big neck brace to wear home 8 days later.
Fast forward through physical therapy and healing and weekly OB visits to check on the progression of Joziah. He was always healthy and wiggly and passed every single non-stress test with ease. We were excited for labor and to finally get this pregnancy over with and move on in life with our newest addition. My induction date was scheduled for July 8, 2013, but July 5 came and woke me up where I was very dizzy and sick feeling and the pain just wouldn’t stop. I called Labor & Delivery and it was suggested that my blood sugar was low. The nurse advised to drink some juice and try again. The juice didn’t help. I told Jon to call an ambulance as I couldn’t walk to the truck and I realized Joziah wasn’t moving. I mentally decided that he was at a resting point during the beginning part of my labor and everything was alright. The trip to the hospital was the longest trip in my life. We got to L&D, she tried to get my weight, but I still couldn’t stand. She laid me down and to monitor baby…the heartbeat couldn’t be found in his normal position. She tried for a few minutes, still no heartbeat and I know that’s when panic set in for me. The doctor came in with an entourage of nurses and did an ultrasound.
I’ll always hear the doctors words “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.” I screamed, cried, begged for a c-section…”Do something! Please NO! NOT MY BABY!!” It all happened so fast… I couldn’t find tears. Jon held my hand and sobbed and I apologized for not having any tears. I just couldn’t understand how just hours before he was wide awake, wiggling; and I was annoyed with his persistent hiccups and sticking his feet in my ribs while we watched the fireworks...to now passing away in between Mommy and Daddy while we slept. I didn’t want to believe it…I was about to deliver my beautiful son after a placental abruption. I was bleeding and in days ahead, would learn just how much blood I actually lost which would require a blood transfusion. They gave me pain medicine which knocked me out. Maybe they sedated me, I’m not sure, but I don’t remember much.
They wheeled us to the back of the delivery ward away from everyone else and 1 hour later, our quiet, beautiful baby boy came into the world. I don’t remember much due to the medicine, but I’ll never forget pushing. A beautiful nurse, Beth, took our baby and prayed over him and cleaned him. We eventually held him, but I don’t know how long after he was born that we did this. Time was not important anymore. Nothing was. In the following days, we held Joziah, cried over him, took pictures of him, questioned why over and over and made funeral arrangements. Leaving the hospital was the worst. It was a feeling of deep sorrow, failure, shame, guilt which all sat on my lap instead of a baby to go home.
Family and friends surrounded us with love, support, food, prayers, flowers and cards. I didn’t want any of it, but accepted it all with a smile. Not everyone knows what it’s like to lose a child or could understand the pain we were feeling, so their own form of blessing, however it was, was humbling and sweet. Funeral day came, our family and friends stood around us and cried with us. Putting our baby in his final resting place and walking away is an image I will always see in my mind. It tore me apart, but Jon assured me Jesus was holding our baby and he was okay.
It was time to start our lives…our journey…without Joziah. Friends and family came to our house, we ate lots of food, laughed and joked. I wanted to hide away in my bedroom, but people were blocking the bedroom door. Jon and I seemed miles apart in our tiny living room, but yet I felt strong just to look at him. He was being so strong for us both and portrayed such a strong faith and leadership. It was truly amazing to watch him. My love for him has changed and I felt more connected to him than I ever had in our years together. A few days after the funeral, we told our 4 older children. We didn’t have them participate in funeral or hold their baby brother. We wanted their memories to be fun. The times of watching my belly move, feeling his kicks and hiccups. What better way to remember their baby brother than with fun memories rather than the sad times? It was a hard decision to make, but I’m at peace with it. Their sadness and questions hurt. I couldn’t speak. Jon, once again, carried the strength for the entire family and my love for him grew even more. He hugged our babies tightly and told them to just close their eyes and talk to baby Joziah anytime they wanted to. He’s our guardian angel now and I feel him so close all the time.
Now, two years later, we are a family of 9 with our Rainbow Baby, Noah Santana. We always count Joziah as one of our children. He lived and existed even though we can’t see him. Many ask how we have 7 children when they only count 6 and it gives me an opportunity to continue on the memory of Joziah and allow his story to touch one more person. Our lives have forever changed. Things that used to be a fight or carried significant importance now don’t carry that significance anymore. Priorities have shifted. There’s a new appreciation for the little things like just sitting a little longer with a sleeping baby in my arms instead of quickly putting him down to do something else, or watching one more movie with the kids snuggled up together in the living room instead of sending them to bed, or watching them as they laugh and play in the rain instead of worrying about how wet and messy they’ll be. It isn’t the life I ever envisioned and I miss our son every single day, but I know one day we’ll see him again. Until then, we will keep making beautiful memories together as a family, but always remember Joziah’s life.
Te amo, mi precioso bebe, Joziah Cruz Gonzalez. Descansa en los brazos de Jesus. Micorazon. Mi angel. Para siempre. <3
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans toprosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jessica Gonzalez is mother to 7 beautiful children. We are honored to share her story.