Keep Breathing

Jax wasn’t the first child we lost. We’ve grieved before. And while it couldn’t prepare us completely for the depth of pain we are experiencing from losing Jax, it reminded us that we each grieve differently. It made us just a little stronger to endure this hell. And it proved that no matter how we are feeling today, we’ve gotta keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise. And who knows what the tide will bring.


“Smile,” the doctor enthusiastically coached. My pants rested around my ankles as my forearms supported me on the examining table. I’m 28-fucking-years-old and I’m already having a lubed-up index finger patrol my rectum for my prostate. I walked into the urologist’s office anticipating an infertility exam and exited wishing he at least bought me dinner first.

My wife and I tried for a year to conceive. Her OB/GYN directed her to a fertility doctor for testing, first. Everything came back normal, which meant it was time for me to be tested. Along with the prostate exam and junk test the urologist conducted, a semenalysis provided raw data for our fertility clinic.

It turns out I was generally healthy. My testosterone, however, tested severely low and my sperm liked to swim about in circles or something. So we began fertility treatments. After several months of me supplying goo – as one of the nurses called it – and the wife’s use of Clomid – the “goodoo” magic worked.

The next 16 weeks were filled with joy, bliss and walking on cotton candy clouds. While it took us over a year and mad science for my wife to get pregnant, she was treating crack babies in Long Beach as a registered nurse for parents living on welfare with four other kids. But for us, it finally happened. We announced the news with friends and family and eagerly awaited the January 1 due date.

Cue the record scratch.

The wife called me at work after a check up with the OB/GYN. The doctor couldn’t find a heart beat. He sent her to the hospital for an ultrasound which confirmed there wasn’t a heart beat. Our baby was dead. A couple of days later the wife underwent a D&E procedure at a Los Angeles clinic. We elected to run tests to determine the sex and cause of death. It was a girl, but no dice on the cause of death. The clinic was kind enough to send us home with footprints of the fetus the doctor extracted while performing the procedure.

We named her Presley Kaelyn. We eventually both had her foot prints tattooed on our arms, and I added “Loved Forever”.

Loved Forever tattoo for Presley Kaelyn.

Loved Forever tattoo for Presley Kaelyn.

We cried a lot over the next few weeks. I mean, a whole lot. Why did this happen? How? We cleared the 12-week danger zone. This isn’t supposed to happen.

It was the summer, and I eventually ramped up my social calendar to get my mind off of things. My wife, however, dealt differently. There were nights I’d find her crying on the floor of the bathroom. Our souls ached. Caring for babies of 14-year-old moms and meth addicts reminded her every night that life isn’t fair.

She told me months later how much it bothered her that I was going out and trying to distract myself while she just wanted to withdraw and hang out with the pain. She didn’t understand that I was just as distraught as she was. I cried. I was mad. But I had to get out of that house so that it didn’t become anything worse than that.

Eventually the fertility doc allowed us to start trying again. It was like ripping open a healing wound, peeing inside of it and then punching it for good measure. Month after month an early period, too many produced eggs at once or cysts cock-blocking our chance for conception dashed our hopes of another pregnancy.

On my birthday, over one year from the time that our lost baby girl was conceived and one last attempt before in vitro would be thrust upon us, the goodoo magic worked again.Throughout the pregnancy our enthusiasm was tempered by fear of losing another child. If it happened again, could we ever recover?

Nine months later, after 26 hours of labor, my wife popped out a healthy, beautiful…

“Holy crap it’s a boy,” I exclaimed a mere 1.2 seconds after the doctor tugged the little sucker out of my wife. We decided to be surprised on the sex of the baby. My wife said that for some reason, infertility leads to a girl more often than a boy. Being an odds guy, I was fully expecting a little chica. But it was a boy. There’s something hypermasculine about having your first-born be a boy. Maybe I’ve watched too many mafia movies.


Our pastor, Rod, met in our packed living room with our extended family a few days before the memorial service to learn more about Jax. He wanted to accurately articulate who Jax is (not was). And he did a great job of doing so, by the way. I’m sure he left our house that day with his head spinning from information over load, but he extracted the perfect idea:

The most wanted baby in the world.

My wife and I continue to focus on breathing. Honestly, it’s not easy. We agreed that sometimes it seems easier to just stop breathing. And neither of us are afraid of that happening anymore.

But tomorrow the sun will rise. Our 2-year-old twins will awake. And they need us to be here for them. Both of us. Just like we are (not were) for Jax. Because who knows what the tide will bring.