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His name is little Jeff.
And I remember countless things about him. But one thing in particular, I remember, I remember him having a little chirp in the hospital, when he would breathe.
And I remember he had, he had hair, a lot of hair. And he, he looked a lot like his older sister. I remember that on his, the day of his funeral. It was extremely windy. Not only from the wind do I remember that, but from the wind, blowing my hair and my beard everywhere.
Welcome to Still A Part of Us, the podcast where moms and dads share the story of their child who was stillborn or who died in infancy. I’m Lee Redd and on this episode, Jeff is telling the story of his son, Jeff Jr, who was diagnosed with bilateral renal agenesis and passed away shortly after birth.
As a word of caution to our listeners, this story contains emotional triggers of stillbirth and infant loss. Please keep yourself emotionally and mentally healthy and seek help if needed. Also, be aware that these birth stories may differ from his or her partner’s, as their accounts are told from their own perspective through the lens of trauma, heartache, and the passage of time. Please respect our mothers and dads who are brave and gracious to share their children with us.
So our family consists of me, Jeff, and my wife Bre. And our daughter Murphy, and little Jeff. A nd I’m your, you know, typical nine to five working individual that enjoys coming home from from a long day’s work and, and spending time with with my family and working on the art and various projects.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love to play soccer and watch pretty much most sports except for baseball. I’m not slamming baseball. I love to sell things on eBay. It’s a fun, it’s a fun hobby to just, you know, doesn’t doesn’t make much money, just something to you know, pass the time by with shipping and managing inventory and whatnot.
Was there anything in particular you sell or…?
So in particular, I sell random stuff that’s from recovered freight auctions. And it could be anything from rubber bands to electronics of some sort, used stuff that’s been being shipped somewhere. So Bre also sells on eBay separately doing reselling used clothing and used electronics, anything she finds it at thrift stores or clearance shelves from grocery stores. That’s her full time gig.
We enjoy, we enjoy tackling big, big projects, like remodeling our home. In fact, when we found out about little Jeff, we were in the middle of remodeling our 1950s home. And if anybody knows the 1950s home, it’s a large, large task. And I remember, I remember one day tiling the kitchen with my dad and my brother and I remember that, I just, from everything that we had going on from learning out early early on, and in Bre’s pregnancy that we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t be able to keep little Jeff and just broke down. And, you know, your the people around you don’t know how to act, even your dad and your brother, they, I mean, if I’m in that situation, and it’s somebody else, it’s kind of like, what you do? So you can’t, you can’t blame anybody. You know, my dad just gave me a big hug, my brother just gave me a big hug. And no one said in that moment, everything’s gonna be alright.
Because I mean, the story behind little Jeff is that, at 20 weeks, we went in for our big ultrasound to go over, you know, the key parts, and make sure everything was functioning correctly. And we’ve been through this before with with Murphy and, and we had no no complications and didn’t have a, you know, a thought that we would go into this, you know, learning of a complication. And we were, you know, sitting in that room, you know, a dark ultrasound room, and had, you know, the the doctor doing the ultrasound, from the get-go, she was very, very quiet, and very careful on how she was saying things. And I, I didn’t necessarily pick up on that, but Bre did. And as soon as she said, “I’m just going to go ask the doctor, or your main doctor a few questions, and then we’ll be back in a minute.” And when she when she came back in the room, she said, “So looks like you have little to no amniotic fluid, which could mean you’re leaking amniotic fluid, or the baby’s not producing any.” And that could mean that the baby isn’t producing urine, and in turn doesn’t create the, which means that the either the urinary tract wasn’t wasn’t working, or the kidneys weren’t functioning. And so when they were looking at the renal artery, they weren’t seeing any blood flow to any kidneys, which indicates that there you know, aren’t no functioning kidneys or no kidneys. Either way, the result is the same.
And it checked for if there was a leak, and that would that came back negative. And so it came out to be that our our baby has bilateral renal agenesis, which means did not develop working or did not develop kidneys at all. And again, that was about 20 to 21 weeks into our second pregnancy. And when we went up to the hospital from, to take another look and to go to, you know, a hospital that was more knowledgeable in, specializes in, you know, problems in pregnancy. And they went through the whole, the whole ultrasound all over again, like it was fresh and was all in the same days, the first one and we were, I mean, unfortunately, we were thinking the worst.
As far as like our child isn’t, isn’t going to survive. And if there’s anything that we can do. And the result, obviously of the of the ultrasound was the same thing. No amniotic fluid. There’s no kidneys, which then in turn does not develop, the baby will not develop lungs, because there’s no amniotic fluid, and then will not surviv e a birth because not being able, not because it doesn’t have kidneys, but because it won’t be able to sustain life with the lack of lungs, the development of his lungs. And even at this time, we were unable to know, they were unable to confirm test that was a boy even though we had gone to a clinic early to find out and they told us it was a boy but since they were unable to see detailed parts of little Jeff, because the amniotic fluid is what gives definition to the parts of the baby that they look for. And they came in and presented us two options that we could terminate or carry until or induce whenever. But whether we induced that day or that week, or at 35 weeks, the result would be the same that the baby would pass because of its fatal diagnosis and the bilateral renal ageneisis.
During this whole time, I mean, both me and Bre were both in like complete shock. And, you know, just feeling like our, our world is just crumbling down around us. Like everything that we were like, remodeling this home, we were, you know, we’re trying different things to keep ourselves busy before we even found out about this. And so everything just seemed like it was laid out all on top of us all at once. Everything in her pregnancy was up until this point was fine. And it had been fine, in the sense of like when we were pregnant with Murphy, we didn’t have any complications. We didn’t have any really no worries except for like, what it feels like when you’re, you know, it’s when it’s your first child, you’ve never been through a pregnancy before. And you don’t really, you don’t really know what to expect as a parent. But when the second time around feeling like, you know, we’ve been been through a pregnancy before, so you’re a little more aware of what’s going on. But then it almost feels like something out of left field kind of turns you around and upside down.
And I mean, we didn’t have any, any fertility issues or anything like that this. I don’t have any knowledge of this condition being anything that’s ever, ever happened in my family, or in Bre’s family. And even if we would have done, we didn’t really know what we were going to do whether we were going to induce in two weeks to then start a grieving process, because we obviously knew the grieving wouldn’t start until we had little Jeff, and until he passed until we, you know, went through that process, whatever that looked like, at that time, I couldn’t even tell you, couldn’t even tell you what it was going to look like, or how it was gonna be here. I couldn’t even that’s not something I could even imagine.
But so yeah, at that time, we didn’t, we didn’t know what we were going to do. And after, you know much, you know, I would say prayer, meditation, thought, we at some point we decided to carry as long as it was safe for Bre, so that we could have as much time with little Jeff as possible, knowing the inevitable. And what that looked like was 35, 36 weeks of pregnancy, then inducing.
During that time, after receiving the news of the kidneys and what the future would look like for little Jeff and you guys, were you just delaying the grieving, knowing you would grieve as well, or was there a time of–personally, I would think that it for myself, there would be two different grieving periods, knowing that my son, the writing’s on the wall that he won’t live. And then after his birth, knowing he won’t live, how was that grieving? Or did you just cherish the time of the pregnancy?
So that I think in of itself was the hard thing, being able to, you know, keep the keep the positivity that he was alive, and he continued to be alive. And when he was born, he was he was alive, right? It was, it was different in the sense that we had, we had him with us. And we could feel his kicks. We could, she could feel him moving around. And, you know, getting into, you know, after the inevitable after he passed away, which I’ll talk about in a second. It was definitely a different grief. It was, it was a, you know, you were you know, you had this person, and then this person is gone. And then that part of the grief that wasn’t there, because he was still alive, now that he was gone. And he passed away. That’s when that’s when the grief of the loss started. And before it was the grief of, I wouldn’t say the word, I wouldn’t say the phrase preparing ourselves grief, but for the lack of a better phrase, you know, it was the grief that was preparing us for then the inevitable passing away and the death grief, which, in a nutshell, that’s it was very, is very separate, very distinct of a grief.
He lived after birth, he lived for six hours, we held him, we held him every single minute. And in the delivery room, she was induced. And it was Bre and I and it was going to be me and Bre in the delivery room. And we were going to have her mom for the p ictures because of we didn’t want anybody in there to take pictures and we wanted to spend the time, whatever time we had, instead of like me taking pictures and not being able to be right at Bre’s side and by little Jeff’s side. And we would have her take the pictures. And a group came up to talk to us from the chil dren’s hospital to talk with us about what help is out there for grieving parents for grieving families, for grieving children. And that, you know, they were explaining a bunch of different things.
And it only been a couple hours, since we had come in. And Bre started feeling some pain. And the group left and Bre said like, Hey, I’m feeling some pain, and the nurse checked and little Jeff was pretty much almost here. And it was all happening so fast that we didn’t even get to tell our family, you know, before like, we as soon as they said that I said don’t push. He’ll come right out and we get the doctor that’s on call. So our doctor that we had wasn’t unable to get there in time. And her mom for the pictures also wasn’t there in time, because everything happened so quickly. But we did get you know, a message out to the family to come and that we want to be, you know, have everybody come meet him, but then have a quick exit to then let us have our time. With me, Bre, Murphy, and little Jeff to then, you know, spend that time as a family to be able to cherish that time, that with, you know, what little time that we had with little Jeff. One of the nurses is actually our next door neighbor in our town home before, and she wasn’t on our service, but she came in and she took she took pictures for us. And we were super grateful to have like a familiar face in the situation. And when little Jeff came out, they all gave us, you know, they all gave us our space and they, you know, after cleaning him up, and you know, he was alive. And he, you know, you could tell, you could hear his chirp like I talked about at the beginning. And at first it was like a very, you know, very uneasy sound to hear. But it almost, you know, it’s something that I hear when I when I think of, when I think of my little Jeff when as he, he’s his struggle and fight to spend the time that he did with us. And we had him in a blanket on Bre’s chest and just held him for what was, of course, not enough time.
So for us, it was a lot of things that we, a lot of things that we did leading up to and while he was alive, and then, even after, a lot of the things we did were to be able to help us with our, with our grieving process. And one thing that we wanted to do was have our family meet, meet our, you know, our little Jeff. And we watch this, like our family members, you know, stumbled through the door. And, I was excited, I was excited for my family, for Bre’s family to meet little Jeff and that was, you know, I was happy for, I was grateful for them that they, that they did. Because, I mean, either way they were coming, no matter what the circumstance was and either way they were going to meet him. And for us, it was something special to have, you know, our families, our family support, just come marching, marching down, you know, the hallway and into the door and into the room. And after, after they all left, and we were left, you know, as a family, me, Bre, Murphy, and little Jeff. And we had Bre’s parents take Murphy out after about 20 to 30 minutes. And they transferred us rooms and we have the rest of the time to spend with little Jeff and we decided that we would spend the time with him. And then after he would pass, we would then invite anybody to come back to spend time with us and to also spend time with little Jeff.
But we wanted to make the most for our grieving process to, you know, spend that time with him talking with him. And just just holding him and, I mean, we’re trying our best to not think of the inevitable and just cherish those those, whatever hours, whatever it looked like, as, as the time went on, his breathing and his heart rate started to slow, just to become slower, and to almost become unnoticeable. And we would every time we felt like, you know, he had passed, we would, we’d ask the nurse to come in to check his vitals and she would listen for a heartbeat and and listen for breathing. And I don’t know how many times we had the nurse come in. But it was it was more than a few times.
And I’ll never forget last time, we got the nurse in because that’s when, obviously she said she was coming get the doctor cause the standard processes they have to, you know, have the doctor pronounce the infant deceased. But obviously, in that moment, so at that point, at that point when she went to the doctor that had been been six hours, since he had since he was born. And sure enough doctor comes in and checks vitals and, you know, gives us his condolences and then walks out of the room. And then you’re, you know, you feel you have, you had, we had each other, Bre and I. I just felt so overwhelmed with sadness, you know, that even though we knew we were going to lose our child. But you know, something I can’t really explain, you know, losing a child.
So the process on from that point was after, you know, a few hours, they would bring in a cold, cold blanket, you know, that you can, you would lay the baby on to help from the natural, the natural way of, you know, the decay of the body, the inevitable decay of the body. So gruesome. But it’s, it is what it is. And, and we we held him still and we laid by him still and we talked with him still. And we still love him if he still, you know, living laying right next to us.
So during the hospital stay, did you have 24 hours with little Jeff? Did the the medical staff say after his demise, you have 24 hours with him?
So they did say after, after his passing, we did have 24 hours that we could have him in our room. And at some point, I can’t remember what time but they offered to take him for, to do feet prints and to do hand prints and to do, like do a picture so that we would have like a keepsake in an outfit that we purchased or that they wanted to supply or whatever. And I think he was gone for maybe an hour or two. And we had already planned to do hands and the feet ourselves, just because we wanted to, you know do that for our keepsake. And we knew that they were, they would do that for us. But we still wanted to do it ourselves just because we had that pride of, you know, I’m gonna do this myself and it’s gonna, it’s gonna look, it’s gonna look good, I’m going to, you know, put in his keepsake and I’m gonna cherish it forever. And unfortunately, we had waited too long for the hands. And it was extremely difficult to try and do the handprints. And then, but the feet were, were fairly, fairly easy to do the footprint and, and to have our have our copy that we did. And also we have a copy from the hospital that they they did as well.
And we had decided we were going to set a time. And then we were going to give him to the hospital to move to the mortuary that we had chosen and start that process. We decided to give him at some point instead of have them take him away from us at 24 hours. And that’s some advice we got before, beforehand. And it actually helped out a lot. So going, I mean, we had we decided that at 11:21, which is the time he was born around the next day, that’s the point that we wanted to, you know, start the process of a discharge, you know, getting out of the hospital, be handing little Jeff over so that we could then have him start the process of moving to the mortuary and having them pick, pick him up, obviously moving on to the inevitable next part, which was, you know, a funeral because that’s what we we decided that, again, another thing that we decided to do is as part of our grieving process, and felt like we would benefit from having a little spot to go to.
And we got out of the hospital, was a Thursday, Thursday afternoon. And you know, Friday was is the day that happens after Thursday. And that’s when we felt like we would probably want to muster up the courage to try and like go to the mortuary and start the planning and figuring out when when we can move forward and pull off a funeral. We’re trying to do it on that Saturday and the cemetery was having issues on trying to get that timeline to work. But it ended up working out where we were able to get the baby plot, which is which is a part of summit part of the cemetery that you know set aside for babies and infants for those that choose to put in that area or maybe don’t have other plots in that cemetery and that can move move that baby later in life to a different plot. But it worked out with the cemetery in the end and with the mortuary.
And prior to this, neither Bre nor I had gone to the mortuary to discuss anything or the cemetery to discuss anything with anybody, and so as we stumbled through all this, we had a lot of help from our family members. And to be able to, you know, talk with the mortuary and talk with the cemetery and get things, get things rolling. And remember Bre and I went to the mortuary to discuss, you know, a casket and also other other things that, you know, come with funerals that I didn’t feel like or think I would ever have to deal with this time of my life. As hard as that scenario was to sit and look at flower arrangements that are supposed to go on the top of individual’s casket that’s your size or my size, I’m supposed to picture that as going on this small little, small little box, that my child is going to be, you know, put in. And so that wasn’t the most pleasant–none of this has been pleasant obviously, but none of this has felt natural in any way.
As we went to go, as we left the mortuary went to go to the cemetery where Bre’s parents had been, and they had, we had picked a lot over FaceTime, one of their last three lots for the row, which they kind of labeled as 2018, but it was 2019. And, you know, he would be the first 2019 baby to be buried in this part of the cemetery. We came around the corner to come check out where we had selected to see it in person and driving up to the area and saw, you know, a city employee already digging out his little baby plot. And I think I’m gonna be nuts when, you know, I think my–I don’t know if it was like the reality of the grief that started to like set in or with that’s when like–I remember just breaking down, just breaking down and like I’ve done so many times before during this, during this experience. And yeah, that’s a hard thing to, it’s a hard thing to look at, to see. It’s not something you see every day that you, you know, you go to a cemetery and you see somebody’s like grave getting hand dug it’s not just anybody’s. It’s your, it’s your son’s.
So the next day we had the funeral. We got to see little Jeff again and we took various items to send with him, if you will. Letters, letters we wrote to him prior to his birth and letters to him from right after his birth. And made him a bracelet and made matching ones for Bre and Murphy and I. And made another one for him that we could keep with us, but put one on his wrist. And had just our family, immediate family and grandparents, come to the funeral home for a small, small viewing and after a very very very very small service and in prayer we shut the shut the casket and got into the, got into a limo. And I held, held little Jeff in the box as they drove us.
It is such a small box.
Yes, a small box.
It is such a small box.
Held him, held him on my lap in the small box with with Bre and Murphy in the, in the limo. And we got to the cemetery, and got to the curb side and I just couldn’t get out. I just couldn’t get out of the limo. I obviously knew that was, that was the next step. If you go, if you if you get out of the limo, that is the next step. And the next step leads to the next step. I didn’t want to take the next step.
Finally mustered up my courage to, to get out of the limo and bring out the box and to, to place him, you know, on the grave site and had some beautiful words that were, that were spoken by Bre’s dad and the bishop. And then I had the opportunity to say some words and to, you know, talk about my feelings as, you know, having lost, having lost a child and being, being the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to go through and my entire life. And then, and then it all seemed, you know, that all, the funeral, you know. I said I said my words and I, we ended the funeral and we let some, let some balloons go for, for little Jeff some blue balloons, because Murphy said his favorite color is blue. And it was a, it was a windy day. And it and it blew a bunch of balloons right into a tree. And they popped. But some made it through the tree. And it was an awesome, awesome reminder of, you know, for us to be able to remember that day. You know, the blue balloons, the wind, and, you know, all the people that supported us and, you know, they came and were supporting us and, you know, what we are going through. So that’s, that’s that’s what I remember about the funeral.
Many thanks to Jeff for coming on the podcast and telling us the story of his son, Jeff Jr.
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This show was produced and edited by Lee and Winter Redd. Thanks to Josh Woodward for letting us use his song “She Dreams in Blue”. You can find him at JoshWoodward.com.
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