December 24th, 2015. I will never forget that day. I'd gotten a late start heading to my grandmother's for our family's Christmas celebration. I was running through my mental list trying to make sure we hadn't forgotten any gifts (we had by the way) when I had to urgently get my husband, Jason, to pull the car over because I was going to be sick. As I climbed back into the car we just looked at one another. We'd only recently begun to try and start a family, it felt like it was too soon for that to be the cause of my sickness. We went on with our morning as though nothing had happened but we were so anxious. I ran to take a pregnancy test as soon as we returned home, then ran into the living room squealing as I showed him the faint pink line that appeared on the test. I couldn't believe how lucky we were. Keeping the secret until we were ready to tell was torture. We told our parents quickly and a few weeks later we told our siblings. By Valentine's Day we were shouting from the rooftops. We chose a nursery theme, picked names for both a boy and a girl and waited in anticipation until we could find out the gender of our little sweetheart.
March 24th, 2016 - another day I can't forget. It started in a rush the way most of our days did. It was the morning of our gender scan. We had planned a family cookout for the following Saturday to reveal the gender of the baby. We were going to wait and find out with our family so we'd gotten two plastic eggs and covered them in glitter. One had a paper announcing a boy, the other a girl. We took our little eggs marked with stickers into the ultrasound and asked the tech to throw away the one we didn't need and remove the sticker from the one we did. We watched as our baby squirmed and kicked around on the ultrasound screen with so much happiness and excitement. When she the tech was done she hurried us to the waiting room so we could finish up our appointment with the doctor. I grew impatient in the secondary waiting room wondering why it was taking so long for us to see the doctor. Once we were in an exam room a doctor I'd never previously met came in and introduced himself before gently telling us that they saw something on our ultrasound that caused concern. He went on to explain that it appeared the baby had a neural tube defect called an encephalocele, but that they were sending us to a specialist for a second ultrasound to confirm. He was kind, but wanted to prepare us for the likely reality that this baby was not going to make it. He placed a hand on my knee as he told us we may need to consider "starting over". A few tearful hours later we were sitting in another doctor's office looking at our baby on the ultrasound screen as a wonderfully kind technician, Rhonda, cried with us and confirmed the worst. Knowing this changed everything. We told her we wanted to know the gender and she showed us that he was a little boy and not the least bit shy about it. The doctor came in and both he and Rhonda sat with us while we cried and asked question after question. We wanted to know every option and every possible outcome for our baby. We decided to do genetic testing, in large part because it was the only thing we could do that day to try and help our son. We were relieved to later find out that there were no genetic abnormalities. Of course, this only raised more 'whys'. There didn't seem to be any reason this happened to our baby. The doctor said without the presence of any genetic abnormalities the chances were like being struck by lightning. After very briefly considering the alternative, we chose to continue to carry James Paul and prayed for a miracle.
A couple of months later James was still growing and seemed to be doing well aside from the encephalocele. Once he was big enough for the ultrasounds to give us more information we decided to see a pediatric neurosurgeon to get more information about our son's condition and his professional opinion. In June we had a fetal MRI to get more specific information about James's encephalocele. It wasn't good news, but it wasn't all bad news either. For the first time since the appointment we had at 17 weeks, we had a little bit of hope. I was almost at the end of my second trimester and we started to have conversations about 'if he made it'.
The next month was filled with wonderful memories. Everyone in our families got to feel James kick and move around. Our parents went with us to an ultrasound boutique to see 3D pictures of James, and we had maternity photos taken. We still knew that the worst was the most likely outcome, but we were praying for a miracle. We went in for another ultrasound at week 33 and found out that I had developed a condition called polyhydramnios. Basically I had too much amniotic fluid, likely caused from James not swallowing. My levels were close to double the average. We had a few options, but we chose to be patient and see if the levels might come down on their own. We knew that this was a pretty ominous sign. My levels continued to increase and by 36 weeks the weight and volume of the extra fluid was comparable to carrying twins. We decided to have an amnio reduction to drain some of the excess fluid in hopes that James would make it to his induction date.
August 6th we went to the hospital prepared for a long boring day; it wasn't to be. My water had broken and James was breech. Because I had so much fluid they couldn't attempt to move him so we planned a c-section. Phone calls were made and our family started to filter in. With each sibling that arrived there was happiness and tears. Once our friend & photographer Amanda arrived, we had a prayer with all of our family and then they wheeled me away.
James Paul Kaminski came into the world via C-Section August 6th, 2016 at 10:07pm weighing 4lbs 7oz. He was 15 inches long and perfect in every way. He spent every minute of his life on this earth in his Daddy's arms. He was baptized by his Papa surrounded by love and family. It was the hardest day of our lives while also being the most precious. Our precious baby boy is now with Jesus and so many family members that have gone before him & we can't wait until the day we get to see him again.
As a crafter and artisan I needed to make something to remind me of my son, something I could keep with me. I designed "James's Joy". I searched scripture for comfort and found James 1:2, "Count it all joy my brethren when you are faced with trials...". We had certainly been faced with trials, but in the midst of them we'd had such joy. This necklace was what I needed, and what my family needed. We created a memorial garden for James and I decided to make these necklaces to tell his story and use the funds to make his garden a really special place. Now that James's Garden is complete, 50% of the proceeds from these necklaces will be donated to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a non-profit that provides photography services to people who lose their babies far too soon. If you would like one for yourself or for someone else who needs a reminder that there is often joy in the midst of our trials you can find them in my shop.
Read about our journey through infant loss on the blog.