For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom. I had a timeline for myself of when I would get married, when I would have my first child, and that I would have a big family. It seemed easy. Other people made it look easy. Society mostly spoke of the joys and successes yet soon I knew and lived the reality of how nothing is ever as it seems.

My road to motherhood was not easy.

We experienced 3 consecutive miscarriages before pursuing fertility treatments. We did one IUI before moving on to IVF. We did two rounds of egg retrievals and I became pregnant with our third embryo transfer and was able to carry to full term and delivered a thriving healthy baby boy. I felt so grateful to finally have an earth side baby. I had a lot to be grateful for and I had a lot to be nervous about. Afterall, I have seen some pretty unbelievable tragic cases in my experience as a pediatric critical care pharmacist at major academic medical institutions while also seeing some miraculously beautiful outcomes for other cases. There is always multiple truths and realities.

The universe works in unpredictable ways.

The delivery was traumatic, complicated by mechanical symphysis pubis separation at birth and later postpartum depression. It was hard and I would do it all for my baby. Fast forward in time, we were blessed to spontaneously welcome my second son in 2020 and my third son in 2021. I thought to myself, maybe I had three miscarriages to arrive in this moment in time to have three sons. The struggle made this moment extra sweet. It made me appreciate how far I have come to grow and evolve within myself. Would I rather the journey be easier?

Of course. I doubt anyone chooses to struggle to enhance the taste of attainments. I thought finally all my suffering had allowed me to reach this moment of happiness, that perhaps life would be smooth sailing from now on.

My third son, Joey Tate Kim

Was born on December 28, 2021. I reflected on how he would be the last baby in my womb like a kangaroo carries Joey. I reflected on how his due date was around the same time as the baby from our first miscarriage. That maybe everything is coming full circle and that all the struggles led me to the arrival of my sweet third son.

On July 15th, it was supposed to be a normal day. He had been starting to crawl, and sit up, and was growing so strong. After nursing him, I put him in his playpen awake with his usual play objects that all of his brothers played with as I grabbed dinner downstairs quickly with the rest of the family for 15 minutes. It got unusually quiet so I went to check on him and I found him unresponsive with an object covering his mouth and nose. We performed CPR and called 911. He was revived in the hospital and we lived in the PICU for eight days. How can after all that I struggled with to become an earthside mom, a traumatic first delivery and two cesarean sections later, and three rounds of postpartum depression and anxiety, can I now be dealt this card? Every parent’s worst nightmare. Joey Tate Kim died on July 23, 2022, at the age of 6 months and 25 days.

Joey was truly a happy baby.

We named him Joey Tate because Joey means “to increase/to give” and Tate means “cheerful.” He woke up each day with a smile on his face and full of content. It’s weird to say a 6-month-old baby can be considerate—but Joey was so patient, thoughtful, and considerate. He has two older brothers, who at the time were age almost 35 months old and 26 months old, that are completely rambunctious and high energy. When we went on outings as a family of five, little Joey found contentment with just being held and rolled with how the day went, even if it meant a late feed or missing naps. He let his brothers dictate the day as he remained calm and super chill. He seemed to listen to what others needed and made it happen.

Joey radiated positivity, love, and life. No parent should ever feel what we feel. Every parent deserves more time with their children. With this feeling, we explored the opportunity for Joey to be an organ donor. We hope his organs can give other parents more time with their children—another chance for them to parent their child—and a chance for their child to experience more joys of life. If we could not have our miracle for Joey to come back, we can only hope Joey serves as a miracle for others. Joey was able to donate his kidneys and we began to feel a sense of gratitude to begin healing through the gift of life to others.

No parent survives the death of their child.

That version of themselves died alongside them. And so we move through the following days of our lives with grief and trauma. Many days are a blur and there are so many tears. There was no knowing of whether joy and grief can truly coexist. The loss of a child leaves a void so great that it is endless and impossible to fill.

Every day you meet new grief as you realize how you can never form new memories, never reach new milestones, and there’s continuous loss being experienced day after day. Many days you feel guilt and shame. Many days you feel punished and unworthy. Then at some point, you surface from grief and begin to notice the love, care, and grace others have extended towards you. And you realize that although you feel like you cannot survive, people are serving as your earthside angel wings to lift you so you can continue. And ever so slowly, you remember why you are still here. Because through you, your child lives on. And together you are here while one is not physically here.

Grief manifests differently for each person.

It affects your mind, body, and soul. There is no one way to “do grief” “correctly.” There will be a wide range of emotions and all of it is valid. All of it. I found it helpful to face grief head on and for me, it started with informing family and friends of the details of this tragedy through an email. And as people replied, letting the new reality set in, along with letting myself feel the sadness, the shame, the guilt, the anger, the blame, the many emotions and feelings. I did twice a week individual talk therapy and couples therapy every two weeks. I went through every captured picture or video memory that I had. I sat in the grief and occasionally climbed out to distract myself. I listened to songs. I cried. I smiled. I sobbed. I journaled. I painted. I read. I gardened. I isolated. I invited friends into my home that would allow me to be as I was. I did what felt right for my mind, body, and soul.

Nothing Is Ever As It Seems

I often hear myself saying “I wish I knew.”

I felt disappointed and mad at myself for not seeing the dangers even after being such a hypervigilant mom paranoid from cases I have learned from work. How could I miss this? I wish I knew or saw something similar to make me even more vigilant. So I created a grief page on Instagram @whatjoeytaughtme to share baby Joey’s accident, share what he meant to me, share my grief, and share what he taught me and is continuing to teach me despite his physical absence. It has allowed me to connect with other loss moms. Connecting with others who share a similar experience helps my grieving. We know this type of grief will be a marathon, not a sprint. So I share baby Joey’s story in hopes that it may help another family avoid the same fate and to connect with other loss moms so they feel less alone in navigating the complexity of grief from child loss.

Babies do not replace babies.

A mother will always remember every one of their babies whether anyone else does or not. For me, a baby after loss represents new hope and a new light. My days after Joey died felt dark and dreary, like I was looking out a window at stormy skies wishing for a ray of sunshine or a bright star. I wanted to see life again as blue skies and sunny days with the occasional storms. For me, new life would give me that hope and so we decided to pursue a pregnancy knowing that new life is not guaranteed. We became blessed and were pregnant with twins.

Pregnancy after loss was full of nervousness and anxiety. I worried every step of the way. After experiencing the trauma of losing Joey, I felt that literally, any bad thing seemed very possible. “Rare” lost its meaning when it became my reality. I worried about miscarriage and the overall viability of my babies. And when they were born premature, I worried about NICU complications. And as they have been discharged home to me, I worry if they can live longer than Joey did. I worry about losing another child. So yes, I have a lot to be grateful for and yes I have a lot to be sad about.

Nothing is ever as it seems.

Joy and grief coexist. Never did I imagine a year after creating baby Joey’s Instagram grief page (@whatjoeytaughtme) would I be discharged home from giving birth to my double rainbows— my identical twin girls, Camellia Joy and Lily Jo. I thank baby Joey every day of the pregnancy and every day now with my daughters earthside. So much of Camellia and Lily are parts of Joey (Joy and Jo). I thank him for allowing me to meet these new little souls. It feels like they were heaven-sent, heaven-sent by their angel big brother Joey. With my twins, I feel like we have been given a second chance. Our home is filled with more love than before. Now when we doubt ourselves in our ability to parent, I think about how we were given two and that has to mean something, that maybe we are worthy and we are meant to share Joey through his twin sisters. There is always so much more than what one can see. There is truly so much to be said. Nothing is ever as it seems.

 

About the Author:

Jenny Kim Mother of angel baby Joey Tate Kim Email: JennyLi.SF@gmail.com Instagram: @whatjoeytaughtme

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