‘He had curly blond hair, a perfect nose, pouty lips. They told me he was beautiful. I didn’t get to see.’: Mother survives ‘worst trauma’ after losing newborn son, insists daughter will grow up knowing big brother is ‘watching over her’

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Disclaimer: This story includes images of child loss that may be triggering to some.

“I can remember the exact moment I found out I was pregnant. My hands were shaking as I lifted the test close to my face to read the word, ‘pregnant.’ There was a little baby growing inside of me and of all days to find out, it was my birthday. It was the best surprise I could ask for and I was already so in love with just one word.

The first half of my pregnancy went off without any problems. Morning sickness hit the second trimester and all my family members were so helpful when I would get sick. We were also counting down the days until we’d find out if baby was a big or a girl. I wanted to start buying clothes and picking out what the nursery would be like. We had already picked names: Jensen Grey for a boy and Mila Rae for a girl.

Courtesy of Danielle Ridgway

Twenty weeks came quick, even though at the time I felt like I’d never find out if the baby was a girl or boy. At that doctor’s appointment, the baby’s dad, my mom and dad all filled a tiny room. We had to bribe the nurse to let us all in, but I couldn’t imagine finding out such information alone. The ultrasound jelly was cold on my belly, then I saw my baby flash on the screen. There my little love was, dancing around with such a strong heartbeat. The ultrasound technician did her measurements quietly while we ooo-ed and ahh-ed. She asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby, but I had already seen on the screen.

‘It’s a boy!,’ she said.

‘We have our Jensen!’ My mom blurted out.

Courtesy of Danielle Ridgway

And with the end of the scan, Jensen and I’s dad waited for the doctor to give us the clear. My mom and dad left, but I wish they didn’t. Everything changed after the conversation with our doctor.

‘There are some measurements that aren’t normal. The baby’s nuchal fold is big, which could mean a lot of different things. We’re going to run some tests to find out for sure.’

I was devastated. There was something ‘wrong’ with my perfect baby, my Jensen, and I didn’t know how to cope. After two blood tests, meetings with the high risk and genetic doctors, we found out what was going on with Jensen. He had Down syndrome. We didn’t know the severity, but found out he would need extra monitoring while I was still pregnant and after he was born, we would assess his needs.

To keep an eye on Jensen, I had two ultrasounds a week. It was an hour drive to and from there, but seeing him grow and move on the screen gave me so much joy. I’ll never regret all the time I spent in that doctor’s office. Hearing Jensen’s heartbeat and seeing him was my peace during my pregnancy.

As I neared the last few weeks, I definitely felt off. I wrote it off as being nervous to being a new mom and wondering what complications Jensen may have post birth, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

At my 38-week appointment, I found out Jensen had died. The screen wasn’t dancing as it usually did. Jensen was just slumped there. His heart wasn’t flickering, everything was just… still.

Everything after that moment felt still and like it was crashing at the same time… on top of being numb. Still to this day, almost four years later, I can’t let myself remember everything. It’d like a movie with missing parts. Sometimes they come to me and other times it feels… like it’ll be forgotten forever.

Jensen Grey Ridgway was born four hours after being induced on April 5, 2016. He had curly blond hair, a perfect nose, and pouty lips. I remember asking if he had all ten fingers and toes. They told me he was beautiful, but I didn’t get to see.

Courtesy of Danielle Ridgway

I made the decision not to see and hold Jensen. It’s probably one of my biggest regrets I’ll ever have in my life. Honestly, I didn’t know how I could do it. I was in so much pain and disbelief, maybe I didn’t realize the permanence of him being really gone. Instead, I asked for a lock of his hair, foot and handprints, and for them to take pictures of him. I wish I could go back to that moment, just to spend time holding and kissing him. As many times as I’ve outwardly said I love him, I wish I could’ve whispered it in his ear.

Courtesy of Danielle Ridgway
Courtesy of Danielle Ridgway

Life since Jensen’s birth has been filled with ups and downs. I survived the worst trauma I could ever imagine going through. His name is said every day and I try to live a full life because I know he didn’t get the chance. Jensen now has a sister, Mila. She will grow up always knowing she has a big brother watching over her. His pictures fill our house and we dance to the songs he moved to the most in my belly.

Simplicity of Grace
Courtesy of Danielle Ridgway
Sweet Serendipity Photography

My journey has been one of loss and love. If I could tell any mom, dad, grandparent, sibling, and family who has lost a child anything, it’d be to keep moving forward. No matter the decisions you’ve made with your child whose passed, you did your very best. Your loved filled your child’s life and that’s all they ever knew. That’s all Jensen ever knew too.

I will always be his mom and his life and the love I have for him will always matter.”

Photo by Shannon Karcher
Photo by Shannon Karcher

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Danielle Ridgway of Gnadenhutten, Ohio. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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