Tara and Mike Denz
Avery Robert our first and only son
Mike and I met in November 2009. We were two people looking for love on the popular website Match.com. We went on our first date at a local coffee shop near our town and soon became a couple. It didn't take long for Mike and I to fall in love. We dated, as most early on couples do, started living together in what use to be my old apartment and then bought our first home together. He proposed on Christmas Eve, just the two of us, opening presents from one another and enjoying the quiet before the holiday family bustle began. In October 2014, Mike and I married in one of the most romantic local venues in Michigan. We set out on an adventure to Italy for our honeymoon and took in the sights as if they would be our last. The years flew by, but also stood still at the same time. I can remember so many beautiful details of our love, and things were only about to get better.
In October of 2015, we started the conversations of starting a family. We were concerned because I had developed an irregular menstrual pattern and all the signs showed that I had developed PCOS. I knew that if I ever wanted to have a family, I was going to need to start making improvements to my lifestyle. I started eating cleaner, and went on a lifestyle change that included embracing the program called Whole 30. It was an elimination diet that helped you understand what was effecting your body. Within a month, my periods began to regulate on their own and I was getting healthy. In January 2016, I decided to get really adventurous with my diet and I went on a 30-day fully raw challenge. I wanted to eat pure and raw fruits and vegetables...and while doing it I felt utterly amazing. Two months went by and I had stopped getting my periods. I was scared I had shocked my body with these diet shifts...and despite numerous negative pregnancy tests, I thought something was wrong. Until March 2016, my fate had changed. Pregnant. I was actually pregnant.
The shock was hitting me. I was alone in my bedroom staring at the pregnancy test, with tears of joy welling up in my blue eyes. I couldn't wait for my husband to get home and announce the news. We were going to have a baby. His reaction was just as I expected. He was in shock...repeating "Holy Sh*t" over and over and had a glass (or two) of wine to calm his nervous. This was so real. My mind raced with possibilities and I began preparing almost instantly for what would surely be the longest nine months of my life.
On Easter, 2016, we announced to my family and Mike's family that we were pregnant. Avery would be the first grandchild on my side of the family and the sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. My Mom especially had waited a long time for that day. I made a gift basket filled with goodies for my parents to open and their excitement was everything I had hoped for. The next few months we were happy and filled with joy. I was on a mission to make Avery's nursery into a Woodland Wonderland filled with foxes, birch trees and homemade treasures. Everything about my pregnancy was going along great and Avery was expected to make his debut on October 31, 2016.
One of the last memories that I hold dear to my heart is a trip that my husband and I took to New Jersey and Pennsylvania in May 2016. We rented a home in the middle of nowhere, and took in the scenery, as this would more than likely be the last time we would have to be by ourselves before our baby's arrival. I can go back to one moment in that trip like it was yesterday. We were sitting in the warm evening air enjoying a camp fire and looking out into the distance. The talks of our son, our dreams, our plans were all I could focus on.
"we were together. I forgot the rest."
June 16, 2o16, started like any other day. I woke up, put on a long black and floral dress and started getting ready for my work day. The floral design is forever embroidered in my heart, as it was one of the last pieces of clothing I would wear with my proud baby bump showing. I went to work and mingled at times with other employees. Everyone was anxious and asking a lot of questions. One in particular always stands out. "How are you feeling?" I felt great and the answer was always the same. Around 11am that day I went to the washroom and my life would change. I found a few small spots of blood. That was abnormal for me. I was in my 20th week of gestation and had never seen that before. I hurried up and contacted my doctor immediately. I explained to the receptionist what was happening and after checking with the doctor, they recommended that I come in to see him. I was instantly terrified, as if somehow in hindsight my body knew. I found my boss in the lunchroom where I had been and started crying and asked to leave early for my appointment. She said to absolutely go and to call my husband. I did just that. I called him...something we rarely did while at work. He answered and I immediately began to cry. I explained the situation and he agreed to meet me at home. I drove home and time stood still once again. I didn't want anything to be wrong. I rushed through the door and went to the washroom again, only this time there was no signs of distress. I calmed down, ate some lunch...soup to be exact...and got ready for my appointment.
At 1:15pm we waited in the doctor's office eager to see the doctor for reassurance. The entire time Mike and I talked how surely nothing could be wrong. We were just overreacting. My doctor came in with an intern for an exam. I lied there holding my husband's hand waiting to here the words we had been hoping for. What came next was nothing I could have been prepared for.
"Do you see that" said the doctor. "Yes" said the intern.
See what? I thought. What is happening. The doctor finished the exam and sat up taking a moment to pause. My water had started to breach into my vaginal area and I was going to lose my baby. Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life. My skin went pale, my hands shook and the tears instantly streamed as if I was going to fill the room. Sounds seemed to muffle for moments, just like in the movies when everything goes dark. My doctor continued to tell me that I had what appeared to be an incompetent cervix which caused my water bag to breach do to the weight of Avery. At the time he was the size of a banana...how could less than a pound be causing so much irreversible stress to my body? He told us that there was a very small chance that we could do an emergency cerclage and save our baby. There was a doctor at a city hospital that could do the procedure and he excused himself to make the phone call. All I could do was cry while getting dressed and immediately felt the shame. I dressed in front of my husband for the first time completely ashamed of my body. I was too weak to make this dream come true. The echoes of my gasping apologies still ring in my ears from time to time. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry." I don't know who I was apologizing to more in those moments. Myself? Surely my husband. And absolutely my unexpecting son, Avery, who in those moments was still very much alive.
We drove to the city hospital quickly. My legs shook from how hard I was holding them together. Afraid to move in the slightest, for it might break my water bag that was somewhere in the middle of life and death for Avery. My shoulders tipped forward as I sobbed. I didn't want to move even to wipe my tears. We got to the hospital and I was seen right away from the referred doctor. He explained what would take place next and I would need to stay in the hospital overnight before the surgery could be attempted. The goal was to elevate my feet in hopes that the water bag would go back in and they could stitch my cerclage. I layed there shocked but hopeful that this could work. All hung in the balance of a 10% chance this could work.
I was feeling very uncomfortable at this point, maybe 20 or 30 minutes had passed and I felt like I desperately needed to use the washroom once more. I walked out of the room, passing the nurses station and said I would be right back. I opened the door, sat down, and felt this uncontrollable feeling. It was pressure and pain all at once. I felt something unusual, so I placed my hand outside the opening near my vaginal area and I froze. It felt like the crown of a head, only it wasn't. It in fact was my water bag. And then it broke. Water went everywhere. I was on me, the floor, and in the toilet. I screamed and pressed the panic button. The nurse came to the door and I was screaming, my water just broke. She walked away...and to this moment I still don't know where she went. I walked down the sterile white hallway alone, with water still slowly leaking out and made it to my room. Drenched in tears and water, I made it to my husband's arms and announced what had happened. In those moments I knew Avery was going to die.
My husband started taking the lead and called my parents to let them know what had happened. All I could do was lay in a bed and get introductions out of the way by nurses that were coming and going. My main nurse, who would spend the most of the night with me came in asking questions. She would review information and look for validation. One question she asked still upsets me to this day. "Avery's due date is Halloween" she said with a smile in her voice. "Was", I muttered back. Was. His due date WAS Halloween. She apologized, but what else can you do when your waiting to deliver a baby you know will never take a single breath?
An hour or so passed, and by now my parents had arrived. I cried in my Mother's arms and explained what had happened. I still lay scared, and wet from everything that had happened. Eventually, I was given my overnight room and the instructions of what was going to come next. They would induce my labor and wait for Avery to be delivered. I can scan the room in my mind still...the wonderful advantage of having PTSD of that day, and still remember the layout of my family. My husband, beside my bed, holding tight to my hand, my parents, my siblings and their significant others. All hearing my stories and the anguish I was telling.
The remaining part of the evening was somber, with my family slowly leaving for the night. I was given more rounds of medication to continue inducing my labor. The final rounds of medication made my body go into shock and I was shaking uncontrollably from cold. I started getting contractions and every time I shook from cold it made me clinch up and have pain in my abdomen all at once. My husband and the nurse put blanket over blanket on top of me, heating pads and more just to warm my body up. Avery came into this World with only Mike and I in the room. As I laid there I could feel warm rushes under the blankets as the pain medication was no longer working. I called for the nurse and when she arrived she pulled back the blanket.
"Is that him?"
Yes, she replied. I cried, pulled the blankets over my face and turned towards my husband as all the nurses and doctors worked on completing the delivery. He was placed in a delivery incubator and was already gone. He was born at 3:37 AM on June 17, 2016. Avery Robert Denz, my first and only son and now my angel.
While many parts of our story still cause so much anguish and stress, I hope that reading it gives you the insight of the beginning parts of our journey. Avery from that day forward would become my muse and the light in the darkest of days. I love him with a love that is more than love, it is my maternal bond and I will never take that for granted. He is mine, and I am his. And together we will continue to raise awareness of pregnancy and infant loss while honoring angels in art.
Avery R. Denz
Memorial Tattoo for Avery
Two birds on a branch for Mike and I, a red cardinal flying overhead. His footprints were taken from his Certificate of Life and designed as the V.
Tattoo Artist: Stephen King- Brother-In-Law