27 Feb Momspiration Monday // Jessica’s Story
When Chandler first asked me to write a post for her Motherhood Monday series, I immediately felt grateful and said yes without hesitation. What a great opportunity to share my son’s story and raise awareness for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood. But each time I sat down to try to put my feelings into words I struggled. How can I put a positive spin on what happened to us? What is our silver lining? I have been told over and over that “everything happens for a reason”, but what is that reason? Is there even a reason good enough to explain why my child died?
I married my high school sweetheart, J., and after four years of marriage and a year of infertility, my husband and I finally had our precious son, Moss. Although the lack of sleep was brutal, we loved our transition into parenthood. Moss was an extremely happy and friendly baby and toddler who never met a stranger. He was so well behaved in restaurants, waving to every table around us, we never felt the need to hire a babysitter and took him with us on weekly date nights. Right before Moss turned one, we were surprised to find out we were expecting again. Two months later, J. was offered a new job in Austin, and we moved back to our hometown. While looking for a new house and waiting to sell our home in Houston, we moved in with my parents.
The Monday after Easter, we found the perfect home for our soon-to-be family of four. It was exactly one mile away from both of our parents and walking distance from the elementary school that J. and I both attended. It was nostalgic and special imagining Moss growing up in the same church and schools that we did. We traded in my smaller car for a suburban – gotta make room for two car seats and a double stroller! That Thursday our offer was accepted on the house, I enrolled Moss in a nearby preschool, and had my first prenatal appointment with my doctor in Austin. This was a time in our lives when everything seemed to be falling into place and there was so much to look forward to.
Then on Friday our world changed. Moss woke up with a low fever and seemed more tired than normal. After eating breakfast and watching Sesame Street, I put him down for a nap and began packing my bags for a trip to Dallas for my husband’s best friend’s wedding. I remembered that I had taken my wedding rings off while giving Moss a bath the night before, so I quietly crept into his room to get them. I saw that Moss was sleeping face down. As I repositioned him, I noticed that he was not breathing and was unresponsive. I grabbed him, ran out to the hallway while calling for J., and noticed he was turning blue. We both performed CPR on Moss while my mom called 911.
We spent the next 30 hours with Moss on life support, surrounded by family and friends at Dell Children’s Medical Center. After numerous scans and tests, there was still no indication of what happened. Everything showed what we knew – Moss had been a perfectly healthy and thriving little boy. But, we were informed that there was no brain activity and Moss’s organs were shutting down. It would only be a matter of hours before he passed away. [Side note: I have shared Moss’s story many times in writing and speeches, but it never gets easier seeing or hearing these words. I still can’t believe I am talking about my little boy].
I was surprised by how different my emotional experience and state of mind was from my husband’s. J. was very aware of what was going on and he began his grieving and releasing emotions of anger and sadness. He was distraught and physically ill most of the time we were in the hospital. I, on the other hand, was praying for a miracle until the very last minute. I found myself in shock, yet I felt I couldn’t allow myself to breakdown in case the doctors needed me to make a life saving decision. As Moss’s mother, I needed to be mentally and physically present and available to him and the doctors at all times.
We spoke with with a child life specialist and chose to pursue organ donation. Unfortunately, after some time, Moss’s organs were no longer viable and organ donation was no longer an option. Another devastating blow. We ultimately decided to take Moss off life support so that J. and I could hold him in our arms as he passed away peacefully. The hospital was very accommodating and allowed us to hold a bedside memorial service lead by our priest. We then gathered in the courtyard for more prayers with our dearest friends and family.
Although I had just experienced the most traumatic 2 days of my life, the worst moment of all was waking up the next morning without Moss. No little voice on the monitor waking me up, no diapers to change, and no one to make breakfast for. My identity as a mother began slipping away. I was four months pregnant with a child I suddenly didn’t want. I only wanted Moss.
The next five months were excruciating as we remodeled the house we had just bought and waited for our second child’s arrival. The things we were so looking forward to were suddenly painful reminders that Moss was no longer here.
Our beautiful daughter, Madeline Moss, was born and for the first time, I felt a sense of hope and peace. The moment I held her in my arms I felt like a mother again. This child needed me and I felt purpose in my life once again. Six months later, we were again surprised to find out that we were expecting another little girl. Another sister for Moss.
Today Madeline is two and Frances just turned one and we are busy chasing these toddlers and managing a foundation in honor of Moss. This is where I wish I could wrap up my post and say that life is happy and perfect. These two girls give us a million reasons to smile each day and we see different pieces of Moss in each of them, but it’s really tough being a parent to a child in heaven.
We expected Moss’s autopsy to answer all of the questions we had about Moss’s death, but it didn’t. We still don’t understand what happened. We have joined a heartbroken yet supportive community of parents through The Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Foundation. While everyone has heard of SIDS, we had no idea a child could die with no explanation after the age of one. Unfortunately, we are now friends with hundreds of families across the world that have experienced this same kind of loss.
Not understanding Moss’s death has been a source of extreme anxiety with our two daughters. If I knew how he died, I’d know what to do differently with our other children. We have bought every breathing monitor on the market and our daughters now sleep on breathable mattresses. But there is not enough technology in the world to ease my fears of losing another child.
Long before having children I remember being told that life is full of phases. I see that clearly now in raising children, in my marriage, and in my grief. It’s always hard to see past the phase you are currently in. Wondering if your child will ever sleep through the night or learn to take a bottle or eat a variety of foods. Will you ever be able to wear a cute outfit not covered in spit up or drool? The good phases are fun and get you through the tough ones. Right now my two year old asks to wear a princess dress everyday to preschool. Getting dressed is a battle every morning but I know it won’t last forever, so I have to just laugh at her imagination and love all things Elsa.
Marriages go through lots of ups and downs too. For us there was such excitement when we decided to start trying to conceive, disappointment when it didn’t happen right away, and pride when our first child arrived. While navigating life as bereaved parents, we have gone through so many phases. Times when we are able to cry together and support each other, but also times when we didn’t understand how we could grieve so differently. J. visits Moss’s graveside weekly. It’s a time for him to sit, reflect, and talk to Moss. I struggle being there. I feel closest to Moss when rocking his sisters in his glider and reading the same books that we read to him. We have also learned to appreciate feeling “okay”. This past Valentine’s Day we went to dinner at a new restaurant and just had fun together. It has taken time for us to allow ourselves to feel happy because feeling happy is usually followed by guilt. How can I be smiling and laughing while hurting and missing one of my children so deeply?
The pain of missing Moss is something we will always carry with us but we are always looking for new ways to incorporate him into our daily lives. We love showing Madeline and Frances pictures and videos of their big brother and sharing stories of the funny things he did. We know we should be busy taking care of three kids instead of two, but we feel the time and effort we have put into managing the Moss Pieratt Foundation allows us to feel like we are taking care and doing something for Moss. When choosing how to best honor his life, we wanted to host an event that Moss would love attending. He loved music and so choosing to organize a children’s concert felt like the right thing to do. We are excited to host our second annual MossFest on Sunday March 5th. There is no doubt Moss will be singing and dancing from above.
Living in Austin, TX, Jessica is mommy to Madeline , Frances  and Moss. In memory and honor of Moss, she and her husband, J., have committed themselves to bringing awareness to SUDC and to raise money to help fund research through the Moss Pieratt Foundation. Their largest fundraiser, MossFest, a music festival just for children, will be taking place in Austin’s Zilker Park on Sunday, March 5th.
*Hey guys, Chandler here! If you’re in or around Austin with kiddos, join me and B at MossFest! I call it the ACL for kiddos and it’s sure to be a great time! Will I see you there?
For more information on SUDC and what it is, click here.
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