Losing A Baby & Forming A Family

I’ve been thinking a whole lot lately about marriage and loss. About not taking our partners for granted. About showing up every single day to be present in our relationships. And I’ve been thinking about the power of this institution, this changing, bending, evolving institution, and the way it’s able to support us. The way this covenant is there for us when times get so hard we can hardly see our way out. All of this is my way of introducing Shana Rae, who’s story is about birth and death and weddings and marriage and family. And as I say now and then, this is NSFW, in a sobbing kind of way. I lost it reading this post in a way I almost never do. Started sobbing, but at the end, felt like I’d learned and grown, felt like I carried something of Shana Rae in me. Which is why we tell our stories, I think. Or as Shana Rae so beautifully said to me, “So many times I’m convinced the world is a cipher, an endless vacuum set to suck, and then something happens and the interconnectedness of it all kisses my face.” And with that, the woman herself:

I’d been married before. I’d had the $2000 dress and the Louboutin heels and an amazing ring with the wedding overlooking the fireworks that went off at midnight. I’d believed that a perfect wedding begot a perfect marriage. I’d deluded myself into thinking that the problems a couple has before marriage go away after the wedding. I left a really stellar man who didn’t cheat, who didn’t spend the money or drink too much, in hopes that I could find someone who wanted to be actively engaged in building a powerfully deep relationship with me. I was plagued for years with the will-I-ever-be-satisfied? / what-is-wrong-with-me? panic as I went on dates with men who were not my partner.

I met Jared in a bar that reeked of 1974 with the smell of fried spam soaked into the shag carpeting. I’m not attracted to blonds as a general rule and let him know that right off the bat. I grinned that he was the exception. He replied in kind that he was not attracted to blond women, but that I wasn’t so bad looking myself. Later, he made a joke that I had an Electra complex and it was over… I was in deep smit. He had timing, wit, an amazing smile AND he knew what the opposite of an Oedipus complex was. Random emails turned into texts, texts into lunches and when he moved to my city, I asked him out immediately.

We moved in together in the summer of 2010 and began making future plans. Jared wanted to go to law school and welcomed my input into the process. We’d be moving to the East or West Coast, it would happen late Summer 2011, we would get married before we moved. We had a plan.

Then, we found out we were pregnant.

I’d gone to the doctor for two issues. I’d had a stomach thing for weeks and it was crampy and tender to the touch. I’d also been playing roller derby and my neck was out of whack. I’d asked for an x-ray. They had me pee in a cup, and then draped me in a hospital gown while I waited in a freezing cold room, asking questions to keep my bearings. The x-ray tech told me I’d had a pregnancy test done as she was about to x-ray me. I asked, “Shouldn’t we wait for the results before the x-ray?” She sighed, went to the telephone murmured a few uh-huhs, and annoyed, she stated, “I can’t x-ray you. You’re pregnant.” I fell over. Excited. Terrified. Excited. Panicked. I revisited the doctor and she told me that I needed an ultrasound. Of course, I would. I know one gets ultrasound when pregnant. “When do I need to do that by?”

“Now,” she replied. “You’re going to the hospital now. We’re concerned you have an ectopic pregnancy.”

Atticus had our attention right from the beginning. From the moment we found out about him.

He wasn’t ectopic. He was 7 weeks in the making. I’d gone to a roller derby boot camp and came in first place in a city-wide scavenger hunt and Been Pregnant The Whole Time. I couldn’t believe my good fortune and the worry of becoming a mother consumed me immediately. Our plans shifted slightly. Getting married became a bigger priority. We would still move for law school. Baby was due in May of 2011. Wedding would be July 2011. The big move would be August of 2011. We would introduce everyone to him at the wedding just when babies start to look less like red faced drooling wrinkle machines and more like pink, plump perfect offspring. Recalibration of plan = DONE and DOABLE.

I drank water, did prenatal yoga, loved my expanding body. Jared and I put down payments on our venue, cupcakes, and oh yea, he officially asked me to marry him in November.  I came home after class one night and he had made me a 3 layer Red Velvet cake from scratch and then got on one knee.  We bought clothes as I grew out of them. We signed up for classes and settled into the idea that we really were about to become a family and we were happy, not just terrified. We were gonna rule this!

On January 11, 2011, I had my 6 month appointment with my Midwife. She cleared me as good to go and sent us on our way. The next day, I went into preterm labor.  At 7pm, the staff was going to give me some fluids and send me home thinking my contractions were caused by dehydration. By 8pm, they had realized I was dilated between 3-4 centimeters and fully effaced. They hooked me up to a Magnesium Sulfate I.V. and injected me with the first of two steroid shots that would help speed up Atticus’ lung development and give him a better chance if he delivered. They prayed he would sit tight for at least 48 hours, but first, we needed to make it through the first 24 hours.

I was terrified for his life, for my life. I was terrified of the needles, the hospital, the procedures. I’d gone to the Midwives because I wanted “control” of my pregnancy. I wanted to read up on the birthing methods of other countries, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into a medical procedure that strapped my feet into stirrups and stripped away the magic of birth.

Atticus Bryce was born 3 days later. 1 pound, 10.4 oz. 11.75 inches long. Smaller than a ruler, lighter than a sack of flour. My body had had no infections. They couldn’t tell us why I’d given birth so early, but the staff was going to fight to get our new little son home. They told us that he was severely underdeveloped, having gestated only 24 weeks and 4 days. They told us that our hospital stay would be a roller coaster. They told us that there would be days when we cried so hard and that the minutes would pass so slowly that we’d feel like we could never emerge from the darkness again. So we sat by his bed and started learning about the lines traveling into his tiny body. We read him stories and told him we loved him. We did what parents do.

As Jared and I weren’t married, Iowa state law said we couldn’t list Jared on the birth certificate.  We had to fill out another form and have it notarized before they would add him to the certificate. It probably sounds like a ridiculous deal to get bent out of shape over, but it was the back breaking straw.  We got married 5 days after Atticus was born.

I already had the dress. I had bought it a bit big in case I was still preggo plump two months after delivery. Jared already had his suit. My mom asked what we needed before an Iowa Supreme Court justice married us on Friday. I suggested flowers and a cake.  She asked what kind of flowers, I said, “I don’t care as long as the bouquet is small and pretty.” She asked what kind of cake I wanted, I replied, “I don’t care what kind of cake it is as long as it tastes good.” And that is how our wedding of spreadsheets, our wedding of meticulous planning, our wedding of vintage-we’re-so-hip-it-looks-thrown-together-but-made-the-bride-pull-her-hair-out-daily vanished. None of it mattered. We just needed to be married and supporting our son. We needed to do it together in a way that the state wouldn’t dream of making either of us feel less than. We stopped by the hospital in our wedding fancy and told Atticus what we were doing that afternoon, that we’d be back to spend time with him after it was all done. Armed with just a few family members, the judge and one tear stained, drippy nose bride, we were wed. An official family was formed that day, a paper contract of a covenant we’d made to one another long before.

Our son’s health improved and declined, just like they said it would. On February 6th, at 3 weeks old, he failed to digest some of the breast milk I’d been dutifully pumping for him.  A green substance entered his belly from his intestines. The x-rays and examinations went into high gear. We were conferring with surgeons, with kidney specialists, with pulmonary specialists. That Tuesday evening, we waited up most of the night with Atticus, sure that his body would not be able to take the stress of the illness or the methods to get him better.  My mother, a minister, stayed with us that night, the three of us baptized and named our son to the beeps and blips of medical machinery.

He made an incredible improvement. A real miracle in front of us. Two days after losing hope, our little BoyWonder (our nickname for him) showed us all his true resiliency and that we had sold him short on faith. His x-rays started looking really good, he had started urinating again, his near lethal levels of Potassium had returned to normal. In two days, he was moving, opening his eyes, interacting with us again. I was so, so proud of his effort, his will to survive and show us the force of his chutzpah. His doctors had told us that they didn’t think he would make it and he gave them his little baby middle finger in response.

On Monday, our doctor huddled us into a room to suggest that Atticus have surgery in the morning. He had responded so well to treatment, but he’d probably gotten as good as he was going to get and on the x-rays, he had what looked like an abscess in his gut. They were going to go in, clean it out and then he would be able to finish recovering from this bout of illness. The next morning, my husband was surprised I was handling Atticus’ surgery so well. It was still a dangerous procedure to do to a very sick little boy, but I knew, just KNEW that I’d lost faith in Atticus the week before and I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. He would always have me in his corner cheering him on.

And then it all changed.

The bacteria from the week before had killed his entire colon. It had killed over half of his small intestine. What they mistook as an abscess was the liquification of his dead bowels. We were placed in the position that we had to decide our son’s fate. The doctor’s could remove the dead gut and if he survived the surgery, they would give him a colostomy. He would never poop regularly. He would never be able to eat food. All nutrition would be from TPN, delivered intravenously.  TPN is incredibly hard on the liver. If he made it out of infancy, he would be looking at needing a small intestine and liver transplant as a toddler. Then he would have to suffer any complications from transplants. Or we could choose to let him go.

Previous to February 15th, I’d held Atticus for exactly one minute when they changed out his bed. Jared had never held him. We’d barely been allowed to touch him initially because of the negative stimulus. He was a baby that was supposed to be inside me, in the dark, with no people poking at him, changing his diaper, drawing blood gases. That day, we made the most terrible decision to release him from the pain of his body. As they unhooked all the tubes that had been sustaining him, we were allowed to hold him. We knew we were keeping him until 10:30pm when his grandfather from Tulsa would get to the hospital.  So we rocked him. We told him how incredibly proud we were of him. We told him how much we loved him. Jared and I took turns holding and loving him all day long for hours at a time. We did what parents do.

At 10:30, the staff removed his breathing tube. We held him as he let go. Each of his grandparents held him for the first and last times, each having time to have their own private conversations with their beautiful grandson.

We had him for 30 wonderful days.

We thought our summer wedding would be flowers and excitement and one very loved, very passed around baby boy. We thought our future plans and our savings and our frank conversations were solid. My husband and I are a team. We showed up. We supported our son. We supported one another. We asked for help. We asked questions. We spoke honestly.

We will still have our summer wedding and we will invite joy into our venue. We thought our wedding would be the celebration of our family, of bringing our son home. Atticus is home. He is in our hearts. He is in our prayers. Our wedding will be a celebration of our family, past, present and future. There will be laughter in our dance steps and hope in our smiles. There will be a confidence in our vows that conveys the depth of our partnership.

It is no longer about the flowers, my dress or the place cards. It is no longer the innocent glee of marrying my best friend. I mourn the loss of those things; there is sweetness in the crazy pressure we put on ourselves to create the perfect wedding. So I urge all couples to press on in the glorious maelstrom of wedding planning and to meditate on your relationship today. Show gratitude. Say to your love, “I respect you.” Say something like, “I am so incredibly honored to be your partner because the day after our wedding, we begin our life together…”

Be the love you feel.

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  • Shana Rae, there are no words to respond to your beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring story of love and family. This was just amazing. Thank you.

  • mags

    oh boy. Heartbreaking.

    So beautifully written too, Shana Rae. Thank you for sharing.

    “Be the love you feel.” I think this phrase (and your story, but that phrase in particular) will have me in tears for a long time to come.

    I am so sorry for your loss. So very, very sorry.

    • That is the part that will stay with me as well.

      You are a wonderful example of the love you are. I can tell the tremendous amount of love you feel.

  • I am crying as I write and I don’t know what to say, except thank you.

    • me too…

      And usually, as much as Meg says “this will have you in tears”, I’ve never been there before…

  • Kortney

    I am in tears. What a beautiful/sad/touching/alloftheabove story. This really helps put things into perspective for me. We’re not going to get the big wedding I’ve always dreamed of. We’re probably not even going to get a wedding, if I’m honest. But I am getting a family–a new one of my own making. What could be more special? What is more important than that? I’m inspired by your story. Thank you for sharing.

  • Louise

    this had me majorly teared up. Thanks so much for sharing your story, it was an honor to read it and I can’t believe the pain you’ve been through. I hope you have a lovely day this summer and that you’ll be able to celebrate your love and life with your loved ones, those present and those who couldn’t be present.

  • Zan

    I feel compelled to affirm for you, Shana Rae and Jared, what you must obviously already know. You did show up. You are a team. You did a really, really, really, good job; not just at doing what parents do, but at making it through what a lot of us can’t imagine having the strength to face. You are clearly wonderful parents, and it sounds like Atticus was very lucky to have you.

    I’m so sorry for the life-vacum of suck and the fact that you and Jared didn’t get to share more of life with your spunky little guy.

    And still, as I read this post –this of all posts– I was smiling and took mental note of the fact that, “This Shana Rae girl is a hoot!” It was so much sadder than the word “sad” can even convey, but it was funny too. For me at least, that’s a testament to the fact that you guys are strong and that you can do this. I don’t know you, not at all, but I firmly believe that.

    The recalibration of your life plan might not be anywhere near close to done yet, but it’s doable and you guys are doing it. And you’re doing a great job.

    • meg


  • I am so moved by Shana Rae’s story and the bravery it took to share it here. I know I’ll take Shana Rae’s advice about showing gratitude and reflecting on relationships to heart as my fiance and I approach our wedding. Wishing nothing but the best for Shana Rae and Jared throughout their years together.

  • Rachel

    This post touched me in more ways than one. I’m so sorry for your loss and your story of Atticus brought me to tears — his story and the story of the bond between you and Jared.

    I am also very interested to hear more about your first marriage, when and if you’re willing, and how you figured out you should leave and how you handled that.

    I wish you much love and light.

  • “It is no longer about the flowers, my dress or the place cards. It is no longer the innocent glee of marrying my best friend. I mourn the loss of those things; there is sweetness in the crazy pressure we put on ourselves to create the perfect wedding.”

    That’s the smartest, saddest, truest thing I ever read, and put so well too.

    What a loss, I am so sorry. This is the hard, the big and the nothing’s ever going to be the same again all rolled into one. But it sounds as though you are handling it amazingly. Truly an inspiration.

  • Carbon Girl

    Shana Rae, thank you for your strength. I am impressed and grateful you were able to write so bravely and honestly about Atticus on a couple months after he passed away. I hope your celebration this summer is the outpouring of love that you dreamed of and need.

  • My heart goes out to you, deeply. I have a friend who went through the same experience:pre-term delivery at 24-25 weeks. Her son lived one day. She said it’s a pain that subsided over the years, that it gets easier with time and healing is a process that her faith has helped her tremendously with.

    Through it, all, much like you, her husband has been her rock. Her shoulder to cry on. She still often needs to talk about it and pray about it.

    Bless you for baptizing your son. Bless you for loving him and fighting for him. For having faith in him. And bless you for making the hardest decision a person ever has to make.

  • Tori

    Shana and Jared, I’m sorry Atticus is no longer physically with you. Thank you for telling your story here. This is the best essay I’ve ever read on APW and I will never forget it.

  • Thank you so incredibly much.
    I cannot form a proper sentence right now other than to say thank you.

  • This is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking. I am so sorry for your loss, and grateful that you had the support from your family. Thank you for sharing your story, and your son’s story; it so so clear in your words how very loved he was and is.

    • Cass

      I feel compelled to comment. But anything I have to say has already been said in the comments.
      Tragic, but beautiful. Today the world feels much bigger than me.

  • Abby C.

    Absolutely breathtaking. Thank you for sharing. I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss, and I wish you much blessings in your new married life with your husband.

  • Stephanie

    Shana Rae and Jared-

    Thank you for sharing your story. Nothing can be said to make your hearts heal, but know that he is happy and watching over you. He is so proud of his strong and brave parents. Best wishes in the future.

  • I cannot even properly articulate what I’d like to say, but thank you so much for sharing this with us all.

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    Shana Rae, I’m in awe of the strength and grace that you and Jared showed in such unimaginably hard circumstances. Atticus is a lucky little boy to have had you. I’m even more impressed by the fact that, less than two months later, you can tell your story and look forward to a wedding of celebration and laughter. Your last two paragraphs are so incredibly perfect.

    Love is (relatively) easy when times are good and the sun is shining. It’s the hard times, the times when you can’t imagine it ever being light again and yet somehow you love and support each other and make it through — those are the times that can really define a relationship. I wish you two all the best.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story with us – this is an amazing, heartfelt post and, despite everything you have been through, surprisingly uplifting.

  • Thank you so much, Shana Rae. You are amazing for surviving such an ordeal and still being able to find the joy in it, and you are even more amazing for writing such a beautiful post to share with us. I wish you and your family all the best.
    Thank you, again. Thank you.

  • Liz

    No kidding on the NSFW. Mascara down to my chin. Shana Rae, you are brave and wonderful and you and your lovely husband will be in my prayers.

    • Yep. Completely blew off Meg’s warning and thought “No way, I can read this and keep it together….” I was wrong.
      Thank you for the post. Beautifully written. Best wishes and virtual hugs to you and your husband.

    • I also, dispelled the nsfw for cause of sobbing warning and as a crier, have no idea what I was thinking.
      Shana Rae and Jared, I’m amazed by your courage and grace in the face of this. I send kind thoughts, sorry for you loss and thank you so much for being able to share this with us. I wish you so much joy in your marriage and in the memory of the month spent with your tough, amazing son.

  • Shana Rae – thank you so much for posting here and sharing. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s been almost a year since my first pregnancy loss and the experiences have been the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Having a solid partner is invaluable. I’m so glad you have yours.

  • Agreed… this was so beautifully written and your strength is amazing Shana Rae. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been, but what a blessing to have been able to spend what little time you could with Atticus while he was here.

  • LPC

    What a brave and intelligent woman you are. I am so sorry you lost your boy so soon. But you held him and he left knowing he was loved. That much is clear. And be the love you feel? I may not be able to leave the house today. I may need to sit very still and let that phrase run through my mind, over and over.

    I wish you and Jared all possible happiness.

  • Hmmm. Words really seem inadequate here, but I didn’t want to not say anything after having read that.


    Never forgetting, but still moving forward . . . here’s to much happier times for you and your husband in your life together.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. You are an amazing, courageous, compassionate couple, and the world would be a better place with more people like you in it.

  • Becca

    Thank you, Shana Rae, for sharing this story with us. I’m sitting at work in tears — I know I was warned not to read this at work, but I just had to. Enduring loss with a partner is a topic that my partner and I talk about a lot. You and Jared are such an incredible model of the strength and courage in the face of heartbreak. Thank you for talking about it so openly and honestly. It’s so brave of you.

  • YOU. you and your beautiful family are so wise, loving, totally accepting and present. thank you so much for sharing your story – you will be in my hearts this summer when you get to celebrate yours and Atticus’ lives.


  • Shana Rae- your words are so touching and insightful. Thank you for sharing your story. Atticus was so blessed to have you two as parents, you obviously loved him in such a true way since you made a true selfless decision to take away his pain. I wish you and your husband many many years of happiness..

  • carrie

    Thank you, Shana Rae and Jared, for sharing this story with us. I have no words other than thank you for the story and for the wonderful advice. I also wish you a lifetime of happiness. You all are amazing.

  • Mattingly

    thank you for your courage- the courage to write and share this.
    thank you for your love- the love it took to hold each other and your son.

    may his memory be eternal, and God’s blessings flow over your family.


    I’m all teary and at work once again. The Can-Do attitude of yourself and Jared is unbelievably inspiring. Thank you for your story and it gives me strength with our wedding two weeks away, even though our story is completely different.

    Its so wonderful that you have a picture of your little family to immortalize the moment. Also, you look so beautiful in your wedding picture! You can see the love and emotion in both, my heart and prayers are with the two of you.

    • Darcy

      I too am touched by the evident love in the family photo and hope it brings them comfort.

      For anyone else in a similar situation there is a fantastic organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that will come in and do a photo session with the critically ill child and family. Their website reduces me to jagged sobbing every time but I think it is so important.

      • shanarae

        Thank you so much for naming Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. That is the organization that came and took photos of our family. We hated the idea of a stranger coming into our space the day our son would die, it was hallowed ground as far as we were concerned. The nurses urged us to agree to it and now, we are so incredibly grateful. The photographer from NILMDTS was so respectful and quiet and professional. We have beautiful photos of the last day we had with our son and are so, so, so grateful. A wonderful organization. Totally worthy of donations and volunteer time.
        Also, we donated our unused breast milk to a local milk depository. There are many women who cannot provide breast milk to their babies and there are organizations that test and then store viable breast milk for babies in need.

        So many amazing people out there helping those in need.

  • I don’t even know what to say, I’m crying too much. just, thank you.

  • Jessica

    Thank you for sharing your story because it truly made me put things into perspective in terms of my marriage and family.

  • Trudi G

    I’ve never sobbed over a post but I am right now.

  • I’m in awe of your strength, your spirit & your love! My heart is with you~

  • karen

    Wow. Really puts things in perspective.

  • Emily Elizabeth

    Thank you so much for telling us all your story. This is the hard stuff, the really, really hard stuff that so often is overlooked when talking about marriage, and starting a family, but is so important. Thank you Shana Rae, thank you APW.

  • ka

    I don’t like it when bad things happen to anybody, but when bad things happen to people like you, Shana Rae, who are clearly incredibly wise, intelligent, giving, loving, hilarious, insightful and full of gratitude it makes me want to scream.

    But then I pause, and realize that you are wiser than I am, and are really on to something with this: “So many times I’m convinced the world is a cipher, an endless vacuum set to suck, and then something happens and the interconnectedness of it all kisses my face.”

    So if the story of Atticus’s 30 days with you and Jared can make several thousand(?!) women stop and appreciate life with a little more of his mother’s grace, then I think his time here was better spent than that of many others with much more time.

    Cannot wait for your wedding grad post – life is an endless recalibration of plans, and we can all probably stand to learn to do it like you have. Ok, going to go cry a little more now. :)

    (And also – “in deep smit” is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.)

    • meg

      Many thousands. Yes.

  • Thank you for sharing this profoundly moving story, especially so soon after your loss. I started crying when I read about Atticus’ baptism and haven’t dried up those tears yet. But even telling such a sad story you were able to deliver such an uplifting message about Why We Get Married. This post was perfect for APW and I thank you again for writing it.

  • Like so many others, I’m at a complete loss for words, but feel like I need to say thank you, for sharing this story with us, for being so eloquent and brave, and for being able to convey that there is beauty and love and family amidst (and despite of) the vacuum of suck. I wish your family all the best.

  • To a fellow derby sister and mom, I send you all the love I have. Thank you for sharing your story. Seriously, it changed my world today! Love, love, love to you guys!

    • meg

      Sara! We need a follow up from you!

      • I swear I’m writing it! *smiles*

  • amazing story! Thank you for sharing it.

  • meg

    Even though I put this post up, I feel like I would be remiss to not also leave a comment, because I think it’s not just the reading of these words thats important, it’s the sharing of them. It’s like prayer, you don’t just read the words, you say them out loud.

    So, Shana Rae and Jared, may Atticus’ memory be for a blessing, for you and for all the world. You kissed our face today, and thank you for it.

  • My heart goes out to you two. I can’t even begin to fathom the gut wrenching loss it must have been – but I am in total awe of your strength and commitment. I wish you two the happiest wedding imaginable – with many healthy babies shortly thereafter to trash your home and fill you with joy <3

  • (Love) x 1000

  • LV Anna

    This essay hit me in the gut, hard, and yet gives me hope. Thank you for sharing your grace with us.

  • This was beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking… but with the uplifting message the end. I mean, wow… There really aren’t words.

    You are a woman who is strong beyond words.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Thank you, Shana Rae, for sharing your story with all of us, and in such a beautifully-written way. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. You and your husband are wonderful parents, and it sounds like you have built an incredibly strong foundation for the rest of your lives. Thank you for your bravery and your strength.

  • Theresa

    WOW. What an amazing, POWER-HOUSE post. You gave me chills, you made me cry, you made me smile, and you made my heart swell up until I thought I would smash my keyboard. Thank you for your bravery, your strength, and for sharing your story with us. It’s a beautiful story, and I’m so glad to have learned from it. ♥

  • Heather G.

    I was literally in the middle of a frantic search for a wedding venue when I read this. I have been frantic for days. I have forgotten why we do this. I have forgotten to appreciate what I have right this very minute.

    I stopped. I cried (still crying). I said a prayer of gratitude. I called my guy.

    Thank you, Shanna Rae, Jared, and Atticus.

    • meg

      Well this comment just made ME cry.

  • Carreg

    I have no idea what to say, but I’d like to send love and condolences to Shana Rae and Jared.

  • Riley

    I’ve admittedly been a regular lurker on this site for a couple of years now- I’m not yet engaged but I’ve been reading in “preparation”, just to nail down my ideas of marriage before I enter it… (I’m a shamelessly type-a, major planner kind-of person. And, thank God, the Boyfriend loves me for all my insanity.) I hadn’t commented until now because I didn’t think I quite belonged here yet, that the “entrance requirement” was a ring on my finger. However, if there’s one thing I think this blog is about, it’s community, no matter how diverse, so here I go!

    I’m a big believer that we encounter influences just when we need them, and, as of late, I’ve been conflicted between my desires for contentment and for control. However, Shana Rae, your words have been a comfort to me: your personal strength and strong connection with your husband in chaos is incredibly inspiring. You’ve not only managed to form a family from the unexpected but also remind us that sometimes it’s not the things that we are given but the things that are lost that empower us. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • carrie

      This, Riley, is why APW is the best thing to happen to brides and grooms since…ever. It’s these kinds of things that make me stop everyday and tell my fiance that I love him and I want to be married to him, not just wedding-ed. And I want to tell him that everyday after we’re married too. And I love that Shana Rae tells us that it’s okay to be the planners too.

      Beautiful comment. And welcome!

  • Shana, you are a beautiful, strong, fortunate woman, and you are an amazing mother. Thank you for so eloquently sharing your story, and showing us all the importance of our love and the present moment.

  • Fab

    Your son was so lucky to have you, and you him. Thank you for sharing.

  • Melissa

    Meg, you warned me to not read this at work and I didn’t listen. I had to get up from my desk and go hide in the file room until I could pull myself together. I am 14 weeks pregnant and oh.dear.g-d. was this touching and scary and lovely and heartfelt and beautiful and so much more that I don’t have proper words to convey. I just kept crying and rubbing my little belly telling my sweet unborn how much I love it already.

    Shana Rae – thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish you massive amounts of love, laughter and blessings.

  • Jess

    Wow. I am the cold-hearted reader who NEVER, in a year of wedding planning so far, has cried at an APW post. And here I am, trying not to wake up my fiance with my sobs. Thank you Shana – for letting your hurt become strength, for you, your husband, and others who needed to read this.

    Leonard Cohen says ‘Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.

    I hope your wedding is bursting with joy and light. Thank you for sharing so eloquently.

    My thoughts are with you and your husband… you make me want to celebrate our love in the least-selfish I know how…. you remind me how lucky we all are to have love like this in our lives!

    • shanarae

      We played one song at Atticus’ funeral. Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDemnguRYj4)

      If it be your will, that I speak no more
      If my voice be still, as it was before
      I will speak no more,
      I shall abide until I am spoken for, If it be your will
      If it be your will, that a voice be true
      From this broken hill, I will sing to you
      From this broken hill, all your praises they shall ring
      If it be your will to let me sing

      This song cripples me… so eloquently captures the struggle to support and accept dogged reality through the imagery of singing from a broken hill… lovelovelove

      • Laura Mc

        I was holding it together until I read those lyrics.

        You are inspiring beyond comprehension and have such grace and an unbelievable ability to see beyond yourself and your situation. You and your husband are utterly special people.

      • Yes. What a perfect song.

      • Stephanie

        I was crying until I read those lyrics, now I’m crying with goosebumps all down my arms.

        My thoughts are with you and Jared and your beautiful baby. He was lucky to have you two while he was here.

      • Class of 1980

        Leonard Cohen always brings it. Beautiful lyrics. The tears are rolling down.

  • Kayakgirl73


    You’re so brave. Thank you for this post. I wish you and Jared all the best. May you have a wonderful wedding. Please write a graduate post at some point. I hope and pray that more children are in the future for you, not that another child would ever replace Atticus.

  • Raqui

    Thank you so much for sharing, Shana Rae. What a strong, heartfelt and beautifully written piece. I hope that it has been healing to see how many you have touched and given strength.

    Between my sister and I, my parents had twin girls who lived for about a week. I sensed that my mother never had a supportive place to share her story and her grief and joy and gratitude towards my father for walking through it all with her. I am grateful to Meg and this site to be a place for you to share with us.

    Those twin girls have always been angels in our family, as Atticus will be to your family and to all the lives he continues to touch through your story.

    Blessings! I bet your wedding celebration is going to be joyful and FUN!

  • Patti Adamovicz

    Thank you for sharing this and I think about you two so much!! You are such a sweet, loving, person. . I am so glad to know you.

  • Marchelle

    Shana Rae, you, Jared and Atticus are beautiful in the truest sense of the word. Thank you for sharing your strength and beauty with the rest of us. I am enriched, and inspired to spend the rest of my days trying to be the love I feel.

  • So much strength and grace. My heart goes out to all of you.

  • I don’t even know what to say. I’m definitely sitting at my desk crying, though.

    Thank you, Shana Rae, for sharing your story. I can’t imagine the pain you and Jared feel, but you are amazing for finding joy in the midst of all this. And the Leonard Cohen song? Perfect.

    Much love and strength to you and your family. xoxo

  • Your story had me in tears. Your bravery is to be commended. I heard your story before the ending took place, having been told it by a friend. I don’t have the words to make the pain go away. But Atticus touched more people than you realize. And by sharing his story, you will help some other mom going thru a similiar situation. 30 days wasn’t enough time, but his memory will live on. I smile knowing how much love you both had for that little guy. That is evident with your words.

  • Beth

    I am not a crier and blew through Meg’s “NSFW” comment without a thought. Annnnd embarrassment ensues…

    Shana Rae, you. are. a. strong. woman. All the love in the world to you and yours.

  • ML

    thank you, shana rae. all my love to you and your family.

  • Thank you so much for your words and for your courage. I am so deeply sorry for your loss, and so in awe of your strength and your love.

  • Elizabeth

    I am awed by your strength and courage, deeply saddened for your lost, and hopeful that the days ahead will be filled with more light than darkness. You have demonstrated such generosity, openness, and kindness in sharing with us all today. You and Jared are beautiful people whose faith in humanity and life must inspire optimism in those who surround you.
    May Atticus’s memory be a blessing and may your days overflow with love.

  • ktea

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. May you find some comfort knowing many thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • msditz

    I read this post about 3 hours before Mister and I are set to meet with our pastor for the first time. What a day of reminding myself what this is all about. Thank you, thank you. And bless you and your family’s hearts.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I’m thinking of you and your family in your loss, and grateful to you for reminding all of us how to love.

  • Class of 1980

    I’ve been reeling from devastating family news today and haven’t been here until now. This story just adds to the sense of life’s twists and turns and how often we have as little control as leaves floating on water.

    I guess the only thing we can control is our response. We can choose to bring as much light into the darkness as possible.

    You did that in spades for Atticus.

  • Love and light to your family, Shana Rae.

  • Shotgun Shirley

    I almost didn’t read past the break, because I’m due in May and I didn’t want to be too affected… but I’m really glad I did not miss out on these beautiful words. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Be the love you feel = new motto.

  • Melissa

    Wow. I’m so sorry for your loss, Shana Rae. Thank you for sharing your story with us! I can really only second all of the previous comments.

  • Diane Diederichs-Stokes

    Awesome, the spirit of the program shines through you in so many ways, You are a copy of the book walking. I love and miss you. Diane

  • I think this may be the truest, hardest, and most beautiful thing I’ve ever read, anywhere. My heart is so full right now… and words desert me. Thank you so, so much for sharing your story, Shana Rae. Much light to your family.

  • Lydia

    Thank you so much for your story, Shana Rae. Your words are going to stay with me for a very long time.

  • Thank you so much for sharing. Beautiful.

  • SheWearsBoots

    Shana Rae: thank you for sharing all the facets of this pain/heartbreak/redemptionsong heartbreak with us. I sat down this morning to draft my own vows for my upcoming wedding, and reading this tells such a story of MARRIAGE and not just the process of being wed. The sweetness of marrying one’s best friend never felt like such a naive luxury. Thanks for sharing your own experience, so I can see clearly my own.

    Sending out wishes for many beautiful things to flutter into your life…

  • Dear Shana Rae,

    Thank you for sharing your story with humour, grace and strength. I’m so happy that by sharing your story of loss and love, you’ve highlighted what a marriage is all about. I’m sad to say that I know exactly what you, your husband and Atticus went through as I have tasted the sadness of baby loss. Our little girl Isla passed away after being born at exactly 23 weeks. It has been a hard road, but it brought home the strength of my marriage and the love and support of my husband David. Despite our losses, I’m heartened that we can find comfort in our partners. Good luck to you and I’m sending you all the positivity and happiness in the world.


  • Scribblemouse

    I was born as a quad at 27 weeks. We were IVF babies. They were expecting the worst for all four of us because we were so premature. I don’t know the exact timeline of events leading up to it, but I do know that my sister passed away the day after we were born.

    I can only imagine it all.

  • MMT

    Shana Rae, this must have been incredibly difficult to process and recount, and I am stunned by the way you told this story. What happened to you is blindingly traumatic and I, even speaking as a therapist, genuinely do not believe I know any person in the world capable of the growth you have achieved in only a few short weeks. My most sincere condolences to you and to Jared. And, my most sincere thanks for your advice at the end. I will absolutely do what you implore each of us to do, to really ruminate on the fundamentals of my relationship, to tell my partner that I respect him. Thank you so much.

  • Sob, sob, sob.
    Thank you so much for sharing. A similar story happened within my family in January. Sending big hugs and wishing you good luck, you amazing people. May your life and your wedding and your marriage be blessed, may Atticus live forever in your hearts.

  • Atticus touched your lives in a way that you didn’t know you needed – that was his purpose. Thank you for sharing your story – I like the others are in tears that I cannot control.

  • jrebeccac

    I read your post this morning and have been thinking about it all day. You and your husband are so strong and blessed to have each other…thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • Eryn

    I didn’t listen. I read it yesterday at work, and I cried,. I kind of had to read it as soon as I came across it; on Wednesday, my co-worker, 17 weeks pregnant and aware that her baby had many problems, was informed by her doctor that her son’s heart had stopped beating. When I was reading this post, R. was being discharged from the hospital after C-section. I had been crying for her for two days, because I could imagine how bleak and robbed she must feel, but not how she would carry on. I realized part of my grief for R resulted from my own pregnancy/childbirth phobia.
    My fiance has baby fever, hardcore. Every time we visit one of our many friends who has a new child, for three or four days afterward he is insistent that we should get on this baby-making thing ASAP. I have reservations. Most of the women I know who have given birth have had serious complications: here a pre-eclampsia, there a two-month-premature delivery. My mother used to say to me, “It took 39 hours to bring you into this world, and I can take you out in 39 seconds.” I grew up with the knowledge that my sister came much faster, but Mom nearly hemorrhaged to death in the process. Add to these horror stories the fact that I’ve been profoundly overweight most of my life despite continued efforts toward the opposite (if you’re overweight your OB/GYN tells you at every appointment that if you get pregnant you’ll get diabetes and die and the world will end), and you get a pretty overwhelming fear of pregnancy and childbirth.
    This made me feel a little better. Thank you for sharing your strength with others.

  • EmmyLou

    I don’t even know what to say, except thank you for sharing your brave story.

  • Theresa

    I haven’t been on the site in a very long time, today I decided to log on again and read your story. I am so very sorry for your loss, you shared a very personal journey, thank you. May we all take something from it and thank you for sharing your strength, joy and love.

  • Oh my sweet heavens. I have been sitting here in the most unbelievably self-centered “I hate weddings I JUST WANT TO GET MARRIED” mood and decided to look at APW for a dose of reality. Your post was just what I needed. Honest. Gut-wrenching. Real. Thank you for sharing. I am so grateful to you for sharing your story. Hugs to you and your family!

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  • Alexandra

    My gracious. What a powerful story, and thank you for sharing it, Shana Rae. (and Jared and Atticus)–your little family has made the world a better place.
    I know quite a few moms who have had preemies, and some of those have been lost. Always touching. If anyone wants to contribute, March of Dimes has done/funded tons of research into the causes of prematurity, and how to better care for those born too soon, and Friends of Maddie is a non-profit that provides ‘care packages’ to families newly-arrived at the NICU, to help them make sense of the intensity there.
    Blessings to all preemies and their families.

  • corley

    thank you so much for sharing. my love goes out to Atticus–you brought at beautiful soul into the world, and you nurtured it as loving parents do. i am so sorry for your loss, and i thank you for reminding us that life is a beautiful and painful combination of experiences that make us stronger, better, and human. thank you.

  • Amelia

    I can’t even begin to say how this made me feel. I wish I had on ounce of the strength you posses. Truly heartwarming and heartbreaking all tied into one well written package. Thank you so much for sharing this story. If only we could all look at things with such bravery.

  • Brittany Lee

    You are incredibly strong!
    thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us, this is truly a story of love and strength.

    “be the love that you feel….”

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