Last year, I watched my friend grieve the greatest loss of her life as she said Good-bye to her angel baby Maverick. It was literally a year ago when this happened. This week on October 15, the world talked about Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day I think that the timing is now for my friend's Story to be published. Tiare Barels, my sweet Warrior Woman, opens up about her experience in this and how she is coping with this healing time. The image that accompanies her touching story is the memorial art piece I made for Maverick.
Maverick, my north star, our first born, my son and my moon. He was
years in the making and wanted more than words can share. His life was
brief, but his lesson of love is eternal.
We had been married almost a year and together for 8 when we found out
I was pregnant. We were over the moon with joy! We enlisted the
support and guidance of one of the most experienced midwives in
California and had plans for a beautiful and natural home birth. Little did
we know, The Universe had other plans…
After a relatively uneventful pregnancy, you can imagine my surprise and
confusion when my intuition began preparing for his arrival 9 weeks before
he was considered full term. I tried to convince myself everything was fine,
but I was unsettled and could not shake the feeling that something was
wrong. I didn’t feel terrible, but I didn’t feel well either. I asked my
husband to come home early from working in LA, called to get in to see the
doctor early, and hoped I was being paranoid.
The look on the doctor’s face and the loudest silence that followed
confirmed our deepest fear: something was wrong. He was swollen, he
wasn’t moving much and my blood pressure had much too high. We were
admitted to the hospital and monitored closely overnight. The next day we
learned the term for his diagnosis was non-immune hydrops. I had
developed a form of preeclampsia called mirror syndrome. My kidneys and
liver were slowly shutting down. He would be delivered the following day.
We had a short list of names we liked and his dramatic and untimely arrival
made it clear which of those was most appropriate. Maverick. An
unorthodox and independent-minded individual. A name for the warrior he
would need to be to survive the odds, reminiscent of the giant and
powerful wave that he was, coming crashing into us all with such force and
There were serious concerns about my safety and his. Preparations were
made and documents were signed. I told my husband and parents I loved
them. I had never felt so focused, steady or determined; like the calm
before a storm. A large and talented team of the best surgeons and
specialists, nurses and staff were assembled for his arrival. We are humbly
grateful for each and every body in that operating room on October 27,
The mindset of the following 23 days began at noon with a simple question
to the anesthesiologist, "Can I please wear my mala beads into surgery," I
asked. "I’d prefer if you did," he said. “We could use all the prayers we can get.”
The surgery was quick. I remember hearing my husbands first words, "He is
adorable,” and then they were gone, whisked off to the NICU. I lost over
half my blood and was pale as a ghost, but the surgery was otherwise
successful. My body cooperated, the doctors were excellent and my son
When I finally met Maverick, it was love at first sight. My midwife was right
when she said having a child is like watching your heart move around
outside your body. Never had I been so vulnerable, so in love, so
unconditionally, at one with another. All I could think was, one breath at a
time little guy. My husband and I held hands, with our other hand on our
tiny little warrior. And we prayed. He wasn’t breathing on his own, and
because his lungs were so small, the ventilator he was on mimicked a
hummingbird filling his lungs with hundreds of tiny breaths a minute. My
husband and I had a joke about little hummingbird kisses and now here he
was, our little hummingbird. We visualized him healing, begged for mercy
and prayed for him to grow strong.
We spent every day by his side.
We touched him every chance we got, which wasn’t much, but we learned
to be grateful for each and every moment that we had. We placed our
fingers in his hands, held his feet or his head, read him stories, told him
what was happening and showered him with love. We decorated his
isolette with love letters and prayer flags, we brought heart shaped
crystals, and hung a medicine wheel above his bed. We gave him quiet,
and we cried. We prayed and we never got to hold him. He was poked and
prodded and drugged and sedated and given blood transfusions and
medicated as the staff managed to treat a cascade of worsening symptoms.
We shared each moment as new parents with an ever-changing rotation of
doctors and nurses, respiratory therapist and x-ray techs, machines and
alarms. And we prayed. We were lost and we were strong.
I made a mantra for him and repeated it over and over, day in and day out:
We are safe
We are strong
We are healing
We are loved
We are always connected
It was as much for me as it was for him. I hoped saying it would make it
He seemed to be getting better for a while, which was a miracle, before he
started getting worse. They made signs to remind others to be quiet. They
got the new construction to stop in the lobby because it was too loud. They
dropped everything and came running when his alarms went off. They
stabilized him again and again. They did everything they could.
I tried to remain calm, but I lived with a constant mix of panic and fear
amidst the hope and so much love. I paced the halls and I sat quietly beside
him, I prayed and I pumped and tried to sleep some too, and we never gave
up. For 23 days until it was time to say goodbye, we never gave up.
About 5 days before he passed my husband and I had one of the hardest
conversations of our lives. We decided to give him permission to leave this
world if his body was not strong enough to house his great spirit. We asked
Maverick for his Will to be known and we promised to honor his wishes. He
got steadily worse.
At 4am on November 19, 2017 I startled awake as I shot up in bed.
Something was wrong and I knew it in my bones and in my heart. It was
time. I believe he had already begun to leave his body. We rushed to the
hospital and they confirmed our worst fears had come true.
We shared with our friends and family a simple text: It’s time. We are
saying goodbye and setting his spirit free.
I know that’s what we did. We set him free.
We said goodbye. We cried. We played him a beautiful playlist of songs
that we had made for him and told him it was okay to go. It was time to
continue his journey home.
And so began a year of mourning. The worst day of our life was followed by
even worse days, if that is possible to imagine. The shock waves shook the
very foundation of our being. The nightmares, exhaustion and sleepless
nights gave way to bargaining and begging for another outcome. As the
reality and permanence set in I tried to steady myself for the long haul. The
despair that followed was painful and bitter, lonely and all consuming. The
tears I thought would never end. Grief seeped into each and every crevice
of my life turning a rich and colorful landscape into a dull and monotonous
shade of grey. The illusion of control was comforting and it’s absence left
me disoriented and abandoned on unfamiliar ground.
As we come upon the dawn of the first year of his absence, I am certain
that he is free. And I have grown in ways I never could have imagined. I
now know how grief changes you. It tears apart the fabric of your life and
offers you the chance to weave it back together with new meaning.
Everything becomes intentional. There is a sacred holiness in being taken
to your knees. I have learned that beauty and strength can be found in the
most unlikely places, but the only way out is through the pain. There is no
shortcut. As Jerry Sittser writes: the quickest way for anyone to reach the
light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head
east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.
It is in the surrender that acceptance is found.
Maverick arrived with purpose. I was told he came early to save my life.
Maybe so. I believe we made an agreement with one another many
lifetimes ago. I was told my soul wanted to know this pain so I could help
others survive it. I would be honored to share the gift of his strength.
Maverick taught me what it means to become a mother. He showed me a
love so fierce and so complete that not even death can alter. I have
learned to hold the duality of life in both hands. That love and loss are two
sides of the same coin. I’ve learned how to dance in the in-between, to
simultaneously hold on and to let go, to love and to grieve, to remember
and to keep moving. I’ve learned that no distance, time or space can keep
my love from reaching my beloved. We are always connected. I’ve learned
you cannot numb selectively. When you build a wall to keep the pain
out, you also keep the love out. To heal, we must be willing to feel. To love
we must be willing to lose. And Love is all that matters in the end.
We are reminded of him daily by the hummingbirds that surround us and
the butterflies, falling leaves, and the gentle breeze. The veil between this
world and the next is paper-thin and our love is infinite, like the symbolic
shape of fluttering hummingbird wings. As my grandmother so poignantly
shared at his memorial, "He is here. It’s beautiful. There’s nothing to be
Written by Mother of Maverick, Tiare Barels