Bowen Dean : Never Forget

May is Anencephaly Awareness Month

By Tiffany Smith
Mommy to Bowen Dean
August 2021

In August 2021, my husband and I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Bowen Dean. Bowen had the most beautiful dark blue eyes, the longest salon curled eyelashes, an adorable button nose, some of the chubbiest cheeks, and legs for days. Bowen was only on this Earth for a few minutes before he passed away, but I will never forget these things about him. I will never forget, because every day I am able to look at the most beautiful pictures of him provided through On Angels’ Wings.

Right before my oldest son’s first birthday, my husband and I decided to start trying for our second baby. We wanted our kids to be close in age. I wanted them to grow up as friends. Before I knew it, our son’s second birthday had arrived, and I still wasn’t pregnant. At this point my husband and I had decided to see a fertility specialist, but my grandpa was really sick, and I felt like he needed our whole family’s attention. After a couple of months, I finally submitted a packet with a fertility specialist, and we had our first appointment scheduled for five months later.

A couple weeks after submitting the packet my grandpa died. A week later, I received a call from the fertility clinic looking to fast track our follow-up appointment. It was there that I was diagnosed with PCOS and told I would never be able to conceive without the help of fertility medicine and treatments.

We started treatments and in January 2021, I finally saw the two pink lines I had been praying for. One of the sweetest parts was that our due date was my grandpa’s birthday. I felt as if my grandpa was our guardian angel and had a hand in all of it, which made this pregnancy even more special.

We quickly started buying stuff for our baby’s nursery. It was supposed to be buffalo theme in memory of my grandpa: he owned buffalo. We bought matching outfits for baby and our oldest son, and just general baby stuff. We were so excited and in such a happy place. We constantly talked about our future with our children and what all we would do. My heart had felt so empty while we tried to conceive, that I now felt like I was on top of the world, and everything was going to be just fine.

Three months before we gave birth to Bowen he was diagnosed with Anencephaly. Anencephaly unfortunately is a terminal diagnosis. We were told he may live for a couple of minutes or up to three hours, but that we would not be able to take our baby home. When we were leaving the doctor’s office after Bowen’s diagnosis, they gave us a packet with a couple of resources inside, one of which was On Angels’ Wings. I contacted OAW the next day and told them about Bowen – the organization began working with us to make arrangements to photograph his birth.

A month before my scheduled C-section I took a bad fall that ended up causing some trauma to my stomach and caused my water to start leaking. I went into Labor and Delivery to be seen and they admitted me and told me I would be having Bowen that day.

Our OAW photographer arrived before I went back for my C-section. She captured photos of me still pregnant with my family, she captured a video recording of Bowen’s heartbeat, and the most beautiful photo of the staff praying over us and Bowen. When it was time for my C-section, she went back with us. She did a great job asking me what I felt comfortable with for photos in the OR and captured some of the most amazing c-section photos you will ever see.

When Bowen was born, I couldn’t hear a sound. I was scared and kept yelling “Why isn’t he crying?” No one would answer me. They took him to clean him up and the photographer in the room came up to my head and instantly started telling me how beautiful he is and that they were putting a diaper on him and getting ready to bring him to me. After that I honestly don’t know what she said. My eyes were locked on my son, but something about the sound of her voice was so calming to me.

They quickly laid Bowen on my chest and told me we only had a few minutes left. Our photographer continued to document the next few moments for us. Moments that are now blurry, but I am forever thankful to have those moments captured. She even captured a moment where I whispered to Bowen how much I love him; I prayed to God every day after diagnosis to give me enough time with him to tell him I love him.

When we went back to our room the photographer captured pictures of our family holding Bowen, and of big brother meeting Bowen as well. These photos are some of the most treasured photos I will ever hold onto. I am forever thankful for our OAW photographer and all that she gave us that day!

It has now been ten months since Bowen passed away.

Our journey with Bowen has been nothing less than a roller coaster. The low of infertility and the grief you feel in that process of your hopes and dreams dying all over again each month, to then a high of finding out we were pregnant. Then another low of discovering Bowen’s diagnosis, a high/low of meeting Bowen and his passing all in one, and then a final level of slowing down and learning how to relive again. Which is exactly what we are still doing, learning how to relive.

Carrying a baby with a fatal diagnosis is never anything you can plan for. The joy of pregnancy quickly turned into sorrow and our plans of life with our son were replaced with plans of death. All of his nursery decorations and clothes were pushed into his nursery and the door was closed. Instead, we started shopping for an outfit for Bowen to be buried in, making funeral arrangements, and picking out plots at a cemetery. All of this can really take a toll on you. We have so much love for Bowen, and I stressed myself out trying to make everything perfect for him.

Since the day of Bowen’s birth, OAW has continued to have a relationship with our family. I have completed an amazing grief recovery group course conducted by On Angels’ Wings, and we have also been able to participate in a few family events the organization has put together, free of charge to our family. OAW has worked hard to provide a safe space and help us grieve in a healthy way. They will always be a huge part of our story.

Our future is still hard for me to imagine without Bowen. One thing we know for certain is that we want to grow our family. Ever since my husband and I’s first date we have talked about adoption. We both wanted to adopt a child one day before we even met each other. When we used to imagine our future, we would talk about adopting our third child. We pray there is a birth mama out there who feels in her heart that we are the family she would like to take her child into our home and love as our own. We will always raise our children to know their brother Bowen. We want them to know that they will always have a guardian angel looking over them.

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