Kendra Brown is turning the tragic loss of her son into a way to help other bereaved parents deal with their grief.
Last fall, Brown and her husband Kevin were excited to welcome their firstborn child into their family.
They tried for a year to get pregnant with no luck due to Kendra’s premature ovarian failure diagnosis. After two unsuccessful intrauterine inseminations and a failed in vitro fertilization, Dylan Christopher Brown was finally conceived as a result of an embryonic donation.
Everything changed, however, when the Browns later learned that their son had unexpectedly passed away in the womb.
The Owasso couple received the devastating news 32 weeks and three days into the pregnancy after a routine ultrasound confirmed that Dylan had no pulse.
“I knew immediately where that flicker should be, and it wasn’t there,” Kendra said. “And then my doctor said the words that will haunt me for the rest of my life: ‘So there’s no heartbeat.’ The next bit is all a blur.”
Two days later, she delivered her 3-pound, 14-ounce silent son at 8:52 a.m. on Good Friday, April 19, at St. John in Tulsa.
“He had a full head of hair and the most precious tiny ears,” said Kendra, whose induced labor lasted 24 hours. “He was perfect.”
Amid their loss, the Browns were given the opportunity to stay with their swaddled stillborn baby for several hours thanks to a newly donated device to the hospital called a Caring Cradle, or Cuddle Cot.
The Caring Cradle — provided by the Jaxon Kade Foundation Inc., an Oklahoma City-based organization that offers grief support for families that have lost an infant — serves as a special cooling bassinet that gives couples more time to say goodbye after delivery.
“I cherished every second I was able to rock him, and read and sing to him,” Kendra said. “I never wanted to let him go. We were discharged, but the nurses said we could have all the time we wanted.”
It wasn’t long after she and Kevin returned home that Kendra messaged the Foundation to express her gratitude. Little did she know that a direct response would come from Catie, the mother who donated the same basket in memory of her daughter Olivia.
“It was so comforting to me, someone who had been through what I had been through, because you feel very alone,” Kendra said. “We’ve formed a friendship I am so thankful for.”
Around six months later, still recovering from her loss, Kendra decided to partner with Jaxon Kade to raise money to donate her own Caring Cradle in honor of Dylan.
She and her husband started fundraising in October, and within 24 hours received enough money to purchase one cot. The response was so overwhelming, she said, that within another week they had enough, around $6,000, to buy a second one.
“I needed his name to live on in some way; I needed his life to mean something bigger; I needed to give back in some way,” Kendra said, “so this process of fundraising has been really healing for me.”
She decided to donate a basket to St. John Owasso because she said she believes it was the last place Dylan was recorded alive.
“I took a breastfeeding class … and I remember him hiccupping … so I have really good memories from being here,” Kendra said. “(St. John) was really close to my heart … so I was really excited when everyone here said yes.”
On Friday, Jan. 10, Kendra joined friends, family and medical staff on the fourth floor of St. John for a special ceremony dedicating the Caring Cradle to the hospital. She also stopped by Bailey Medical Center where she donated the second bassinet.
Kendra’s basket included a stuffed bunny and blanket, a cross and Bible, a small figurine of a mother holding her baby, a plaque with Dylan’s name above the phrase, “Forever in our hearts,” a onesie that says, “HELLO WORLD, I’m Dylan,” and a canvass that says, “I will hold you in my heart until I hold you in heaven.”
“This Cuddle Cot will make an extraordinary difference and impact to the people who should hopefully never need to use it,” said St. John RN Amy Rice. “But if we have need to use it, the ramifications of that will last a long time and are very far-reaching.”
Kendra added, “The community of women that have come along side me to support me has been incredible. It is my hope that I can help at least one other woman suffering the pain of infertility or loss. We weren’t meant to do this alone.”
The Jaxon Kade Foundation has donated 16 cots to Oklahoma hospitals, including St. John Owasso and Bailey Medical Center, according to the organization’s website, jaxonkadefoundation.org.