The Story of Brayden Buntemeyer

Brayden’s story began long before we met him. While deployed together to Iraq in 2008, Jenny and I dreamed of the day we would start a family. We dreamed of having a son first, and we would name him Brayden. Two years later, our journey of starting a family began. We went through the IVF process and on April 22, 2011 we received the exciting news that we were pregnant! My pregnancy was flawless and eventually we learned that we would, in fact, be having a boy! Our entire family was anxiously awaiting the arrival of our sweet boy.

On the morning of October 19, 2011 our hearts were broken when we went in for my 30 week appointment and learned that Brayden no longer had a heartbeat. Everything went dark and silent. As we drove to the hospital to be induced, we felt so scared and alone. I thought “They aren’t going to know what to do with us. This never happens. How am I going to deliver a child that is no longer alive?”

Upon arrival, I remember having this constant feeling of darkness. Everything seemed to move in slow motion and the silence was painful. After more than 30 hours of labor, we got to hold our son, Brayden Bruce. He was absolutely perfect. We learned that the cord that nourished his body also caused his death. We were surrounded by family and friends who all took turns holding our sweet boy. Our family was given a room across the hall which was nice to have them close, but it was also difficult for them because they were surrounded by joyful families celebrating and hearing the cries of newborn babies.

Our nurses dressed him, took pictures, got his prints, and the most precious lock of hair. I only held him for a few minutes and I wish every day that I would have held him longer. As I held him, I rubbed his soft little cheek and I promised him that his life would have meaning, that we wouldn’t let this break us, and that I would make him proud. In the days and months that followed, we immediately started looking for support and ways to see the good, even if some days we had to fake it! We were determined to see the light in all of our darkness. We eventually found our local support group, The Quad City Share Group, and met so many families who helped us slowly heal.

As we grew to learn the stories of other loss families, there were some things that always hurt my heart to hear. There would be stories of how insensitive a nurse was, stories of not even being able to hold their baby, stories of being told they had to say goodbye within just a few short hours of delivery. Families without prints, simply because nobody bothered to do them for the family. I realized that not all families were being treated as great as we were and we both decided that these families deserved more. I knew we had to find a way to help other families who would soon be faced with the same, awful loss that we had been through. Harnessing my passion for pregnancy, birth, and babies, I came across the term “bereavement doula”. As I learned more about the role of a bereavement doula, I knew that was the start to making the changes that were needed. I became a certified birth and bereavement doula in 2013 through Stillbirthday University and I was able to start volunteering right away in Brayden’s memory at the Genesis East Birth Center. I now have the privilege to walk alongside these families and
make sure that they never feel alone.

I look back and wish I would have held Brayden longer, kissed him, looked at every little detail, and took 100 more pictures. I think that if I would have had someone tell me that it’s ok to kiss my baby or unwrap him, I would have. And that’s why I do what I do, to make sure these families have every option offered to them, so that they never look back and wish they had done more. It is an absolute honor to witness the love these families give to their babies and to be a part of the short time they have with them. We’ve always said to

Brayden, “Keep shining your light, little man.” And that’s what we hope to do for the rest of our lives; shine our light so that we can help others see during their darkest of times. Not long after starting my bereavement work, Dy. Lyndsey Day, an OBGYN in our community, reached out to me one day and asked, “How can our office do better? How can I help you make sure that we are all working together to give these families the best care?” From that point on, Lyndsey and I have worked together to figure out how to make it better. As it all started to come together, I voiced my dream of one day building a bereavement suite at Genesis East. Everyone on our bereavement team loved the idea and said “let’s do it!” It was then that we started The Brayden Buntemeyer Fund. The fund was set up with many goals in mind but the biggest one being a bereavement suite.

Around this same time, Lyndsey and her husband Kyle learned that they were expecting their 5th child. Unfortunately, they also learned that their sweet girl named Ada, would not survive. After the loss of Ada, Lyndsey and Kyle were even more inspired than before to make this bereavement suite happen. By partnering up with Robin Boudreau, Founder of No Foot Too Small, and having such a motivated team, we are now making our dreams a reality.

In honor of Brayden, Ada, Beau, and all the other babies, The NFTS Birthing + Bereavement Suite will be a sacred place where no family will ever feel alone.