Updated: Nov 17, 2020
In her four short months of life, Paityn charmed the world with her infectious smile and sweet personality.
It was a Thursday just like any other. Garett and Jennifer Mairs dropped their two girls, Paityn and her big sister Paisley, off at daycare. They played, they snacked, they snuggled.
And that’s when the day like any other changed.
“The phone rang, and it was the daycare,” Jennifer said. “When they went to check on her, at some point she had stopped breathing.”
Just like any other day, four-month-old Paityn went down for a nap. But this time, she did not wake up.
Garett and Jennifer rushed to the hospital. Minutes felt like hours as they wondered what could have possibly happened to make their happy, healthy little girl suddenly stop breathing.
“That drive felt very long,” Garett said. “A million things go through your head, but honestly I thought that everything was going to be okay because it's just not something that happens. A four month old doesn't just stop breathing and not start breathing again.”
After what felt like the longest car ride of their lives, they reached the hospital before the ambulance that was carrying Paityn. They waited and waited, leaning on one another and the family members that had started to arrive, until they finally heard over the intercom the words that no parent ever wants to hear:
Code Blue, pediatric.
A nurse found Garett and Jennifer and escorted them to the room where sweet Paityn was undergoing CPR.
“I just remember seeing her little feet. They were giving her CPR, and we just sat in the corner and kind of watched helplessly,” Jennifer said. “Eventually they did a blood test and the nurse told us that the results of that blood test would let us know if there was anything else they could do.
And a few minutes later they came in and said that there wasn't anything else we could do. She was gone.”
Paityn Wiley Mairs was born on January 23rd, 2018. Garett and Jennifer say she was the sweetest little baby, with an infectious smile and big blue eyes that never seemed to close.
“She didn’t sleep very well,” Jennifer said. “We used to say that she knew she didn't have long, and she didn't want to miss anything.”
Paityn went home to Heaven on May 31st, 2018. She was only four months old.
While Garett, Jennifer, and their family were able to spend a few hours holding and loving on Paityn in the hospital, in the end, they walked out of those doors without their baby.
The two years that have passed since that day have been filled with questions: What happened to Paityn? Who would she be if she were still alive today?
“Paityn could have been anything,” Garett said. “You just don't know if she was going to be a hyper kid or an easy-going kid, if she was gonna love to be outside or anything like that. The possibilities are kind of endless. So it's just the thought of not knowing what could have been.”
Nothing can prepare a parent for the loss of a child, and no person can ease the dull, persistent ache of grief entirely. But through the Hopeful Heart Project, Jennifer and Garett have found the support and resources they need to help navigate their grief and remember their precious baby girl.
“My first Hopeful Heart Project event was a yoga class,” Jennifer said. “I was kind of hesitant to go. I was just going to go and do yoga and come home. And after the class, a bunch of us moms got together and we ended up talking for about four hours. It was so therapeutic just to talk to other moms who had been through the same thing. We were able to just openly share about our children. We just formed an instant bond.”
Garett and Jennifer have discovered a community of parents who understand the whirlwind of emotions they have experienced—the deep sadness, the anger, and even the immense joy and fear of having another child after loss.
Today, Paityn and Paisley have a baby brother named Paxton. Garett and Jennifer are determined to make Paityn a part of Paxton’s life. They celebrate her birthday every year, and have planted trees in their yard in her honor. Their home is filled with photographs of all three of their children. They talk about her every day, sharing stories (like Paisley’s personal favorite, the time when “baby Paityn peed all over her”). While he may never meet her in this lifetime, Paxton will grow up knowing that he has another big sister in Heaven.
That, Jennifer says, is what they wish more people understood: they want to talk about Paityn.
No one should hesitate to mention her name for fear of upsetting or hurting them. Yes, losing Paityn is the most painful thing Garett and Jennifer have ever endured; but there is joy in remembering her, in hearing her name.
“Every loss parent just wants their child to be remembered,” Jennifer said. “We don’t want them to be forgotten. And the Hopeful Heart Project provides endless ways for us to remember them and honor their memory.”