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Awareness -

The Hartford Courant Article ~ by Lori Riley

After Couple's 'Lonely Loss,' Hartford Marathon Is His Therapy

THE MEMORIAL announcement for Jack Alexander Scherer contains prints of his hands and feet. Jack was stillborn, and parents Ali and Mike Scherer said they were surprised how common such births are. “It’s a very lonely loss. People don’t talk about it,” Ali Scherer says. (Courtesy of Mike and Ali Scherer / October 7, 2009.By LORI RILEY)

The Hartford CourantOctober 8, 2009

NEW FAIRFIELD — - Mike Scherer had just wrapped up a meeting in Madison on a rainy afternoon in early June when his wife called.

Thirty-five weeks pregnant with their first child, Ali Scherer had been a little anxious when she hadn't felt the baby move lately.

It had been an uneventful pregnancy, but she went to the hospital as a precaution. No, Mike didn't need to come, she told him that morning when he left for work. Everything would be fine.

It wasn't.

"She said, 'You need to come to the hospital. He's not OK,'" Mike said. "I was, at that point, panicked. I was panicked. They tried to find the heartbeat and they couldn't."

Mike, frantic, got in his car and started to drive.

"About 20 minutes later, she called back and said, 'He's gone,'" Mike said.

A nurse came on the line and gently told him to drive carefully. There's nothing you can do, she said, other than get here safely.

Seven hours later, on June 5, Jack Alexander Scherer was born, a stillbirth. They held him, kissed him, talked to him. The cause of his death is still unknown.

Before the New Fairfield couple's lives were turned upside down, Mike had been a casual runner, 2 or 3 miles here or there. Now he couldn't stop running. It made him feel better. He was surprised to see that his mileage had doubled in July, which was when he decided he would channel his grief and loss into training for his first marathon.

Saturday morning, Mike will run the ING Hartford Marathon, and Ali and their families will cheer him on.

"We do things instinctively when bad things happen," Mike said. "That might be eating too much, drinking too much, whatever bad things you can think of. Then there are good things that you do.

"I think that I was aware of that. That was one of the instincts I had, 'OK, now is the time you have to be careful.' You don't want to go down the wrong road."

According to the March of Dimes website, stillbirths (classified as such after 20 weeks of pregnancy) happen in 1 of 160 pregnancies; in half those cases, the cause is never known for certain.

Mike, 30, and Ali, 29, were shocked to discover that stillbirth was more prevalent than they thought. They said the possibility wasn't discussed when she was pregnant.

"This is so common," Mike said, "and nobody talks about it."

"I had no idea," Ali said. "It's a very lonely loss. People don't talk about it. It's 10 times more common than SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome], yet you hear all about SIDS."

The couple met at graduate school at the University of Denver. Both have master's degrees in psychology and understand the need to talk about Jack. Maybe, they think, their story will help someone else.

"I didn't know that this happened, but Ali delivered the baby [instead of having a C-section]," Mike said. "They induce labor."

"They give you a bunch of choices," Ali said, "things you've never thought about before ... because why would you?"

Mike said, "It's the devil's delivery. Everything that's supposed to be good and fun and emotional on the good side ..."

Ali interjected, a little playfully: "I'm not sure the woman always has fun. You might have fun." But then she turned serious again, "I went through labor knowing my worst nightmare was going to be at the end."

"I thought you wouldn't really see the baby," Mike said. "I was wrong. They take handprints, footprints, we took pictures. I got to hold him. I got to cut the cord. I am so grateful that I did that. At the time, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is going to be so hard. How morbid.'"

But somehow, it wasn't. It made Jack more real than if he had been whisked away. The Scherers sent out birth announcements with his handprints and footprints and a heartbreakingly beautiful picture of Jack and his mom.

"It's been four months," Ali said. "It's something that never goes away; it's something you're always dealing with. We renovated upstairs, we painted, did the nursery, bought furniture. I thought he was coming soon. I was washing his laundry.

"We went from that to picking out cemetery plots, funeral arrangements, headstones. It was a life in a breath. I get kids magazines in the mail, bereavement stuff in the mail. It's weird. Pregnancy, it's about the future and your hopes and your dreams and then to have it end so tragically. ... I'm still dealing with it."

The couple hopes to have more children eventually. Before she gave up her job to be a stay-at-home mom, Ali was a mental health therapist. Mike is a mutual funds wholesaler for Janus, a Denver-based financial company. Janus is a sponsor for the Ironman Triathlon Series, which is how Mike and Ali found themselves in Lake Placid, N.Y., this July, watching an Ironman triathlon. The last phase of the competition was a marathon.

"It was that weekend," Mike said. "I was so moved and inspired by some of the stories I heard, some of the people ..."

"We were at the finish line at 9, 10 [at night], and that's when you really see the normal people coming in," Ali said. "It's so cool. It's amazing, normal, regular people. Mike was like, 'You know what? I can do this.'"

He didn't have a lot of time to train. His longest run has been 18 miles. Mike will run slowly, maybe 11- or 12-minute miles. But he knows thoughts of his son will sustain him Saturday.

"For me, it's the only thing that's made me feel better, other than the comfort I have with my wife and my family," Mike said. "When you're dealing with the pain, the loss and questioning, and 'What if I had done this?' ... I feel him when I run, in a spiritual sense. I feel a connection with my son when I run."

•For more information about Jack and the Scherers, go to their website atwww.jacksdefenders.org.Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant

New Fairfield couple celebrates a life and mourns a child

Danbury News-Times

Date: September 13, 2009 Article ID: 13323705

I never met Jack Scherer. But if I had, I imagine he would've been a lot like his parents -- gentle and loving, bright and engaging.
Ali and Mike Scherer met in graduate school at the University of Denver. Next month, the New Fairfield couple will celebrate four years of marriage. When Ali became pregnant last fall, they knew 2009 was going to be a special year, a year they would never forget. But not like this. Never like this.
On June 5, just weeks before Ali and Mike were supposed to welcome Jack into the world, his heart stopped beating.
And for the longest moment of their lives, their hearts stopped beating, too.
"We had renovated the house and decorated his nursery," Ali said the other day. "We had no idea this would happen. Instead of making plans to bring him home, we were making plans for his funeral."
For 1-in-160 births, according to the March of Dimes, this is how it feels to deliver a stillborn child.
Ali and Mike Scherer want to change that. They want more research, more answers, more hope.
They're not alone.
Ali, 28, consoles kids for a living. She's a child therapist. But no amount of training could've prepared her for Jack's death.
The demons were too strong. Their claws were too sharp.
Fortunately, Ali had Mike to help her through this. And Mike had her. Each day, they heal a little more.
Mike, 30, is a mutual fund wholesaler, the Connecticut sales representative for Denver-based Janus.
"So you drive for a living," Ali said, manufacturing a grin.
Mike nodded.
"Oh yeah, I drive," he said. "I drive a lot."
In fact, Mike was driving back from Madison the day Ali laid back for the ultrasound that changed their lives and shook their core.
"You need to get to the hospital," Ali told Mike over the phone. "He's not OK."
He, of course, was Jack. But it was already too late.
"I was numb," Ali said. "It wasn't until Mike showed up that I started crying. Then we both lost it."
Later that day, Ali was induced. Four hours later, she gave birth to Jack Alexander Scherer.
He was 19 1/2 inches long and weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces.
"It was the most courageous thing I've ever seen," Mike said, the words echoing through his eyes.
The nurses at New Milford Hospital convinced Ali and Mike to cherish their short time with Jack.
So Ali and Mike did just that.
They took his handprints and footprints. They bundled him up and kissed his tiny face.
"The nurses at New Milford Hospital were wonderful," Mike said. "So was Father Mike (MacInnis of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New Milford)."
While Jack rests in Mountain View Cemetery in New Fairfield, Mike is still searching for solace.
"For a long time, I didn't know what to think or feel," he said. "So I started running and it helped me sort out things. It didn't fix things, but it helped me sort them out."
Mike still doesn't know where this road will take him, but he has circled Oct. 10 on the calendar, the day of the Hartford Marathon, his first crack at 26 miles, 385 yards.
"I'm running it for Jack," Mike said. Ali has even made T-shirts.
The real marathon, Mike and Ali Scherer know, has just begun.

~ Brian Koonz at bkoonz@newstimes.com or 203-731-3411