In 2014, when Jennifer Jara lost her first child at 27 weeks into her pregnancy, she was heartbroken. Complications related to her blood pressure resulted in a stillborn pregnancy, a devastating loss that still pains Jennifer and her husband Joaquin to this day.
“It was a very surreal experience,” Jara told TODAY Parents. Seven years later, she and Joaquin now have three children between the ages of 3 months to 4 years old.
“We left the hospital that night and basically got wheeled out in a wheelchair with a packet of information about funeral homes, burial and cremation. We were told, ‘Make an appointment with your doctor in two weeks,’ and, ‘Good luck.’ Not that the doctors and nurses weren’t empathetic, but that was all they could really do,” she said.
Jara explained that in the weeks after losing Jessica, Joaquin and her quickly became overwhelmed with grief, especially when the medical bills for Jessica’s delivery began piling up.
“It’s a reminder every single month,” said Jara. “You don’t get to bring a baby home but you still have to pay this payment plan of however many dollars a month. It seems so unfair.”
Now, Jennifer is determined to help parents who’ve gone through similar traumatic loss by assisting them with their medical bills and funeral expenses.
“I sat down and thought about those days after Jessica was born,” Jara explained to Today. “How could someone have helped me? Second to bringing my baby back to life, which nobody can do, I thought, ‘What about all the bills that come in?'”
While she was on maternity leave with her youngest Gianna, Jennifer started Love, Jessica— a non-profit that aims to help families struggling with infant loss pay their expenses. She launched the organization in July, and since then, has already helped five different families across the country, including the Harpers from Dayton, Ohio, who lost their daughter Hannah in June 2020.
“I had bills from an emergency room visit at 12 weeks, bills from extra monitoring and ultrasounds, a hospital bill for the induction and an anesthesiology bill for an epidural to have a D&C after delivery,” Jennifer Harper explained. “When the first bill came after I lost Hannah, I cried and cried and was so angry. I couldn’t believe after all that — all the false hopes — that I lost her.”
“Love, Jessica was a light during a dark time to me and helped me not to feel so alone in all of this,” Harper continued. “The service helped greatly to ease the financial burden as well as to ease my mind that there was light amidst the sadness.”
Jara told Today that Love, Jessica has not only given her the opportunity to help other families through their grief, but also serves as a way for her to honor her lost daughter.
“It keeps my daughter’s memory alive. It helps me keep her name out there. Every time I write Love, Jessica, I smile a little bit,” said Jara. “It makes it seem like it didn’t just happen in vain.”