For many couples, having a baby is the most exciting thing imaginable. Ryan and Tara Hansen were certainly excited to have their first child, back in 2011. Ryan recalls the excitement in his wife’s eyes when she first made the announcement.
“She surprised me big time,” he said in a video shared on YouTube. “I came home from work and before I could even really say ‘hello,’ she was like ‘Ryan, I’m pregnant.'”
Things went pretty smoothly from there with the couple posting regular photo updates during the pregnancy showing just how much their baby had grown.
Ryan and Tara were excited to welcome their first child into the world.
“It all moved pretty quickly,” Ryan said. “Next thing I know, I’m holding my baby boy for the first time.”
Ryan says he’ll never forget how his son got his name.
“I remember saying ‘What do you think he is?’ and [Tara] says ‘I think he’s a Brandon’.”
For a few hours, there was peace but then Tara began feeling sick. She experienced fainting spells alongside other symptoms and knew that she needed medical attention. Yet, since she was considered healthy all throughout her pregnancy, her complaints fell upon deaf ears.
“Before we left the hospital, we had asked the doctor one last time, ‘Would you check? Make sure Tara’s okay?’” Ryan recalled. “She truly, truly felt something was wrong.”
The symptoms went away for a bit. Ryan, Tara, and Brandon got to spend some time together at home. Tara even took video of Brandon in a swinging chair.
Yet it didn’t take long for the illness to rear its ugly head once more.
“We’ve been home for 36 hours total,” said Ryan. “We’re a family now. We’re here and she’s like ‘I’ve gotta call the doctor. Something’s wrong!”
Tara was soon admitted back into the hospital. She had a postpartum infection that had spread throughout her entire body.
She remained at the hospital for two days before passing away on March 31, 2011.
“To watch the person that you love so much have to go through that—and watch her just slowly become incapacitated—is … it’s devastating,” Ryan said.
That’s when Ryan started looking into maternal mortality. He was shocked to discover that Tara’s death wasn’t an isolated incident. The Center for Disease Control reports that there were 2,009 pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. between 2011 and 2013 and that 12.7 percent of those deaths were the result of infections just like Tara’s.
“The thought that Tara could pass away with something associated with giving birth … it never crossed my mind,” Ryan admitted.
“I learned about maternal mortality only because it happened to me.”
Knowing that he was far from the only one who has lost a loved one due to birth-related issues, Ryan launched the Tara Hansen Foundation in 2012.
This foundation exists not just to spread awareness of maternal mortality, or just to raise money for research and prevention, but also to promote and provide for special education: a cause which Tara was very passionate about.
“Tara was a teacher, she taught special education in the town we grew up in,” Ryan told Babble. “She always wanted to help those who needed it the most.”
The foundation has run many successful campaigns: most notably “Stop. Look. Listen!”. This campaign was so successful, it prompted Ryan’s home state of New Jersey to become the first to establish January 23 as Maternal Health Awareness Day.
Ryan is very proud of this campaign and the success it’s achieved.
“[Tara’s] legacy, in my mind, is best kept [if] it grows,” Ryan said. “If I can come out and I can tell what happened to her, it makes what happened to her matter.”
For a few years after Tara’s passing, he was hesitant to start a relationship, but encouraged by friends he joined a dating website.
“There was about two years where some friends of mine began encouraging me saying, ‘We knew Tara. We know she wants you to be happy,'” Ryan said in the video.
He met a woman named Mary who had lost her husband to a heart attack. The two had a lot in common and got along well, so after a year and a half of dating, they got married.
Ryan and Mary planned to have kids. Yet, knowing Tara’s story, they wanted to be extra careful during the pregnancy and birthing process.
“After knowing what happened to Tara, it definitely made me speak up more,” Mary said in the same video.
Fortunately, there were no complications. Brandon now has a father, a mother, and a little brother named Dylan.
Ryan is grateful for the new life he’s been given but doesn’t ever want to forget his past. Spreading the message about maternal mortality is still just as important to him as ever!
“[It’s] incredibly difficult. People don’t always want to hear it,” he said. “When you’re having a baby, you don’t want to think about death but it doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone.
“Don’t give up. If someone’s not listening, if you can’t get the attention you need, fight for it! Fight for your partner, fight for each other! Don’t give up on each other!”