Huffpost Books
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Steven Levingston Headshot

Jackie Kennedy's Five Pregnancies -- the Tragic and the Successful

Posted: Updated:

Jackie Kennedy had difficult pregnancies -- five in all. Here are their stories -- the tragic and the successful, from the ebook The Kennedy Baby: The Loss That Transformed JFK by the Washington Post's Steven Levingston.

Jackie became pregnant for the first time in 1955 but after three months "suffered a miscarriage and learned that carrying and delivering a child would always be difficult for her," recalled JFK's friend and adviser Ken O'Donnell.

On the morning of August 23, 1956, a month before another baby was due, Jackie awoke and cried out for her mother - she was hemorrhaging. She gave birth to a stillborn infant, while JFK was on a yacht with friends of both sexes cruising the Mediterranean. Racing back to his wife did not seem to occur to the Massachusetts senator until wiser friends suggested that public shame over his absence threatened to tarnish him forever in the eyes of women voters. His friend George Smathers put it bluntly to him: "You better haul your ass back to your wife if you ever want to run for president."

In November of the following year, 1957, Jackie gave birth to a healthy little girl, Caroline, who bewitched her father and opened channels to his heart that had never flowed. Caroline started JFK on a path toward maturity as a man, father and husband. There would be backsliding, of course; but it is not a stretch to say that a novel sense of responsibility to wife and child was profoundly stirred within him.

On November 25, 1960, at 1:17 in the morning, JFK smiled: over the radio crackle aboard a DC-6 rushing him to Washington from Palm Beach, he heard that at 12:22 a.m. Jackie had given birth at Georgetown Hospital to a six-pound three-ounce son with a mound of dark hair. But the initial reports of good health were misleading, for the infant John F. Kennedy, Jr., born about three weeks early, had respiratory problems and did not at first squall into life when the chief of anesthesia held him up by the ankles and slapped his buttocks. A second-year pediatric resident named Ira Seiler took quick action, inserting a tube into the baby's trachea and as he blew air into the lungs John Jr. responded.

On Wednesday morning, August 7, 1963, Jackie went into labor five and a half weeks early while on Cape Cod. In minutes she was in a helicopter flying to the hospital at Otis Air Force Base in Hyannis Port where she delivered a 4 pound, 10½ ounce boy, Patrick, whose tiny body quivered as he tried to breathe. The newborn, suffering from hyaline membrane disease, attracted the attention of the world and prompted the Boston Globe to declare "He's a Kennedy - He'll Make It." But after 39 hours, little Patrick lost his battle for life. "The death of the infant was one of the hardest moments in the lives of both President and Mrs. Kennedy," JFK's press secretary Pierre Salinger recalled. "The White House had brought about a closeness in their relationship, a wider understanding of one another. The death of their baby brought them even closer."

When the president left the hospital with Jackie days later, they emerged holding hands, confirming what those closest to them had noticed: "I first observed it in the hospital suite at Otis Air Force Base but it became publicly visible when Mrs. Kennedy was released from the hospital," said Secret Service agent Clint Hill. "Prior to this, they were much more restrained and less willing to express their close, loving relationship while out in public. The loss of Patrick seemed to be the catalyst to change all that."

Three months later, JFK and Jackie climbed into an open limousine for a ride through Dealey Plaza.