Patrick Bouvier Kennedy

In April 1963, the White House officially announced Jackie was pregnant. The baby would be the first child born to a sitting president in the twentieth century. After the announcement of her pregnancy, Jackie appeared in public just two times. That summer, Jack rented a secluded home on Squaw Island on Cape Cod. The president commuted between the cottage and Washington while Jackie rested and spent relaxed time with Caroline and John. Jack worried about her health and wanted her doctor on call at all times.

Although Jackie was not due until September, she went into labor on August 7. She was rushed to the hospital at Otis Air Force Base. Her obstetrician ordered an emergency casarean section. Although Jackie was in no danger, the baby was. Shortly before 1 P.M., Jackie gave birth to a four-pound, ten-ounce baby boy. He was named Patrick Bouvier Kennedy.

THEY SAID …

“My mother … knew she had been given the chance to play a part in history and worked hard to be worthy of the honor. When that period of her life came to an end she worked just as hard to ensure that the history of that time would be preserved and made available to future generations.”

— Caroline Kennedy

The baby was having such a hard time breathing that the chaplain baptized him immediately. Despite his respiratory trouble, Patrick seemed in overall good health, and his prognosis was good. But not long after Jackie first held her son, his condition abruptly worsened. Patrick was transferred, first to Children's Hospital in Boston, then to Harvard's School of Public Health, where he was placed in a high-pressure oxygen chamber.

FACT

Patrick Bouvier Kennedy died from hyaline membrane disease (HMD), now called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). It remains one of the most common afflictions in premature babies, whose undeveloped lungs are unable to function optimally. Typically the condition worsens over the first two to three days but usually improves with treatment.

Patrick died on August 9. Too weak to leave the hospital, Jackie did not attend his funeral, which was presided over by Kennedy family friend Cardinal Cushing. Although Jack and Jackie never spoke much about Patrick's death, it was clear to those around the couple that his death brought them closer together. Unlike the death of Arabella, which had driven a wedge between the two of them because Jack had not been there for Jackie, this death was a shared loss. When Jackie was released from the hospital on August 14, the normally reserved Kennedys walked out hand in hand. Jackie convalesced at Squaw Island, so Jack commuted to Cape Cod several times a week to be with her.

The Kennedy family with their dogs on Squaw Island, 1963

Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Lee Radziwill had been sailing as a guest on Aristotle Onassis's yacht when she heard about Patrick. She rushed to her sister and spent a week with her at Squaw Island. Lee suggested to Onassis that it might be good for Jackie to join them on the cruise, and Jackie accepted the subsequent invitation.

In mid-November, Jackie made her first public appearance since Patrick's death. It was time to look forward. The 1964 election year was quickly approaching, and soon it would be time to go back on the campaign trail. With that in mind, Jackie agreed to accompany her husband on a political trip to Texas, where he hoped to gain support for a second term.

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