How I Survived a Stillbirth…Twice

how i survived a stillbirth

October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

This isn’t a day that I ever paid attention to. Yes, I had seen posts on Facebook or organizations mentioning it but I never had a reason to pay attention to it…that is until I DID have a reason.

One simple word changed me forever- Stillbirth.

Talking about a stillbirth, miscarriage or infant loss can be difficult. It can be lonely. It can be heartbreaking. But nothing is worse than silence.

Talking about it means that it isn’t taboo. It wasn’t imagined. It mattered. It was real.

So today, I am sharing my story of loss in hopes that other moms who can relate can heal.

Your babies mattered. They were loved. They were real. They mattered.

Here is my story.

Where to Start? Oh, Yes, the Beginning

I always knew I wanted to have children. In fact, my husband and I discussed having five before we were married. (We were young.) The one thing I was not sure of was if I wanted to try to stay home with my future children or be a working mom.

See, I started a career early and quickly climbed the corporate ladder. Starting at 21 years of age, I worked for one of the largest companies in the world, and by 23, I was a Vice President managing people more than twice my age. I was young, ambitious and driven. So how could I leave behind all that I built and stay home with my children? I figured I would cross that bridge when I got there.

My husband and I tied the knot in 2009, and I knew I wanted to take the plunge into Motherhood shortly thereafter.

In 2010, we decided to try for our first baby. I use “try” loosely because I was pregnant the second my husband looked at me.

I always heard my friends and family members complain about pregnancy. They complained about morning sickness, gaining weight, being tired, being sore, cankles (which apparently is when your leg and ankle become the same size – gasp!), and – way TMI – hemorrhoids.

I didn’t even know what a hemorrhoid really was. I mean, I’ve seen the commercials on TV for some type of cream but how and where you use that cream was quite the mystery.

So with all the positive views of pregnancy surrounding me, I bravely embarked on my own journey. My pregnancy was, well, completely and utterly…uneventful. No morning sickness, minimal weight gain, and definitely no cankles (thank the Lord, baby Jesus).

And I’m 99% sure I didn’t get hemorrhoids. I feel confident that, if I did, I would have known… The 1% chance is for margin of error.

I loved being pregnant and could not wait to meet my sweet baby.

Adventures in Motherhood…With No Job

In the spring of 2011, my first little Love was born. A perfect 8-lb. little boy. Despite him spitting up 500 times a day, we were so in love. It didn’t take long to decide to add another little Love to our growing family.

In the winter of 2014, his baby brother joined us. We felt incredibly blessed to be the parents of these two amazing boys.

My First Little Love

But my life was about to change… a lot.

The company I worked for gave notice that my office would be closed down that spring. I was nine months pregnant at the time of the announcement and went on maternity leave knowing I would have no job to return to.

My husband and I decided I would take a year away from work and stay home with my boys. After that year, I could decide whether to go back or not. It was an entirely new experience!

Entering the Storm

I spent much of the next several months getting into the swing of things as a stay-at-home mom. I was loving it and struggling all at the same time.

I had worked in the financial and mortgage industry, so going from conversations about that to which character on Thomas and Friends is my favorite or why Optimus Prime doesn’t have a mother was my new reality.

I had worked in the financial and mortgage industry, so going from conversations about that to which character on Thomas and Friends is my favorite or why Optimus Prime doesn’t have a mother was my new reality.

I felt my brain cells dying second by second.

I was failing. Something had to change.

By the time my youngest was nine months old, we had moved to a new city, and I was meeting people and going out on play dates, which included adult conversations! I made new friends. I was getting the hang of this stay-at-home thing but still had plans to return to work after the one-year mark.

That is when things changed.

I was feeling off and very sick and decided to take a pregnancy test. I laughed at myself for being so silly. But there staring at me were two very pink lines (which means positive for those who are pregnancy test rookies).

I was pregnant.

It was a shock. I mean, my baby was still a baby! But we were thrilled.

This pregnancy was way different. I was SO sick. I hugged the porcelain throne more than I had in my entire life.  It was lovely.

As my pregnancy progressed, we became so excited.

Some Dreams are Not Meant to Be

On Valentine’s Day 2015, we learned that our little surprise was a girl. A girl! After two boys, I was having a little girl. It was so perfect. I was so in love and excited to be adding this precious little lady to our family.

Unfortunately, that dream was not meant to be lived.

In March 2015, well into my second trimester, I went to a routine prenatal appointment, not knowing that that day, my entire life would change.

This appointment was nothing special. It was overly routine really. I checked in, peed in a cup, had my weight and blood pressure taken, then met with the doctor. After some small talk, she got to the good stuff. The Doppler.

The Doppler (monitors the baby’s heartbeat) is always my favorite part. I love hearing that little heart pumping away. Such a sweet, sweet sound.

The doctor put the Doppler to my belly and…nothing.

Complete silence.

I knew at that moment something was very wrong. My doctor told me it’s probably nothing and the baby was just hiding from her, but the comment didn’t meet her eyes. Her eyes said everything I already knew in my heart.

She called for the ultrasound machine to be brought in, and within minutes, she uttered the words that will forever haunt me, “I’m so sorry; there is no heartbeat.”

…she uttered the words that will forever haunt me, “I’m so sorry; there is no heartbeat.”

I am not sure there are words to describe the feeling of losing a child.

What I do know is that that gut-wrenching pain does not fade with time. It is an imprint that is forever left on you. A cross for you to bear for all time.

My daughter was delivered just two days later. I chose not to see or hold her. A decision that I will forever regret.

At the time, it seemed like too much. I was too emotional, and the pain was too great. I wish I had held her. I wish I knew what she looked like. I wish I had kissed her sweet face.

But I can’t change the past.

We had our sweet girl cremated and had her ashes home with us just over two weeks after her death. It was surreal to see her little urn and know that is how our story ended. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

How Much Can One Heart Take?

After my little girl died, I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant again right away.

We never got a true answer for her death other than I was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder. But after having two healthy boys, the doctors did not know for certain that it is what killed her.

I was given the green light to try whenever we were ready. Well, I was ready right away.

Just seven short weeks after our daughter’s death, I got a positive pregnancy test.

Just seven short weeks after our daughter’s death, I got a positive pregnancy test.

It was bittersweet, of course. I was so thankful for this new life, although I was scared of the same thing happening again.

My pregnancy was monitored more closely this time, which meant I got lots of ultrasounds. I chose to enjoy my time with my baby rather than be paralyzed by fear. A choice I do not regret.

Lightning Can Strike the Same Place Twice…

On a hot and sunny day in September 2015, I went in for my 21-week check-up.

I had just had an ultrasound about a week prior, and everything looked wonderful so again, I had no reason to worry.

Well, very quickly it was like déjà vu – routine pee in a cup, weight, blood pressure taken, small talk with the doctor, the Doppler…

Then…nothing but the Doppler’s deafening silence.

An ultrasound was done, and I heard once again those same words that had been haunting me, “I’m so sorry; there is no heartbeat.”

I walked out of the room to the same look of pity on the staff’s faces.

I made the same phone call to my husband.

It was routine in the worst way.

I walked out of the room to the same look of pity on the staff’s faces. I made the same phone call to my husband. It was routine in the worst way.

I gave birth the next day to a sweet little boy. I would not make the same mistake twice, and I chose to see and hold him. He was tiny but so cute.

I will forever cherish those moments.

I once again left the hospital with nothing but a memory box with his little hat, gown, and footprints inside, along with some flowers, and a broken heart.

He was cremated, and his urn matches that of his big sister.

Sweet Matching Urns

Moving Forward, Even if it’s Stumbling

Moving forward after a stillbirth (much less two) is not easy. While the world moves forward, living in the present, we are stuck holding onto the past and the “what if’s.”

I am in an extremely unlucky group of ladies that make up less than 1% of all women.

We are those that have had back-to-back stillbirths. Odds were in our favor, and they basically spit on us.

Odds were in our favor, and they basically spit on us.

I have had some interesting things said to me since the death of my babies.

Some of the most hurtful things you can say to a grieving parent (whether they lost a baby at 5 weeks, 20 weeks, or after birth) is:

  1. It wasn’t meant to be.
  2. It was God’s will.
  3. You can have another one.
  4. Be thankful for the children you have.
  5. Maybe it was for the best.
  6. I know how you feel.
  7. Or not saying anything at all, ignoring it

All of these, though surely meant to be comforting, diminish our loss.

Tiny Footprints

So What Can You Say to Someone Grieving?

For starters, you don’t need to say anything. Listen. Simply saying, “I am so sorry. I am here to listen when you want to talk” is enough.

You don’t need to come up with something profound.

Some of the best support I received was from a friend who would text me, even months later, just to say she was thinking about me and wanted to know how I was doing. After I first told her about each loss, she cried with me.

She made it okay to fall apart and, more importantly, made it okay for me not to be okay.

Also, don’t be afraid to use their baby’s name.

One of the worst parts about losing a child is the fear that people will forget. There is nothing sweeter than hearing your child’s name said.

Does it hurt? Yes, but at the same time, it brings a lot of joy.

Our memories are painful but also cherished.

I have learned a lot on my journey about life and grief

One is how fragile life really is and how our children are truly walking miracles, but I also have learned that people grieve differently and in their own time. And that is okay.

My life is on a very different path now than it would have been if I had not gone through the journey I have. I did not return to work but decided to stay home and relish my crazy, active boys who make me smile every day.

I have started my own home business and am working to find some balance between working and spending time with my kids without my house falling apart.

I found the courage to try again for a baby. That pregnancy is for another post but my arms and heart are more than full after giving birth to a healthy baby girl in December 2016 and another girl (my surprise baby!) in August 2018. 

My double rainbow! (Rainbow baby is a baby born after a pregnancy loss or death of a child)

My Rainbow Babies

They will never know how much they mean to me. 

Another thing I learned is that I can heal. Does it still hurt? Yes, very much, but I can honestly and truly say I am okay.

I can say to anyone starting their own grief journey, that I survived, and yes, life moves forward.

You will smile again.

You will do things you love again.

You will enjoy life again.

I am okay, and you will be too.

With Love,

Heather Grace


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how i survived a stillbirth

4 comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for your story. I lost my baby on Oct 13, 2018, almost two weeks ago. And prior to that I lost another baby. Your story sounds exactly like mine, reading it gave me chills. I am so scared to try again, but I really do want another baby badly. And those comments people made to you were also said to me and it hurt me more than them just being there for me. I am a part of that 1 percent group. I am trying to find the strength to move on. How long after did you try again after your second loss?

    • Heather Grace says:

      Oh, Stephanie, I am so sorry you are walking this road. I am sorry for the loss of your sweet babies.

      After I lost my son (second stillborn), my husband and I decided to actually not try again. Ever. I was so heartbroken that I did not think I would survive a third loss. My son was stillborn at the beginning of September and I didn’t even think about another baby until about 6 months later… That baby bug bit me again and the idea of trying did not seem as scary as it did right after the loss.

      I still think that was too soon, to be honest, but I felt ready. My husband was still not sure but after discussing it for a few weeks, we decided on a whim to try one more time. I found out I was pregnant again about 9 months after my son was born.

      My rainbow baby girl was born healthy. Her pregnancy was very difficult for me. I went into every scan thinking she was gone. But she was always there. Healthy. I know everyone’s story and history is different so I won’t speak to the medical route we took to get her here healthy (unless you want to) but I can speak to the emotional time of considering trying again and then carrying that pregnancy to term. It was very hard. Even months after she was born I would often just hold her and tear up while kissing her face. She is so, so special to me.

      If you need anyone to talk to, feel free to email me (you can see my About Me page for my email). I would be happy to be an ear if you need someone. I didn’t know anyone who had been through this when it happened to me and that can leave you feeling very isolated. Big hugs!

  2. Trish says:

    Heather,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I am a mom who has had healthy pregnancies along with 3 losses and also a labor nurse who is with women during a stillbirth. I am truly sorry for your losses but rejoice with you as well. Thank you Jesus for rainbow babies. Mine is quietly snoring beside me.
    Trish

    • Heather Grace says:

      I have so much respect for the nurses who help moms through the process of birthing their sleeping baby. My nurses were so amazing and compassionate. I will never forget them. Thank you for being there as a nurse. You will never know how much it helps to have a steady hand to guide us during one of the worst experiences of our life. And I am sorry you have had losses too. I wish a day to remember lost babies wasn’t needed. And yes, thank the Lord for those sweet rainbow babies and all the healing they bring! I actually delivered my first rainbow baby in the same delivery room as my stillborn son! Talk about surreal. She is such a joy. Much love to you!

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