Just before our one-year wedding anniversary, my husband Steve and I moved to Chicago where my husband would attend Medical School. Not long after moving, we excitedly phoned home to our parents to relate the news: “We’re going to have a baby!” Through months of anticipation, every preparation was made in for our baby’s arrival. Dresses were hung in the closet, blankets were carefully embroidered, and quilts were pieced.  Little onesies and socks were folded neatly and placed in the dresser. The dresser was refinished, the cradle was readied, the room was painted. Most importantly, we had worked to ready our hearts by cultivating feelings of love and harmony in our home.

However, after 8 months of pregnancy, I stopped feeling my baby’s movements. We were shocked to learn that even before being born, our baby girl (whom we named Eliza) had died.

When Eliza stopped living, I felt like a large part of me died with her. I had many questions — Why did I lose my child if I had been living a life that I believed made me capable of being a caring mother? Why did this turn out so differently than I envisioned? In times of sorrow, I found hope in this scripture:  “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”

The loss of our beautiful baby taught me many lessons. As I internalized the loving truth that our Father in Heaven sent His Son to die for us, I learned the depth of a parent’s love. In the years that followed the death and birth of our daughter, Steve and I grew stronger together as a couple. We continued on, but it was difficult — there were still a lot of tender moments when I yearned to hold and teach my lost baby.

Our joy was immeasurable when, a few years later, we finally welcomed our precious newborn daughter Ella Jayne into our family. The first night after giving birth, I tried to rest, but I couldn’t sleep. I kept my baby with me. The nurses couldn’t believe that I had not utilized any of the pain medications offered for post-delivery pains. But I did not feel any pain, just pure joy!  I counted her fingers and toes. I fed her. Steve and I held her, talked to her and rocked her. I was so grateful to hear her cries. I felt profoundly the need to protect her, love her and teach her. I continue to feel this!  Ella is now 9 years old — and she lights up our lives!  Being a mother is truly a gift of the greatest proportions.

A few years passed and we found ourselves longing for another child and for a sibling and playmate for Ella. We found ourselves seeking pregnancy through fertility treatments and procedures. Miraculously (and much to our delight!), I eventually became pregnant.

Week after week of my pregnancy, I had helplessly watched as conditions worsened, amniotic fluid levels dropped and the baby’s growth declined. Because of my past experiences, I knew her life was not in my hands, yet I greatly feared losing another baby. After a 6-week period of bed rest, I was admitted to the hospital for monitoring. We rejoiced when Louisa Kate was born healthy. Just like Ella, she arrived 5 weeks early and weighed 5 lbs. 2 ounces. Louisa is now 5 years old. She is lively and fun and unpredictable! I count her life and her addition to our home as one of my greatest blessings.
Helen Keller taught, “The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”

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Facts About Stillbirth (A stillbirth is a pregnancy loss after 20 weeks in which the baby dies before birth):
-Worldwide, 4.5 million stillbirths occur each year. 12,000 women deliver a stillborn each day. (World Health Organization)
-In the U.S., of the 4 million births a year, there are 26,000 stillbirths. 70 women deliver a stillborn each day. (National Institutes of Health)
-Stillbirths per year roughly equal all infant deaths during first year of life. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
-60% of fetal deaths happen after 28 weeks gestation. The majority of stillbirths occur at or near full term.
-Many stillbirths at term happen in otherwise healthy, low-risk pregnancies.
-Medical research supports kick counting as an effective and reliable way to screen fetal well-being during the third trimester in both low- and high-risk pregnancies. If problems are detected in time, intervention may be initiated to prevent stillbirth.

From Emi Edgley.

PS — Here’s a related story from Faye Larsen.

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Note from Design Mom: throughout my pregnancy, I’ve been posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. I just had my baby and am taking a blogging break for a week or so. I’ve received so many wonderful stories and thought it would be great to post as many as I can during this little “maternity leave.” You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here.