Written February 2021
“I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat” still ring in my ears. It has been three years since losing our first daughter Isabelle. I had noticed the day before I did not feel her usual kicks and went in to check on her. I figured the lack of space at 38 weeks pregnant was to blame for this and I was being overly cautious as a first-time mom. My sister and I believed it would all be fine and had planned to get lunch right after the check-up.
What happened next changed our lives forever. The motionless ultrasound screen, the look of horror on my husband’s face, my sister’s shrieks of disbelief. Moments I will never forget.
After carrying Isabelle for 38 weeks, sitting in that small ultrasound room, I was told I would have to go to the hospital and deliver our daughter. Tears were streaming down our faces as feelings of shock and horror came over us. 38 weeks of kicks, hiccups, ultrasounds of her button nose, and envisioning her future. It was all taken away from us in one moment. Everything that followed felt surreal; calling our parents, driving to the hospital, nurses explaining next steps. We were going through the motions, trying to fully process that our daughter was gone forever.
24 hours later, after a full day of induction and labor Isabelle Lee was born. The silence in the room where she was delivered was unbearable. We could hear families in the rooms surrounding ours with their crying newborns. We held her with our families and said goodbye. I cannot accurately describe the unbearable pain of watching your daughter being rolled out of the room knowing you will never see her again on this Earth. It is a pain only those who have lived it could ever understand.
The only way to describe in words what we were feeling at the time is through this letter my husband wrote to Isabelle while she was next to our hospital bed.
Isabelle Lee Piasecki, my heart, my angel. My “Izzy”, it is impossible to put into words how much your mother and I love you. We have loved you since the day we learned you were coming and will continue to do so forever. I am not gonna lie Izzy, this on hurts, it hurts a lot. We couldn’t wait to meet you, and while we didn’t meet you the way we wanted, we did and will always cherish every second you were in our arms, Your mother and I aren’t totally sure how to take the next steps forward, but we will walk them for you. Your family loves you, I know you saw all the love in that room. You will always be our first born and we already miss you so much it hurts. The love will grow everyday. We love you from now til forever. Love, Your Parents”
We were forced to quickly learn, while still in shock, what you do when your baby dies. This is something you can never prepare yourself for. The nurse asking my husband if we had decided between burial or cremation, meetings with funeral parlors, deciding whether we wanted pictures of the worst moments of our lives, and much more. I was going through the motions, but not believing this was actually my life now. I wanted to fast forward time and pretend this had never happened. These were cruel decisions for parents to make who pictured leaving the hospital with their baby girl just weeks later.
I was pushed out of the hospital in a wheelchair in the same physical pain other mothers endured during labor, but with no baby to bring home. Instead, I carried a box from the nurses filled with photos of the daughter we would never see again. We would miss seeing her grow up and all of her firsts; learning to crawl, first foods, first steps. Would she play tennis one day like her father and me? I would never know what she would be like. Would she grow up to have her father’s sense of humor and freckles or my curly hair? I could only just imagine.
This was just the beginning of the pain in our journey ahead. We came home to an empty nursery. Baby gear that once filled the house in preparation for her arrival was now stuffed away in closets. Getting up the nights that followed, in physical pain and emotional shock. Waking up every morning forgetting for a second what happened. The questions of why this happened, replaying the week leading up to losing her, many doctors’ appointments and uncertainty on how to move forward.
The Long Road Ahead
I wondered in that moment, and for months after, if I would ever be happy again. I spoke with other women who had been through this and now had healthy children. It gave me hope and thoughts of another pregnancy helped me slowly move forward. There were still moments of guilt in between. A feeling that I was forgetting about Isabelle and moving on too quickly. But I knew this was my only path to being happy again. I learned through therapy that grief is in no way a straight line and worked on healing the trauma of this experience with my therapist.
There seemed to be triggers everywhere. I suddenly noticed every stroller, babies crying in the grocery store and hearing about friends delivering their healthy babies. There were days when I would cry out of nowhere while watching a pampers commercial and days I would laugh out loud – but catch myself. Was it okay to laugh again?
As I sit and write this today, I can hear our 18-month old daughter Annie giggling and running through the hallways. She has filled the empty nursery and house with the joy I never thought possible again. We will always love and miss Isabelle and I am forever grateful that she has brought us an amazing younger sister.
The road ahead is still unknown. Losing Isabelle has forever changed me. I no longer worry about little things like I used to. I appreciate the small and big milestones; I love just watching Annie grow into a little person. Many of the moments I mourned with Izzy have been filled. But I will never forget Isabelle and wonder at times what she would be like now at 2.5 years old.
For those struggling with fertility, or have gone through Stillbirth, I want to say never give up. There are so many ways you can make a family today and I believe it is worth the pain it took to get there. I am pregnant with our third daughter and still have moments of fear and doubt. But I know going through this pregnancy is healing and brings new hope of giving Annie the sister she should have here today.