Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Preparing for Delivery

Before our daughter Hannah was given a fatal diagnosis the thought of delivering her was scary to me. I don’t do well with needles, blood, IV’s, etc. at all. I goggled and read countless articles on how to prepare:  what to do to help with pain after giving birth, what to take to the hospital, etc. I also read pros and cons of keeping my baby in the room with me the entire time at the hospital, whether or not to breast feed right away, and who I wanted in the room with me. At the same time I was scared, I was also nervous and excited to have my baby. The days and weeks couldn't go by fast enough.

The day we received a fatal diagnosis all of my previous delivery planning changed. I don’t think there is any way to describe the feeling of preparing for your baby’s delivery and death at the same time. Where was I supposed to start? Is there really anyway to prepare for this? What do I do? I had so many more questions.

I prayed time would stop. 

I wanted and needed every second I had with her.

I wish there was something I could say to you that would make this easier. I can tell you that when you finally have your baby in your arms (born sleeping or not) you will feel a sense a joy to have them because they are your baby. With all the emotions that are going on, from the moment the fatal diagnosis was given, it’s easy to allow many others things to be put aside. That’s ok, because we all react to this journey in our own personal way. Since you have so much on your mind, I wanted to take the time to put together a list of ways to prepare for your baby’s delivery. Don’t be afraid to add or take away things you don’t want or need.

Here is a list to help guide you in your own preparation for the delivery of your precious baby. 

~Decide who you want at the hospital with you. If you have a vaginal birth, decide who you want in the delivery room.

~Request that you have a private room and that you stay on the Labor & Delivery floor.

~Consider having a doula that is trained to assist mothers who experience the loss of their baby (

~Take a camera in addition to your cell phones camera (don’t forget to pack your chargers).

~Take special items like a blanket, outfit, stuffed animal, children’s books etc.

~Pack your personal hospital bag early with your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, slippers, pillow, 
blanket, and anything else you want or may need for yourself.

~Finalize a birth plan. Give a copy to your doctor and go over it with them (

~Contact Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to have them come and capture the moments after your baby is born (

~Take photos (video also if you would like) with your own personal camera (don’t forget to pack chargers and extra batteries).

~Take items to make molds of your baby’s hand and feet, as well as anything you’d like their hand/foot prints on.  

~Decide if you would like your baby baptized. If so, ask your pastor, priest, etc. or even your doctor.  (Our doctor baptized Hannah next to us in the OR.)

~Take the time you need with your baby. (I personally had from the time Hannah was born until Christmas day when it was time to go home. They only suggested taking her away for a little bit because she was stillborn and many hours had gone by. They brought her back when we asked them to.)

~Decide if you want your baby to stay in your room or brought to your room after immediately after delivery.

I have you in my prayers and thoughts, Matthew 5:4.

You are a beautiful Mother.

Love Always,

*Read more about preparing for Hello and Goodbye, here. You can do this <3

~ ~ ~

Heather Kimble lives in the Philadelphia area. She is married to her best friend, Jason and is mommy to Hannah Sue Kimble. Hannah is her only child. Heather carried Hannah after receiving a fatal diagnosis and was told to terminate. Heather was told to terminate based on the serious risk to her own personal health. She doesn't believe in termination and chose to carry Hannah with love. Hannah passed away and was born sleeping on December 23rd, 2013. Heather and Jason treasure every moment they had with Hannah during pregnancy and after delivery. Hannah has inspired a nonprofit started by her parents to help others and to help break the silence by sharing their journey of baby loss. Visit her blog, Hannah's Heart and Love, and follow her page on Facebook

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hidden Treasures, Part II

by Jenni Dolezilek Sternberg.

NOTE: This is part II of a two-part series. Please click here to read Part I.

The first thing I realized was how strong hope is. Even though there felt like there was little hope, it hadn't disappeared. When we talked about trying to have other children, I felt I was crazy to try again, but there was a tiny shred of hope that was still there. Every day there was a new hope that the day would be better than the last, sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't.

I realized how strong my faith was. Two months after losing Cameron, Paul and I attended Thanksgiving Eve services at our church. We left halfway through, me in tears. He brought me to my parents and I told them I was so pissed at them, they had cultivated such a strong faith in me, that even though I was so mad at God I still believed, and that made me mad. But I also know my faith got me through.

Also, after losing Cameron, I am convinced without a doubt that there is a Heaven and that is where he is. I still have a lot of doubts at times but, I know that in my very core, Heaven is real. I so look forward to going there and holding Cameron again.
Since having my two rainbow babies- I feel I love them more since I lost my son. It is one of those things that can’t be explained- for I surely would have loved them more than anything either way, but I truly believe the hole in my heart left by Cameron allows me to love my other children even more. I certainly do not take them for granted. Many times I watch them sleep, or just hold them, with tears in my eyes, and thank God for them and pray for their safety.

It has also taught me determination. My husband and I were married less than a year when we lost Cameron. I know statistics show that marriages often fail after the loss of a child. And we have had many struggles, not all of them due to losing our son. But I have been determined for us to stay together. He is the only one who knew and loved Cameron like I did and understands, so, I know we have to stay together.

I also am awed at how much strength I have had and of course I am only strong through God. How could I survive through the unthinkable? I am amazed I am still here- putting one foot in front of the other. I know I can get through anything- I’m proud of making it through this and am so grateful to God for carrying me through it day-by-day, sometimes minute-by-minute. I have seen so many times that no matter how bad it is, there will be good again.

I now view the world differently. I am much more understanding of people who have losses. I also see that everyone has difficulties to live through and we all need to treat each other with a little more grace. I've learned you can’t judge someone, especially if you haven’t been in their shoes.
I’m working so hard on becoming a better person and I think everyone can benefit from trying to improve themselves. I've been going to therapy for years and slowly, but surely, improving myself. Maybe all those years ago at group I was expecting to be a finished, better person, but now realize that I am still working on it.
One day about six years ago I had an epiphany. Instead of asking why this happen to me, I flipped it over and said how grateful I am that I got to be his mom. From all the people in the world and from all that have ever lived, God chose me to be Cameron’s mom. That is humbling. I wish the story ended differently. I wish Cameron was here today. But I wouldn't give him up for anything, even though being his mom has included terrific heartache. I am so blessed to be his mom and no one can take that away. I will be his mom for all eternity.
For years I have wanted to do big things in memory of Cameron. I was so frustrated that I wasn't able to. But when I look back now, I know people have come to me for advice when a friend has lost a baby. People have said they admired our faith and how we have gotten through. I have done small things to help people. At Grief Group one time a few years after Cameron’s death, one of the facilitators told me that Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.” That really stuck with me. Then not too long ago, someone on a face book page was talking about the little random acts of kindness they had done in memory of their little one. And it all just hit me: THAT is what we can do.
And so this year we started “9 Days of Remembering Cameron” on September 11-19. (He would be turning nine on the 19th.) I am asking people to join us doing random acts of kindness on those days; little things with great love for our little guy. This is the first September in nine years I have felt peace and hope.
It took a lot of digging but, I have found some hidden treasures. The most important is: I am a better person. For one thing, I am Cameron’s mom, what could be better than that?

Good luck in your treasure hunt.

I hope you find a lot of treasures.

~ ~ ~

Jenni Dolezilek Sternberg owns and operates an in-home daycare/preschool, which she has done for 10 years in Minnesota. Before that she was an Elementary School teacher and will hopefully be an author in the future. She has been married to her husband Paul since Fall of 2004. And she is most proud of being a mommy to 3 children: Cameron, Katarina (7), and Jakob (3). Cameron lived 57 minutes after he was born on September 19,2005. He was held in loving arms his whole life. We continue to hold him in our hearts and do things to make sure he is not forgotten. Find more on Cameron’s Facebook remembrance page, IROC (In Remembrance of Cameron).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hidden Treasures, Part I

By Jenni Dolezilek Sternberg

Note: I always want to start by saying I don’t mean to offend anyone- I write what is true for me, based on my life and experiences.

My life took an unexpected turn the beginning of 2005. My husband, Paul, and I had been married less than two months and I found out we were expecting. I have learned not to say we were having a baby, since there is no guarantee. At that time, it never crossed my mind. It was surprising, exciting, and scary. We hadn't anticipated it- and I tried to comprehend what would happen. I wrote in my journal: Our lives will never be the same. I had no idea how profound that statement would be, nor how not just our lives would change, but how we would change as individuals.

The pregnancy continued pretty uneventful. I was due the middle of October. Toward the end of July, I asked if we could have another ultrasound- I had loved seeing the baby. Without going into all the details in this article, the ultrasound did not go well. And as I had  more doctor visits, the news continued to get worse. By September 1, after a second MRI, it was confirmed the baby had no kidneys or bladder (Potter’s Syndrome) and would possibly be born still or best case scenario live a few hours.

Our beautiful son, Cameron, was born on September 19. He lived 57 minutes. We were so grateful for the time to hug and kiss him, take pictures, and try to squeeze a lifetime of loving into a few days.

We buried him four days later. When I left him at the cemetery a piece of me was left with him, never to be part of me again.

The one thing that really helped me get through was going to Grief Group once a month. But a few months into it, I would feel better for going, but also felt so much worse.

The part that really got into my craw was that everyone kept talking about how losing a child made them a better person. This thrust me deeper into depression. I did not feel like a better person- I felt worse.

I listened to women say how they had decided to change careers and wouldn't have if they hadn't lost their child. They talked how they were more loving, more patient, and on and on. They weren’t bragging, at least I don’t think they were. It made them feel better to see positive changes after the loss.

It felt like a twist of the mommy wars. As a loss mom, I was not as good as the other loss moms.

I was not a better person and even today I still feel like a broken person. I was mad at everything and everyone. And most of all I was mad at God. How could God allow my baby to die? We had so many people praying. I was jealous of people who had babies. Seeing a pregnant woman was excruciating for me. How come she got to have her baby and I couldn’t? I was even jealous of people who died.

I had less empathy for others. I would listen to others complain about things and think- are you serious? You are complaining about not being able to find out the sex, while I found out my baby would die. You are upset you can’t go on vacation when you want or some friend is mad at you and I would think you have no idea what a real problem is.

Even the slightest things frustrated me. A broken grocery bag would have me in tears. My husband could forget to buy something at the store and I’d see red.

I also experienced depression. For better or worse- my husband and I ran a daycare out of our house. If I didn't get out of bed, we would have been homeless and starving. So I had no choice, it was all I could do every morning to get up and push along through the day. I remember thousands of times thinking I just wanted to curl up and die. I would beg God to take me. I would grow even more depressed when He wouldn’t take me.

I also suffer from extreme anxiety. I have anxiety if I am in a room that does not have direct access outside. I HAVE to sit on an aisle. I recently had an anxiety attack at the dentist. And when I was pregnant with my two rainbow babies, the anxiety started and still rears its ugly head often. At night- are they still breathing? Will they be okay if I leave them? And on and on.

All of these issues still plague me, some are better than others. But, slowly after time had passed I realized there have been hidden treasures buried under the grief, I just had to dig a little...

- Look for Part II of this article, coming soon! -

~ ~ ~

Jenni Dolezilek Sternberg owns and operates an in-home daycare/preschool, which she has done for 10 years in Minnesota. Before that she was an Elementary School teacher and will hopefully be an author in the future. She has been married to her husband Paul since Fall of 2004. And she is most proud of being a mommy to 3 children: Cameron, Katarina (7), and Jakob (3). Cameron lived 57 minutes after he was born on September 19,2005. He was held in loving arms his whole life. We continue to hold him in our hearts and do things to make sure he is not forgotten. Find more on Cameron’s Facebook remembrance page, IROC (In Remembrance of Cameron).

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Ocean of Grief

by Alex Hopper

Feel the sand beneath your feet. The water rushes across your ankles. As you wade out past the breakers, you begin to feel the strength of the sea.

Waves come and go.

Rise and fall.

A never-ending cycle.

Some waves are gentle. Jump high enough and you just might soar, if only for a fleeting moment. Other waves seem to come out of nowhere, and by the time you see them, it is too late. They rise against you with such enormity, threatening to take you away. As they crash down upon you with impossible force, you are swept below the sea, and left struggling to reach the surface.

This is grief.

Constantly ebbing and flowing as the coming in and the going out of the tide. At times, you simply rest on the surface, breathing. Then there are the moments you have to fight to keep your head above the water, above the drowning sea of grief. You thrash and cry as it pulls you under, to depths where only darkness exists. Where light and hope are extinguished. Slowly and painfully you rise to the surface. Feel the current, the silent force that pulls you away a little at a time, until you look up to the shore --the shore of your new life --and you realize just how far you've gone.

The current of grief changes you, shapes you into something new.

Something better…

Something worse…

Something different…

A NEW you.

You try to swim against the current, to fight the grief, but it is useless. Try as you might, you cannot escape it. Grief is required. Because you love, you grieve, and the greater the love, the greater the grief.

So let it take you, let it change you, because the truth is, you will NEVER be the same, and that is okay, in fact, it is beautiful.

~ ~ ~

Alex Hopper is a writer in North Carolina. She is married to her beloved, Trent, and mommy to her angel, Cyrus. Cyrus was diagnosis with a fatal birth defect in the womb at 12 weeks. He was carried with love until he was born at 33 weeks on November 25, 2013. He lived for 1 hour and 9 minutes. His life was short, but his legacy lives on. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Diagnosis Day

Diagnosis Day: the worst day of my and my husband's entire lives. 

This was the day that started it all. 

This bittersweet journey of joy and deep sadness. 

All of us moms who are thrown into this journey understand all too well the devastating day of getting our precious baby's fatal diagnosis.

I remember being in complete shock at first. We went to the anatomy scan at 18 weeks expecting to find out the gender of our first, long awaited child. My husband left work early, the day before Christmas Eve, telling all his coworkers he was going to find out the gender of his baby. Little did he know the other news that awaited us that day.

We were told via Skype because the doctor wasn't in the office and they didn't want me to go somewhere else to get the news (which I'm honestly very thankful for). So you know how people say it was as though they were floating above the scene, watching themselves while going through a horrible tragedy? Well, we were quite literally watching ourselves react on the computer screen. I remember watching the words come out of her mouth "100% fatal" and I instinctively started crying this guttural, very primal cry. It was hysteria-- that's truly the only way I can describe it --and I watched the whole thing unfold on the computer screen. 

I'll never forget my face. 

It didn't even look like me.

My husband tried to be the rational one at first, pleading with the doctor. Begging her to give us an action plan to save our baby. When he finally wrapped his head around the fact that he couldn't 'fix' this, he finally gave in and sobbed on the floor with me.

We then got the news that we had originally came there to get; a girl. She was a girl.

That next week was a complete blur. We did a lot of research, prayed a TON, and relied on close family and friends to get us through those first trying weeks. 

**DISCLAIMER: not everyone is going to 'agree' with your decision. Let me tell you this very clearly-YOUR body. YOUR baby. Do not let anyone, even family, force their fears and negative emotions onto you. You are doing all you can do for your precious child. Your child matters. Your child is worthy. Regardless of diagnosis, this doesn't lower his or her worth in any way whatsoever.**

If you are going through this right now, I'm so sorry. You unfortunately share this horrible, nightmarish day with so many other mothers. And even though this day was different for each of us; whether you were alone or with your partner, whether you sat silently in shock or wailed in disbelief, whether it was in person or over the phone or even on Skype, we all survived it. Barely, but we made it through.

You made it past one of the most difficult days in this whole journey, which means you can do this. While you're carrying your precious angel and you feel you can't go on anymore, remember that day. Remember not the negative aspects of it, but that you lived until the next day with your baby, and then the next, then the next and so on. You can do this. You've already braved through more than you know <3.
~ ~ ~

Christine Russo is a wife to an amazing, supportive husband, and a mommy to Angel Gianna Marie, her first and only child. She carried Gianna after receiving a fatal diagnosis halfway into her pregnancy. Through the love and spirit of their special daughter, who means the world to them, they wish to help support other families who have to say goodbye to a piece of their heart

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Grandparent's Love is Forever

Written by MaryJo Carlson, Samuel's Gramma

In honor of National Grandparents’ Day I want to remember my grandson Samuel Evan Fredrickson.

My oh so extremely precious and beautiful Samuel,

I thought of you first thing today.  But that is nothing new.  I think of you every day and wish it were not true that this is the only way I can talk to you. My imagination has been working better-than-ever-before in these last two years.  I can imagine you coming to spend the day with me.  I can imagine you even getting to stay for a weekend while mama and daddy are away. I can imagine you running after your kitties and squealing all the way.  I can imagine you and daddy heading out to a ballgame; I bet you would even have matching shirts.  I can imagine you standing on a chair in the kitchen making special treats with mama.  I can imagine you all dressed up, looking dapper, heading out for a special evening as a family.  I can imagine you asking to ride on the tractor with grampa and begging for even more!

Oh the places that you and I can go in my imagination. Why can’t it be true that you are here with me?  I watch the little boy across the street out my window.  He is only days older than you.  I see all the fun he is having and I wish it were you.  Not only do I miss you so much each and every day having this reminder right in front of me is so heartbreaking.  But on the bright side it helps me to imagine you!  You would be getting so big though my memories of you are of a tiny sweet little boy with twinkling, dark brown eyes.  My life since you left us for heaven has been like living two lives at the same time – the one where I imagine you and the one I have to live that goes on without you here.  There is never a day that I am not reminded that you are missing.  This life is filled with babies and little boys and families and pregnant mamas and announcements of expectant parents and baby showers and holidays all with you missing.  So often my eyes are searching for what should have been in our family. Too many times I have to turn away for fear the tears will begin to fall all over again.  But that is nothing new.  The tears have fallen so many times that it is a part of who I am now.

As this country celebrates National Grandparents’ Day today, I will be imagining you, sweet Samuel Evan.  I will be remembering the joy of seeing you.  I will be cherishing the moments with you; remembering your soft skin in my hand, remembering how beautiful you were, remembering the excitement in my heart with the first glimpses of you, remembering those moments with your mama and daddy and you.  Samuel, you are worth remembering, worth all the tears, worth all the sleepless night of wishing our story of you turned out different, worth every thought of you.  You are worth waiting for the rest of my life to turn my imaginations into something real. You are worth every bit of it knowing when we are finally together again it will be for all eternity! 

I thought of you first thing this morning Samuel.  

But that is nothing new.  

I think of you each and every day because a grandparent’s love is forever. 

Hugs and kisses XOXOXO\

Love you, 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dear Precious Baby

By Kayla Schacht

Dear precious baby,

Today I learned of your existence, deep inside my womb, all safe and warm. I think of all the amazing things that are to come, the first kick, first ultrasound, first sleepless night trying to get comfortable with my ever growing belly, and  -- the greatest of all -- the first time I look upon your beautiful face. I pray I can be the mommy that you deserve. That I can be patient when you decide you rather stay awake all night and sleep all day, and that I can kiss away all your owies. But most of all, I want to be your biggest cheerleader. 

Today baby I found out you were a girl, my precious little princess. But today we also found out that you are not ours to keep. Princess, there is something wrong. I don't know how to explain it as I do not understand myself. The doctors used a lot of really big words; birth defect, sever issues, quality of life and the hardest to hear “incompatible with life”. Mommy cannot kiss away your owies as they are too great and beyond repair. I long to run away and ignore all the problems but baby I know I have to stay and fight for not only you, but for me. I will have to fight against the medical field as they don't look at you as "worthy" to be given every chance and second here on earth, I will also have to fight against family and friends. Because baby, mommy choose a path not many will understand and most would not choose. I choose the path to Carry to Term, to let you live every second even if that means only when you are in my womb. The doctors say this isn't a path many choose for them, that most choose to terminate the pregnancy. But my sweet angel I could not choose that path, I could not end your life, I could not stop your heart. The path I choose will seem selfish to some that I'm prolonging the unavoidable. But I need the time to get to know you, to give myself every second I can get to shower you with a life time of love, to give you the chance to learn about your sisters, to tell you about what an amazing man your daddy is and of course to get to kiss your beautiful face and introduce you to the world you will leave shortly after you enter it. 

Today baby we went to the funeral home. One of the hardest things that I will ever have to do is to plan your birth and your death all in the same day. Princess, I want you to know that everything we are doing is because of the amazing amount of love that we have for you. You are perfect in our eyes no matter what. Our funeral director is so amazing and I know that your strength has touched him. As the doctors are surprised you are still holding on and fighting so hard even though your body is so weak. He walked us through how your funeral will be and what we need to plan. It all seems so overwhelming and I don't know if I will be strong enough to handle it. I will probably put the final plans until the last second as planning such a sad day makes everything so final. Princess, I hope your funeral turns out beautiful as it's the least I can do because, baby, you deserve the best. 

Oh my sweet little girl you have made it so far, the doctors are so amazed at your strength. But tomorrow is the day that I will finally get to see your beautiful face, kiss your sweet cheeks and cuddle you. Even though there is no way I can kiss the owies you will have better and I cannot keep you here, tomorrow will be the greatest and most heart breaking day of my life. I can't wait to see if you have your daddy's nose or my cheeks. To hold you close and smell your head. To kiss your feet. I am so scared that when it comes to say good bye I will not have the strength to let you go. I feel so cheated of so much, but blessed beyond imagination for all the time I have had with you. I feel so blessed to be your mommy; that you chose to come into my life and change it in such a great way. Princess, you are my strength without you I would not be able to be strong. You have taught me a love that I don't understand that fills my whole being. I am so proud to say that you are my daughter. While I have you here, even if it is just for seconds I will treasure it for the rest of my life. I ask that as you sit in Jesus' lap you ask him to tell you about me, ask him to tell you how your sisters drive me nuts and how your daddy dancing around singing in the mornings melts my heart. Please princess ask him to tell you all about all the amazing people you left here on earth that love you so much. Don't forget to watch over us until we can be together again.

I love you. 

-Your Biggest Cheerleader. 

~ ~ ~

Kayla Schacht is a writer from Utah. She is married to her knight in shinning armor, Bryce, and they have 5 beautiful girls. Her youngest princess lives in the clouds after living for 48 minutes after birth, all which were in her daddy's arms. Elly Jae was diagnosed with a fatal birth defect at 13 weeks gestation. She spent 31 weeks and 5 days safely in her Mommy's womb where she was cherished every second. Elly Jae has changed not only her parents and sisters lives but lives of complete strangers. Find them on Facebook, at Prayers for Little Elly Jae.
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