Family Stories

The loss of a baby due to stillbirth is a devastating reality that can happen to any family and can take a serious toll on families and their communities. The following stories come from mothers who have lost a child through stillbirth. These mothers are ambassadors for Count the Kicksexternal icon. The views of these mothers are their own and do not reflect the official position of CDC. CDC thanks each of these families for sharing their personal stories. Interested in sharing your personal story with CDC? Submit your story here.

Shawn experienced the loss of her son, Zachary, while in labor. She now encourages other expectant moms to be aware of their baby’s movement and discuss any concerns with their doctor.

Zach swaddled in a blanket

When I was 38 weeks pregnant, my son, Zachary, was stillborn. Two days before Zach’s death, I noticed a decrease in his movements. My intuition told me something wasn’t right, so I called my doctor. Zach died of an undiagnosed placental abruption, which is when the placenta suddenly detaches from the uterine wall before the baby is born. His death may have been prevented had I known about the importance of monitoring my son’s movements during the third trimester. Zachary was our second child and I was never told in either of my pregnancies about the importance of paying attention to my baby’s movements in the third trimester to help reduce the risk of stillbirth.

I am now an ambassador for an organization dedicated to the prevention of stillbirth and infant death through education, advocacy, and support. For the rest of my life I will never forget what it felt like to leave the hospital without Zach in my arms. Because of this I am dedicated to helping prevent other families from experiencing the devastating tragedy of stillbirth.

 

CDC would like to thank Shawn for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

Karina experienced the devastating loss of her son, Milan, during pregnancy. She recounts his birth day and her passion to help other families avoid the pain her family endured.

Milan’s Story, as told by his mother, Karina

My baby died inside my body. At first I wasn’t aware that Milan had died—it was too horrible of a thought to allow into my consciousness. The next day my midwife listened for his heartbeat. We knew something was wrong, but we still didn’t believe it. I had been healthy all through my pregnancy, and this was my second one after a flawless first pregnancy and successful natural childbirth. I had seen a doctor for all of my prenatal care. We had done all the normal testing and ultrasounds. Both the doctor and head midwife thought everything was fine, but neither had encouraged me to be aware of my baby’s movements. If I had been monitoring my baby’s movements daily, I’m confident I would have noticed a change and had a chance to save his life. Instead, when we couldn’t find the heartbeat, I went to the hospital, begging God the whole way there.

I was in a room with my two midwives, husband, a nurse, and an ultrasound technician. It was appallingly quiet as they looked for the heartbeat. They couldn’t find anything. My loved ones swooped in around me as I cried, saying “Oh my God” over and over. I was 39 weeks pregnant and I wasn’t going to keep my baby. I was scared, but I knew I had to deliver the baby or I risked my life as well.

The next day, I was induced and gave birth naturally. I was grateful to give birth at home with people who loved me and treated me with great kindness, midwives I trusted with my life, and a husband who told jokes and stories to distract me from painful contractions even as his own dead son was being born. My husband held me up while I pushed out our baby. When Milan came out, they had to unwind him because he was so tangled in the umbilical cord. The cord went from his belly, up to his neck, fully around his neck, down his back, up through his legs and around his soft middle. He had cut off his oxygen supply when he dropped to be born.

Milan’s Story, as told by his mother, Karina

And there he was, so beautiful. Milan was seven pounds and one ounce. He felt warm from being inside of me and looked like he was sleeping. Would his eyes open? Everyone cried quietly as I cooed over him, adoring his fine features. The next day we buried him. Now, we have had another child, my rainbow baby named Phoenix, who gives me great joy. I also work with a stillbirth and infant death prevention organization to help parents avoid the same pain our family endured.

 

CDC would like to thank Karina for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

Kari was shocked to find out how common stillbirth is—about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year. Kari shares her daughter Harper’s story to help other families know they are not alone and to raise awareness of stillbirth.

Harper’s Story as told by her mother, Kari

I will never forget the day my husband, Marc, and I received the devastating news that would change our lives forever. I had a perfectly normal pregnancy for 39 weeks. But during a routine visit with my doctor at 39 ½ weeks, we found out our daughter, Harper, didn’t have a heartbeat. My due date was just three days away.

We were in complete shock—shattered and utterly heartbroken. Early the next morning, after a very long and sleepless night, we arrived at the hospital where I was induced into labor to give birth to a baby we could not bring home. Fourteen hours later, I delivered Harper Elizabeth. She was seven pounds and eight ounces with a head full of black hair. She had my lips and long fingers and her daddy’s cheeks and nose. We loved her so deeply. We were able to spend a few brief but precious days with her in the hospital before we had to say goodbye forever to our beautiful baby girl.

After that, we faced the incomprehensible task of returning home with empty arms to plan her funeral. During those dark months after losing Harper, I spent a lot of time looking on the internet for information about stillbirth. I was shocked with what I found! Each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.1 The causes of many stillbirths are unknown. I felt so much anger and guilt that I couldn’t protect my baby. I wanted to do something to raise awareness and to help other people not go through what we had.

Shortly after we lost Harper, I made a YouTube tribute video for her, and I do work within my community to help raise awareness about stillbirth. Doing acts of service in her honor has helped me tremendously in my healing process.

Last year, my husband and I welcomed our next child, our rainbow baby, into our family. We named him Colton. Although our family will never be complete without Harper, I am grateful each and every day for the gift of our daughter. We think of her daily, and we will carry her in our hearts for the rest of our lives until we meet again.

References

  1. MacDorman MF, Gregory ECW. Fetal and perinatal mortality: United States, 2013. National vital statistics reports; vol 64 no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_08.pdfpdf icon

 

CDC would like to thank Kari for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

The loss of a baby due to stillbirth remains a sad reality for many families and takes a serious toll on families’ health and well-being. Sapphire shares her daughter Ella’s story and how the experience has affected her.

Ella’s story, written by her mother, Sapphire

Fear gripped me that day. It was soon replaced by raw anguish. The pain was almost too much to cope with, and I had no idea how to move forward. I didn’t get any kind of primer on how to prepare for the unexpected death of my baby girl. Yet there I was, 38 weeks pregnant, and in full-blown labor. I knew how it was going to end—I would not leave the hospital with her. She’d be in a casket soon, and I’d be in bed, tackling the monumental task of continuing to live for another minute, another hour, and then another day.

The loss of her life continues to break my heart, again and again, the same way that waves break up the monotony of a quiet beach. The baby book still sits empty on my shelf. The boxes of clothes she should’ve grown into are long gone. In every way, the absence of her life has left a black void in my heart. It is everything that I expected it to be, yet I can’t help but feel like I’ve been rendered invincible- because after the worst happens, there’s not much left that can knock you down again.

The beauty and pain of Ella’s birth are still fresh in my mind. Life continues to march on, but she’s still at the forefront of my mind. I live these days walking hand in hand with the memory of who she could’ve been, of who she was, and always with the hope that her brief existence will make a difference. She taught me a powerful lesson, that little girl of mine, and my life is an echo of the waves that she might’ve made in her own time. Love is like that, and love can never die. Nothing in the universe, not stillbirth nor a cord accident, can extinguish the love of a mother for her child.

 

CDC would like to thank Sapphire for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

Meghan and her family lost their son, Miles, during her 40th week of pregnancy. Now, Meghan encourages others to speak about their losses, share their experiences, and educate others.

Miles’ story, written by his mother, Meghan

In 2011, my husband and I found out we were going to have our second baby. We already had a lively two-year-old son, Oliver, and we were excited at the prospect of having a sibling for him. My pregnancy with Oliver was healthy, so we had no reason for concern going into a second pregnancy.

While I had common pregnancy symptoms like nausea and back pains, the second pregnancy was going well. I took all the normal precautions—eating well and taking my vitamins—all while chasing Oliver around the house (which counts as exercise in my book). We were told we were having another boy. The search for a perfect name was on.

At my regular appointment a week before my son’s due date, I reported that my baby seemed to be moving less. We listened to his heartbeat, which was strong. My midwife explained that the baby was changing positions, which could account for the change in my perception. She advised me to try not to worry, but to let her know if anything changed. Several times the following weekend, I felt like I was going to go into labor. My son was active, and I felt as though he was trying to descend. But, my contractions never met the standard guidelines for going to the hospital. As my due date neared, I was excited for our baby’s arrival. We had everything ready for him. Oliver was reading books about being a big brother every night and carrying around a baby doll to prepare.

Miles’ story, written by his mother, Meghan

The night before our 40-week appointment, I shared with my husband that I had not felt our baby much that day. I did not have any good method for comparison, though. How much less? How long had it been exactly since he kicked? I felt worried. I searched the internet hoping for answers and advice. Knowing my appointment was in a few hours, I waited for any feeling of movement. Then, I convinced myself I was overreacting and went to sleep.

The next day, we were unable to find a heartbeat. An ultrasound confirmed our son, Miles Fergusson, passed away sometime during the 40th week of my pregnancy. We later were told he died from an umbilical cord accident. He had a nuchal cord, which means his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. We were also told it was a rare occurrence. Even if doctors had known the cord was wrapped, nothing could or would have been done differently in the management of my pregnancy.

Unless you have experienced this type of loss, there is no way to imagine the feeling. The pain is primal, raw, and unbearable. Unspeakable, really.

Today, I do all that I can to encourage others to speak of their losses because, as it turns out, our experience is not so rare. All mothers should be aware of the risk of stillbirth and informed of any steps that may reduce the risk. In our last pregnancy, I carefully monitored our baby’s movements and activity. It helped reduce my anxiety about a subsequent loss and encouraged bonding with our next child, our rainbow baby, Misa Renè.

 

CDC would like to thank Meghan for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

Leo’s Story, written by his mother, Stacey

Stacey will never forget the day she found out that her second son, Leo, would not be born alive. She honors his memory today by teaching other expectant parents in her community about stillbirth.

On April 12th, I clocked out of my job as a public health nurse to go to my checkup with my obstetrician. At 30- weeks pregnant, I soaked in the sun with my arms outstretched thinking that in two months, we would meet our second son, Leo. What a wonderful day.

Since our firstborn son was born healthy, I went to this routine checkup alone, not seeing the need to bring my husband along to every appointment.

“Everything is going perfect. You’re measuring right on schedule,” the doctor said. He then grabbed the handheld Doppler, a device to check for Leo’s heartbeat. Lying there, I didn’t feel too anxious until he went to go find another Doppler to check for the heartbeat.

“Have you been feeling this baby move?” he asked me.

This was the first time anyone in the office had asked me this question. “I think so. I don’t think he is too active, but I have felt him move,” I said.

“It doesn’t look good. We will need to send you over to get an ultrasound.” These were the doctor’s last words to me.

I gathered my things and headed out. I kept myself together enough to send my husband a message to meet me at the nearest hospital, which was the very hospital where my husband was a registered nurse. I don’t remember how I got to the hospital, but my husband found me in my car with the door halfway open. I was resting my forehead on the steering wheel, sobbing.

Later, in the ultrasound room, we were told that our second son, Leo, was no longer alive. How could this happen to me? I am a registered nurse. I teach women what to expect about pregnancy and all about life with a new baby. How did I lose mine? That night, I made a vow to myself to never let this happen to another family that I knew.

Two days later, our Leo was born still in a room just down the hall from where his big brother was born alive just over a year before. Leo was little, but perfect to me.

The hardest task I’ve ever had to do in my life was to leave Leo behind and walk out into the world where everything seemed to return to normal so fast. He seemed at that moment, forgotten. How was I going to go on without our little baby? Very soon afterward, I realized the generosity and sincere kindness of people. Those same people help me today to have a voice in my community to help prevent stillbirths.

At my local health department, we implement Count the Kicksexternal icon. Each patient in the clinic that is expecting a baby is encouraged to pay attention to their baby’s movement and discuss any concerns with their doctor. I also had the privilege to teach the nurses at all four county health departments in my community.

I believe that Leo was a gift– a gift for me to see life’s bigger picture. He gave our family a purpose deeper than we ever could have had without him. We realize more each day that Leo continues to be a part of our lives. He has taught me more about gratitude than anyone or anything ever could have. I am thankful for our Leo, our second son who taught me to be thankful for each day that I am given.

CDC would like to thank Stacey for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

Stillbirth can happen in any family. Like many families, Kerry and Luke experienced much grief and heartache with the loss of their daughter, Grace, during pregnancy. Nevertheless, they cherish the beautiful gift of knowing Grace and describe how their love for Grace lives on.

Grace’s story, as told by her mother, Kerry

After struggling with infertility, my husband, Luke, and I were so thrilled to learn we were pregnant with our first child. We did all the things expectant parents do: we read the books, we signed up for classes, we decorated the nursery, and we kept a journal with entries we wrote to our cherished first child throughout our pregnancy. I read and sang to the baby, and my husband, a music lover, played a variety of his favorite songs to my growing belly. My baby shower was planned and everyone was excited. The countdown was on.

When I was almost 32 weeks pregnant, Grace Biondi died from a placental infarction, which happens when there is an interruption in blood flow from mother to baby. Grace was born still on a rainy morning in 2003. Luke said that the world was crying for us. We held her and loved her as best we could. We tried to fit a lifetime of stories into a few short hours. She was baptized, and we kissed her goodbye for the last time. Our world changed forever.

After all this time, I think of her every day, and I am forever grateful that she came into our lives. I remain amazed at everything that Grace taught us even though she didn’t live to open her eyes or take her first breath. She taught us much about love and pain. These lessons were not always easy, but they have been profound and life changing nonetheless. Grace blessed us with many gifts. We were touched by the kindness of strangers and friends alike. We learned how to truly count our blessings, we inherently became aware of what was important in life, and we learned how to not take love for granted. We met some wonderful people and became closer to old friends. Yet I was drowning in grief and guilt. I was convinced that I did something wrong and that I didn’t deserve to be a mother. My work with Healthy Birth Dayexternal icon, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of stillbirth, helped me heal. Grace eventually blessed us with three healthy children. I know that she handpicked them just for us.

Grace changed me. Not in ways that I had asked for and not in ways that I expected. I think that she made me a better person. I wrote Grace a letter for her funeral. In it I stated that even though our grief was unbearable, I wouldn’t change a second of it. We were given the beautiful gift of knowing her, and even though our time together was much too short, the love in our hearts was worth every ounce of the pain. We are richer by far having held her a moment than never having held her at all. These words are still true.

 

CDC would like to thank Kerry for sharing her family’s story.

If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may be able to offer support.

The New York Times provides additional stories from families that have been affected by stillbirth. The views of these families are their own and do not reflect the official position of CDC. Read New York Times stillbirth storiesexternal icon.