Stillbirth: Leo’s Story

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.