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On November 11th, 2013 I delivered my perfect stillborn daughter after an absolutely flawless and much beloved pregnancy. In one day, one minute, our life story was forever changed. To honor SIDS, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I wanted to share what my tiny daughter’s death has taught us about treasuring life.
Everything about my pregnancy with Layla was typical. I gave up sushi and coffee, found my way to prenatal yoga and spent hours reading forums full of questions from other moms due at the same time. Every so often, someone would post about her miscarriage, and there I was, 8, 16, 24 weeks along… blissfully ignorant. It was a language I didn’t yet speak.
As I crept into my 8th month of pregnancy and inched towards expecting Layla anytime, we began making our final preparations. She was dropping nice and low, the hospital bag was being packed, the car seat installed in the car.
Eagerly preparing to welcome Layla home, we received devastating news that my husband’s grandfather had been killed in a car accident. Too pregnant to fly myself, but knowing we were still 5 weeks away from Layla’s due date, he kissed my belly goodbye, made her promise to wait for him, and boarded a flight to Texas for the funeral.
The morning after the funeral, I woke with a startle. I gave Layla a poke as I started to realize that I hadn’t felt her move throughout the night. Knowing she had changed positions in the recent days and feeling that we were getting closer to labor, I didn’t worry too much about the decreased movement. Instead I started down the line of wake-baby-up tricks – but by mid-day, I was headed into the hospital for what I thought was a quick check.
Because my husband was still in Texas, I had been with friends that morning. As I walked out to head into the hospital, my now-sister-in-law, a NICU nurse, said “I’m coming with you.” For this, I am eternally grateful, as I couldn’t have done alone what comes next. As we pulled around the corner to the hospital, the last thing I said was “worst case scenario, I’m having a C-section now and J isn’t here.” I had no idea about the worst case.
But then it came – the buzz of the maternity ward, and then the changing of the feel in the room as one nurse, and then another entered. The fetching of the ultrasound machine. The calling of the doctor. The excruciating wait for the one instant where I heard those words that forever changed my life: There’s no fetal activity.
It all dawns on me then: I am going to give birth to Layla. My milk will come in. I won’t be leaving this hospital with her. I could only say “I want my baby.” That night, before I went into labor, my husband arrived back from his flight and for the last time, we curled up together, on that tiny hospital bed, the three of us. For a few last hours, I could close my eyes and imagine all was right in the world.
She was 6 lbs, 9 ounces of pure perfection. Every bit the baby girl we imagined and dreamed of, we soaked up the hours we had with her, cuddling and telling stories. A photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep visited us and blessed us with the most tremendous gift of family photos. In those hours, we were a family.
And then, in the middle of the night, we said goodbye to our daughter and I was wheeled out of the hospital. There is a very real reason they speak of the pain of empty arms that a mother who has lost a child feels. I buried my swollen eyes in the pillow I clenched as we drove home, car seat sitting empty behind us.
In the days and weeks that followed, our family and friends scrambled to support us from around the country. Flowers streamed in. Meals were organized for drop-off. But it wasn’t easy. We lived in LA, and those that wanted to help didn’t know what restaurants or grocery stores to order from. Our loved ones kept us fed for a month, as it took us time to get back into the routine of daily life. Friends who had been there before, or knew people who had, sent the most helpful things: certain books to read, a birthstone necklace, a massage. As we took steps forward, we kept thinking of what our supporters went through to make sure we were taken care of. We knew there had to be a better way to coordinate help. Or know what to send. Or say. For ANY of these situations that happen in life.
One year after Layla was born, her little brother arrived, healthy as could be. One year after that, we started creating Give InKind. We saw too many friends struggling with how to help their loved ones when needed – when they didn’t want to just send money, but instead when they wanted to do or say or send something truly helpful. Give InKind makes all of that possible from anywhere.
I miss my little girl every day. I’ll never know why this happened to her, to us, just as we know so little about the 1 in 4 pregnancies that end in loss. The 1 in 26 stillbirths. But I do know that without her, we wouldn’t have embarked on this mission to make giving support better and easier. We’re doing this in her honor.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) remembrance photography volunteers capture special moments of love for parents experiencing the loss of an infant. This precious gift helps provide healing for a family while honoring the baby’s legacy. Visit https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/ for more information about becoming or finding a photographer.