Infant Loss Awareness Month Stories

Babies live forever in our hearts.

San Francisco, CA | Thursday, October 15, 2015

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October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, established to pay tribute to the many bereaved families worldwide who have experienced the loss of pregnancy, newborn, or infant. Please join us today in remembering their loved ones and sharing their stories. We invite you to share your story.

Tierney’s and Eden’s story, shared by mission mom Jake McKenna Ibarra of San Francisco

Dakota's story, shared by mission mom MacKenzie Schmidt of Orange County

Connor’s story, shared by mission mom Erin Fitzgerald of Corona

Sergio II’s story, shared by mission family Yanira and Sergio Chavez of Los Angeles

Logan’s story, shared by mission mom Noelle Woliver of Sacramento

Lucas’s story, shared by mission mom Heidi Leaman of San Jose

Tierney’s and Eden’s story, by mission mom Jake McKenna Ibarra of San Francisco

Baby Ibarra

My name is Jake McKenna Ibarra. I'm a wife, mother, big sister, auntie, friend, and cousin. I am a writer, I love to cook, I love to walk, camp, adventure, and laugh. These are things you can probably relate to. But I am also the face of preterm second trimester loss, which no one wants to relate to.

I had three living, full-term children and suffered three first trimester miscarriages. When I was pregnant for the seventh time, it was with fraternal twin girls.

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful until I hit the halfway point, 20 weeks. I was spotting and felt dizzy, so I called my doctor’s office. This actually happened four times, but each time they had an explanation. “Blood pressure dips in your 2nd trimester” or “... increases in your 2nd trimester.” “Leave work and rest and keep us posted on any changes.”

So I listened to them and not my instincts.

When I saw blood I finally decided to go to the hospital. That’s when I learned I was already a few centimeters dilated and my bag of water was funneling into my cervix. At risk for infection, I could die and it was unlikely my daughters would survive.

My first daughter was born still on January 21, 2011. Then I had a procedure called "intertwin delayed interval delivery without cerclage" to save my second daughter.

She was born two weeks later, on February 4, 2011. She was just shy of 24 weeks, which is considered the minimum age of viability for a premature baby. After she was born, I began hemorrhaging and my vitals dropped. As I was rushed into emergency surgery for a lifesaving procedure, she passed away in her dad’s arms.

The week before my hospitalization a sonogram revealed I had a low lying placenta. My final diagnosis was cervical incompetence. However, this was not disclosed to me until after my loss.

I knew nothing about premature labor, second trimester loss, low lying placenta, or cervical incompetence. I certainly didn’t know the statistics in America. Until I became one.

Who else has lived through this? Why did this happen? When I began to share my story, I had no idea how many of my friends and family members had also lost babies. Loved ones and strangers alike were suffering in silence. Thankfully, through March of Dimes I found peers who were not only willing to talk about their experiences but also wanted to raise awareness and help fight to eradicate infant loss.

Partnering with the March of Dimes is just one way I honor my daughters’ lives. I left my corporate job to become the bereavement director at Doulaspot.com. I am certified in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and a certified bereavement doula.

Now I have another child, a son. My “rainbow baby”—a baby born after a miscarriage or stillbirth—came into this world safely thanks to March of Dimes and their commitment to premature awareness, education, prenatal care and full-term deliveries. He just celebrated his third birthday.

I have an obligation to my daughters, Tierney and Eden, to share our story. I’m a mother to six children and I always will be. I get to raise four of them but I know my girls are watching over us.

Dakota’s story, by mission mom MacKenzie Schmidt of Orange County

Team Dakota

 

In 2007, after having our beautiful daughter in May of 2005, we were excited to be expecting another baby. I had a pretty normal second pregnancy. We had a few little scares, but nothing serious. Just like with our daughter, we decided not to find out the sex of our baby because we wanted it to be a surprise. I was scheduled to have a C-section on Friday, April 20th.

On April 17th, after not feeling the baby move for a couple of days, I went to the hospital. I knew something was wrong. I was immediately hooked up to an ultrasound machine. Although the nurse could not give me any information at the time, the calm I heard and saw on the screen was all I needed to know what was going on. Our baby’s heart had stopped beating.

Our son Dakota Everett was born still that evening. That day, and the next four days in the hospital were the most challenging days of my life. While recovering from the C-section, I had to make so many difficult decisions. Seeing our son, having an autopsy, planning a funeral, and so much more. I questioned every decision I made, and had nothing that could help me with the process. I was surrounded by people who loved me, yet I never felt more alone. We buried our little Dakota on April 27, 2007.

My husband and I decided fairly quickly that we wanted to have more children. I sought out specialists and met a great doctor, with all of my hospital records in tow. We started trying for another baby as soon as our doctor gave us the green light. We got pregnant soon after, and welcomed a healthy baby boy into our family in December of 2008.

As excited as I was to have this new addition to my family, I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied. I had two healthy children, but in my heart I knew I was supposed to have three. I soon realized that it wouldn’t matter if I had twelve children, I would still yearn for my Dakota. The piece of my heart that has been missing since he left us will never be filled.

Now, partnered with March of Dimes, I am determined to help others who are dealing with similar situations. With the help of family and friends, we have raised a lot of awareness and a total of $85,000 for the March for Babies, and aim to reach $100,000 in Dakota’s memory by the ten year anniversary of our loss. I am eternally grateful for all the love and support we have received.

Connor’s story, shared by mission mom Erin Fitzgerald of Corona

Baby Connor

In Spring of 2001, I was pregnant with our first child, and by all accounts, it was a textbook pregnancy. During the last weekend of May, in my 26th week, I went out of town to visit friends.

Before my return flight home, I noticed some light spotting. I called my doctor and they suggested that I lie on my left side and feel for my baby to kick. I followed my doctor’s instructions, and the baby was moving, but I feared something more was wrong, so we went the emergency room at the local hospital.

In the emergency room, the nurse hooked up the fetal monitor and confirmed that everything looked fine with the baby, and I was safe to fly home. The last flight home had already departed, so we stayed in a hotel that night and caught a flight the next day. That night I experienced cramping and nausea, but after calling my doctor again, she said it was safe to fly home.

We flew home the next morning and by the time we landed, I realized I was in active labor. We rushed to the hospital and the staff gave me a steroid shot to help my baby’s lungs develop. Twelve hours later, on May 30th, Connor Jason was born weighing only 2lbs and measuring 14 inches long.

The first few days were terrifying, but we were given every reason to hope for a good outcome. Our baby was doing well, and seemed very strong for a baby born that soon and that small. It broke our hearts that we were unable to hold him, but we were by his side every waking moment.

Five days later, Connor developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is when the tissue in the intestines begins to die, allowing bacteria to enter the baby’s blood stream. Additionally, a valve in Connor’s heart was not closing completely (patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA). Our son was transferred to Loma Linda Children’s Hospital where he underwent two major surgeries to attempt to fix these issues.

After surgery, Connor’s health continued to deteriorate. He developed a brain bleed and numerous infections. When our son was only 25 days old, the doctors told us that we should prepare to say good-bye. Two days later our son passed away, shattering our hearts, as well as our hopes and dreams for his future.

The following year, we were blessed with our beautiful daughter Ciena, who was born 4 weeks early. She would have been born sooner, had I not been considered high-risk, monitored weekly, on bed rest for 5 months and given medication to prevent pre-term labor.

Although we were overjoyed with having our daughter, we still felt the inconsolable loss that Connor left in our hearts. A friend suggested that I join the March of Dimes walk to commemorate Connor’s memory, and to continue the healing process by helping other families like ours.

Over the next few years, we dealt with a late miscarriage and more loss, but in 2007, our precious son Shane was born. Our family was complete, though we continue to mourn the loss of our son Connor, a life taken from us too soon.

My cousin, Danielle and her family went on to also experience the tragic loss of their precious baby girl, Claire. Now our extended families walk in honor of both Connor and Claire, each and every year.

In the last 11 years, our family team, Team Connor and Claire, has raised over $32,000. I am proud to volunteer my time and efforts with March of Dimes. I am the Family Teams Chair for the Inland Empire and have helped engage numerous businesses in the fight against premature birth.

October is Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please join me in remembering Connor, Claire and the many babies who pass away before their first birthday. Together we can give every baby a fighting chance.

Sergio II’s story, shared by mission family Yanira and Sergio Chavez of Los Angeles

Baby Serigo II

Our twins, Sergio II and Sofia, were born at 27 weeks and 3 days gestation on October 2, 2011. Sergio II weighed 2lb, 8oz and was 14 inches long, and Sofia weighed 2lb, 1oz and was 13 inches long.

Initially, Sergio II was the stronger one. He started eating first and was growing fast, while Sofia had heart surgery when she was just 2 weeks old and doctors had to intubate her twice. She didn't start drinking breast milk until she was about 5 weeks old. We would always tell Sergio II to take care of his sister and to share his strength.

On October 30th, doctors informed us that Sergio II had necrotizing entercolitis (NEC), an infection of the intestines, and that he needed surgery. The surgery went well, but doctors had to remove 70% of his intestine and gave him a 50-60% chance of survival. On October 31st, after trying his hardest to survive, Sergio II passed away.

Sofia slowly started getting better after Sergio II’s passing. After 70 days in the NICU – the same 70 days that we would drive 20 miles to and from the hospital – we finally brought Sofia home. It was definitely a bittersweet moment. We strongly believe that Sergio II is in the best place right now to take care of his sister, which is what we had been asking him to do.

Sofia is now 4 years old; she is 30 lbs and 38 inches tall. She looks just like her daddy and is a big daddy's girl. We are ecstatic to report that we are expecting another baby girl in early January and are incredibly grateful that this pregnancy is progressing well.

Although we miss Sergio II every day, we are grateful to the doctors and nurses who cared for our babies and enabled us to bring Sofia home. By participating in March for Babies, we have vowed to raise money and awareness every year in memory of Sergio II and in honor of Sofia. Since 2013, Team Sergio and Sofia Chavez has raised $6,336. We are proud of this accomplishment, as well as Yanira’s service on the Greater L.A. Division Family Teams Committee and her leadership in pioneering the L.A. and Ventura March for Babies walks’ first ever Remembrance Tents.

October is Infant Loss Awareness Month. Please join our family and March of Dimes in remembering Sergio and the over 2,500 babies a year – in California alone – who pass away before their first birthdays. Together, we can help give every baby a fighting chance.

Logan’s story, shared by mission mom Noelle Woliver of Sacramento

Team Woliver

My water broke on October 31, 2014, while my husband was deployed on his third tour in Afghanistan. Luckily, he was able to be home within three days of my being admitted to the hospital on bed rest. Logan John Woliver, our youngest son, was born by emergency C-section on November 17th. It was World Prematurity Awareness Day and 12 weeks too soon.

The ups-and-downs of Logan’s time in the NICU were countless. With underdeveloped lungs, kidneys, heart, and a brain defect, Logan fought for his life. We watched every day, as our tiny bundle of strength fought for something that should have just been.

In December, Logan developed a staph infection and pneumonia, both sicknesses he would never completely recover from. His fight became that much harder. Throughout the month our baby struggled. Doctors and nurses worked so hard for his life. We took it day by day. For every step forward we took, it felt as if we took ten backward. Each day presented new challenges. His good days were good, but his bad days were devastating. 

On January 6, 2015, our hopes of bringing Logan home from the NICU were shattered. His life support was the only thing keeping him with us, and his needs for pain control were increasing by the hour. His heart medications were decreasing the functionality of his kidneys, but the treatment for his kidneys would have an adverse impact on his heart. It was a devastating circle.

Faced with a decision that no parent should ever have to make, we chose to trade Logan’s pain and struggle for our own. We took him off all forms of life support. We, along with his brother and sister, were with him as he succumbed to the effects of his sickness and prematurity. He was finally at peace.

Our micro-preemie Logan was only 2lbs 6.6 oz, and 13 inches long, but it was us that felt small and helpless during our time with him. He was the strongest boy, and we learned more from him in his short life than we could have learned in a lifetime without him. We are so proud to be his parents and thank God every day for our time together.

Logan was not born without purpose and in his honor we fight for healthy babies. We work with March of Dimes to raise awareness and help keep other families from experiencing the heartache of infant loss.

Lucas’s story, shared by mission mom Heidi Leaman of San Jose

Team Micro Ninjas

In 2013, after years of trying to conceive a second child, we were thrilled to be expecting another baby boy. This pregnancy was different from the very beginning. I had terrible morning sickness that lasted well into my 2nd trimester. As soon as that was over, I began to feel extremely bloated and uncomfortable.

One night I was feeling particularly uncomfortable, and I suspected that I had a bladder infection. Suddenly I felt a huge pressure release and could feel my bag of water coming out. We called an ambulance and I was admitted to Labor & Delivery. I was only 23 weeks and 2 days along in my pregnancy, and I was terrified.

Doctors advised that I would likely give birth within 24 hours. There was low probability the baby would survive. Even if he did, there were high odds that he would have serious health problems and a low quality of life. We were devastated, but remained hopeful that he would prove them wrong.

In the hospital I was given magnesium sulfate, both to slow down my labor and to provide neurological protection for the baby. I was given betamethasone injections, a steroid to help his lungs develop more quickly.

Our son Lucas was born on October 28, 2013, at 24 weeks gestation. He weighed 1lb 6oz. Despite the interventions to prolong my pregnancy and improve his odds, his heart had stopped beating the night before he was born. His umbilical cord had become compressed during labor. Later we’d learn that I also had a placental abruption, meaning my placenta became detached from my uterus, compromising his blood supply. Pathology would reveal an infection called chorioamnionitis, a condition linked with premature birth.

I watched as the Labor & Delivery nurse lovingly dressed and swaddled him. She placed a handwritten card and his tiny footprints into a memory box. The words "Labor & Delivery nurse" were suddenly inadequate to describe the scope of their care. I left the hospital with empty arms, but with a much greater respect for my care providers, and with a lot of unanswered questions.

Why had this happened? Was it something I did wrong? What if I had called my doctor sooner? How would we ever heal from this loss? I looked everywhere for answers. Doctors. Books. Support groups. Google. And then I found the March of Dimes.

I'd heard of the March of Dimes most of my life. But the words on their website — "born too soon” — had never resonated with me before. I learned that prematurity was the leading cause of death for newborns in the U.S., in California, and in my community.  I learned that the mission of the March of Dimes was to raise public awareness about prematurity, and to help families have full-term, healthy babies. I learned that the March of Dimes had been campaigning for me and my family long before we joined their cause.

One year later we would welcome another son, also born prematurely. Jacob weighed 1lb 9oz at 23 weeks and 4 days gestation. We were grateful for every new hour of his life. We remained positive about his outcome no matter how difficult the journey became. I believe this strength was a gift to our family from Lucas.

Jacob endured multiple infections and surgeries during his 117 days in the NICU. Today he is a happy, healthy baby boy and we just celebrated his 1st birthday. You can follow Baby Jacob’s journey on Facebook.

On May 1, 2016, my family will walk in the Silicon Valley March for Babies  for the third year, in honor of our sons Lucas and Jacob. Our Team Micro Ninjas  is made up of families like ours who have been touched by prematurity and infant loss. In 2015, we raised over $3400 in support of the March of Dimes, and we hope to raise even more next year.

Thank you to all the families who generously shared these moving stories. A special thanks to Heidi Leaman for helping us compile and edit these stories for use here and on social media.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

Visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org for more information. Visit shareyourstory.org for comfort and support. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter.