Jenn’s Story

I never know where to start when I share our daughter’s story. The reality of becoming a bereaved parent is that who you were is gone – what is left are the pieces you put back together in the time that follows. A life you create with your loved ones that will always hold a vacancy of the lost child.

Ellie’s Story

In the summer of 2019, we found out we were expecting our second child. We were due in March 2020. The entire pregnancy went smoothly – every doctor appointment and test were favorable and our guard was down to any issues. In February 2020, our lives changed forever. At 37 weeks, our baby stopped moving. The words ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat. The baby is gone.’ are forever branded in my ears and heart.

The ultrasound tech at the hospital confirmed our baby was gone and shared ‘she was a beautiful baby girl.’ This was how we found out our baby was a girl. After saying throughout the pregnancy that we didn’t need to know the gender and a healthy baby was all that mattered.

Our daughter made her silent arrival into the world in early morning hours, weighing 6.5 lbs. We had chosen the name Eleanor, intending to call her Ellie as a little girl. She was absolutely perfect – a head of fuzzy brown hair and an adorable button nose identical to her older brother. The time we had with her was all too short. We memorized her tiny features and the weight of her in our arms. The minutes, hours, days and weeks that follow after being forced to leave Ellie behind have been some of the hardest we have ever endured. Nothing can prepare a parent for planning a funeral, answering ‘how’s the baby?’ questions, and navigating the days that follow.

Many people have asked what happened to Ellie. The medical answer is that her heart stopped unexpectedly from what doctors assume was an undetected mosaic trisomy 2 found on her side of the placenta. An anomaly that affects two in one million pregnancies. Ellie lived, for 37 weeks inside of me. We are left with the stolen memories of what would be if she were here in our arms instead of our hearts. The wonder of what she would be like today, tomorrow, at each birthday. What her little voice would sound like, her adorable giggle. Each day, we look for signs from her. We think of her and our hearts ache for her to be here.

Throughout our first year without Ellie, we celebrated her in every way possible. Each difficult milestone without her, we held close to our little family. Her due date. Each month where we wondered how big she would be or what she would be doing. Missed doctor appointments. Each holiday without her. Family photographs holding a vacancy that should include her. Seeing little girls that are close to her age. Advertisements for baby girl clothes. Each served a painful reminder of what we were missing.

We are left looking for signs of our precious daughter. Each butterfly or shooting star serves as a reminder of our baby girl. During our early hiking adventures after her passing, we regularly encountered tiny blue butterflies. We believe that this was our sweet girl telling us that as we put one foot ahead of the other, she is with us. My husband planted a butterfly garden at our home to create a place to reflect and think of her. We donated a sitting wall that wraps around the Niche Ely Ossuarium where she rests at the cemetery – our kids love to run across this when we visit her. Each Christmas, we donate jammies with our story to our local hospital for families who endure an unexpected loss like ours.

Finding My Rainbow

We were told we could try again after 3 months. We decided to leave matters in God’s hands as we were helpless to what happened to Ellie. We found out the summer of 2020 we were expecting, due in March 2021. Navigating a pregnancy while grieving is difficult. Your guard is up to protect yourself and your loved ones. We struggled to tell people we were expecting. Appointments and the time between each one took an emotional toll. Being in the same space where your life changed forever is upsetting.

We saw our sweet baby boy at the 20-week ultrasound appointment and he was perfect. Once we reached 33 weeks, we had more frequent appointments with non-stress testing. Our rainbow baby was born at 38 weeks, 6 days before Ellie’s first birthday. He was absolutely perfect. His cries were music to our ears. He had a head full of dark hair and the same button nose as his siblings. Bringing a baby home was bittersweet. We soaked up the middle of the night wake time, crying and diaper changes. We see Ellie in him and feel incredibly blessed to have our rainbow baby here in our arms.

Four Years

It has been four years since we lost Ellie, three years since we participated in the Finding Your Rainbow project. Each birthday that passes hurts equally. The reality of loss is you learn quickly who your people are, who will stand by your side during hard times. Grief has many facets of sadness, doubt, and anger. It doesn’t go away – you find ways to make the most of each day with hard days sprinkled in between. There will always be people who make hurtful comments and remind you that there are people in this world who are incredibly fortunate to not know heartache like bereaved parents.

We continue our traditions to celebrate Ellie – helping families through pajama donations to our local hospital at Christmas.  We have been fortunate to find monarch caterpillars in Ellie’s Garden to raise and release when they transform into butterflies. We take flowers to the cemetery each birthday and holiday. We know that loss doesn’t get easier in time and we choose to live our lives including Ellie. Finding comfort in the beautiful reminders we are sent and being ever-grateful for the children we have earthside with us.  

Photos taken by Hubbard Visuals.

Find out more about Project Finding Your Rainbow.

Pin for later and help spread the project!

Leave a Reply