Pregnancy after stillbirth: experience and evidence gaps

In this blog, Susannah Hopkins Leisher shares her experience of the trauma of stillbirth and impact on subsequent pregnancies and, with researcher Aleena Wojcieszek, looks at gaps in the evidence on how to care for such women and their families. Please be aware that some may find the content of this blog upsetting. This blog is part of a series called ‘Maternity Matters’.

Aleena Wojcieszek

Aleena Wojcieszek is a researcher at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth at the Mater Research Institute of the University of Queensland, Australia. She recently submitted her PhD on informing clinical practice for care in pregnancies after stillbirth and co-leads the centre’s subsequent pregnancy research stream.

Aleena: the researcher

Some may assume that conceiving a new pregnancy after stillbirth might be somewhat of a “cure” for the trauma of stillbirth; that it’s the inevitable “happily ever after” for families who endure the death of their child, and nothing more needs to be done for these families. But does this really stack up?

When I started my PhD on care in pregnancies after stillbirth, in late 2015, I knew I was entering relatively unchartered waters. I wasn’t sure what I might find, just that it was an area of enormous need.

From my early reading, a few things were clear: stillbirth has profound and sometimes intergenerational effects on families; most parents who have a stillborn baby do conceive again; these parents have a higher risk of (recurrent) stillbirth than parents who have no history of stillbirth; and many parents go through intense anxiety and fear in their subsequent pregnancies.

So what care do parents currently receive in pregnancies after stillbirth? And what care should they receive?

For our recent Cochrane Review on care for pregnant women and their families following stillbirth, we looked for all relevant clinical trials and found only 10 trials with data from just 222 women. They looked only at medical interventions. Not one looked at ways to help parents and families in terms of their feelings and experiences, or how to reduce parental anxiety or promote attachment between mother and baby, for example. It has confirmed a huge evidence gap, rather than provided any guidance on what quality care for these women and their families might look like.

We have much to learn.

Through my studies I have met many bereaved parents who went through a subsequent pregnancy following perinatal death, mostly due to stillbirth. Their stories are all unique, but there are some common themes across their experiences.

Susannah and Craig Leisher, their sons Wilder and Zimri, and the whole Leisher family, all hold a special place in my heart. Their story has stayed with me throughout my PhD candidature. I’ve even been privileged to share a small part of their story in conference presentations and public research seminars during my PhD, sharing with audiences some of the precious family photos in this blog.

It’s families like The Leishers that this research is ultimately for…

But it would be remiss of me to go on here. I would like to now pass on to Susannah herself to share her story, what this research means, and where to next.

Susannah: the mother

Craig and I started trying for a baby almost as soon as we got married, and I became pregnant quickly and easily. We were living and working in Vietnam at the time. The first time I felt Wilder move, I was in a tiny village in the mountainous region on the border with Laos, doing fieldwork.

I was a new mom, so at first I wasn’t sure – but then it happened again, and I was sure, and thrilled: our baby was real, and making his (or her) presence known! You can see in this photo how excited and happy I was.

Susannah Hopkins Leisher pregnant with Wilder, looking happy

Me at home in Hanoi, Vietnam, about 7 months pregnant with Wilder, 1999 (taken by my husband Craig)

The months went by, and my pregnancy progressed perfectly. I was so careful. I eagerly followed the least bit of advice, giving up coffee and alcohol and tracking my weight gain religiously.

About a month before our due date, Craig and I flew back to the States to stay with my parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as we had decided to have our first baby back home. On a Thursday, I went for my regular midwife appointment. All checked out. On Friday, I treated myself to a pregnancy massage. On Saturday, Craig and I went downtown to buy sheets. That night, for the first time, I felt a hint of concern.

As we prepared for bed, I mentioned to Craig that I had not felt the baby move, whereas his habit was to move around in the evenings. On the morning of Sunday, July 11, 1999, realizing that I still hadn’t felt the baby move, we consulted our bible, “What to expect when you’re expecting”. It said to drink a glass of juice and wait an hour for the baby to respond to the extra sugar. I made it through about 45 minutes and then we agreed to call the midwife. She was friendly but nonchalant, and told us to go on in to the maternity ward to double-check that everything was okay. On the short drive over to Mt Auburn Hospital, I confessed to Craig how silly I felt, worrying like a stereotypical new mom over nothing.

Nothing. Only the penetrating hiss of static…

In a small room on the maternity floor, the technician smeared the familiar jell on my tummy and began to probe. Nothing. Only the penetrating hiss of static, which I will never forget. Troubled, she smeared more jell on my tummy and tried again from a different angle. She then said she was going to fetch a different machine. I hit the concrete wall hard with my palm and yelled “What is going ON??????” A new person appeared, wheeling a small ultrasound machine. She did another exam, telling us in a monotone, “I see the legs. I see the head. I see the heart. The heart should be beating, but it is not.”

That was 20 years ago. Today, as I type these words, my heart is racing. My grief is ever with me, fresh, just below the surface.

I delivered Wilder Daniel after a two-day induction, on July 13, 1999. The physical pain of my labor was infinitely multiplied as I cried out in anguish, “This is so pointless!” Craig cut the cord. Wilder was 6 pounds, 12 ounces, with a full head of hair and a perfect button nose, as you can see.

Susannah holding her son after he was stillborn

Me holding Wilder just after he was born, at Mt Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 13, 1999 (taken by my father, John Hopkins)

Wilder Daniel Leisher, stillborn

Wilder Daniel Leisher, July 13, 1999 (taken by my bereavement nurse, Patty Campbell)

The ‘1-2 punch’ of stillbirth

There was little recognition of the trauma I had suffered, let alone what it might mean for a future pregnancy. I received a piece of paper with a list of local support services and a pamphlet whose title skewered me: “When Hello Means Goodbye”.

Stillbirth gives a ‘1-2 punch’. First, there is the crazy grief of bereavement, and then there are the follow-on effects. For me, these started immediately after Wilder’s death, when our subsequent pregnancy journey began. Dear but ignorant friends told us, “It was meant to be”, and “It’s okay, you can have another baby,” as though that would magically obliterate the actual child I had borne.

There is no expiration date on grief. Each of us is unique and precious, and just because we could never know Wilder’s uniqueness does not erase this fact. Nonetheless, I desperately wanted a live baby and wanted to get pregnant again immediately.

Why did our son die?

We were determined to find out what had happened to Wilder so that we could prevent another tragedy. Craig and I had blood tests done. Nothing. We made the wrenching choice to allow an autopsy to be performed on Wilder’s body – maybe that would give us some answers. Nothing, other than the cruel enduring worry over whether his body had been respected and treated gently.

We were advised finally to consult with a perinatologist. We eagerly prepared “The List” for our meeting with him. On it, we included every factor we could possibly think of that might have killed our son. In the event, the perinatologist accepted our piece of paper, glanced unseeingly at it but did not even read it, and told us that “sometimes these things happen”. A poster child for fatalism about stillbirth in healthcare professionals!

Ultimately, we have had to live with not knowing why our son died. This fundamentally shook my confidence in what science and medicine can do for me.

The short-lived joy of being pregnant again

I became pregnant again almost immediately. I was full of joy but it was short-lived. Where my first pregnancy was thrilling, secure, and joyful, my second pregnancy was wooden and defenseless. If death could strike randomly once, it could do so again, and there was apparently nothing I could do to stop it.

We again elected to return to the States for the birth, to the same hospital where Wilder had been born dead. I asked for extra monitoring and was told it wouldn’t make any difference but I got it anyway. Wilder had died at 38 ½ weeks. I could not bear to go past this date and asked for early induction. My understanding obstetrician allowed it.

One reason I wanted to return to Mt Auburn was my bereavement nurse, Patty Campbell. Patty was with us when Wilder was born and she was the only person I connected with during my heartbreaking labor. She put Wilder in my arms. She took our precious photos of him. She asked his name, and when it was time, she asked if I was ready to let him go, and she understood when I could not answer her, because what mother could ever answer “yes” to that question. I needed her there when our next child was being born, because maybe that one would die too.

Zimri Bhai – little brother

 Zimri was born on August 7, 2000. Apparently, he was born with the cord around his neck. It took a while for him to cry. I wasn’t surprised. I felt grim.

Then he cried and Patty brought him to me but I couldn’t smile at first. I felt solemn and icy and unemotional. I felt that he was probably going to die. Patty kept at me until I kissed this new living baby and I did smile then. Zimri’s middle name, Bhai, is the Nepali word for “little brother”.

Susannah holding Zimri, looking solemn then smiling

(L) Me gravely holding Zimri just after he was born on August 7, 2000, with my sister Alyson Hopkins solemnly looking on, and my bereavement nurse, Patty Campbell, examining Zimri (taken by Craig); (R) Me finally smiling at Zimri, with my mother Hilary Hopkins looking on (taken by Craig)

It took me months to call the new one by his name. I probably accepted that he was actually going to live when he was about six months old.

I had two more pregnancies with two more living babies, my sons Kai and Ilem. Each pregnancy was less wooden but with the specter of possible death ever-present. No one ever again can tell me “it will be okay”, because I know that sometimes it isn’t.

What we still need to know about pregnancy after stillbirth

This Cochrane Review is important first because its very existence makes a statement to the healthcare community that subsequent pregnancy after stillbirth must be an area of concern. Subsequent pregnancy is not a cure for the trauma of stillbirth. It’s its own new and hugely complex life event.

Today we have a much better understanding of how stillbirth affects families and communities than we did in 1999, when my son died, but there is so much more work left to do, as illuminated in this review.

“It wasn’t meant to be” and other platitudes are not helpful. There is always a cause and it’s science’s job to find out why. We need to know the causes of deaths to help families understand and to help provide care in subsequent pregnancies. As this review shows, though, research on medical interventions to reduce the risk of recurrent loss is incredibly limited. Worse yet, in my view, is the near-complete lack of research on psychosocial interventions that can help women and their families navigate subsequent pregnancy, childbirth, and life with living children beyond.

I am permanently scarred by Wilder’s death. I and my loved ones have done our best to make our way and seek help and advice, but it has sometimes been a hard road. The medical community needs to understand that parents have unique needs in subsequent pregnancies, yet as this review shows, more research is needed to know what’s helpful for different types of families and situations. For instance, for me, planned early birth was crucial (none of my kids went past 38 ½ weeks, thanks to understanding doctors in three countries), and yet this brings its own risks, so we need more research to help understand and compare the risks and benefits of this intervention.

Leisher boys by their brother's special shelf at home

My sons Zimri (left, standing), Ilem (right, standing), and Kai (sitting) tending their eldest brother Wilder’s special shelf on his 18th birthday in 2017 (taken by me)

Wilder’s 20th birthday would have been July 13, 2019, around the time I started writing this blog entry. My three living sons remember him every year as they tend to him on the family altar, a practice we learned from our time in Vietnam. Wilder died so long ago, and yet my trauma remains with me, always just below the surface. This important review illuminates the complex mix of actual tragedy and potential joy that is subsequent pregnancy after loss, the woeful state of knowledge about what can help families, and the importance of action.

Some support groups

Update (September 2020) – you can make your voice heard!

The Stillbirth Advocacy Working Group (SAWG) is a group of bereaved parents, clinicians, researchers, and others who are interested in raising awareness of stillbirth globally so that we can help end preventable stillbirths and ensure appropriate respectful care when these deaths do happen. SAWG is co-chaired by the International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

SAWG is compiling a list of Stillbirth Spokespersons– individuals with personal experience of stillbirth willing to raise their voices to increase awareness. Stillbirth Spokespersons may be parents, other affected family members, midwives, other clinicians, counselors, or others with personal experience of stillbirth. SAWG will maintain the Stillbirths Spokespersons list as a resource for the media and other public and private organizations such as United Nations agencies who wish to raise awareness of stillbirth through including the voices of those affected. If you wish to volunteer to be added to the list of Stillbirth Spokespersons, please fill in this brief survey.

Please contact SAWG co-chairs Susannah Leisher shleisher@aol.com<mailto:shleisher@aol.com> or Hannah Blencowehannah.blencowe@lshtm.ac.uk<mailto:hannah.blencowe@lshtm.ac.uk> if you have questions about this survey or are interested in joining SAWG. Thank you!

 

Join in the conversation on Twitter with @aleenawoj @shleisher @CochraneUK #MaternityMatters or leave a comment on the blog. 

Reference and further information:

Wojcieszek  AM, Shepherd  E, Middleton  P, Lassi  ZS, Wilson  T, Murphy  MM, Heazell  AEP, Ellwood  DA, Silver  RM, Flenady  V. Care prior to and during subsequent pregnancies following stillbirth for improving outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD012203. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012203.pub2.

Sands is a stillbirth and neonatal death charity providing support, as well as a list of organisations for anyone affected by the death of a baby: https://www.sands.org.uk/usefullinks

Susannah Hopkins Leisher and Aleena Wojcieszek have nothing to disclose.

Page last updated 25 September 2020



Pregnancy after stillbirth: experience and evidence gaps by Susannah Hopkins Leisher

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

82 Comments on this post

  1. Avatar

    May God help us get through this
    After losing a baby ,it won’t be the same again.

    Faith ogeto / Reply
  2. Avatar

    Hi Susannah,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for so sharing your story,it will somewhat help me to come out of my grief which I am currently going through.
    I am Saloni ,I live in Netherlands ,I had a tragic incident in my life with that I am totally broken now.

    In Jan 2020 I got pregnant so was thinking myself fortunate.As this was the corona time so I was working from home for the whole pregnancy tenure so was bit relaxed. We both were very cautious and we didn’t disclosed the news to anyone before the first trimester is finished except our family as we heard that if we pass the first trimester the rest of the pregnancy is quite safe. So we were bit relaxed after that.
    Everything was going very fine all my echos and tests were good but again we were scared before going to every echo but our midwife used to say everything looks perfect to her that was a great relief for us ,as our child was doing good.
    After my 20th week scan we got to know that we are having a girl so we both were super excited for her and started planning things for her. There was a fun echo planned that we requested in 26th week on 22nd July 2020 so we went to our midwife ,during the echo midwife noticed a heart rate dip of a baby so she immediately asked us to go to hospital for heart rate registration we both rushed to the hospital unaware what is happening. The heart rate for me and baby was monitored for 1 hr and also they did the echo they still found the dip and referred us to a big hospital and told us there can be chances that we might need to go for C section we both were surprise to hear that what had happened immediately everything was fine ,she was healthy and now C section but we had no other choice just to believe and follow what the doctors were saying .
    I was admitted in this new hospital for one day on 22nd july and again registration and echos were made everything was fine next day and doctor’s words were”Thank God we didn’t took this baby out” and we were asked to go home and they gave us assurance that everything is fine now and case is transferred back to mid wife ,we both were so happy and thanking god.
    Then after a week on 30th July I had the appointment with my midwife, she did the echo and we saw the heart was pumping and could also hear but one thing which we both noticed which haven’t noticed before that she was not moving as before she used to be super active always, we were surprise to see her like that so we asked the mid wife so she told she might be sleeping so we got relaxed,also in the night I felt her movement.
    Next day on 31st July since morning as I got up I was not feeling her movement but I waited for a day as we just had the scan the previous day but for the whole day I didn’t felt her movement did all I used to do to feel her kick but nothing happened.
    On 1st Aug,in the morning I told my husband I still cant feel her movement I am calling the midwife,so she came in 30 mins at our place ,she measured the heartbeat with the small instrument and felt the heartbeat and she told its a protocol to go to the hospital to be sure so my husband said that we will surely go to the hospital ,so we went to the hospital thinking everything is fine as she just checked we are just following the protocol. We reached the hospital and again heartbeat registration was done for 1 hr after an hour nurse came and told there is something wrong as we are not sure this my heartbeat or baby’s so we need to do the echo to find where is she. So they did the scan and saw baby was not moving and also there is no heartbeat we were told by the doctor at first we both were not ready to believe what she was saying and asked her to do the echo again but she confirmed and said ”she is no more”
    We both lost our senses and my husband called our friends as our family were in India to the hospital everyone was in shock, we were asked to go home and to come back after 48hrs and I was given a medicine to prepare my body for the delivery. For 2 nights I was having my baby with me but dead ,I was totally not in senses with no emotions
    On 3rd August we went to the hospital and doctors wanted to do normal delivery so they induced pain and also provided me epidural so that I could get some relief from the physical pain and they were checking after every 6 hrs the dilation which was not increasing much so they induced the medicines 4 times till 4th August finally at 20:21 our daughter MEHER (the name we gave to her) was born . I had to go for a small surgery for placenta removal and lost so much blood and after I came back from the surgery nurse asked us to say final goodbye to her ,so we both took Meher in our arms and talked to her , she was so beautiful and every body organs were fully developed , she had same black hairs like me..
    After 2 days our family came from India for the funeral of their grand daughter Meher which was planed for 10th August as we wanted to bid a goodbye to her in a proper way and also her soul should rest in peace. This was most difficult moment for us as we never thought that we will be doing all this ,burring a child is a worst thing that any parents need to do.
    Doctors are still investigating what might have happened with the MRI etc but till now the only reason they gave was that umbilical cord was around her neck 3 times and tightly untangled so they think this might be the reason of death.
    I am not sure whether we will get the answers to all our questions that are in our mind right now , why this happened ,why again but one thing for sure I know I think having a baby soon is the only healer for me, not sure if that can be possible anytime soon”

    Saloni Malhotra / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Saloni,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story of your beloved daughter Meher. My mind is with you as I read about the moments before, during and after your finding out that your daughter had died. The numb days of waiting before you delivered her, and the urge to have another child quickly, the bewilderment at “why”. I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad that your family was able to come and be with you to say farewell to Meher. It has now been just over a month since she was stillborn. Those early days, I remember well. They are dreadfully harsh. I too was desperate to get pregnant again and to have another child, a living child. Due to health issues I had to wait three months before trying again, and it was so hard; that time felt like an eternity. I was lucky that once we did start trying, I fell pregnant again very quickly. But the second pregnancy was utterly different from the first, realizing truly what could happen. My eldest living son, Zimri, is now a sophomore in college… yet none of us forget Wilder, ever. Thank you for sharing your daughter Meher’s memory with this community. I try to help keep green the memories of the babies who are stillborn so that the world remembers them. Strength and courage to you in these hard, hard days,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Saloni Malhotra) Reply
  3. Avatar

    Hi Susanna
    Its sad to loose pregnancies and babies because all we have hope to meet with our precious babies after all those months.. but lets all have hope God have purpose for that. Its past 5wks and days now l lost my baby l was full term(40+6) l can say because of negligence of nurses if they had listene to me l hope they could save my baby. It all started a night friday when I was feeling labour pains till the whole day of Saturday bcoz l was told to wait till l see water or blood before I go to hospital so l was waited till sunday 2am then l decided to go to hospital bcoz the pains was too much so went there with my husband bcoz of this covid-19 they couldn’t allow my hubby to get inside. So when they checked me they said l am 2cm l hv to wait l waited there the whole day of Sunday till 8pm they checked me again said l am still 2cm and l asked them to take me to theatre bcoz my fist child l gave birth thru csection and they refused said the theater is closed so l was kept going to them asking to help me but no one attended me.. till 3am on Monday one sister came and check me she said now ur 5cm then let’s go to labor room l said what l wanted is to go to theatre she said no let’s go to labor room and then she said now is 3am by 5am will delivery ur baby and something to 5 l feel was coming and l called her she came and she said now ur 9cm u can start pushing l push push nothing came out and my baby she was very active and strong she was pushing herself also but nothing and that nurse said sis u have to wait 1hour again l said no take me to theatre she said no wait and she left l was there all alone so something to 6 l started feeling something happened in my stomach l call her several times she couldn’t come she came the time she want that time my baby starts going back to my tummy and she said now we can go to theatre and we went there so what l saw in that theatre is only changing my mask and one was wiped my handy thats all till afternoon 01h30 when l wake up l saw my husband and doctors they said u had a baby but she passed away..can u margin this l wasn’t believe that still now am still shocked it happens on 15june2020. So to loose a baby hmm is so much painful😭😭😭

    Cecilia / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Cecilia,
      I am devastated to hear your tragic story of the loss of your precious daughter. You tried so hard to protect her. I am also so very sorry your husband was not allowed to be with you due to Covid-19. Of course you are still in shock. It is a terrible shock and grief to learn that our babies have died. I wish you strength and courage to continue through these early painful days. You are not alone.
      Warmly,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Cecilia) Reply
  4. Avatar

    Hi Susannah,

    My first baby, George, was born dead at full term (39 weeks and 2 day days) on June 2, 2020. Six weeks into this grief journey, I find myself searching the internet looking for stories to relate to, both in an effort to not feel so lonely, and also for reassurance that I will be able to feel joy again. Your story and the work you do is inspiring, and I appreciated your heartfelt responses to everyone’s tragic stories here. Mine is a similar tragic tale. After a perfectly low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancy, I woke up on June 1st (my first day of my maternity leave) and didn’t feel George move which was unusual. I didn’t panic. I waited. I made a smoothie. I had a shower. But after an hour, I announced to my husband that I was going in, just to be sure. He didn’t come with me. When I arrived, multiple midwives tried to find a heartbeat, and I was ultimately told George had died. I’ll never forget the eyes of the midwives – all wearing masks because of coronavirus. I knew what they were going to say before they even said it. I was alone with three masked strangers and was just told my baby had died. No one can hug or comfort you. I just sat there, crying and asking if they were sure. It was the worst day of my life. I was induced and gave birth to him the following afternoon. I got to spend some time with him. He was perfect in every possible way. He had dark hair and my nose. He looked like me. I’m still trying to process what’s happened. I fluctuate between overwhelming sadness and seething rage. I’m 36 and worried that I’ve left it too long and that I won’t be able to get pregnant again. I worry that even if I do, I’ll be so overcome with worry and anxiety I won’t make it through 9 months. I’m trying to remain hopeful that the future won’t be so dark, and this post has given me a bit of hope. Thank you.

    Miranda Markham / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Miranda,
      Ohhhhh…. I have been there…. I feel your agony. I am so sorry George has died. Continue forward in time, is the only advice that I can give. I was 35 when Wilder was born, and I went on to have my three living sons when I was 36, 37, and 39 years old. I was also afraid for all these subsequent pregnancies and to this day, 21 years later, I still fear unreasonably for my kids. It is just one of the many ways that Wilder changed me irrevocably. George sounds beautiful. It’s desperately sad. Continue forward, find people who are in our ‘club’ to talk to and tell the story of George. Heartfelt wishes to you in this crushing time.

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Miranda Markham) Reply
  5. Susannah Leisher

    Today Wilder would have turned 21 years old. The grief is immediately accessible even after all these years. One of the only places I want to be today is on this site. I am again beyond grateful for my dear friend Aleena who, through her research and this blog post, gave life to a rare new green shoot of Wilder’s own life; and grateful to our compassionate hosts behind the scenes (Sarah), and to all of you, who green the memories of your own children through what you read and write here. I so wish I were not a member of this club, yet it sustains me.

    Susannah Leisher / Reply
    • Selena Ryan-Vig

      Dear Susannah, I’m sorry not to have seen your comment yesterday and to have sent this message then, but wishing you much strength and comfort at this painful time. We are so grateful to you for having turned this space into one which provides much needed comfort to many women. Selena (Evidently Cochrane).

      Selena Ryan-Vig / (in reply to Susannah Leisher) Reply
    • Sarah Chapman

      Dear Susannah, I’ve been on leave and have just seen this. I just want to echo Selena’s reply, for we are so grateful for the work you, Aleena and colleagues do, and that you have shared yours and Wilder’s story here. We are so moved by the experiences you and all the other women have shared here – we think about each one and hold them and their babies in our thoughts. We are really thankful that this is a space where people who have been through, and live with, the pain of stillbirth are finding each other and finding some support, comfort and hope. Thank you. Sarah (Evidently Cochrane)

      Sarah Chapman / (in reply to Susannah Leisher) Reply
  6. Avatar

    Susannah,

    Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing the raw emotion and details of your loss. I can relate to so much of your tragic experience having just lost my son. He was stillborn at 36 weeks following a problem-free pregnancy that posed no concerns whatsoever. I find myself here 6 weeks pregnant after 6 months of trying to conceive and although I knew we were in for a bumpy ride through a subsequent pregnancy, I was not prepared for just how much anxiety and fear would cripple me. With no answers as to why or how our son’s heart just stopped beating, I am wondering if you have any advice on testing/scans/extra care as I navigate through this pregnancy with fear gripping every ounce of my being. Is there any specific care we should request that you think would be helpful to us through this pregnancy? Any resources you could point us towards or recommend? I sure appreciate the work you have devoted yourself to.

    Brooke P / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Brooke,
      I am so sorry for the loss of your son. So much of your story is similar to my own. The subsequent pregnancies are so hard. I always say that no one can ever tell me again “Don’t worry” because I know that the worst can and does happen. In terms of advice, critical is to find a prenatal midwife/nurse/doctor who takes all of your issues and concerns very seriously. Medically, given the lack of knowledge of the cause(s) of your first child’s stillbirth, there is only additional monitoring to be done (since prior stillbirth is a risk factor for its recurrence). However, many stillbirth moms including me ask for more. For instance, I insisted on being tested for Group B strep with my subsequent pregnancies (this may now be standard though). I also asked to be induced at 38 weeks as I couldn’t bear to go longer. This is quite controversial though, as induction brings its own significant risks (which were not explained to me at the time…). There are many resources for subsequent pregnancy, and a good place to start is my friend Aleena’s research described in our post. I also strongly recommend that you regard your mental and emotional health as in need of support and safeguarding during this subsequent pregnancy, as much as your physical health. In the US, other resources can be found at organizations such as http://nationalshare.org/ and https://starlegacyfoundation.org/ and http://www.the2degrees.org/about-us.html

      I wish you strength and courage during this pregnancy,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Brooke P) Reply
      • Avatar

        Wow your story is so similar to my own. I too was pregnant and had recently found out it was a girl. My husband and I watched on in amazement as she moved around vigorously during an ultrasound. My due date was estimated at August 16, 2020. I had had a pretty easy going pregnancy aside from some expected symptoms. So on May 24 at 28 weeks along when I mentioned to my husband that I had not felt the baby move all day, we both didn’t panick but decided to wait it out and see. I lied down and drank something cold, pressed on my belly, and like you said even tried to “will” the baby to move but there was nothing, I woke up at 6am and took a walk but by the time I made it back home, still.. nothing. That’s when I realized something was terribly wrong, my husband was still asleep I told him I was going straight to the ER and I did not wait to see if he was coming as I began to feel a bit panicked. He still was moaning in his sleep that everything was alright. In the ER room I was hooked up and checked for the baby’s heartbeat, I heard nothing but the faint pitter patter of my own heart. My stomach dropped. By then my husband had caught up and was at my bedside. The Dr came in and did an ultrasound, I teared up seeing my baby lie motionless on the monitor screen. She was not moving. By then I was already in tears. “Nothing.” The Dr said. My husband held me and we both broke down as we could not believe it to be true. I had to be induced the next day and got to hold my baby girl she looked as if she were sleeping and i cradled and held her for what seemed like forever. There were days I woke up and instantly would start crying for my daughter, it’s hard and even harder when your questioning what went wrong and there is no definite answer.

        Heaven B / (in reply to Susannah Leisher) Reply
        • Susannah Leisher

          Dear Heaven,
          I am so sorry for your loss of your precious daughter. Your due date is slowly approaching and I remember well reaching that devastating milestone after Wilder’s death and birth at 38 weeks… I remember in the hospital when Craig and I heard that sound during the scan–the lack of sound where we expected Wilder’s heartbeat. We both immediately broke down also, in utter disbelief, as the opposite of what should happen was happening. It is bitter indeed not to know why our babies died and for me, I am pretty sure that I will never know. I work to try to make this less likely for other moms and dads but it is an uphill battle. Strength and courage to you and your husband,
          Susannah

          Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Heaven B) Reply
  7. Avatar

    My story is a bit different but I can still relate to yours after I read it. I gave birth on April 14th 2020 to my first son Elyan. It was early birth in 29th week of pregnancy. He was born alive. I was not able to see him or hold him due to corona virus situation. He stayed on intensive care unit. We were able to see him on video call made by nurses for 10 sec daily, which was the waited moment of the day. For 11 days he was doing great. Everything seemed to be going good. Suddenly on April 15th at 6:44 in the morning we receive a call from a hospital. The doctor informed us that suddenly he started collapsing. 5 hours later he passed away. We don’t know the reason of my early birth or his death. For now just a bit over 2 weeks after the only thing I can think of is getting pregnant again. It makes me feel guilty and worried at the same time. What if I can’t? What if it happens again? We don’t know the reason, will I be ever able to deal with such stress and worry?
    Reading your story helps a lot. Thank you very much for that.

    Simona / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Simona,
      My heart breaks for you and your beloved son Elyan. It is always so crazy to me that although there can never be any words to express our grief and devastation, still we seek out words. I am seeking words of comfort for you, though I know there is sometimes no comfort to be had. All I have are words of experience. Your Elyan did live for 11 days, while my Wilder died prior to birth, but these deaths are on a continuum of death and loss with many similarities. The unknown–why did Elyan die? What if it happens again. I can completely relate to these anguished queries. I had the identical reaction of immediately wanting to be pregnant again and fearing if I could not. For me, Wilder was not only my first son but my first child; not sure if this is also true of Elyan. Due to the fact that I was found to be positive for TB during my pregnancy with Wilder, I was told by my infectious diseases doctor that I would have to wait to try to get pregnant again, after Wilder died, in order to be treated for the TB. I vividly remember that doctor’s appointment in excruciating detail. I was utterly devastated to have to wait even a second to try again. In terms of not knowing the reason why Elyan died… Wilder would be turning 21 this July 13 and so I have lived 21 years not knowing. The way I think of it, I have learned to accommodate the not-knowing, and to live with it alongside me. It does not now interfere with my daily life on a regular basis, yet at the same time, the not-knowing has become an integral part of me. The cruel aspect of COVID-19 that increased your separation from your son, I cannot imagine. I am so sorry for that. I can only offer my experience that as you move forward through time, things will change and I believe that they will become more bearable. With warm thoughts to you,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Simona) Reply
    • Avatar

      I lost my beautiful baby girl Zaela Gwendolyn 3/26/2020 due to cord accident, her due date was 4/6. She was perfect. We’ve been devastated. We’re already trying again because the loss took such a psychological toll on me and they said the benefit outweighed the risk, plus since the loss wasn’t to do with anything with my body they said it should be ok. I think I already may have reconceived and I’m terrified but hopeful. A new baby is certainly no replacement, but I am desperate to be a mother. I feel guilty though as if I am. These months have been the hardest of my life, and I’ve had a hard life as it is. I almost didn’t hold or see her because I was afraid of what she would look like, but through my eyes she was still amazingly perfect despite the effects of the trauma of her passing. They handed her to me immediately after her birth and let us see her some, then went and cleaned her and brought her back a couple more times. I’m so grateful for those moments. And also so destroyed that I never got to “mommy” her—bathe, change, burp, feed her.. but her skin was so delicate and I was so afraid to hurt her beautiful little body. She had her daddy’s curls and eyes and nose, and mommy’s mouth. Thankfully they allowed daddy in the room despite coronavirus and my nursing and obgyn team was wonderful, caring, and as gentle as they could be. I had been so scared to give birth, but my emotional pain caused me to boss up for the physical part (although I did get an epidural) and that was the easy part. I never got to hear her little cries or know who she would’ve been. And I feel like they should’ve caught it. The week before I messaged my midwife with hour+ long strong contractions two nights in a row and she dismissed it as Braxton Hicks (for over an hour, twice?) When we discovered that her heart had stopped beating, the ultrasound showed her head in my pelvis, as if she had been trying to be born. The signs were there. It had been a routine weekly checkup (3/24/2020) when we found out and Daddy was at home. So I came home to him, we cried, packed our bags, I showered and we went to be induced. We were there for 2 and 1/2 days. Leaving empty armed and coming home to a home with no cries was one of the hardest parts. They have been attentive to my psychological state though and I am on an antidepressant that has helped some. She was supposed to be the first grand baby for both sides of our families. We were so ready for her. Her nursery was jam packed with everything she ever could’ve needed. We had her cremated and got her a beautiful little wooden urn with her photo on it, and each member of the family has a little piece of her in a piece of urn jewelry. I have 2 pieces and a tattoo now in her honor, and I’ve started “Zae’s corner” in my bedroom with many lights and photos and candles that I hand vinyled to remember and honor her. I’ve just been keeping as busy as I can. I have good days and bad days. I’m not through it, but I am further away from it and I have seen much kindness from friends, family, and acquaintances. This loss has caused me to struggle with my faith as well, so this has just totally devastated me. My thoughts are with all you other mamas as you mourn your babies. A mother should never have to lose her child. I hope we all find some peace.

      Kerensa / (in reply to Simona) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear Kerensa,
        I am so very sorry to learn of the death of your beautiful daughter Zaela. Your story brings back the vivid memories of my son Wilder’s birth and the few hours that we spent with him before I had to say a final goodbye. I wish I had had the strength and courage to really ‘mommy’ him, to take off the clothes the nurse had put on him, to bathe him, to dress him, to caress his beautiful hair and examine his toes–which I never saw. I was too afraid and too in shock… and no one suggested that I do any of those things. I am so glad that your husband was with you despite COVID-19. It is horrifying to think of mothers who are right now suffering through the deaths of their babies all alone. Yes, there is all the subsequent pain and sorrow of not knowing who she would have been, or who my son would have been. He would be turning 21 this summer! A man… What would he have looked like? Who would he have loved? What might his passions have been? What would his friends know him for? Such a lifelong, endless loss. Yes, and coming home empty-armed. I left the hospital in a wheelchair as per protocol, with a horrible bunch of flowers in my lap. I hated those flowers but said nothing, fearing to hurt someone’s feelings or more out of shock. I didn’t want flowers, I wanted my baby in my lap! I too found help in keeping busy, those first days and weeks and months–sending out letters, designing ceremonies of remembrance in the US and Vietnam, writing in a journal. It helped. Thank you very much for sharing your story here. Peace to you,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Kerensa) Reply
      • Avatar

        Reading your story makes my heart ache as our stories are so similar. I wish I could give you a giant hug.

        We had our little Hannah on July 22nd 2020, today was her due date. She was 39+0 weeks when she was born asleep due to a cord accident. I woke up at 7:30 am and noticed I could not feel Hannah move so I did what they tell you to do in the event that you experience decreased fetal movement. I drank juice and had a power bar and rested on my left side only to feel nothing. I was told to immediately go to my Doctors office. I didn’t have an appointment so I anxiously waited for 45 minutes before I was called in to have an Ultrasound. The ultrasound tech pressed firmly on Hannah’s little back to prompt her to move… nothing. A midwife was summoned quickly into my room where she confirmed Hannah’s heart was no longer beating. I was in labor for 12 hours, pushed for 5 hours. Hannah was sunny side up and was stuck in my pelvis. My epidural became disconnected from my back for two of those hours… all back labor. Finally, an OB unknown to me delivered Hannah using forceps and episiotomy. No one prepares you for that emptiness you feel when your baby has submerged from your body.

        Immediately they placed Hannah on my chest, I was able to hold her for 4 hours. I studied her face, little fingers and toes. She looked just like her daddy. We had her cremated and hope to spread her ashes at Big Sur.

        I still wake up at 2 am and 5 am and cry. I catch myself staring at her picture trying to make sense of everything that has happened. My husband and I have already started talking about trying as soon as we possibly can. I know we will have debilitating anxiety with our next pregnancy (if we’re blessed with another one).

        Brenda / (in reply to Kerensa) Reply
        • Susannah Leisher

          Dear Brenda,
          The story of the death of your beloved daughter Hannah is just devastating. I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. So very fresh, just a week ago. I remember those early days. Exhausted, sleepless and stricken with grief. The thought of scattering Hannah’s ashes at Big Sur (in the sea or mountains I think?) is very beautiful. We have not been back very often to the place where we scattered Wilder’s ashes, in a lovely meadow clearing in the woods, but we are planning to go in just a couple of weeks. Being there, knowing his ashes mingled with the grass seeds and the dirt, is a very special feeling. My mother found out that sheep graze on that hillside and a local artisan cards the wool from those sheep, spins it, and makes blankets out of the wool, and she purchased one of the blankets for me. So special. Yet nothing compared to our empty arms. I am glad that you had that time to hold Hannah and look her over as a mother would. I understand the urge to try again immediately, coupled with the fear of doing so. I have been there… Wishing you strength and courage to move forward through time,
          Susannah

          Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Brenda) Reply
  8. Avatar

    Dear Susannah,
    I came across your blog and felt compelled to post my story too regarding maternal stress and stillbirth.
    I am a Mother of 5 children, 15 pregnancies and recently had a stillborn baby girl Emberly. The previous December, not even 5mths prior, I had lost my teenager daughter and was under severe stress, in hospital daily but being told I was fine, desperately crying out for help yet feeling nobody was listening to me. I believe the stress I was under directly contributed to my daughters demise and that if I had greater support as I was asking for and a place I felt safe, then my daughter would still be inside me today.
    Regards, Courtney.

    Courtney Hebberman / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Courtney,
      I am so very sorry for your loss of Emberly and your teenaged daughter, such traumatic and devastating deaths and so close together. The severe stress of your older daughter’s death sounds nearly unbearable. We know that different kinds of psychological conditions can affect health and wellbeing in similar ways to physical conditions, but the effects of psychological conditions are in general somewhat less well understood. I am hoping that my research on stress and stillbirth might play a small part in helping to shed some light on possible connections, so that doctors and other caregivers will be better able to support pregnant women in identifying and alleviating problematic conditions. But I think it is also important to realize that stillbirth, like all kinds of deaths, is usually not due to a single thing that happens, like a light switch turning a light on or off. There tend to be a number of factors that all together result in death and our loss of our babies, rather than a single factor. And there are countervailing forces as well. Your love for your Emberly and your protection of her within your body for many months, like my love for and protection of Wilder, were, I believe, so important in trying to keep our babies safe and healthy.
      Sending you courage,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Courtney Hebberman) Reply
  9. Avatar

    Hello Susannah,
    You’re story was so familiar, I also had a stillbirth at 33 weeks. This happened on 04/02/2020. Like you I did everything I had to make sure this pregnancy was perfect. I had previously had many miscarriages that had taken place before there was a heartbeat. So, when my son’s heartbeat was there my husband and I could not be happier. The picture of you holding Wilder I could feel you’re pain and devastation. Right now I feel so lost, even my clothes that fit so snug now are so baggy it makes me so sad. I know I will probably never get over it. I don’t know if I will ever be able to remain calm during another pregnancy because I will be so fearful of what has happened. It scares me to think about it because I am not young, I am 37 and that might have been my last opportunity. I try not to feel bitter, angry, and lost but it is so difficult to control all of my different feelings. Thank you for sharing your story, I felt as if it was my story and it helped me know there are other who know what my suffering is like and how emotional this is.

    Kallai Welsh / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello Kallai,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so terribly sorry for the death of your son, just three weeks ago. So fresh and vivid and hard. I think only the forward motion of time can support us as we grieve. Things become less excruciating as we adjust our minds, bodies and spirits to our new reality. I never have got over Wilder’s death but I have learned to live alongside it. I was just under 40 years old when I had my last child. There is still time, I think. Subsequent pregnancies are so very hard, as my dear friend Aleena outlined in her important research. I think there is no escaping that fact. But for me, I found it is still possible to adjust, to move forward, and to endure my subsequent pregnancies with all their worry and uncertainty. Sending you hope and strength,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Kallai Welsh) Reply
  10. Avatar

    Hello Susannah. I gave birth to my son recently after being diagnosed with sudden onset pre eclampsia. My story starts a week exactly before I went into the ER to have been told Atlas’ heart was no longer beating. My beloved dog of 15 years was taken to the vet after shortness of breath, lethargy and a terrible cough. I was told he had fluid in his pluerial cavity from cancer and a weak heart. He was in extreme discomfort and I decided to put him down the next day. That night I stayed up all night in intense pain that my best bud was no longer going to be in existence with me as I listened to his labored breathing. The next day I went through the agony of doing what I knew was right but could not control my immense sorrow. The following week to the day I noticed decreased movement in Atlas, and an on and off again headache and swelling all over my body. Immediately the ER put me on magnesium for seizures due to my high blood pressure. I started my induction that night and the next night at 8:59pm I gave birth to Atlas. He was 35 weeks and his head was already down so four good pushes was all it took. He was such a handsomely formed babe. All they could tell me was that I had pre eclampsia but I know that the extreme sadness and the stress related to my pooch dying caused my high blood pressure that subsequently decreased his blood oxygen intake. I simply wanted to give you a case study where the relationship between extreme loss of a loved one brought about such stress and/or my fight or flight response that it caused my precious boy to perish inside me. I’m so sorry to women who have no answers at all. And I’m sorry I was ignorant to what my greif did to my Atlas. Thank you for your work my fellow mother.

    Nicole / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello Nicole,
      I am so very sorry to know of the death of your precious son Atlas. Please also accept my sympathy for the loss of your dear canine companion. Grief is such a powerful emotion that can overtake us and overpower us. I have learned that very often it is a multitude of complex and intertwined factors at many levels, from social to biological, that can sometimes lead to death. For myself, I still wonder and ponder over what factors led to Wilder’s death, and this is a strong guiding force in my current doctoral studies. Wilder died nearly 21 years ago, and what doctors know now about risk factors such as cholestasis of pregnancy were not well-known then, and this helps me understand how medical and clinical knowledge are constantly evolving. I try to play a tiny part in urging for increased research of causes, as a way of trying to prevent stillbirths in other families. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Wishing you peace and the passage of time to support you in your great loss,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Nicole) Reply
    • Avatar

      we have same reason i also have pre-eclampsia, at 38 weeks i went to my weekly check up and found out theres no heart beat. it was May 24, 2020 i delivered my son sleeping. i cant move on and everyday i cry and i think im gone crazy. guilt, anger jealousy all the negativity is everyday with me i don’t know how to handle no one in my family understands me. everyday i search on google about stillbirth, why God allow this? whats the reason?, where baby goes now? where are there now? they will rebirth? all i ask google about it. (crazy right?) till i came to this page. i want to get pregnant too soon but this covid right now i don’t want yet but how i move on without pregnant again? this my first time and i expect i have a baby right now but my arms are empty! my baby is perfect but i did not hold him bcoz im scared now i regret i did not hold him when he was born. why i did not hold him or touch him. I did not even watch him longer than 10 sec. i only have a picture of him and he’s 3D scan. i watch it everday whenever i miss him.

      tangled / (in reply to Nicole) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear friend,
        I am so sorry for your loss of your beloved son. My son Wilder would have turned 21 on Monday and even after all these years, the pain is still there. I hear and feel your fresh agony. I also felt the same way, wanting to become pregnant again immediately, and for me, the reason I could not was that I was positive for TB and had to undergo a course of medication for three months before I could try again. The forced waiting was terribly painful. I was “lucky” that the medication course was new and replaced the usual treatment which would have taken six months. I also searched everywhere, everywhere to find out anything I could about stillbirth and to find anyone with whom I could share my story. I ended up on the site of one support organization, Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death (MEND.org), where I found another mom whose daughter Emily had been stillborn just a month before Wilder, on June 10, 1999. Emily’s mom and I started corresponding and we became each other’s rock through that first terrible year. There are support groups online these days. Here are some, in case they are helpful.

        https://firstcandle.org/online-support-groups/
        http://nationalshare.org/online-support/
        https://www.mend.org/virtual-support-group-links
        https://starlegacyfoundation.org/support-groups/

        Sending courage and strength,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to tangled) Reply
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    Hi Susannah. This is probably the first place I am sharing my story at. I delivered my baby girl Dyuthi (meaning radiant light) on Feb 6,2020 at 39w 2 days. I did not have any sort of complications or problems throughout my pregnancy. I did not have any stress and was super happy all the time. At 39w 0 days, on a Tuesday night, I started getting contractions which came and went every 20 minutes or so. I was asked to wait till it became stronger. And after waiting for around 24 hours, we headed to the hospital (till this time we were not aware that the baby was gone). We stepped into the hospital, I was asked to change into the gown and when the fetal monitor was wrapped around, there was notHing we could hear. She was alive with her heart beating at 148 just the previous Wednesday on my regular OBGYN routine checkup. This picture of getting to know that she is gone has been constant in my mind since then and it’s a fight every morning and night with myself to wake up and try to function normally. Till now we haven’t found any reason as to why she left us. I become clueless and helpless. I’m not sure if I will be normal ever again. I chose not to see her since I had this imaginary picture of her perfect face set in my mind and did not want to disturb it. I am now guilty of not seeing her which comes and goes in waves. The grief has been too much to handle and I am just continuing with the hope of having a live baby in hands in future. Your story made me write my heart out here, Thank you so much, Susannah. Much Love!

    Kruthi Bhat / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Kruthi,
      Thank you so much for sharing the story of your precious daughter Dyuthi. Your story is so familiar to me. I know the feeling of a perfect happy pregnancy that inexplicably ends with death. The grief and devastation are overwhelming. For my part, I found sustenance in tending Wilder’s memory. Just two weeks after he died, my husband and I held a small ceremony with some friends and family. We spoke about Wilder and scattered his ashes in a place special to us. We sent out a card to many many of our friends and family to announce Wilder’s birth and death. I carefully created a notebook with memories of Wilder, and for nearly two years I kept a journal of the daily reminders and memories related to Wilder’s birth and death. These acts were soothing to me, and they helped me to progress through time. I also read everything I could find about stillbirth, even though there was not much. I read about other types of devastating losses as well, of newborn babies and children, as reading about how others coped, and the stories of other mothers and fathers, somehow was soothing and helpful to me; instead of increasing my pain, these these reduced my pain. Everyone is different though. Honestly, nearly 21 years after losing Wilder, I’m not sure I ever became normal again. My whole life changed, my career, everything. At the same time, I did have three living sons, and I did laugh again, and smile again, and feel joy again. I always think of it this way: There is the death of my firstborn, Wilder, which can never be anything other than grief, devastation, blackness. Yet alongside this grief, next to it, maybe in some parallel universe, there has been happiness, new life, and even the joys of the new career in epidemiology that I only came to because of Wilder’s death and my laser focus on stillbirth. It is so strange to have grief and happiness coexist in one body, but I have found that they do. Regarding your feeling of guilt over not seeing your daughter, perhaps you can consider that you “saw” her every single day in your mind’s eye and your heart, and held her strongly in your body’s arms. I try to let the pain of not seeing Wilder’s eyes and feet slip away from me like little soft waves on the surface of a great ocean that I am sailing slowly away from. Peace to you,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Kruthi Bhat) Reply
  12. Avatar

    Hi Elizabeth. I instantly connected and share the feelings
    of frustration and uncertainty of not knowing what went wrong with the pregnancy, the questions and all the blame of wht did I not do right to prevent my Aidan’s death. I was admitted to our local hospital for two long weeks just to come home without our precious bundle. Crying,feeling miserable,full of unanswered questions the constant reminder of breasts tht are crying out for relief!!!!
    Aidan was stillborn at 26 weeks as I was told due to my blood pressure being too high, blood penetrated his brain and he suffered receiving oxygen. His heart stopped beating on the 3 Dec 2019.
    We r still coming to terms with his death but it’s very difficult as people always want to sympathize with us.
    God’s grace is keeping me, i’m living each day second by second,constantly staying in prayer.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It reminded me that other women are also experiencing this trauma and made me want to support them in every possible way I can even if I can only pray for them.

    Rosa Theifane / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Rosa,
      So many thanks for sharing a part of your story and your loss of your precious baby Aidan. I remember that reminder of the baby I should be holding in my arms when my milk leaked even while we were scattering Wilder’s ashes in the grass. So very poignant. I agree with you that it somehow helps to share our stories, so that at least we know that we are not alone. Someone else has gone through what we went through and are going through. Someone else feels or felt the way we feel or felt. We all grieve differently and hearing the many stories of women and men who have suffered the stillbirth of their babies does help us to forge ahead, day by day.
      Wishing you peace.
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Rosa Theifane) Reply
  13. Avatar

    Hello my name is lisa,
    Our daughter poppy Sunshine was born sleeping 20.11.18 at 34 weeks. Her autopsy was also unexplained, I find this such a hard pill to swallow as what’s there to look out for next time? We are still trying for not a replacement but a baby to hold we are left with such empty hearts and arms. I had gone to the hospital with reduced movements and was put on the ctg machine. Her heart rate was unreasuring so a obstetrician was called in who went over my results and found it wasn’t cause for an a emergency and to go home. When I replied and said I still hadn’t felt movements he said to go home and have a moro bar and to come back in the morning if I was still concerned. Well I did go back in the morning and it was to late.
    So heartbreaking thinking about the what ifs. What if I had further monitoring what if I just refused to leave. Waht if the concerned midwifes called me back as they didn’t want me to leave.
    I also remember the sound on that heart monitor picking up my own racing heart. It’s a pain that will always be there

    Lisa Crerar / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Lisa,
      I am so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter Poppy Sunshine. What a lovely name. We also tried everything to find an explanation. The decision to allow an autopsy was hard but we felt we had to do it, and of course there was no cause still. Years later, I wrote a letter to the two people whose names were on the autopsy report as having performed it, just to tell them that I hoped and assumed they treated Wilder’s body with respect. Some of the only people who ever touched him… I am so sorry for your agony. The what ifs are very hard. I think there is only time which marches forward and carries us forward with it and eventually gives us a little tiny bit of peace, somehow. With you in spirit,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Lisa Crerar) Reply
    • Avatar

      Hi
      We lost our baby mukundi at 23 weeks and a day on 26 December 2019.I suddenly had a runny tummy and vomiting,I also had abdominal pain .So I was rushed to the emergency room,I was given antibiotics on a drip and I requested for a scan,they did a scan and baby was in breach position,and my cervix was closed at 17:30pm.The pains I assumed was my uterus stretching worsened and I went back to the emergency room at 10:30pm,then I was taken to ward the pain increased then I had no Idea I was in labor,4:30am I went to the loo and saw some unsual discharge which I learnt was the mucus plug,pushed my baby boy out,he was too small 490g they could not save him…It’s been such a hard time for me,they showed me my baby but he was sleeping…Everything happens sooo fast

      K / (in reply to Lisa Crerar) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear friend,
        I am so sorry for the loss of your little Mukundi. Such a whirlwind of action that happened around your baby’s birth, with you and Mukundi at the center of it. Thinking of you and sending strength and hope for the days to come,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to K) Reply
    • Avatar

      Hi Susannah, I lost my baby boy Neel last month. He was ok till 15th Feb 20 but on 18th my sonography doctor declared that his cardiac activity stopped. I am still finding a reason, as I had completed 37 weeks and everything was normal. I delivered him on 19th Feb 20.. But I refused to see him as I didn’t have courage to see him. I hav this guilt that I didn’t even see him but I never wanted to see my baby who was so active in my womb for 9 months like this… I miss him like anything… I loved him before I saw his face so I wanted to keep those memories alive… I hope he is not angry on me.

      Swati Talvadekar / (in reply to Lisa Crerar) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear Swati,
        Please see my comment in reply to your other comment farther down, but I just wanted to say it makes me glad to know your son’s name. I will think about Neel. I think that babies are not angry, they only felt relaxation in our wombs as we carried, fed and rocked them while they were alive. Wishing you time and comfort and peace,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Swati Talvadekar) Reply
  14. Avatar

    Today is Christmas eve 2019. Our daughter would have been 8 days old today. It would’ve been her first Christmas. Instead my husband and i are still in bed just hoping to get through another day. I lost my baby girl Zalayah at 37 weeks and 3 days. We found out on December 15th that her heart had stopped beating. I was induced and gave birth to her on Decembee 16th. I can’t help but think of how i failed her as her mother. How could i not know something was wrong and she needed me. I know God has a plan and i have to accept that this is part of it. I thank you for sharing your story. Knowing wilder has 3 healthy brothers who celebrate him gives me comfort and peace. I already am thinking about Zalayah’s baby sister or brother. I know she will never be replaced but i think it may help us to fill the empty holes in our hearts.

    T Frey / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello,
      I am so very sorry for your loss of your baby daughter Zalayah. I remember so well finding out when Wilder had died, and the time between when we knew and when he was born. Craig and I went through so many thoughts as you describe, wondering over and over what we might inadvertently have done and how this possibly could have happened. I do believe that I did all I could to care for Wilder during pregnancy and I am sure that you did too. Having Wilder’s younger brothers has been just as you say, not a replacement for him, yet on the other hand, an immeasurable comfort. The holidays are a particularly hard time for many of us whose babies have died, because we think so poignantly about what might have been. This would have been Zalayah’s first Christmas, yes. I light a stick of incense for Wilder on the holidays as a way of remembering him, and I decorate his shelf with some of our Christmas ornaments. He is there with the rest of us and is always in my heart. Wishing you peace and strength as you move forward day by day,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to T Frey) Reply
  15. Avatar

    Now im pregnant again after 4 month delivery. I delivered in 4 aug 2019, now im 7 weeks pregnant. I dont know what to do, is it safe for the baby?

    Sandhya / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Sandhya,
      Thank you so much for posting. I am not a doctor and I am sure that you know that the best person to answer your questions about safety in this pregnancy is your doctor. Sometimes it can be hard to find a doctor with whom you feel really comfortable. And sometimes we don’t really have a choice about the doctor we see. Whether or not you have a choice about your doctor, I think it is really important to ask a lot of questions. Don’t be shy about asking many questions, or asking the same question over and over. Maybe we don’t understand the answer the first time, or we do understand, but we just need to keep talking about our concerns. There are unfortunately many risk factors for stillbirth, and it is also true that having had one stillborn baby does increase the risk that this will happen again. But this depends on many other things, such as the reason for the stillbirth happening in the first place. For me, we never found out the reason for Wilder’s being stillborn, so we could not rule anything out for my next pregnancy. This really increased my anxiety. In the event, you can see that I did go on to have three more babies, all liveborn and healthy. The chances that this next pregnancy will be fine are very good… but we know, who have suffered the loss of our babies from stillbirth, that good chances do not always translate into good outcomes. Stress and anxiety during a subsequent pregnancy are so normal and understandable. Sometimes doctors don’t want to talk about the possibility that “it might happen again” because they don’t want to alarm us. But, we are already alarmed and stressed. It is my feeling that the best thing you can do is to talk to your doctor (or doctors) and also if possible, to other moms who are going through, or have gone through, the same things. The next pregnancy is challenging, no matter what the outcome. Talking through your concerns, and knowing that being anxious is a normal feeling, can maybe help a little bit. Other than that, we can only keep moving forward in time, taking care of ourselves the best way possible.
      Wishing you strength and courage,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Sandhya) Reply
  16. Avatar

    Thank you to everyone who speak up openly about their pregnancy loss. I am happy that Wilder got to have 3 more brother that gives us hope that pregnancy and life after a stillbirth is possible. I was 26 weeks and gave birth to my stillborn baby girl on 20 August 2019 after a miscarry on 3rd December 2018. The umbilical cord got twisted and tangled like a telephone line nd took my babies oxygen support. It has been 3 month and 1 year altogether since our first lost of miscarry at 8 weeks. The year has not been easy…doctors have no answer as to why this happened I had no blood issues was perfectly healthy nd bby too. This breaks my heart to see that some women has to go through what we do…I am married fr 2 years and we don’t have children yet and Wilder’s existence and his brothers that came thereafter gives me hope. Lord please bless our wombs in childbearing….

    Georgia / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Georgia,
      I am so happy that my story gives you hope. I am very lucky to have my three beautiful living boys. It is not easy and it is made so much harder not to know why. This is why I went back to school, to study and learn more so that I can try to make a difference by uncovering some of the “why” so that maybe some day, fewer people suffer the loss of our babies from stillbirth. But I still have to face the fact that I will never know why Wilder died at the very end of a perfect pregnancy. I wish you peace and strength,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Georgia) Reply
  17. Avatar

    I delivered my sweet baby boy Kaden on 11/27/2019 at 37 weeks 2 days. I went in for a routine visit alongside my husband the day prior. Our doctor had us watch a delivery video in the waiting room because of my intense fear of childbirth (I’m 26 and this is my first pregnancy). It never crosses my mind that I wouldn’t be taking Kaden home healthy and well. I had a very easy pregnancy no complications – however I always had decreased movement. During our visit our doctor commented my stomach suddenly was measuring almost five weeks behind. He went to listen to the heartbeat – and nothing but static filled the room. I felt a hotness of nervousness overwhelm me as I looked in my husbands anxious eyes. We were sent to the hospital where it was official. I was immediately started on my induction – as I screamed out in pain for what felt like hours. I spent some time with Kaden but I was so hard on me. I am back home now and in disbelief. I don’t know who I am now. I don’t know what to do with myself. I am experiencing my breast filled with milk with no baby. I cry myself to sleep – filled with guilt. Kaden was someone’s son , someone’s grandchild , someone’s nephew. I feel I let him and so many others down. I desperately want to try again but my faith is shaken.

    Mariah / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Mariah,
      You are not alone. I am so sorry for the loss of your son Kaden. I remember also when my milk came in, during our ceremony for Wilder on a hilltop at sunset where my husband asked me to marry him. This is such a raw time that you are in. Every person is different. For me, one way that I moved forward in time during those first terrible days and weeks was to find actions to take that related to Wilder. It was soothing to get books and read them to educate myself. It was soothing to create his ceremony. It was soothing and purposeful to write the announcement of his birth and death. We sent it to many people. I carefully chose the stationery and the ink for our signatures. Every detail was selected so carefully because these were the only actions that I could take as Wilder’s mother, instead of feeding and changing and burping him. Seek what soothes you and feels purposeful. Move forward in time. Strength and courage to you,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Mariah) Reply
  18. Avatar

    I had my baby on 28th May 2019. I had a very normal pregnancy on the 35th week of my pregnancy I started having contractions and when we decided to go to the hospital and later they were checking my belly and the doctor told us that they couldn’t find the heartbeat of my baby and she softly said your baby is dead. Our life literally shattered into pieces. It has been 6 months and I don’t know how to feel. Somedays I am fine and I think I need to move on and some days I find myself in the same hospital room where I deliver my baby. I try to keep myself so busy but I don’t know how to move on. I am so unhappy and empty from inside that when I look myself in the mirror I can see that in my face. We are trying to get pregnant again but I feel so guilty. But reading your article and all the comments I feel like I belong somewhere and I am not alone.

    Sunakshi shrestha / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      You are not alone.
      I always say that I unavoidably joined a club when Wilder died. I didn’t want to be in the club but here I am. And here you are. At least I can assure you that as you already see, in this club there is much shared experience, understanding, compassion. I think I mentioned that I met my dear friend Lisa online after our babies died and despite never meeting until years later, in those early hard hard months we got each other through dark days. It was our shared experience that did it. I found that reading, talking, thinking and writing about Wilder’s death and life helped me. And time. Just forward motion in time.
      Thinking of you and wishing you strength,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Sunakshi shrestha) Reply
    • Avatar

      Hi Susannah… I lost my baby too. He was stillborn. The reason is unknown. I keep on asking God why this had as even my doctor dinnt give answer to my question. I did not have courage to see my baby boy with closed eye, so I didn’t see him. But I have this guilt of not seeing him. What to do Susannah I never wanted to see him like this. Nobody can replace him as he is my first child. I loved him before I saw his face so I want to keep him alive in me. He was till 15 Feb 2020 and it he completed 37 weeks in my womb when we went for sonography on 18th Feb 2020 we came to know that he lost cardiac activity… I didn’t accept this that day and we rushed to hospital… I delivered him on 19th Feb 2020 and I refused to see him……

      Swati Talvadekar / (in reply to Sunakshi shrestha) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear Swati,

        I am so sorry for the death of your beloved baby boy. I really feel your anguish. Guilt is so painful to feel. It is agony to have your baby die, to not know why, and to miss him so much. My baby boy Wilder was also my first child. I know what you mean. No one could ever replace Wilder in my heart, even though I have three subsequent sons. We also never found out what the cause of Wilder’s death at 38 1/2 weeks was. I have had to live without knowing for nearly 21 years so far. Although I did see and hold Wilder, I was afraid to undress him and look at his body. I was even too afraid to look at his naked feet which were wrapped in blankets. And I was afraid to open his eyes and see what color they were… the fact that I do not know the color of his eyes still haunts me. So, I can have a little idea of your not seeing your son. For me, it is a comfort to know that at least for many months, I did protect Wilder inside my own body, where he heard my voice and the voice of my husband Craig. I know what you mean that you loved him before you saw his face… It took me a while to realize that I did not have to have my son be born alive and grow up in order to know him and thus love him; instead, I finally realized that I had loved him all along, without ever meeting him in life. I have spent my life keeping Wilder’s memory green, and your little baby boy Talvadekar is green now in my thoughts as well. I have found that naming Wilder was a true help to me in grieving for him. But every parent is different in how they manage this dreadful suffering. I can only say that the passage of time provides a little soothing. Your love for your son is so powerful and clear!

        Peace,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Swati Talvadekar) Reply
        • Avatar

          Hi Susannah,
          I am greatful to talk to you and thank you very much for your kind words. I can understand your pain of not knowing the reason… But our babies are special ones, they were so attached to us that they never wanted to be with anyone else, they just came for us, they just came to meet their mom and nobody else. From a wife we became a mom and your Wilder and my Neel did it. My best wishes will be always there with Wilder and I love you Susannah, your words are encouraging to me.

          Swati Talvadekar / (in reply to Susannah Leisher) Reply
          • Susannah Leisher

            Hi Swati
            Thank you so much for your kind words. It makes me very happy to know that Wilder’s memory is green for you, and you know the same is true for Neel. Stay safe and wishing you peace,
            Susannah

            Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Swati Talvadekar)
    • Avatar

      I also went through the same. I had a healthy pregnancy until i was 38 weeks pregnant. I was complaining to my husband about nt feeling the baby’s movement.so went to the hospital the next day early in the morning.bt the doctor wasn’t able to find her heartbeat. I was shocked didnt know what to do?i wanted to hurt myself as a guilt for not being able save her. I blamed myself for everything that happened to her. I was the one who made her went through an extreme pain.what kind of mother was i??all these question never left me once. I live with guilt. I was supposed to be holding her in her 6 mnths b’day but here i am a mother without her child. Now i am 5 weeks pregnant. I haven’t even thought of visiting a doctor in this epedemic. I am trapped. I am afraid to visit a doctor what if she does not see a heartbeat of the baby. What if its not a proper pregnancy?? All these question are haunting me and i am not ready to face any of these. I hope this time everything turns out well. I hope this time i would be able to hold my baby

      Amuda joshi / (in reply to Sunakshi shrestha) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear Amuda,
        I feel your pain and your anguish. Please know that you are not alone. Finding out that Wilder died was totally shocking to me also. How could this happen?? I hope that you are able to separate yourself from the guilt that you feel. I believe there were biological reasons that Wilder died and the problem is that science does not yet know all the causes of stillbirth, nor does medicine know all the ways to prevent it. The anniversaries are so very hard. I remember the first week. The first month. The first 6 months. The first years. This year Wilder would have turned 21 years old…such a milestone. Amuda, I remember what it was like to be pregnant again. The fear and worry. This is a particularly challenging time to be pregnant again after losing your first baby. COVID-19 makes everything scarier. I would like to urge you to consider overcoming your fear just a little bit so that you can reach out to your doctor or midwife for support and advice. The International Stillbirth Alliance has gathered some resources for women whose babies were stillborn and are now pregnant again, in the time of COVID-19. You can find them here: https://www.stillbirthalliance.org/resources/covid-19-resources/ I wish you so much strength in this hard time,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Amuda joshi) Reply
  19. Avatar

    Good sharing ….I just delivered my stillborn son Christopher yesterday too… He was 37 weeks plus… The guilt of thinking whether is it something I ate causing this came to my thought too, is it the pineapple ? Is it the waffle that cause high sugar level ? After birth, doctor show me the super twisted cord that could be the cause of lack of oxygen supply and blood flow which I still asking myself why he can’t untwist it ….but I do accept that he had chose his destiny and our family will move on with the cherish moment he brought to us when he is living with us in my tummy, and I know that I will miss him every night B4 I close my eyes…. I’m glad that the hospital give us the privacy moment after birth, I sing song for him, hug him, kiss him, nap with him, tell story before undertaker take him away… I came to this site when I eagerly hope to get an answer the chances and timing to get pregnant again.. thanks for the sharing and the encouragement that we still have the chance …

    Vvy / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello and thank you so much for posting. I am so sorry for your loss of your baby Christopher. It is really good that your hospital gave you and your family private time with Christopher to show him your love and to make memories for your whole lifetime. I wish that I had thought to sing a song for Wilder and tell him a story and this makes me feel teary! After 20 years. I would have sung the song “I gave my love a cherry”. The last line says “the story that I love you, it has no end”, and the words “no end” are inscribed on the insides of my wedding ring and my husband’s. I sang that song for Wilder later on, at a ceremony we had for him in Hanoi, Vietnam, with many of our friends, and I sang it to my other sons when they were little. Courage to you in your road ahead. I think the “answer” to a subsequent pregnancy is to follow what feels right for you and your family.
      -Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Vvy) Reply
  20. Avatar

    I lost my baby girl 3 weeks ago. I learned her heart wasn’t beating anymore on October 18th, I was 38 and a half weeks pregnant. On October 21st I had my baby girl, Jenna. She was my first baby. My husband and I are still finding it very hard to cope with the loss of our daughter and we still feel shocked and confused. I still can’t believe this happened to us. Our hearts will forever be broken but your story me gives me hope and comfort to know that there are other people out there that went through this tragedy and got through it. I hope we can too.

    Farah / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Farah,
      I have been there. Wilder was also 38 1/2 weeks when he died. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious daughter Jenna. There are no words but we still try to find words… Yes this is a “forever” condition, and the only way to continue is just to keep moving forward in time. And to keep your daughter’s memory green as you have done here by writing about her. Now others can also think of her. A dear relative of mine was an AA member and from her I tried to learn the wisdom of “one day at a time”. May this forward motion in time help you and your husband.
      -Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Farah) Reply
    • Avatar

      I had a miscarriage in 2014
      My rainbow baby feb 2015
      And my beautiful daughter lilia payge sept 4 2019. Stillborn at 37 weeks 2 days due to a true knot in her umbilical cord. I come across this tonight and i just want to thank you for sharing. Some things you typed it was like you read my mind…felt the pain in my heart ..thank you
      Hugs

      Reilly / (in reply to Farah) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Hi Reilly,
        Yes, I remember reading the words of other moms whose babies died, right after I lost Wilder, and it was like they were me. The words they wrote reflected the thoughts I had, exactly. We don’t want to be part of this community but… we are… and at least we can give each other support.
        Take care,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Reilly) Reply
    • Avatar

      Dear farah you also went through the same at the same time. I also delivered my sleeping baby girl on 25th oct 2019. Her name is joon shrestha. I hope our children will find peace and love. Thank u for sharing ure story. It feels like we connected through pain and grief.

      Amuda joshi / (in reply to Farah) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Hello again Amuda,
        Please see my reply to your other comment above; I just wanted to say thank you for sharing the name of your baby daughter. I will remember Joon.
        Peace and courage,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Amuda joshi) Reply
        • Avatar

          How soon after your stillbirth did you conceive again? I lost my son Sebastian Michael May 6th 2020. I prior had a normal pregnancy, with complications being I had hyperemisis Gravardium, and placenta previa. Hes currently 3yrs old and happy and healthy as ever. My son sebastian I carried up until 25 weeks. He was due August 17th 2020. April 28th I had a normal anatomy scan he was moving doing flips active as ever. My happy healthy baby boy. May 2nd came and he stopped moving, me being the anxiety ridden momma tried for once not to worry.. tried all the tricks cold water, something sugary, tapping my belly, begging for him to move. Maybe he was just sleeping. Only for 5am to roll around that night and I knew that something was 100% wrong, I had terrible pain in my hips and back and I immediately went to the ER. Static was all I heard on the doppler. That was it he was gone. No explanation three days later when I delivered him other than he looked like he may have had down syndrome and he stopped developing at 24 weeks. But no listed death cause on his fetal death certificate and never another word about went wrong just told me it was something that can just happen… i desperately want my baby back, he will never be forgotten. Is it normal for myself, and my body heart and mind to yearn so badly to fill this void..

          • Susannah Leisher

            Dear Bethany,
            I am so sorry for the death of your dear son Sebastian Michael, just a few weeks ago.YES, it is absolutely normal for yourself, your body, heart and mind to yearn in this way for your son. I am so sorry. I am also so sorry to hear that you were told “it is just something that can happen”. This fatalism on the part of medical workers is one of the enormous challenges for stillbirth prevention globally. Just as adults never die because “it just happens”, same thing with babies–no one just dies because “these things just happen”; there is always a reason, although our science still is not able to uncover all the reasons yet. Meaning that continued research on causes is absolutely vital. Other parts of your story are also so familiar to me. I remember trying something sugary as well, to get Wilder moving again, but it did not work for me either, as Wilder had already died. I conceived again just four months after Wilder was born, and my subsequent pregnancy was uneventful and that son survived, as did my final two sons. But that subsequent pregnancy was very hard emotionally. However, I do not regret getting pregnant again quickly. For me, it was the right thing to do. But everyone is different. I mourned greatly for Wilder during my subsequent pregnancy.
            Sending you strength and courage,
            Susannah

            Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Bethany)
  21. Avatar

    I also lost a baby boy 2 weeks yesterday. His name was Wilder also. He was 28 weeks and they say my placenta ruptured. I am scared to think about trying again but more scared not too. Nothing will ever replace my boy but I have a strong need to be a mother again. We also have an 8 yr old daughter.. she was so excited to be a big sister. So many unanswered questions.. my heart has never hurt more.

    Sarah Fields / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Sarah,
      I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious son Wilder. How amazing that our sons have the same name… I relate to being scared to try again yet also desperately wanting to. One thing I didn’t mention in the blog is that I wasn’t able to try again immediately because I had been exposed to TB at some point, a fact that was discovered when I was pregnant, and it was recommended that I undergo treatment before trying again for a baby. I was lucky that there was a brand-new treatment protocol that lasted only 3 months rather than the older protocol lasting 6-9 months. But even that wait was so hard, and I remember crying in the doctors’ office parking lot after learning that I would have to wait before trying again. Yet also… the utterly different experience of the second time around.

      Two weeks ago yesterday is such a very fresh loss and I send my heartfelt thoughts for strength and courage to you,

      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Sarah Fields) Reply
  22. Avatar

    Hello, thank you for your article.
    Our son River was delivered on the 24.09.19 he was stillborn at 42 weeks. I have been frantically searching the internet for baby loss information ever since. I wish I could turn back time and demand there had been intervention at 40 weeks, I was just expecting to go into labour naturally. From what I have read it seems every mum feel a huge guilt; was it something I ate, did, didn’t do? The enormity of our loss is just now really catching up with me but it gives me some comfort knowing people can find a way forward but never forget their sleeping babies.

    Rebecca / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Rebecca,
      Yes. I have been there. I am so so very sorry for the loss of your beloved son River. I went through these same stages of trying to understand what happened–and not being able to have any answers. I ache for your pain right now. There is only one way to manage, and that is to continue to move forward in time with your aching heart. Wishing you strength and fellowship from “the club” of all of us whose babies have died.

      -Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Rebecca) Reply
  23. Avatar

    I had my baby girl at 40+2 , I had a completely normal pregnancy but was booked in for induction at 40+1 because my 2 previous pregnancies (although babies both fine and healthy) I was high risk of bleeding. All through my third pregnancy I waS so anxious and worried I would die, I never once worried about my baby girl emma. I go over and over it, I completely blame myself in lots of different ways. Someone always has an answer for one way I think I caused it and then I think of another. It’s been 2 weeks since I had to have her cremated and I am just struggling. She was our last baby and I’m just utterly devastated. I don’t know how you go on from this, the only thing keeping me going is my other two and even then I’m just hopeless. How do you go on to have any more when she was fine the full pregnancy! I’ve had bloods done and allowed the placenta to be checked but we declined a post mortem for Emma’s sake! I just miss her terribly and having her in my belly, we got to spend some time with her after and have pictures but I just want her! She was perfect and fully grown and beautiful, I just don’t understand

    Stacey gibb / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Dear Stacey,

      I am so so terribly sorry for your loss of your beautiful Emma. My heart goes out to you. This time period in the immediate vicinity of your devastating loss is debilitating and raw. There is nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other, survive, and keep our babies’ memories green. Simply by sharing your story here you have done that. Emma is in my heart now.

      One thing that helped me enormously to manage was finding my dear friend Lisa who had just suffered a loss of her daughter Emily very similar to my loss of Wilder. We got each other through the first few years, and remain special friends, although in 20 years we have only met face-to-face one time. Perhaps there is a support group in person or online that may give you this precious resource.

      Courage and strength to you,

      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Stacey gibb) Reply
  24. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing, it helps. My husband and I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy until 35 weeks, 2 days. I passed off the decreased movement as normal/stress-related because of my job as a nurse. My husband (who is a MD) wasn’t too concerned. We waited too long to get checked. Zachary was born 3/13/19. I wish everyday that I could hold him and watch him grow. My heart aches some days more than others, but I always miss my friend.

    Shelby / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello Shelby,
      I am so sorry for the death of your son Zachary. There are really no words. My heart goes out to you and your husband.
      With warm regards, and wishes for strength,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Shelby) Reply
  25. Avatar

    Thank you so much for your important work.
    My parents had two living children followed by a stillborn son in the Netherlands in the 1970s. It horrifies me to think that they were strongly advised not to look at him, that they didn’t get to name him or have his body buried/cremated. He was born prematurely (I don’t know exactly, but probably between 32 and 35 weeks) and the only explanation my parents ever received for his death was that cycling a lot may have caused the membranes to break — implicitly and ridiculously placing blame on my mother.
    The above is all I know about my parents’ trauma. They hardly ever talk about it, and certainly not voluntarily. I was born about two years after the stillbirth. My two older living siblings have calm and emotionally stable personalities. I do not: I have ADHD (including trouble regulating my emotions and moods), buckle under stress, and have suffered from depression and anxiety. While I realize that a thousand other factors could be involved, I do wonder sometimes if the stress my mother doubtlessly experienced during her last pregnancy influenced my developing brain.

    With all this in mind: I’m happy that family experiences around childbirth receive scientific attention. Thank you so much.

    Elisabeth / Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello Elisabeth,
      Thank you so much for your comment. Your parents’ experience sounds so very hard. These days the Netherlands does some wonderful things for stillborn babies and their parents, such as parents bringing their babies home for a while to say farewell. My doctoral research is on the relationship between maternal stress and stillbirth, so your thoughts are really interesting to me. There are so many factors involved, and the bottom line is that we still know very little about why babies die.
      With warm regards,
      Susannah

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Elisabeth) Reply
  26. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing just lost my baby boy .it’s more than a week now ,can’t still believe it happend to me I have done a lot of digging and I can’t even understand how it took place.Brian I named him 25/08/2019 the best day and worst day of my life.All I have in mind now it’s how to have a baby an this time a living one.thanks again sites like this gives hope

    Mariama / Reply
    • Sarah Chapman

      Hello Mariama, I am so sorry you lost your precious son Brian… Thinking of you and your family.
      Warmest wishes,
      Sarah [Editor]

      Sarah Chapman / (in reply to Mariama) Reply
    • Susannah Leisher

      Hello Mariama,
      I am so sorry for the loss of your son Brian. I have been there. Sending you hope and strength.

      Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Mariama) Reply
  27. Avatar

    Excellent article. I feel like so much is lacking when it comes to treating the whole mother (not just physically) when it comes to pregnancy after loss.

    Teale Yeilding / Reply
  28. Avatar

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for so openly sharing yours and Wilder’s journey; it will help others.

    Muriah / Reply
    • Avatar

      Hi my name is Elizabeth from South Africa, I had the worst experience as a first time Mom, on the 21september 2019 I was suppose to get induced as I was 42 weeks and baby was not ready to come, when I went into hospital for my induction I was told I wait 3 more days I was booked in hospital to stay in as they don’t take walk in emergency, I stayed and 3 days later it’s was my induction day they booked me in a room they gave me a pill to take , this was around 9:00am by 18:00pm I was bleeding but the baby have not moved he was just sitting at 2cm, by 2 am the next day the doctor decided to break my water I didn’t know better, the baby’s heart was beating fine everything was fine by 4am the baby was still on 2cm I was bleeding my doctor kept telling me”this is normal don’t worry”, I was worried I wasn’t suppose to be bleeding so much i didn’t have any strength left in me I was begging the doctor’s to give me a C-section they told me “No, I’ll be fine stop being weak”, by 6am I was disoriented my water had been leaking all this time I was still bleeding one of the senior doctors came into my room and said “we should take you to the theatre for a C-section” I was praying to God the pain was finally going to be over I will see my boy, but I was sitting there until 8:30am second senior doctor came in and told me “C-section” but no one moved me all doctors and nurses disappeared from my room , by 10:30 I felt the baby’s head pushing down I couldn’t breath I couldn’t push, I had no strength they told me to push which I did with all the strength I had left , when they realized his head was still to far and he was bridging it was too late his heart had stopped. I was able to push him out and give birth to him by 11:30 on the 25th September 2019, they had cut me so badly during the birth process I needed surgery to repair the damage they’ve made, I lost so much blood through out this process. Until today I have nightmares about that day , I can’t sleep without waking up in tears

      Elizabeth / (in reply to Muriah) Reply
      • Susannah Leisher

        Dear Elizabeth,
        I am so dreadfully sorry for the nightmare that you have endured and for the loss of your beloved baby boy. It has not even been a year and the anguish that you feel, I can also feel with much sharp pain. You tried so hard. I hope so much that you have some loving family or friends around you, to support you in your grief and to share your tears and hold you. Just after I learned that my son Wilder had died, but before I gave birth to him (a period of nearly two days), I got up in the middle of the night because I could not sleep, I went into my mother’s bedroom, and I climbed into bed with her, and she just held me and tried to comfort me as she had when I was little. While it never made the sorrow and grief go away, it did soothe me. I wish for you that the passage of time will be soothing in some small way. Sending you strength and courage,
        Susannah

        Susannah Leisher / (in reply to Elizabeth) Reply
  29. Avatar

    Excellent. Very accurate and honest. Should help others going through the same thing.

    Bronwyn Cooper / Reply

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