‘She was lifeless, but so perfect’: Mom’s heartache after stillbirth helps her celebrate rainbow baby, realize ‘happiness can be ripped away’

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“Early 2016 my husband and I decided we wanted to complete our family with having a third child. After having 2 boys at the time, 5 years old and 18 months (now 7 and 3), we thought it was a good time. Boy or girl, we were excited to have just one more.

August 2016 I found out I was pregnant. My husband was out of town so I took a digital test, decorated our bedroom in pink and blue balloons and laid out shirts that said ‘mama bear, daddy bear, 2 brother bears and a BABY BEAR.’ He came home and was so thrilled that we announced right away! About 2 weeks later I started bleeding and after going to the ER found out I had a chemical pregnancy. We were so sad, but I think mostly in shock. However, we both were optimistic about trying again. The doctor said we could start trying again right away.

October 2016 I found out I was pregnant! I had an early ultrasound and the baby was there and growing. We waited to announce until the ‘safe zone’ of 12 weeks. At that point everything was going great. Fast forward to January 2017. At 18 weeks, we paid to get an early ultrasound to find out the gender. I thought for sure it was another boy. I looked like I did with my previous boys, I felt like I did with the boys. No sickness, no nausea, just a belly. But to our surprise, it was a GIRL! We decided to surprise everyone with balloons to pop. We bought black balloons and filled them with pink glitter and had our family and closest friends pop the balloons. Pink princess glitter flew everywhere and I remember the excitement. All my family and friends had boys. She was the first girl in about 20 years for my family.

ALL THAT GLITTERS: Mom honors lost child with ‘the sparkle she left behind’ in dazzling rainbow baby photos

Nicole DeHoff Photography

We decided to name her Victoria Jo Gadd. At 20 weeks I had my normal ultrasound. Everything looked amazing until Tuesday January 31. I was watching ‘This is Us’ and kept feeling the tightening. I thought Victoria was just moving a lot (I’m pretty thin so I tend to feel everything) but as the night went on, it was becoming pretty timeable and consistent. We decided around midnight to go to the hospital. They admitted me right away. We had blood work and ultrasounds done and they couldn’t find any reason why I was having contractions. They tried one time to stop the contractions with a medication and it didn’t work. It was a sit-and-wait kind of game. Not much was said throughout the day.

Midway through February 1, doctors finally came in and said some words that would haunt me forever. Until this point I had been very optimistic — nothing negative was going through my head — the doctors told me that at 22 weeks, Victoria’s life wasn’t their priority. Her life didn’t matter to them. If she were to be born, there wouldn’t be anything they could do for her, even in the NICU. It was probably the most upsetting, most anger-filled words I’ve ever heard. My baby’s life didn’t matter because she was not a ‘viable baby.’ If she had been just 2 weeks older, the words they would have been telling me would have been so different. But even after those terrible words, I still remained positive.

Around 9 p.m. on February 1, doctors checked me and although I was having contractions lasting longer than 24 hours that were 2-5 minutes apart, with no food, no pain meds, NOTHING, there was still no sign she was coming, which made me happy — until 9:30 p.m. when my water broke. I knew at that time there wasn’t any coming back from this. I had so many thoughts… ‘Would she be breathing when she came? Would they just let her suffer because she was only 22 weeks? Would I ever have kids again? Would my husband and I make it through this? What would I tell my oldest son?!’ At this point, Victoria’s heartbeat was still going strong. I’ll never forget the sweet sound of her heartbeat. Around 10 p.m. I felt something, and it was her cord. Her cord was being delivered first. They ran and got my husband who was on the phone and I started pushing for what felt like an eternity, but was actually only a few minutes. She was here. At 10:12 p.m. on February 1, 2017, our sweet Victoria Jo was born — 11.4 ounces, and 9.5 inches long. She was lifeless, but so perfect. The room was so silent. There was no crying except my own tears of anger, hate and sadness. I was that naive person who was so innocent in thinking that THIS stillbirth infant loss pregnancy loss would NEVER EVER happen to her. I held my baby and cried as I held her hands, her feet in my hand. She was so perfect in every way. Small, but perfect. I never thought in the days following I would be calling funeral homes and cemeteries. We held Victoria and had her in our room until we left the next day around noon. We spent over 12 hours with her. We cherished every moment we could knowing we would never get it again.

Samantha Gadd

We had a small funeral with immediate family and then a large burial for her where over 50 people attended. Friends, family, and even people we barely knew came out to support us. The amount of support we had was so overwhelming. But the days, weeks, and months following Victoria’s passing, I was very bitter and angry. Why me?! All the ‘what if’s’ make your mind and body so exhausted. All day and all night I would wonder why me? Why my family? Will we get through this? Will we ever be complete again? Will I ever be able to look at babies and pregnant women without being so angry, disgusted, and spiteful? Even now, when I see babies born in February of 2016 where they are walking and talking, all I can think is ‘That COULD have been my baby!’ But it’s not. All I have is a memory and a heart-shaped pink headstone. I wish I could say that’s enough, but it’s not.

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Samantha Gadd

End of April 2017 I found out I was pregnant again. In all honesty, I ignored it. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke so it was easy to just go about my normal life. Some days I felt hopeful and excited for another baby and other days I hated that I was happy, even for a moment, because I know better than anyone that happiness can be ripped away. We decided to get all the fancy bloodwork done and all the ultrasounds, anything and everything we could do to make us feel a bit better. At 15 weeks, we found out it was indeed another GIRL. My husband had mixed feelings. He wasn’t sure how to feel about another princess. But me, I needed that girl. I felt so cheated with Victoria. I wanted to have a mini-me, go wedding dress shopping, get nails done, dress up. I wanted that. I needed that! At the 15 week mark we announced the pregnancy and the gender and decided to name her Abigail. We had so much support yet again from our friends and family who helped us through everything.

The weeks leading up to that 22 weeks mark were scary, but we got past it. I took the pregnancy week by week and even though I was excited and attached, I still tried to remain distant. That pregnancy innocence is gone after a loss. The thoughts of losing a pregnancy again, a baby AGAIN, would bring me to tears!

Samantha Gadd

At 34 weeks my friend Nicole and I decided it was time to do a maternity shoot. This being my last baby, my first maternity shoot, and the most special pregnancy, we wanted it to be memorable. Nicole came up with the idea of doing a rainbow glitter shoot. A rainbow baby represents a baby born after a stillbirth, pregnancy loss, or infant loss. Abigail would be my brightest and biggest rainbow. Every time I see the photo I feel like I represent all the moms out there too afraid to share their story. There is such a huge taboo about pregnancy loss and stillbirth. I’ve shared every feeling and every moment through the past few years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Nicole DeHoff Photography

Typing, reading, and speaking Victoria’s name makes me so happy. Her name to this day is spoken very often. I’ve raised money for a cuddle cot (a device that cools a stillborn baby so the parents can spend more time with the baby) with Victoria’s name on it. When it is being used, people can see her name and know that they are not alone, that they are not the only people that have ever experienced this. That is so important.

On December 14, 2017, Abigail Lilly Gadd made her fast and quick appearance! She is the sweetest, prettiest most bright rainbow there is! Naturally when it came time for her newborn pictures, we wanted to follow the rainbow idea. I feel as if every time we use rainbows in photos or in life, it’s honoring Victoria. Without her, I wouldn’t have my rainbow. It’s so bittersweet to think of it like that, but it’s the truth. Abigail will always be our rainbow.

Nicole DeHoff Photography
Nicole DeHoff Photography
Nicole DeHoff Photography

My main goal when I share our photos is that it brings awareness. Not necessarily that this can happen to you, but more that you are not alone if it does happen to you. The amount of people I have had come out to me and say that they’ve had a miscarriage or that they’ve had a stillbirth and never talked about it is so heartbreaking, and they didn’t have the support that I had. Victoria will always be spoken about. Every holiday, every birthday, she will always be our baby girl and we will see her again one day underneath a willow tree.”

Nicole DeHoff Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha Gadd of North Canton, Ohio. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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