Our Story of Loss

My husband, Peter, and I had been married for 4 years and it was my 3rd year of teaching when we realized we were expecting our first child.  We had been through a lot in those years together.  My parent’s divorce, my first year of teaching, and the death of Peter’s best friend were major life changing moments we had weathered together.

From the day I found out I was pregnant, I was sick. Sick in the morning, at night, and any other time in between.  I missed a lot of school days.  The smells everywhere would set my stomach reeling.  I gave up my side job of selling candles for fear I would throw up on a customer while saying, “Smell this one.” I would both avoid and hug the trash can at school–sometimes at the same time. Let’s not even go into how tired I was all the time.  I feel like I barely made it.

Ultrasound day brought us the happy news that we were having a baby girl.  Much to my happiness and a little disappointment for my husband who really wanted a boy.  But he got over it fairly quickly and we bought our first ever purple onesie that day. “Daddy’s Little Princess” I think it said.

Two weeks later came spring break.  A whole week to rest and take care of myself.  I’ve never looked so forward to spring break before in my life.

I was exactly 19 weeks and 6 days on Saturday, March 15th, 2008.  My husband had to work that morning as his office was moving and he had volunteered to move over computers for the office. He had only helped for an hour when I called.

“My water just broke! Do I call an ambulance?”

We decided he would come home and take me to the hospital.

I never got a shower that day.  I quickly put some clothes on, praying the whole time.  I tried not to move too fast as each move made more water trickle down my leg. I knew it was way too early.

We had our papers from the doctor outlining that before the 18th week, if anything happened to go to the emergency room. After that week, report to Labor and Delivery.  So that’s where we headed.  Peter grabbed a wheelchair and made me sit while he wheeled me into the office.  I didn’t even feel like I looked that pregnant, but here I was.

I’m not even sure what I said to the nurse at the front desk.  Something along the lines of being almost 20 weeks along and my water broke.  She said they would perform some tests to determine if my water actually broke. I remember we were so nervous and shaking waiting to find out.

Swab. Test. Positive. Yes, your water broke. And then she said, “I’m so sorry.”

What did that mean?  We lost her? She’s gone!  We just starting crying, and she quietly excused herself from the room.  What do we do now?

We were going to start calling our family and letting them know (or maybe we did–it is a little blurry).  The nurse came back in and said they were going to do an ultrasound and double check for a heartbeat.

And then we heard the heartbeat.  She’s still alive! But now what happens?  She’s still so small and underdeveloped.

We were admitted to an area that we referred to as the NICU (which we realize is referring to babies but I think that is what the nurses called it then too), but it was for mothers that were on bedrest or waiting to deliver due to complications.  We waited for the high risk doctor to come in, do an ultrasound herself, and give us more information on what could be done.

We were told some pretty dismal statistics.  More than likely I would go into labor within 24hours but we needed to prevent that from happening. Risk of infection was high. If labor stops, I was looking at being in the hospital on my back for the next 3 months.  But the next 24 hours were critical. Our chances were slim.

Sunday I started having contractions. I tried to believe they weren’t happening.  After a couple of hours, they seemingly went away. People visited. I ate dinner.

Monday morning came and Peter decided to go into work to help with the move again.  He often describes this decision as a way of forcing nothing bad happening because he was gone.  He hadn’t left my side the entire time.  Neither of us had showered in 2 days. He was at work maybe for 15 minutes before he received another phone call from me.

“She’s gone.  Please come back.”

The nurses had checked for her heartbeat every couple of hours the entire time we were in the hospital.  Sometimes she would hid and it was hard to find her heartbeat.  I thought nothing of it when they searched a while to find her heartbeat.  Another ultrasound to find out that her heart had indeed stopped and she was no longer alive.


I still had to deliver her. I couldn’t look and cried when she was delivered. Stillborn. Bruised body so small and fragile. 11 ounces. 11 inches long.  So tiny yet– perfect.

She was hard to look at and yet we asked our friends if they’d like to meet our precious baby girl. I am thankful we were surrounded by such wonderful friends.  We might not have made it through so well without them.  They carried us through the next hours, days, and weeks.

Grace Kathryn Dell was stillborn on March 17, 2008.  (St. Patrick’s Day)

My last memory of the whole experience was the wheelchair ride out of the hospital.  It always brings tears to my eyes.  As the nurse wheeled me out of my room, I saw a family entering with a car seat–a reminder that they would get to take their baby home. I cried all the way to the door where I waited for Peter to bring up the car.

I sat there empty. Empty arms. Empty of the hopes and dreams I had for my baby girl.


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