Baby Stella Brate

Hopeful Readers: This is Jackie’s speech for a memorial service in honor of October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Jackie and I met over 10 years ago, over a summer house on the beach with mutual friends. Little did we know that our bond would grow closer without a single visit after that summer, simply through the loss of our babies a decade later. Jackie, you are so brave for sharing your sweet Stella with the world….

Hello my name is Jackie and this is my husband John. Like so many of you, we are the parents of an angel. Her name is Stella Rose. She got her angel wings, 13 months ago here at Stony Brook hospital. She was born by emergency c-section on August 27th, 2014 at 28 weeks and 3 days gestation. She died two days later on Aug.29th. The pregnancy seemed like a normal one to me. I was told over and over again that she was healthy. I didn’t realize how a pregnancy was supposed to feel because it was my first one.

stellaWhen I didn’t feel her moving as much, the doctors told me I was being paranoid. When I insisted on a sonogram the findings would change our lives forever. I was told our sweet baby girl was dying, she was filling up with fluid, by a condition called fetal hydrops. My doctors had no idea why this was happening but knew I needed the assistance of a high-risk hospital. I was supposed to deliver at St. Charles but instead was sent straight to Stony Brook where the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors took over. Very soon after we got there the decision was made that Stella needed to come out or she would die. We were told there was a fifty/fifty chance that she could even survive the delivery at this point. I started to panic. My whole life came crashing down.  Just a few hours before I was on top of the world, and all of a sudden I was in the deepest darkest scariest valley. I just knew that the baby who I carried and loved so dearly, who I was literally attached to for over seven months, who I loved more than life itself was going to be taken away. I had never been so afraid in my life. On top of that, they were worried I could bleed to death during the c-section and decided to put me out completely for operation.  My mom told me that I asked her before they took me in, if I was going to die.  Her response was “no.” Then she poured holy water all over my feet and blessed the doctors hands. We were all terrified. I just kept thinking it was not really happening, it must be a horrible nightmare. I kept trying to wake myself up. How could this happen? We had beautiful home, good jobs, traveled around the world, and been married for several years. All we wanted was a baby to cherish. Stella’s nursery was all ready for her. We worked so hard on making it the most perfect, beautiful and special room for her. Devastated is not even the word. There are no words.

Stella beat the odds and was born by T cut c-section. I never got the chance to thank the doctor who performed the c-section for taking her time and doing such a great job. Because of her, Stella was alive and I would have the chance to spend time with her here on earth. Stella’s apgar scores were 1, 3, 3. She was alive but very sick. We knew that if any doctors would be able to save her, it would be the doctors here at Stony Brook, and believe me they did everything they could. They diagnosed the problem, she had two heart defects, but Stella was too swollen to get surgery. She was only 31/2 lbs and her body was shutting down. Stella held on though. On the second day there was a tiny bit of hope, as she was showing a little bit of improvement. She opened her eyes and looked at us for the first time that day. Her eyes were brown and she had a head full of soft brown hair. She was moving her toes and fingers and stuck out her tongue. She was two months early and still the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. These are some of the gifts we will hold close to our hearts forever. stella 2

The hardest moment of my life was when I had to let her go. Two days after her birth, on Aug. 29th Stella coded blue and John and I watched in horror as they resuscitated her five times just feet in front of us. We didn’t want her to die hooked up to fifty machines. Instead I asked to hold her so she could die in my arms. It was the first time I ever held my daughter. John and I never wanted to let go. We would like to thank all of the doctors that tried so hard to save her. Christine -the NICU nurse that bathed her, dressed her, took pictures of her and loved her like she was her own. The priest who came and baptized her in the middle of the night, Sister Lynn for praying over her as she slipped away to heaven and Allison Cooley for being the support system for our whole family. To this day I know I can text or call Allison if I need her. She has been a great friend to us.

These people couldn’t bring Stella back but they did all the right things to help us start to heal. We couldn’t be more thankful for the pictures that we have of our daughter, they are our most prized possessions. Thank you to the little angels fund for the beautiful dress and knitted hat that she wore. I keep the hat on my nightstand on a bear next to her pictures.

Returning to a baby ready home without a baby, with painful c-section scar that would take weeks to heal, engorged breasts, and no more baby bump-while experiencing phantom kicks, was so heart wrenching I blocked most of it out. As the scars healed I was haunted by all of my careful planning and preparation for our first child. Furniture that was supposed to arrive any day needed to be reversed, photo shoots cancelled, emails/ baby coupons and monthly parent magazines continued to show up in the mail. The app on my phone continued to give me pregnancy updates. On the outside I was healing but inside my scars kept reopening. It wasn’t until I started seeing the grief counselor at Passages named Nicole and we started attending support group meetings together that we would really begin to heal on the inside.

stella 1Over the past year John and I never missed one Sunday visiting with Stella at the cemetery. We continue to honor her every way we can. John and I started going to church and have connected spiritually. We light her candle on the holidays to remind everyone that she is here in spirit. On her one-year anniversary our family and friends celebrated Stella’s life with us at the beach. My dad read a poem and we had “Stella bracelets” made for everyone. We laughed and listened to live music and watched the sun set together. The theme of the night was STELLABRATE LOVE. We talked about how much we miss and love her. It got windy but we were still able to release a lantern in her honor, it was a beautiful night.

John and I have made it our mission to continue raising awareness about pregnancy and infant loss. We will continue to raise money each year to support the “Little Angels Fund” and other organizations like “Molly Bears” and the “Annual Walk to Remember” at Winthrop hospital. We set up a scholarship in her name at the high school where I work. Stella is always on our minds. We talk to her each day and pray to her each night. My whole family feels her presence and knows she is our angel watching over us. We love and miss her everyday and look forward to the day we can be together again. I thank Stella for coming into our lives even though it was for such a short time. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go through another pregnancy. I am currently 6 1/2 months pregnant with our rainbow baby. Stella taught me that love is greater than fear and she has been with me giving me strength every day.

Lastly we want to say: Thank you to our parents and the rest of our family and friends for all of the extra love and support you have given us this past year. It means so much to that you have walked along side us and continually help us to keep Stella’s memory alive. We know she is smiling down on our whole family, protecting us all.


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