I’m thrilled to be sharing my second Extraordinary Love Session of 2019 today and introducing you to Róisín and her lovely family. If you haven’t heard of these special new sessions that honour a family’s struggle with infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss please check out all of the information on my website here.

I want to thank Róisín’s family for sharing their story with us. It is their hope that by sharing their story they will let others with a similar experience know that they are not alone.   

Family of five with newborn baby

This beautiful little girl recently arrived, joining her two older brothers and her parents, Stephanie and Maurice, making them now a family of 5. You can just feel the love of this family through their photos.

photo of sleeping newborn baby by sara mcconnell photography

The joy and elation that is unmistakable on their faces is only a part of this family’s story. Their journey to where they are now has been one of great highs with blessings counted and celebrated but has also been one that has included the darkest of lows and hard times that cannot be forgotten. Stephanie and Maurice are grateful for the children they hold in their arms but there is forever an absence of the babies they have lost.

“The question I dread the most is….’How many pregnancies have you had?’ because the answer is 6, followed by ‘How many children do you have?’, for which the answer is 2…..two incredible, wonderful, hilarious boys… In my heart of hearts I am hoping that come the end of January I will have three healthy babies, and always remember my four angels.” -Stephanie, December 2018

Maurice and Stephanie have always wanted a large family after both coming from large families themselves. A year after their wedding they decided to start their family and became pregnant quickly. While oversees visiting family and preparing for a wedding Stephanie was found to be having an ectopic pregnancy, a condition where the pregnancy attaches outside of the uterus. The condition is a serious pregnancy complication that puts the mother’s health and reproductive abilities at risk.

This loss was devastating to the couple and further complicated by needing to navigate an unfamiliar health care system, overseas insurance and missing personal milestones for which the couple travelled due to medical interventions and restrictions. Thankful to be near Maurice’s family and friends, while finding it difficult to be away from their Canadian home. The physical effects of the loss of the pregnancy as well as the lengthy medical follow ups coupled with the emotional effects of grief and loss were overwhelming. After this loss there were feelings of relief that at least Stephanie was okay and was fortunate enough to not lose reproductive health but trying to focus on just that was impossible.

Stephanie struggled greatly with feelings of anger and sadness all the while healing and waiting to be able to try again for the baby they so wanted.  Stephanie started attending counselling sessions to try to help her work through all of the emotions that she was struggling with.

Once the couple had waited 6 months after their first loss they were able to try again. They were thrilled to find themselves pregnant again but at 15 weeks along they were devastated to find out that the baby had stopped growing and no longer had a heartbeat: a missed miscarriage. Eager to put this loss behind her Stephanie opted to have medicine to induce the miscarriage but found the process to be incredibly difficult physically. From the induced miscarriage Stephanie found herself in the ER vomiting and bleeding and eventually passing out requiring interventions and subsequent complications. After this loss, Stephanie experienced even more anger; as well as those really hard feelings one experiences watching other women’s bellies grow with life after losing your own baby.

Determined to add to their family, but also extremely nervous after losing two pregnancies, Stephanie and Maurice kept trying and were overjoyed to become pregnant again and welcome their rainbow baby, Éamon safely to their family. He was truly their miracle baby after all of the loss, stress, and heartache they had experienced.

Brothers holding newborn baby

Eager to expand their family after Éamon arrived and have the large family they’d planned on Stephanie and Maurice tried again and were blessed with another son, Séamus only a year and half after the birth of Eamon. After all the couple had gone through starting their family they were delighted to have two healthy children in their arms to hold.

Brothers holding newborn baby who is wrapped in grey

When they decided to continue to grow their family the couple was thrilled to be expecting their third baby and were delighted to make it through the first trimester. At 14 weeks along in her pregnancy Stephanie slipped on ice and fell, causing bleeding that sent them to the ER to check on their little one. Having been through this before, Stephanie and Maurice knew what the ultrasound tech was looking for and by the silence in the room they knew what was missing. Although 14 weeks pregnant their baby had stopped growing at 8 weeks along which meant the baby had died before Stephanie’s fall and that the fall had only likely triggered the bleeding. While Stephanie’s rational side understood that, the feelings of grief and guilt after a loss are strong and misleading.

Opting to have a D&C after this missed miscarriage to try to avoid the terrible side effects that Stephanie experienced after her previous miscarriage she was put on a waiting list, sent home, and told to call the hospital every morning to see if her turn had come up yet at the hospital. While waiting at home for her procedure Stephanie went into what can only be described as labour and miscarried her baby at home. Another trip to the ER with complications and an emergency D&C left Stephanie wondering if they would ever try again: unsure if her heart or body could take another pregnancy.

The resiliency and the determination of Stephanie and Maurice is obvious as after that third loss they decided to try again and they became pregnant: their sixth pregnancy in just six years. This pregnancy began as twin babies. At 14 weeks along the family learned that one of their babies was developing normally but that one had stopped growing weeks earlier, a “vanishing twin”. During this pregnancy, heartbroken with the loss of a twin and with the three previous losses as a part of their reality, Stephanie and Maurice were also able to find joy and anticipation in the baby they hoped to meet soon.

The couple sent out a pregnancy announcement to family and friends sharing their good news and thanking them for their support but also as a way of recognizing the babies they had lost, the second half of a twin pair that will never walk beside their new baby, and the grief and pain of their journey through the shoes they walk in.

special birth announcement

Throughout their experiences of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy the couple has been very open with their story sharing their experiences with anyone who would like to listen: both as part of their healing process and also to help those experiencing a similar journey.

“I have always tried to share my story with those who will listen, as part of my healing and often as part of their journey. The stigma around miscarriage and loss is still too large. We have spoken about how to tell this baby that they had a twin, and it is astounding how many people know they were once part of a pair….my mother and my uncle included. Making our loss and joy public at the same time was very healing for me and carved out space for me to continue to grieve the loss of one baby while focusing on having a healthy pregnancy.” -Stephanie

On January 22nd, Stephanie and Maurice were overjoyed to have their third child safely join their family: a beautiful, perfect little girl that her family was thrilled to finally to meet.

As a new life joins their family and they celebrate having another precious child to hold in their arms Stephanie and Maurice continue to navigate the mixed emotions that accompany pregnancy and birth after loss. In an effort to continue their openness about their journey to help others walking a similar path Stephanie would love to share with you some of the things they have either found helpful or continue to find helpful in their grief.


Some of the things Stephanie found helpful, for those experiencing pregnancy loss:

-After a second loss, my anger and sadness eventually lead me to use Maurice’s company Employee assistance program. I called a generic helpline a few times and then found a wonderful counsellor through “Homewood Human Solutions”. Counselling/therapy/talking in a safe space moved mountains for me. I went through Costco sized stashes of Kleenex and she assured me I wouldn’t drown in my own tears….just to let it out.

-It sounds silly, but the counselor found me a hairdresser in new Edinburgh at a small little boutique called FRESH who works with cancer patients and women clients with sensitive issues, and she made me take the first step towards believing I should take of myself and that I could be happy again and deserved a treat. I got a haircut- it was such a pampered experience and not once did the hairdresser chat go anywhere I didn’t want it to go (because after being together for almost ten years, if one more person asked “ So when are you going to start a family” I may have been arrested for a violent outburst!)  I hadn’t cut my hair in over a year at that point and we had been through the ectopic and a miscarriage at 15 weeks. After it, I started to feel more like me again.

-We (led by my mother in law) planted a rose in her garden in Ireland for each of our losses. Each year when they bloom she always sends us photos. It was so thoughtful when she suggested it for our first loss and then she quietly planted three more. Every year I look forward to seeing them grow and watching them blossom.

-I also started a memory box. It has grown and I have had to buy a bigger box, but it is something I need. It sits on the top shelf of my closet. It contains everything that I have kept to help me work through our losses… From ultrasound printouts; to bar napkins with brainstormed names from the first time I ever peed on a stick; to florist cards and tokens of remembrance; children’s books; the first newborn onesie I bought for a baby I never got to meet; fabric from a baby quilt that never got made; pamphlets from the hospital on miscarriage; pebbles; 4 pairs of pure white angel wings; and other things that when I hold them they help it seem real and tangible and this helps me release my sadness and work through my heartache. On anniversaries of due dates and loss,  you will find me at some point in the day sitting on my closet floor, going through my box- remembering and celebrating where we are today and the memories I carry with me from sadder times.

-After my third miscarriage and D&C last December I started to journal, that helped a lot.

-I read the book “You Are Not Alone: Letters From Loss Moms to Loss Moms” by Emily Long and it did just what the title suggested, reinforced that I was not alone.

-Maurice and I are self proclaimed “information gatherers” aka nerds, and as a result my local OBGYN has been a resource for us. She has answered all of our questions about ectopic and miscarriages and procedures related to each, she has taken me back in as a patient as soon as we had a positive pregnancy test, and has seen us through our nerves and anxiety when we reach “milestone” not achieved or related in some way to past loss.  She is empathic, professional, intelligent and so caring and kind.

-Countless cups of coffee and vino with some strong female friends and couples who are on similar journeys or who need someone to listen or are great listeners themselves.  We don’t hide our scars, we try to be open and honest in a way that helps others as well as ourselves find balance. Our birth announcement for Róisín included both the joy and sorrow of our pregnancy in a very public way, to continue to show that I want us to be more open and help each other through common struggles.

-Finally, we have both dabbled in “mindfulness” which has helped with refocusing and providing perspective on our abilities as individuals as well as a couple to hope and believe in happiness again.