Today I’m excited to be introducing you on the blog to Theo as a part of the Extraordinary Love Project. This adorable little guy joined his family this March and I was thrilled to finally meet him and his family for their Extraordinary Love Session on the beach this August.

Extraordinary Love Sessions honour a family’s struggle with miscarriage, infant loss, or infertility and provide a way for families to share their story with the community.  You can read more about these special sessions on my website here. Theo’s mom and dad, Katie and Matt, are sharing their story with us in an effort to raise more awareness about perinatal loss and infertility.

Our perinatal loss journey began on March 23, 2018. Before that, you could say we were blissfully unaware of the potential that I could have anything but a normal pregnancy and childbirth.

Katie and Matt’s journey to parenthood once seemed simple and straightforward. The couple was thrilled to welcome their daughter Norah in 2016 after a healthy pregnancy that was free of any complications. When Norah was a toddler, they decided to add to their family and were fortunate to quickly become pregnant again. They were excited to be expecting another little girl, only two years apart from their daughter, and couldn’t wait to see them together and watch them grow up as sisters. 

Everything changed on March 22, 2018. Katie was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. On that day she realized she hadn’t felt a lot of movement from her daughter that afternoon. Katie did everything that an expectant mother is supposed to do when you notice less movement; she ate something sweet, she sat down, and she really focused on her baby to feel her movement. But Katie knew something wasn’t right and that something had changed and called her midwife. When her midwife arrived and couldn’t find her baby’s heartbeat with the doppler they were sent to the hospital.

That time between her checking, and us getting to the hospital for an official ultrasound felt like an eternity. I think we both knew what the result was going to be, but you still hold out the slightest hope that they could be wrong.

At their ultrasound, Katie and Matt were told the heartbreaking news that their daughter had died. Sent home from the hospital with medication to induce labour the couple was at a loss of what to think and do.

It took about 20 hours for the medication to finally work, but during that time, it just feels like impending doom. What are you supposed to do to fill your time while waiting to have a stillborn child? Questions go through your mind that you never thought you would have to ask.

Once back at the hospital, labour progressed quickly and their baby girl was born soon after arriving. Their baby girl Anna was born with no heartbeat, but in every other way was perfect; just very tiny at only 550 grams. 

After Anna’s death, the couple struggled with an intense grief like nothing they had ever experienced. They were grateful to be connected with the Roger Neilson House which allowed them to join a perinatal loss support group. There they were able to listen and speak openly with other parents who were also experiencing the heavy grief of the loss of a child.

Their perspective on life was much different now and their lives were changed forever but the couple knew they wanted another child and bravely started to try again. After becoming pregnant easily twice before their grief deepened when they were unable to become pregnant again. After trying for a year with no success Katie and Matt entered the fertility clinic to begin the testing process to find out why they could not become pregnant. After all of the testing the couple had mixed emotions when their diagnosis was unexplained infertility. There was relief that nothing was found to be an issue, but frustration in that there was nothing that they could do to fix the situation but continue to try. 

You feel like you are stuck, stagnant, and cannot move on with your life until this event happens.

In May of 2019 Matt and Katie were relieved to learn that they were finally pregnant. But the relief was short-lived when they experienced a miscarriage at 6 weeks of pregnancy. The emotional highs and lows were agonizing and Katie began to really question why this was happening to them. 

In July of 2019 the couple found out they were pregnant again but this time the couple felt extremely guarded in their anticipation and excitement, scared of getting too attached to their baby for fear of something bad happening again. 

It is a very different pregnancy. You are not looking forward to certain milestones, you almost dread the approach of them. 12 weeks, 18 weeks, 20 weeks, 24 weeks. All big milestones, but they really don’t bring any comfort after passing them, knowing that it can all change at any time.

Becoming excited about and believing that their baby would be okay was a slow process but as Katie neared her third trimester the couple began to feel more joy and happiness about their pregnancy. They learned they were having a boy and started to collect baby items and things they’d need for him once he arrived.

On March 25th, Katie and Matt were thrilled to safely welcome their son, and Norah and Anna’s brother, into their arms and family. Welcome to the world Theo! You are already so loved.

Thank you again to Katie and Matt for sharing their story and their precious children with us. They’d love to share some of the things that they found helpful and comforting during their journey.

Suggestions and resources from Katie to parents experiencing perinatal loss and infertility

The Roger Neilson House support group was huge in our grief journey. Being able to talk and share openly with couples who have experienced similar levels of grief was very refreshing. It creates a bond that you cannot easily break. We are all staying in touch as we all continue on our journeys after loss and we look out for each other. We contact each other leading up to everyone’s loss anniversary, even just to say we remember and we’re thinking of them. 

We were very thankful that a NILMDTS photographer came to take pictures of Anna after her birth, as we have made the photos into a photobook to share with family and friends. 

I also read two books on grief, one is called The Ben Ripple and the other is called Dancing in the Rain, both by Lisa Elliott. Lisa is my aunt, who is a gifted writer and speaker. These books were written during and after her son, Ben’s, battle with leukemia, who sadly passed away. The Ben Ripple gives a fresh and honest outlook on grief in a very real way and provides practical guidance in the midst of grief. Dancing in the Rain focuses on how to find hope and keep faith during the storms of life.