As part of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, three local women found the courage to share their stories....
In October 1988, President Ronald Rea-gan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month saying, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
Every mom has this imaginary timeline in their head once they get pregnant.
You walk on eggshells the first few months, praying that you don’t miscarry.
Then you set a goal for 20 weeks – “viable” by some medical professionals. If you can get to 37 weeks, you are considered full term – you did it!
Well, what happens if you meet all of those checkmarks and you still have no baby to bring home?
Here are the stories of three moms, all who have graduated from Redwood Valley High School and all who have suffered the loss of their sons due to stillbirth – the death of a fetus at any time after the 20th week of pregnancy. They are honored to share their stories in hopes of educating the community on this topic that is often dealt with in silence.
Beckett Beau Helgeson, son of Shelby and Eric Helgeson
We were on our annual family vacation and all was going well until the last night. Our then one-year-old daughter became sick with the flu, keeping both my husband and myself up all night.
We got a few winks of sleep and were up by 5 a.m., packing and cleaning our cabin to go home.
Before we could leave town, I needed to stop at the clinic for my 37 week OB appointment. We got into the car and started heading into town.
I remember my husband and I discussing whether or not I should reschedule my appointment due to Harper being so ill, but my husband decided to stay with her in the car while I was at the appointment to avoid anyone else coming down with what she had.
While I was in the waiting room, I got out my phone and typed a few things I wanted to talk with my doctor about – inducing, due to inefficient contractions I had been having for months, the number of people I was allowed in the delivery room, a mole that had been concerning me for some time, and finally, lack of movement.
I got to thinking about the last time I felt a kick, which was hard to do since I was having to deal with constant contractions.
I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember.
I didn’t think too much about the lack of movement. Like I said, I was dealing with contractions that were making it next to impossible to distinguish an actual fetal movement. I discussed my list with my doctor, and we both decided a non-stress test would likely be a good route to take at this point.
I went into a small room where her nurse struggled to find his heartbeat. My mind was racing, I can’t tell you how many times I thought, “this cannot be happening to me, not me.” I calmed myself down and headed into another small room where my doctor assured me we would find a heartbeat quicker, but I could tell she was nervous.
She placed the wand on my ever so pregnant belly and began searching. She didn’t say much, and her silence spoke volumes.
She said something about this being a new machine, and she left the room to get another doctor who was more familiar with it. About five minutes later, she returned to tell me he had left for the day, and that she was sending me downstairs for an official ultrasound. My heart sank, I knew what was to come.
By this point, my husband was getting impatient in the car and texting me, asking when I would be done.
As I was walking down the hall to radiology, I sent him a message telling him that they were having problems finding a heartbeat. I also sent the same text to my mom, who left work and started the hour long car ride to the clinic in case of bad news.
Luckily, my oldest brother was in the area and was able to be with our daughter while my husband, Eric, came up to the room and waited for me to return from the ultrasound.
I walked into the dark ultrasound room and the tech asked me if I knew why I was there.
I replied with a quiet, “yes,” and she turned the monitor away from my sight. She, like my doctor, said nothing throughout the entire ultrasound. She left the room to deliver the results to my doctor.
I immediately turned the screen toward me and saw the beautiful image of my son with a flat line where his heartbeat once ap-peared.
I was in disbelief.
I walked back up to the room where my husband was waiting for me. I told him our son was gone. I couldn’t even think straight.
I remember my doctor coming in and telling us, in a very unstable voice, that she had bad news; our little boy no longer had a heartbeat.
She asked if we wanted to go home and think about what to do next, or head to the hospital to start the induction process.
We both immediately said, without hesitation, “We want to go to the hospital.”
It’s about a five minute drive to the hospital, and in that time, almost no words were spoken. I looked out the window the entire time, still shocked that this was happening to us. We walked to the maternity floor and told them we were here for an induction.
A young lady came out and asked me if I was having contractions or if my water had broke, I froze. After a short pause, I told her our son was stillborn in which she replied, “I’m so sorry.”
I walked into my room and they started the induction at around 2:30 p.m. Aug. 3.
I was told they would do everything to make this delivery as pain free as possible; I was given pain medication and an epidural that didn’t take. When I was finally ready to deliver, only a nurse was present to catch my Angel.
Instead of hearing those beautiful tears that you wait nine months for, I only heard the sobs of my dear husband. We said hello and goodbye in the same breath at 7:57 p.m. that night, as our son, Beckett Beau Helgeson, entered the world with wings.
He was breathtakingly beautiful; weighing six pounds 12.5 ounces. He was 20 inches long with lots of dark hair, just like his older sister.
A moment that is supposed to be one of the best times of your life, was my darkest.
Beckett was baptized by a local priest shortly after his arrival.
The hospital also called in a professional photographer from a non-profit organization, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, to take family photos that mean the world to us.
He spent the next morning with us before we said our final goodbyes. He was wheeled away, blanket covering his hospital bassinet, to begin the autopsy.
He was born with no obvious signs of death. He did not have a cord wrapped, and there were no visible knots in the cord. We knew the next step would be an autopsy if we wanted a small chance at finding out what happened; a 50/50 chance. We were elated and confused when weeks later we got the news that there was no known cause of death. He just was not meant to be ours, here on Earth.
I am not only a mommy to my two beautiful girls, but to an Angel, who I will teach my daughters about and hope others can learn from as well.
In honor and in loving memory of our son, Beckett Beau Helge-son. “Too beautiful for Earth.”
Destin Michael Schunk, son of Jessica and
From the very beginning I had a normal pregnancy just like any mother could ask for.
At 30 weeks I got put on bed rest, because I had high blood pressure. I was also told by my doctor that I had high amniotic fluid levels, also known as polyhydramnios.
Being on bed rest meant I would have to be seen once a week at the doctor’s office and also had to have a non stress test done weekly. It took me a while to accept the fact that I was unable to work for at least six weeks or possibly the rest of my pregnancy, but I knew it was for the best.
On Monday June 18, 2012 I had my monthly doctor’s appointment where I got to hear our baby’s heart beat, the doctor said the heart beat sounded strong and healthy.
On Tuesday evening I was cooking supper and stopped myself for a moment and thought when was the last time I had felt our baby move, I couldn’t re-member the last time our baby had kicked.
It was Wednesday around four in the morning I woke my husband up because I had a pain in my chest and I still couldn’t remember the last time the baby had moved, he told me, “Not to worry, everything will be alright.”
All day Wednesday I laid in the couch looking at the clock just waiting to feel our baby kick. After 4:30 p.m. I decided to call labor and delivery, because I knew something wasn’t right. I informed them of what was going on. They told me to get to the hospital right away.
Once I got to the hospital they hooked me up to the non stress test and within a few minutes I knew my baby had passed away.
The nurse reassured me that it might not pick up a heart beat right away because of all the extra fluid I had.
I then took the monitor out of her hand and put it on my lower left side of my stomach where it had been placed several times before and had always picked up the baby’s heart beat, but this time it didn’t. The nurse was getting ready to leave the room when my husband had finally arrived at the hospital. It seemed like hours later. He could tell there was something wrong.
I told him that they were unable to find a heartbeat, and the nurse was going to call my doctor so they could do a bed side ultra sound, to confirm there is no heartbeat.
Within 15 minutes of being in the hospital the doctor confirmed a mother’s worst nightmare, that our son had no heartbeat. Our heart’s were broken.
That night I got induced, and by Thursday afternoon our precious baby angel was born seven weeks early. Destin weighed 4 pounds 5 ounces and was 18 inches long.
As parents we wanted answers as to what had caused our son to pass away. We had the option to do an autopsy with little to no chance of finding out what had happened to him.
We decided against the autopsy. My doctor recommended testing my placenta to see if there was anything wrong with it that would give us answers. It was just our luck they found nothing wrong, and we were back to square one with no answers. We left the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts.
These last four months have been quite a journey for me.
I have been setting goals for myself. The first one was to get Destin’s headstone picked out and in the ground before the snow flies, I completed that goal. His headstone was put in two weeks ago. My next goal was to educate people about stillbirths and to get my story out there, I have also completed that goal, this is my third time in a newspaper.
Another goal I had was to attend a memorial walk in memory of all the babies who were born sleeping or only lived a short time after birth. I completed that goal in September. My husband and I, along with our families attended the Seventh Annual Hope & Hearts Run/Walk in Coon Rapids. We raised more than $1,000. The first Hope & Hearts Run/Walk was held in Minnesota in 2006. April and Dan Wurst and Candy and Steve McVicar founded Hope & Hearts Run and began hosting the event in honor of their daughters Kaila and Grace, who were both stillborn due to cord issues at 38 and 33 weeks gestation.
Hope & Hearts is about hope for the future through education and research and supporting the hearts of families who have lost a child, enabling them to be able to move forward. The Missing GRACE Foundation is to provide resources and support to aid families who have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, infertility or adoption challenges and to advocate for proper management of pregnancies for all woman. I plan on setting more goals in the future, one of them being writing a book, a big goal but I can’t wait to start on it.
Parker Steven Tisue, son of Amber and Jim Tisue
On Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. I went to the hospital for a routine 20 week ultrasound appointment with my husband. I was currently 19-and-a-half weeks along in my pregnancy with our second child.
During the first few moments of this appointment it became obvious something was wrong. I attempted to ignore those feelings and those thoughts while I patiently waited to hear the heartbeat of our baby.
The ultrasound technician began asking odd questions and stated I needed to see a doctor right away.
As he left the room to find our doctor I remember my husband and I just staring at each other. I began to cry, and my husband attempted to stay positive and continued to tell me that things would be okay.
Within a few minutes, our doctor and the technician came back into the room.
They looked at the ultrasound screen together, and then the technician left the room. Our doctor began to express his sympathies. It was confirmed, our baby had passed away.
My first thought was “what are we going to tell Hunter,” our first child who is three years old. We began asking about what happens next. We were told we could go home and think about it, or we could be admitted to the hospital and begin labor. The decision was clear, we wanted to start the process immediately. Within mom-ents I was admitted into the hospital.
My amazing husband took on the role of making the hard calls to our families. Soon, family members began to arrive at the hospital to be by our side.
My doctor gave me some medicine to begin the labor pro-cess. All he could tell me was that labor would start anywhere from within one hour to several hours depending on how the medicine worked with my system. I began asking all sorts of questions from: what will this feel like? How will he or she look?
What do we do after our baby is born?
Do we take pictures?
Do we hold him/her?
Of course there was the always burning question, “why did this happen?”
A few nurses and our doctor were able to give us some insight into most of those questions. Except, the burning one, we didn’t have an answer for that, only possibilities at this point.
Several hours had passed, and family members came and went. It was now time for my second dose of medicine. Up to this point I had felt no pain, no contractions, nothing. Shortly after I began feeling some pain in which the nurses were able to administer pain medicine to keep this process comfortable and as painless as possible.
The pain began to get really intense after a few hours. Two nurses were in the room along with my husband. At 11:58 p.m. our beautiful son grew angel wings as he was born weighing 11 ounces and was 10.5 inches long.
Soon after his birth our doctor arrived, held up our beautiful son and showed me the umbilical cord. There was the proof of our unanswered question, there was a knot.
I remember looking over at my husband and saying “he looks like a baby, just a really really small baby.”
The next few hours went by so quickly. My husband and I both agreed we wanted to hold him and take pictures of him. The staff at the hospital was gracious enough to take pictures for us which we treasure today.
A few hours later, a funeral director came into our room and spoke with us about our next options for planning a burial. Shortly after, they took our baby home.
Our angel son, Parker Steven Tisue, was buried Thursday, Aug. 10.
In loving memory and honor of our precious angel baby who is now “Cuddled in Heaven”, “so small, so sweet, so soon.”