It’s been two decades since my son died. That is ten whole years, experienced twice over! He made me a mom. Young and in love, my husband Patrick and I decided we wanted to start our family. We were at the beginning of our journey to parenthood with all the hopes and dreams of a bright future ahead. We were anxious to see our son again that afternoon at our 16-week appointment with our obstetrician. When she couldn’t find his heartbeat with the doppler, we
were assured all was well, and we should go back to the lobby to wait and check on him via another ultrasound. We were giddy as we waited to see him again bouncing around inside my belly. But this time was very different from the last. This time he was so still, and the room was so quiet.

I asked the tech what I already knew to be true, “There’s no heartbeat, is there?”. “No,” she replied, “I’m so sorry.” At that moment, everything changed. The before and after. A missed miscarriage, an unhelpful doctor on call, unkind words from some, hugs and tears from many others. A surgery to deliver his still body and empty arms left in the wake. Twenty years ago, he was attached to his momma, safe inside my womb, and we shared our lives for four short months. He heard every heartbeat of mine for 16 short weeks before he left us. I’ve spent the last twenty years parenting him from this side of heaven.

Photograph courtesy of the Riecke family

All of our stories are unique and different. All of our before and after photos are individually separate from the next. All of our babies lived and died differently from one another. All of our journeys to healing are distinct as well. Yet over time, I have learned that there are so many things we, as loss parents, have in common. We share an experience of the death of our child and the continued absence of our children. We have a literal and figurative before and after.

Photograph courtesy of the Riecke family

These and many other shared experiences led us, Stephen’s parents, to write a book to provide a deeper understanding of this journey for others. On April 26, 2020, precisely nineteen years after Stephen was due to join our family, we released our book called, No Matter How Small: Understanding Miscarriage and Stillbirth.

Photograph courtesy of the Riecke family

This book follows the stories of three women and families whose babies died. Each story is followed by experiences that these women faced.
We explore the new realities after a baby dies. These include practical, spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical struggles. If you find yourself in the “after” or someone you love and care about is on that road, we wrote this book for you! Stephen has taught us so much in his absence. We are grateful that he is a significant part of our family even though, for now, we are far apart. His life and love will forever be attached to ours. Just like his body was tucked safely inside mine, his memory and legacy now fill that empty space, and it will until we are together again in Heaven.

Islah Alexandria’s Story

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