LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)--For a parent, there is nothing more devastating than losing a child. It's a loss many don't like to talk about. But a southern Indiana family is sharing their story with the hope you or someone you know will find comfort and support.
Megan Stofer was about 7 weeks along in her pregnancy when she miscarried back in 2013.
"I had to call my mom and tell her all in one breath we were pregnant and not pregnant at the same time," Megan said.
Megan and her husband, Ben, barely had time to process the news before they were pregnant again. Nine months later, they delivered their rainbow baby, a name given to babies born after their parents have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or infant. A beautiful baby boy named Beckett Ryan.
A couple years later, the Stofers decided to expand their family once again.
"We made it to the 12-week mark and we thought, okay, we're in the safe zone," Megan said.
They'd planned to reveal the gender the day of Megan's 20-week ultrasound. That's when the technician walked out of the room and came back with the doctor.
"I was already bawling and looking at him, saying there's nothing there. That was supposed to be a heartbeat," Megan said. "I got up off the table and crumpled into him. He had to hold me up."
It was a day of celebration hit with unimaginable grief.
"At that point of loss, they start asking you questions like, 'do you want to have a funeral? Do you want to do cremation? Do you want to do a burial? Do you have plots?'" Megan said.
Questions no mother is ever ready to answer about her child.
"We had to choose to start the induction medications that would end this child's life we'd dreamed about, that we had plans for," Megan said.
Megan and Ben returned to the hospital two days later on Valentine's Day.
"You say you're ready, you tell them you're ready but you're not ready," Ben said.
"That was probably the hardest thing because that was on our shoulders," Megan said.
The delivery was not easy.
"You feel like your body did something wrong, that you failed your baby," Megan said. "And so, I felt like I deserved the pain."
In the early morning of February 15, 2016, Megan delivered a baby boy named Connelly Harding.
"There was a lot of joy in that moment and heartbreak, too, but we were meeting our son," Megan smiled.
Megan and Ben spent the day holding their two children, rocking and reading to them and singing their favorite lullaby.
"Part of the lyrics are, 'I'll keep you safe and warm' and I felt like I hadn't done that. That was really difficult," Megan said.
"I asked for medication to help me sleep and I held him until I couldn't hold him anymore. Then, I called the nurse and they took him away," Megan said.
It's the moment that defined the rest of their lives.
"It's just like when you go to the hospital to have a baby. They put you in a wheelchair with your bag in your lap and send your husband to get the car, and you're leaving the maternity ward and everyone knows it. But you don't have a baby," Megan said.
Not a day goes by without the memory of Connelly.
"Losing a child. There's no end to that grief," Megan said.
It's a pain felt by millions of parents, but one, not all feel comfortable talking about.
"Losing a baby in utero is a gray area," Megan said.
During Megan and Ben's journey, they found a great need for more support groups for pregnancy and infant loss.
"It was just finding other moms who'd been through it," she said.
They helped create a private Facebook group for parents to share their grief during the bad days and the best.
"We do have two rainbow babies," Megan smiled.
Adelaide Rose was born two months ago.
"Life is joyful right now. We're happy. We smile and laugh but there is a constant stream of thought of our son that isn't here with us at all time. There is grief and sadness," Megan said.
"And guilt. Guilty for being happy that you have a brand new baby and you've lost your other one. You don't want to feel like you're replacing the love," Ben said.
"He's part of our family. Just because he's not here doesn't change that fact," Megan said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a similar grief over a lost pregnancy or baby, you can contact Megan and a group of other mother's by emailing them at email@example.com. They monitor emails daily and can provide you with a list of resources for support.
Resources: Know the facts
Close to half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/miscarriage/
Stillbirth occurs in 1 out of 160 pregnancies in the United States. Since 2003, the stillbirth rate has remained at about 26,000 stillbirths each year. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/stillbirth/topicinfo/Pages/how-common.aspx
The loss of a baby. https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/the-loss-of-a-baby.aspx
Infant death: Grief and the path to remembrance https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/infant-death/art-20046904
Local Group Meetings
“The Compassionate Friends: Ohio River Valley Chapter,” details on location and meeting times can be found on their Facebook Page.
“Hosparus Grief Counseling Center at Louisville,” A professionally facilitated group for loss parents within 2 years of their loss. This group meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month. Call (502) 456-5451 to register, no fees.
Religious Bible Studies and Devotionals
'Anchored, A Bible Study for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss' by Erin Cushman. This book also allows for online, group Bible study options as well as a variety of Facebook support groups.
'365 Days of Hope' – Daily Devotional
'Grieving the Child I Never Knew, A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child' by Kathe Wunnenberg
Loss Related Books
'Naming the Child, Hope-Filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death' by Jenny Schroedel
'Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back' by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent
General Grief Related Books
'Permission to Mourn, A New Way to Do Grief.' by Tom Zuba.
Stillbirthday.com - This website provides a wealth of support as well as additional links that may help your specific situation.
Facesofloss.com - Read other’s stories. This site also allows you to look for stories by location, therefore helping connect you to local moms.
Facebook Support Groups – Several Facebook groups are “secret/closed,” in order to protect the stories of those within the group. Please let us know if you’d like help joining any of them.
HOPE: Pregnancy Loss Support
A Bed for our Hearts
Hope Babies/Hope Mommies Community
Missing Pieces of Our Hearts
Healing Hearts Comfort Kit from Earth Mama, Angel Baby Organics Molly Bears. https://mollybears.org/ - create stuffed bears that match the weight of your baby, as a source of comfort.
My Forever Child. https://myforeverchild.com/ Handcrafted and personalized jewelry and keepsakes.