Couple navigates emotions and life after infant loss
Infant loss leaves a large, empty space and is one of the most painful things that can happen to a family. Dede and Kyle are learning that it takes a long time to heal this space, but they are slowing moving through their grief to healing.
April 25, 2023, will be a day that Dede and Kyle will always remember and celebrate. It was the day they finally became parents after a seven-year fertility journey to bring a child into the world. On that day, their daughter Stella Roxann was born one day shy of 24 weeks gestation, weighing just barely over a pound.
After a 19-day battle to survive in the NICU, Stella did not make it. Coping with infant loss is a daily struggle for Dede and Kyle, a reminder that life can be short and to always make the most of it. “Every time we see a butterfly, we know it’s our girl reminding us that she is with us always. She will forever be our guardian angel.”
Premature rupture of the amniotic sac can happen at any point in a pregnancy
Dede had had a normal pregnancy up to when Stella decided to make her way into the world. Every ultrasound indicated perfection with their growing baby. Her blood work was always normal. No problems were seen with her uterus or cervix. But at almost 24 weeks, Dede’s water broke and soon after Stella was born very prematurely.
About 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely in the United States, and about of third of these are due to preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM, when the amniotic sac surrounding a baby breaks before week 37 of pregnancy. The cause of PPROM is often unknown and there is no way to stop this from happening in most pregnancies. Babies born between 20 and 26 weeks, like Stella, have a chance of surviving outside the womb, but these “micro-preemies” typically have trouble breathing since the lungs are last to develop fully.
At a point where Dede and Kyle should have been putting the final touches on a nursery and looking forward to her final trimester of pregnancy, they were instead living in the NICU, launched onto a tumultuous roller coaster ride as their sweet Stella fought for her life. The couple work as the media directors at Christian World Church in Lake Charles, and their church family immediately launched into action providing meals, prayers, and emotional support over the next two and a half weeks.
But because Stella was so premature, her lungs were just too underdeveloped to survive. “She was perfect in every way,” says Dede, “and we were so blessed to have her here with us for those 19 days on earth.”
Years of infertility has led only to disappointment and loss
Dede was no stranger to loss even before losing Stella. After years of infertility, she had finally gotten pregnant in 2021 after an intrauterine insemination, or IUI, with Dr. John Storment at Fertility Answers. “It was the first positive pregnancy test I had ever gotten,” says Dede, “and I can’t even describe how incredible that felt.” But at their first ultrasound, the baby had a very low heartbeat, and at the 8-week ultrasound their sweet baby had grown its angel wings. “Lauren at the Fertility Answers Lafayette location was our ultrasound tech that day, and I am so thankful for her kind spirit.”
The couple eventually moved on to in vitro fertilization at the recommendation of Dr. Storment. Their egg retrieval in August of 2022 yielded 5 PGT normal embryos and they were thrilled. “We did our first transfer in October 2022 and, unfortunately, it was unsuccessful,” says Dede. They decided to go ahead with another transfer in November 2022 and this time the embryo stuck. “Finally being able to announce that we were pregnant to all of our family and friends was the best feeling,” says Dede. But unfortunately, this embryo was baby Stella, born at 24 weeks and unable to survive.
After taking time to heal, they feel ready to try again soon
Navigating feelings and emotions after the loss of a pregnancy or baby can be difficult. The grief will always be there, but healing comes only with the passage of time. “Although we don’t understand why this had to be a part of our story, we know God’s plans are better than ours,” says Dede. “We are holding onto the promise of seeing Stella again in heaven one day.”
It’s hard for Dede and Kyle to think about next steps after infant loss, but they are ready to grow their family. “Our medical team has been incredible. Even though there is no answer to why my water broke early, our team has a plan of action for when I get pregnant again, which gives us some peace.”
They are thankful for the three embryos they have cryopreserved and are planning another embryo transfer in early 2024 after taking some time to heal. “We will forever have the title ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ thanks to sweet Stella, but our dream to have a baby to take care of here on earth is what our hearts desire.”