Nicole and Mark, from Ohio, share the story of their loved son, Noah Robert, whom they lost 18 weeks into their pregnancy in July 2013. Nicole went alone to her routine 18-week ultrasound appointment, and was deeply saddened to find out that their baby died. To this day, they were never given a reason why, by the medical community, as to how it could have happened.
This may be a difficult question to answer, but describe those hours, those minutes, that you found out that your loved son, Noah, had died.
Nicole: I think that it is safe to say we remember the big events that have happened in our lives. I remember every moment of my wedding, each delivery with my four beautiful children, the moment that I met my husband, and all others. However, the moment I learned about losing Noah, time seemed to have stopped. It was a normal day for me. I had just reached my 18 week point with Noah, and was going for my ultrasound. I had dropped my two oldest kids off at school and the two younger ones were at home with my mother-in-law. The moment I walked into my doctor's office, I was welcomed with warm smiles as always. I went back to my room, and waited for my doctor to come in. The moments I heard the words come out of my doctor's mouth, "I'm so sorry, there is no heartbeat," I didn't move. How could I have heard him correctly, I had no signs of any complications. My nurse Alayna has been with me for all of my kids and knew I needed Mark to be there with me. I don't remember dialing the phone or even talking with Mark. All I know is that he was all of a sudden holding me. We both sat there and cried together. I leaned into Mark and just didn't want to move. Seeing Mark cry next to me made me feel as I had lost our baby and hurt my husband and family. The moment I started to say, "I was sorry," to my husband, he held me harder and told me I didn't do this. The only thing I did was love our baby, and that God had plans for him. The rest of the appointment and day I can't even remember. I just remember being with my husband and feeling safe when he was holding me.
Mark: This has always been a difficult question for me. Nicole was going for her 18-week ultrasound to see Noah. At the time, we didn't know he was a little boy and he was just the baby. I knew about her appointment, but had to work that day so she went alone. This was nothing abnormal for us; we have four other children and by this point she go to an ultrasound or two without me. I remember my phone ringing while I was in my office. It was pretty rare that Nicole ever called me at work, normally we just text throughout the day. I answered the call sort of skeptical about why she was calling me. I said, "Hello," and the only thing on the other end I heard was, "I need you now." I don't think Nicole has ever said those words to me. She is the strongest person I know. She always handles whatever comes at her, and rarely ever asks for help. There was no more the conversation. That was it. I knew she was at her doctor's, but I didn't know why she needed me. I didn't care why she needed me. I knew my wife needed me so I dropped everything, and ran out of my office. I arrived at the doctor's office fifteen minutes from when Nicole called me. I don't remember driving or parking the car. I remember walking in, and Alayna the nurse came over to me and walked me through the door to Nicole's room. I walked into the room, and grabbed Nicole. She was crying, and I still didn't know why. I just wanted to hold her and be there for her. Our doctor and nurse were still in the room. I looked up at them while holding Nicole, when the doctor said to me, "Mark, I'm so sorry, but there is no heartbeat." There were no thoughts in my head. All I knew was that my baby had died. I couldn't move or think. I wanted time to stop so I could be there for Nicole and my baby. I hadn't let go of Nicole since I had walked into the room. I squeezed her now. There is no easy way to take that kind of information. I've known Nicole for 14 years and have been married to her for nine. I don't think I have ever cried in front of her in that time. This was the first time my wife had seen me cry. At that moment I wasn't Nicole's strong, stable husband. I was somebody who lost his baby. I remember looking down at Nicole, and just wanting to hold her and protect her from being hurt. How could I protect my wife when my child had just died? The rest of the day was not easy; in fact, much of it is a blur. I don't remember driving home to our kids, and barely remember discussing with Nicole how we were going to tell them. All I remember thinking was, "Why us?"
What has been (or was) the hardest part since losing Noah?
Nicole: The hardest part has definitely been not having a 100 percent positive answer about why we lost Noah. Nobody can ever prepare for what is going to happen, and then on top of that, not having answers hasn't helped. After having four successful pregnancies and deliveries for four amazing children, I never thought that we would be the family who would lose a child.
Mark: There is no easy part when you lose a child. Period. Nothing about it is easy and it takes a long time for the pain to slow down. I don't know if I can pinpoint the hardest thing, it's all really hard. If I had to choose the hardest part, I think it would have to the unknowing of why everything happened. I mean why can Nicole and I have four amazing, beautiful, smart, funny, healthy kids here living with us, and Noah can't be? It's not a greed or selfishness thing. It's just how come we can have all of these healthy kids who had healthy pregnancies with Nicole, and then all of a sudden Nicole has a baby died inside of her. I think on some level anyone who loses a child asks themselves, "What did I do wrong?" I'm not saying it's not as hard for the husbands, but I do believe our wives have the hardest position when they lose a child. While we, the husbands lose the child, our wives lose a part of themselves. I would trade positions with Nicole any day just so she didn't have to feel that pain.
Do you have any regrets, or things that looking back, you wish you would have done related to Noah, your spouse, your living children, or any others?
Nicole: I wish I could have one last day to enjoy Noah inside of me. While knowing something was going to happen, or saying I didn't enjoy my pregnancy would be wrong, I just wish I could have had one last day to focus on Noah. I'm grateful to have a loving husband and amazing kids that we were able to be open with and share with. The kids understood to a certain point, but I wish they could really understand. Not so they would have more pain, but so they could understand that mommy and daddy don't even know why their baby brother isn't here to play with them.
Mark: I don't believe in living my life with regrets. Everything we did after Noah's death was new for us. Sort of like when you bring home your first child for the very first time, everything is new and scary. Except this time, we didn't get the baby to ease our fears, we only life in front of us. I wish none of us had to ever feel this kind of pain, we have four kids who now know what death feels like. As a parent you try and shelter them from anything scary. And then when this sort of thing happens, they're exposed to everything you tried to keep away from them. I don't regret the decisions we made about being open with our kid. We wanted them to ask questions and know everything we knew; we weren't the only ones who lost a child, our other kids lost their sibling.
Any advice for bereaved parents, or anything that has been said or read that has helped you?
Nicole: Talk, share, love, and cry. It is so important for you to talk to your spouse. Share every feeling with them, whether you have said it before or not. Share it. Tell them why you feel this way. Make sure you remember to love each other. As simple as that sounds, it is easy to get wrapped up in all the emotions and forget to show your spouse and even your family, that you still love them. Don't be afraid to ask for help from others either. Nobody knows how you are feeling, and can't tell you how to grieve. Remind yourself you are not alone, and seek help from those who have experienced this loss.
Mark: I don't know if there is anything that can be said to other parents to help make them feel better. As many people say, "You are now a part of a club that nobody wanted a membership to." I encourage other couples to be open and talk about how they are feeling. If you're angry, tell your spouse you are and why. Cry with each other, I helps you grow closer together. I would also encourage other couples and even families to go to counseling. I can say I was pretty against counseling before Noah's death. Nicole and I have known each other for 14 years so I never saw a point in going to counseling. However, the moment after we learned about Noah, we both wanted to go so we could have some insight. I think it has really helped us grow even closer.
What is one thing you are grateful that you did?
Nicole: I'm grateful we had a funeral and buried Noah. While some have told us it is unconventional to do that, I'm grateful we treated our son as a son, and not a thing. It has made my grieving process easier in a way knowing that Noah is being honored and is safe.
Mark: I'm grateful I was there for my wife when she needed me most. I am known for suppressing my feelings, and letting them go away. I'm grateful I didn't do that to Nicole, and I was able to help support her and grow closer to her. One of the dads in a support group, Nicole and I went to, told everyone how when he learned about the death of his child he shut down and shut out his wife to deal with it alone. I'm not saying he was right or wrong to do that, but I'm grateful that wasn't how I decided to deal with this. I can't imagine going through this alone, let alone without the most important person to me by my side.
Describe one "gift" that you feel Noah has given you and/or your family.
Nicole: Noah has given us the gift of gratitude. No one ever thinks they are going to be the victim of a miscarriage and frankly, no one ever wants to be. Noah has reminded me to remind myself, what I am grateful for everyday. I'm never ungrateful for the life I have, but sometimes you have to remind yourself that things happen for a reason. Now I have a guardian angel watching me, and supporting me throughout my life.
Mark: Noah has given us more than just a gift. He has given us a new life. Though this isn't the life I had pictured for my family, experiencing the loss of a family member, Noah has given us the chance to grow closer and be there for each other. I'll never forget when I arrived at the doctor's office and I had learned about Noah. I moved in close to Nicole and she whispered in my ear, "I'm sorry". It was that moment that I realized she had blamed herself for Noah's death, and I couldn't imagine why she even thought that. There wasn't a split second that this was ever Nicole's fault. I can't even write that. This was God's plan. As sad and as painful as Noah's death has been, he has given me the chance to reflect and realize just how important the life around me is. The moment Nicole whispered in my ear, I knew that she blamed herself. I had to do everything I could, to love her and show her that she is in no way every to blame. To this day, Nicole is the strongest, most beautiful, most amazing mother I know. So while Noah's death has caused us a great deal of pain, it has also reminded me how amazing my wife and family living here with me are.
What has Noah taught you? And with that, how have you changed since Noah's death?
Nicole: I know I've changed a lot since Noah's death. I use to never be open about painful things, and now I feel I owe it to Noah to share his story and help others. Noah has taught me that you don't know everyone's story, and someone who may not look like they are hurting, or have lost, could be. Noah has reminded me that life happens quickly, and to enjoy every second of every day because before you know it, you could lose it.
Mark: Noah has taught me maybe more than I'll every actually know. He reminded me to appreciate the life I have in front of me because before you know it, everything can change for the rest of your life. There isn't a second of any day, that I don't think about my baby boy. While I may not get to see him and hold him every day, I know he's with me. Our whole family's life has changed since Noah's death. It brought us all together and reminded each of us to love and care for one another. While I often talk about how Nicole and I are feeling, I know our kids are hurting some days too. I'll never forget the day our oldest son, Luke, asked me the moment I walked through the door from work, if we could go see Noah. Nicole and I have never said no to the kids to go see Noah. Normally we drop whatever and take them. But Luke had waited for me to come home, and for us to go together. I didn't even walk into the house that day, I turned around and Luke and I drove to see Noah. It was that moment that I realized Noah had changed everyone's lives, not just mine and my wife's.