It was April 12th, 2012. I had just clocked out from my job as a public health nurse at the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department. I was thirty weeks pregnant, hands outstretched looking up at the sun, and on my way to an 11:30 a.m. appointment with my obstetrician. In two months, my husband and I would meet our second son. What a wonderful day!
“Everything is going perfect,” the doctor said.
Good, I thought to myself as he measured my stomach to get fundal height.
“You’ve had no complications, you’re measuring right on schedule—you are a ‘no-problem’ pregnancy.”
He picked up the Doppler and placed it on my stomach. I was alone at my thirty-week checkup because, after all, this was routine. We had our first-born son, safe and sound at home, probably eating lunch. There was no need to bring my husband along to every check-up.
“Let me go grab another Doppler,” the doctor said.
Lying there, I did not feel too anxious until he went to get another Doppler to check for baby Leo’s heartbeat.
“Have you been feeling this baby move?” he said. This was the first time anyone in the office had asked me the question.
“I think so. I don’t think he’s too active, but I have felt him move,” I said.
“It doesn’t look good. We will send you over to get an ultrasound” were the doctor’s last words to me.
As I gathered my things and headed to the front office, I kept myself together enough to message my husband to meet me at the nearest hospital, where he is also a registered nurse.
I don’t remember how I got there. When my husband found me in the parking lot, my car door was half open and I was forehead to the steering wheel, sobbing.
We made our way up to the ultrasound room, where were told that our second son, Leo, was no longer alive.
How could this happen to me? I am a registered nurse with an office, where I teach prenatal women all there is to expect about pregnancy and life with a new baby. How did I lose mine? How could I be happy again? How was I going to go on without our little baby?
That night is when I felt a deep urge to allow this never to happen to a family that I knew.
Two days later, on April 14th, 2012, our Leo was born, still, in a room just down the hall from where his big brother was born alive just a year and two months before. He was little, but perfect to me.
I always say I’ve done the hardest task I will ever have to do in my life. That was to leave Leo behind and walk out into the world where everything seemed to return to normal so fast and he seemed, at that moment, forgotten.
It was very soon that I realized the generosity and sincere kindness of people. It was those people that today help me have a voice in my community to help prevent stillbirth.
At the local health department, where I was a nurse, the “Count the Kicks” campaign has been implemented. Each expecting mother that is brought into the clinic is taught about kick-counting. I have had the privilege to teach the nurses at all four county health departments in my community.
I believe that Leo was a gift—a gift for me to see life’s bigger picture. He gave our family a purpose deeper than we ever could have had without him. We also realize more each day that we do not live our life without our second son. He has taught me more about gratitude than anyone or anything ever could have. I am thankful for our Leo, our second son who taught me to be thankful for each day that I am given.
Leo Blue Bernard Gripshover ~ April 14th, 2012