I’m so honored again to share with you another amazing loss Mom. A few days before Averie’s 2nd Birthday, Kay messaged me on Instagram an early birthday wish for Averie. I can’t tell you how much that made my day and even my week. She’s so incredibly thoughtful and I hope her story moves you!
Name – Kay Kremer
Angel baby name – Sullivan Ryan Kremer
Type of loss – Sullivan was stillborn with three cord knots and a triple nuchal cord at 32 weeks.
Home state – Originally from Iowa, but lives in Missouri.
Best advice you’ve received – “Don’t sweat the small things.”
Favorite place you’ve ever visited- My favorite place to visit is the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. I have been going since I was a baby. My Grandad was from there and we have family there.
Biggest accomplishment – My biggest accomplishment has been becoming a mother and giving birth to all of my babies (my Sunshine- Layla, my Angel- Sullivan and my Rainbow- Adler). Surviving Pregnancy After Loss has been a big accomplishment for me. It was scary all the way through.
Ways you honor your angel –We honor Sullivan as a family by always including his picture in our family photos. We have his pictures throughout our home and he is apart of his brother’s nursery. His baby brother shares his name as his middle name. We celebrate his birthday and remember his due date. We do balloon releases and candlelight remembrance ceremonies. We have had t-shirts made with his name on them. We place special ornaments on the tree at Christmas. We have donated money in his name. We talk about him and share him with others when we can. I have his name, prints, birth date and time tattooed on my arm. His Daddy has his initials tattooed on his chest. His big sister includes him in all her family drawings and tells him she loves him all the time. I have dedicated my social media pages to him. I love sharing him. I love saying his name and I love hearing his name spoken by others.
Describe yourself in 4 words – Caring, Thoughtful, Perfectionist, Worrier
What food you’ve never tried and why – I have never tried Indian food and I’m not really sure why. We have just never had the opportunity to try it and we are creatures of habit when it comes to eating out and end up at the same places!
What inspires you – Other people inspire me. Their struggles, honesty and how they overcome their everyday challenges. People’s honesty about life and death inspires me most.
My name is Kay Kremer. I am a wife and Mom of three beautiful children. My Sunshine (Layla) is 5 years old, my Angel (Sullivan) would be almost 2 years old and our Rainbow (Adler) is 3 weeks old.
Sullivan was a surprise pregnancy. We weren’t actively trying, but we weren’t “not” trying either. I had no idea I was pregnant until my missed period, which was always on time. When I found out I was pregnant it felt like a sign from God. My whole family had just suffered the loss of my 14 year old second cousin Drake to a freak accident on Christmas Eve that year. We were all in shock and intensely grieving. Sullivan’s pregnancy brought our family a little hope.
Sullivan’s pregnancy was pretty normal and pretty standard. My husband, Layla and I would all go to his appointments together and eagerly listen to his heart beat. Aside from a VERY rough first trimester of constant nausea and fatigue, I was healthy and he was healthy. Layla (3 years old at the time), was excited about becoming a big sister. Although, things with the pregnancy were going smoothly, around my second trimester I started noticing my mood changing. I took note of it, but mostly chalked it up to pregnancy hormones and this being a different pregnancy. What I was experiencing was early signs of antepartum depression. I was no stranger to depression. I have struggled with it and anxiety for years. I was not on medication and hoped I wouldn’t have to be, but after talking to my doctor, I was considering treatment options. Little did I know that the little bit of depression I was experiencing was going to be the least of my concerns.
I was eating the healthiest foods I could find and I placed myself into an out patient therapy group that I was going to attend until the end of my pregnancy. I kept wondering why this pregnancy was so HARD. Regardless, I kept plugging away. I couldn’t wait for my first son to arrive! I was on a mission to get my house and his nursery in perfect order far in advance so I could sit, relax and enjoy the remainder of my pregnancy. Sullivan’s room was ready and perfect by 30 weeks. My sister has 2 boys and she gave me 3 tubs full of 0-12 month old boy clothes. I was set and Sullivan was set. All the clothes were ready for him in the closet. We ordered special Big Sister books to read to Layla and I purchased a few special items for Sullivan that I couldn’t resist. You try to do everything right and you prepare and prepare, but nothing prepares you for the loss of a child.
It was a Wednesday and I was at my 31 week check up. The doctor and I spoke about my therapy group that would be starting that Friday. Sullivan’s heart beat was normal and strong. I was measuring a little small, but I measured small with my daughter and she came out fine. We didn’t seem too concerned, but my doctor scheduled me a scan anyway. Unfortunately, that scan was scheduled too late. 5 days after my checkup my worst nightmare began.
It all started on a late Sunday afternoon while I was watching movies on my bed and just trying to relax and rest, while my husband was out with my daughter. What happened that day wasn’t anything that raised any red flags at the time. However, after losing Sullivan and researching what happened to him, I later found out it was a sign of him being in distress. This is the part that kills me, this is the part I wish I had known, this is the part I feel most guilty about, this is the part I hate reliving……….This is the part that makes me think, if I had only known maybe he would still be alive, maybe they could have saved him.
As I lay there watching movies he started moving and kicking (something totally normal), but what I thought was just really hard strong kicks that jolted me a bit (thinking he’s getting bigger and stronger) was really him having hyperactivity due to distress. I continued to go about my evening and honestly I didn’t notice anything wrong. I was a bit distracted the next morning. We had to wake up early and my husband and daughter had to drive me to my therapy session. We were rushed and I was a little anxious. It was only my second session. I attended my session which was about three hours long. I remember popping a peppermint, which I did regularly throughout my pregnancy. It was odd, but I sat there and thought (‘huh, I don’t think he has moved in awhile”). I left my session and got in the car with my husband and daughter. My husband had to get back to work so he went through a drive thru and we headed to his work, but I could not shake the eerie feeling I had. I told my husband I hadn’t felt Sullivan move in awhile and I was really worried. Now, this was something I would say every once in awhile because I am a huge worrier and of course nothing was ever wrong, so my husband just told me I was worrying too much again and that he was sure the baby was fine. I told him that THIS was different. He called the doctor for me and they told him to take me to Labor and Delivery. I took one bite of my lunch and immediately felt sick. I KNEW something was gravely wrong. I pushed on my belly and felt him, but he did not push back. I don’t know if it was the beginning of shock or the fear I began to feel, but I still somehow had a glimmer of hope that he was going to be ok.
The drive to the doctor takes about 15 to 20 minutes depending on traffic. That day it felt like an eternity. I prayed and prayed and prayed, but I had this overwhelming feeling that he was gone. It seemed like it took forever to get into the exam room. The nurse looked for his heart beat on the Doppler. Nothing. She told us not to worry; that sometimes where the baby is located you can’t pick it up, but I knew from all of our previous appointments that she should be picking it up. There was never a time the doctor failed to find his heart beat. Another nurse came in to help – again, nothing. Eventually, they brought the sonogram. I will never forget that moment when my husband, my 4 year old daughter and I saw Sullivan on the sonogram screen. He was there, but he wasn’t moving and the nurse said those awful words, “I’m sorry, there is no heart beat.” My daughter had been there at every appointment to hear the glorious life of her first baby brother and she was there when there was deafening silence. My husband started to get physically ill, the nurse quickly took my innocent 4 year old out of the room and I lay there on the bed just silent. I had never felt such shock before in my life. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was in a dream and this couldn’t be real.
My doctor arrived to confirm everything that happened. I called my parents who luckily were on their way to Kansas City from Iowa to drop off my nephews at my sister’s. Over heavy tears and whaling I told them that he died. My baby died. He’s gone. We don’t know why he died, but he’s dead. My husband called his parents and they too rushed from Iowa to come be with us. They wheeled me down the hallway to the farthest room on the Labor and Delivery floor. They went over all of our options and gave us time alone. The nurses played with my daughter the whole time keeping her busy and distracted. Thank God for the sweet innocence of a 4 year old. She didn’t understand anything that was happening. We were in so much shock we figured we would keep it that way and after all of it was over share with her what happened. We had no idea how we were going to do that, but luckily we had some help from the hospital’s bereavement nurse. Layla went to stay with friends while we prepared for an induction. (To this day I regret that she never got to see or hold her baby brother. She had just turned 4 a couple weeks before and we weren’t sure she was old enough to handle it. We could barely handle it. It breaks my heart.)
I didn’t think things could get much worse that night, but it did. There was a tornado warning and we had to postpone my pitocin and take shelter. Luckily, they put me in the nurse’s locker room away from all the other Moms who were having healthy living babies. I just wanted to get his birth over with. My body wouldn’t stop shaking. I was terrified. I didn’t know how he died. I was afraid it was my fault. I didn’t know what to expect or what I would see.
Labor took hours, but they made me as comfortable as they could. At 2:57am on July 7th, 2015, my perfect dark haired 2 lb 12 oz, 16.5 in long, 32 week baby boy was born. He was beautiful. He had three true knots in his cord and a triple nuchal cord. It was so quiet in that room. My doctor unwrapped the nuchal cord and they placed him in my arms. They brought in a warming table and one of the nurses ever so gently cleaned him, just as if he was alive. They wrapped him in blankets and we held, kissed and admired him. The nursing staff was amazing and very helpful. My parents, my husband’s parents and my two sisters got to hold and kiss their perfect stillborn grandson and nephew. We got to be with him for 14 hours before we knew it was time to say goodbye. Sullivan’s body started to change and I couldn’t bear watching my sweet boy deteriorate further. His body was cold. It’s painful kissing a cold lifeless body of a loved one. My heart literally shattered the moment the nurse took Sullivan from my arms for the last time and walked out of the room.
We were lucky that our hospital had a bereavement nurse and stillbirth plan. They led us through this nightmare so gracefully. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep came and took the most beautiful pictures of Sullivan. The hospital took hand and foot prints, they took a foot mold, and they trimmed his hair and put it all in a special memory box. We kept all his hats he wore and the blankets he was wrapped in. I carried those blankets with me for days after we let him go. One year and five months later I still continue to sleep with one of his blankets every night.
I didn’t want to leave the room he was born in. I felt close to him there even if he was gone. I walked down the hall of the hospital with my family surrounding me and holding me up as I walked past happy families celebrating the live births of their perfect babies. I left a shattered and destroyed soul. I left a completely different person. I left with an empty womb and empty arms.
We had a beautiful funeral and were lucky to be surrounded by the most loving and supportive family, friends and church community. They took care of us for two months after Sullivan’s death, bringing dinners several nights a week. His room is still as I had left it a year and five months ago except for all the added gifts and memorabilia. It’s now waiting to be filled and shared with his baby brother. We plan on keeping things mostly the same. We see it as a way of keeping Sullivan’s memory alive, but also having siblings share a space just as they would if Sullivan had lived. Not a second goes by that I don’t think about my precious Sullivan.
I’ve been plagued by triggers. To help me through the triggers and grief I’ve been seeing a therapist and have surrounded myself with support groups and loved ones who really care. We waited a whole year before trying for another baby. I needed time to figure out this thing they call “grief,” and my “new normal.” Pregnancy after loss is a whole other story. It’s hard, terrifying and challenging. Regardless of the constant struggle it is totally worth it. I continually struggled with the fear of another loss, but carried hope that our second baby boy would arrive safe, healthy and alive. We took extra protective measures and had been in contact with an amazing doctor named Dr. Collins who specializes in umbilical cord accidents. With his help, the cooperation of our OB and our high risk doctor we successfully made it through. Adler was born healthy and perfect at 37 weeks and 5 days. It was the longest 9 months of my life and it is unbelievable we made it through.
I’m not an expert and I don’t claim to have anything wise to say, but what I do want to share with other grieving parents is this…………..
Surround yourself with loved ones who are willing to support you no matter what and end relationships that are not supportive and only add to your pain and grief. Protect your broken heart however you see fit. There is no timeline on grief. We will all grieve differently. Be patient with yourself and give yourself lots of grace. Don’t be afraid to share your baby/babies. Don’t be afraid of making someone uncomfortable by sharing your baby/babies. We are constantly uncomfortable without our babies and they only have to be uncomfortable for a moment. Take all the time you need and know that all of those thoughts involving anger and jealousy are normal. Don’t feel guilty for having them because they are normal. You are not alone. You will survive this.
-Connect With Kay-