KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
November 30, 2022
By Natalie Cook Clark
The loss of a baby changes a family forever. These Katy families grieve, love and honor the child they will never know and share lessons learned through their experiences that impact the holidays.
Katy Families find ways to honor lost babies during the holidays. Photo credit: Erica Bridgewater
“You go through these tough times and you wonder why?” says Shayna Meier, a Katy mom to a 6-year-old and 8-month-old daughters, but also a mom to two angel babies. The loss of a baby is crippling, and any loss is often times felt stronger around the holidays for many families.
A Statistic No One Wants
Statistics show that Shayna and other families are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control one in four women will experience a miscarriage in their life. One in 100 pregnancies end with a stillbirth, that is described as the loss of a baby 20 weeks or later in the gestation stage. Each year roughly 4.1 million infants die between birth and one year. The reasons vary from preterm deliver, pregnancy complications, injury, and sudden infant death syndrome. Such loss is unimaginable to comprehend unless you’re one of the statistics that have experienced it.
While many Katy families still find themselves surrounded by grief, many have been blessed to go on after a loss and find life and comfort in a “rainbow baby.” A rainbow baby is the name associated with a healthy baby born after a loss from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss.
The path to try again can be terrifying and full of anxiety. However, some find that the lessons learned from that process can translate into a strength that brings greater meaning to living.
Finding their Missing Piece
“It took us a while to decide to try again,” says Dana Coleman. “I wanted to try again right away. Husband wanted to wait.” The Colemans delivered their son William David stillborn at 21 weeks in September of 2019.
“During the freeze we were stuck in the house and felt like something was missing,” says Dana. “We Started talking to doctors to see if this was possible and we were told yes.”
Dana experienced two early miscarriages before she lost William David. Her next pregnancy was full of anxiety as she tried her best to enjoy it.
“You have the excitement and then you think here we go again,” explains Dana. “The conversations are different even with doctors because they know what could happen.”
With her fourth try for a baby, she didn’t have a gender reveal but did have a baby shower at 31 weeks. Even then she wondered if she would make it to the shower.
William Everett was born June 21, 2022 and even then, Dana says the stress and anxiety doesn’t fully stop.
“My experiences have given me more patience,” says Dana. “I had to be patient and wait for him to get her in the right time, then I had to wait for him to come home from NICU.”
Dana also believes it is important to talk about William David as a way to help others.
"I believe when we share our stories of loss and rainbow babies, we make those mommas feel less alone," she says.
An Emotional Season of Blessings
The holidays often bring a lot of emotions to families who have experienced loss. These emotions can be both good and bad.
“This honestly might be the most emotional holiday season we’ve had in our lives,” says Erica Bridgewater. “We spent 4 years trying to start our family, and to finally have a Christmas as a family of three all these years later is the ultimate blessing.”
Erica and Cory Bridgewater started trying for a baby shortly after they were married in 2018. After pursuing IVF they ended up with two embryos and transferred one in 2019.
“We jokingly called him Petri due to the IVF cycle, but we had really named him Graham Taylor,” says Erica. “We made it through all of the important milestones with him – hearing a heartbeat, making it out of the first trimester, and then found out we lost him at our 16-week appointment.”
The Bridgewaters didn’t give up and say they had “tunnel vision” about wanting a child. After three more cycles plus a “test cycle” they eventually found their rainbow baby in their last viable embryo.
“The experience with Graham certainly prevented us from celebrating any of the milestones through Maddox’s IVF cycle too much – there was a lot of cautious optimism, but it was hard to really feel like we were finally going to have a baby until he was around 16 weeks – we didn’t even feel confident enough to make our announcement post until we were 20 weeks,” says Erica.
Like many families who have experienced such loss, the Bridgewaters are forever changed by their experience.
“I think the journey to get here will certainly have an impact on how we go about raising him, and in a weird way, the level of love that he is getting,” explains Erica. “Not to say that we wouldn’t have given Graham the same level of love, but I think this journey has just made us super appreciative of every second we have with Maddox in a way that we didn’t realize was possible.” Finding Perspective
Shayna and Zach Meier lost their first baby, Aiden Dean in February 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
“The world shut down, so no one noticed that I was gone,” says Shayna, who found comfort in her sister who had a stillborn the year before.
The Meiers had one healthy daughter, Ellie Jo before losing their son at 23 weeks, but they tried again still wanting to grow their family. Then they lost their third baby, “Baby Z” in April 2021.
“I just kept asking God, how could you let this happen again?” recalls Shayna, but they didn’t give up.
“I took my pregnancy one day at a time,” says Shayna. “It’s important to find what distracts you and use it, but mostly my anxiety gave me perspective on what was important.”
Zoe Lu was born on March 11, 2022 and is now 8 months old. Even though Shayna was a mom before she experienced her first loss, she says her experiences have greatly impacted how she feels as a parent.
“The level that I want to be a good mom increases,” says Shayna. “The only thing that lives on is our legacy and we’ve become less materialistic.”
Honoring those Lost in Holiday Traditions
Like so many Katy families, these families are finding ways to honor their lost children throughout the holidays and their lives.
“William David has a small stocking hung by the rest with his initials on it,” says Dana. “We also release butterflies on the anniversary of his loss and we always let each other know when we see a butterfly.”
Photo credit: Erica Bridgewater
The Bridgewaters also have a stocking for Graham as well as a special ornament. After his loss they took a trip to Wimberley and they plan to continue to go each year to enjoy the quiet and take a break to honor him.
“I’ve gone through these horrible experiences I knew that I had to use it somehow for good,” says Shayna. She found comfort in the Hope Mommies Houston Chapter and enjoys helping other families who are walking the same journey as her own.
To Katy Moms Currently in their ‘Storm’
As the stats show, families are not alone in baby loss, but it’s easy to feel isolated when going through such an experience.
“The only advice we have is to take things one step at a time, and don’t rush things,” says Erica. “Do each step of your journey when you feel ready to.”
“For couples that are going to go through IVF, I’d say to do whatever the doctor says – whether it incurs some additional out-of-pocket expense or not,” says Erica. “We skipped some things that we saw as ‘optional’ during our first couple of cycles, and in hindsight, we wished that we hadn’t.”
The important thing for families to know is that they aren’t alone and that life can have purpose through tragedy.
“I know family and friends told us lots of things, but I wasn’t ready to hear it,” says Dana. “Even the best advice you’re not ready for immediately, but with time you’ll grow as a stronger person. Find how you can take a dark situation and bring life purpose.”
Shayna feels blessed to have her rainbow baby, but stresses that some families don’t get theirs or are currently in a place where they aren’t ready as they are in their “storm” and need to grieve.
“My experience gave me such a new outlook on life,” says Shayna. “It’s so important, especially around the holidays to be present. What a blessing it is to be alive!”
NATALIE COOK CLARK is the editor/writer with Katy Magazine. She delivered a perfect little girl, Aliena in 2015. Sadly, she was stillborn in the third trimester. Clark loves living in Katy with her husband of 15 years, daughter, and rainbow baby boy. She still and always will say she's a mom to three.