Heather and I met through the RESOLVE support group for miscarriage and loss. Everyone will face adversity, that is inevitable. It is how we chose to respond to that adversity that sets the course for our future and potentially the future of countless others. The immeasurable sorrow of losing a pregnancy or infant can either consume you or be channeled into something remarkable. Heather has taken the grief that her and her family experienced and transformed it into something incredibly beneficial for others going through loss.
On August 17, 2009 Kennedy Milan Wilson was born silently into this world. After 25 hours of labor our beautiful, perfect, 5 pound baby girl was born. I was 35 weeks pregnant when I delivered her. I can vividly recall the events leading up to that day. I can remember not feeling movement in my belly and calling my husband who was working an overnight shift at the fire-station. He reassured me that everything was fine and that he was on his way home to get his baby-girl to kick for her daddy. Demitri always had a way with Kennedy; he was always able to get her to move by talking to my belly. She loved the sound of her daddy’s voice. As soon as he came home he started talking to my belly with such hope in his voice. When she didn’t move he went to the kitchen and grabbed the ol’ safety orange juice… still no movement! So we called our doctor who instructed us to head straight to the hospital as a precautionary measure. I prayed so hard in the shower as I prepared to go to the hospital. With tears in my eyes I asked God to protect my babygirl, to make sure she was okay. I wanted to believe that she was just sleeping and our trip to the hospital just be a quick hook up to the heart monitor to tell us she was doing great and ready for her delivery the next week.
We drove to the hospital to face the unknown. My youngest sister, Tiffany was with us, she and Demitri were so positive, they were certain that she was just fine. In my mind as I prepared to head to the hospital I was not totally convinced that everything was okay, I guess it was my mommy instinct. I’d have to admit my pregnancy wasn’t the easiest pregnancy I had morning, afternoon, and night sickness and discovered that I also had preeclampsia, so I was being monitored very closely. In fact I was having non-stress test performed every other day and had my last one less than 48 hours before. The test results showed that she was doing great and there were no concerns.
Although I was on bed rest for the most part I was doing well and enjoying my pregnancy. Kennedy was very blessed and loved, she still is; she is so loved that she had three baby showers, one in Rhode Island, and two here in Virginia. With all of the love, support, and gifts we were able to set up Kennedy’s nursery. All of her clothes were washed in dreft and put in her white wardrobe. The theme of the nursery was set up so eloquent; the theme was butterflies and the colors were pink, white, and beige. Everything was perfect, all of the hopes and dreams we had to watch this little girl grow up in this room kept our hearts full of wonder. Her brother, Little Demitri had been an only child for 13 years so you can imagine the excitement he was feeling to finally have a sibling. Although I did not give birth to him he is my son (we don’t use the term “step child” in our house) and I love him like my own. Our family was about to grow and we could not be more happy and full of anticipation.
Fast forward to the short 15 minute drive to the hospital that seemed like an eternity. As we arrived we went directly to the maternity floor and were immediately hooked up to the Fetal Doppler heart monitor machine. One by one nurses walked in and out of our room; at times changing the machine to make sure it was working properly. My sister and husband still remained optimistic and hopeful, and me I was still silently praying and somewhat numb to everything that was happening around me. After about an hour of them trying to find her heart beat they sent in a doctor. It was the on call doctor, I had never met her before but she was about to deliver the worst news any parent could bear to hear. She was a total stranger to us and in a calm voice she looked at us and uttered the words, “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that unfortunately there is no heartbeat, your daughter has passed away.”
She then said I will give you two a moment to digest this information and will be here to talk to you when you are ready. She left quietly, I sobbed uncontrollably, and my husband lost it he threw his cell phone across the room, tossed the chairs, and broke down crying like I have never witnessed him cry before. He went through every emotion possible and it was awful to watch. It was so unbearable to watch him grieve for his baby girl. I could do nothing but cry, I sat there in disbelief. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, all I could do was cry. The silence and pain was truly unbearable. The doctors came in soon after and then informed me that not only had my baby died but I had to deliver her. Kennedy was my first child so I had no clue what to expect in regards delivery, let alone the delivery of a deceased baby. What would she look like? What happens next? How will I go on without her? These were just a few thoughts that ran through my head. The doctors prepped me and I went into active labor.
The first person I called was my mother, she knew what happened as my sister had already briefed her. When she handed me the phone I had no words and she had very few herself. I remember her encouraging me to stay calm and that she was on her way. And by on her way she meant she was leaving from Rhode Island and would be there in 10 hours. I thought I would deliver her before my parents arrived but I didn’t. My parents were able to be there for the birth of their granddaughter. After 25 hours of brutal labor (in which my blood pressure skyrocketed so high that the doctors were concerned that I might have a stroke), I delivered my daughter.
Kennedy came out in just two pushes, she was perfect, she was mine, and I loved her so much. She was everything I prayed for. My doctor placed her in my arms and I held her and cried so hard that it hurt. It was hard to breath I was overcome by her beauty and overcome with emotion at the same time. I gazed into her beautiful brown eyes and kissed her. I wanted this to all be a bad dream; this was not how our story was supposed to end. Instead of planning her future we had to plan her funeral. We were told that Kennedy died from Placenta Abruption, but that diagnosis didn’t make it hurt any less, the pain was still there, and a part of me had died with my baby.
Unfortunately I was too sick to help with the funeral planning so instead my mother and my husband made all the final arrangements. One thing that stuck out to me was when my mother was trying to find the perfect dress to put her granddaughter to rest in it was merely impossible. My mother could not find a gown that fit my angel. She searched high and low and even tried doll clothing which was also too big for her. My mom did the best she could to honor her granddaughter and found a dress that was big on her but the smallest and most appropriate white dress and bonnet she could find.
Since this tragedy my husband and I have always wanted to honor Kennedy but never knew how we would honor her. It wasn’t until 2016 that the idea of making angel gowns and helping grieving families that knew our pain became the vision and focus of honoring Kennedy. This vision has now come to be a reality and we are now making angel gowns and other garments for angel babies, and helping families who have suffered the loss of a child, before, during, or shortly after birth. These beautiful gowns are made from donated wedding gowns. In addition Kennedy’s Angel Gowns helps families find resources and works to bring awareness to infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss.
I didn’t think I’d ever survive this tragedy and feeling of emptiness, but through Kennedy’s Angel Gowns I’ve discovered life again and it has truly helped my healing process. Each gown is sewn with love and I pray over each gown and for the bereaved families as well. By dedicating myself to sewing these angel gowns and helping others in their time of grief I’m keeping Kennedy’s memory alive.
We now have a rainbow baby, Ryleigh Milan Wilson who was born on 12/18/10, her middle name was passed down by her older sister who continues to watch over her and our family daily. A “Rainbow Baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillborn, neonatal death or infant loss. A beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better.
When we see a butterfly we know that Kennedy is near and it comforts us. These butterflies tend to appear when we need her most or when we are reaching milestones and for that I am truly thankful. Kennedy Milan Wilson, we will never forget you and will continue to honor and cherish your memory forever!
If you want to learn more about Kennedy’s Angel gowns here’s where you can check out the incredible work they are doing.
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