The Faces of Pregnancy and Infant Loss – We Are 1 in 4 (Part Two)

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October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

We are women who have lost a baby.

We are that 1 in 4.

We are brave.

We have survived the unimaginable.

We will never forget.

We will raise awareness.

We will stand with other loss parents.

We will experience joy again.

We will say their name.

We will be their voice.


Here are four local mothers who have experienced infant loss. I am one of them. I, along with these three other mothers, have found ways to honor our children who we no longer can hold in our arms, while raising, and carrying our other children. We have experienced the unimaginable and in the past few years have also been able to experience the joy of having another child or children following our son’s deaths. These are our stories…


Preston John & Angela

Preston John was our first born child. He was born on May 15, 2014. Preston was an extremely happy baby, always smiling, laughing, alert from the day he was born. He would take everything surrounding him in, in awe of the world. It continued that way for the next 4 and a half months-always smiling, observing, and ever-so-happy. 

On September 30th, 2014, Preston stopped breathing in his sleep. He was rushed by the Penn Hills EMT to Forbes Hospital. From Forbes he was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Together, the collective efforts of all involved helped to provide one tragically beautiful week with Preston that we otherwise would not have had. We were given a week that we could spend every moment with him. This week brought many emotions that my husband and I discovered we never knew about. We cried, loved, laughed, and realized that we were meant to be parents with all of the love we had to give. In that week, we hoped to be parents to a rainbow baby, but unaware of God’s plan for when that baby would arrive here on earth. 

Preston

About 6 months after Preston passing away, we decided we were ready to begin our path to becoming parents to a rainbow baby-giving Preston a sibling. We were blessed to immediately become pregnant, I rushed to call to make my first OB-GYN appointment, and only a few weeks later, to our discouragement, we miscarried. 2 months later, we were blessed to be on this journey again. Our rainbow baby was born March 29, 2016. 

Parker Joseph is just as happy as his big brother. He looked exactly like him as a baby, and we only imagine that they would be so similar growing up. Parker is fully aware that his big brother, Preston, is in Heaven. He talks about him daily, knowing that Preston is just as much a part of our family as himself and his little sister, Payton Jayne. Payton was born on January 4th, 2018. Parker instantly gravitated to the “big brother” role. Based on their personalities, we can only assume that Parker’s love for this role is exactly how Preston would be. Parker reminds us how important Preston is to us in helping to shape our family where it is today. 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss was something I always knew existed, but never understood the magnitude. Now that we are part of the statistic, it is something that we observe-not only remembering our angel, but continuing to pray for those that have lost babies of their own. 

We want Preston’s memory to live on. We knew that and discussed it while sleeplessly spending that week at Children’s Hospital. We weren’t quite sure how to make this happen, but we knew it needed to. We wanted to give back-give back to the people that helped us most, and give to children in need. 

Photo Credit: Simply Kacie Photography

Annually, we participate in the Crib’s for Kids Breath of Life Stroll. This company has a grief support group (Healing Hearts) that we have been blessed to find. This group has helped us talk about Preston and meet other families sharing similar grief. 

We also ask our friends and family to donate toys for Toys for Tots every year in Preston’s name. We know we cannot physically give Christmas presents to Preston, so we want to take the opportunity to provide children with these gifts. We host an annual Ugly Sweater Party to facilitate this donation. This reminds us every year of how important these people are to us in this journey. 

Lastly, we host an annual golf outing in Preston’s memory. Beginning this year, we also hosted a miniature golf event as well. Our golf outing brings over 100 golfers and close to 200 total guests together to remember Preston and benefit the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation-Free Care Fund. We just held our 4th annual outing and raised nearly $12,000, bringing our overall total to over $40,000. We are happy to help other families in need while letting Preston’s memory live on with our closest family and friends. 


Tobias “Toby” Graham & Katie

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to be parents. There’s a saying “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” When I hear that quote now, I cry. We could never have imagined how parenthood would change our lives.

Dan and I were married in 2011 and found out we were pregnant in 2012. I was 11 weeks pregnant when we miscarried. We were devastated. We didn’t understand why this would happen to us. We spent the next year and a half struggling with infertility. Wondering if we would ever to be able to raise our children. Just when we were about to give up, we found out we were pregnant. Lucas was born in September of 2014 and was the center of our world. We did not know our hearts could grow so much. We knew that we wanted more children, it was just a matter of when was the right time. Here’s where God made us laugh.

In the midst of many changes in our life – career, buying a house, etc. we were surprised to find out that we were pregnant again – with another boy. Tobias “Toby” Graham was born May 27, 2016. Toby was such a content baby and so alert. At even just a few weeks old he loved to be held and be around what was going on. He would laugh and smile when you talked to him and had the most beautiful blue eyes that always looked at you with wonder. Luke loved Toby – reading to him, telling him what he was playing, singing to him. We moved into our home in Monroeville 5 day after Toby was born. I remember standing in the kitchen holding Toby and watching Luke playing with Dan in the backyard and thinking “I can’t wait to watch them both run and play in our home.

August 24, 2016, was the day that forever changed our lives. Toby woke up that morning at about 5:30 ready to eat. I sat with him until a little after 6 talking to him and soaking in his laughs and babbling. I put an outfit on him and laid him in his crib while we got ready for the day. In the car that morning on the way to the sitters, Luke was talking up a storm about the school buses and the kids starting school that day. I sat at a red light looking in the rearview mirror at Luke talking and Toby turned looking at him, smiling at him talking. I thought to myself “I am so lucky to be their mom. Thank you, God, for giving them to me.” I vividly remember this moment. I have PTSD with this very moment. I can still sit at that exact same light in the mornings and close my eyes and see them, both, in my backseat.

I pulled into the driveway of our sitters, got Luke out of the car, gave him a hug and a kiss, carrying Toby up to the door in his seat. I kissed Toby on the head. He was smiling. “I love you both. Be good today. Daddy will pick you up. I will see you at home.

Toby went down for his nap that afternoon around 2pm and when he woke up he was in the arms of Jesus. We sat in the hospital that evening holding him in complete shock of what was happening. All I wanted was for him to open his eyes and smile at me.

Toby

The months that followed were the worst of our lives. As much as people tried and wanted to help, we felt so alone. We spent hours sitting at Toby’s grave, crying and asking God “Why?”, telling him how much we missed him. The perfect summer that we had, complete as a family of four, was yanked out from under us and replaced by heartache that is so completely unimaginable and a new path that no parent is every ready to navigate.

October 15, 2016, was the first ‘Wave of Light’ that we participated in. I had come across it in one of the infant loss groups I had joined on Facebook and I knew we needed to do it. My fear was that Toby was sitting in Heaven, with all the other babies, and looking down to see what we were doing. I wanted him to “see” how far and wide his memory stretched and I wanted him to know that we would never let his light fade. That night we lit our candle and the next day we saw our wishes come to fruition. We had pictures, texts, posts, and messages from family and friends all over the country and had lit candles in his memory and were spreading his picture for 100’s to see. This was our sign – Toby’s joy needed to be shared because his life had meaning and it was now our mission to share that joy with as many as possible.

It was from this moment that The Little Fox – Toby’s Foundation was created. Our non-profit, in the course of about 18 months has hosted a number of events in the Pittsburgh area, giving back to the community through children and families, by way of holiday Stuff-a-Truck events to benefit Play it Forward Pittsburgh; book donations to the Monroeville Library Children’s Section; Ice Cream Socials with our friends at Millie’s; and many other local events. Our mission for the Foundation has evolved to become educating others on Safe Sleep Practices, forming a partnership with Owlet Baby Care to provide Smart Sock Monitors to families bringing home a newborn, raising funds for SIDS Research, and giving back to our community, where Toby lived for the 12 weeks and 5 days he was here with us on Earth. I started writing about our story, Toby’s life, the life of grieving parents and a grieving sibling, about four months after Toby died. My writings have connected me with people all over the world, most of which have also experienced the loss of a child, sibling, or a family’s loss, who have never really opened up about it.

In the Spring of 2018 we found out we were pregnant – again, another surprise. We were shocked and experienced so much fear. I remember Dan saying to me “I think this is Toby’s way of saying ‘You’re ready, Mom & Dad.” I cried and have cried a lot over the past eight months. Pregnancy after loss is intense, confusing, and crippling. You are on another roller coaster experiencing joy, hope, having a vision of your family, to have it taken away by the fear of losing another child, knowing our three boys will never play together, talk to each other, and I will never get to hold them all in my arms, kiss them goodnight, play football with them in the backyard – Toby will always be missing and we will continually wonder: What he would look like? What would he love to play? What would his favorite color be? What kind of relationship would Luke, Toby, and our next son have?

We will never know. Our hearts will hold those wishes because that is what they are – wishes of what could have been. What our dreams were for our family. Dreams that God knew way ahead of us, would never be.

Our Rainbow baby is due around Thanksgiving and as his arrival approaches, my anxiety increases. I worry about being able to parent the right way and about protecting him. Only to have my heart quickly remind me “You do not have control.” There’s another saying “If love could have saved you, you would have never died.” When I’m having a bad day and the anxiety, sadness, and guilt consume me – this is all I can think about – how loved, healthy, happy, and protected Toby was. Yet, he is no longer here with us. We now love and raise two of our boys on Earth and one in Heaven.

Photo Credit: Simply Kacie Photography

Our new baby will know Toby from the day he is born. Luke talks about Toby every day and never ceases to amaze Dan and me with the stories he tells us about Toby and also how he responds to others asking about being a brother. A few weeks ago a cashier at the store asked Luke if he was excited to be a big brother. I took a breath and was ready to respond, but before I could Luke said “I am already a big brother. My brother Toby is in Heaven.” I hugged him tightly when we left and told him how proud I was of him.

I am proud of all my children. I am proud to be their mother. This is not the motherhood I would have chosen – ever, nor do I want it to be the parenthood for any other parent. But, this is our family. We will continue to talk about Toby and to spread his joy as far as we can. And our boys will forever have the best guardian angel that we could have ever chosen for them.


One balloon for each year between the loss of our son and the birth of our Rainbow Baby. Photo Credit: Simply Kacie Photography

We hope that you will remember, after reading the stories of these four mothers, that Pregnancy and Infant Loss is not a taboo subject. It should not be something that parents have to hide, not talk about, and not be comfortable with speaking their child’s name. Just because they are not here, does not mean they do not exist. We carry them with us every single day. They are a part of us, just as our other children are. We wonder who they would be today. We know that they all had a purpose and that their lives have changed and impacted so many, even though their time on Earth was far too short. Please don’t be afraid to ask us about our family, about our loss, about our journey. There is something to learn from each of our families stories.


A special thanks to Kacie at Simply Kacie Photography for your creativity and taking these photos for our mothers. Also, to Nicole Hough, Heather Gockel, and Christine Giovanetti – thank you for providing hair and make-up for each of these mothers and making them and their children feel special. 

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Katie is a wife and mom of 3 boys, Lucas, Zeke and Toby. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with a degree in Marketing & Communications. Katie has worked in the construction industry for the past 12 years, building and restructuring brands and marketing departments, for companies in the Baltimore and Washington DC market, before returning to Pittsburgh and starting a family. Their second son, Toby, was born May 27, 2016 and died suddenly in August from SIDS, at 12 weeks and 5 days old. Katie and her husband, Dan, made a promise to Toby that they would work to do good in his name and never let the story of his life be forgotten. Through this loss, they have founded The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation with the hopes of bringing joy, laughter, and lots of smiles to families within the Pittsburgh community, while working to spread awareness about child-loss and the lives of grieving parents. This is not the path they would have chosen for their lives, but it is the journey they are now on and will strive to be the best parents they can be, to one child on earth and one in Heaven. Katie is currently the Director of Marketing for A. Martini & Co., and General Contracting and Construction Management Firm. She has been heavily involved with juvenile diabetes research, because she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 2. Currently, Katie sits on the Executive Leadership Council for the American Diabetes Association, Pittsburgh Chapter and is part of the planning committee for Step Out: Pittsburgh each year. Their family moved to Monroeville, one week after Toby was born, and have enjoyed getting to know that area of Pittsburgh and what it has to offer. While in the throes of motherhood, Katie is also active throughout the week with exercise routines, Paw Patrol and PJ Masks episodes, blogging at Our Happy Place & Co., a lifestyle blog she started in 2013, and working with her husband on the mission of The Little Fox.