October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and we know so many of you have endured heartbreaking experiences. Part of our passion and mission behind our #WeAreWeCan campaign is sharing the stories of the collective struggles that we as women face, and to recognize that we are not alone. This month, we're sharing the stories of women who've experienced pregnancy and infant loss in an effort to create awareness about the issue and to help other women who may be in similar situations feel supported, inspired, and less alone.
Today we're sharing the story of Mikell Hirschi. Mikell is the mother to a 5 year old son, Mackson, but she recently lost her baby girl, Lola Renee, shortly after birth. Mikell's story of infant loss is heartbreaking, but through all the tears and pain she's maintained a positive spirit and hopes to help other women in similar situations by sharing her story. Grab some tissues and read more about Mikell's experience below.
Could you tell us about your infant loss story?
My first pregnancy 5 years ago was perfect and I have a great 5 year old now. I had no reason to believe this pregnancy would be any different. In fact, it was perfect just like my first. I was healthy, I felt strong, and I don't get sick. Every doctor's appointment and visit was perfect and Baby Lola was measuring spot on with a healthy, strong heartbeat.
I naturally went into labor at 38 weeks and checked in to deliver. Lola still had a strong heartbeat and was looking great—we couldn't wait to meet our girl! After my epidural, we were waiting for family to arrive before I started to push. Suddenly a team of doctors rushed into my room and said they needed to break my water immediately and the baby was stressed. I was told I was being rushed into an emergency c-section. I was quickly rushed into the OR and was scrubbed down and ready for a c-section when my doctor decided to check Lola's positioning. She was low enough they decided to have me push. I was able to push Lola out in under 7 minutes but she came out not breathing and was rushed to the NICU. I still thought things would be okay, babies go to the NICU all the time! But her first 23 minutes of life were so hard. She needed chest compressions to revive her that lasted 23 long minutes and she coded two more times after that. Our first visit with her doctors was shocking when we were told, "...if our baby makes it through the night..." I couldn't believe it.
Her NICU team was incredible and did everything they could to save her life. Ultimately she went too long without oxygen and her brain function was minimal and she was on a breathing tube that was keeping her alive. One of the hardest things was telling our 5 year old, Mackson, that his baby sister wouldn't be coming home with us. That conversation will forever be etched in my mind. Lola passed away the following morning in her daddy's arms after our family gathered to meet her. We got to hold her and kiss her and tell her how much we loved her in her short two days on earth! Our lives forever changed that day.
In what ways has this experience shaped you?
You hear that a traumatic event can often make or break relationships. This experience has literally been the hardest thing I've ever been through, but it's strengthened many of my relationships. My husband and I are closer than ever and we've been a stronger family unit with our 5 year old son, learning to rely on one another in ways we didn't think we'd have to! I find myself being more empathetic, softer towards others, and more loving. You see people differently and understand on a much deeper level that everyone has struggles they are dealing with even though some of them are invisible.
How or where did you find support, peace, and comfort following your experience?
Aside from my family and friends who were extremely supportive and loving, I decided to talk openly about my struggles and what we were going through on social media. Surprisingly, support from complete strangers started pouring out. We received letters in the mail, artwork from people we've never met, encouraging cards and letters, care packages, meals left at our doorstep, and groceries. I had other moms start messaging me on Instagram telling me their experiences with similar situations or how they'd lost a child as well. I realized that this may be the most awful situation I could ever deal with, but that I was not alone. The community of angel moms is a STRONG one! At the cemetery where Lola is buried there's a section that's just for babies. I stepped out of the car when we went to pick her plot and saw the hundreds of babies laid to rest there and just sobbed. I think that was the first time I truly understood that I wasn't alone in this experience.
For other women who have experienced infant loss and may be struggling, what advice or words of encouragement would you offer them?
I would encourage them to talk about it openly and tell them that they are not alone. They don't need to suffer in silence—there's an enormous community of women that KNOW what it's like and want to love and embrace them in their trials. It's okay to not be okay. In our home we talk about Lola daily. Her pictures are on the wall and when we do fun things as a family we talk about how Lola would enjoy doing those things too. Making sure we honor and acknowledge her short life has been important to me and my family. The healing process is long and difficult and lasts a lifetime. Be easy on yourself, and be KIND to yourself. I'm a true and firm believer in self-care. Treat yourself and let others help you!
What's one thing about infant loss you'd like people to know?
That these babies are real and loved, and are just as much a part of us as any other member of our families. No one should ever have to lose a child, but unfortunately it happens. It's not an easy road and you're faced with REALLY HARD decisions. Everyone processes traumatic events differently and the healing process is different for everyone. It's an emotional journey. If you know someone who has gone through this or is currently going through this, reach out! Give them a little extra love!