Amanda and Mitch standing outside their home while she was pregnant with Juniper. MDWfeatures / Amanda Feltmann

By Liana Jacob

 

MEET THE grieving mum who endured a FULL TERM STILLBIRTH but to her surprise she fell pregnant again FOUR MONTHS after the loss of her first baby and has since decided to share her journey in the hopes that she can encourage other mums to speak out about pregnancy loss and grief.

Photographer, Amanda Feltmann (30) and her husband Mitch (31), from Minnesota, USA, found out she was pregnant with their first child, Juniper, in December 2017, and experienced a ‘normal’ pregnancy according to her doctors.

At her 20-week ultrasound scan, Juniper was shown to be measuring smaller than average, which prompted the doctor to refer her to the maternal foetal medical clinic. Her doctor hadn’t done an earlier due date ultrasound, which meant that her due date was changed from August 25, 2018, to September 3, 2018, because of a typo.

Amanda and Mitch while pregnant with Juniper (2). MDWfeatures / Keighla’s Fresh Face Photogra

Around week 26 of her pregnancy, doctors had confirmed that Juniper had a condition called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a poor growth of a foetus while in the mother’s womb during pregnancy which is often caused by a placental insufficiency.

Juniper was stillborn in August 2018, just days before her scheduled induction due date, which came as a shock to Amanda and her husband, Mitchell (31). They agreed to name her Juniper.

They spent the next 24 hours holding and cradling their stillborn daughter and had a Christian ceremony to surround her with laughter and happiness, despite feeling heartbroken. In a bid to show how proud they are of her, they decided to post pictures of her and share her story on social media.

In December 2018, almost close to the day, a year later, Amanda found out she was pregnant with her second baby which was bitter-sweet news for them. She is now 24-weeks pregnant.

They were filled with mixed emotions when they received the news; they cried with happiness, anxiety and hope.

Mitch pictured emotional while holding his daughter, Juniper. MDWfeatures / Stephi Jean Photo

“Being told ‘there is no heartbeat’ at full term is an experience unlike no other. Giving birth to her, knowing I wouldn’t get to keep her at the end of it all, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to unwillingly participate in,” Amanda said.

“Holding her in my arms for the first time; I tried so hard not to fall in love with her but that was impossible. But holding her during our time in the hospital was so important to me.

“Empty arms syndrome is a real thing for grieving mums. Who doesn’t love to hold babies? And after nine months, that’s all I wanted to do; hold her, surround her in my love.

“I wanted to make that time together really count, since that’s the only time we were going to get. I didn’t get to reap many of the other benefits of having a newborn, but holding my daughter was a thing I got to enjoy, stillborn or not.

“Once Juniper was given the IUGR diagnosis, we were under close and constant monitoring. All of our doctors assured us they would catch anything before it happened.

“I was being seen twice a week; twice a week she passed her health assessments that she was healthy in my womb. I trusted my doctors. I didn’t ask questions, but I wish I would have. I took things for granted. Things fell through the cracks.

“There were a lot of issues in our pregnancy care, including typos. I wish I would’ve pushed harder to get those cleared up.

“I wish I had been in general more informed about pregnancy and being my own health advocate, rather than just sitting back and rolling with the punches. I wish I would’ve sought out more opinions.

Amanda and Mitch pictured holding Juniper in hospital while surrounded by their loved ones. MDWfeatures / Amanda Feltmann

“My due date should’ve never gotten changed, we shouldn’t have ‘played it so safe’ – we felt like our pregnancy care let us down.

“Medically, my placenta shut down; her IUGR was caused by placental insufficiency. When the placenta shuts down, it can no longer support your baby and your baby dies.

“This is proven to happen after thirty-seven weeks with growth restricted babies. So, given that my due date was changed, we were too late; we asked too much from my placenta.”

Amanda has now made it her mission to share pictures of the daughter she lost so that she doesn’t get forgotten.

“We spent almost twenty-four-hours with Juniper after she was born before we left the hospital. Her body was in such perfect shape, they don’t think she had died long before we delivered her which is both a blessing and a curse,” she said.

“Her face was so round and perfect. She had the most beautiful lips I had ever seen and looked just like her daddy.

“We spent almost twenty-four-hours in the hospital with our girl. Our families came to meet Junie – our parents, siblings, and our niece.

“We did a sweet Christian dedication ceremony with the chaplain from the hospital. Although sad and heartbroken, we tried to surround our baby with laughter and happiness.

Mitch and Amanda pictured in hospital holding Juniper. MDWfeatures / Stephi Jean Photography

“Once my blood pressure was to an acceptable level, we did the hardest thing in the world and said goodbye to our girl and left the hospital empty handed and came home to a quiet, empty house.

“We chose to share our Juniper with pride, with photos, on social media soon after we got home. We didn’t want anyone to think for a second that we were ashamed or scared of her life.

“It’s so important to me that Juniper’s life doesn’t just fade into existence. Every parent loves to show off and brag about their baby. I’m doing the same.”

Amanda and Mitchell were filled with joy, anxiety and hope when they received the news that they were pregnant with their second baby four months after Juniper was born.

“We always wanted more than one child. It was the weirdest sensation to cry tears wrought with happiness rather than just sorrow for the first time in months when I saw that positive test,” she said.

Juniper pictured after she was stillborn. MDWfeatures / Stephi Jean Photography

“It brought me happiness and hope but also so many new levels of grief and longing. I tried to read articles about second pregnancies, but they are tough in life after loss.

“I don’t take a single day for granted; I purchased a beautiful pregnancy journal as well as milestone cards (for bump photos), determined to cherish each moment.

“I follow lots of mamas on Instagram who had been walking through pregnancy after stillbirth and that helped me mentally prepare as well.

“After Junie died, I also pushed for lots of follow up appointments; I wanted more info, wanted to know as much as we could about why and how she died and how we prevent this in the future.

“I have learned to be a strong advocate now for mine and my baby’s health and treatment. Before I was pregnant again, I told these doctors how my care would go in the future, what I would need to have different and asked for their insight on other things.

“This has worked well in our favour for this pregnancy, as I was able to find the right care team this time that allows me to call the shots within reason.

“Connecting with other mamas who ‘get’ me is so important. Through Instagram I have been able to share Juniper’s life in positive ways, all her beautiful photos, and I know I’ve helped other mamas which feels good.

“The loss mama community online is full of the fiercest women I’ve ever met; you don’t want to mess with us.

“Daily I chat with other mamas, share what I’ve learned and just hold space for their pain when needed. I share and talk about things on my profile that many shy away from or try not to think about.

Amanda and Mitch standing outside their home while she was pregnant with Juniper. MDWfeatures / Amanda Feltmann

“I’d like to think I’m also changing the world of stillbirth; I think it’s jarring to some people that I’m breaking the stillbirth mold – we surrounded our daughter in a blanket with a bright, cheery pattern.

“People think having your baby die, since they are young, is easier to get over. But that can’t be farther from the truth.

“When an older person such as a grandparent dies, there are so many years of their life and shared experiences to talk about and remember.

“But with losing your baby, their whole life of memories is what is lost, what is grieved. Your grieving a future you and your child never got to experience.

“We are still mamas and our babies are still our babies. Our babies’ lives can be remembered with smiles and happiness. Their death does not have to completely define them or us.

“Life after loss sucks there is no sugar coating that. Pregnancy after loss is a mind whiplash. Be kind and considerate, you never know what battle someone may be facing.”