Coming from a large family of five siblings, I always knew that was exactly what I wanted to do, have a lot of babies. When you’re ready to have a baby, you’re ready. It is the most intense impatience of all of life’s impatient moments. No one expects to be “that person” that struggles with infertility. When we found ourselves unable to naturally get pregnant it was heart breaking. After over a year of trying to conceive, several medications, and lots of tests we were ecstatic when we saw the little plus sign on the pregnancy test! I was finally going to be a member of the mommy club!!!
At 20 weeks we had our ultrasound to find a healthy and perfect baby in there! We did not find out the sex of our baby. We wanted to wait for the big surprise in December when this little miracle was due. When I was 22 weeks pregnant we went to bed like any other night. Nothing out of the ordinary. I awoke in the middle of the night to use the restroom, per usual for a pregnant momma with a baby sitting on her bladder, to find blood everywhere.
I am a labor and delivery nurse and with my knowledge base I knew this was bad. Very bad. We rushed into the hospital to find that I was dilated and was in very, very, early and detrimental labor. Babies are not considered viable until 24 weeks; however, some hospitals will deliver babies as early as 21 weeks gestation. I remember sitting in the triage room and hearing the doctor say there’s nothing she could do. I thought, “How could this be?” I am listening to my baby’s perfect heartbeat!!?? How can there be nothing we can do?! We transferred to the UIHC in hopes of bedrest and to buy our baby more time in-utero, but ultimately delivered at 22 6/7 weeks gestation.
On August 13, 2012, our first child, a baby girl, Peyton Rose, was born into Heaven. The devastation our hearts felt upon leaving the hospital empty handed, to a childless home in the days and months following Peyton’s birth was indescribable. Everyone wants to be there for you, but truthfully there is only a small fraction of people who know how you are feeling. Only a very small fraction of people experience this devastating event of losing a child.
I remember reading a quote once, “When a woman loses her husband, she is called a widow. When a man loses his wife, he is called a widower. When a child loses their parents, they are called an orphan. There is no word for a parent that loses a child.” It is so true. The feelings of despair are so sad, so hurtful, so dark, so low that it is very hard to find the words to describe it.
Eventually our hearts healed and we felt we were ready to conceive again. About 8 months later we did just that! I was pregnant!!! Overjoyed and excited to have another healthy baby, we couldn’t contain our excitement. Our happiness came crashing down on us a few weeks later when I started having some spotting at work and ultimately had a miscarriage. On Mother’s Day. I questioned God so hard in the days and weeks to come. Was I not meant to be a Mother? This seemed like a pretty blatant and harsh sign that this was not meant to be.
It’s true, when you’re in this dark place it appears as everyone is easily pregnant, having flawless, quick, and easy pregnancies. Why was this not the case for me!!??
I took one month off of “trying” after our miscarriage to clear my mind and heart. Have fun, take a trip, get a martini with the girls, forget about all the scheduling and planning that takes all the “fun” away from trying to have a baby. After a month off, we half-heartedly tried and to my surprise….boom, another positive on the pregnancy test! YES! We were pregnant!! Although we were both jumping for joy on the inside, my heart remained VERY guarded. I did not want to talk about the pregnancy, it was hard for me to announce to people that we were expecting for fear of losing yet another baby.
All the simplicity and innocence of a happy pregnancy was stolen from us as we white-knuckled week by week through our pregnancy. I always believed there would come a moment when I would be able to relax. A milestone I would meet where I could stop holding my breath and just enjoy being pregnant. I realized then, that that moment would not come until I was physically holding my crying, breathing, healthy baby in my arms. This moment came for us on February 23, 2014.
My miracle, my sweet, sweet son William Russell was here and healthy! The whole world felt like it made sense again. THIS baby was handpicked for us. Had I not experienced the struggles I would not be able to experience the joys of life with my little Wil. As hard as it is to look at the situation we went through, I found comfort in knowing that this baby had a beautiful guardian angel in heaven and one huge cheering section to watch over us. We always joked when we decided on his name, William: ‘Where there’s a WIL there’s a way!’ Finally I felt as if I was a true member of “the mommy club”. My life was complete.
When Wil was about 16 months old, we started thinking about promoting him to Big Brother. Knowing the past struggles we had with conceiving, we decided to give it a go. BAM! First month, we’re pregnant! Here we go. It started as another flawless pregnancy; we sailed right through the first few weeks. We had multiple ultrasounds and everything looked great. At 18 weeks we went in for our anatomy scan while my mom was busy at home preparing the food and decorations for our gender reveal party to be held later that night.
As the ultrasound tech scanned my pregnant belly, I was very hyper sensitive and in-tune to all of the non-verbal communication and vibes I was feeling in the room. I asked her several times, “Is everything alright? Does the baby look ok?”
She flatly responded with, “We’re seeing everything we need to see.” Ultrasound techs are not allowed to diagnose or tell you any of the readings of the ultrasound. My excitement instantly turned into panic and I had a pit in my stomach that everything, indeed, was not alright. It seemed like hours as we waited for the doctor to come into the room, praying she would tell us everything was ok. When the doctor came into the room holding our charts with three ultrasound pictures and a look of devastation on her face, I instantly knew something was wrong.
In the next hours we would learn how severely fragile our baby’s life was. Being a nurse, I have heard of neural tube defects, but my knowledge base was very small. No one ever thinks that their perfect child they conceived would ever be affected by such horrible and devastating things.
On November 17, 2015 our son, Patrick David, was born into heaven. I could not wrap my head around this. Why me again, God? What is your plan for me????? In the weeks and months following Patrick’s birth, it was as if God came down and wrapped me in his arms. My relationship with God felt as strong as it ever had. This, I believe is what has carried me through.
Today we remain hopeful that our parenthood journey is not over…that this chapter is not yet complete…that one day we will be in the delivery room holding a crying, breathing, healthy baby. Although we have had many hardships and experienced the worst things life has to offer, we have also experienced the best life has, with our William. We are living life with our rambunctious toddler who makes us laugh every day. Our lives are forever changed by our sweet children, Peyton, William, and Patrick. There is indeed No Foot Too Small That It Cannot Leave an Imprint on This World. Our lives have been forever imprinted by all of our babies.
Read the Stedman Family’s full story HERE.
Special thanks to Katie Stedman for sharing her story. Brett, Katie, and William Stedman are this year’s Feature Family for the No Foot Too Small Benefit taking place on September 9th at Hotel Vetro in Downtown Iowa City. The NFTS Benefit will feature hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment by Stevey Ertl and THE NADAS, and a silent auction. Money raised at the benefit will be donated to the March of Dimes to fund research for healthy pregnancies and support families experiencing infant loss. To find out more about the benefit, share your angel, or to make a donation, visit the NFTS website or Facebook page.