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The Sanford Health infant and child bereavement committee has compassion for parents who have lost a child too soon. In an attempt to ease pain and provide a place to remember, this page is dedicated to sharing stories of infant and child loss.

If you would like to share a childís story on this page, please email it to bkunz@mohs.org.

Kassidy Rayann Schafer
April 13, 2007

My husband and I were thrilled to learn we were expecting our second child in November 2006. Our daughter was almost three years old and was very excited at Christmas time, when we told her mommy had a baby in her tummy. Around 14 weeks into the pregnancy I started having complications, it was not discovered until my 18-week ultrasound that I had no amniotic fluid around the baby. That same day my husband and I left for Minneapolis to see a specialist.

We were told there are two causes for no amniotic fluid; either the baby is not producing any fluid or there is a rupture in the membranes. In our case the baby seemed to be healthy and there was no obvious rupture of the membranes. We were told we had a 15 percent of having a baby out of this pregnancy. That was not true. We were going to have a baby out of this pregnancy. However, it meant there was only a 15 percent chance we would be able to take her home with us.

We had a very long drive home, realizing it was in Godís hands now. The specialist in Minneapolis told us if we made it to 23 weeks, we could go back there and spend the remainder of the pregnancy in their care. That was something we never really even talked about, because at that time five more weeks seemed like a long time. We followed every instruction our obstetric doctor gave us and went to multiple doctor visits every week, even though we were told there was not much we could do but wait.

I had constant infections which resulted in continuous medication and a couple of hospital stays. For a while things were looking up, my fluid levels were increasing and the baby was growing. At 22 and a half weeks, I just didnít feel good. We went in for an ultrasound and found out my fluid level had gone down, I was put on bed rest and told to come back later that week to check the levels again.

During an ultrasound, the first thing the radiology technician checks is the heartbeat. During our ultrasound on the morning of Friday, April 13, 2007, no matter how hard the technician tried to find it, it just was not there, our little girl was gone. We decided on an induction and were admitted to the hospital. Shortly after 5 p.m., I delivered a baby girl. She weighed 11 ounces and was 9.5 inches long. She was beautiful and perfect on the outside with the longest little fingers and toes. We kept her with us for about five hours. All of our family got to hold her and some pictures were taken. I was in complete shock the whole day. The next morning, the shock ended and reality hit. Our little girl was not coming home with us. We could not hold her, feed her, change her or watch her grow.

The next few days were a blur and filled with funeral arrangements and lots of emotions. We buried our little one April 17, 2007, in the smallest casket I had ever seen. We had a private service and burial. My husband carried her casket into the church.

It was very difficult to lose my daughter. One of the hardest things was waking up the morning after I gave birth to her and realizing I was not pregnant anymore. I had no baby to take home. It was also tough giving her up to the nursing staff on Friday night. The next day, I had no idea where she was. We later found out the funeral home had her. The day before we buried her, my husband and I went shopping to find a few memorial items. I realized it was going to be the only day in my life I was going to shop for my little girl.

Moving on was really hard. I tried to avoid all babies and expecting moms, which was nearly impossible because I work in a family medicine clinic. I found myself searching the intranet for any and all information I could find on infant loss. What I found was heartbreaking. I was not alone and there were many, many families going through the same thing as us. I guess I found some comfort just in knowing that I was not alone and there were so many families willing to share their stories.

I am sure none of us would have chosen for this to happen to us, but it has and now we live every day wondering why. Why me? Why my child? A continued search for an answer we will never find. Unfortunately this type of loss will continue to happen to others. It is my hope that together we can support each other and ease the pain.

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Gabriel Olson
April 20, 2006

The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” Luke 1:19

These words have special meaning for Collin and Hollie Olson, of Bismarck. This Bible verse served as the inspiration for the young couple naming their first born son. This is the story of his life, a life lived exclusively within his mother’s womb.

Collin and Hollie were excited about Hollie’s pregnancy. They had

miscarried a baby, but were uplifted by what seemed to be a normal second pregnancy. At 20 weeks, Hollie said she couldn’t for her first ultra-sound, confident everything would be fine.

Collin did not have to be at work until later in the day so the couple drove together to Sanford Health.  All seemed well with the ultrasound. The Sanford Health technician pointed out the tiny heart beating within their healthy-sized baby. Collin and Hollie had no reason to be anything other than thrilled—and thrilled they were.

It wasn’t until later in the day they learned there might be problems with their baby.

Hollie was at home when her doctor called. “She told me that she had found some abnormalities,” said Hollie. “She told me that our baby might have Down Syndrome but couldn’t be sure. She suggested we schedule a second ultrasound as soon as possible.”  
 
Hollie was stunned. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard. Forcing back tears and pleading God’s mercy, Hollie called Collin. “You need to come home right away,” she sobbed. “There’s something wrong with our baby.”

Collin rushed home. They prayed for their tiny baby. “We didn’t know what to think,” said Hollie. “We kept asking ourselves what does this mean?” Even with the diagnosis of Down Syndrome, the young family remained hopeful. Down Syndrome was not life-threatening. 

For Collin and Hollie, the second ultrasound brought worse news. It confirmed Down Syndrome or Trisomy 13 or 18 and showed a serious heart problem, abnormal kidneys and a cleft lip/palette.

On the urgings of an aunt, the couple consulted with Dr. Rafael Ocejo, Sanford Health neonatologist and pediatrician. They were hungry for details. They wanted to understand just what Down Syndrome, Trisomy 13 or Trisomy 18 was. They wanted to know if there was anything they could do to help their baby.  They were unwilling to give up hope. 

Dr. Ocejo studied the ultrasound and explained that within the diagnosis of Down Syndrome, there are three designations: 21, 13 or 18. Babies with Down Syndrome 21 have an excellent chance of living well into adulthood. Babies diagnosised with 13 or 18 rarely, if ever, live past a year. Dr. Ocejo felt their baby was likely a Trisomy 13 or 18. To help them prepare for the baby’s fragile birth, he recommended the Olsons travel to Minnesota for a precise, 3-D ultrasound.

“Thank God we met with Dr. Ocejo,” Hollie continued. “Hard as it was, we really needed to hear that before we went to Minneapolis. We were better prepared for what we were going to hear there.”

“The drive to Minneapolis was super long,” Collin said.   

“More than anything,” Hollie added, “we wanted to know if there was something we could do to help our baby.”

“We hoped that the more precise ultrasound would confirm a diagnosis of Down Syndrome,” added Collin. “We hung onto that hope for the entire six-hour drive.”

“We were very scared and nervous,” Hollie said, reflecting on the procedure.  “The first thing the doctor told us was that we were having a baby boy.  What wonderful news to hear! “We were thrilled,” said Hollie.

However, the ultrasound confirmed Trisomy 13. The couple was given the option to terminate the pregnancy. “Termination was not in our vocabulary,” Hollie said. They were told if they did not terminate the pregnancy, they would have to prepare for a natural birth.

“We knew we were carrying this precious baby boy for a reason greater than us,” Hollie said.

“Surprisingly,” said Collin, “the drive home was calm.” Hollie added, “We felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.” “In fact,” said Collin, “on the way home, both of us, almost in unison, chose the name for our baby.” In light of the verse Luke 1:19, they picked the name Gabriel, the name of a Biblical angel. In Hebrew, the name means “man of God.” Other interpretations denote the name Gabriel as having the “strength of God.”

“The pregnancy was hard some days,” Hollie said. “When I would feel my baby boy kick it was hard to thinking that there was anything wrong. I was always asked the questions from many people: When are you due? What are you having? It was always hard to answer those questions knowing that I was probably not going to be taking my baby home. I knew, though, that this was just part of us sharing our story and strength in our Lord.”

After a long time in delivery, Gabriel was born Thursday, April 20, 2006. While his heart was beating, Gabriel never took a breath. The Olsons realized Gabriel never entered his earthly home, but remained with his Heavenly Father.

Despite all they had been through, Collin and Hollie felt a great peace. Their pastor, Al Shaner of Grace Lutheran Church in Bismarck, and closest family members stayed with them throughout the difficult labor and delivery. “His grandbaby was born the same day as Gabriel, but he stayed with us,” said Hollie. “We have seen that God puts people in your path, people who would help you with the journey, whatever it might be.  Our family and friends were such an amazing part of our healing and journey with Gabriel’s birth.”

“The nurses were amazing,” added Collin. “We will never forget Moe and Cindy.” Collin gave Gabriel a bath and dressed him in a white sleeper. Family members took turns holding the tiny baby boy for whom so many prayers had been whispered. A photographer quietly captured treasured images of Gabriel’s farewell. 

“When we were ready,” said Collin, “Bob Eastgate, Eastgate Funeral Home, came to get Gabriel himself.” Gabriel was buried in Taylor next to another little baby lost too soon, that of Hollie’s grandparents born many, many years earlier.

The Olson’s continue to find comfort in their faith and the Bible, particularly Jeremiah 1:8 which reads, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.”

“We pray for Gabriel every night,” said Hollie. “When you go through something like this, you wonder how you can make it but God comes and gives you strength. We wanted to share our story because we wanted others to know that they are not alone. May our story make Gabriel’s life live on and bring amazing praises to our heavenly Father.”

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