By Amber Schatz
Editor’s note: Katie is the author’s cousin.
Many pregnant women get to 37 weeks and can feel the finish line ahead. They’ve gone so long carrying their baby and can only imagine how amazing it will be to meet the little bundle that’s been rolling and kicking around inside them.
“James and I were so excited to meet our little man, and we loved him more and more every day,” first-time mom Katie Thiele recalls.
She and her husband, James, had found out they were having a boy and named him Elijah.
“James and I chose the name Elijah when I was about 23 or 24 weeks pregnant,” Katie shares. “We both love the name; it is such a powerful name.”
Elijah is a Hebrew name for “prophet,” but there was no predicting what would happen before Katie and James could celebrate their first child.
“This name is perfect for our baby boy up in heaven,” Katie says.
In April 2016, at 37 weeks pregnant, Katie became concerned that she hadn’t felt Elijah moving around like usual.
“James tried to reassure me that Elijah’s probably just sleeping, and everything is probably just fine,” Katie remembers.
But Katie knew something wasn’t right. The couple went to the hospital. A nurse tried to find Elijah’s heartbeat, but she couldn’t. The nurse got the doctor.
“When the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat, she ordered an ultrasound. It was determined during the ultrasound that Elijah’s heart was no longer beating,” Katie says. “They induced me that night. On April 13, 2016, I gave birth to our stillborn little angel. After many tests, the doctors could not come up with an explanation of what happened.”
1 IN 100
According to the March of Dimes, stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth affects about one in 100 pregnancies — about 24,000 babies — each year in the United States.
“The most difficult part of losing Elijah is simply the fact that he is not here,” Katie shares. “I just want so badly to see him smile, to show him my love, to take care of him and to watch him grow. But I know he’s in a better place with Jesus in heaven, and I will see him again someday; that is what has helped me cope.”
Katie says her faith has helped her the most during recovery. She was also overwhelmed by families and loved ones sending texts, delivering flowers, gifts, meals, and groceries.
She says exercising with earphones helped keep any negative thoughts at bay, and she and James have leaned on each other to get through the heartache.
“When a couple has to go through the pain of losing a child, I think it’s very important for him and for her to know that the grief process of their partner may not be the same as their own grief process and to keep in mind that they are both hurting,” Katie says. “James was so good about this and so compassionate and caring through this whole process of recovery. Our relationship grew stronger.
“This might sound crazy, but talking to Elijah has helped me as well. James and I have always loved to be outdoors, so we would try to get outdoors a lot which was helpful. We went camping, just him and I for a couple of days, and that was true therapy for both of us.”
A woman’s postpartum care is essential after childbirth. The new mom is advised to check in regularly as her body heals. It’s true when a woman has experienced a stillbirth too.
HONORING ELIJAH’S MEMORY
“To honor Elijah’s memory, James and I have a blooming tree in our front yard. We also have a bench in front of our house that we received from our families as a gift. It says ‘Elijah James Thiele’ with some cute little woodland animals on it which was going to be the theme for his room,” Katie says. “We also like to go to visit his grave and stop by a nearby lake on our way home and fish and just spend peaceful time outdoors.
“There is also a plant that we have in our house that we got at his funeral. I love to watch it grow and think about how far we have come since that day. We also buy a Christmas ornament every year for Elijah, and someday we will have a whole tree with just Elijah ornaments for Christmas. And most importantly, we think about him, how special he is, and how much we love him every day.”
Katie’s motherly love has since doubled. The couple welcomed new baby boy, Wyatt James Thiele February 22, 2017.
“Wyatt has helped so much in our recovery,” Katie says. “He has brought so much joy to James’ and my life. Wyatt did not replace Elijah, but he has brought so much happiness to our lives. We love both of our sons unconditionally.”