Northside Hospital - Parents support others through pregnancy loss of their own

Parents support others through pregnancy loss of their own

Posted on: October 18, 2019


In 2014, Stacey and Joe Yeager were pregnant for the first time and expecting twins. It was a normal pregnancy until it wasn’t, Stacey says.

At 20 weeks, Stacey noticed spotting and checked into Northside Hospital Atlanta, ahead of a snow storm in February 2014, not knowing what to expect. At intake, Dr. Wyatt Hathaway told Stacey she was beginning to dilate, and she was rushed to labor & delivery.

That night, twin boys Jackson and Aiden were born, but did not survive.

Due to severe weather, Stacey and Joe’s friends and family were unable to visit them at the hospital. So, the couple quickly leaned on the support of Northside staff.

The nurses were spectacular and so well-trained. They put a butterfly on our door so that people visiting knew what we’d been through,” Joe said. “We had no idea how to deal with the loss, so having the nurses there as a guide was more important than anyone could ever imagine.”

Soon after delivery, Carol Shutley with Northside’s H.E.A.R.T. strings - the hospital’s perinatal bereavement and palliative care support program - visited the Yeagers’ room. She, along with the nurses who are all regularly trained in bereavement services, encouraged Stacey and Joe to hold their twins and take pictures with them. Carol helped set up a small memorial service, and the Yeagers were given keepsake boxes that included blankets, footprints and pictures from the day.

Looking back, the Yeagers are beyond grateful to have had those moments with their boys, and they keep the photos with them to this day.

H.E.A.R.T.strings is really special,” Stacey said. “We were and still are so lucky that Northside has a program like this.”

When H.E.A.R.T.strings hosted their next support group, both Stacey and Joe joined. They also attended the Walk to Remember that year, an annual event hosted by Northside Hospital honoring babies loved and lost.

The support group is a very valuable experience for the father,” Joe said. “The mother has an inherent connection with the baby, but the father is more focused on expectations of the future, so the trauma of loss appears in a different way, but H.E.A.R.T.strings understood that. I would encourage any father in my situation to participate in this program.”

In early 2015, Stacey and Joe found themselves pregnant with their soon-to-be daughter, Kara. Anxious about returning to the labor & delivery unit at Northside, Stacey participated in a re-entry tour hosted by H.E.A.R.T.strings.

In my mind, going back to Northside gave me such anxiety because I always thought back to that day. But I also knew it was the best place for me because my doctors and all the best resources were already there,” Stacey said. “Participating in the tour proved to me I could walk down these halls again; I could sit in these rooms, and it was ok.”

Due to her previous loss, Stacey was labeled high-risk and monitored heavily. She had over 20 ultrasounds before Kara was delivered by Dr. Yvette Smith – happy and healthy, on November 9, 2015.

Less than two years later, the Yeagers were back at Northside welcoming their son Everett, born May 20, 2017 and also delivered by Dr. Smith.

Both Kara and Everett are rainbow babies, a term used to describe a successful pregnancy and birth after a loss. They both received a rainbow onesie and hat from the H.E.A.R.T.strings program to honor this status.

Today, the Yeager family still participates in H.E.A.R.T.strings, this time as a mentor for those going through similar situations. Most recently, they were the keynote speakers at the 2019 Walk to Remember, bringing both Kara and Everett to the event to honor the memory of their older brothers.

The resounding message of their keynote speech: you’re not alone.

When we talk to other families, we try to tell them ‘What you are feeling is okay and normal. You’re not alone, and there are a lot of people who have gone through it too,’” Stacey said. “That’s something we didn’t realize going through it ourselves, but we know now.”

They have also been active participants in March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to providing a healthy start for every mom and baby. The Yeagers have raised over $250,000 in memory of their sons, supported by a matched donation from Northside Hospital.

Coming up on six years following their first delivery, the Yeagers still remember their twins every day.

The grief is still there, and always will be, but it’s more controlled now. It doesn’t drag me down like it did in the beginning,” Stacey said. “Now, finding ways to support others has become particularly therapeutic for me. I can be in touch with my grief and pain as a way to help others during the lowest part of their lives. And I can let them know they’ll make it though, like we did.”

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