Hannah Kathleen – She is Our “Why”

Theo & Brittany Facinoli, Founders of Out of the Ashes Foundation

The Facinoli Family
Founders of Out of the Ashes Foundation

On October 23, 2019, Hannah Kathleen Facinoli was born sleeping at 29 weeks gestation. She is daughter to Theo & Brittany Facinoli, who went on to host a 5k in their neighborhood for Hannah’s first Heavenly birthday. At their first race, they raised $8,000 for Atrium’s Labor & Delivery Department and Caleb Ministries, both of which played a significant role in the immediate days and months after their loss.

After two years and two races, Out of the Ashes 5k grew into more than a race and became an official 501(c)3 non-profit that serves bereaved families in Charlotte and beyond who are walking a similar path. The Annual 5k & Remembrance Walk is one of the many ways they work to serve this community, by creating an environment where families can talk about their journeys through loss, longing to conceive, and say the names of their heavenly children. In 2023, the race brought together 452 people and raised over $40,000 for the organization.

Another way they serve is through their Medical Bill Relief Grant, to which parents can apply to have their medical bills covered that are associated with pregnancy loss or infertility discovery.

We have seen many untold stories come to light, and it’s a privilege to hear them. Hannah’s story is one of many. You can read it in detail below.


My story of mothering Hannah Kathleen

Carrying her

I was only 14 weeks when I felt a little flutter for the first time. I remembered the feeling all too well from being pregnant with Tessa. Feeling Tessa move was the only part of that pregnancy that I enjoyed… but this pregnancy was different. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t even all that tired. Or maybe I had just learned to function better, with fatigue as a familiar friend. For the first half of this pregnancy, I had two toddlers to distract me from any ailments. I didn’t have time to be tired, sick or lazy. Life went on as usual. And when our foster son left us after 15 months in our home, I had was hit in the face with how simple life was. It was just me and Tessa every day, while Theo was at work. And in the new quiet after K left, it dawned on me that I was already over half way done with my pregnancy. I had room for a new focus now. We said goodbye to K, but we would be welcoming a new child in just 4 short months.

The following days and weeks, I soaked in my time with Tessa, who was 1.5, going on 5. My heart would nearly explode in response to the love I had for her, as I watched her grow and develop so quickly in front of me. I was mourning the reality that my days with just her were numbered, while simultaneously anticipating the excitement ahead for our family. I was ready to nest. To embrace being a new kind of family of 4. I finally had the mental space to go there in my mind.

And this baby made sure I didn’t forget her presence, a constant reminder to get the nursery ready. She was coming! With Tessa, I had had an anterior placenta – which is just a fancy description for its location. It had planted itself right on the front of my uterus — which is perfectly fine, but it makes it difficult to feel the baby move as soon or as intensely. But it was all I knew until this pregnancy. This baby was so active. Her kicks woke me up at night, and were still there in the morning. I remember waking up most mornings wondering when on earth this baby sleeps?! Because all day, every day, she was so alive.

pregnancy with hannah

A terrifying instinct

So you’d think I would have been more aware when the activity slowed down… When hours would pass with only a kick or two. You’d think I would notice that she wasn’t waking me up anymore, and I would have to actually think hard about the last time I felt her move. But I was in my third trimester now, and everything I read said that the movement would be more subtle now. There’s less room with her growing body. I had never worried with Tessa. I never counted her kicks. I just knew I felt her, here and there at least. And she was fine. So I didn’t see a need to worry now.

But when I decided to take a day and pay attention – when 14 hours passed and I hadn’t felt anything – I sensed something was wrong. I could have called the doctor then… But in an effort to not let paranoia take over, that night, around 11 p.m., I sent a simple email to my doctor, knowing she wouldn’t get it until the next day. I stayed calm. And I went to bed.

I woke up several times throughout the night. I got into positions that had previously made her readjust. I pushed on my belly from different angles. Nothing. When morning rolled in, I sobbed. It had been 24 hours… maybe more. Around 9:30, a nurse called from my doctor’s office, but I missed it. Her voicemail said that she always likes moms to call, rather than email, when they have a concerns about baby’s movement… She reminded me that it had now been nearly 10 hours since I had sent the email, and that hopefully baby was moving by now… she wasn’t. When I called back, desperately needing affirmation, I had to leave a message. It was 20 minutes before I heard back from anyone. When I did, the nurse told me I should go ahead and come in for monitoring.

My heart sank. Something was clearly wrong. I should have called the night before. I should have just called.

When I got the call back, I had just pulled into Starbucks, hoping a cup of coffee would get baby moving. Was that a bad call? A lot of moms don’t drink any caffeine while pregnant. But I wasn’t one of those… I minded the recommended daily limit, but I rarely went a day without my morning coffee. Had I been selfish? Was caffeine to blame? Was this last coffee a mistake?

I drove to the doctor, Tessa in tow. Theo met me there. I sent a message to a few friends to be praying for me and the baby. I think somehow I knew this was more than just a little hiccup. I was genuinely scared, and it would turn out that I had reason to be. My friend Alex offered to keep Tessa for me, but I assured her it was unnecessary – that Theo was coming, and that we would hopefully be in and out. But for some reason, she showed up anyway, having no idea just how much we would need her over the next several of hours.


A false calm

Relief flooded through my body and settled my mind when we heard her sweet, steady heart beat. I didn’t know, until I heard it, how much I was expecting silence. 134, the monitor said. Dr. Pekman watched the paper streaming out of the machine. She was calm. So was I. She had given me a button to press each time I felt baby move, but I knew I wouldn’t be pressing it. It had been so long since I had felt anything… What would change that now? 30 minutes had passed on the fetal monitor when she told me I should head to the hospital for additional monitoring. It surprised me. There was a heart beat, so wasn’t everything okay? She said there was little variability in baby’s heart rate, and she wanted to make sure there was nothing else going on. She showed me the strip of paper – the monotonous line, slothful — just barely crossing over and under the center line. I could see it wasn’t normal. She was calm, but stern, when she told me to go now. That they were expecting me. She told me not to go home first. I know now that this was her way of communicating that my situation was dire. But I had heard a heart beat, and I was calm.

Alex was in the parking lot with her kids, ready to take Tessa home with her. She said later that the Holy Spirit had pushed her to go, despite my assurance that she wasn’t needed. I guess He knew what I didn’t, and she followed His lead. We had a time getting Tessa’s carseat into her 4-runner, wedged between the other 2. None of us could get it just right… The clock was ticking, and I had no idea the gravity of every minute that passed. After 20 minutes, we decided to move all 3 seats into our van, and she would take the van home with her. 10 more minutes passed making that transition. I think of these minutes all the time. But in that moment, I remembered the sound of the her heart beating, and I was calm.

Parking decks. They’re over-crowded and cumbersome to navigate, and there’s always a line. We didn’t know, until we eventually got inside, that we could have gotten valet and walked right in the front entrance. Minutes, gone. Minutes that could have saved her. They would haunt me later.


Triage, my holding cell

The fetal monitor at the hospital was finicky. I remember thinking that the technology had been much nicer at the doctor’s office. It took the nurse a minute to get it positioned just right so we could hear the heart beat again. And there it was. A melody of rest and relief. After an hour, the nurse said that things were looking a bit better. I still hadn’t gotten to press the button. It was 1:30. I had been paying attention now for 29 hours. And she was so still.

Dr. Rouse, the on-call doctor, came in with a bedside ultrasound machine. She said she wanted to do a 30-minute “BPP test” on the baby, where they look for certain things and give points based on baby’s performance. 2 points for amniotic fluid, 2 for gross motor skills, 2 for fine motor skills, 2 for heartbeat variability (which I had already lost), and 2 for breathing. The best I could score at this point was 8/10, which was enough to stay pregnant and go home in a couple of hours, assuming everything else was normal. 6/10 meant 24 hours of monitoring, steroids in case of early delivery, and another test tomorrow. 4/10 or less meant an emergency C-Section at 29 weeks and a day. I was desperately praying for at least a 6… I just had to stay pregnant! I was only 29 weeks, it was too early for them to take her out. That would be a worst-case scenario… But now… with the bitterness of hindsight, I find myself wishing she had scored a 4.

Amniotic fluid was perfect. She could tell that immediately. But baby was so still. We watched her, heart beating steadily, praying she would bend a leg or close a hand. But she just laid there, motionless, as I begged her to move. 20 minutes passed, and we only had 2 points. Dr. Rouse remained calm. Suddenly, with another rush of relief, sweet girl straightened out her leg. And then, like she had just woken up, she closed her hand, as if waving like babies do, scoring another 2 points for fine motor skills. We were at 4, waiting for her to roll over or take a breath. I was nervous, because I knew she hadn’t moved to point of me being able to feel anything in over a day… maybe more. It could have been more, but I hadn’t paid attention. But within a couple of minutes, she rolled over – 3 times! – and I felt her, for the first time since I could remember. Another wave of relief. We were at 6, and we celebrated that I could stay pregnant for at least another day. The last few minutes, we watched, hoping baby would take a breath – something that only happens once every half hour at this gestational age. Dr. Rouse didn’t seem too concerned, saying we could have missed it already when looking for the other things. So she felt confident, when the test was over, that things were okay… at least for now. 6/10.

Baby was sluggish, but she was alive. And now, I could feel her moving, every few minutes, like the threat of coming out early had given her a wake-up call. Dr. Rouse helped the nurse place the fetal monitor — which would stay on for another 24 hours — noting that it might take a minute since the baby had rolled over into a difficult position. Dr. Rouse left while the nurse struggled to place the monitor. She had me roll over on each side, but she couldn’t seem to get it placed. Theo left to go get lunch. We were getting prepared to spend the night in a very small, uncomfortable triage room, and lunch was, now, our first priority. While he was gone, 2 more nurses came in, trying to place the monitor. When he came back, I told him that I would normally be nervous in this situation, but I had felt baby continue to move, even in the midst of it all. So I knew she was still okay.

After 35 minutes and 4 nurses, they called Dr. Rouse to come back with the ultrasound machine and help them place the monitor. The nurses had been joking that the baby must be a boy (we didn’t know the gender at the time) because he was being so uncooperative. The mood was casual and light. When Dr. Rouse hooked up the doppler again, she was quiet. She moved the wand around to all the different spots on my very pregnant belly. She looked confused. But she didn’t speak. Dana, our nurse, was trying to untangle the chords behind the machine. Everything was so quiet. After a few minutes, Dr. Rouse took a deep breath, seemingly frustrated. She mumbled something under her breath, and then with clarity, “I’m so sorry. There are no heart tones.”

I’ve heard from other women who have experienced miscarriages that the weight of these words is crushing. I’ve read blogs and known brave friends who have shared about having to leave a doctor’s office in tears after hearing them, not ready to face what’s ahead. The emptiness. The pain. The angst and guilt that would follow them in and out of every day. It’s impossible to describe what the mind does in a moment like this. How the past and future collide into one moment, and everything falls violently out of order.

I remember the severity of Dana’s face as she quieted the chords and looked up with a start at Dr. Rouse. I looked at Theo, stricken with shock, and then I asked what she meant. I knew was she meant… but it couldn’t be. It had only been 35 minutes since we had seen her move on the screen. We had just seen her heart beating, steadily. We had just scored 6/10, which ensured staying pregnant for another day. I had been guaranteed another day! I had felt her, even after the ultrasound. She had been alive only minutes before. Just minutes. And then the heaping pile of wasted minutes rolled into my mind, wrestling me to the ground. The missed call. The carseats. The parking deck. The email… The calm that had lied to me.


The call I didn’t make and God’s sovereign hand

I can reason now that had I gotten there an hour earlier – had I not missed the first call… had we not had issues with the carseats or the parking deck – that the result would have been the same. Maybe I would have made it to the operating room, but she would have died before they could get her out. I can reason that now.

But if I had just called.

If I had called the night before, they would have sent me to Urgent Care. They would have done the BPP much sooner – they would have seen the issues earlier. We would have had so many more hours to make a plan. She was alive for all of those hours. But I had been calm. Because you rarely hear of a third-trimester pregnancy loss… I was nearly 30 weeks, prepping to just get through the holidays and then bring her home. It was going to fly by. What can go wrong this late in the game? Even if she had been born this early, her chances of survival were almost 100% with the medical advances we have access to. It would have been a long road in the NICU, but she would have been alive. And that would have been worst-case scenario.

But I didn’t pay attention. And when I did, I didn’t call.

I will face this sharp reality for the rest of my days. But I will also wrestle with Psalm 139:16 — “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Were those, indeed, the full number of her days? If this is true, then even if I had called, nothing would have changed. She would have died around 3 p.m. on Monday, October 21, 2019, whether inside or outside of my body. Because those were the number of her days. I couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t keep her alive. My very body – where her life was formed and secured – was also her resting place. Before I could ever explain to her the brokenness of this world and the reality of death — warn her of the hardships she would inevitably face — she had to see it, first-hand, by herself. An innocent infant. And I couldn’t save her.

A dreaded induction

When they told me they would be inducing me — that I would have to go through the whole birthing process — my whole body raged against it. I was petrified of another life experience that would haunt me. This wasn’t going to be a normal birth story… The end would be so different. I wanted to run from the future flashbacks. The PTSD and anxiety that would follow. Another lifeless body – the finality that’s impossible to swallow. My mom, who I lost to suicide 13 years ago, came crashing into my already-fogged mind. I only just started working through losing her a couple of months ago. I only just started to learn to grieve her properly. I only just started to be able to think of that day — the day I found her — and not have to gasp for air. It took me 13 years. How would I be able to pile this on and do it all again?


I was induced that evening around 5 o’clock, as the waves of people rolled in. My room was a revolving door of friends and family for the next 55 hours. Flashes of the day my mom died came into focus, as I remembered the whole town swarming my house. News travels fast. Especially with a husband like mine. Theo’s the kind of guy who wants the world to be close to him – as close as possible. He wants to be known so fully, and so intimately, that a dividing line between him and a friend would be hard to discern. He is vulnerable. Transparent. Receptive to help. All things I never was when I lost my mom. All things I had to let him carry us through as we swallowed the reality of losing Hannah. His grief was on display, and thus mine too.

In the midst of those days in the hospital, I had an eery feeling of de ja vu. My birth story with Tessa had been strikingly similar in many ways. I was called into the hospital with news of complications. I was sent to triage and hooked to a fetal monitor. It was determined that I would need to be induced into labor, earlier than expected – with no time to go home first. My labor would last 65 hours before holding my baby. It was all strangely the same. The same friends, the same family, the same drugs to progress the induction – the same feelings of desperation and frustration… ready for it all to be over. Agony. With Tessa, the agony was physical, as I endured all of those hours with no pain medication. This agony, masked by a 31-hour epidural, was in my mind, as I anticipated the stillness – the quiet – that would pierce the room when my baby arrived.

All of the doctors seemed surprised that the induction was taking as long as it was. But I wasn’t. It took days for my body to release Tessa into the world. And even though I was telling myself I wanted things to go quickly this time, my body wasn’t ready. Looking back, I’m thankful. I’m thankful to have had the days in the hospital, wading through the rough waters of decisions that no parents should ever have to make. Do we have a service? Is that overkill? Do we have a burial? A casket? The whole works? Do we let people come in and meet her – even though we would all know she isn’t really here? Do we take pictures? Get her footprints? Do we want Tessa to meet her? At the time, none of it seemed appealing. But I was terrified of regret.

Arthur’s mom


Hannah and Arthur laid to rest together

Another mom from our church came to visit me the first night I was in the hospital. Her son, Arthur, had been diagnosed at 20 weeks gestation with a condition that would make him “incompatible with life” outside the womb. She made it to full term with him, and he was miraculously born alive. He lived for two days — they even got to take him home — and they celebrated each hour as a birthday, knowing they were numbered. She had been so open about her journey from the day she learned of his diagnosis. A gifted writer, she held a captive audience as she blogged about the depth of her sorrow that was somehow laced with hope. It felt like the whole town was following her family’s story – seeing how it would all play out. I remember feeling especially drawn to her – to her grief. I ached deeply for this woman I didn’t know. And I wasn’t even a mother myself yet. Somehow I empathized with her — imagining the heartache… the feelings of helplessness and despair. The fight against the finality of it all. And I was in awe of her ability to surrender. To surrender his life and her body to the Lord.

I didn’t know we would meet again like this. I didn’t know my ache for her loss would multiply as I now found myself in her camp – grieving the loss of my child. I didn’t know how desperately I would cling to every world she spoke to me, as she offered advice and wisdom from her bereaved mother’s heart. But in that room, in that moment, she got to be Arthur’s mom. I hope it blessed her to remember him, and to use her experience with him to help me. She guided us through the decisions we would face, and she encouraged us to do everything that was offered to us. She was gentle in her pressing, offering that we could always pack away the things in a box and never look at them again, but we couldn’t come back to this place and do it differently, should we change our minds later. She spoke to my fear. The fear of longing to go back and change everything. Once my mind cleared, I knew I would agree with her. The haze would lift, and I would want to see her pictures – I would want to remember the size of her tiny feet and hands, perfectly complete with nails and wrinkles. I would want to honor her life with a service, and give others a place to grieve her with us. I would want to have a marker in a cemetery somewhere – a place I could go and remember her. I would want it all, one day.

She was born still. But she was still born.

I had felt almost nothing for the last day and a half. The epidural was my saving grace, sparing me — fragile and weak — from the physical pain of labor. I had been adamant about natural labor with Tessa. Not because I didn’t believe in medicine or thought it could be harmful to my baby, but because I just wanted to see what it was like. To deliver a baby. To feel everything. To experience the relief at the end of it all — and to know that, when I held my baby, it would all have been worth it. And my gosh, it was. Holding Tessa for the first time was euphoric for me. An inner explosion of hormones and love like I will never be able to put into words.

I felt guilty for not wanting to do any of that for Hannah. I remember saying to Theo, when I wasn’t progressing… “All of this agony – the labor, the waiting – isn’t worth it. All of this, for what??” I immediately wanted to take it back. I would still get to deliver my baby. I would still get to hold her. I would still get to be her mom. Wouldn’t that be worth it…?

Around 11 p.m. on October 23, an urge to push woke me up. They had broken my water earlier that evening, and it had just been a waiting game since. My dad had gone back home to get some sleep. He lives an hour away and had left just 2 hours earlier. The rest of our family and a few close friends waited anxiously in the waiting room. Theo called our friend who was watching Tessa and told her it was time to bring her back. I could tell that pushing wouldn’t take very long. She was so small… I waited for Dr. Stein to get everything set up. The moment was nearly here. The one I had dreaded and longed for simultaneously. The moment I would hold my still, silent daughter. The moment I was sure would haunt me in the coming months and years. After just three weak pushes, she was here. 3 lbs., 2 oz., 16″ long. Her umbilical cord was short, so she couldn’t reach my arms. I wailed to hold her, as I waited for Dr. Stein to get her to me. She was small, fragile. Her skin had peeled in a few places from being in utero for two days with no life in her. But a friend who had gone through this a year before had prepared me for this. But she was still beautiful. Her nose and lips were perfect and looked just like Tessa. Theo cut the cord. And we held her, in silence, for the next half hour. Just the three of us. I had been wrong about the anticipated trauma. The trauma was behind me — hearing those words in triage. But delivering and holding our daughter wasn’t traumatic at all. It was just heartbreaking. To see how perfectly formed she was – her finger nails, hair, knuckles, eye lashes, her small body, perfectly proportional – yet lifeless. I would never see her stretch out, or yawn or cry. I would never get to change her diaper or nurse her, though my body would soon be ready. I wouldn’t get to see her open her eyes and see the world for the first time… But spending time holding her, swaddling her, measuring and photographing her — a gift not all parents in our situation get to experience — gave me an opportunity to be her mom. And that would have to be enough.

Tessa came in with our night nurse, Marina. Theo was holding Hannah, swaddled and wearing a knitted hat. Tessa immediately reached for her with urgency. “I wanna hold it!” We laughed. I will never forget that brief moment of joy that enveloped the room. As she held her sister, pointing to her nose and her ears and smiling at me, I saw Hannah the way she did. Perfect. Beautiful. And fast asleep. Tessa knew this baby was different than others she had met — she had her own sense of ownership. Today she had become a big sister. And she will always know that.

Over the next couple of hours, with Theo’s nudging, our family and friends rotated into the room to meet our daughter. I know this was an experience they will never forget, and hopefully, one they will never have again. It was again surreal, seeing them pass around my daughter — grimly similar to just 2 years before. But the feeling in the room was gloom. The tears weren’t filled with joy, but with heartache and shock. The hugs weren’t congratulatory, but filled with desperation and grief. No one knew what to say. Neither did I. So we just cried together, knowing we would never be the same.

We got to spend the night with her. But it was so late by the time we were transferred to a postpartum room, that we only got 3 hours of sleep. But we slept so hard. I remember waking up with a start, Hannah in a cuddle cot beside me. I had a flashback to the postpartum room with Tessa. We hadn’t slept a wink that first night. These rooms were meant for “rooming in” — a hazing of sorts for first time parents. The night you’re ushered into the newborn haze before going home with a new role. But the silence in our room that next morning was deafening as we realized how well we had slept. And within a couple of hours, we knew we were ready to say goodbye.

They rolled her cot out of the room, our future with it. And the finality of it all came crashing over me. We would go home – from labor and delivery – empty handed. I remember feeling like there was a spotlight on me when I was rolled out of the room. All of our bags from the days in the hospital were piled on the cart, and there was a special seat for the new mom in front. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone on our way out… in case they might be wondering where our new bundle of joy was. The rest is a haze.


Laying Hannah to rest

In the week that followed, we wrestled through the fog while planning a funeral service, a burial, and a reception for all of our out-of-town friends and family. By letting people in, we found the load a bit lighter. By letting others have closure of this pregnancy with us – by having a service – we could see that our grief was shared. By talking about Hannah, we continue to see how her short life and passing has impacted others. And we can honor the life that the Lord created, even if only for a painfully short time.

A lifetime seems like an impossible time to wait to see her again, but we know with assurance that we will be reunited, and that she is in the arms of a loving, good Father who is caring for her in our stead.

Tessa burial

These are the events of October 21, 2019, from my perspective.


I remember walking out the door to head off to my normal “Monday.” Mondays for me have always been an organizing day. I feel great when the day is over, but in the morning so many things are circling in my head.

Brittany had been up all night concerned with the baby. She had not felt the baby move in a 24-hour period at this point. I calmly said, “Call the doctor,” and reassured her that everything was okay.

That is what a good husband of a pregnant wife is supposed to do. She can’t think clearly right? Her hormones are all out of whack. That’s why she needs me as a husband to be the logical for her. To assure her that things are okay.

To make her feel calm in the chaos of her mind. This calmness is something I will regret for the rest of my life. But my sense of calmness and certainty died that day… it died along my baby girl, Hannah.

With those wise words, I went off to work to plan, organize and get everything done to setup for a BIG sales week. That was the plan! Before I started work, I felt the need to do a little devotional and pray for Brittany and the baby. 

I flipped open my “Daily Devotional for Men,” and picked out October 21, 2019. I hadn’t opened this devotional in at least a month, but today I decided to. The devotion was entitled “Trust God for the Future.” The verse was an all-too-familiar one – Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for you to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” I felt great after reading this. Like the LORD was reassuring me that everything was good with the baby. I mean, He said that He has plans to give me a future and a hope. That He gives and does not harm… I would learn later that this “good” is not always what we consider good… that God answers prayers very differently then I used to think… that a dead child can be an answer to a prayer… that the Lord can be silent… that He can say “No” and still be good… These things I would wrestle with for the rest of the year and beyond. 

I went back to work from this devotional feeling great! Then… I got the call that started the never-ending rollercoaster of hope and grief. The day that I would give anything to change. Britt called and told me she was headed to the doctor’s office with Tessa, our oldest daughter. I had a coaching call I was minutes away from conducting with a sales rep on my team, followed by a coaching call with my coach for real estate. I asked Britt what she was thinking and feeling. I could tell in her voice she was anxious. I reassured her that everything was fine. It was good for her to go to the doctor’s office though, to just make her feel better. I said I would cancel my calls and meet her there. I reluctantly canceled the calls, knowing in my heart everything would be okay. I left my books on the table because I would be back shortly…


On the way over to the doctor’s office, I felt calm. I prayed… I remember the devotion from this morning, I truly felt it was God saying, “You’re good. The baby is good. I got you!” I arrived at about the same time that Britt did. I quickly took Tessa as my responsibility so “Mommy could get checked by the doctor.” We went back together – all three of us. I had Tessa in my lap, trying to keep her still so we could listen – so Mommy could stay calm. The ultrasound tech came in with the machine and we quickly heard a heartbeat. I felt reassured, almost pridefully, like, “See? I knew we were okay.” They hooked Brittany up and wanted to see the heart variability, and check if Britt could feel the baby move. Dr. Pekman came back about 15 minutes later. This whole time, Britt an I had had gone back to normal. We felt good. We were hearing the heartbeat! Tessa was a little all over the place, and I was getting annoyed with her, but feeling relieved about the baby. When Dr. Pekman came back in, she seemed calm and assured that things were okay, just not perfect. She mentioned how the baby seemed a little sluggish and would feel better with a little more monitoring. She said that this specific office did not have the equipment they needed to monitor Brittany for an extended amount of time, so we would need to go to the hospital. She walked us through what we would be doing when we got to triage, and reassured us that things seemed good, but this was just precautionary. She was firm about going quickly, but not overly concerned. 


I went outside to call a friend to pick up Tessa, and to cancel the rest of my day. As I walked outside, Britt’s friend, Alex DeBoer, was there with her two kids. I was shocked and also relieved that she was already there. The two of us tried to get Tessa’s car seat in her car. I have never been good at car seats. I was annoyed I had to do this. I was feeling more and more anxious the longer it took. Britt eventually came out to try and help, and the three of us decided to just give Alex our van. So we quickly took all three car seats and put them in the van. The kids were excited to be with each other, but confused as well. We left the parking lot, and the unsettling feeling crept into my stomach… a feeling that wouldn’t leave me for months, and a feeling that comes back most days, even now. We headed to the hospital, parked and went to triage.

Last time Brittany was told to go to triage for testing was with Tessa, and we never left until she delivered (5 hours of testing, 65.5 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing and Tessa would be born 3 weeks early). This was in my head. I think I even said out loud, “We could have a baby today!” I had a college friend who had a miracle baby at 23 weeks gestation. Throughout both Tessa’s pregnancy and this one, I religiously read the statistics of what the baby’s survival out of the womb would be at each stage. We were at 29 weeks — almost 30 — and the survival rate was 99.9%. I told Britt this with my normal perky enthusiasm. The type of enthusiasm that I am known for – but it’s often not received well by Brittany… I got her “look” that she so often gives me, that basically says, “Not the time, Theo.”  We walked through the lobby and I saw Panera. I was so hungry… I thought about ordering food first before going up, but I talked myself out of it. We got settled into the triage room, the whole thing feeling eerily familiar to two years ago with Tessa. I thought this time would be different… We would have bags packed early this time. I didn’t want one of Britt’s friends to grab the wrong kind of underwear again. I wanted to pack my hospital bag. I wanted my pillow and my blanket this time so I could get some type of sleep. All of these thoughts were racing through my head as I waited for what I felt like was going to happen – a dreaded induction to birth our second child, just a lot earlier than expected. And OH what a STORY it will be! I love good stories, and this would be one of them.


They hooked up Brittany, and I set there feeling helpless like most husbands do. I was there, but “in the way.” The true patients are always your wife and the baby. You are just a sperm donor to the medical staff, at least in a normal outcome. I settled into the background as the nurses came in chatting with Brittany, asking if we knew the gender, how she was feeling/doing, how far along, etc.? They hooked her up, and again we heard a heartbeat… another sigh of relief for Brittany and me. They left the room for a bit, and Britt and I chatted about the upcoming ultrasound. Up to this point, we did not know the gender. We had planned on not knowing the gender until birth, just like we did with Tessa. This was the thing I honed in on — I wanted to make sure the doctor didn’t ruin this surprise for us. When Dr. Rouse came in to do the BPP test via ultrasound, I made sure to tell her we didn’t know the gender and to not show us anything that would reveal it! So dumb… so focused on surface-level things… She performed the test, and again, we saw a heartbeat. But for 20 minutes, it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the tiny triage room. We sat there still, almost as still as our baby. The baby didn’t move for what felt like an eternity… And then, as if she woke up from a deep slumber, she started moving! She waved at us, she moved her leg, she started rolling around and Brittany even felt her! PRAISE! Everything was okay! Dr. Rouse felt good – she unhooked Brittany from the machine, and called in the nurses to get the fetal monitor back on… I was reassured and hungry, so I left to get food. This is something I will regret for the rest of my life… The last moments of my daughter’s life, I was gone getting food… I left her and her mom. Her mom wouldn’t know it until I was back, but I think of the final kicks I wished I could have felt, the final words I could have spoken to her. The final anything… Instead I was eating!


I came back up stairs with food for both of us and was excited to sit down and eat. At this point, it was almost 3:30 p.m., and I hadn’t eaten since 9. So I walked in and was confused as to why the nurses were still in the room trying to get the fetal heart monitor hooked back up. I’d been gone almost half an hour. What was taking so long? We just saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound. No one seemed concerned, and Brittany said she was feeling the baby again… I asked if the doctor could come back to help them place the monitor with the ultrasound. They called back Dr. Rouse, and again everyone joking about how baby was curled up in tricky position… that it probably was a boy. I wasn’t nervous as she hooked up the ultrasound. I sat down and started to take a bite into my sandwich when the image of Hannah appeared on the screen. There was absolute silence, and I stood up to look over at the screen and hold Britt’s hand. Dr. Rouse said something inaudible. I looked at her face and looked at the nurse Dana’s face as Dr. Rouse said audibly, “I am so sorry there are no heart tones.” I was like, what are heart tones? but nothing came out of my mouth. I was looking directly at Dana as I received this information and noticed her quietly and sympathetically looking at both Brittany and me. I had an out-of-body experience in this moment. So many thoughts swirling in my head, but I couldn’t communicate a single one. I thought how good of a job Dana was doing to comfort Britt and me with her simple glances. I thought about how devastated Britt looked and how this is what she must have looked like the day her mom died. I thought about Dr. Rouse, and how a tear streamed down her face and thought, how nice to see a doctor’s emotions on such a hard day. I thought about the food behind me, and how inappropriate it would be to start eating now, but how badly I wanted to be doing just that simple task. All of these things were circling in my mind for what felt like 10 minutes, until I finally said, “Is it a boy or girl, we didn’t know?” Dr. Rouse nervously looked around to move from the baby’s head to confirm it was a girl. I looked at Britt and said, “It’s Hannah Kathleen,” and started to tear up. I then, in frustration, said to the doctor, “This machine is archaic – it’s like the computer I had in elementary school to play Oregon trail. There has to be a better machine that can detect more… Please!” The doctor said she would give us a minute and then take us over to the high-risk doctor that has the best ultrasound machines available. 

The shock was left to us as Dana and Dr. Rouse walked out the room. I hugged Brittany and cried into her shoulder as she uncontrollably sobbed into mine. She kept repeating “What? What? How can this be? How is this happening? I just felt her, I just saw her, she was alive!” I kept repeating, “I know, I know, this isn’t fair.” They then strolled us over to the high-risk ultrasound room. I felt like the entire nurses station was staring at us. Britt in a wheelchair, the nurse pushing her, and me walking right behind them. Gloom, red swollen faces. I looked down at my feet to avoid eye contact with anyone. It was the ultimate walk of shame. The walk of sorrow. We went in for what we knew was going to be the same results…. we had the last glimmer of hope that Dr. Rouse had been wrong, but we knew she wasn’t… The high risk ultrasound tech and doctor gently held our hands and confirmed that our baby, our baby girl, Hannah Kathleen, was no longer alive. She then tried to look for answers on the screen, and confirmed there was no indication as to what happened. All the questions now popped into our heads, but the main one was, “What happens now…?”

We went back to talk to Dr. Rouse about the options. For the first time in either of our lives we found out what happens to women at this point in pregnancy if their babies die, they still have to GIVE BIRTH! Like whaaaaat?? It makes sense, but it doesn’t seem right. Isn’t birth the hardest thing – the worse pain anyone will experience? And now you have to do this, knowing the ending is not a happy one?? There is no relief from your pain… EVER! We had also just learned that day that a stillbirth is a baby that dies after 20 weeks gestation and has to be delivered… so there was a name to what we were experiencing! We cried… we hugged each other… and then we decided to call our families. First her’s, then mine. 


The words wouldn’t come out of my mouth to tell her family or mine. We set up a conference call to share the news with her sister and dad together. To hear the tears, the heartbreak immediately. They were wrecked in that moment. They were brought into the shock… the tragedy that we had just experienced. Because of us, they would never be the same again… we did that to them. That’s how I felt. Then we had to call my family. We called my brother, sister, mom and dad all together and delivered the news. I remember my sister wailing… my mom (who was in Missouri visiting her newest granddaughter, born just 10 days earlier) couldn’t speak. My dad offered up a prayer through his tears that my brother had to finish for him. Then it was our friends… the ones who had been praying for the safety of the baby… we had to let them know the outcome — that their prayers were answered with a BIG NO. I called one friend to call the rest, and sent a simple text to another “Baby is gone..her name is Hannah Kathleen.” Both of these friends immediately informed the rest that I couldn’t call. Another hour had passed, and around 5:15 p.m., we decided we were ready. Britt decided she wanted to start the induction.


As we headed I started thinking about work. What did I have tomorrow, the next day, this week. How long would I be gone. What do I need to cancel? We entered the room and I had to now cancel things, decide what to do, who to delegate needed tasks at work to and do it quickly. What did I need to cancel for Brittany? I think knowing I couldn’t control what had just happened and knowing I couldn’t take the physical pain from Brittany left me out of control – chaotic. So that made me want to control everything else that I could. My anxiety and need for control revved up that day, and a year later, I have never let go of it.

We had been here before with Tessa. We had done this. But we settled in to the thought that this one would be quicker. After all, they could ramp up the induction since we weren’t trying to protect the baby anymore – since Hannah was gone. They started the medicine and encouraged an epidural to Brittany, something she didn’t do last time. I was nervous about it, but I wanted her to be in as little physical pain as possible. She agreed, and they said they would talk to her about it once she started feeling pain.

Then the people started filling the hospital room. I wanted them but also dreaded them. What do I say, what do they say? Each person came in, starting with Britt’s dad then her sister and her aunt then friends. Every time, it felt like I was realizing what was happening and as I embraced each family member or friend I burst into tears. It was an experience like nothing else I have ever experienced. To be that raw, to be that silent, to be okay. The friends stayed they talked amongst themselves, they offer sentiments, they got food for us. They wanted to be around they didn’t know what else to do but to just be present. And that’s what we needed and still need is just presence… My dad was driving through the night to come care for Tessa and relieve our friend Alex. My mom booked a flight immediately to get to Charlotte from Missouri as quickly as she could.

After the friends left, Amanda, Dave and Beverly were the last ones there. We chatted. It was nice to have them. They all slept in the hospital that night. They left our room around midnight, and I remember being so tired, but also not wanting them to leave. The nurses gave Britt something to help her sleep, and in minutes, I heard her snoring. Here I was, in the quiet of the night, finally faced with it all by myself and the LORD. This is when the wrestling with the Lord began. I asked why? Why me? Why Brittany? Hasn’t she been through enough? I grew angry, and then I grew anxious as I tried to sleep on the most uncomfortable “partner chair” with a flat sheet as thin as toilet paper and a flat pillow that is basically a flattened up cardboard box. I tossed and turned, my heart racing. I had never experienced this. My thoughts started going towards my oldest daughter, Tessa. Is she okay? Does she know what happened? What if she dies tonight? What would I do??

The beginning of this extreme anxiety set in that night… Anxiety and thoughts that I still fight today. And at last I found sleep.