Meet Jess! In recent months, she has shown us what INCREDIBLE strength looks like. You could find Jess in prenatal yoga every single Saturday morning last fall and this winter. We are so grateful that Jess and her husband, Tom were willing to share Cora’s birth story with us.
What was your first thought when you found out you were pregnant (this time around)? Tell us a little bit more about your pregnancy.
Excitement for sure. Children are such a beautiful gift and we felt so blessed to have another on the way. We were looking forward to seeing our daughter, Hannah (who at the time was 13 months old) become a big sister. I couldn’t wait for her to meet our new baby and watch them grow together. Cora was a mover from the beginning. I recall feeling movement at just 10 weeks and asking my doctor if it was really possible to feel movement so early (which she confirmed: yes it was). In retrospect, I am so happy I was able to notice her so early on, now knowing how short her life would be. The pregnancy was healthy without complications. I loved hearing her heartbeat each appointment and seeing her via ultrasound at 12 and 20 weeks. She never stopped moving for those poor ultrasound techs either. :)
You attended prenatal yoga regularly throughout your pregnancy - what did you learn from the time you spent on your yoga mat?
Every week when I attended prenatal yoga on Saturday mornings, I actively pushed out all the other things on my mind and just focused on the moment. It was a time set aside to not only help stretch out my achy pregnant body, but also a time I focused on Cora. I enjoyed feeling her movements as I stretched and changed positions throughout class. I learned to be still and “in the moment” each Saturday morning.
Tell us about Cora's birth. What was it like giving birth amidst a pandemic?
Due to COVID-19, I knew my doctor wasn’t going to be able to deliver our baby at the hospital. I had anxieties about coming into contact with it and bringing it home to my parents who would be caring for our other daughter, Hannah. I was also worried about the unknowns, not knowing if COVID-19 would affect the baby. The day of her delivery was on 4/5/2020. I was 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I started feeling contractions late in the morning and called OB triage to talk with a nurse. She had asked me if I felt movement that morning, and when I paused to think of it, I hadn’t. I wasn’t concerned though, thinking I had a busy morning with our toddler and I probably just wasn’t paying close attention. She asked me to take the next hour and feel for movement and call back. I continued to labor at home and as the contractions got more intense, I thought to myself it was going to be difficult to distinguish movement amongst all the contractions and pain I was experiencing. However, I still hadn’t felt any noticeable movement, so I called back and informed the nurse my husband and I were on our way in. The drive downtown, my husband and I still debated baby names. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl and had been going back and forth on names throughout the whole pregnancy. When we arrived, the hospital staff took our temperature and screened us for COVID and then we went to the triage room. The nurse used a fetal doppler to look for the heartbeat, but she struggled to find it so requested an ultrasound machine. At this point, my memory starts to blur together as I was in pretty intense labor and was about to go through the traumatic news of our baby’s passing. I recall really intense contractions and in between they would use the ultrasound to look for Cora’s heartbeat. At one point, a doctor was called down. When she entered the room, I remember her announcing that I needed to prepare to deliver the baby at any moment and she called for a team of nurses to come down from the delivery floor as well. I was in a lot of pain and I couldn’t understand why no one had found the heartbeat. Within moments of additional nurses entering the room, the doctor announced she wanted to try to get me to the labor and delivery floor. They wheeled me in the bed to an elevator and we headed upstairs. The doctor informed me that the NICU team was going to be present in the room when I delivered because they were having difficulty finding the heartbeat. Once in the room, they continued to use the ultrasound and that’s the moment I will never forget. The doctor looked at me and told me, “I’m sorry, I can’t find the heartbeat”. It’s one of the most unbearable things to hear as a parent. It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I cried and clung to my husband in utter disbelief. Cora was delivered at 7:31 PM on April 5th. She was 18” long and weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces. She was such a beautiful, sweet little girl. The nurses took her footprints, took photos and dressed her in a white gown made from a wedding dress that was donated to the hospital for babies who are born still. We held our daughter that night while we attempted to process what had just happened. We called our parents and our pastor to tell them the news and were discharged around midnight. The next few weeks we received an outpouring of love from friends and family as word spread of the loss of our daughter. Although we couldn't see people in person, we received cards, texts and messages from so many. Some of who shared their experience of miscarriages or child loss. It helped to know we weren't alone in this experience. Cora will forever be in my heart. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. Although her life was short, she had such an impact. Her life had meaning and has forever shaped us as a family.
What have been some things that people have said that have been helpful or particularly supportive?
So many people prayed for us or told us they were thinking of us when they found out what happened. It was truly amazing and so comforting to know we were surrounded in prayer. Also, when someone tells us they are thinking of us and Cora. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my baby girl and I worry that she may be forgotten by others as time goes on - so really just hearing that others are thinking of her is incredibly supportive and comforting. Hearing others say her name and talk about her or ask about her. It all helps to know that our sweet baby girl hasn’t been forgotten. We miss her so much.
What advice would you give someone that experiences infant loss?
Be kind to yourself. It’s advice I have to tell myself still today. In our case, we don’t have any answers as to “why” Cora was stillborn. It’s really easy to go down the path of guilt, wondering what I could have done as her mama to avoid what happened. I don’t think I’m alone in those thoughts as a mama who has experienced loss and I think it’s important to give yourself grace and know you aren’t alone. I have found that prayer, reading the Bible and conversations with other mamas who have experienced loss have also been significant in my grief journey. It helps to know you aren’t alone and that both you and your baby are so loved.
What are some ways that you are honoring Cora's memory?
We had a beautiful service for Cora and laid her ashes to rest in a columbarium at our church. I have faith she is in heaven and I will get to see her again someday. Also, you can’t walk into our home without knowing Cora is part of our family. We won’t be able to have photos of her growing up, so instead our house is filled with other ways to remember her. We were gifted things with her name on it from friends and family and we framed some photos as well. We’ve been able to fill our home with the memory of her.
In loving memory of Cora Lynn Mohr