Kesley Pfleiderer and her husband, Luke, became pregnant with twins in the Summer of 2019. Sadly, she lost the first baby in vanishing twin syndrome in the first trimester. A week and a half later, she lost the second baby. She named the babies Milo & Mila, after the Spanish word, “milagro”, meaning miracle.
Kelsey became pregnant unexpectedly two months after her loss.
Thankfully, Luke was able to be at many of the important early appointments, including their anatomy scan. Then, the pandemic hit and took center stage for everyone, and he was no longer able to attend her weekly appointments and NSTs (non-stress tests). But, her monthly ultrasound appointments with maternal-fetal medicine, he was able to attend, which was an upside of having a high-risk pregnancy.
Kelsey told us, “I always made sure to drink extra orange juice on the mornings of those appointments as it made James extra active and fun to watch on the ultrasound, so Luke could have just a snippet of joy of watching our son on the screen. Now that he is here with us earthside, I know it was not the orange juice that did the trick, but the active and goofy James just being himself!”
“Just like being pregnant after loss, being pregnant during the pandemic was extremely bittersweet.”
Through it all, Kelsey had a great support system. She told us, “I know with certainty I could not have gotten through being pregnant during a pandemic without a community of people who get it. This starts with my faith, my amazingly supportive husband, my medical care team, and Pregnancy After Loss Support. Feeling so overwhelmed but having those spaces to run to and feel completely understood, seen, heard, and never judged brought me such peace.”
James Grover Pfleiderer was born on June 17, 2020.
He is named after his great grandfather, Kelsey’s Papa. On the day he was born, a rainbow appeared outside their hospital window. It disappeared as quickly as it appeared, and about an hour and a half later, a second rainbow appeared. Kelsey and Luke lost their second baby a week and a half after their first, so this was a remarkably beautiful symbol to them. They knew that was Milo and Mila welcoming their baby brother from above. Kelsey says she’ll never forget that moment.
Kelsey reports that James is the sweetest, happiest baby. He is constantly smiling (unless he is hungry, don’t mess with his food!). He loves to snuggle up with mama and play around with Luke. Mama and daddy love it! He adores Winnie the Pooh, which makes perfect sense, as his parents agree that his loving temperament and adoration for mealtime makes him quite similar to the silly old bear.
“After we brought James home safely, I remember feeling so triumphant with my little family. A high-risk pregnancy after a double loss during a pandemic: with our sweet angel babies watching from above, we did it!”
Kelsey shared how PALS supported her during her pregnancy after loss in a pandemic:
Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) was and continues to be such a safe haven. When the pandemic first hit, I dipped my toe into the idea of having a pity party the rest of the pregnancy. With the pregnancy being extremely high risk due to chronic health battles I face, after losing our twins, a pandemic to top it all off seemed like a cruel joke. It took away from us shared appointments, our baby shower, and the joy of sharing the rest of the pregnancy with loved ones. But even still: we got our beautiful rainbow baby boy despite it all.
Having PALS to go to was increasingly helpful throughout all of it. Anytime I considered jumping into the riptide of self-pity and allowing the pandemic to steal joy out of the pregnancy, PALS was the gentle, knowing, and loving friend that took my hand and walked with me until I felt comforted enough to reclaim the joy. Anytime I felt like no one quite understood, anytime I felt judged by those who don’t understand loss, anytime I felt rushed or hushed in my grieving journey, the community at PALS and the words written by others that seemed to peer right into my aching and swelling heart gave me a respite.
It also brought me some of the most beautiful online relationships. These friendships were such a gift throughout the pregnancy, as the mamas and I would check in on one another and open space for the other to be whatever they needed to be in that moment. Joyful, hopeful, anxious, sad, whatever it may be, we got it and helped one another.
Now, we continue to share our journeys as we all watch one another’s littles grow. In PALS, I have been given a community of “I get it. Truly. And I got you, too.” That is a tremendous gift, and has encouraged me to never go it alone, to always open up and honestly share my heart in pregnancy and parenting after loss during a pandemic. We were all created for community. PALS is such an otherworldly beautiful one.
As the holidays approach and the pandemic continues, Kelsey is thinking about her twins, Milo and Mila.
Milo and Mila would be 9 months old this holiday season. Kelsey says she is a sucker for all things Christmas, so she imagines they would be bundled up in the coziest matching Christmas outfits all month long–maybe even before Thanksgiving!
Kelsey told us, “It’s tricky to consider what I might give them. More than anything, I hope to give them the gift of honoring their lives by sharing their story and helping other parents braving the riptide of pregnancy loss. I hope to make them proud every day, just as I hope to make my rainbow little man James proud.
Their family honors the twins by hanging custom ornaments on their Christmas tree with their names.
Kelsey wants to tell other mamas pregnant after loss during the pandemic:
I know it seems like the pandemic is just taking from your pregnancy. Taking family visits. Taking delivery visitors. Taking joined appointments. Taking baby showers. Taking any ounce of peace you tried to have during your pregnancy after loss, but I promise you, it is giving you so much, too. We were in the hospital for four days after I delivered James, and during one of the middle of the night feedings and checkups, we got to talking with the nurse. She shared with us that she has done this her whole life, but never before has she seen couples walk out of the hospital so united. She said the elimination of visitor hours has given couples the gift of time to focus only on not just the baby, but each other. No visitors giving any unnecessary advice or opinions, no pressure to feel like you have it figured out yet, none of that. Sure, grandma hugs are missed. But the time spent just as the new family unit is extremely beautifully binding.
We agree with her wholeheartedly. When we were YouTubing how to properly swaddle at 3:00 a.m., when I was taking my first steps post c-section, when we were trying desperately to get James to latch, when we were enjoying our first postpartum meal of Chick-Fil-a, it was just us. Just us to cry together, laugh together, be more blissfully exhausted together, and learn each other together. I would not trade that gift for anything.
You are amazing. Pregnancy after loss already feels like such a miraculous triumph as a family. Pregnancy after loss during a global pandemic? Your story is truly one for the books. And one day, when you tell your little one the story of when they were cooking in your belly, and all you did to keep them safe, and how you stayed hunkered down together just to love each other through it all? Goodness. Kids always want to be a part of a fairy tale. You are starting their story with a happily ever after.
Allow yourself to be honest about your needs. Rely on your support system as much as needed. Know that the people who love you will never tire of supporting you through this. And most of all, know that you are not alone, you are INCREDIBLE, and you will champion through this.
And, Kelsey wants those who love someone who is pregnant after loss in a pandemic to know:
I wish people knew how much little check-in texts and calls meant. My mother-in-law has always done this so beautifully. She always remembers to remember the twins, too. She’ll see a double bloom on a plant and text us a picture of it. Little things like that mean a lot and really help us feel understood. Remember to check on mama + daddy before asking about the baby. They are going through a lot, and having a sounding board they trust is essential. If giving gifts, frozen meals to easily prep, gift cards to meal kit delivery services or grocery deliveries, etc. are so much more meaningful than a millionth frilly onesie, and will make their lives so much easier.
Understand that not everyone likes to discuss their loss, so always be sensitive to that. If you are unsure where a close loved one stands on how often/if they want to talk about their angel, I encourage you to have a gentle private conversation with them at the right time. My husband and I love remembering our angel babies with those we love, and telling their story publicly in hopes of helping others feel not alone. But everyone walks different journeys, so always check gently if you are unsure. They might appreciate being loved quietly, or they may really appreciate remembering their angels with you loudly. Everyone is different.
Thank you so much to Kelsey for sharing her story with us as part of our #WhatWouldIGive Holiday Campaign.
Help PALS continue to support mamas who are pregnant after loss during the pandemic by giving to our What Would I Give Holiday Fundraising Campaign. Set up a recurrent monthly donation of $9 (for the nine months of pregnancy after loss), or make a one-time donation of $40 (for the 40 weeks of pregnancy after loss). Donate now.
Are you pregnant after loss during the pandemic and need extra support or resources? Join one of our Facebook peer-to-peer support groups and see these articles:
- Coping Skills for Pregnancy After Loss during a Pandemic: Remember that we’re your PALS in a PANDEMIC
- Quarantined? 7 Tips for Pregnant after Loss Mamas to Manage Anxiety in Isolation
- Coping with Fear in the Face of COVID-19
- You Expected Pregnancy After Loss To Be Hard, But You Didn’t Expect This
- 5 Reminders for Pregnant after Loss Moms as the Pandemic Continues
Are you parenting after loss during the pandemic and need extra support or resources? Join our Parenting after Loss Facebook peer-to-peer support group and see these articles:
- Pandemic Parenting After Loss: Choosing Faith Over Fear
- Tips for Taking Your Own Stunning Newborn Photos During Quarantine
- Finding Joy in Raising Rainbows During a Pandemic
- It’s okay to grieve missed firsts with your rainbow baby during the pandemic
- Why Evaluating Risk is Different for Loss Parents