For Nicki Shorr-Maxson and her husband James Maxson, baby Bonnie was meant to be.
One month after the couple decided to try to have a baby, Nicki found out she was pregnant at 42. Nicki is stepmother to James’ two sons, but wanted to share the joy of motherhood from birth.
She experienced some complications in her sixth week of pregnancy, but Bonnie remained strong. The couple waited until after the first trimester to share the joyful news, which James announced with a huge sign complete with balloons in their front yard.
“It was an extremely celebratory time,” she said.
A few months later, however, that joyous high turned to a devastating low. Nicki’s water broke in March, 2022, when she was almost 18 weeks pregnant and she lost all the amniotic fluid protecting the baby.
While some women opt to return home during a miscarriage like this, Nicki was grateful she stayed as an inpatient at Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East.
“Women’s Hospital has an incredible bereavement program,” Nicki said recently.
The hospital took photos of Nicki and her baby. They made the hand and footprint memento that is created for every child. She took home the blanket Bonnie was wrapped in.
“We were as respected as the parents of a newborn child,” Nicki said. “One thing that was very important to me, the chaplain held a small service for Bonnie. She prayed with us. It was nice to have that formal service.”
Deborah Gibbons, RN, CPLC, bereavement coordinator for Women’s Services at Women’s Hospital, said the bereavement program is a calling for her. “It’s because I know we can make a difference for these families,” she said. “We can help them on a journey that no one wants to be on with the tools and resources to help them.”
Nicki wears a Kendra Scott necklace with the March birthstone signifying the month of Bonnie’s birth, a gift from the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation given to mothers who miscarry or give birth to a stillborn baby at Women’s Hospital. Debbie sent her a note on Mother’s Day, and reached out to her on Bonnie’s due date.
For first trimester miscarriages, Women’s Hospital holds a burial service at Calvary Cemetery and invites families who have experienced a loss over the past two months to attend. Since 2015 when those services began, there have been more than 1,000 burials of infant remains. For mothers who lose their baby in Labor and Delivery – usually after 16 weeks – the bereavement program works to provide as many mementos as possible to recognize and honor the baby as part of a family.
It’s comforting, Nicki said, to have people recognize that Bonnie was a part of the family, “to acknowledge the loss as a loss for the family.”
When Nicki shared the sad news, several women reached out to tell her of their similar loss; some came early in the pregnancy, others came later.
“Any loss is painful. The pain is valid no matter how far along you were,” Nicki said. “Don’t hide from reaching out to people. Find your support, whatever that looks like to you.”
While families are often hesitant to talk about their loss, Nicki said it can be helpful … to them and to others. “If I can do anything to help grieving parents, then I’d like to,” she said.
The grief is often overwhelming, but Nicki says it is important to feel it. “You just have to sit with it. I want Bonnie to know I grieve her,” she said. “That void she left … I don’t mind it hurting; that’s me honoring her.”