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PLEASE NOTE:/TRIGGER WARNING: This blog discusses Pregnancy After Loss/Rainbow Babies and the story of a local family. We understand if this subject matter may be a trigger for you. We encourage you not to read if you think this may trigger you in a negative way, however, our stories are intended to provide hope and inspiration to other families having suffered similar situations.
In late 2016, the Laughlin family was told their precious daughter had a condition known as Hydrops Fetalis. After several procedures to correct her condition in utero, Jodi and Alex delivered their perfect baby girl, who passed away shortly after birth. They named her Noelle Philomena. Noelle because it means Christmas and embodies the spirit of faith, hope and love; values that they continue to hold close to their hearts despite this devastating loss. Philomena was chosen to honor Jodi’s Mother. It wasn’t until later that they discovered St. Philomena is the patron Saint of infants.
Three Little Birds Co-Founder and NILMDTS Volunteer Photographer, Desiree Miller, met the Laughlin family after she received a request for photography services. Upon hearing her name, Desiree assumed she was named after the holiday season and she stopped to purchase a small pink stocking for Noelle and her family. She spent time photographing and making memories with the family, walking the journey with them as they said hello and goodbye to their first child.
Noelle's mom, Jodi, remarks “The time spent at the hospital almost felt like an out-of-body experience. Even though we spent several weeks fighting for Noelle’s life, nothing could have prepared us for losing her - and there is certainly no manual for how to proceed afterwards. I just knew that I didn’t want to leave my baby at the hospital. I knew I wanted to take her home with me in some way, even if that were through photographs. Desiree made us feel that it was OK for us to snuggle our girl. She made us feel that our daughter’s life was and is just as important as all the other babies that get to physically go home and that we should honor her. My husband was initially more closed off to the experience. Desiree encouraged him to hold her, to kiss her, to love her. Today, his eyes light up to see photos of his daughter in his hands. Those photographs are everything to us."
Jodi continues, "Desiree left us with information about Three Little Birds and I remember feeling so relieved that I had someone to reach out to when I got home. I didn’t get out of bed for days and it was Kristen (Executive Director) who was responding to my emails within minutes telling me that I was not alone, telling me is was OK to feel how I feel. My Mom and Sister were over all the time but there is nothing like having another loss Mom there to comfort you. Three Little Birds was there. And they continued to be there throughout the year."
Three Little Birds kept in contact with the Laughlin family over the past year and we were delighted to hear the Laughlin’s are expecting Noelle’s sibling in the spring of 2018! Part of Three Little Bird’s mission is to provide immediate and long-term support to families, especially as they await their “Rainbow Baby”.
A “Rainbow Baby” is a term used for a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm. We understand not everyone likes or utilizes this term however there are many people who find comfort in this metaphor. We encourage families to find what works best for them and their unique family.
In an effort to help families bond with their rainbow babies, as well as memorialize and honor their previous loss, Three Little Birds offers the families we assisted through loss several support services, at no cost. The Laughlin family was excited to participate in a Rainbow Baby Maternity Shoot to honor both of their precious children.
“It is so comforting to know Three Little Birds is there for me now as we begin this new journey. They have been excited for us when we could hardly be excited, reminding us that this baby will never replace Noelle. It is because of their encouragement that I will have a quote above Rainbow Baby’s changing table that reads “Hand picked for earth by my Sister Noelle in Heaven“. It is because of them that I was able to finally start preparing for Noelle’s sibling with a happy heart.”, says Jodi.
Alex and Jodi welcomed us into their home this past Christmas, shortly after Noelle’s first birthday and showed us all the beautiful ways they honor and parent Noelle. The love for Noelle permeates throughout their home! They have a special area in their home that is filled with Noelle’s photographs, gifts bought for her from family and friends, as well as a very special tree, lit up and decorated in her honor.
On Noelle’s first birthday, the Laughlin’s asked their family and friends to do something for someone else in Noelle’s honor and in the spirit of the holiday season. Family and friends from all over posted photos of candles they lit in her honor, wearing Christmas sweaters or shared an act of kindness they did in her memory. It was inspiring and helpful for Alex and Jodi to see and feel all of this support during such a difficult time.
Alex and Jodi shared more wonderful news during their Rainbow Maternity Photo Shoot – they have formed their own non-profit organization to support families, appropriately called Noelle’s Light! The mission of Noelle’s Light is to provide financial assistance to families, like theirs, whose babies are given a life-threatening fetal diagnosis
Noelle's father, Alex remarks, “As Noelle’s parents, we do our best to carry her in our daily life through honest and often painful conversation, as well as recognize our obligation to embrace our experience with Noelle, act on it, and in turn, help others,” says Alex. “Throughout our experience with Noelle, we realized that, on top of receiving terrifying news of a fetal diagnosis, often times parents incur financial strain resulting from simply trying to make the best medical decisions for their unborn child. Medical expenses, travel expenses, lost wages – it can have a snowball effect that can make an already difficult situation completely unbearable.”
“Despite Noelle’s diagnosis, we still felt blessed. Blessed to have the support of family, friends, and our employers. Blessed to have nearby access to some of the best medical care in the world. We recognized that most parents do not have any of these circumstances working in their favor,” Alex continued. “This realization, along with Noelle’s spirit of light and love, is the inspiration for Noelle’s Light. We look forward to helping those parents keep the focus on their baby, not how they will pay for these circumstances."
Three Little Birds is excited to collaborate with Noelle’s Light to further support families like ours, as well as celebrate the arrival of Noelle’s sibling in a few short weeks!
For more information on Noelle’s Light, please contact Alex at 609-529-3490.
Link to Jodi’s Blog: www.noellessong.com
NILMDTS Volunteer Photography by Desiree Miller
Rainbow Maternity Photo Shoot by Desiree Miller, Image is Everything Studios
PLEASE NOTE: Three Little Birds can only provide our Rainbow Maternity Photo Sessions to families we have supported through loss. Because we are a volunteer organization, our resources are limited. Our resources are always FREE to anyone who is seeking support. For more information on our Pregnancy After Loss Support and Resources, click here.
BONUS PIC! Noelle's "big brother" Archie can't wait to meet his newest family member either!
Kristen Samuelson, SBD, Founder & Director