You may recognize Dominique as our glowing model in our pregnancy after loss/rainbow baby marketing! But we met Dominique years before her rainbow birth, when she delivered her stillborn son, Luca. Three Little Birds Co-founder, Desiree Miller was available that day and supported her family bedside with memory making and photography services. Little did she know, just a few years later, she would be the "Desiree" to someone else on the worst day of their lives. "Though heartbreaking to see another family go through something so tragic, it is so rewarding and healing as a loss mom myself to be able to be there for another family like mine, lend them support and send them home with a loving memory of their baby." says Dominique after a recent bedside support session with Desiree. "We let both parents know that we are always here when they are ready and would love to see them at a group in the future. I’m so happy I chose this road in helping other loss families." In the summer of 2022, Three Little Birds launched a scholarship program for perinatal loss advocates to take our six week bereavement training course. This training allows volunteers to support families bedside on behalf of Three Little Birds. Our scholarship winners were a mix of loss parents, advo cates, birth workers and perinatal support clinicians. Dominique was one of 11 bereavement doulas to be certified and has since supported families bedside, as well as through her legacy project, Grey Skies.
GET TO KNOW MAMA BIRD DOMINIQUE!
How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant for the first time?
I couldn’t believe it when I found out I was pregnant. I was in such disbelief that I took about four tests to be sure! I was super excited, I still remember feeling all warm and fuzzy and having butterflies. The thought of having a little baby growing in me made my heart so full. Luca wasn’t planned so it was definitely a big surprise, but it was the best kind of surprise. I couldn’t wait to start looking at baby things and thinking about planning a room. I wanted to know the gender as soon as possible so I booked an appointment for a 3d ultrasound with gender determination at 13 weeks. I was POSITIVE it was a girl but much to my surprise we were having a little boy! Unfortunately, my relationship with Luca’s father turned very toxic and did a lot of damage to me, I spent majority of my pregnancy in a dark place and was extremely depressed. Most of the happy moments I had were shared with friends and family who I’m very grateful for. There were many lows and at time I wished I would miscarry because my baby deserved better than what he was being brought into, the thought still haunts me to this day. I brought up the conversation about adoption because I really just wanted the best life for my baby with a happy family. To be honest, because I was in such a bad place throughout my pregnancy, I didn’t fully appreciate how special it was. I didn’t get to appreciate and love Luca the way he deserved while he was here. He was SO loved and wanted but I’m not always so sure he got to feel that from me.
Tell us about when you learned Luca would be stillborn.
Around new year’s, I definitely started feeling like something might’ve been wrong. I was honestly scared to face that fact and didn’t even want to use my Doppler. I just told myself everything was okay and as the pregnancy gets farther things are just changing. I went to Atlantic City with two friends for a night because I wanted to get away and just have a good night. I remember feeling Luca here and there and my friends being able to feel his kicks. The morning after I woke up feeling a little off, somewhat empty. I think he was kicking here and there but not a ton. I remember telling my friend on the way home that I needed to count kicks when I got home and maybe he was just resting at the time. All day I was messing with him to have him move and kick, he did a little bit.
Being a first time mom, I looked to Google about fetal movement at 34 weeks, I read that as you get farther along the baby runs out of room and you don’t feel them as much (not true at all) so I believed it. Later that night I still felt like something was wrong but I was trying to stay positive. I was having contractions so I kind of thought it was him moving as my belly morphed into different shapes. I did try the Doppler and couldn’t find a heartbeat but I’m no professional so thought I just might not be able to find it myself. I told my mom that I thought he wasn’t moving as much and she said to just keep an eye and we can go to the hospital in the morning if he still isn’t. All night I messed with him to have him move. I was poking my belly and pushing him, his lifeless body was just swishing inside of me. I can’t get that feeling out of my head. The next morning, I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of emptiness.
My mom and I went to the hospital. At this point, I knew my baby was gone but I was hoping I would be told otherwise. The nurse couldn’t detect a heartbeat with the monitor so she asked someone else to try and she also couldn’t find it. They brought an ultrasound in and tried that. I could tell they were having trouble…that’s when they had the doctor come in to try. “There’s no easy way for me to say this but we can’t find a heartbeat” the confirmation I did not want to hear.
The first thing I said was “I guess it’s not meant to be..” I was broken, but in shock and didn’t know how to react. I can’t help but think if I would’ve went to the hospital sooner that Luca may still be here. I felt and still do feel like a failure as a mother because I couldn’t protect my baby and be there the way for him. The guilt I feel that I was never happy or as appreciative I should have been during the only time we shared together breaks me. If I could go back I’d do everything differently so that Luca could feel more of my love. If there’s one thing I wish I could tell him today, I’d say I’m sorry that I let him down and that no matter how I may have acted during our time together, I wanted him more than anything and loved him with my whole heart…. And I still do.
Tell us about your son Luca.
Luca’s father picked his name. I didn’t like any of the names he picked at first and then one day I really ended up liking Luca, so we went with that. Me and his father fought a lot regarding a middle name because it wasn’t what he wanted. Eventually, I stopped trying to talk about those things with him because I was tired of fighting and being upset. One day me and my friend Sophia were talking about middle names and she said “what about Grey?” I instantly fell in love!! I never brought the middle name up to his dad because I didn’t want to be shut down, but I knew it was sooo perfect for him. When Luca was born and we had to go over paperwork I finally told him I’d like that middle name and he agreed.
I didn’t want to see or hold Luca when the conversation came up about delivery. I didn’t want to meet someone and fall even more in love with them just to have to say goodbye so soon. I thought maybe, just maybe if I don’t see him or hold him this won’t hurt as much. A nurse talked to me about it and changed my mind. I feel guilty now when I think about me not wanting to even see him. I’m so glad I did meet him, there would’ve been so many more what ifs if I didn’t. My baby boy was born so perfect weighing 5lbs and 5oz at 6:18pm on January 3rd of 2020. A lot of people say he looked just like me, he definitely had my nose. The other features were hard to tell, I think he may have resembled his dad but the softness of his features was probably me. I swear he even had my pinky toe lol. I was never in more love than the moment I finally met Luca. It didn’t matter to me that he wasn’t breathing, I was SO proud of the little baby I created and was in such awe. I think I ran my finger down his nose about 100 times. My favorite feature was his little button nose!
How did your “village” support you through this loss?
My village was always there through it all, my family came to the hospital to support me and meet Luca and showered him with love. So many people came out to his service and sent me condolences. Close friends and family got me gifts in his memory like necklaces, bears, picture frame, all types of things. A lot of people shared about Luca on their social media and it meant the world to have other people speak of him and remember him. On Luca’s due date, I got his name tattooed on me and so many of my close friends and a family never even got his name tattooed also. Three little Birds is the reason I have so many good memories of Luca. If it weren’t for Three Little Birds and Desiree, I wouldn’t have anything nice to look back on. Desiree was always there for me even after the fact, no matter what it was she never hesitated to help me out. She continues to be a friend and support to me to this day.
What Three Little Birds events do you recommend?
I really enjoy the Craft & Heals because they’re so relaxed and fun but you’re around people that really get what you’re going through so you don’t feel like the elephant in the room.
What does healing look like for you? What has surprised you on this journey?
Quite honestly, I’m surprised I’m still here. After losing Luca, I didn’t plan on making it to the holidays, I didn’t want to live without him or spend the rest of my life in the agonizing pain. I’m surprised and proud that I am still here three years later because he would have told me back then that I would be where I am today, I would not believe it! I really started healing when I was able to talk more about our story and raise awareness or reach out to someone also experiencing a loss.
What inspired you to become a bereavement doula?
The only thing that ever felt right after Luca was being there for other families that I came across that also experienced a loss. I knew I wanted to touch as many families as I could and help them feel validated and know that I see them and their babies. Desiree was such a shining light, I wanted to be a Desiree to other people because I don’t know how things would have gone without her.
What have you learned about yourself through all of this? If you could go back and be your own advocate, what would you tell yourself in those delicate moments of your loss?
I realized my heart is a lot bigger than I knew. I was a bit closed off before Luca, but he’s opened my heart up in a way I didn’t know was possible. I care and feel things so much more deeply now than ever and that’s regarding everyone and anything. I think I needed that honestly.
Now that you are certified, how do you want to advocate for others and honor your baby?
I want to go bedside as much as I can so I can try and give loving memories to families to go home with. The feeling of being there for someone who just lost their baby and helping them make memories when I was in that same position just three years ago is incredible. I would never ever think I would be where I am and I’m so proud of it. I want to help ease the pain of as many people as I can and validate them in every way possible because that is so important. I didn’t want Luca’s death to be in vain, I wanted it to mean something and to turn it into something positive by helping others.