Giving birth to the dead: after she holds her stillborn child in her arms, one mother shares her guilt and mourning process with the world
Posted March 25
Giving birth to your child is a physically painful, yet joyful experience. You hold your little one, look into their beautiful eyes and feel their tiny toes. They are perfect in every way.
Now imagine you go home empty-handed, never to hold your sweet baby again. This nightmare is the reality for one percent of pregnant women. Allysa Bilello is part of that one percent.
The devastating news
Allysa had what she calls a “textbook pregnancy.” She watched what she ate and did everything her doctor told her. Her baby was developing normally and looking great.
But at 35 weeks along, she thought her baby was being a little quiet. She was always a quiet baby, but Allysa had a gut feeling that something was wrong when her daughter didn’t move around dinner time, which was usually her “busy time.”
Allysa and her husband, Greg Bilello, went to the hospital that night. After three doctors analyzed the ultrasound, the couple was told the devastating truth: their daughter had no heartbeat.
Allysa would have to deliver her stillborn child. The heartbroken couple headed home to let their three kids know that their baby sister wasn’t coming home to them.
“Telling our children was heartbreaking,” she said. “Nothing could prepare me for how much more my broken heart could break.”
Together, the family chose a name for their angel baby: Everly Faith Bilello.
Everly comes into the world, but not in the way her parents expected
The children kissed Allysa’s belly to say goodbye to their sister, and then Allysa and Greg went back to the hospital to deliver their child. It was a long 37-hour process, and Everly came into the world on October 10, 2016.
“I was so angry and upset that my body couldn't make this easier for me,” Allysa said. But looking back on it, she was grateful for every hour because it gave her time to process what she was told, ask questions and mourn.
“I needed to take off my brave face. I needed to cry, sob, scream behind closed doors. I needed those 37 hours alone with my husband and I needed those 37 hours with Everly.”
Everly came into the world with her umbilical cord wrapped around her body, the cause of her death.
“The silence was absolutely deafening,” Allysa said.
Before the doctor placed her daughter in her arms, she recalled him saying, “Remember, nothing you did caused this.”
Tears flowed down her cheeks as she kissed her child and the overwhelming guilt started to consume her. She knew deep down that it wasn’t her fault, but she couldn’t shake off those negative feelings.
Allysa and Greg left the hospital empty-handed to plan a funeral and pick out their daughter’s first and last outfit. Greg said he could do those things alone, but Allysa insisted on taking part in planning.
“I wouldn't get to buy her Christmas dresses, birthday dresses, a prom dress or a wedding dress,” she said. “This was the last outfit I would buy her - it was her forever outfit. I needed to pick it.”
Alyssa shares the truth about what having a stillborn child is really like
The guilt she felt on the day of her baby’s delivery still followed her from then on. She asked herself the “what if’s,” wondering if there was something she could have done and wondering what would have happened if she had gone to the doctor sooner.
Her guilt heart-wrenchingly deepened as her children had to mourn the loss of their baby sister.
“Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Everyday,” she said. “Even though I know it's irrational - the guilt is still there.”
Five months after the stillbirth, Allysa’s guilt now leaves her wondering whether she is not grieving enough or grieving too much.
Allysa receives support from her husband, family, a monthly support group and mothers on Instagram who are going through the same tragic trial. The support of those women is essential, she said.
Once a Bilello, always a Bilello
When she was pregnant with Everly, Allysa had visions of their life with four children, which she said she can’t erase from her mind.
“There will always be a 6-pound, 19.5-inch Everly-shaped hole in my heart,” she said. “I will always wonder what she would have been.”
The grieving mother keeps her daughter alive in her and her family’s hearts by keeping Everly in their memories. About five months following the stillbirth, Allysa put together a shadowbox. It was easy for her physically, she said, but was brutally exhausting for her emotionally.
Stories like Allysa’s are more common than people realize. Twenty-four thousand babies are stillborn each year in the United States. That’s ten times as many deaths as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
“I think about you every day,” Allysa said about her stillborn child. “I wish you were here.”
If you are a mother grieving for a lost child, remember you are not alone. We send our love and deepest condolences as you strive to find hope and peace in your future.
Shaelynn Miller is a journalist who has a passion for photography, video production and writing.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.