Natalie Morgan went to sleep one evening to the rhythmic kick of her unborn baby inside of her.
But the next morning, she jolted up to the realization that something was wrong with her baby.
Her daughter, Eleanor Josephine, was showing no signs of life within her womb. With no heartbeat on the home doppler, her heart sank to the depths of her stomach. “I knew. I just knew. I didn’t want to know…I wanted to be mistaken, but I knew,” she said.
She prayed relentlessly with her husband Brian the whole way to the hospital, but once they arrived, their worst nightmare was realized — Eleanor was dead.
After Natalie delivered her stillborn daughter, she took to her keyboard to lay out the most painful, yet purposeful, story she would ever write. The raw emotion weaved through every word in her Facebook post has tugged at the heartstrings of mothers everywhere.
But it’s not the emphasis on the stillborn birth that has spawned the viral post. It’s the message of encouragement to mothers to cherish every single moment with their newborns that she never got to have.
And she’s not talking about just the fun ones — but the screaming tantrums and the sleepless nights. She charges moms to relish in the fussy colic, the dirty diapers, and the drool dripping down your chest.
“There will be times your child will scream and cry any time you try to put him or her down,” she wrote.“Or they’ll cry even as they’re in your arms and you’ve done everything you can possibly think of to get them to stop. There will be sleepless nights, multiple diaper changes in a matter of minutes, spit-up in your hair, pee on your shirt, and poop in your hands, and again — so much screaming from the baby, and probably from you as well. Every time that happens, every time you feel frustrated and want to run away, please remember my story.”
Natalie continued by delving into the painful events that transpired that haunting night at the hospital:
“I keep having flashbacks to that moment. It’s a crippling, all-consuming feeling of utter suffocation, and a memory that will haunt me for the rest of my life. In that moment, I felt trapped as if the ceiling was literally crashing down on top of me. I couldn’t breathe, I lashed out, I screamed, I threw things, I threw up…and then a piece of me died with her. I was helpless to change anything. My body was supposed to keep her safe, and instead, it killed her.”
She didn’t even want the pain numbed, as she knew it would be the last memory she would share with her daughter. And she needed to feel it — every ounce:
“They offered me an epidural, but I couldn’t do it. I needed to own it. I needed the pain, the agony, and misery to mirror what I felt in my heart. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ever. Dealing with the unbearable contractions, the ring of fire, the tearing…knowing that all of it was for nothing. I was delivering a lifeless child. There would be no happiness at the end of it to help me forget the pain. The pain, unlike my baby girl, would live on forever.”
After the agonizing labor, Natalie got to hold Eleanor for the first time. But six hours later, she could hardly bear to watch her beautiful baby girl deteriorate in her arms.
She was forced to say her final goodbyes:
“As I stood over her and spent those last few minutes with her, blood was cascading down my legs and onto the floor. I didn’t care — my womb was crying. Everything about me was crying. Watching them wheel her away broke me. My life ended then and there. They wheeled me out of the hospital and I screamed the entire way.”
But fully immersed in the most potent form of misery she’d ever experienced, Natalie was able to bring forth the most powerful perspective on the beauty of child-rearing. Her raw advice has given mothers across the globe a reason to be thankful rather than bitter about those middle-of-the-night tantrums:
“But please just remember, while you’re awake at 3 [a.m.] because you have a baby in your arms keeping you up that late, I’m up at 3 [a.m.] because I don’t. And I would give anything in this world to have a baby spitting up on me, being colicky for all hours of the day and night, screaming, not letting me put her down, cracking my nipples from breastfeeding, keeping me up all night.
“…All I ask of you is when you have your dark moments with your baby — when you’re at your wits’ end and feel like you can’t go on anymore when you’re only getting an hour or two of sleep a night — instead of begging your child to go to sleep and being swallowed up in your frustration and exhaustion, find the tiniest bit of strength within you to keep going, and say a prayer of gratitude for your child, as difficult as it may be in that moment.”
Natalie says that what started as a small written expression of her struggle has exploded into a tidal wave of support from all around the world. Moms fed up with their crying babies have contacted her to thank her for shifting their perspective, and parents of stillborns have reached out with a shoulder to cry on.
“I’m not the first mother to have a stillbirth, so my story is not unique — but they’re so rarely talked about, and I had no idea how utterly traumatic and devastating of an experience it is,” she told TODAY Parents. “And, because stillbirths are so rarely talked about, I think there exists this vague notion — even if it’s only subconscious — that those babies never existed or never really mattered.”
Well, Natalie’s story has certainly proved that notion wrong. She even posted a precious moment of Eleanor in her womb to display the beautiful “life” that was inside of her.
Eleanor’s life did matter, and her brief life is now changing the lives of moms everywhere.
Natalie got a tattoo of forget-me-nots as a reminder that Eleanor will always be a part of her. Her sweet daughter will never be forgotten.
“I think it’s every parent’s fear that their stillborn child will be forgotten,” she said. “I want to reiterate that a stillborn child is still a child that lived. I know this to be true because I felt my daughter move. I felt her dance. I felt her live within me. She may never have taken a breath outside my body, but she was a person who existed, who mattered, and who was and is loved to heaven and back.”