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“All the books we read…never could have prepared us for that”
NIH publication specialist Genevieve Gillette delivered a stillborn son, Simon, just a few days before his due date. She and her husband Andy reflect on the devastating loss of their first child, made all the more painful because of a lack of medical knowledge about the cause. Andy and Genevieve describe the choices they made and how Simon’s loss has affected their relationship.
Andy Gillette: You told me on Father’s Day that we were pregnant.
Genevieve Gillette: Mmhmm. Yeah, that was just perfect.
Andy Gillette: I know, timing was great.
Genevieve Gillette: Oh yeah.
Andy Gillette: I remember just being so excited and looking forward to all the stuff that we’d be doing together. Learning if you’d be a boy or a girl or all that stuff, come up with names and all that.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah. I remember being so excited and putting your hands on my belly, watching our baby move around and kick and the counting down the weeks.
Andy Gillette: When do you remember that something was wrong?
Genevieve Gillette: It was Valentine’s Day, a Friday, and I had just had on Wednesday an ultrasound and biophysical profile and everything was perfect. But that Friday I noticed the baby wasn’t moving as much as normal. I remember I told you that I was a little worried and you immediately asked whether we should call the doctor and ah, I said no right away because I just thought that it was normal. That I was just about one week and two days from my due date and I knew that the baby moves less as time progresses because they’re running out of room a little bit.
Andy Gillette: No space.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah, he was getting so big. On Sunday I called the doctor because I still wasn’t feeling him move so much. I really wasn’t worried, but then when we got in the car to drive to the hospital I started to feel much more concerned, and I think that was the first time I let myself think that something really could be wrong.
Andy Gillette: And they took us back to that room and did an ultrasound like they’ve done a million times and--
Genevieve Gillette: It was such a shock to find out that he had no heartbeat.
Andy Gillette: Yeah. I remember the look on your face and just being helpless, you know.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah.
Andy Gillette: I was really surprised when they said that you would just deliver Simon like a normal baby and realizing, like, not we’re going to have to go through the whole labor, that was going to be this great experience and now it’s going to be really sad.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah, everything that we had planned and all the books we read and all the preparations we made never could have prepared us for that, never made mention of anything like that happening. It’s hard now to even drive that same route to the hospital.
Andy Gillette: Do you remember the labor very much?
Genevieve Gillette: Oh I remember, yes. I’m thankful that it was very fast, but I have so many regrets. The doctor said, “We don’t know why it happened but we know it’s not your fault,” and I was thankful that she said that ‘cause I feel like if I had called sooner or if I had done something differently, maybe we would be okay.
I wish I had asked them to give him to me right away instead of cleaning him up and putting him in those donated clothes that weren’t ours. I wish we had given him a bath and just held him longer, stayed longer, asked our families to come. I try harder to remember holding him, but I’m so glad we did hold him and we have pictures of him and his perfect face, wavy brown hair. I’m glad we named him.
Andy Gillette: Simon Alexander Gillette.
Genevieve Gillette: Uh huh. We never saw him open his eyes or take a breath, but he’s changed our lives so much.
Andy Gillette: I think we’ve really grown so much closer together through this and there have been so many times when I’ve been down and you’ve been able to help pick me up and vice versa. We’re always there for each other and just feel so fortunate that we found each other.
Genevieve Gillette: I know, isn’t is strange to feel, like, so lucky--
Andy Gillette: I know.
Genevieve Gillette: --to have each other and say I feel so lucky when really, you know, in one respect we’re not at all lucky.
Andy Gillette: The worst.
Genevieve Gillette: But still feel so grateful to have you in my life.
Andy Gillette: Yeah, me too.
This page last reviewed on February 27, 2023