Pregnant with their first child, 2009 was to be a year of celebration for Laura Rector and her husband Chris. “We got pregnant right away and were so excited,” said Laura. “We started dreaming of our future with our child.”
At 22-weeks pregnant and on their way to celebrate the marriage of friends, Laura’s water broke. A trip to the emergency department confirmed their worst fears – their unborn child would be delivered at this early stage of pregnancy, with a one-percent chance of survival. Two days later, on April 28, 2009, Gabriel “Gabe” Raymond Rector was born sleeping, or stillborn, at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital. He passed away before his arrival into the world.
“When you’re going through a pregnancy, you’re full of hope,” said Chris Rector. “The whole idea of a stillbirth is not something you talk about. It’s not something that you’re prepared for. You feel very alone at first.”
While the presence of family helped Laura and Chris grieve the loss of Gabe during their hospital stay, they also found comfort in HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital’s support group for pregnancy and infant loss, Share of Northeast Wisconsin. Formerly known as Hope After Loss Organization (HALO), Share of Northeast Wisconsin is a resource for families who have experienced the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, early infant death or SIDS.
“They helped us navigate this unforeseen tragedy and change it from something of darkness to something of light,” said Laura.
Share of Northeast Wisconsin was there for the Rectors before, during and after Gabe’s arrival. Beforehand, they guided Laura and Chris on what their tiny, pre-term baby would look like. Afterwards, they arranged for photographs and mementos of Gabe, as well as a funeral to celebrate his life.
“This was a life to be celebrated and to be mourned,” said Chris. “Giving Gabe the respect of being a life and being a loss – and not just a false start – helped us with the acceptance of all.”
Share of Northeast Wisconsin also helps families like the Rectors after the loss of a pregnancy or baby, by offering monthly support group meetings that provide insight and understanding of the grief process. It’s an opportunity for those who have experienced this type of loss to share their feelings in a non-judgmental atmosphere with other parents who have walked a similar journey.
“You never know who has experienced a loss like this,” said Laura. “It’s a very silent thing. The more you talk about it, the more people can connect and share the light rather than go through the darkness.”
“It was important for us to realize that we aren’t alone and that there are others who have gone through this,” said Chris. “It’s a silent reality.”
In addition to their first child Gabe, Laura and Chris are also the proud parents of another son, Aiden, and a daughter, Alayna. They continue to honor and celebrate the life of their son Gabe each day and are strong advocates of Share of Northeast Wisconsin and the support it provides to area families.