This post was written by PUSH Changemaker Fernanda Sheridan.
Chase and I got married in 2013 at the Court House, in a rush to keep me in the USA and avoid any visa problems. Romantic as I am, I decided to plan a big Brazilian wedding party for a year after. Three months or so before the party I spoke with my gynecologist that ideally I’d like to get pregnant on the honeymoon. She said that since I was “old” (35), and had been on the pill for too long, I should stop the pill 6 months before trying to get pregnant, to give my body time to adjust.
In August 2014, one week before the big day, I went to try on my wedding dress and that’s when the seamstress politely told me I had slightly different measurements than a month before, specifically in the breast and hip areas. Ooops! Turns out I was 7 weeks pregnant with my firstborn, Nate.
I drank non-alcoholic champagne on my wedding day and threw up my whole honeymoon. All good - it was all worth it. I couldn’t believe that the universe would be so good to me like that. I had a hidden deep feeling that I would struggle to get pregnant.
I went to try on my wedding dress and that’s when the seamstress politely told me I had slightly different measurements than a month before... Ooops! Turns out I was 7 weeks pregnant with my firstborn, Nate.
Nate was born early term but very healthy!
In 2016, on the first try for our second kid, I got pregnant again. His name was George, and he would be 2 years apart from Nate, if he hadn’t been struck by a genetic disease that prevented him to grow after 20 weeks of gestation. That’s when I lost him, I lost that tiny human we so hugely loved.
I brushed it off, was very practical, stood up, and - as a control freak person - I went to a fertility doctor and said, "I know I can get pregnant easily, I just can’t bare the thought of another loss, so I’m doing IVF just so I can test the embryos."
In November 2017, I was pregnant with our perfect embryo, Natalie.
The pregnancy went smoothly. Yes, lots of nausea, back pain, a little bit of anemia, but all within normal. Natalie was growing strong. We hit 37 weeks - that’s when Nate was born - and thought maybe she would come early too.
That week on Wednesday, my mom was already in NYC from Brazil, to help me with both kids. She accompany me to the ultrasound and we heard that Natalie was 6.7pounds and learning to breath, getting ready for birth!
Natalie kicked and punched like never before... The next day she didn’t move much and my friend who came to visit me said, "Fe, don’t worry, babies run out of room during the end of the pregnancy." I didn’t relax but thought I was being paranoid.
That same Wednesday night, Natalie kicked and punched like never before. They were out-of-the-ordinary, wild movements. My husband said she would be a Brazilian soccer player, and I calmed down and fell asleep.
The next day she didn’t move much and my friend who came to visit me said, "Fe, don’t worry, babies run out of room during the end of the pregnancy." I didn’t relax but thought I was being paranoid. So I waited to say anything until the next day when I had an appointment with my OBGYN. My OB reassured me that if she was moving every day it was fine - she didn’t have to move every hour. (IMPORTANT: I now know NONE of this is true, see #MovementsMatter.)
I thought about asking for an ultrasound again, but was afraid to bother the doctor, and thinking I was being crazy, I accepted what she said. But we know when we accept something against our gut, and that's exactly what I did.
That same day I went into labor. My husband had a smile from ear to ear; he grabbed the hospital bag and headed to the door. I wasn’t so happy. I was afraid and nervous. But I tried to reassure myself that we were going to bring home our so, so anticipated little girl to her green and pink made-by-measure nursery. And Nate would finally have a sibling.
In the hospital, they started monitoring us. They tried to find Natalie’s heart beat, changed machines, changed technicians, called in a resident than an on-call doctor, and finally the doctor in charge for the whole floor. He told me what my husband, in tears, had already figured out: "There’s no heart beat."
"It happens, every 2 or 3 months we see it here," he continued, "a stillborn."
He told me what my husband, in tears, had already figured out: "There’s no heart beat."
I gave birth to Natalie the following morning, after lots of contractions and panic. I had the tiny hope that after labor I would hear her crying, that maybe they were all wrong. The silence in the O.R. was like thick needles penetrating my soul, a chamber of torture. What happened after that is all a blur. Months of blur. My husband and I went home with an empty car seat. That's all I can really remember.
But I couldn’t accept the fact that it "just happens." Every 2 or 3 months they see a mother going through that?! And that was only in ONE hospital in Manhattan! My head was spinning.
I couldn’t stop googling and reading and doing research non-stop.
I met other amazing loss moms.
I learned that the UK had a Clinic specialized for mothers who had experienced stillbirth and that their rate for recurrent stillbirth was extremely low. It’s called The Rainbow Clinic, and was founded by Dr. Alex Heazell, a physician and researcher in the field. I wanted to go to the UK for my next pregnancy, but that simply was not feasible.
I told one of my adored friends, a loss grandma, "We need a Rainbow Clinic in the USA!" Don’t we all dream? I did!
In 2020, already healing from my loss, already volunteering to help mothers that go through that, I told my husband, "Chase, I want to build a Rainbow Clinic in NYC." And he looked at me and said, "What are you waiting for?"
I was insecure to call such an important doctor in the UK, but Chase, always wise, told me, "Fe, people like to talk." So I did it. I sent an email to this amazing Dr. Alex Heazell, who - to my amazement - promptly answered and was more than happy to educate us on how to start a Rainbow Clinic.
By then I had a powerhouse loss mom, Samantha (Banerjee, PUSH Executive Director), on my side for this enterprise.
We connected with Mount Sinai - specifically with Dr. Joanne Stone, whom many of our friends who were PUSH founding families had had the good fortune to have as their doctor in their rainbow pregnancies.
We showed her the data, and it didn’t take her even 24 hours to say, "YES!" We were over the moon.
Sam and I worked hard - literally until 3 am almost every night for weeks on end - to create a comprehensive training program and train the whole staff (more than 100 people!) at Mount Sinai on how to care for patients who are pregnant after a loss with empathy and sensitivity. Mount Sinai dove in head first to this massive undertaking, and we feel confident that all loss parents that will show up to this brand new Rainbow Clinic - the first of its kind in the USA - will receive the empathetic treatment they deserve and that they won't have to relive their immense trauma any more than is necessary during PAL.
This is what a Rainbow Clinic is: it is hope, of the most precious and precarious kind. It is hope for healing, for life, for a child, for a sibling (but never, ever a replacement).
I am so proud of our team and all the generous families and donors who came together to make the #NYCRainbowClinic a reality. I do believe that lots of babies will be saved by this specific clinic. And I’m hopeful that with Dr. Stone (as President of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine) and Mount Sinai Health System being in the positions of influence that they are, that this model of care will trickle down throughout our medical system, improving the way we care for not only families who are pregnant again after a loss, but all families. Because every parent and every baby deserve the best possible chance to make it #homesafetogether.
I can’t wait to hear all the amazing stories that this Rainbow Clinic will bring into families' lives.
If you have suffered a stillbirth or other perinatal loss, click here to find resources about pregnancy after loss. You can also view our list of recommended PAL providers, including the Mount Sinai - Rainbow Clinic.