Six-year-old Phoenix loves to play and after his parents suffered unimaginable heartbreak during their first pregnancy, this beautiful boy is their rainbow baby.
“We were really surprised when about midway through, at 20 weeks, we got a really challenging diagnosis and ended up having our son at 21 weeks,” Elana Ilott says. “He was stillborn.”
“I just went numb,” Jesse Ilott adds. “I was absolutely heartbroken. It’s kind of really hard to fully explain the severity and the depth that really goes through your mind.”
Jesse and Elana — thinking they were safely in their second trimester — were totally unprepared for the devastating loss.
“At the end of the first trimester, we started sharing it with people,” Elana explains. “We told our employers, we started building our nursery, picking out baby names, doing all the things that you do when you think you’re now in that safe period. But that’s what really rocked our world is learning that there is no safe period and pregnancy.”
Even though one in four people experience a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, we don’t talk about it very much — which makes telling people even harder.
“We say somebody lost a baby, but I didn’t lose a baby,” an emotional Elana says. “I laboured and delivered and gave birth to a baby, and I held the baby, and I named him, and I had to leave him at the hospital.”
Mourning their son, Haven, Elana and Jesse found support through the Healing Hearts Foundation, now the Pacific Perinatal Foundation — Vancouver Island’s first and one of few non-profits dedicated to helping people through pregnancy and infant loss.
“For us, when we came through it, we couldn’t imagine what it would be like going through that without that kind of support,” Elana says. “So it really inspired us to get involved in the foundation and start to give back that way.”
The second annual Healing Hearts Run on September 23rd will help raise money for the foundation, so no one has to suffer in silence.
“So it’s tough, and it’s sort of tough thing that is easily swept under the carpet,” Jesse says. “And I think that’s kind of how it’s looked at. Well, at least it has been looked at for decades.”
By sharing their story and helping to reduce the stigma, Elana and Jesse are honouring Haven by helping other bereaved parents.
“It’s definitely forever changed our life and, you know, kind of gave us purpose within the community to help others as best we can,” Jesse says.
“There’s so many people that I’ve met over the course of the last seven years since my loss who have come to me, and they may have had losses 40 years ago or four months ago, and when they feel like they are held and they are safe to share their stories and be honoured and validated, that’s very powerful and meaningful to me,” Elana adds.