Overcoming the Loss of a Newborn with Nicole Hostetter
Auntie Anne Beiler
Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels
In her high school yearbook, Nicole Hostetter said her goal was to be a mom. It was the one thing she always wanted, and the one thing she felt was her purpose in life. And after getting pregnant with her first child, it seemed as if her goal was being realized. But then she found out her son’s chance of survival outside the womb was zero percent. It seemed as if the news threw everything into jeopardy.
Today on Overcome With Auntie Anne, I’m chatting with my long-time friend and former employee, Nicole Hostetter. She shares her story of losing a child, struggling to get pregnant again, and what she’s learned along the way. As she says, “Life wasn’t always easy. But I think that that makes where I am today even sweeter because I did go through the hardships.”
To hear our entire conversation, listen to the podcast, or keep reading to catch some of the highlights. And don’t miss my announcement at the end about a special anniversary happening today and what it means for you!
A first pregnancy that doesn’t go as planned
Not long before her wedding day to the love of her life, Kevin, Nicole had a routine ultrasound for their first son. She knew something wasn’t right when different doctors kept coming into the room.
She eventually found out that her unborn son had cysts on both of his kidneys. Unfortunately, this meant his organs weren’t developing as they should, and as a result, he had a zero percent chance of surviving outside of the womb.
There wasn’t any certainty around whether he’d be born early or go full term. And after getting married, Nicole was still visibly pregnant. Her son was still alive, growing in her, and she could feel him moving. “[I] never would’ve known that anything was wrong.”
Being a pregnant woman in public, people often asked Nicole the usual questions about the due date and not knowing that her baby wouldn’t survive. She remembers being at the grocery store one day, “and somebody asked me [when the baby is due], and I just burst into tears and ran out.
Before their son was born, Nicole and Kevin had to decide on a course of action. They could hook him up to life support or let him live out his time naturally. However, since he had zero percent chance of survival outside of the womb, Nicole and Kevin knew that if they hooked him to life support, they’d eventually have to decide to disconnect him.
They spent a lot of time praying about their decision but ultimately decided to let him live out his time naturally. They understand this decision isn’t what other people would have done, but it was right for them.
On September 29, their son was born naturally and weighed only three pounds three ounces. He lived for one hour and ten minutes and spent the entire time of his life in his parent’s arms.
The struggle of losing a child
In the time that followed her son’s death, Nicole says, “It was overwhelming at times. I mean, truly overwhelming.” She says there were days she almost couldn’t get out of bed. She spent a lot of time “crying on my knees, praying.”
And because she and Kevin were so young and newlyweds, they were in a different stage of life than most of their friends. So she says, “We really didn’t have anybody who could relate to us,” and, “it actually felt like a very lonely time.”
They did attend a support group, and although it was helpful at times, Nicole says they often left feeling like they were back at the beginning of the grieving process, reliving it all over again.
Nicole admits that because they were so young and newlyweds who had just lost a baby, “the odds of [them] staying together and fighting through marriage were stacked against [them].”
But she and Kevin beat those odds, and instead of this driving them apart, it actually drew them closer together. Although they grieved differently, they had each other and knew what the other was going through.
Trying to have another child
Nicole and Kevin decided to take some time to do some other things and accomplish other goals before trying again for another child. But eventually, they felt ready to give it a shot.
Nicole admits, “It was terrifying because I really felt like, you know, if this would happen again, would I be able to survive this a second time?” But she couldn’t let go of her desire to be a mom and truly felt that was her purpose in life. So they started trying again.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen right away, and waiting was a struggle. It felt like everyone around them was having kids. And the fact that they had already had a son who was born and died was a reminder every year of what they didn’t have.
And also a reminder of what could have been. Nicole says, “He should be walking this year. He should be going to preschool, starting kindergarten. So it was like dealing with all the things that should be that weren’t.” Living through those “milestones that [they] weren’t experiencing, and then not being able to get pregnant as easily as [they] thought was truly devastating.”
According to Nicole, those were some dark times. But thankfully, they had some good friends they could be open and honest and real with; friends they could be vulnerable with, confess what they were feeling; friends that walked through the process with them. Having that, Nicole says, “was fabulous.”
Nicole also decided to be honest with God about what she was feeling and going through. “I think that I was raw, you know, in my prayers with him.” And she says that Kevin was extremely helpful. “I feel like there’s just countless times where he talked me off the ledge, you know, and could get me to a better mental place.”
It took them four and half years, but eight years after the birth and death of their first son, Nicole was finally pregnant again.
At her first appointment with the doctor, she found out that the due date of her second child was the same day as the death of her first child. For Nicole, this had so much meaning. For eight years, she had dreaded that day. But now, with that day being the same as her new due date, Nicole says, “It was like God was telling me, you don’t have to dread this day anymore.” For her, it confirmed that this was what she had waited for, and this was what her purpose was.
Her second child, a healthy, nine-pound boy, ended up being born three days after the due date and the date of her first son’s death. But that day no longer holds dread for her. Instead, it’s a day she can look forward to every year.
What she’s learned along the way
Nicole has learned to be empathetic with others throughout her journey and not make rash assumptions because you never really know what someone else is going through. “[I] just try to be kind to everybody because you don’t know the demons that someone is battling quietly.”
She’s also learned that she needs to take time to care for herself. Being the type of person who wants to care for others and fix their problems, Nicole has learned that taking care of herself is just as important.
Sometimes I feel the hardest person to be gracious to is ourselves. Nicole reminds me that we need to learn to treat ourselves the way we’d treat others if they were going through what we’re going through. We can learn to be patient with ourselves, not be harsh with ourselves, and love ourselves through the struggles.
And lastly, Nicole has learned to rely on the help of others, to have a support system that’s willing to care for her when she needs it.
Amazingly, six months after her second son was born, Nicole was pregnant again. And today, she’s a mom to four boys, one in his twenties and three in their teens.
14 year anniversary
Having Nicole on the podcast this week is special because she is a former employee of mine at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, and today is the anniversary of the release of my first book, Twist Of Faith. It’s a business memoir that jumps back and forth between my personal story and the story of building Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
I knew I wanted to write a book for many years, but I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t know anything about writing. But I wanted to share my story and share the story of Auntie Anne’s.
I believe mine and Jonas’s story is a God story, and I wanted to share it with the world as an encouragement and an inspiration for others. But writing it was scary for me because I was sharing parts of my story that I didn’t like about myself. And I remember losing sleep, wondering if people would accept and embrace those parts of me.
But it’s been 14 years now, and I’ve shared even more of my story than what’s in the book. And the outpouring of love has been incredible. It’s now become my mission in life to inspire other women to share their stories because I now know the freedom that comes from just being vulnerable, confessing to a friend, and trusting the process.
So in honor of Twist Of Faith turning 14 years old, we’re offering a 25% discount on the book at my store. Just go to shop.auntieannebeiler.com, and use the discount code TWIST when checking out. When you purchase using this code, we’ll also give you the first three modules of my leadership course, Overcome and Lead, for free! I hope you find it encouraging.
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