Couple who lost newborn find peace in helping others

The emotional pain outweighed the physical pain. It was a torment that in some ways would last a lifetime and Rhett and Molly Morehouse are using that memory to help others who have tragically lost their newborns.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

The living room is filled with joy. A toddler dressed as Minnie Mouse is singing into a karaoke machine and her two older brothers are taking turns climbing in and out of a cardboard box that has been converted into a fort.

There’s little sense that sadness once blanketed this home. That same little girl dressed as Minnie Mouse holds tight to a tiny teddy bear with the name “Ellie” on the front. And on the Christmas tree hangs an ornament with angel wings and the same name, “Ellie.”

But there was a time last year – just two months before Christmas – when the mood was bleak as a cold winter night.

Molly Morehouse describes Oct. 31, 2018 as “spending the night in a funeral home.” She and her husband Rhett found out the day before that the baby she was carrying had no heart beat. They made the painstaking decision for Molly to be induced and deliver the 20-week-old baby girl they named Ellie. It was Molly’s second miscarriage. Her first was when she was about seven weeks pregnant.

“Ellie started off as twins but we found out at our first appointment that the other baby didn’t grow much past the first month of conception. We had a 10-week genetic testing with Ellie and everything seemed fine. We don’t really know what happened,” said Morehouse, 29.

The average risk of miscarriage for a woman under the age of 35 is 15 percent. Approximately 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. The rate of miscarriage between 14-20 weeks is less than one percent. By week 20, the miscarriage is considered a stillbirth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 24,000 babies are stillborn each year in the United States.

By that 20th week of her pregnancy, Molly and Rhett Morehouse were full of anticipation of the birth of their fourth child. Their oldest son Liam is six, second son Bence is four and daughter Livie is two.

“Ellie was the first one we were trying for. The others just happened,” said Rhett, a worship pastor at Indian Creek Church. Molly is the owner of a children’s apparel shop “Made by Molly.”

The couple grew up in Lafayette and attended the same high school five years apart. Over time they became friends and eventually began dating. They were married seven years ago.

“We’ve moved six times but we’ve had all of our babies at IU Health West,” said Molly. “We know everyone and we feel comfortable there.” It was at IU Health West, where she delivered Ellie. It was at IU Health West Family Maternity Center where a nurse named Ellie Price comforted them. She gave them her number after they were discharged and they have remained in contact throughout the past year.

There are no words to describe their grief, but the couple has focused on the “little things” that have made a difference in their lives since Ellie’s birth.

“I’ve done a lot of hospital visits ranging from people having surgery to those passing,” said Rhett. “The biggest thing you can do is be in the season – there are joyous moments and there are moments to grieve. You can’t ignore those moments or brush them off. The thing that was weird for us is we were coming from the other side – having three healthy kids and knowing God is always going to be faithful, but living in a broken world there will always be pain and you have to go through that winter knowing that spring will come.”

Through that season, the couple learned that there is no timeline for grief. They also learned about honoring their daughter’s death. As they began to encounter other parents who lost their babies, they learned of a way to give those families a special gift of time with their loved one. Through a ministry called, “He Knows Your Name” the couple discovered the “Cuddle Cot” – a cooling method that allows the hospital to keep a baby with the family for a period of time during the mother’s stay.

Molly reached out to her 30,000 followers of her business social media account and in one day raised $4,000 to purchase a Cuddle Cot to donate to IU Health West. The cost of the cot was $3,000 and the couple donated $1,000 to another out-of-state family who was raising funds for a Cuddle Cot. The tiny blue box gives grieving families a chance to hold, rock, and sing to their baby and share the newborn with other family members.

“There was a time when the norm was to deliver the baby and go home. There wasn’t much time to grieve in the hospital. That is changing,” said Molly.

The couple dedicated the cot three months after Ellie was born. As they prepared to go to the hospital dedication on January 4th, Molly took a pregnancy test. They attended the dedication knowing that they were again expecting.

In September they were back at IU Health West where Molly delivered a healthy little girl they named Hallie. Once again their nurse, Ellie Price was with them.

On what would have been Ellie’s due date, March 24, the family released balloons with special messages. She will always be part of their lives. Molly keeps a box filled with a tiny handkerchief-size cloth that swaddled the baby, some books, and other keepsakes. She wears a necklace with the names of all five of her children and then there’s that ornament on the tree with the name – “Ellie.”

“She’s our angel and will always be part of us,” said Molly. “We understand better the brokenness of others through Ellie,” added her husband.