Six years ago, Stacey and Ryan Skrysak held their almost 2-month-old son, Parker, as he died in their arms after being born prematurely. Parker, a triplet, had a sister, Abby, who died just two hours after her birth. The Skrysak's surviving triplet, Peyton, 6, remained the couple's only living child until August 11, when Stacey gave birth to Piper Avery, a rainbow baby girl with a special name.
"Her name is a little nod to her siblings," Skrysak told TODAY Parents. "We used the initials P and A because we wanted to honor Parker and Abby, our two triplets who passed away."
Skrysak delivered her triplets at 22 weeks, 6 days gestation, after struggling with infertility. They were able to take Peyton home after 116 days in the NICU. As they raised Peyton and coped with their loss, Skrysak says she and her husband decided their family was complete.
"For so many years, Ryan and I didn't know if we would ever try for more children," said Skrysak. "Truthfully, I was too scared. The fear of losing another child was too big to ever consider adding a sibling to the family."
Skrysak says they received the "surprise of their lives" earlier this year when she took a pregnancy test and it came back positive.
"I was forced to face my fears," Skrysak, who has written extensively about child loss on the TODAY Parenting Team, explained. "For much of this pregnancy, I faced anxiety, fear and PTSD. It was hard to feel attached to this baby because I wouldn't allow myself to. As parents of child loss, we know the absolute worst thing that could happen and I couldn't open my heart up to that heartache all over again."
"But slowly, as the weeks progressed, I found myself getting excited and I found hope seeping in," the Illinois news anchor continued. "The fear is still there — even now a few days after delivery, but having this sweet girl in my arms makes it all worth it."
The Skrysak's "sweet girl" was born full term and healthy, weighing nearly eight pounds — the size baby Peyton was at six months old.
"It's hard to put into words what it's like welcoming a baby into this world after losing a child — or in our case, two children," said Skrysak. "The last time my husband and I held a newborn baby was when our first triplet was born. Abby died in our arms shortly after birth. The same doctor and nurses helped us welcome Piper six years later and I don't know if there was a dry eye among us."
Piper's emotional birth occurred almost exactly six years after her brother Parker's death.
"Almost six years to the day, we found ourselves on the third floor maternity wing, cradling our sweet baby, Piper," said Skrysak. "In the same hospital, just one floor above, we sat six years ago cradling our son, Parker, as he passed away in our arms. The grief of losing a child never goes away — it's hard to explain to people the sheer joy we feel, but also the heartache I feel because I'm experiencing a beautiful and healthy newborn, with so many 'firsts' I never had the chance to experience with two of my children."
Skrysak says since Piper's birth, she's spent time reflecting on her journey to parenthood, one she describes as "so much heartbreak mixed with happiness and hope."
"Watching our surviving triplet, Peyton, hold her new sister, fills my heart with so much joy. I am so grateful that God gave us this one last child because I truly believe she was meant to be here. And as Piper is loved and cuddled by her sister Peyton, I know she was handpicked by her brother and sister in heaven. Our family of six is now complete."