As newlyweds, we were very excited to be pregnant with our first child. We envisioned a natural birth free from unnecessary medical intervention. The pregnancy was typical until—at 35 weeks—Kiley went into early labor. At the doctor’s office, Kiley discovered that our son, Norbert, had already passed away, and he was born still the next day, July 12, 2005. The cause of his death was a liver cyst that had grown rapidly in the third trimester. Not only was our vision of a natural, non-medical birth experience gone, but losing our first child in this shocking and completely unexpected way shattered our lives.
We did have the opportunity to spend some time with our son at the hospital. However, our experience with the medical professionals was appalling, the staff was wholly unprepared, and the resources were sparse. Since then, we have wanted to educate doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals about better ways to interact with and care for their patients. We hope those who experience this loss in the future have better treatment and support.
In 2014, Sean and Kiley made RETURN TO ZERO in the belief that as a film, it would help to shatter the stigma and silence associated with stillbirth. By sharing their personal tragedy, they wished that others would find healing and even hope for the future. RETURN TO ZERO became much more than they anticipated—the film launched as a grassroots movement and has reached across continents and language barriers, galvanizing a global community.
The success of the movie continues to help those who have experienced the heartbreak of stillbirth to feel as though they are not alone. It has created and inspired communities around the world that allow people to grieve a loss that has heretofore been silent in society, and its impact has been transcendent for people who have only known grief in solitude.
Return to Zero: H.O.P.E. (formerly the Return to Zero Center for Healing) is the nonprofit organization that developed organically as a result of the film's positive impact. It is a community of bereaved families and their health providers who are transforming the culture of pregnancy and infant loss through awareness, education, and support.