Nicole Rehmert, of Omaha, Nebraska, was devastated when her very first pregnancy abruptly ended in a miscarriage in 2016. Now, as she gears up to welcome a new baby after months of fertility struggles, Rehmert is speaking out on the “darkest time” of her life in the hopes of encouraging other moms who maybe have experienced a similar tragedy.
Rehmert, 24, and her husband Seth, 30, had been married for about a year and a half before Rehmert became pregnant with a little girl. Rehmert, who says she was excited and eager to become a mom, was just 12 weeks pregnant when a doctor delivered the heartbreaking news.
“They did an ultrasound and I saw her on the screen … then the doctor was just like, ‘I’m so sorry. There’s no heartbeat,’ ” Rehmert tells PEOPLE. “They said her heart stopped beating about a week ago. For some reason, my body hadn’t miscarried her.”
She adds: “It was by far the darkest, hardest time for my husband and I.”
Nicole and Seth planned to name the little girl, Belle. Rehmert says doctors were never able to determine why the baby’s heart stopped beating.
Rehmert first shared her story on her personal blog and with Love What Matters. The candid, emotional account quickly made its way around the Internet.
Rehmert says what happened next was “horrible.” Doctors told her she’d likely “miscarry soon,” and sent Rehmert home with a jar a glove, and an instructional pamphlet.
“[The doctor] said I’d bleed and miscarry and I’d do that at home,” she tells PEOPLE. “I walked into the hospital being so excited to hear my baby’s heartbeat. And I walked out of the hospital carrying this tub and jar and gloves that I’m supposed to bleed my baby out in.”
Rehmert and Seth went home and cried, she says. For the next week, Rehmert “waited to miscarry,” she says. But she never did. Instead, doctors eventually had to remove the deceased baby in a procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C).
“I felt distant from God at that time and it was really hard to heal for a few weeks,” Rehmert tells PEOPLE, adding that her faith has helped her through the difficult time.
“That was the darkest moment of my entire life, I felt left by God. But looking back, I’m so grateful because … [I knew] that wasn’t the end of the story.”
And Rehmert was right. Following the incident, Rehmert and Seth tried to conceive again for a year. In December, Rehmert learned she was pregnant again.
“It has been a struggle. I feel super humble that God would even let me get pregnant again,” she says. “It’s been a very scary journey, especially now because I’m exactly 12-and-a-half weeks. It’s been a roller coaster … but I have this new sense of peace… it’s going to be okay.
Rehmert says she hopes her story will encourage other women who are going through similar struggles.
“I wanted to be a voice for people to say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone. This happened to me too.’ “