Jeri and Zach Bemis had everything in place.
They had put together a nursery at their Quincy home. Knowing they were going to have a baby girl, they had the room decorated appropriately. In mid-February 2013, they went to Blessing Hospital to welcome their baby girl, their first child, into the world.
Then tragedy struck.
The Bemises lost their child, Allie Mae, when she died at birth Feb. 17, 2013. Jeri said doctors don't know what led to Allie's death. Allie's heart rate dropped quickly, so doctors did an emergency cesarean section.
By that time, it was too late. Doctors tried for 15 minutes to resuscitate Allie with no success.
"It's a very sad and surreal feeling to be wheeled out of the hospital, and you don't have a baby," Jeri said.
Instead of celebrating her first Mother's Day last year by holding Allie, the Bemises spent it working on a house they had just bought. They also had a nice dinner and visited Allie's grave at Greenmount Cemetery.
The Bemises again will go visit Allie's grave and remember her this Sunday.
Although it could easily be a day to forget, Bemis embraces Mother's Day.
"It doesn't have to be a day of sad remembrance, but a day of joyful remembrance," she said. "I have a cousin who wrote a beautiful letter to me after Allie died, and she told me that one of the many blessings that Allie gave me was a mother's heart, and it's so true. Whether or not my husband and I will be blessed with more children, I will forever and always have a mother's heart, so that is why I and many other women still want to celebrate Mother's Day."
Now 15 months removed from Allie's death, the Bemises are thankful for the short time they had with her. They appreciated the care shown by workers at Blessing after their loss. The family was given time alone with Allie. They bathed her and took photos of her. They got the traditional footprints and handprints.
A few days later, Allie was given a full funeral.
What happened to the Bemises is rare. According to the March of Dimes, stillbirth deaths occur in 1 in 160 pregnancies. Most of those stillbirths, defined as fetal deaths that occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, happen before labor begins.
The Bemises still feel Allie's loss every day.
"I don't cry every day any more, but the amount I miss her is the same," Jeri said. "It's gotten easier to live with."
Jeri credits friends and family with helping them through their difficult time, even though some may have been hesitant to talk to them about what happened to Allie. She has told them it's OK to talk about her daughter.
"I completely understand, because babies dying is not a topic we as a society like to talk about," Bemis said. "The fact is, my daughter has only one story and even though it's the saddest story, I love telling it. It's my story of her."
Bemis, 30, hopes to get to tell that story to Allie's brother or sister one day.
"Absolutely, we want more children," she said. "Allie will always be our first born. Whenever we have another one, they'll be our second. We'll tell them about their big sister."