Victoria was supposed to be Samantha Gadd’s rainbow baby — a child born after a miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of an infant. After suffering a miscarriage in August 2016, Gadd, of North Canton, Ohio, was overjoyed when she learned she was pregnant just months later in October.
“She was going to be our baby after the storm; our baby after the miscarriage,” Gadd, 27, tells PEOPLE of Victoria. “We had clothes and we started preparing. I felt her kick. We saw tons of ultrasounds, we knew she was a girl. I felt her hiccups! But she passed away also.”
Gadd and her husband Steven, 32, were excited to welcome the little girl into their family of boys — their sons are 7 and 3. But tragedy struck when Gadd went into labor at 22 weeks pregnant. Victoria’s umbilical cord prolapsed and the baby was stillborn on Feb. 1, 2017.
“She never took a breath,” Gadd says of her daughter. “It was shocking. I couldn’t believe that I was that person that this happened to. She came out perfect, she was a baby. She was small, she had perfect feet. It’s something that changes your life forever.”
She says the pain of losing Victoria was different from that of experiencing the miscarriage at 8 weeks pregnant. Having felt Victoria growing and moving, the loss was more “real,” she says. But even after both losses, Gadd says it was difficult to find healing — even when she became pregnant with another little girl in April 2017.
“It was a mix of emotions. I was excited and hopeful and I needed that happiness — that new thing to be excited about,” says Gadd, who first shared her story with Love What Matters. “But I was nervous because I didn’t want this to end. I didn’t want there to be a miscarriage.”
Samantha (top) and daughter Abigail Gadd
Week after week, Gadd’s new baby, a girl, continued to grow strong and healthy. And, at five months pregnant, the expectant mom decided to honor her late daughter Victoria in a special way. She teamed up with Nicole DeHoff Photography and posed nude in a maternity shoot covered in rainbow glitter.
“The whole shoot was a rush of emotions,” she tells PEOPLE of the shoot in October 2017. “It was an emotional battle after losing a child and I was excited and hoping the pictures would catch people’s attention and learn that this could happen to anyone.”
Samantha and Steven’s sons with baby sister Abigail
In the striking photos, Gadd is shown with her baby belly on full display with the glitter stretching from her left shoulder to her thigh. Gadd and Steven welcomed baby Abigail on Dec. 14, 2017.
“I felt accomplished and relieved. Holding her in my arms, it was just amazing. We felt like what we worked so hard for was finally here. She’s so perfect and she looks just like Victoria did.”