“Leo is our relentless little rainbow baby”

Patient Stories |



An Indianapolis mother and nurse who suffered the loss of her first child one year ago creates treasured keepsakes for other grieving moms, even as she welcomes a baby boy after a high-risk pregnancy.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

One year ago, Julia Holman and Caleb Medrano were grieving the loss of their unborn child due to an ectopic pregnancy.

Three-hundred and sixty-seven days later, on Jan. 30, 2023, they welcomed 8-pound, 11-ounce Leo Noe Medrano into the world at Riley Hospital for Children.

A joyful day to be sure, but the weeks leading up to Leo’s birth were not easy for the couple. Holman was suffering from a high-risk complication called placental abruption, meaning her placenta had partially detached from the uterus.

The condition could deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients, so Holman and baby required continuous monitoring in the Riley Maternity Tower to ensure that Leo was not in distress. That’s where Holman lived for several weeks before Leo’s birth, in case an emergency delivery was required.

A native of Fishers, Holman has worked as a travel nurse for the past couple of years, most recently at IU Health West Hospital. Previously, she worked in Oregon and New Mexico, which is where she suffered her pregnancy loss last year. The couple moved back to the Indianapolis area last fall.

She admits to going a little stir-crazy during her time at Riley, anxious about the impending birth of little Leo, but fate intervened to calm her nerves and give her a unique purpose.

Holman spent her days creating heartfelt mementos for other grieving moms who had recently lost babies.

She worked with Rebekah Delaney, program manager for Pathways to Hope bereavement program at Riley, to handwrite notes and poems for bereaved parents.

“Because of her ectopic pregnancy, she was really compassionate toward our bereaved population,” Delaney said. “I brought in my paper cutter and some scrapbook paper, and she went to town. It’s a really meaningful thing she did for our patient population … from a mom who knows the pain and sorrow of loss.”

According to Delaney, one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and one in 60 pregnancies ends in stillbirth. Perinatal and infant loss increase a mother’s risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.

Holman recalls medical personnel in New Mexico treating her pregnancy loss as simply a medical emergency, rather than the loss of a child.

“I struggled really hard,” she said. “I understood as a nurse, but the emotion wasn’t there.”

Luckily, her relationship with Medrano allowed them both to process the loss on a deeper level together. They created their own memory box as a way to grieve their child.

That’s why she was so invested in helping other moms during the many weeks she spent at Riley.

“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what’s going wrong in this pregnancy, but helping these moms has made me realize how blessed I am,” she said, just days before giving birth.

“Leo is our relentless little rainbow baby. I know I’m in the right place here. We are safe.”

Delaney said Holman’s compassion in action has been moving to see.

“It’s been really special over these past few weeks to see how a hand-written note, a poem from another bereaved mom has impacted those who have suffered loss,” she said.

“It was really beautiful for Julia to be in her own grief and in an uncomfortable environment, yet she was willing to take on this task, and it impacted so many other grieving moms.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org