TAMPA — The sorrow suffered by the family of slain Tampa police Officer Jeffrey Kocab was compounded Wednesday. It happened in a way that left strangers reeling. Sara Kocab delivered the couple's first child, stillborn.
Her name was Lilly Nicole.
The family had known for some time that Lilly had an abnormality that was not compatible with life. Still, they asked for prayers, and got them, word trickling out through church groups and Facebook pages.
Early Wednesday morning, Lilly arrived. Doctors could do nothing.
Her family asked the Police Department to let people know. Everyone had been waiting for news of the police widow's baby. There was an official announcement, over the same alert channel that had announced the shootings of Officers Kocab and David Curtis.
"Sara Kocab and her family would like to thank the countless people who have shown their support and care during these past few weeks," it began.
"Sara delivered Lilly Nicole this morning. Sara and her family have known during the pregnancy that Lilly Nicole had a major abnormality that could result in Lilly being stillborn or only able to live a limited time after delivery ... ."
Nothing could be done medically, it said.
The family asked for privacy.
Within minutes, comments were posted on a Facebook group for the fallen officers. People expressed sadness over the news and promised prayers to the family.
May they find comfort knowing that Lilly Nicole is now in her Daddy's arms, one woman wrote.
Officers Kocab and Curtis were killed during a traffic stop June 29.
A visibly pregnant Sara Kocab attended her husband's funeral on July 3. They had been married 10 years. She traced the etching of his name on the Roll Call of Honor memorial outside police headquarters. She went to a benefit concert Sunday at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg.
On Wednesday, her pastor came to her side.
The police statement about Lilly did not explain her condition.
Among the defects known prenatally that might cause a baby to be stillborn, or to die very soon after birth, is one called anencephaly. Part of the neural tube that forms the brain does not close in early pregnancy. The brain, skull and scalp may be incomplete.
That happens to about 1,000 babies a year in the United States, health officials say.
A woman is usually warned about the baby's prognosis.
Many choose to end the pregnancy, said Dr. Roberto Sosa, head of neonatology at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He was not Mrs. Kocab's physician.
Registered nurse Karen Frazier heads a support group called Aiding Mothers and Fathers Experiencing Neonatal Death.
She lost a daughter, Abigail, in 1975.
She said it took years to work through the grief. A mother starts bonding with a child the moment she knows she's pregnant.
"My baby made me a mother," Frazier said.
It's important to have a supportive family, she said.
Most couples who endure the loss of a baby still have each other to lean on. But Mrs. Kocab went through the final three weeks of her pregnancy without her husband.
"He would have been her support going through this," Frazier said.
Times staff writers Danny Valentine and Kevin Smetana contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.