Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Seven years ago today, our family suffered a huge shock with the loss of Mattie. Even after all this time, it impacts me immensely, but I will try to express my thoughts.

M (Mike's sister) and her husband W were pregnant with their first baby. We were extremely excited. Mike and I had a pregnancy scare earlier in the year, and it turned out to be a false alarm. We were nowhere near ready to be parents, since we were only 24, had lots of student loans and were still in an apartment. But I will admit to being a little disappointed. When we found out that M was pregnant, we thought that it would be great practice! We anticipated spoiling that little baby like crazy, learning how to do diapers (neither of us had any experience with babies), and years down the road, babysitting to give them a night off.

M had an incredibly easy pregnancy for the most part, with no complications, and was due November 3rd. She is a very tiny woman, so she looked like she had a basketball under her shirt! We enjoyed all the baby news updates. In October, Mike and I were on vacation in Kentucky and called to check in on them. We had a discussion full of laughter, as we placed our "bets" in the pool as to when the baby would be born. M and W had determined the name, Martha Michelle, or Mattie, early on in the pregnancy.

I remember the phone call on November 3rd vividly. Most of that day is etched permanently in my memory, even though I wish otherwise. Mike and I were joking around and watching a taped episode of West Wing when the phone rang. I jumped up, laughing, and grabbed the phone. My MIL was on the other end and I could tell that she was upset. She said "the baby is dead." My heart dropped into my stomach and I thought I was going to throw up. I thought that maybe there had been an accident and both M and the baby were dead. I asked "how is M?" and she said that M felt guilty, that she must have done something wrong. When I clarified my question, she said that M was physically fine. They were waiting to see if M would go into labor; otherwise they would induce her.

I basically went into shock and said goodbye, without finding out what hospital they were at. I had to turn to Mike and tell him the hideous news. Then I bawled hysterically. We had been anticipating the call with joyous news, nothing like this had ever crossed our minds. Mike called his mom's cell and we went to find them. We wanted to be there for support during this time. We met at the hospital and I distinctly remember us walking into her hospital room. Mike saw the incubator and immediately starting sobbing. I think M was in shock as well, because she joked about his tears. I followed him out in the hall and just held him.

When we went back in the room, we found out that M had woken up and questioned the last time she felt the baby move. As anyone who has been pregnant knows, you can go hours without feeling movement, especially overnight and if the baby is getting into position for labor. I saw that they had their hospital bag packed as well as the cord blood registry kit with them. They might have even had the car seat there as well. It broke my heart. They raced to the dr/hospital once they thought something was wrong, but it was too late. There was no heartbeat. Mattie was gone.

We spent the rest of the day there, waiting for her to give birth. I don't remember if they wound up inducing. Mike and I went out for food that evening, which tasted like sawdust, but we had to eat. I remember having the headache from hell all day. We checked on them and found out she was in labor. We went back to the hospital and were able to see that beautiful baby. She was gorgeous, and had the family cleft in her chin, just like my girls do now.

The simple reason for Mattie being stillborn was a cord accident. The dr said as Mattie moved, the cord wrapped around her neck. Since Mattie's death (and I never know whether to say birth or death since it is all wrapped in one), I have heard statistics and read stories. It happens more than you think. It doesn't change the horrible sadness that permeates a family. I couldn't sleep that night--I kept thinking of what happened, what could have changed things, and kept seeing Mattie's little face.

It has been seven years, and every November 3rd, I remember. I am crying as I finish this post. It still makes me nauseous, sad, and heartbroken to think of what happened. The emotions have different shades now that I have experienced both pregnancy and motherhood. My girls should have a 7 year old big cousin bossing them around.

The loss of Mattie shadowed my pregnancies with extra stress, worrying every time I didn't feel the baby move. The loss of Mattie splintered Mike's family for several years due to grief and miscommunication, which is an entirely different story, but it compounded the sadness and heartbreak. The loss of Mattie makes me pray even more every time a friend or family member is pregnant.

Life is short and precious--don't take it for granted.

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