My husband Zac and I met in 2010, were married in 2012, and in 2014, we were ready to have a baby. After about 6 months of trying, I found out I was pregnant on June 10, 2014. I still give Zac a hard time because his reaction was not the one of excitement that I was expecting, he was in shock and didn’t say anything for several moments! We couldn’t believe we were really going to have a baby. We were so excited for what was to come.
I had a “normal” pregnancy, never felt sick, and was just beginning to show in late September 2014. The excitement of having a baby was growing and things were starting to feel real. We went to visit my parents out of town for the weekend. On Sunday morning, I had a lot of bleeding and immediately called my doctor, who told me to go to the hospital. After some exams and tests in the emergency room, it was determined that I needed to be admitted. I was 18 weeks and 4 days pregnant.
On Monday morning, we met with Dr. L, a maternal fetal medicine doctor at OSF St. Francis Hospital (in Peoria, IL). He became my new doctor who diagnosed with me with incompetent cervix and spent so much time helping us understand what was going on. Because of what was happening in my body, they were not able to do surgery to help me stay pregnant. I was put on full bed rest in the hospital and wasn’t allowed to get up for anything. Dr. L let us know, with true care and concern, that the chances of making it to viability were not great. We met with a nurse who helped us to make a plan for early delivery. We were hoping and praying that wouldn’t happen, but we had some peace knowing that there was a plan.
Each morning I was hooked up to monitors to check for contractions and I was able to hear my baby’s heartbeat. By Wednesday, things were the same. I remember asking Dr. L if he thought we would make it this far when he first saw me, and he said he didn’t. I felt some hope, thinking we might be in the hospital for the long haul.
Besides not being able to get out of bed, things were going okay. I made Zac go home and get clothes and things so he could do some work at the hospital. He was reluctant, but I told him he needed to go. The time spent in the hospital helped to show me how deep my husband’s love was for me. He never complained, did things for me that many husbands wouldn’t do, and he rarely left my side. My parents, my mother-in-law, and other family and friends were there with me all the time, checking in to see what we needed and to let them know they were praying for us. My coworkers took over at work and made sure everything was covered in my 2nd grade classroom so that I didn’t have to worry about anything. The amount of love, support, and prayers for us was immense.
Friday morning the nurse was having trouble finding our baby’s heartbeat, so an ultrasound machine was brought in. We were able to see that our baby was still alive, but the prognosis was not good. It was likely that I would deliver soon and there was nothing we could do. There were so many tears and emotions. I remember feeling a complete loss of knowing what to do. How could I just lay in the bed knowing my baby wasn’t going to make it? Zac and I talked together and decided to just wait. Our parents came that night and we shared our plan with them. We cried together and waited.
When the nurse came in to do heart tones on Saturday morning, they again couldn’t find a heartbeat. They brought in the ultrasound machine again and still couldn’t find it. Dr. L was off for the weekend, but another doctor came in and confirmed that our baby had died. My world crumbled. Our baby was really gone.
We were sent to Labor and Delivery and I was induced. From the beginning of our pregnancy, we had decided to wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. That week in the hospital, we decided to stick with waiting to find out. Within a few hours of being induced, on Saturday, September 27, 2014, at 19 weeks and 3 days pregnant, our baby was born sleeping. The nurse in the room calmly checked our baby. Zac asked if it was a boy or a girl. When the nurse told us it was a boy and I heard Zac cry, my heart sank. His dreams of the little boy he would take fishing and teach all of the things his dad had taught him were torn away.
The kindest nurses cleaned, weighed, and measured our baby, wrapped him in a beautiful handmade blanket and hat, and gave him to us. He was perfect. He was tiny, but he was perfect. I can still remember how it felt to hold his 10 ounce, 10 inch body across my chest. Zac and I had decided earlier in the week that if our baby was a boy, Zac would name him, and if it was a girl, I would name her. Zac chose the name Matthew Douglas, a name we both loved. Douglas is in memory of Zac’s dad, who passed away in 2010. A pastor came in and blessed our baby and prayed over him.
My parents, Zac’s mom, and Zac’s sister came in and met and held Matthew. I was able to rock my sweet Matthew in a rocking chair. I loved looking at his tiny hands and feet. They were huge for his little body! We were able to get his hand and foot prints, and we were given other special mementos from the hospital. We kept Matthew with us until late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Zac and I knew when it was time to give him to the nurses. We knew that we were just holding Matthew’s little body and that he wasn’t really there with us. Giving him to the nurse was awful. How do you just give away your baby? A piece of my heart will forever be in that hospital.
Sunday morning we were able to go home. We came back to our house and tried to start living again. I can’t tell you what I did for the first week back at home after losing Matthew. I remember going to lunch and a movie with Zac on Saturday, one week after Matthew died, and wondering how the rest of the world kept going when mine was falling apart.
About a month after Matthew was born, St. Francis held a burial for Matthew and other babies born too soon. This was one of the decisions that we had made before Matthew was born. This service was an amazing gift, not a closure, but another precious memory of Matthew. Matthew was buried in a tiny white handmade casket on a beautiful October day.
Because of Matthew, I am part of a club. This club is full of moms like me. Moms who love and miss their babies and who are there to support one another. I have renewed friendships with women I knew who have also lost their babies. I have become friends with women I would have never known otherwise. They are there to support me, and I am there to support them. None of this would have happened without Matthew. His life, as short as it was, had a purpose, one that I will carry with me as long as I live.
Very soon after Matthew died, I knew I didn’t want losing him to be for no reason. I wanted and needed something good to come out of his death. St. Francis did not have cradles at the time Matthew was born, but we were provided with a tiny handmade blanket and hat for Matthew. These things were and are so special to us. After his death, I taught myself to crochet, hoping that I would be able to provide something similar to others.
In 2015, I found Bridget’s Cradles. Bridget’s Cradles has allowed me to take my grief and turn it into something positive that will help others. I have become a regional coordinator, helping to link hospitals with the organization and recruit volunteers. I am proud to say that thanks to the work of Ashley and Bridget’s Cradles and the help of volunteers around the country, St. Francis, where Matthew was born, now has cradles to hold other babies born too soon. My prayer is that the families who receive the cradles can feel a tiny bit of peace from knowing there are others who are with them during the most difficult time in their lives.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Written by Megan Sopher // Matthew's Mommy