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48 | My Baby Died When I Got COVID | Mattie Steinhilpert





Join us for a hope-filled conversation with Mattie Steinhilpert, who lost her daughter, Sloane, after getting sick with COVID in her pregnancy. Mattie shares the story of how God saved her when she was on the brink of death herself. Sadly, her daughter died after delivery. Mattie and her husband relied on their faith in God to get them through the devastating, traumatic experience they faced so early in their marriage. With their hope in Heaven, they found renewed joy and purpose as God continued to grow their family.


In this episode, we discussed:


  • COVID and its impact on pregnancy and placentas

  • What it was like being on the news right after their daughter's death

  • Being surrounded by Christ-like love in the hospital

  • Asking the Lord to provide the strength to get through each moment

  • Choosing to rely on their faith in the midst of deep grief

  • Jesus is the only solution to our problem

  • Navigating the loss of a baby in the first year of marriage

  • Growing love and respect for our spouse through grief

  • How grief changed when they had another little girl

  • Rainbow babies are not replacement babies

  • Giving grace and forgiveness to people who say the wrong thing

  • Breaking free from victim mentality

  • Why she loves Romans 8:28 and Numbers 6:24-26

  • Looking forward to Jesus' return


Full transcript below.

 

MEET OUR GUEST


Mattie lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband David. She is a mom to three children, including her daughter, Sloane, who is in Heaven with Jesus.


Sloane was born at 31 weeks following Mattie's severe case of COVID that led to life-threatening complications for them both during her pregnancy in September of 2021. Due to the complications compromising Sloane's health in the womb, her body suffered extreme trauma and she passed away just shy of 18 hours after birth in the arms of her mom and dad.

 

Mattie and David are passionate about serving bereaved families and spreading the hope of Heaven to those who long to be reunited with their precious baby(ies) gone too soon.

 

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MEET OUR HOST


Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,400 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 30,000 bereaved families a year.


Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.


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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT


Episode 48 | My Baby Died When I Got COVID & How God Saved Me |

Mattie Steinhilpert


Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks. 

Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. 


Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. 


Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.


Ashley Opliger: [00:00:48] Welcome back to another episode of Cradled in Hope. I am so honored to interview my dear friend, Mattie Steinhilpert. She is a local mom, so she lives here in Wichita, Kansas, and I met her after she lost her daughter, Sloane. She was introduced to Bridget’s Cradles and started coming to our support groups and we developed a strong friendship through that time.


I do want to mention, during the pandemic, Mattie was diagnosed with COVID, and due to the severe complications it caused during her pregnancy, she lost her baby girl after she was born prematurely. And so this is a very hard story for her to share. And she's going to share a lot of details of what it was like to be sick and experience losing a baby to COVID. And so she's going to be very vulnerable with you. 


And I want to say that we are sharing her story, not to make any political or medical statements about COVID. And we're not trying to open up a conversation about the nature or origins of COVID or start a debate about vaccines. We really just want to bring some exposure and light to her story because we know that many other moms have experienced the loss of a baby due to having COVID during pregnancy.


And so we want to bring some awareness to this, but we're going to do it with love and grace, without judgment and without getting into a debate or into sides about this. I think it's so important that we share her story and most importantly, hear her testimony of how God saved her and brought incredible healing, and strengthened her faith through this difficult journey. Mattie's story is so important to share, and I am so glad you will get to hear it now. 


Ashley Opliger: [00:02:23] Welcome, Mattie, to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. I'm so glad to have you on today.


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:02:27] Thanks for having me. I'm excited to share our story.


Ashley Opliger: [00:02:30] Well, Mattie, I am just so blessed because you and I have developed a friendship. Even though we wish that it wasn't our daughters in Heaven that connected us, we have formed a friendship. 


You live here locally in Wichita, so we've gotten to know each other in person and you've come to our support groups and different events and volunteered with us. So I'm excited for you to share your story and also how you got connected to Bridget’s Cradles and our friendship. So Mattie, would you introduce yourself and tell us your story?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:03:02] Yeah. So my name is Mattie. My husband's name is David. We have three babies, one in Heaven. We have one on earth and then one that we are expecting. Our daughter in Heaven, her name is Sloane Eloise, and she was born September 13th in 2021.


Backstory on her life and death and the pregnancy: My husband, David, and I were married in June of 2020 and had a COVID wedding, and it was small and it was great. And we were just on cloud nine and decided a few months later that we wanted to try to get pregnant. And on our first try, we found out that we were expecting and it was the greatest day of my life.


I came home from lunch from work and I just had this urge to take a test. And I was so doubtful that I was going to get pregnant right away and just didn't have any idea. And then as soon as I dipped the stick in, it showed up with two pink lines and I literally just started screaming. And I was by myself and I was just so excited and I was running around my house like, “What do I do?”


I was 22 at the time and I was just so excited; went back to work and then that evening I surprised David with a little board in our kitchen and a pregnancy test and he couldn't believe it. Neither of us thought that it would happen right away, just for some reason. And yeah, the pregnancy was great. 


We had our gender reveal the day of our one-year wedding anniversary and my friends from work threw us a gender reveal. And in our backyard we did a bunch of things to lead up to it and then shot off the cannons and it was a bunch of pink confetti. 


And I always dreamed of having my first baby be a girl, and so I was so excited and immediately was just like, “Oh my gosh, thank You, God, for this precious gift and for answering this lifelong prayer of, A, wanting to become a mom, and B, having a baby girl!” 


And that was at 20 weeks, so that was in June and then the rest of the pregnancy was beautiful. Her anatomy scan was great. No complications. I never felt sick during my pregnancy. I truly never had any symptoms other than just tiredness, which I am thankful for. 


And then at the end of August, I left my job as a receptionist. We knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I worked at a doctor's office, but with it being around COVID time, probably the best idea for me to just finish the rest of my pregnancy at home and get acclimated to life as a stay-at-home mom and really devote my time into figuring out what that time in life is going to be like.


That was at the end of August and it was the 1st of September, David started showing signs of COVID and we were both like, “It's going to be fine.” I had been working with it for a year and a half at that point; we weren't really scared of it. 


So he just quarantined in our basement for a few days, and then I started to feel sick. And my first symptoms were really just headache, fatigue, leg cramps, you know, all of these weird things. And I was like, “There's no way.” It took me an entire week of symptoms to test positive. And so I tested positive. 


He came out of quarantine. And then on around day eight/day nine of me having it, I had a fever that reached 103, that just wouldn't break. And called my doctors, they were like, “Well, you should probably go to the hospital just to make sure,” because I was extremely dehydrated due to the fever. “Just make sure the baby's okay, they'll check your vitals,” all of that kind of thing.


So we went in, it was probably midnight, this was on Saturday going into Sunday, around midnight, 1 a.m.. And we go and they're like, “Yeah, baby looks perfect.” We opted out of getting fluids just because they were like, “I don't know how much it's going to do for you.” They gave me some medicine to help stop the flow of things so that I could rehydrate and sent me on my way. 


We were home by 4 a.m. and we're like, “Okay, everything's going to be fine.” All day Sunday, I slept and just started to recover. Woke up Monday, September 13th and was the best I'd ever felt. All of my symptoms were gone. I still had some of the residual symptoms, but all of my symptoms were gone. I was like, “Great, I'm cured.” David was back to work for the first time and everything's good.


But then I realized throughout the day that she just wasn't moving as she normally would. And so I was like, “Okay, well, maybe it's just because I'm dehydrated.” So I go and I drink orange juice. I do some jumping jacks. I listen to loud music. I put ice packs on my stomach just to try to see if I can get her moving.


And everything that I'm Googling says, “10 kicks in two hours. Do the kick counts.”

I was like, “Okay. Well, I slept in, so maybe I should just keep doing all these things. And I'll do kick counts here in a couple hours if I don't feel her,” just completely innocently and, I guess, naïve. 


And so I lay down, do the kick counts and I was texting David in the middle of it. I was like, “She's really not moving like she normally is.” Neither of us thought to be concerned, since two nights ago she was fine. 


She only got seven kicks in two hours. So I tell him, I was like, “Why don't you come home from work? Let's just go to the hospital.”


He was pretty resistant to it just since we'd already been sent home. But I was like, “There's something in me that just feels …” what I know now of doom. And so I was like, “Why don't we just go?”


And so we went to the hospital and they hooked me up to the monitor and they were like, “Have you been feeling her at all?”


And I was like, “Kind of, I think.” 

 

They hooked me up to those bands and showed me the screen, and her heart is just like these tiny little flutters. And they were like, “They should be making these big spikes. And so we're just going to maybe give you some oxygen, give you some ice water.”


And I was like, “I've been doing all these things, but okay.” And the nurse was trying to keep me really calm at that point.


They give me the oxygen. They start drawing my blood, just to see if it's the dehydration or something. And they keep moving me back and forth, they finally call my OB. Once they take my blood, they send it to the lab for a stat lab and the readings are unbelievable. And they repeated it because they’re like, “There has to be a mistake.”


So they redo it. And I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome and DIC. HELLP Syndrome is hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets. And my platelets were supposed to be at about the 150 range, and they were at 20. And my liver enzymes couldn't be read on the lab results because they were so high. They were just higher than their machine could read. 


The DIC, Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation, I still don't know too much about it, but I know that my blood was so thin, but it was clotting on her placenta. That's why I wasn't feeling her, because there were blood clots all over the placenta causing her to not have oxygen, causing her to not have the nutrients, lack of blood flow, everything.


This doctor, which I will never forget the look on her face when she comes into the room. She comes in and holds my ankles and said, “If we don't do an emergency C-section right now, you and your baby are going to die.” 


And at that moment, we didn't know that this was so serious. So I get a flood of doctors and nurses just coming in and they start poking me to get IVs. And my OB comes in, and my veins are just blowing left and right. My arms are puffing up like balloons, just turning blue from just blood, I guess, bruising. 


My OB comes in and she's like, “We need to go right now. This is serious. Your baby is not going to make it.” So I tell David in that moment, like he just falls to the floor and I'm like, “Just call our parents. I don't know what else to do.”


And they literally just wheel me off and leave him in this little tiny triage room, thinking that this is the last time he's ever going to see me, hearing that from the doctors. 


And so they take me to the OR. I can't remember hardly anything between the moment that I left that room til a couple days later.


But what I do remember is I needed a blood transfusion, I needed platelets, and all of these other blood products. And because my blood type is so common, I guess you could say, they didn't have any at the blood bank. They had to keep searching and searching and searching. 


And so we had to make the decision with my doctor. Do we want to go ahead and do the C-section, put me under, and risk me hemorrhaging and dying, passing away from bleeding out because I had no platelets, but saving Sloane right away? Or do we want to risk the possibility of her passing away in my womb to try to save both of us? 


And so ultimately that was what we felt in that moment was the best decision. At the time, I was 31 weeks and four days pregnant. I was diagnosed with COVID at 29 weeks, so this was about a week and a half between being diagnosed and being in the OR telling us that our baby is going to die. 


And when they were waiting for my blood products, they had David come in to discuss everything. And once the blood products came in, everybody was basically yelling and just like, “Get out, David. We're gonna start this now.”


And I will never forget that, I think it was the nurse anesthetist, she grabs my face. She's up at my face, she's one that’s going to be putting me under. She grabs my face, removes my oxygen mask. She goes, “If you wake up from the surgery, there's a good chance that you'll be on a breathing tube, so don't freak out.”


And that was one of the last things that I heard before I went under. A second after that moment, I was just hysterical and I was so scared that if I was going to be put under, that could be the last time my husband was going to see me. That was the last time I was going to be with my baby. That was the last time that I was going to take a breath on this earth. 


And I yelled to everybody in the OR. I said, “Everybody stop what you're doing right now and pray for me.” 


And there was this unexplainable peace that filled that room. My body, I felt so many hands on me, and my feelings of fear and doubt and worry for me and Sloane was just gone. I could just feel the Holy Spirit's presence in that moment. 


It was like probably within 30 seconds of them putting me under, I just remember feeling that sense of peace and then looking up at the ceiling and as everything is just going white and just thinking, “God, if it's my time, take me, but I'm not ready.”


And thankfully, He decided not to take me that day and I made it out of the surgery. It was a very quick procedure and they had to be quick because I was so critical. 


And then Sloane, her heart did stop beating in my womb before they could bring her out, and she was gone for quite a while. But when she was born, they did CPR on her for 10 minutes in the room and somehow, only by the grace of God and by His divine intervention, her heart started beating on its own. And they were telling us that she was just going to be stillborn, that she wasn't going to come back. 


So then they wheeled me back to the post op room and Sloane is taken immediately to the NICU. And since David and I both had COVID, neither of us could go be with her. So she was alone the whole time. She was born at 6:59 p.m. on September 13th, 2021, and she was in the NICU. 


I was recovering in the post op room and about every hour or so, from what I can remember, the NICU doctor would come in and tell us, “She's doing better,” or, “She's looking like she's going to pass away. She's doing better. She's looking like she's going to pass away.” And it was just this up and down, up and down.


And I just remember every time that the door would open, I would be afraid that he was going to tell me that my baby had passed away. And she was only on life support, she wasn't breathing on her own, there was no real brain function that she was having. 


So she was born at 6:59 p.m. the next morning, mid morning at some point, my memory is not there, they had us come in and tell us that she more than likely wasn't going to make it. None of her levels were matching up, they were just consistently declining. 


And so they gave us the decision, or gave us the option I guess I should say, to sign a DNR for her, which was probably the hardest decision we've ever had to make because they said that, “her body has worked so hard to stay alive for these however many hours at this point, if they do CPR on her and try to resuscitate her, it's just going to cause her more pain.”


And so we decided to sign the DNR and they came in around 12 noon the next day, Tuesday, September 14th, and told us that it was time to bring her in.


And I don't really remember much of when they brought her in. I know that they brought her in a little incubator and she was on her breathing tube. And the first thing that they did was lay her on my chest. And it breaks my heart that I don't have memory of that because those were the only moments that I got with her.


But the one thing that I do remember is within minutes of her laying on my chest, they laid her, we were chest to chest, and she grabbed my thumb. And they told me that she would not have any muscle movement, and she grabbed my thumb. And within seconds to a minute later, she passed away. 


And I know that that was her way, or that was at least the Lord's way of telling me, “I have her and she's going to be okay.” The doctors told us she had no brain function and here she was, this tiny little squeeze. And that's the only thing I can remember. I will never forget that feeling of her tiny little cold hand. 


And I don't remember seeing her last breath. I don't remember holding her after that, besides little bits and pieces here and there. But she passed away at 12:28 p.m. on September 14, 2021, and we got to hold her for seven hours and just took in every moment that we could. And we had molds made of her hands and her feet, and they took clippings of her hair, and we just got to soak in everything. 


And God was truly just so gracious in giving us that time with her alive and also to be with her because she obviously waited until just a few minutes after she was with her mom and dad to go be with Jesus. And so she was a little fighter and none of this would have happened had we not gotten sick. 


And that's what we've been proven, which breaks my heart because of what COVID has done to this world and to moms like me. And I know so many other moms who have experienced losses because of COVID, whether it be early pregnancy, late pregnancy, post pregnancy. It's wreaked havoc on the world. And there's nothing else to blame other than this horrible illness. 


But I know that her life had purpose, seeing the way that she fought in the NICU for so long, and the fact that her heart started beating on its own after being without oxygen and being essentially dead for so long. God had His hands all over her this whole time and over me.


And He saved me so that I could see her and so that I could live to tell her legacy and to tell her story, and to hopefully bring hope and healing to those who have experienced something similar.


Ashley Opliger: [00:18:58] Well, Mattie, my heart just breaks hearing all of those details. I've obviously known your story for a long time, and hearing you walk through all of that just broke my heart all over again.


How traumatic that must have been for you and David and how scary walking through that and so much unknown. I know that at that time there was not a lot known about COVID and the effects on pregnancy. 


And I know since then that you have talked with many doctors and made phone calls with other women across the country who have experienced similar things. And so would you share a little bit about the knowledge that you've had since then about COVID?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:19:35] From what I've been told, and there's not really much provided information from doctors that was out there for the public unless you've been through it, but at least from my experience and from the information that I've learned, COVID really attacks the placenta of the baby.


And that's why a lot of times people who have COVID at the beginning of their pregnancy can experience a miscarriage, can experience IUGR, Intrauterine Growth Restriction, things like that, because it attacks the placenta, which is why it just leads me to believe that this is such a Satan-filled virus and pandemic, whatever you want to call it, because that's their lifeline.


The placenta, that is the only thing that is providing them life outside of the miracle that women's bodies to grow these babies. 


From Sloane's NICU doctor, he had informed us that there were, I believe, five other moms with stories exactly like mine. Not all of them lost their babies, thankfully. But most of them did. And yeah, it causes moms the most inflammation. 


And especially for me, they say that I had preeclampsia, which led to HELLP Syndrome, but none of that just adds up. There's not really information on that aspect, but for the babies themselves, it does attack the placenta and cause it to clot. 


It can cause calcifications, it can cause, I don't know if you would use the word death at the placenta, but just failed function, basically, from what I've understood. And it just breaks my heart that these precious little babies are just being so attacked by it.


Ashley Opliger: [00:21:14] Yes, and I know that when this was happening in the hospital, because the pandemic was happening and everything was going on, your story ended up on the news. And David actually was interviewed there at the hospital. And that was one of the first times that I found out about you and heard your story. 


It was shared in Wichita on a local news station and then several people connected you and I personally, but then I also was seeing it on Facebook and things. So would you share about that opportunity to share your story so soon after and some of the things that God did because of that? 


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:21:50] It was honestly really overwhelming, in good and bad ways, to be in the limelight, I guess you could say, of the public and people that we know. Thankfully, we had shared the information on Facebook and David had informed people that she had passed away.


And it just went viral on Facebook. There were hundreds of shares of the passing of Sloane and our local news station got a hold of it, and they reached out to us. I think the day of or the day after she had passed away and were asking all of these details. They'd already gotten our pictures off of Facebook. 


It was encouraging to know that our story was going to be out there, but it was also, I don't want to say breach in privacy, but that's the only word I can think of.


Ashley Opliger: [00:22:38] Yeah. 


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:22:38] Just because there's a lot of opinions on COVID. But there was a lot of good that came from it, one of that being my connections to Bridget’s Cradles


And our church at the time had found out about it through Facebook, but also through the news and we had just gotten swarmed with love from the community, from people we didn't even know, people in other states.


And because of the news story, we found out that the nurse who took care of Sloane in the NICU, David had ridden in a bike race with her mom. And so she came into our hospital room after she had passed away and we just made this connection and it just felt so personal. People knew our story and it just felt like all these people loved us on such a personal level.


And getting connected with other moms who had gone through loss; I wasn't familiar with pregnancy loss. I thought that miscarriage was really it and I knew about stillbirth, but I didn't know much. 


So just being able to be connected with people right away within days of her passing was unfortunately so comforting for me to know that there were other people out there, like you, like all these other moms that have reached out that know what it's like to lose a baby.

 

There is such an odd comfort that you get from hearing about other people's losses. And it truly was a blessing that we were provided with so many resources with you and the organization that helped us with her funeral and all of that right away. God really was present in that time and I'm so thankful for what He orchestrated through our story being shared.


Ashley Opliger: [00:24:16] Mattie, I just want to say I still remember our very first phone call. I was actually traveling to Atlanta at the time, so I was at my friend Amanda's house, and I remember talking to you on the phone, and this was within a week of you losing Sloane. And I just remember thinking, “Wow, she has such strong faith and is so grounded in her faith.”


Because the things that you were sharing, it was like you have such a spiritual maturity at your young age to be saying the things that you were saying at the moment that you were in. And I really don't encounter that often. 


You just had this ability, and it had to be the Holy Spirit in you, to see the bigger picture and to have the eternal perspective.


And already at that moment I remember you and David talking about the people in your life that were coming to know Christ or willing to start asking questions about God. And you were seeing so many good things come from Sloane's life. And I really remember you focusing on that in the beginning and that just being very inspirational to me that you were in that place.


Would you share about those initial weeks of grieving, how you anchored to your faith so quickly and determined that this was going to be the thing that brought you and David through your grief?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:25:34] I remember that phone call being very pivotal in our grief process. But from the moment that we were told that she was going to pass away, we were surrounded by believers in the hospital. 


And the nurse that took care of me from that moment, my triage nurse, until our postpartum nurse that helped us get out of the hospital, basically, and then so on and so forth, they prayed for us. They wept with us. 


Even just being in the hospital itself, which is a horrible place to be when you just want to be home and processing this kind of thing, we were just surrounded by love from the very beginning and it was Christ-like love. 


It wasn't just, “I'm so sorry for the loss of your baby.” It was the deepest conversations. And from the experience that I had in the OR, feeling the Holy Spirit, I was like, “There is no way that we're going to walk through this and resent God and choose to walk away from Him. There's no way we can do that. He is the only reason that I am here today.”


And I remember in the hospital just thinking, “I want to die with her. I wish I would have died with her,” because I felt so sad that she passed away and I lived. But the amount of love and presence that we felt from the Lord and just felt the Holy Spirit's presence in our hospital room, in the car ride home, in our home when we got there, it was just undeniable that He was hugging us and just holding our hearts as we were weeping and just missing our daughter so badly.


Not to say that the grief was not horrible. That is the worst emotional, physical pain; outside of having a C-section, that is the worst thing I've ever felt in my entire life. I just pray every day that no other mom has to feel that pain because it is so deep and so dark and so empty. 


But the only thing that was relieving us of any sort of pain, even the smallest sliver of relief, was the Lord and worshiping Him and asking Him to be with us and asking Him to provide us strength to walk to the kitchen and get a drink of water or to make this phone call to get her ready for her funeral, have her embalmed at the mortuary. 


We were so empty, not one of us could provide comfort for each other the way that the Lord could. And He was providing the right people, He was providing the right Scripture to read, the right stories, the right everything. 


He was orchestrating this beautiful, and it's hard to say beautiful in the midst of your child dying, but He provided this and orchestrated this beautiful path that we were going to walk and this newfound trust in Him that we had to trust Him with our lives, with our grief, with everything. Or else we were going to feel so empty for the rest of our lives if we did not have our full faith and trust in Him.


Ashley Opliger: [00:28:30] There's this opportunity when you are facing such a traumatic and grief-stricken, heartbreaking moment of losing a child, which I believe is the worst pain that someone can experience on this earth. It is a pivotal moment and a lot of times we face this crisis of faith of, “Okay, am I going to lean into this faith and trust that God is good, and let Him heal my heart and walk through this with Him?”


Or am I going to say, “I don't want to believe in a God that would allow my baby to die,” and, “He's forsaken me. I'm going to turn my back on Him.” And it really can go one of two ways. We can heal the Word’s way, so God's way, or the world's way. 


There are so many things that we can go down that path of these coping mechanisms, which I believe are just Band-Aids to the problem because Jesus is the only solution to our problem, which the problem is death has separated us from our children. And there is only one Person that holds the keys to life and can overcome death. 


And so I'm just so proud of you for sticking to that faith, even when it was hard. And I know there's so many times we have to preach that truth to ourselves because we don't feel it. 


It doesn't feel good when we lose a baby. God doesn't feel good, but we have to keep reminding ourselves of the truth of who He is and know that He is a good God who loves us and is holding our babies. 


And so you and David both, you just really clung to your faith and you knew that it was going to be God that healed you. Of course you had each other to lean on, but like you said, our spouse can't fulfill the deepest needs and desires of our hearts that only the Lord can.


And you and David were so young in your marriage. This was your first child. This was within a year of you getting married and so very young in marriage. So would you talk about how that shaped your marriage and your relationship moving forward, having walked through something so difficult so early in your marriage?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:30:32] We had been together for six years prior and our relationship was strong as we thought it was. We had gone through a lot of hard things together, but nothing amounted to how hard this was, although we were so young in marriage. Most people, that was one of their biggest worries for us. There's a high divorce rate for parents who lose babies, especially people who are young like us.


I mean, we were 22 and 24 at the time, and life was supposed to be bliss. And we were so shocked by what happened, but there was no doubt in our minds that we were ever going to turn from each other in this hardship. We were the only people that knew Sloane. Nobody met her because we were in the hospital alone because of COVID restrictions.


We were the only people that knew this sweet, precious little girl, this three-pound, 10-ounce baby girl that changed our lives forever. It was the hardest thing we've ever gone through and will forever be the hardest thing we've ever gone through.

 

But we learned in that moment that there is no other person that can understand what we're going through like we can. There's no other person that can understand each other's needs like we can, and being able to just depend on each other solely and depend with each other on the Lord was so life changing and bonded us in a way that we would have never been bonded had she not passed away and we walked through what we walked through.


And one thing that he frequently reminds me of is we lost Sloane, but he almost lost me too. And so his love for me changed in that moment. It wasn't just, “This is my wife. I love her til death do us part.” It truly was in that moment til death do us part. And he was hoping and I was hoping that that wouldn't have to be the fulfillment of our vows, and thankfully it wasn't. 


And for our marriage to have that type of pressure at the very beginning, we are honestly very thankful to have walked through this. Would we have ever chosen it and choose to do it again? Absolutely not. 


But the things that have come from it, our love for each other, our respect for each other, our ability to just understand the needs of one another is something that you can't just learn through a marriage book or through marriage counseling. It's so unique in the fact that we were so young, yet there was no wavering of our relationship. And God truly blessed us in that.

 

And COVID had happened and shut down churches and it was virtual for so long and we never got back into the church. And just a couple months after she passed away, we decided together that we were done living that way and that we needed to be together in the church and grow in our faith in that aspect.


And it led us to our church that we're in now, our home church, and just really shaped the way that we run our marriage on such a Godly foundation and the way that we parent, as well. Like I said, we're so thankful for the fruit that God has produced through this in our marriage, in our friendship, in our love for one another.


Ashley Opliger: [00:33:55] I love that you use the word fruit because I think so often when we think of these painful experiences and losing a child, it's so easy for us to focus on the sadness and the grief and how traumatic that was and how hard it was. 


And obviously it is, but at the same time there's so much beauty that can come from it. And I know that it's hard to say that, and you even said that earlier, because you feel like you're going to be judged for saying that.


How could someone have lost a child and say it was beautiful? It almost feels blasphemous or something. But it's like, if you surrender your suffering to the Lord, He can bring beauty from ashes. That's what He does. He's a Redeemer. And if we let Him sanctify us and grow us, He will bring good things from this.


What the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good, the saving of many lives. That's in Genesis 50. We have to understand that, yes, this is a part of the broken world. Viruses like COVID, that's a part of the brokenness of the world and of the enemy. But God can still work in the midst of these broken places and in the midst of death.


And because He came to overcome that, He has an ultimate redemption plan and a plan to resurrect our babies. For you to use the word fruit, there is fruit that can come from this. So many beautiful blessings, so many lessons learned, and even just our perspective changing on the way that we view the world and the way we view God, and just get our theology right about Him and understand the truth of His Word. 


And I love that God really used this hardship to bless and to strengthen your marriage and your commitment to each other and loving each other well. And I think that comes through walking through grief because you really do learn each other in a way that you would not learn each other if you were just walking through this blissful marriage without any hardship.


Ashley Opliger: [00:35:54] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We want to take a quick break to tell you about some resources our ministry provides to grieving moms. 

On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find hope-filled resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, featured stories, and recommended books and other organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. 


In addition, every month I lead Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. 


Lastly, we would love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find community. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name. Now let’s get back to our episode.


Ashley Opliger: [00:37:03] It's been a blessing to see you grow in your marriage, but now that you and David are parents to a living little girl that God has blessed you with, Scarlett, and now a boy on the way, would you share how grief has changed for you in this new season of motherhood?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:37:19] It's changed in a lot of ways, some for the better and some for the worse, honestly. 


It's changed for the better in the fact that the grief is at the forefront of my mind every single day, every waking moment. It's not waking me up in the middle of the night. 

I remember throughout my pregnancy with Scarlett, our little one-year-old, I would wake up every single night and be up for at least two hours, just full of fear and sadness and uncertainty.


That's the time of day that the devil really gets you, is in your peaceful moments. And I can't lie to you and say that I didn't have doubts that God would allow us to have Scarlett here on earth. There were times that I was like, “He didn't save Sloane. He didn't have to. He doesn't have to give us this baby.” And so the grief in that was really, really hard during my pregnancy. 


But I tell you what, the moment that Scarlett was born, the fact that it's not on the forefront of my brain anymore, I'm not feeling the deep sadness as often as I was. And it's gotten better through that, but then it's also gotten worse in the fact that I'm seeing now what I'm missing out on with Sloane.


And I'm seeing this little girl who, as a newborn, looked exactly like her sister. Dark hair, peach fuzz all over her body, they were just so identical. And so it's really hard in moments to look at her and have glimpses of Sloane from the pictures that we have and just be like, “We’ll never know what it's like to have your sister at this age.” And so that's what's been really hard. 


And also just thinking about what her birth was like for me and just knowing that I could have missed out on all of this, missing out on Scarlett while also not being able to bring our sweet boy into this world. 


There has been a lot of good that has come from having a living baby here, but it's also just been really hard in realizing and recognizing the reality of what we lost with her in her passing.


Ashley Opliger: [00:39:25] I think so often people have this assumption that when a mom has lost a baby and then she has her rainbow baby that all of a sudden that fixes her grief, and that it's like a, not necessarily a replacement baby, but, “Okay, now she has the desires of her heart, and so she is not going to be grieving the baby that she lost before.”


And that could not be further from the truth, that no baby will ever replace the baby that we have in Heaven, even if it's the same gender. Like you, you had another little girl. It'd be easy for people to think, “Well, now you have a little girl,”


But it's like, “No, that's Scarlett, not Sloane. I miss her sister.”


And the same for me having boys after I lost Bridget. Even though my boys have brought me so much joy and I love them so much, they can never take the place of their sister, and the fact that I still grieve having a daughter and not just a daughter, but Bridget here. 


And so I think sometimes from the outside, people assume that the rainbow baby is like the bow or the happy ending for the story. And it's not. The bow and the happy ending is Heaven and Jesus' work on the Cross of what He did. Because we still, as grieving moms, are always going to long for the child that's in Heaven.


Doesn't matter how many rainbow babies we have, how many children we have on earth before or after our loss; those children are gifts and we are blessed and grateful and they bring us joy, but we still are always going to miss this baby. So would you speak to that?


Did you have people that you felt like had that assumption and was that hard to navigate?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:41:08] We didn't have too many instances with it, thankfully.


We did have a family member say, “You can always have another baby,” just a couple weeks after. And they've never understood the pain that we were going through. And so we learned right away to give people grace because, A. people don't know what to say to a grieving person, especially a parent who's just lost their baby.


I would choose to be in my shoes versus somebody from the outside because it is so uncomfortable. And I've learned that. Walking with friends who have lost babies, I've learned that it is uncomfortable. You don't know what to say. But at the same time, there is an expectation of people to be respectful with that.


But I do remember somebody asked if we would use Sloane's name for another baby. And it's like, “She lived and died. She is our baby. She is our first daughter. She will always be our first-born child. We will always recognize our kids.”


People ask us at the grocery store, “Is this your first baby?”


And, “No, this is our second baby.” Sometimes we get weird comments about that, but it's the truth. She was meant to be here and Scarlett was meant to be here. All of our babies were meant to be here in this order. And God hand-picked them for us. 


Those first initial comments kind of took us by surprise. And then we just learned to give people the grace. If we could understand that they were coming from a kind place, we just understood to give them grace.

 

But then I did sting a bit more every single time we would hear that, because Scarlett doesn't fix us. I still hold her and just miss her sister so much. 


She has her room now. Scarlett is in the room that we had prepared for Sloane. We didn't change a single thing about it. And it's hard sometimes to be in there and see Sloane's picture or to have her bear that is the weight that she was when she was born in there and for Scarlett to pull it off the shelf. It's hard. She will never heal what we long for with Sloane, and we look forward to the day that that pain will be fulfilled in Heaven. And I pray that the Lord comes sooner than later. 


Ashley Opliger: [00:43:21] And I think we both believe that He might be coming in our lifetime. And so we're expectantly just looking up at the clouds, waiting every day for Jesus to come back and for us to go home with Him, because we have so much to look forward to, not only spending eternity in Heaven with Jesus, our Savior, but also getting to be with our children forever.


And I love that you said that God had hand-picked every single one of your children, whether they're on earth or in Heaven. That's the idea, is that this is our Kingdom family. This is our Heavenly eternal family. 


And so just because what you see on earth of our family in a picture, that's not our entire family. And we know, as grieving moms, as believers, that they are just as much a part of our family even when you can't see them on earth, and that one day we'll be reunited and we'll all be together. 


And so Kingdom family has just been something that has really resonated with me because that's the way I look at it is, “Yes, I have a daughter. She's not here. I'm not getting to raise her here, but I will spend forever with her.”


I love that you also shared about grace because that is something that is so hard when people say hurtful things. And I agree with you, I feel like 99 percent of the time, people have good intentions. Their heart is to help and to try to comfort.


But sometimes, and oftentimes I would say, they don't know what to say and they're uncomfortable about it. And so in an effort to not say the wrong thing, they do say the wrong thing. 


And if we can just see the best in people and see their intentions, that they are trying to be helpful, even when they might say something insensitive, it's just better to go about our grief journey with grace and knowing that we can extend that grace to other people than constantly being offended.


Because to be honest, if we don't give out grace, we are going to be offended constantly. People are always going to say the wrong thing or not say something. And that's unfortunate because in an ideal world they would not be doing that. They would be supportive and loving and showing up for us in the ways that we need.

 

But I love that you said that because I think that does help us go through grief differently when we're not carrying around that emotional baggage of letting other people's words just cut so deep to our core every single time.

 

Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:45:46] There were a lot of times that we chose to not approach people and their comments with grace. And it's honestly so much harder to walk that path and be personally offended and hurt by that. It sounds like it would be harder to choose to give people grace, but truly, you're freeing yourself of those hard emotions.


We're not intended to feel that way. If you choose to live as a victim to your grief and to the actions of others, you're going to live a very, very sad grief journey in the rest of your life, honestly. 


And so it is by the grace of God that we are able to give grace to others, because it was hard to do at the beginning. But now it's much, much easier to walk through hard conversations or weird looks or comments when you tell people that you have a baby in Heaven and just be like, “They don't understand and that's okay. I'm glad they don't understand what we're talking about.” It's reassuring to know that they haven't felt that pain. Does that make sense?


Ashley Opliger: [00:46:52] Yes, and you alluded to this but it's like you said, “the grace that God's given us.” So He has forgiven us while we were still sinners.


And so He's forgiven us, He has commanded us in the Bible to forgive others in the same way that He's forgiven us.


And so when we see it that way, it's the classic example of Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Like you said, they do not know what they're saying. They do not understand how hurtful it is. And to your point, when we don't forgive them, it's only hurting us. We are going to live a life of resentment and anger and that victim mentality that you shared.


And that is not the way that we want to live. That is not the way we want our baby's lives to mark us for the rest of our lives. 


We want to be changed women and moms and followers of Christ because their lives have impacted us for the better and that we are changed to be more compassionate, more loving, allowing God to sanctify us and grow us and bring about fruit and bring about good deeds in all these things for God's glory. That's what honors our babies in Heaven. 


And that's not to say that these things are not going to hurt us and that they're not going to sting, but we don't want that to become part of our identity where we just live in a continual state of victimhood and of grief and allowing people to hurt us in that way. I love that you shared that, Mattie.

 

Do you have a Bible verse that was an anchor for you during your grief season that you would love to share with us?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:48:25] I do. I have a couple. The one that really helped me and David the most was Romans 8:28. And it's, “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”


And that verse, it was really hard to trust that first, in the beginning, because how is a freshly bereaved parent supposed to believe that God's going to bring something good from the loss of your baby? There's nothing that feels good in that moment, and you can't even imagine anything good coming from it.


But even just from the initial stories of people coming to Christ or praying for the first time after hearing our story, just opening their hearts to the possibility of believing, and being able to now witness to others, the good that has come from this, our faith and trust in Christ has grown. And our willingness to be plugged in with the Church, which is the people around us, this Church on earth, we are the Bride of Christ and we didn't have that mentality before she passed away.


And so following this verse of truly trusting the Lord, of being like, “Okay. Although this hurts so bad, we chose in the beginning to trust Him that something, at least something good.” And like I said, those first good things that came from it, we're seeing those stories and now we're seeing it in our marriage, in our friendship, in our conversations with strangers, with people that we've known for years who are opening up to us in ways that they hadn't before and sharing their testimony.


And now also seeing that God does provide children for people on earth like us who have lost babies, especially their first baby, we're seeing this beautiful little girl, Scarlett, that we just get to love on. And she is just such a light, and God has just used her life to give us so much hope that beauty comes from ashes, truly. It really does. And He is the only way that that can happen. 


Remembering that though it won't always make sense, that “all things will work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” They won’t all make sense on this side of Heaven. But when you think about it deeply, you can see God in all of the little things. You can see the good in her birth. You can see the good in what happened when she passed away. There's little pieces of beauty. If you search through the lens of the Lord and ask Him to open your eyes to see it, you will see the good that has come from it. 


And that has just given us so much hope to know that if there's good that can come from her life and death, just within the last two, almost two and a half years, there's so much more good to come for the rest of our lives and for the way that we've raised our kids and all of that. And that verse just brings us joy and something to look forward to as well. 

A second verse that we have is Numbers 6:24-26, and it's benediction of blessing.


And this song, The Blessing by Kari Job was what we played in the hospital when we found out that she wasn't doing well and it's the song that we played at her funeral. And this verse is in our living room. It's, “The Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

If that doesn't show God's love for us, what does? 


He loves us so much that He's willing to provide us with this peace when there's nothing on this earth that will give us the peace that the Lord can provide, that will give us the comfort and strength and courage to walk through each day. Those two verses are probably two of the first verses that we read or heard of when she passed away and they're still to this day the verses that we look to for hope and healing.


Ashley Opliger: [00:52:38] I love both of those and I love that song too. It's just such a beautiful picture of God being present with us all the time and blessing us in so many ways and even blessing us in the hardships that we walk through. 


I've just been so encouraged, Mattie, by everything that you've shared with us and Sloane's beautiful testimony and her life story and the legacy that she's continuing to have on this world and in your Kingdom family, that God has so many plans for you and David and for your kids on earth. 


And I'm just so blessed by your friendship. I'm blessed by all the ways that we've been connected through Bridget’s Cradles, which we didn't even get the chance to talk about the fact that our girls are buried at the same cemetery.


There's been so many ways that God has connected us and our girls. And we always say we wish that we didn't have to meet under these circumstances and because of them, but I do believe our Heavenly girls orchestrated for us to meet and for our friendship to grow and I'm very blessed by you, Mattie.


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:53:35] Me too. There has been a lot that has come from our friendship and just the way that we met right as soon as she passed away and the way that you just loved on David and I from the very beginning, talking on a phone call with us while you were out of town working for Bridget’s Cradles, and then having us to headquarters and staying past midnight, just talking to us and learning and trying to orchestrate a friendship that would have never happened, our paths would have likely never crossed had our girls not passed away. 


And I'm just so thankful for what you and Bridget’s Cradles and just the community that has come from what you have created through Bridget’s Cradles and what God has created through Bridget’s Cradles has provided me and our family.


And it's a continuous blessing to me and to David, and I know that it is for other moms and dads too with babies in Heaven. And I'm so thankful for the way that our friendship has come to this and for my ability to share our story and hopefully provide a little bit of healing to other moms.


Ashley Opliger: [00:54:42] Well, I definitely believe you have done that and you have continually blessed me.


And I know that there's going to be so many moms listening that will hear something that you shared that will point them to hope. And so thank you for sharing your story. Would you mind closing us in prayer?


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:54:57] Absolutely. 


Dear Lord, thank You for Ashley and for this platform that you have created through her and through the ministry of Bridget’s Cradles, that reaches women and moms and even dads all across the country and the world, if it's reached people that widespread.


I just thank You for the people that have been on this podcast before me and that will come after me. I'm sorrowful that they are on this podcast and that this podcast is even in existence, but I'm so thankful that You have provided a way for women to hear this comforting hope that You have provided through these moms and the loss of their babies, and also just the ability for moms listening to relate to people like me sharing my story.


And yeah, I just pray that You would use Sloane's story for Your good and continue working in our lives and keep giving Ashley and this podcast the ability to reach moms and provide them with the only comfort that You can provide. 


I just thank You for Your gift of salvation and for the ability that we have to accept that and look forward to seeing our babies in Heaven and grieve with hope instead of have an empty life of sadness and just the deep darkness that it would be to grieve without hope.


I pray for the mom listening to this podcast episode. I pray that You would just be with her and provide her strength and comfort and healing and courage to make it through each day, knowing that if she lost her baby today, yesterday, or five years ago that You would just remind her that You are with her and that You love her and her family and the baby that You have cradled in Your arms, that You would just provide her with peace, knowing that they are with You and that they will see You and their baby one day. And I just pray that that moment is just the most beautiful moment for them when they reunite with You. 


Thank You again for Your love for us and the blessing that babies are. Even though we've lost our babies, we're so thankful that they were born and that You provided us with the love that we would have never known had they not been born and passed away.


Thank You again, for the goodness and sovereignty that You are and the sovereign God that You are. I thank You for looking out for moms like me and just loving us and providing us with the ultimate healing that only You can provide. I pray all this in Your Name.


Ashley Opliger: [00:57:44] Amen. Thank you so much, Mattie. Love you.


Mattie Steinhilpert: [00:57:47] Love you.


Ashley Opliger: [00:57:51] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s episode. 


Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes when they release on the 1st of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast


Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.


If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.


One way you can help is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or the Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the minute of your time as a way YOU can personally share the hope that you’ve found here with another mom whose heart is broken and needs healing. 


Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. 




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