Matthew was a surprise baby for us. After the initial shock wore off, we were filled with joy and excitement about his impending arrival into the family. I was thrilled at the idea of another baby that would be able to actually enjoy some of the neat baby gear that poor Sophia could not use because of her medical issues. Of course Jason and I were thrilled, but Marissa and Sophia were so excited about Matthew joining our family, too! This was going to be so fun! I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that we were having a boy. So did my very dearest friend, Trish!
We had a few early ultrasounds because of spotting, but they showed a very healthy Matthew and things looked normal. I had an OB appointment at the 10 week mark and I expressed concern because, while I was nauseous and had a hypersensitive sense of smell, I was already starting to feel better and that worried me. My Dr. suggested it was the whole foods vitamins I was taking, which contained ingredients to combat morning sickness. She then scheduled an hour long ultrasound for Friday, September 3rd where we planned to do a special ‘photo shoot’ of our precious boy.
But, on Tuesday of that week (August 31st, 2010), when I was 12 & 1/2 weeks pregnant, I had a funny feeling that something was wrong. It was very early in the morning and I passed a blood clot. I started weeping and Jason reassured me that everything was fine. I decided that as soon as our doctor’s office opened I would call. I expected them to say that since we had a huge ultrasound scheduled for Friday, we should just wait and see. But, my doctor is an amazing and compassionate woman who knows me…she recognized the panic in my voice and wanted to appease me. She immediately ordered an ultrasound
As soon as the ultrasound tech brought Matthew up onto the screen, I knew he was gone. He was laying there, perfect…but perfectly still. No heartbeat. No movement. Tears just flowed. Mercifully, when I said, “He’s gone” the technician tearfully nodded her head in agreement. She told us that he had died weeks earlier…he only measured at a 10 week mark. This idea killed me. How could it have taken me so long? If only they had checked me when I was worried at 10 weeks!!
My doctor gave us options. We could head to the hospital for a D&C or go home to deliver. All I could think of was that I wanted to see and hold Matthew, so a D&C would not work for me. We went home.
We had no idea when Matthew would be delivered. I was terrified that we would not see him…or that he would slip into the toilet…or down the drain of the bathtub. I begged God to let me see Matthew and hold him and I wasn’t sure if it was my own heart saying “Yes, you will” or if it was God’s voice, because I could not be STILL and listen.
Jason did some research online and found a woman named Donna who runs a ministry that makes coffins for miscarried and stillborn babies. Her website is www.heavensgain.com and she gives specific instructions on how to recover your baby’s remains in miscarriage. I emailed Donna and was completely stunned when she responded quickly and with complete compassion. She actually called me from a busy conference and walked me through the different steps we could take to ensure we recovered our baby’s remains for burial.
We had all the information we needed. We had read that many miscarriages are just like bad menstrual cycles and I had prepared myself for that. But, Friday afternoon…at the time we should have been joyfully watching Matthew on the ultrasound as a family, the contractions started. They were mild at first. Then harder and harder. For friends who know me, I am an epidural kind of a delivery mom…I am NOT into anymore pain than what I live with on a daily basis. This was not a nice experience. It was full on labor. Finally I passed the gestational sac…torn and empty, which sent me into paroxysms of hysteria! I had begged God to help me find my baby, whole, intact, pure and clean in his little sac. I felt completely abandoned and devastated. I took it as a sign we would never find the baby. I had NO confidence in my ability to find him once he was out of the sac.
A “church mom” called me just at this moment and I poured out my broken heart about not finding Matthew. She lovingly reminded me that many mothers do not get to hold or bury their babies…she reminded me of Natalee Holoway’s mother who does not even know what happened to her daughter. I repented to God for my spirit of entitlement and surrendered to His will. If it was His will that I NOT see or hold Matthew, I would accept that.
The very next minute, Donna, the lady who founded Heaven’s Gain “just happened” to call me. (Tell me that wasn’t God!) Donna has had three miscarriages of her own, and has helped countless others through theirs. She told me that since we had just seen Matthew on the ultrasound days earlier, he was there…she gave me a few steps to follow and walked me through them while she was on the phone. Her website had instructed me to carefully go through EVERYTHING that came out of me. I had just saved all matter in a jar with a tight lid, wanting to make sure I didn’t accidentally miss Matthew. I had instinctively put everything that came out after the gestational sac into a separate container. She told me to gently add water and kind of rinse out that bloody matter. As gross as it was, I was digging around in there, trying to break up clumps…I could barely see through my tears. As the water washed the blood away, I could suddenly see him right there…laying on his left side! I found him!! Thanks to Donna at Heaven’s Gain…and to the mercy and grace of my Savior, I found our precious Matthew!!
Here was our perfect and tiny baby! The first thing I saw was his PROFILE…a beautiful face, sleeping, with a little turned up nose! He looked like a miniature of his sisters. I saw the eye buds (little dark spots) and followed down to his neck, and chest. His skin was transparent, so I saw his little chest and then under the rib cage area (bones did not seem to be strong or well formed) I could see his internal organs…and his spine. (He was laying on his left side.) Sadly I could also see that I had accidentally ripped off one of his legs while trying to dig around in the jar to find him. His leg (with little foot attached) was right next to him. So heartbreaking to see that, but I was so grateful to have his little body that I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it. Besides, he is already in Heaven…this is just his vessel. He was perfectly formed…from the tip of his head to his tiny little fingers and toes. How I will treasure that experience.
Donna told us to change out his water every 4 hours or so, to help slow the decay of his body. I could not do this, as I had already torn off his leg, which traumatized me…so my sweet husband took on the task. He called it “giving Matthew a bath” and he would go lift him out of the jar and gently rinse him off. The whole time he would talk to him…talk about all the hopes and dreams he had for him…about wanting to wear matching polo shirts to church together…about teaching him to play sports….wondering what things he would like to do and see…and about his wonderful sisters who were so looking forward to him being a part of our family… and how much we miss the chance to watch him grow up…and how much we love him and always will…and how we know he is watching down on us from Heaven and interceding for us. I was so very grateful to him for doing this emotionally jarring act of love and dedication.
We are so incredibly blessed…out of all my friends who have miscarried, only the ones who had D&C’s got to bring their babies home…and even then, it was only the ones who knew they could ask for their babies’ bodies! I am grateful that I experienced the despair that so many mothers experience when they don’t get to see their babies who have died. It truly helped me to realize the MIRACLE we received that day. I am grateful for Donna from www.heavensgain.com because, without her willingness to let God work through her, we would not have found Matthew.
How blessed we are!! Matthew was incredibly beautiful, tiny, fragile and perfect!!! I have never seen anything like him and I will always remember his sweet little sleeping figure.
We are also so grateful to God that we were able to have an actual Funeral for Matthew. We knew that the service needed to also serve as a memorial for other families who lost babies during pregnancy, but could not bury their babies’ remains. We set up a table with glass rocks and paint pens, paper hearts and colored markers and people wrote the names of their babies on either one (or both). Some mommies brought booties, or onesies, or letters they had written to their babies. We gathered all these items so we could bury them with Matthew and that way, his grave could serve as a special place for other families to grieve, too. It helped us to see a beautiful purpose for his short life. And helped us feel as though we were honoring the gift God gave us of letting us see and hold our precious, perfect little boy…when so many other mommies and daddies do not.