Without Liz, but not alone

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 16, 2009 - 11:57 AM

In 27 hours, Matt Logelin became a new dad and a widower. He reached out online in joy and grief and found an outpouring of support.

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Matt Logelin with Madeline on April 21, 2008

Photo: Gina Lee, Star Tribune

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Like many first-time parents, Matt and Liz Logelin were understandably nervous.

Two months before her due date, Liz was put on bed rest in early March to keep from going into labor prematurely. Twice, she was wheeled into the delivery room, and twice, the baby changed its mind.

So when baby Madeline finally arrived on March 24, small but healthy, the entire family breathed a sigh of relief.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Liz, 30, passed out the next day on her way to hold her daughter for the first time.

Within minutes, the young mother was dead from a blood clot no one knew she had developed.

Suddenly, Matt Logelin was facing life as a new dad and a 30-year-old widower all at once.

As his world fell apart, Logelin turned for solace to the Internet, which has become an unexpected lifeline for many sharing joy or grief. In his case, both. He told their story in a blog, www.mattlogelin.com, which he subtitled: "Life and death. All in a 27-hour-period."

Living in Los Angeles, he had been using the blog to keep friends and family in Minnesota up to date on Liz's pregnancy. But his online journal, with its spare prose and poignant photos, has taken on, in his words, "a life of its own."

Logelin grew up in Minnetonka, along with his wife, the former Elizabeth Goodman. "I knew that people were going to be able to read this. I didn't think anybody would.

"I figured it would just be the family," he said.

But he has heard from hundreds of friends around the country, lots of old school pals of his and hers, all sharing kind words. Strangers have been so moved by his online writing that they have reached out via e-mail from other states, or for a few, from around the world, offering empathy and parenting tips.

"For me, it's been helpful to kind of talk about this stuff," said Logelin, who married Liz, his high school sweetheart, in 2005. "Every day I have to deal with this thing that's missing in my life."

Sharing hopes

Two months ago, when he started blogging about the pregnancy, Logelin posted a photo of Liz standing in profile, grinning, pointing to her swollen belly.

At the time, he said, Liz was in perfect health -- a runner, a financial executive at Disney, always on the move. She was put on bed rest for the baby's sake, after an ultrasound showed trouble with the baby's umbilical cord. In his first entries, Logelin tried to keep the mood light and irreverent.

March 6: Coming soon ... baby Madeline Elizabeth Logelin ... Oh man ... she's coming, albeit a little earlier than expected.

March 13: We're playing the waiting game. We've crossed our fingers, toes and eyes to ensure that Madeline stays inside for two more weeks.

March 24: Madeline has arrived! ... Madeline met mom. Mom met Madeline. I cried a little ... Doctors say everything is good.

The next posting, on March 28, is his wife's funeral notice.

Liz had seemed fine after delivering the baby by C-section, her husband recalled. Before Madeline was whisked away to the newborn intensive care unit, Liz was able to catch a happy first glimpse of her first child.

She was told to stay in bed until the next day, when Matt and a nurse got ready to take her to see Madeline. "Are you ready to go?" the nurse asked. Liz said yes, turned to sit in the wheelchair, and suddenly said: "I feel light headed." She passed out and never regained consciousness.

Pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in an artery of the lung, are known risks of pregnancy, especially for women on prolonged bed rest. But in 21st-century America, they are rarely deadly in childbirth -- about 60 cases a year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

"No one to blame," her husband wrote later.

The next few weeks, as friends and relatives flocked to his side, Matt Logelin confided his thoughts and fears on the blog.

Seeking support

April 4: (Madeline is) 4 lbs now. Even more beautiful ... than the day she was born. She eases the pain we all feel.

April 7: She could be coming home soon. Which is good and bad. Good 'cause she's doing better than expected ... bad, 'cause I'm not quite ready (to do this on my own.)

When Madeline was released from the hospital April 8, Matt was put in a wheelchair to carry his daughter on his lap. It was a hospital rule for discharging newborns, he discovered, and he felt sad and awkward at the same time. I've seen lots of new moms leaving the hospital in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse. Proud papas snapping photos. ... I've been feeling a little jealous.

He described how one of Liz's friends snapped pictures instead. People had no idea what to think ... A man in a wheelchair holding a baby ... making the momma walk and take photos ... An old lady glared at me. Little did they know.

The first night home with the baby, "I was kind of freaking out," he said, and sought advice from other parents on Cribsheet, the Star Tribune's parenting blog.

I'm a proud new father ... doing it on my own (my wife passed away the day after our baby was born). ... It's been a tough two weeks.

Since then, he said, "I've gotten some really good advice from strangers" (such as how to stay dry while changing diapers). He's also been flooded with gifts and donations. But he said he's not seeking that kind of help.

"I could give her a new outfit every day and she would never wear them all," he said. "I'm not asking for anybody to do anything like that."

Mostly, he has used his own online journal to capture the surreal and mundane moments of his new life.

When he walks into a bank, a conversation with a clerk leaves them both in tears. I'm really sick of crying (and I feel bad that I ruin everyone's day).

Binding family closer

Occasionally, he'll revel in success: Somehow I haven't broken her or screwed anything up (yet).

Or in his insecurities. I can't help but think that Madeline lost the better of her two parents. ... It's obvious that Liz passed her good looks on to Madeline. But I'm left here to make sure that her hair gets braided, that her clothes matc. ...

Matt's mom, Sara Shoberg of Minnetonka, says the blog has helped the family stay connected to her son. "Being this far away, it's just so hard to know how he's doing," she said. "I get on [his blog] first thing in the morning. It generally makes me smile. Sometimes it makes me cry."

One day, Matt, an operations manager for Yahoo, held a video conference for dozens of his wife's relatives in Minneapolis. They gathered around a screen to watch him feed the baby.

"Everyone just feels immensely sorry for him," said Matt's father-in-law, Thomas H. Goodman of Minnetonka. "He and our daughter were at the high point of their lives. And that is exactly when she died." A memorial service for Liz Logelin was held Saturday at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Goodman said he calls it "a mitigated tragedy. It's not an unmitigated tragedy, because he has this new baby. And she is, if I say so myself, absolutely gorgeous."

Matt, who has filled his blog with photos of his infant daughter, would no doubt agree.

"If it were just me, and Liz had passed away, I'd be curled up in a corner crying," he said. But "every time I think about the loss of Liz, that baby cries and needs a diaper change. There's a built-in reality check, probably the best thing that's ever happened.

"I can't just well up and not deal with the world, because I have somebody that needs me."

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

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