Maya Vander of Selling Sunset Opens Up About Her Stillbirth Experience
Yesterday, Maya Vander visited a cemetery to choose a plot for a baby who, six days earlier, she thought she would give birth to and welcome home. After having a stillbirth that took her by complete surprise, the heartbreaking task was part of her new reality.
Last week, the Selling Sunset star attended a checkup with her gynecologist, 38 weeks into her pregnancy. Up to that point, she hadn't had any indication that anything was off, save for a lack of kicking. "The baby was very healthy, normal-looking, and looked exactly like my son when my son was born," Vander tells Shape. "Great weight, everything checked all the boxes, all the tests I did, genetic chromosomes, everything was fine."
But when Vander's gynecologist checked for a heartbeat, there was none. "I knew there and then when she couldn't find it — I freaked out," she recounts. "I had a bad feeling." Shortly after, she had an ultrasound that confirmed the baby, whom she named Mason, had died. (Related: 'Selling Sunset' Star Christine Quinn Revealed She Almost Died During Labor)
Three hours later, Vander went to the hospital to deliver Mason, which she knew would be a stillbirth. "I almost became very calm and occupied because I knew that I needed to get it done," she says. While she finally caught her breath, she says she realized how blindsided she felt. "You hear about stillbirths but you just never think they're going to affect you," she says. Her husband was unable to accompany her during the delivery since he had COVID-19 at the time. At this point, the couple is still awaiting autopsy results to hopefully learn more about the cause of Mason's death.
On Friday, Vander took to Instagram to share the news of the "hardest day of [her] life." Next to a photo of a memory box that she took home from the hospital, Vander explains to her followers why they would not be seeing a birth announcement for Mason. "What was a regular weekly checkup turned into a nightmare that I never imagine will happen to me," she writes in her caption. "Given I share my pregnancies in the show I knew I'll have to post about this and avoid the ' when is your due date ' question. You will always be in our heart baby Mason 💔💙" (Related: This Mom Decided to Donate All of Her Breast Milk After a Traumatic Stillbirth)
As she alluded to in the caption, Vander says she realized that her role on the popular Netflix series will mean she's regularly reminded of her pregnancy — and loss. The entirety of Selling Sunset season 5 (of which, a release date has yet to be confirmed) was filmed while she was pregnant, and will include scenes from her baby shower. "I'm sure it's going to be tough for me to watch," she says.
Right now, Vander says she's giving herself permission to "cry a lot" and is planning a funeral. She and her husband are making a donation to build a playground at her daughter's school in Mason's honor, she explains. (Vander and her husband have a one-year-old daughter, Elle, and a two-year-old son, Aiden.) "I just try to take this one minute at a time and go through the process," she says. (Related: How I Learned to Trust My Body Again After a Miscarriage)
Vander says she's also finding it helpful to read information about stillbirths and watch Youtube videos from others who have experienced this immense tragedy. "It helps me to understand that someone knows the pain I'm going through and my family is going through," she says. "A lot of those women have successfully had babies after, so that cheers me up as well."
Now, she's hoping to pay it forward. "I hope that sharing my story will somehow comfort other women who went through the same thing or are going through the same thing and let them know that they are not alone and that it's not their fault," she says. "A lot of women — including myself — blame themselves, thinking 'I could've done better' 'we should've checked more' but at the end of the day, it's not our fault. I really hope to give strength to other women going through the same thing."
This story originally appeared on shape.com