KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The COVID-19 pandemic turned the joy of pregnancy and impending parenthood into heartbreak for a Kentwood couple when their baby died in the womb.
The couple is working through their grief by keeping their daughter’s memory alive and making sure other parents in the Grand Rapids area who experience the loss of a baby have memories to carry with them home from the hospital.
“It’s been a journey grieving her as well as being pregnant again. That’s not something that’s easy,” Kellie Zammitt said.
Kellie and Brett Zammitt will welcome their second child, a baby boy, this fall.
Last fall was a time of joy and anticipation for the couple as well. But as the COVID-19 numbers grew across the country, the pandemic became personal.
“I was six months pregnant, and I tested positive for COVID,” Kellie Zammitt said.
After spiking a high fever, Kellie was admitted to the hospital alone because of coronavirus protocol. It was there her baby girl’s heart stopped beating.
Brett was then able to join Kellie as she was induced, went through labor and had the little girl they’d already named Monroe.
“We were able to give her a bath, we were able to hold her, we were able to kiss her … we had 48 hours with her and those were literally the best 48 hours of my life,” Kellie Zammitt said.
Even though Monroe never took a breath in this world, Kellie and Brett believe their first born’s life is worth celebrating and remembering.
“Putting these boxes together has really helped me through my grief. When I left the hospital empty-handed, I didn’t have a baby to take care of. I had all of these motherhood hormones and I don’t have any baby to take care of or any purpose, if you will, so putting these boxes together really allowed me to feel like I had a purpose being her mom,” Kellie Zammitt said.
The simple, unmarked white boxes hold memories of little lives like Monroe — memories for families like Kellie and Brett who weren’t able to take their baby home.
Memories From Monroe is a nonprofit. Kellie and Brett stuff the boxes with a small teddy bear, books, items to capture baby’s handprints or footprints, and deliver them to West Michigan hospitals, so nurses can send families home with something. Included in the box is a certificate of life.
“I just wanted a nice frameable piece that the moms could leave with that honor the life of their baby that lives. Maybe not to the world, they lived. But to the mom, they definitely lived,” Kellie Zammitt said.
October 26 will mark Monroe’s first birthday. By that time, her little brother will be here. But the work of helping families around West Michigan remember will continue.
“We get to help so many other families, which is great and that is why we do that. But we also do it because we know Monroe is looking down on us and she’d be so proud,” Kellie Zammitt said.