“You just don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” Vander tells USA TODAY.
The Israeli Netflix star wrote in an Instagram post last week: “Yesterday was the hardest day of my life. I had a stillbirth at 38 weeks. I always heard of it but never imagined I’ll be part of the statistics. Instead of delivering a baby, I get to go home with a memory box… I do not wish this on anyone. What was a regular weekly checkup turned into a nightmare that I never imagine will happen to me. 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.”
Her pregnancy progressed swimmingly. Mason – a name Vander had already picked out – moved in her belly a lot. She felt great and traveled between Los Angeles and Miami regularly for “Selling Sunset.” Vander had house showings this week and even next week, her original due date.
Netflix stopped filming the series when Vander was about 34 weeks; she stopped traveling then for safety. The series dropped Season 4 in November and has yet to premiere the already-filmed Season 5.
A few days before the stillbirth, she felt less movement. An ultrasound at a private facility indicated no reason to be concerned: Mason was in the right position and had a heartbeat.
“I was thinking maybe I’m just being paranoid, because I’m already nine months pregnant,” Vander says. Perhaps there was “less room for the baby to move so that’s why.”
She saw her regular gynecologist days later, who looked but could not find a heartbeat. It sometimes takes them a second to find it. Seconds passed in silence.
“When you hear the heartbeat, it sounds almost like a horse riding,” Vander says, aware something was amiss. Another ultrasound confirmed the baby died. Next, she needed to deliver him.
Her husband, David Miller, couldn’t join her at the hospital because he had COVID – feeling fine, but still positive. She delivered the baby with a nurse and her gynecologist.
“Thankfully, they did let my husband come and say goodbye because they give you the option if you want to see the baby and hold the baby,” she says.
Vander and Miller ordered an autopsy to determine Mason’s cause of death.
The couple remains in a state of shock.
“A week ago, I was still pregnant and excited, two weeks away from my due date and now I’m literally planning a funeral,” Vander says.
She wanted a place to visit Mason and grieve, and chose to bury him. The memory box featured in Vander’s Instagram post – which includes an outfit Mason wore – will remain with the family. They will also keep cards they received and potentially his ultrasound pictures.
Vander and Miller’s other children – Aiden, 2, and Elle, 1, – are too young to follow what happened. Elle simply hugs her father and Aiden tells his mother to not be sad.
“Once the kids are older and old enough to understand, I want them to know that they had a brother,” Vander says.
Many have reached out to Vander on social media and several women who have gone through stillbirths have sent her emails.
She’s hoping to join a support group and will likely go to therapy with her heartbroken husband.
“I didn’t know my baby,” Vander says. “I didn’t spend time with him yet. But it’s still a loss and it’s still something that my body experienced and it’s a negative outcome unfortunately. So it’s something that we have to just take one day at a time.”
Netflix filmed Vander’s baby shower for “Selling Sunset” Season 5, though she’s not sure if it will get cut in the editing process. Vander was planning to exit the series if renewed for a Season 6. Three kids and flying back and forth from Los Angeles to Miami would prove too much; she wanted to focus on her family and husband and be in Miami more.
Now she has no clue where she’ll be in a few months. Vander is open to sharing her story on the show but wonders if it might be too heavy for the silly, soapy reality TV drama.
As for what’s next: Vander and Miller plan to build a playground at their daughter’s daycare and name it after Mason.
She still holds a lot of guilt. What could she have done better? Should she have paid more attention? But she wants other women going through this “not to blame themselves. It’s no one’s fault. And sometimes we don’t have the answers and we just have to trust the process, and time will help.”
For now, she stifles a sob talking about her son: “Mason was a 7-pound, 4-ounce baby. He looked totally normal, fully developed. Looked like his brother when he was born, looked like my husband – same face features. And I wish I could just protect him.”
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