Crystal Matrau-Belt and her fiancé, Emil Skokan III, had just decided on their son's name the previous day

By Alex Heigl
December 16, 2015 01:30 PM
Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette/AP

Crystal Matrau-Belt’s son Jeremiah was born on Saturday in Kalamazoo, Michigan – the same day his father and grandmother died.

Matrau-Belt, 24, had gone to the doctor Friday afternoon for a 39-week checkup and because of her high blood pressure, doctors decided to induce labor.

Still in labor on Saturday, Matrau-Belt opted for a C-section and texted her fiancé, Emil Skokan III, with the news. Three hours after Jeremiah arrived in the world, Matrau-Belt still hadn’t heard from him, or her mother, Peggy Nichols.

“I asked my stepdad, ‘Do you know where Emil is?’ ” Matrau-Belt recalled to Michigan Live on Monday. “My dad said, ‘Honey, that’s what we need to talk to you about.’ I just all of a sudden had a sinking feeling something was wrong. I just didn’t know that it was my fiancé and my mom.”

Skokan and Nichols were driving to the hospital together when he lost control of the car and hit a tree, killing both of them. He was 34, she was 53.

“Losing two of the most important people in my life at the same time as bringing a child into the world, it’s like happy and the most heartbreaking thing,” Matrau-Belt said. “I waited so long to be able to have a child, and to have a child but then have two things ripped out of my life, it’s just really hard to deal with and even process.”

Friday had been a busy day for the couple. They finally settled on a name for their baby after going back and forth about it throughout the pregnancy, and she said Skokan spent Friday cleaning the house and setting up the bassinet.

“He was so excited and was trying to do everything right,” Matrau-Belt said.

That Skokan and Nichols died together is especially tragic: The pair bonded while Skokan helped her and Matrau-Belt’s stepfather work on their house, which was damaged in a house fire in February.

“He loved helping my mom,” Matrau-Belt said. “He loved my mom.”

The feeling was returned by Nichols; Matrau-Belt said her mother treated Skokan like her own son, and was thrilled that the pair were going to have a son, her first biological grandchild.

“I’ve never seen her so happy,” Matrau-Belt said.

Matrau-Belt and Jeremiah were discharged from the hospital Tuesday, and she said going home without Jeremiah’s father is wrenching.

“I go to pick him up and I see Emil in him,” Matrau-Belt said. “It’s hard, but just to know that I have a piece of Emil, that helps a little bit.”

“I want to celebrate him being born, but losing my fiancé who I loved so much, and my mom at the same time, it’s a really big struggle to try to balance all of that,” she said. “Things like this just don’t happen. The last thing I got from Emil was ‘I love you babe and I’ll be up there soon.’ I loved my mom and I loved Emil with all my heart.”

A former classmate of Matrau-Belt has set up a GoFundMe page for the family. To donate, click here.