Minneapolis couple looks to help other parents after grief of losing baby

A beautiful daughter, successful real estate agent, golf pro, at first glance… this hip Minneapolis North Loop family looks like the model of perfection.

"We put out our prettiest pictures, our cutest family photos," says Kyle Mack.

But this is a heartbroken family of four. "Actually, today is the anniversary of finding out her diagnosis," says Mack.

Ten weeks pregnant with the second child, Kyle Mack and Connor Tanberg were most focused on whether they were having a girl or boy. Their world flipped upside down with the genetic testing results when they learned their baby had Trisomy 18, a disorder in which babies are born with three copies of chromosome 18 instead of two. An accident at the point of conception occurs for an unknown reason and chances of survival are minimal. 

"Kind of felt we were robbed of a normal pregnancy," says Mack.

They lived day to day knowing if their baby, whom they named Mackena, made it to full term she might only live a matter of minutes.

"A pregnancy comes with so much joy and we were just preparing ourselves for the grief," says Tanberg. "Through the whole situation, we were almost preparing for a funeral instead of a celebration."

When 39 weeks came they were surrounded by family, with the NICU team standing by at Maple Grove Hospital. As anticipated Mackena’s lungs just weren’t strong enough to take a breath on her own. "She was with me until the last push,  we still had a heartbeat on her," says Mack. "It hurts, obviously. We didn’t get to look into each other’s eyes, but she came out just the way she wanted to."

Stillborn Mackena's parents call her their sleeping angel. They spent the next 24 precious hours together saying goodbye in whatever way felt right.

"At the hospital, I feel like I was more composed than after," says Mack. "And then she looked so perfect."

Consumed with grief in the days and weeks to follow Mack recalls pushing everyone in her life away and found support groups online.

"The hospital tells you this cruel joke is going to happen, and your milk is still going to come in," said Mack. 

Mack started pumping her milk, which would have gone to Mackena, but instead gave it to milk banks and friends for other infants that could benefit from it.

"I did it for a little over four months and I would write notes to whatever baby was taking her milk," says Mack. "It was for me to stay connected to my baby. Now I feel I can look at those babies and think Mackena's story is a part of your story."

Gradually opening up and telling the hard truth on her social media, Mack feels her family has healed a lot in the last five months. She recently spoke at Maple Grove Hospital during an annual memorial for the 246 babies lost in 2022 either through miscarriages in their pregnancies or like Mackena, died at full term.

"It's this weird sisterhood you don’t want anyone to be a part of," says Mack. "A group you don’t want anyone to join you in."

And while the heartbreak will last a lifetime, there’s renewed focus on raising her almost 3-year-old daughter, while considering ways to further help other grieving mothers who may be suffering silently.

*Mack has compiled a list of local and national grief groups that helped her get through this difficult time. She hopes this list can help other parents navigating a pregnancy with a life-threatening diagnosis, a miscarriage, or anyone who might be struggling.

Abel Speaks
Verity’s Village
Missing Grace (local grief group)

Facebook Groups:
From Diagnosis to Delivery
Human Milk 4 Human Babies - MN (there is a page for every state