At 7:15 p.m. on March 24, 2008, an ecstatic Matt Logelin jumped on his blog to announce the birth of his and wife Liz's first child, a baby girl. "Madeline decided to make her first appearance today," he wrote.
Three days later he posted again. But it wasn't a baby update—it was Liz's obituary. "Logelin, Elizabeth Ann. 'Liz.' Was born September 1977 and ... abruptly taken from our lives." A day after giving birth, while recovering from a C-section, Liz had gotten up from her hospital bed to bond with her newborn daughter; at that moment, a deadly blood clot traveled to her lung. "When she stood up, she said, 'I feel light-headed,' and passed out," Matt recalls tearfully. "Suddenly there's this 'code blue,' people rushing past me."
In a single day Matt, 31—a manager for an Internet company who lives in Los Angeles—had gone from rapturous new dad to devastated widower. "Five weeks ago ... things were perfect," he wrote on his blog last April. "On that same day, my world fell apart." In a sense, though, his world would expand unimaginably. After Liz died at just 30, Matt kept on blogging. Only now he'd titled his site matt, liz and madeline: life and death. all in a 27-hour period (www.mattlogelin.com), the unfolding tale of a young man coping with grief and single fatherhood. His blog, which gets up to 40,000 page views a day, has captured the hearts of women across the country and created a community that has changed Matt's life. "I never imagined," he says, "that people would care about us the way they do."
In the first excruciating months after her death, as Matt floated in a fog of pain, he lived half in the present and half in the past with Liz, his high school sweetheart from Minneapolis. An ebullient blonde runner, she preferred Justin Timberlake
to Matt's indie rock but shared his love of globe-trekking; he popped the question at a temple in Nepal. Marrying in 2005, they settled in L.A., where Liz landed a job as a manager at Disney. When they discovered she was expecting in 2007, they were thrilled, but the pregnancy was tough. Liz had low amniotic fluid, a condition that required several weeks of bed rest; even so, doctors had to deliver Maddy seven weeks early and weighing just under 3 lbs. 14 oz. But she was healthy and alert, and Matt looked forward to the memories the three would build together.
Instead, as he coped alone with 2 a.m. feedings and diaper rash, he poured his heart out online, his raw tone revealing anger and anguish. "Liz's death has really f—— me up," he wrote in April. Other times, he asked for advice: What do you do if your baby chokes on her milk? How do you use a nasal aspirator? His readers, often moms themselves, came to the rescue with baby-care tips and solace. "I am both happy and sad for you," one wrote in April.
But these complete strangers all across America did more than just post comments, they sent things—toys, stuffed animals, boxes of diapers, brightly colored onesies—that now crowd the living room of Matt's snug bungalow home. They organized fund-raisers, such as the Liz Goodman Logelin Memorial 5K in Minneapolis last September, which brought in $4,400, money Matt ultimately donated to three other families that had lost a parent.
As word of the blog spread, the virtual community became a real one: A group of new moms in Matt's neighborhood invited him to join their weekly group. Every Tuesday he and Maddy would meet with 10 women and their babies at a local park, where the grown-ups would eat takeout and swap spit-up stories. The women, their maternal instincts already activated, quickly took the young widower under their wing. Noticing how gaunt Matt had become--he'd dropped 30 lbs. in the weeks after Liz's death—moms-group member Hannah Maximova launched Operation Feed Matt, bringing him French toast and muffins. "I know a lot of women who read Matt's blog," she says. "There's sadness and tragedy; it's moving, painful and interesting." Hannah's husband, Mike Hartigan, at first wondered why his wife was so wrapped up in this single dad's plight. "It was strange at first," says Hartigan, an assistant television editor. "But when I met Matt, he's such a cool guy, I felt even worse for him."
At times Matt feels embarrassed by all the attention. Even as he fields reality-show and book offers, none of which he's decided on, millions of single moms raise babies every day, he says, but "don't get credit." He puzzles over why his blog has inspired such fervor. "I always ask myself that question," he says. "It could be multiple things. Joy, then tragedy. A father raising a daughter alone. A guy willing to share his feelings."
And one ready to admit his heart still aches. He has yet to take off Liz's diamond engagement ring and wedding band, which he placed on his left pinky after she died. Until recently he was unable to sleep in the bed they shared together, preferring to camp out on the living room couch, next to Maddy's crib. After a six-month leave he has returned to work and placed Maddy in daycare. So far, she's thriving and he's still blogging. "I get encouragement from readers, and I want to keep Liz's family up to date," he says. "But mostly I do it for Madeline. I want her to read this years from now and say, 'Wow, my dad did these things with me in the first years of my life.' And so she knows her mom. And what we went through together."