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/ Source: TODAY
By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

High school sweethearts Lauren and Matt Accurso were counting down the days until their baby boy arrived.

Lauren and Matt Accurso with daughters Ali, Naomi, and Layne.

“There was so much excitement because after three girls, they were having a boy,” the couple’s pastor, Matt McCloghry, told TODAY Parents. But things took a terrible turn on April 29, and 37-year-old Lauren died after a rare medical complication occurred during childbirth.

The couple’s newborn son, Matthew Loren Jr., miraculously survived but remains in the NICU at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Matthew — his name means gift from God — joins big sisters Ali Rose, 8, Naomi Belle, 5, and Layne Louise, 2. “Matthew’s vitals are good and strong,” McCloghry told TODAY Parents. “But he went through such immense trauma when he was born, and there are still many things that are not known.”

Matt Accurso with son Matthew, who is still in the NICU. Matt's wife Lauren died during childbirth.

McCloghry’s wife, Jill, who is also a lead pastor at Colonial Church STA in St. Augustine, is grieving the loss of one of her closest and oldest friends. “When Lauren told me she was pregnant with a boy, she sent me 25 blue emoji hearts,” Jill recalled to TODAY Parents. “She would have loved another girl, but I think having a boy was a kiss of heaven on their lives.”

At the hospital, Matthew Jr. is wearing outfits that Lauren had lovingly picked out for him. “Every time I look at Matthew, I see Lauren,” Jill revealed. “In the middle of devastation, there is hope.”

But there is a long road ahead for the Accurso family. Lauren’s daughters, who she homeschooled, are coping with the loss of their mother, while Matt will have to navigate life without his soulmate. “Lauren and Matt grew up in the same town,” McCloghry told TODAY Parents. “She was the only woman he ever dated, and they had this incredible, healthy marriage.”

A pregnant Lauren with her daughters. 'There was so much excitement because after three girls, they were having a boy,' a friend of Lauren's said.

Residents of St. Augustine are rallying around the family in their time of need with meal trains, groceries and donations “People are praying. There are so many people praying,” McCloghry said. “We need to pray and ask God to do a miracle. He can heal this baby. I believe Matthew is going to go home with a clean bill of health.”

According to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States every year. About 31 percent occur during pregnancy, 36 percent happen during delivery of the week after birth, and 33 percent between a week and a year after birth, per the CDC. The primary causes include hemorrhage, infection, amniotic fluid embolism, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and anesthesia complications.

Lauren was extraordinary in every way, said McCloghry. “If Lauren heard that someone at church was having a tough time, she would check in with them,” McCloghry told TODAY Parents. “I’m hearing stories now of people that would get text messages from her out of the blue. Lauren lived through the heart.”