This is my son. His name is Gabriel Anthony Duarte. Today, November 1, is his birthday and this year he would have been 5 years old. He is celebrating in Heaven.
The morning after Halloween 2007, I was 10 days shy of my due date and I had an appointment at the hospital to have some routine tests done. I woke up that morning, got ready, and had Eggo waffles and orange juice for breakfast. This was my first pregnancy and my favorite part was feeling my son move, squirm and kick. That morning, I didn't feel much movement.
While at the hospital for my appointment, the nurse did not see enough movement and left the room to call my doctor. When she came back, she said that I would be having an emergency C-section within the hour, and that I should call my husband to try and be there as soon as possible. I was with my mother for my appointment, and I am so glad that I was not alone. I was nervous and excited and ready to meet my son. My husband made it to the hospital just in time, while they were taking me to the operating room, I remember feeling so relieved.
The C-section was quick and pretty painless, and before I knew it, I heard my son cry. My husband cut his umbilical chord and brought him over for me to see him. One of the best moments a mother will every experience. My husband went with the nurse to the nursery, and I went into recovery. A couple of hours later, I still had not seen my son, because he was having some tests done. I kept telling the nurses, that I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible. That was so important to me. After more hours passed and family was trying to keep me distracted, another doctor came in and told me that there was something wrong with my son's heart and he will be transferred to another hospital. Following a C-section, you are supposed to stay in bed for at least 8 hours, but 4 hours later, there I was, still partially numb from the waste down trying to get out of bed so I could see my son for a minute before he leaves. Being wheeled down the hallways, I kept almost vomiting because of the medication still in my body. When I finally was able to see my son in the NICU, he had tubes attached everywhere, and bandages, and it is a sight that no mother should ever have to see. It is a sight, I will never forget. He was so helpless, and as a new mother, I couldn't do anything.
They transferred him to the other hospital, a few minutes after I saw him, and my husband went with him. They wheeled me back to my room to wait, where I shared the room with another new mother and her healthy crying baby. I stood in that room for hours, listening to this other woman's baby cry, while I had yet to even hold my son, who was not even in the same hospital as me. It was so hard, to not scream and cry, my family just kept trying to distract me, until they could finally get me my own room.
Another few hours later, my husband and father came in the room and the looks on their faces said so much. The words that my husband said to me, had to be the hardest words that he would ever have to say.
"He's not gonna make it."
We cried and cried, and I yelled and screamed for a while, before my doctor came in some time later and made arrangements for me to be transferred, by ambulance, to the hospital where my son was. The ride was a blur, I know I was in pain, but didn't feel it and cried off and on every couple of minutes.
When I finally got to my son they handed him to me and waited for me to tell them when to unplug his life support. Was this even real? I just wanted to hold him close to me. I held him, and said hello and goodbye. It was such a fleeting moment and it breaks my heart every time I think back. The only thought that keeps me together, is that I know I will see him again one day. Our family got to hold him for a few minutes and say their hello's and goodbye's before Mark and I were able to be alone with our son. We got to bathe him, comb his hair, change his diaper, and dress him.
There is no easy or right way to go about saying goodbye to your newborn baby. The hospital we were at, was very compassionate. As compassionate as they could be, I suppose. I have pictures of him, and some other keepsakes, thanks to them. I am really grateful to them for that.
I, as a woman, as a mother, will never be the same. I know I will meet my son one day in Heaven, and I can't wait to see him. Not one single day has gone by in these past 5 years where I do not think about Gabriel. Today Gabriel would have turned 5 years old, he would be in Kindergarten, he would have been some crazy character for Halloween, he would have been a great big brother. Having my daughters has helped to piece me back together, but never whole.
Today we will visit a very special place on this Earth, in Gabriel's memory. Every time we visit the beach, Malibu in particular, we are in a way visiting my son's special place. My daughters don't realize, as they play in the sand, that my Husband and I are thinking of the day that we drove out to Malibu, with our immediate family, watched as dozens of dolphins swam by, and we spread our son's ashes and said a sort of final goodbye.
I've never shared this before and it has been difficult. While praying to God and trying to get through the early days, I decided that one day I would share my story, and maybe help another mother who is suffering, by showing that it never feels like it at first, but every day gets easier. It is because of our situation that we support March of Dimes, and have participated in March for Babies for the past 3 years. In Gabriel's name we have raised nearly $5000 for the foundation that supports healthy babies. Without my faith, my husband, and my family, I don't know how I would have been able to move on. But I know that because of them, I have. Thank you. and Thank you for listening.