|My husband, Ben and I got married in July of 1997. We had our first child, Zachery Patrick on December 5th of that year. Three years later on January 5th, 2001 we had our second child, Emmarie Grace. We found out that we were having our third child in September 2002. Although this was an unplanned pregnancy, and quite a surprise, we were all excited to be adding another child to our family. Our due date was set for May 5th, 2003.
Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant I began experiencing morning sickness. With my other two pregnancies I had some morning sickness, but this was terrible. I couldn't eat or drink anything for the first four and a half months. Except for the terrible morning sickness, everything else was going great; the baby's heart beat was strong and he was growing bigger every day.
We were so excited when it was finally time to set up our ultra-sound. The ultra-sound was scheduled for December 27th. My heart still aches from that day. Having two beautiful, healthy children it didn't even cross our minds that something may be wrong. Our biggest concern was whether we were having a boy or a girl. Gracie was with us and throughout the whole ultra-sound she was stroking and kissing my belly, telling "her baby" how much she loved him or her. We should have known something was wrong by the way the ultra-sound tech was behaving but we just passed it off thinking maybe she was having a bad day. About half way through we asked if she could tell the sex of the baby, she just kind of blew us off. The news came with a shock as she told us that we needed to go see our doctor right away concerning the results - she then printed us a picture of our baby's feet and we were off to the doctor 25 minutes away. The whole time I was crying, praying, and wondering what could be wrong. I think I am the only mother in the world that has ever hoped that her baby had a missing arm or leg - that I could handle. We were ushered into the doctors office by a lovely nurse. She asked us if we knew yet what was wrong and we told her no. She then said, "It doesn't look good," and "You're in for some tough decisions." Then she went to get the doctor. I remember being terrified, wondering what kind of tough decisions were we going to have to make. The doctor came in, it wasn't our regular doctor, she was out of the office for the day, and he began telling us about Gabriel's condition, anencephaly. After telling us all of the details and that our baby had no chance of survival, he then told us that he normally "terminates these pregnancies." He told us to go home and think about everything we had just learned and we scheduled an appointment with our regular doctor for the following week. We left the office full of tears. This was our precious baby and we knew that we would never "terminate the pregnancy." The next week we met with our doctor and she sent us to see a perinatologist for another ultra-sound. It was then we learned that we were carrying a boy. That night we sat on the couch with Zach and Gracie and we looked at our baby name book. We searched the book tossing out names to each other. After a few names my husband said Gabriel and we knew that that was our son's name. This was a new experience for us, with our other two children we couldn't pick out their names until they were a few days old and it was time to sign the birth certificate. But God already knew Gabriel's name and that night He whispered it into our hearts. The next few weeks are a blur to me. I was mourning my child before he had even passed away. Every movement that he made reminded me of his coming death.
It took about a month before those feelings faded and I began enjoying his constant movements. I started creating a scrap-book with Gabriel's ultra-sound pictures, some pregnancy photos of me and some of my favorite scriptures from the bible - this was very healing. I also began to really pay attention to Gabriel in my womb. I was recording into my memory his movements and his temperaments, what he liked and what he disliked (food, noise, etc), when he was playful and when he was sleeping. I was trying to create some sort of bond with him, knowing that I may not have much, if any, time with him after his birth. Things went on fairly normally for the next few months. I was measuring normally, Gabriel's heart beat was very strong and he was extremely active. Due to the fact that I had c-sections with my other two children we planned a c-section for Gabriel's birth also, it was scheduled for April 15th.
It was finally the end of March and we had three weeks to wait - we were so excited to finally meet our precious baby. At the time those three weeks seemed to last an eternity, but now as I look back, I can hardly even remember one of those days. The weekend before Gabriel's birth we began getting our home prepared for him. We so badly wanted to bring him home. We set up his bassinet, washed the few outfits we had purchased for him, and we packed our bags for our upcoming hospital stay. It was so exciting because I let myself believe (for that weekend) that I would be bringing my baby home.
We dropped Zach and Gracie off at Papa and Nana's house at about 9:00 a.m. the morning of April 15th and we were off to the hospital. We delivered Gabriel at Spectrum East (Blodgett Campus) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The nurses came in and prepped me for surgery. I was a little bit nervous but only because I knew that they would be putting a huge needle into my spine - ouch!!! Thankfully, Pastor Ray joined us with our family and our doctor and he said a prayer for us that calmed my nerves. The needle was pretty painful but my wonderful doctor talked me through it. After that Ben and my mom joined me in the operating room and surgery began. I had some scar tissue from my previous c-sections and it made surgery quite painful. From the very first second I saw him I fell in love with Gabriel so much more than I already was. I was so scared for him though. I was scared that he wasn't breathing, I was scared that he may be hurting, I was scared that he may never be able to hear me tell him how much I loved him. Ben laid him near my heart and we kissed him and told him how much we loved him. Gabriel wasn't breathing well and the nurse told us that he wouldn't be with us for much longer so Ben baptized him and we continued to coddle him. The minutes kept passing and Gabriel was clinging on to life. Every time we told him about Zach or Gracie he seemed to perk up and continue his struggle to meet his adoring brother and sister. I had a complication with the surgery and had to be put to sleep. I woke up a little bit later in the recovery room. Gabriel was still with us! The hospital staff was so gracious to us and they let my family members into the recovery room to meet Gabriel. Around 6:00 p.m. we thought we should try to feed Gabriel. First we tried a bottle of formula but he couldn't swallow it so we decided to put a feeding tube in, this worked wonderful and he really loved it. Gabriel was so happy after he had eaten and he was even breathing better, the tube seemed to clear his lungs. Gabriel then fell peacefully asleep for a nap. At that time Zach and Gracie climbed onto my lap and we examined Gabriel from head to toe. The kids sang him songs and gave him kisses. We played patty cakes with him and told him how much we all loved him. We took millions of pictures of him and some video, although as I watch the video now, I wish that we would have taken video of his entire 10 hours of life.
Zach and Gracie went home with Papa and Nana around 8:00 p.m. and everyone else left at 10:00 p.m. I closed my eyes and tried to get some rest for the long night ahead when Ben's voice jerked me to attention. Ben had been holding Gabriel and counting his breathing when it began to slow and finally stopped. Gabriel was passing. His stong heart continued to beat as we tried to coax him to breath - just one more breath. We called the nurse in and she also tried but to no avail. We had to let him go so we said goodbye - at 10:14 p.m. our son left us. It seemed sureal to me and I was in shock for weeks. After saying our goodbyes and holding Gabriel for a while, we called the nurse in to take our son away. I can never tell you how hard that was. Only ten short hours before he had been moving and kicking inside of me and now he was gone.
Although this was such a heart breaking experience I feel so blessed to have known Gabriel. In his short life Gabriel had given so very much. He opened his eyes and looked at us, he gave us a beautiful smile and at one point he even seemed to respond to his daddy's voice.
Gabriel's funeral was Monday, April 21st. We had a viewing for immediate family members an hour before the service. It was very sad but God was with us pouring out His love upon us. Pastor Ray touched all of our hearts as he spoke of Gabriel and his short life. My mother and my father-in-law both said beautiful eulogies and Patty sang like an angel.
We buried Gabriel the next day. He is buried in a small country cemetery in Fife Lake, Michigan surrounded by generations of family. The day was befitting for the circumstances. It was cold and windy and there was small patches of snow on the ground. As the pastor began speaking the sun peaked through the clouds and shined down upon Gabriel's casket. As if God was telling us that He had Gabriel safe in His arms. The pastor spoke briefly and then it was over. Before leaving we all let balloons fly up to heaven, up to Gabriel.
Gabriel weighed 5 lbs and 13 oz. and he was loved to the fullest for his entire life. Losing Gabriel is the hardest thing that we have ever experienced, but we wouldn't have changed it for anything. Having Gabriel, even for those short 10 hours, was so wonderful. To hold him and to love him was one of the most special things in our lives. We will never forget his smooth, soft skin or his warm soft lips. He will remain in our hearts until the day that we meet him again. Until then, we will take comfort in the thought of our Gabriel in heaven with our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
|"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, maker of all things."
"For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..."