Mom to Gabriella Marie
July 27th, 2007-August 23rd, 2007
La Mesa, CA
I was ecstatic when I found out my husband and I were expecting our first baby. We had waited a long time to start a family, and were both excited and nervous at how our lives would change from being a couple, to adding a new little baby to the mix. At our 20 week ultrasound, we were told that we were having a boy. I was happy…I’ve always been a tomboy, and the prospect of pink, ruffly dresses, and barbies was a little intimidating! My pregnancy was pretty normal, I was fat and cranky most of the time, and towards the end, I was REALLY ready to meet our son….whose name was to be Logan Timothy.
At our 37 week checkup, we discovered that our bundle of joy was breech. I tried every method I could to get him to turn around, but he had other ideas, so we scheduled a csection for July 27, 2007 at noon. The night before was nerve wracking! I was anxious, and excited…nervous at what was going to happen the following day. I woke up several times throughout the night, not feeling too great, a little achy. After waking a few times with some cramping, I started watching the clock…sure enough, I was having regular contractions, every 15 minutes or so. I thought it was great that the baby was ready to be born, considering it was about a week before my actual due date. I was just about to wake my husband up, to let him know we’d be going to the hospital a few hours early, and my water broke. I don’t think he even remembers driving to the hospital! Around 5:45 am, I met with the anesthesiologist, and pretty soon, it was time to go to the OR. I got the spinal block, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been told to expect, and waited to get numb. And waited, and waited. I could still wiggle my toes, I could still feel my OB touching my belly. I didn’t get numb. The decision was made to put me under general anesthesia…I didn’t have much time to think about it, except to ask if my husband would still be allowed to come in. The nurse said no, he wouldn’t, but reassured me that she would fill him in on what was going on. I remember being very anxious, and taking one deep breath, tasting the gas from the anesthesia starting, and that was it.
Waking up was very odd….it looked like the room was bouncing up and down, and I had very intense pain where the incision had been made, and I was crying. I couldn’t see, I was thirsty, and I had no idea where I was. The nurse gave me my glasses, which made things a little better, and I was struggling to shake off the anesthesia and ready to see my baby! The nurse said to me “You’re doing just fine, and your little girl is just beautiful!” My what? Girl? We had a GIRL! For some reason, it seemed RIGHT. I was surprised, but not completely shocked. All my apprehensions about princesses, and hair bows, and pink, ruffly things melted away, and I just wanted to see her! I got to meet her about an hour later. I remember the moment I first saw her…she was perfect. Absolutely the most beautiful little person I had ever seen. I was floored at how much I loved her instantly…it was like every happy moment in my life prior paled in comparison with how I felt when she was placed in my arms. Ian was beaming. Daddy. He had been with our daughter the entire time I was in recovery. We had no name for her! Ian asked me what I thought of the name Gabriella. He said the minute he saw her, she looked him right in the eye, and it was like she introduced herself to him….Gabriella. Gabby. It fit her. We took her home a few days later, drowsy and happy.
Gabby did very well…she ate well, slept well. She was something special…there was something about her that made you feel like you were in the presence of something amazing. Too big for this world. She humbled me. Maybe it’s just being a proud parent that made me feel that way, but to this day, I still feel like she was more than the rest of us. Gabby had a peach fuzz head of hair, perfect cheeks for kissing, and a crooked little mouth. She had my husbands wide set eyes, his feet, and my hands. Sometimes when she was sleeping, one eye would open…her “hawkeye”. I had done the same thing as a baby.
On August 23, we took Gabby in for a checkup. She had been unusually fussy the night before, and hadn’t slept well. I mentioned it to her pediatrician, who said she might have just been a little gassy, there was nothing wrong. She checked out just fine, growing like a weed! I took her home, and Ian went to work for the day. Gabby slept a lot that day, and didn’t nurse as well as she usually did. I didn’t think much of it, until the afternoon. Ian called to check in later in the day, and I told him I was worried that she wasn’t eating as well. He reassured me that she was fine, she would eat when she was hungry. I thought he was right, I was probably over reacting. Around 4:30, Gabby nursed a little, but didn’t really wake fully, she opened her ‘hawkeye’, and went back to sleep. At 6pm, things changed. Ian had called to tell me he was on his way home. I had been working on Gabby’s baby book, and she was sleeping on the couch right next to me. I picked her up…she always woke up when her Daddy came home to have cuddle time. She didn’t stir. I panicked…I thought she wasn’t breathing. I stood up with her, and right then Ian walked through the door. I heard Gabby take a gasp of air…relief washed over me. “Gabby, you scared mama!” I told Ian what I thought had happened, and he looked at her sleeping in my arms, and said “She’s fine!” I scolded myself for over reacting. Ian changed his shirt, and came to get his baby girl. Things weren’t right….she really wasn’t breathing. I called 911, and Ian started cpr right away. We are only about a mile from the hospital where Gabby was born. I could hear the sirens coming, as Ian worked on her, and I willed her to breathe with everything I had. The fire department was first to arrive, followed by 5 or 6 cop cars and the paramedics. The fire fighters took over cpr, and the police made Ian and I wait outside. All of our neighbors were out, watching. My ears strained to hear a cry from her….to hear anything. I thought about the possibility of her having brain damage from lack of oxygen for so long, and that was ok, as long as they got her back. After about a half hour, the medics ran out of the house with Gabby on the stretcher….her little arm was hanging off the side. It was then that I KNEW. I didn’t want to accept it, but my heart knew. We got a police escort to the hospital, and they led us into a room. One of those little rooms they have for people who aren’t taking someone home with them. We were lost, scared, and confused. There was a woman from Trauma Intervention who came in to talk to us, and sit with us, but I don’t remember really talking to her much. A nurse came in sometime later, and said “It’s not looking good” and asked us if we wanted to see her. It’s not looking good? What did that mean? I couldn’t answer her yet. Two chaplains came into the room and I made them leave. How was I supposed to handle what was happening? I didn’t want it to be real. I asked if we could see her….Ian was silent. We went back to the bed where they had our baby girl. She was tiny, and pale, and hooked up to every machine they had. It was silent. Someone brought us a few chairs, and I sat down to hold Gabby, and I lost it. I begged her to stay. Why was she leaving us? What had happened? I didn’t want her to leave! I couldn’t say goodbye to her…how was I supposed to say goodbye to her? I don’t know how long we stayed with her. One of the nurses had asked me if I wanted a lock of her hair. I didn’t know! Did people really have to decide things like that? We went back to the little room, and sat. We had to wait until the county Medical Examiner came before we could leave. We had to answer police questioning. The firefighter who had been first to arrive came in and told us how sorry they were. I didn’t know what to say to them. Ian was still silent. The Trauma Intervention specialist, Jennifer, was with us, and she handed me a tiny teddy bear. I remember wanting to throw it at her. She must have read my mind, because she said gently “It’s just something to hold onto”. I didn’t hold on to it.
Ian and I were questioned by the police separately. I don’t remember what questions they asked me. After a few hours, the Medical Examiner finally came in talked to us. She had done her initial investigation, and told us it looked like SIDS, and an autopsy would be done the next day for an official cause. We were allowed to leave the hospital at this point, but we couldn’t go home until the police investigation at the house was finished. We went to Ian’s parents…I had called my family and told them what happened. We tried to eat a little, but the food tasted like woodchips and I couldn’t swallow it. We had arrived at the hospital probably a little after 6:30pm, and it was close to midnight when the investigator finally called us and said they were finished, and that we could go home.
We arrived home, and the silence was unbearable. The living room was scattered with debris…wrappers, and tape and syringe caps from the medics. Gabby’s swing stood in the room, empty. Her bassinette was at my bedside, empty. Ian took them and put them in the room that was supposed to be hers, and closed the door. We wouldn’t open it for days. There was a little satin box that Jennifer, from Trauma had left for us. Inside was a little Ziploc bag with some of Gabby’s hair in it, and her footprints, and some other things. Ian and I went into the backyard, and sat on the steps, drinking a bottle of bourbon, just heartbroken, and still lost and confused. I hadn’t had a drink in over a year, and as much as I wanted that comforting numbness, I didn’t get it.
The next afternoon, we finally heard from the Coroners office. There had been nothing wrong with Gabby. We still didn’t know why our sweet girl was gone. They said it was SIDS, and we started researching. Could we have prevented this? Should we have done something different? It boiled down to Gabby being outside of every one of the most common risk factors for SIDS. We didn’t understand. How could a perfectly healthy baby just die? That night, I had a dream about Gabby. She came down to me, floating, kissed me on the cheek, and told me she wasn’t hungry. I woke up right after it, feeling worn out and exhausted, but I think it was her telling me she was ok. I wasn’t ok, but she was.
At the time I am writing this, it has been a little over four years since Gabby left us. I’ve written her story a few times, it helps to let out some of the grief, but we’re still stumbling some days. Some days I can talk about losing her, and be ok, and sometimes it still makes me panic if I talk at length about it. I want to do more. I don’t want other parents to feel what we’ve been feeling, I want a cause to be found.
Gabby lived for 27 days with us. We didn’t get nearly enough time with her, and we miss her terribly.