At the age of 39, I found out I was expecting. It was a shocking surprise and a welcome blessing. My daughters were overjoyed! At the time, we were already navigating through grief due to the recent passing of my dad. This baby gave us such hope and the happy anticipation of a new life to look forward to.
Around my 20th week I received a call from my doctor regarding my blood work and further testing confirmed that our baby had Trisomy 18. This was the same day we found out we were expecting a precious little boy. Being told that our baby had a condition “incompatible with life” was devastating. We left the doctor’s office reeling.
No. Not my son.
I prayed, pleaded, and cried for months, leaned on my faith and never gave up hope. At the hospital, the doctor prepared me that our baby may pass away at delivery or shortly thereafter. Nothing prepares you for this type of news. When Gage was born and let out a strong cry, it pierced my soul. 3 pounds, 12 ounces. At full term, my heart sank. I knew at that moment we were in for a fight and a fighter Gage was.
Tiny but mighty. A sweet and spunky little nugget that loved a full tummy, cuddles and our voices. It was during our stay in the NICU that a dear friend told me that I was climbing a mountain. This was a trial. Once you climb the mountain, you can reach the valley. So we climbed the mountain. I explained this to my son while rocking him one day. I asked him to keep fighting, that we were climbing this mountain together. I told him I would carry him. That I would never leave him or give up hope. We were so scared though. The NICU is a stressful, frightening place, especially because the doctors could not fix Gage’s condition. I hoped and prayed that we would reach our valley, Together. Gage got there first.
We had our sweet boy for 17 days. Then our lives were shattered. The despair has been indescribable. You can’t imagine doing CPR on your baby, or going to a funeral home for the third time in 9 months. We had lost my dad, my father in law and our son. So many losses, but the agony of child loss is truly unlike any other. It’s just not natural to bury our babies. Imagine a snow globe, with your pain, broken heart and grief all as the bits of snow, floating around. Eventually it settles only to get shook up again. I could never imagine feeling joy again. I struggled being a mom to my amazing girls, who were also grieving, while I grieved for my baby. My sweet angel took a part of me with him when he left. I feel like I will never be whole again. What’s left of me will have to be good enough. Stronger. I later realized that the Lord did indeed save our son. Just not in the way that we had hoped. We wanted a miracle. We wanted our son.
Here’s the deal: you don’t move on. Eventually, you have to work to move forward. I got to a point where I didn’t want his life, his legacy to be overshadowed by his passing. I want to remember him. I want him to see his momma smile. Shine. I still struggle with guilt. But with time I have learned that I can mourn my child with tears and a never-ending love and that no amount of joy or laughter will ever negate that. Living with my head down, crumbled in a corner in tears will not bring him back. Eventually, a light broke through the darkness. It’s the love from family, coworkers and friends. It’s the grace of God, a support group, books, grief blogs, and most of all, my sweet boy. Gage has inspired us to do things to make a difference in the lives of others. We planted a butterfly garden and sponsored a child with Gage’s birthday. We are helping people in need and helping to mend our broken hearts. These actions ensure that Gage’s life will forever impact not just our lives but the lives of others in a positive way. These are some of the things that have helped me to learn to live again. It’s an ongoing process.
Our journey isn’t over yet. Here in this life, we are just caterpillars. Eventually we evolve into butterflies. So I’m going to keep climbing the mountain. For the valley awaits. My angel is already there.
This article is dedicated to my son Gage Owen Martinez. You will always be our best lil man.