Sunday, December 6, 2015

12 DOC: Day Six: Samantha Chavez

*This post is part of our Twelve Days of Christmas series. You can read more here.*

by Samantha Chavez

Our son Gabriel passed away December 8th 2011. He had been diagnosed with Potters Syndrome at our 20 week ultrasound, he was born at 36 weeks via induction. He survived 35 very precious minutes with us.

I remember Thanksgiving dinner that year, less than a week from our induction date. Our family was preparing to eat and say their annual prayer before delving into a wonderful assortment of food. My uncle says the prayer almost every year and that particular year he included a special prayer to bless our journey and Gabriel. It was difficult to choke back the tears and hide the fear I felt when he mentioned our baby. 

One week later we were scheduled to be induced. The induction went as well as we could have expected and we met our son 18 hours later. It was the hardest day of my life having to say goodbye to someone so precious, so special.

Two weeks later we would face Christmas. We were heavy with grief, distraught and continually crying. We barely set up our tree, although we did put up a Christmas stocking next to Evelyn’s that would be Gabriel’s. We definitely weren’t feeling the joyful happiness that is “Christmas”. When we did eventually put up the tree is was adorned with memorial ornaments and angels.  

I went to the store anticipating purchasing a present we would put out at the cemetery for him. I took my daughter and she picked out a toy for her baby brother. As we were leaving we spotted the Salvation Army donation box. I decided that is what Gabriel would want me to do, donate the toy. Someone had mentioned this option to me but in that particular moment, it just felt right.  

This donation is our way of giving in Gabriel’s name. It’s our way of giving him a present by giving a less fortunate child a gift. This has become an annual tradition for us. We pick a present that would be suitable for his age, something we think he would have liked and we donate it.

Christmas morning I wanted nothing more than to crawl in a hole and cry till I couldn’t cry anymore. It was the toughest day I had to face yet, but I tried to be cheerful for our daughter, who still wanted to enjoy Christmas. I dragged myself out of our house after gift opening and went to our various parent’s homes to celebrate with everyone. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and cry till I couldn’t cry anymore. I wanted to rip my broken heart out of my chest so it wouldn’t hurt anymore. Our families were completely understanding that we weren’t our cheery selves that day. They knew we were sad that Gabriel wasn’t there to experience all the love and joy that Christmas is. Although, it still seemed as if there was a giant elephant in the room, nobody wanted to really speak of the sadness and heartache, but we all knew it was there. 

The following year as his first birthday approached, I decided to do a gathering at the cemetery. I was 7 months pregnant with my twin “rainbow babies” but knew I needed to do something, if nothing else than for myself. I decided to make his birthday the day we would put a tree up at the cemetery for him. I bought solar lights, tiny ornaments and a small 24 inch artificial tree. 

Our family and friends joined us in brutal negative temperatures to celebrate Gabriel’s short life and the Christmas season beginning. This has become another tradition. Sometimes we invite family out and bring a crockpot of hot chocolate to share. Sometimes we do it alone. 
A few weeks after that first Christmas, our tree was stolen. I was devastated at the thought that someone would steal a tree from a baby cemetery, from my BABY. I was heartbroken and wondered what kind of terrible person would do that.  
I didn’t let that get me down for too long, I bought a new one the next year and the year after that. Finally the 3rd one wasn’t stolen and I got to bring it home and store it for this upcoming holiday season.  
It always feels good to buy him things, it’s the only sort of parenting I am able to do for him. So buying him a new Christmas tree actually felt good. 
As I think back over the years without him, I ask myself, Do I wish I had done anything differently over theses years? Yes, I wish I had not forced myself out that first year. I wish I would have stayed home and wallowed in my own misery. I’ve since learned that it’s ok to feel whatever emotions you are feeling at whatever moment they present. I think it would have been better for me to stay in that day, celebrate with my husband and little girl and invite family over instead.  
If you feel sad and missing your baby this holiday season, find a way to incorporate your little one into your festivities. It doesn’t have to be sad or heartbreaking, but it's okay if it does. If you feel up to it, find something positive to do, something that feels good. The tree lighting at the cemetery on his birthday isn’t deep and depressing, it’s more of a celebration and a way to honor him and the upcoming holidays. Donating a present for him isn’t sad and depressing, it’s positive and uplifting. Sure both moments bring sadness to my heart, even when I hang his Christmas stocking I feel a twang in my chest. It feels good to have found things I can do to incorporate him without having a cry, without it being sad and depressing. Light a candle on Christmas morning as a symbol of his p Positive events will help you make it through this holiday season, and you’ll be so happy that you found a way to incorporate your precious baby into your holiday traditions. 
Merry Christmas, and many hugs this holiday season. resence, hand out flowers to strangers the week of Christmas and watch their face light up and maybe even add a Christmas tag “A Christmas smile for you in memory of Gabriel, only survived 35 minutes but lives forever in our hearts.”.  
Positive events will help you make it through this holiday season, and you’ll be so happy that you found a way to incorporate your precious baby into your holiday traditions. 
Merry Christmas, and many hugs this holiday season.

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Samantha Chavez is from St Paul Minnesota. She is mother to Evelyn (5), their angel Gabriel (almost 4), and babies Sawyer and Logan (2). She is a volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a photographer and stay at home mom to her surviving children. Her son Gabriel is her guiding light in life. He was born with Bilateral Renal Agenesis and was born at 36 weeks surviving 35 minutes.She also kept a blog of her journey, which began as soon as she found out they were pregnant and follows them through the journey with him. Read it here: Real Life: A MN Mom.


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