Crystal is the founder and CEO of Made to Soar Coaching. She is a certified Life-Coach, and holds an MBA and a MS in Leadership.
Did you know that in 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as Pregnancy and infant loss awareness month? Did you also know that 1 in 4 women will lose a baby during pregnancy, delivery or infancy (starlegacyfoundation.org)? One in four women, think about that. How many women in your life do you know that have experienced such a loss? My son was almost 3 months when he passed. And although he spent most of his life in the NICU, his death was still a shock and unexpected.
Ignacio was born with 3 heart defects. I did everything that I was suppose to do during pregnancy. Even though, I was only 18 years old when I gave birth, I knew the importance of a healthy pregnancy. Looking back, I am forever thankful that my water broke, two weeks earlier than expected. You see, I lived in a smaller town and happened to be in the city when I went into labor. The doctors later told me that Ignacio would have had to been air lifted to the city hospital and he probably wouldn’t have made it. After giving birth, my son was gone for what seemed like forever. I finally asked the nurse where he was and why he was gone so long. She told me, “the doctor will be in shortly to talk to you”. You know those cute hospital baby pictures, new parents get, well we never had the opportunity to get those photos because he was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and that would be his home for the duration of his life.
After I was released from the hospital, I was fortunate enough to stay at the Ronald Mc Donald House, so I could be with Ignacio as much as possible. Ignacio was perfect in every way, except for his heart. He had a full head of dark brown hair, which is probably why I had so much heart burn during my pregnancy. He had such a cute button nose, and the chubbiest cheeks ever. His smile and baby laugh, still burns in my memory. I was in the NICU, just about every day. I was pumping milk, because he was too weak to latch on. Three weeks into his life, he needed to have heart surgery. He was a fighter, and I was there when he got out of surgery. It was heart wrenching looking at my baby boy with all the wires and machines, and all bandaged up.
I have to take a moment to give a shot out to the NICU nurses and staff. Caring for so many sick babies, on a daily basis, takes a special person, a compassionate person. They were all so great to me, supportive and amazing with my son. Watching my son recover, and realizing the strength, and resilience he had, was so inspiring. I continued to show up everyday for my son, so I could witness as many ‘firsts’ as possible. The first time he could drink a bottle, instead of feeding from the tubes, the first time I could hold him, without the wires, and eventually, that first smile, because he tooted. That huge red scar, that ran down his little chest, eventually healed, he became stronger every day. He was almost ready to leave the NICU. The surgeons informed me that he would need another surgery at 6 months. They informed me, that as he grows, he won’t be able to be in sports, because his heart would limit him. They also suggested that my son be placed in a medical foster home, and that I would have all the liberties and abilities to be with him. As an 18-year-old new mother, with no medical training or experience, I agreed. He was released from the hospital and we headed back to the small town.
Two days went by, the medical foster parents were great. The second night, while at home, I started to experience excruciating pain in my abdomen area. A friend picked me up and took me to the emergency room and I was admitted to the one and only hospital in that town. I was having a gull stone attack, and I wanted to make sure the foster parents knew my whereabouts, but it was the middle of the night and cell phones where not a thing yet. At around 6 am, I started to call their house, but no answer, every 5 minutes, I tried again, and no answer. Where could they be, this early in the morning? All of a sudden, a doctor came into the room and said, “are you Crystal so and so, and do you have a son named Ignacio?”, I answered yes and immediately asked why. He continued to tell me “your son was brought by ambulance early this morning, the foster parents called 911, as your son was found blue and not breathing. The foster parents did CPR until the ambulance arrived, and then the paramedics took over. Your son went into cardiac arrest and he needs to be flown to the children’s hospital, immediately and we need your permission to do so”. I had so many questions, all of sudden the pain of the gull stones, no longer existed. I needed to be released so I could follow my son.
The Final Moments
Arriving back at the same hospital we just left a couple days ago; I knew exactly where to go. Knowing this hospital like the back of my hand, finally had its benefits. I ran where I needed to go and at last was reunited with my son. He was back on all the machines, and was motionless. Looking at him in his crib, I remember feeling helpless. Why can’t I take his place, why is this happening to my baby boy, I would do anything to take away any pain he is feeling. The doctor came into the room to talk to me, and told me that Ignacio needed to have another heart surgery as soon as he was strong enough. Once again, my precious baby boy, recovered and was so full of life. By this time, he was almost 3 months. His second surgery was scheduled for April 10th 2000, three days from being 3 months old.
I remember his little self being on one of those big rolling hospital beds, I was walking with him, holding his tiny hand, letting him know that he was so strong and brave, and how much mommy loves him. I told him, mommy will be waiting right here, I gave him one last kiss, and watched as they went through the double doors. As I’m writing this, 20 years later, I can still vividly, see those final moments, and feel those final moments; but at that moment, I had no idea, that would be our final kiss, our final touch, the last time he looked at me, with his big, beautiful, brown eyes. The surgery went longer than what the surgeon said it would take, and I was getting antsy. I had family waiting with me. Finally, the surgeon came out and told me that they did everything they could, but that Ignacio had coded twice and that his little heart was just too weak to handle the surgery.
I remember looking around the room and seeing everybody crying. I saw Ignacio’s father sobbing and being consoled by his sister. I must have been in shock, because I wasn’t crying. I remember sitting down in the chair, and people hugging me, and the shock slowly wearing off, as the tears start rolling down my face. Was this real? Was he really gone?
Overcome and Conquer
Ignacio would have been 20 years old. I still wish him happy birthday every January 13th. I still acknowledge April 10th every year. Even though, this was a tremendous loss, I couldn’t let his death be in vain. After my mourning period, I signed myself back up for high school, finished, pursued my Bachelors, becoming the first in my immediate family to graduate. Then I joined the Army, deployed to Iraq for a year, and received orders to Germany. I met my husband and son, and 10 years after loosing Ignacio, I became pregnant. I have my own family now, with two perfectly healthy boys. After 10 years of service and dedication to my country, I decided to pursue my graduate degree and at the end of 2019, received a double Masters. I now own my own business, as a life coach, helping others discover that no matter the obstacles you are facing, everyone was Made to Soar! I know that Ignacio is proud of me, and as I share our story, I hope to inspire others to tell their story. I aim to give someone the hope they need, that this too shall pass, and also let others know, they are not alone.
© 2020 Crystal Romero