Talia Gates was one of “those” women. You know, the ones who seem to have it all and make doing it all look easy? Married to her college sweetheart, Josh, she was a successful doctor, an OB/GYN at that, and the mother of a two-year-old son named Kye when she and Josh decided to try for another child. Soon enough, that dream came true, too.
Being an OB/GYN has it’s perks—early ultrasounds being one! At just 14 weeks into the pregnancy, they learned the baby was a girl. Her name would be Aubrey.
“I was over the moon,” Talia told 9 News. “When we found out, we were like, ‘We’re done. I have my perfect little family.’ ”
Soon, however, those frequent ultrasounds Talia was able to use to look at her baby girl whenever she wanted revealed something troubling: the baby’s legs were shorter than they should be. Gates, who has a long torso and short legs herself, wasn’t worried at first, but when they still were still measuring 14 weeks at 19 weeks, she says, “my medical brain” knew something was wrong. Her “personal brain” however, was still saying “‘this can’t be right, nothing can be wrong with my baby.’ ”
Talia said she thought perhaps Audrey had dwarfism, but it never entered her mind that her baby’s condition could be much worse. Just a couple of days later, she and Josh were given the news no parent can bear to here when they had another ultrasound.
“I told her she has to talk to me,” Talia says of the ultrasound tech. “Tell me what you’re seeing. Dr. Biggio, the head of the department, came in, and I will never forget how incredibly compassionate and straight-forward he was. He looked right at me and said, ‘The pictures I am seeing are consistent with a skeletal dysplasia that is lethal.’
“I never saw it coming. Never. We were not prepared for those words. They hit us both in the chest like a ton of bricks.”
She continued, “I don’t even know how I got out of that hospital. I never saw my husband cry like that. I knew something was wrong, but not that. I was sad my daughter would have struggles, but I never thought she wouldn’t be with us until the doctor said that. I guess it was my body protecting me.”
Facing the fact that her daughter might not even survive the pregnancy, Talia made a decision: she would cherish every moment of the time her daughter was safe and alive within her womb. She and Josh did everything they could to get to know Aubrey while she was safe and comfortable inside her mama. Josh made them a jazz tape and delighted when Aubrey would kick and move to the music. And Talia developed a new appreciate for the beginning of life.
Even though she was already an OB/GYN, she says the most important lesson she learned from her personal tragedy is that “Life truly begins at conception, and just how precious those moments in the womb really are. Women wish pregnancy away, want to meet their babies, and I get that. But I want to tell them, just cherish it. Only God is the author of life and death, and without faith, really all is lost. Be still. Be content. Be grateful. Even with my kid, I am appreciating the moments with my son. Cherish every stage. Life can change in an instant.”
Talia was not eager for her pregnancy to end, because she knew meeting her daughter outside of the womb also meant saying goodbye to her. But the inevitable moment arrived, and at 36 weeks, Talia’s OB/GYN partner insisted she be induced because she had excess fluid, which can be dangerous to the mother, and because Audrey’s large head size due to her condition was already measuring at 42 weeks. Although Talia knew she had to take care of her own life, it was still a tough decision. “I felt like I was picking her death date,” she says.
Talia was induced on June 12, 2015. Loved ones gathered to await baby Aubrey’s arrival.
“I listened to her heartbeat all day, so I knew she was alive,” Talia says. “We didn’t know if she would make it through the delivery though.”
At 6:51 p.m., Aubrey was born and her cries filled the air. She was alive.
Talia and Josh got to spend 49 precious minutes with their daughter before she passed away.
They were instantly in love with their baby girl.
“She opened her eyes, and we got to hear her voice,” Talia says. “Josh synced with her right away. My best friend Jen heard me and said, ‘You’re finally back. You’re peaceful for the first time in a long time.’ ”
They marveled at their girl for as long as they could.
“She was beautiful,” Talia says. “She looked like her daddy. She had his nose. Aubrey was just 15 inches long, and her chubby little arms and legs were cute.”
Their joy at meeting her outside the womb alive was soon tempered. Aubrey’s death was peaceful but so heart-wrenching for her parents. Even after she was no longer living, they were able to keep her in their room with them overnight thanks to a special Cuddle Cot that helps keeps the baby cool. This gave mom and dad extra time to savor their sweet girl.
“I held her, I memorized the weight of her, and what it felt like to have her on my chest and in my arms,” Talia recalls. “I can still close my eyes and remember the weight of her.”
Photo: Captured by Cassie
The rest of 2015 was difficult for the Gates family, but Talia credits a faith in God and commitment to marriage for getting them through.
“Tomorrow will come,” she says. “Put one foot in front of the other, lean on the Lord. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t go on, this is where life stops.’ But it doesn’t. You will feel joy again.”
She also hopes their story can encourage more people to be open about miscarriage and infant loss.
“Miscarriage and infant loss are different because you lose potential – not the person they were, but the person they could have been.”
You can read more about Aubrey’s story on Talia’s blog, Fearfully and Wonderfully, the Story of Aubrey.