CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Families across the Coastal Bend remember their Angel Babies every day as they grieve for newborns who didn't get the opportunity to grow up.
They passed on to the next life - with their parents left behind. As they try to move forward with only memories of the child that could have been.
“As a parent, you don’t expect to bury your child,” Angel Mom Christina Rodriguez said. “It’s just something nobody should experience.”
Angel moms like Rodriguez missed out on the cries of their infants.
Their first steps.
Rodriguez faced this loss three different times.
“My son died in my arms,” she said.
Rodriguez lost her first baby to miscarriage in 2004.
Then, her son in 2011 after a premature birth.
Her baby girl went next in 2015.
“That was baby Emma,” she said. “And that was my baby Gabriel.”
She’s collected names of other angel babies, over the years:
Powell, Luis, Aubrielle.
“And we don’t realize how common it is until you start putting all the names down,” Rodriguez said.
The name Kendra Richardson keeps closest to her heart belongs to the baby girl she lost in 2016 - to a disorder called Trisomy 18.
“Her name was Brandis Nevaeh Edwards,” Richardson said. “She had a small hat on. When my kids are asleep, I go in my room and I open my box and I look at it. I just sit there for about five, 10 minutes.”
This kind of pain some parents just can’t accept.
“I feel like I really haven’t grieved because I’ve been going,” Richardson said. “I didn’t stay in the hospital. I left that day. I said, ‘There’s no reason for me to stay. My daughter’s not here. I want to go.’”
Sometimes, all you need is someone who relates.
“I got more comfort speaking to other mothers who had lost children,” Rodriguez said. “It was somebody who experienced it, somebody who knew what it was like, somebody who woke up in the middle of the night to feed a baby that wasn’t there.”
Driscoll Children’s Hospital registered nurse Lea Trevino is one of those people who understand and want to help.
Her baby, Lee, got his wings eight years ago.
“I lost my only child as well,” Trevino said. “So, I kind of wanted to change the world after we lost our baby.”
This angel room is where she helps families spend last moments with their babies.
It’s complete with a changing table, bathing supplies and a photo opp.
Angel babies are nicely dressed in donated clothing.
“We try to use white a lot for baptism,” Trevino said.
For some of them, these are the only outfits they’ll wear in this lifetime.
It’s estimated one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.
At Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the NICU team typically experiences 30-35 infant or pregnancy deaths a year.
Nationwide, there are about 24,000 stillborn babies.
“And it’s sad that so many people go through this and they don’t have the resources,” Rodriguez said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to talk.”
She understands the pain of the loss of a child and urges those who face this bereavement to share their feelings with others.
“It’s never easy losing somebody, especially a child,” she said. “Just don’t keep it in. Talk about it.”