Josh and Talia Gates seemed to have the perfect life in October 2014. They had good jobs, a nice house in Jasper, Alabama, a young son named Kyle and a daughter on the way.
But tragedy struck when the young family learned that their unborn daughter had a fatal condition called skeletal dysplasia, WZZM News reports.
Talia, an OBGYN, noticed that her unborn daughter’s legs were shorter than normal when she had an ultrasound at 16 weeks; but she was not seriously concerned. After finding out that their baby was a girl, the couple named her Aubrey.
“We joked because Josh, Kye and I all have really long torsos and short legs, so we thought she would be just like us,” Talia told the news station. “At 18 weeks, I saw that her legs were still measuring at 14 weeks, but I sort of blew it off and thought we weren’t getting a good angle, or that she was sitting funny.”
Ultrasounds at 19 weeks, however, confirmed the worst – their unborn daughter probably would die in the womb or shortly after birth. Aubrey had a skeletal dysplasia condition, a form of dwarfism, that is typically fatal, doctors told the family.
“I never saw it coming. Never,” she said. “We were not prepared for those words. They hit us both in the chest like a ton of bricks.”
At the suggestion of an abortion, the couple immediately said no.
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“And that was it,” she said. “The doctor never pushed it.”
Yet, Talia said she struggled a lot with the fact that her daughter was going to die and began to give up hope.
“I had already resigned myself to the fact that Aubrey wasn’t going to live,” Talia said. “I would talk about the future and refer to only Kye. Josh would tell me, ‘No, say ‘them,’ not just Kye.’”
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Talia tried to cherish every second. Josh made them a jazz tape, and Aubrey loved it.
“She would move for him,” she says. “That was their special bond.”
Talia did everything in her power to get to know the daughter she may never meet.
Her partners made sure she continued to have regular check-ups and scans, with “ultrasound pictures that are now so special.”
Although the future was unfathomable, Aubrey was perfectly content in her mother’s womb, and for Talia, that was more important than anything.
“I was still hopeful because she was still alive,” Talia says. “I was 99 percent sure of what was going to happen, but she was still alive.”
Talia developed a new appreciation for the beginning of life.
“I tell my patients, ‘You are a mom or dad the moment you get that positive test.’ My daughter made me a better doctor and mom.”
In a world where miscarriage and infant loss are still somewhat taboo, Talia’s experience allows her to relate with patients on a deeper level.
“You have to acknowledge that life and the loss,” she says. “You have to celebrate it no matter what form it takes.”
On June 12, 2015, at 6:51 p.m., their baby girl was born crying. Friends and family gathered with the Gateses at the hospital to meet Aubrey during her short life. She lived outside the womb for 49 minutes.
“She opened her eyes, and we got to hear her voice,” Talia said. “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.’”
Their son, Kyle, sang happy birthday to Aubrey, and all their loved ones had the chance to see her before she died, Talia said.
Though life has not been easy since their daughter’s death, Talia said she has found hope in her faith.
“Life truly begins at conception, and just how precious those moments in the womb really are,” she said. “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.”