Angie Garcia silently walked into her room at 3 a.m. to wake up her mother, a tan, lean 46-year-old woman. She snuck a peak at her newborn son lying in bed. Garcia, 21, stared at her son, Gabriel Anthony Garcia, as he breathed steadily and made the occasional sigh.
He was wearing a dark blue Nike one-piece shirt. Angie Garcia’s mother, Elizabeth Garcia had wrapped him in his duck pattern blanket, covered by a green blanket given to him by Dr. Pruess, Angie Garcia’s former professor.
She tapped her mother’s shoulder and asked if everything was OK. Elizabeth Garcia said everything was fine. She gave Gabriel his bottle around 2 a.m. like always.
Since Gabriel’s birth on Jan. 19, mother and son had always went to bed together. But because Elizabeth Garcia was off work the next day, she decided to allow Angie Garcia to sleep in her bed to give her a break. They switched rooms for the night.
Angie Garcia climbed into her mother’s bed then cried herself to sleep. She knew the feeling would only be worse at the airport when she would leave Gabriel to return to Webster University; she must take the trip to finish her final semester, graduate and make a better life for the two.
“I feel like I’m abandoning him,” she said.
Leaving the baby behind
Angie Garcia sat in the back seat next to the sleeping Gabriel as Xavier Garcia, Angie Garcia’s father, drove to the airport. He stopped at the curb and unloaded Angie Garcia’s luggage. He waited as she said goodbye to her son inside the car.
Angie Garcia told her baby to be good for grandma and grandpa and be patient with Christy Garcia, Angie Garcia’s sister, because sometimes she doesn’t know what to do with him.
“I love you and I promise I’ll be back soon, OK?” Angie Garcia said to her still snoozing son. “I will see you again soon. I love you bunches and bunches and bunches.”
She got out of the car and hugged her dad. But she had to say goodbye to Gabriel one more time. She kissed his chubby cheek and gave Xavier Garcia another hug. Rolling her luggage behind her, Angie Garcia walked into the airport and started crying as she waited in line.
Angie Garcia wiped her tears, boarded her plane and looked at pictures of Gabriel Garcia on her cell phone before she was asked to turn it off. When she was able to look at her phone again, she received a new picture message from her dad. The picture was of Gabriel waking up from his nap with a little grin on his face. The message read, “We’re home.”
“It was just very sad,” Xavier Garcia said. “I was very saddened that she had to leave.”
Back at Webster
At midnight on Feb. 16, Angie Garcia made her final rounds through West and East halls. It was her first night back on campus and first night away from Gabriel in 10 months. While at home with Gabriel, bed time was around 9:30 p.m., so Angie Garcia was tired after making her final rounds. She couldn’t sleep, though. She grabbed her Sudoku and began to fill in the squares. “I was tired but I didn’t want to go to sleep because I knew that I was going to lay down in a bed that doesn’t have my baby in it,” Angie Garcia said.
Gabriel’s baby blanket, enough to cover Angie Garcia’s torso, was spread out on her extra-long twin bed in her West Hall dorm room. It’s a white blanket with dark blue trim featuring red and blue cars and trucks.
Gabriel used it during Angie Garcia’s last week at home before returning to Webster. There are traces of baby vomit, but Angie Garcia hasn’t washed it yet.
Before leaving for the airport, Angie Garcia burped Gabriel after his bottle and he threw up a bit on her shirt, but it wasn’t enough vomit for her to change.
“I’m not taking the shirt off because at least I still have a little bit of you with me,” Angie Garcia said.
Xavier Garcia had a similar feeling as he and Gabriel left Angie Garcia at the airport. “Maybe I don’t have Angie with me but now I have her baby and that’s why it’s emotional,” Xavier Garcia said. “His facial expressions remind us of Angie all the time. He’s a piece of her that stayed with us while she’s away.”