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October 30th, 2020

suki foundationNaylyn Suki Foundation Director Gaby Marquez, second from right, takes a pic with foundation board members Oralys Villalona, Audrey Castro and Brenda Jaramillo after Thursday’s International Wave of Light event at New Beginnings Church. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

According to the March of Dimes, stillbirth affects about one in 100 pregnancies each year in the U.S., amounting to about 24,000 babies.

Most stillbirths happen before a woman goes into labor, but a small number happen during labor and birth.

Gaby Marquez knows all too well the pain of losing a child to stillbirth, having lost her daughter almost a year to the day ago.

“I lost my daughter Oct. 27, 2019,” she said. 

As she began the recovery process, Marquez said she and her husband had a hard time finding parents to speak to and to help them with the grieving process.

“It was the first time both of us had lost a child,” she said.

Marquez said she and her husband grieve differently, and this gave her the idea of giving other parents who had been through the pain of stillbirth an outlet.

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“Her dad and I spoke about it, and we came to an agreement that it was a good thing, something we could do to help other people, help them through the grieving process,” she said. “It would help us as well.”

That idea led to the creation of the Naylyn Suki Foundation by Marquez, and she said the foundation provides help to other parents through the grieving process when face with the loss of child through stillbirth.

“I’ve done a lot throughout the months to help me,” she said. “I want to help other parents and provide parents a safe place where they can just think or cry and be somewhere they can feel safe and release that emotion.”

Marquez said she did not get any training to provide the type of assistance but that of personal experience with stillbirth. That, she said, came out of wanting to speak to someone who knew her pain.

 “I didn’t want to go to a counselor or a therapist or somebody who was just going to give me an antidepressant and numb me to the pain and expect me to move on,” she said. “That’s not I wanted. I still haven’t gotten that from anybody, somebody who I could just cry to, somebody who’d understand my pain as a mother, to know what I was feeling.”

Even though her daughter’s death is nearly a year in the past, Marquez said she still relives the pain of that day on a daily basis.

“I know there’s days where I just wake up, and I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders,” she said. “All I can think about is the day I lost my daughter. It’s a horrible day.”

Marquez said she wishes she had somebody at that time to meet with, speak to or simply cry when she felt the urge.

“I want to have another mom who can relate this,” she said.

Marquez said this is what she wants to provide for other moms through her foundation – a safe place and comfort from a bad day. 

“I want them to text me,” she said. “I want them to call me. We can schedule a meeting for us to meet at the office. We can do whatever we can. My goal is to open the office in less than two weeks.”

Though her official office is not open yet, Marquez said she has been getting some business thus far.

“Once the girls posted it on Facebook, I started to get a lot of calls to the foundation phone number,” she said. “I do have a few appointments set up with some moms. I did meet with some yesterday. I have more appointments today and some tomorrow.”

The Suki Foundation office will be set up in Liberal’s Southgate Mall, and once it does get up and running, Marquez said she would like to have bi-weekly meetings, as well as other activities.

“If we needed to go more often, we would go more often,” she said. “If we need to spread them out, spread them out more. I also want to be able to provide the one-on-one sessions where I can meet with one mom at a time and have that talk so I can learn more about their baby story, so I can learn more about their story, so they can get that off of their chest. We’ll be having parent craft nights with projects I did with my daughter or stuff I did for my daughter like her burial site that helped through the grieving process. That’s something I want to help the parents with.”

October is International Awareness Month for Pregnancy and Infant Loss, and with Thursday being the official International Awareness Day, Marquez’s foundation hosted a local event as part of the International Wave of Light at New Beginnings Church.

“It starts at 7,” she said. “Every time zone at 7 lights their candle.”

After the candle lighting, a moment of silence and a prayer, balloons were released into the air. Marquez said parents could write their baby’s name or a note before releasing the balloons up to Heaven.

Marquez also talked about the foundation and what it provides, and she said she hopes to get volunteers.

Marquez said she was seven months pregnant with her daughter, and being a stillbirth, the infant was smaller than a regular baby, meaning it was more difficult to find items to fit the child. What Marquez said she wants her foundation to do is get volunteers to help her knit and crochet Beanie Babies smaller than normal size to send out to parents.

“We’re starting locally,” she said. “Eventually, I want to expand throughout the U.S. to send them to hospitals, and we’re also doing handmade Hearts of Hope. It’s a handmade heart with a pendant of an angel or an angel wing and our business card attached to them so they can give them to the parents when they encounter a loss at the hospital so they know how to contact us. They don’t have to go through that alone at the hospital either. If they want that emotional support, we can be there.”

The Suki Foundation will also have a station set up Oct. 25 at Seward County United Way’s Trick or Treat at Light Park.

“Some of the moms are helping give out candy for that as well,” Marquez said.

Though she was unsure of local stillbirth rates, Marquez said they do seem to be happening more often in recent years, and while she understands in many cases, they simply happen, she feels her stillbirth could have been prevented. This is why she wants to raise awareness.

“If doctors vow to a commitment to put the patient first, I know sometimes, it’s easy to fall into that routine, but doctors need to be more considerate of the patient and understand the patient should always come first,” she said.

Marquez recalled being angry when she found out her baby was a stillbirth.

“I was so mad,” she said. “I think it was a lack of medical attention that it happened, so I was very angry for a very, very little time. I was completely broken. They handed me my daughter once I woke from the anesthesia. They told me she didn’t make it, and I was upset because whenever they did put me under for the C-section, my daughter was moving the entire time.”

Part of Marquez’s frustration came from the length of time doctors waited to do a C-section.

“I was so mad,” she said. “I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I wanted everybody out of the room. I just wanted to spend time with my daughter, but eventually, the funeral home came and picked her up. So I only got about an hour to spend with her.”

A stillbirth, Marquez said, is something a mother never fully gets over, and though time has passed and some relief should be felt, she still feels a strong sense of sadness about the day last year when she lost her child.

“Every single time when I wake up just to reposition myself or something, it just all plays in my head,” she said. “That’s something that has stayed with me and is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, and I’m like, ‘How could I have prevented this? What could I have done?’ I know it wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t give myself a C-section. There’s no way I could’ve done anything about it.”

Marquez, though, said she does have ways of coping with the loss.

“Some days are better than others, but it’s still there,” she said. “I still spend most of my days at the cemetery with her.”

If nothing else, Marquez said she hopes the foundation will help people find peace within themselves about their stillbirth experience.

“I know it’s very common for a parent to just blame themselves for the situation,” she said. “A lot of the times, it’s not our fault. A lot of the times, the situations can be prevented. I understand in some cases, they can’t. I know sometimes just talking about it makes it so much easier even if it’s just for that one day. I want them to feel like they can still parent their child even though they’re not here. That’s something I try to do.”

To start making a connection and getting help with the loss of a stillborn child only takes contacting the foundation office.

“I have that phone on me at all times,” Marquez said. “I answer it, and they can make their appointments. They can come into the office. Hopefully, within two weeks, the actual office will be open so we can start the groups or the parent craft nights or the one-on-one sessions. They just have to call.”

The Suki Foundation can be reached at 620-202-2368.

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